Monday, February 20, 2012

Blogging for reimbursement


Last week a very wonderful and talented blogger announced another round of an annual artsy swap. I participated in this swap last year and I loved it. The only difference is that this time she charges a few dollars for participation, because it is so time consuming for her to organize it all.

This really got me thinking about artsy stuff, blogging, money and time and how more and more blogsy people are starting to look for ways to generate either money or recognition or some other form or reimbursement from their blogs or whatever they offer on it. And frankly...I'm getting a little annoyed by it. In fact...I'm apparently so annoyed that a week later I'm still thinking about it and wondering if I should write a post about this or not. As I'm writing this I still don't know if I should, so if you're reading this it means that I decided to share my (not so) little rant just to see what you think about all this.

First of all let me say that there's nothing wrong with wanting money for your time (if you're a professional it's even a given) or recognition for your work (that's just common decency). The costs for the above mentioned swap for instance are very small. Really, what am I upset about? I can afford it, it's worth it,  the hostess deserves it. Of course. But my naggy voice won't leave me alone and says "If as many people were to participate as last year she would make as much from this swap as I make in three weeks at my regular job".

In my experience art swaps are free, they fall in the range of art trading, you just don't ask money for them, unless it's for material things like stamps and envelopes. It's a matter of principle, it's an act of love. I can see that hosting a swap with hundreds of participants takes a lot of time, but asking money for it will not in itself diminish the amount of time it costs. The asking of a fee will however probably help cut down on the amount of participants, but then that wil also cut down the amount of time required which kind of counters the reason for asking money for it in the first place. Wouldn't it be smarter to limit the amount of participants or to go for a different system where the participants do more of the work? I don't know... and it's none of my business of course. It's this person's swap and she can do it any darn way she wants. And no, it's not my intention to diss this person at all (she's a great source of inspiration to me and thousands of others), it's just what got me thinking about this whole subject about money, reimbursement and artsy blogs.

More and more I feel like I'm confronted with the following kind of stuff:
  • A whole group of  bloggers promoting and praising a book (or class, or blog) of one other blogger and all acting as if they're doing it so spontaneously, when you just know it's just a publicity stunt.
  • Bloggers giving away a freebie if you link to their blog.
  • Bloggers giving away a freebie if you become a follower.
  • Bloggers using their blog just to promote their Etsy shop over and over again. That's what sidebars are for, people! (I'm not talking about someone who mentions their Etsy every now and then, I mean people who only post when there's something new on Etsy.)
  • Bloggers mentioning their online class in every post they publish.
  • Bloggers referring to their posts as 'content'.
  • Bloggers reffering to their projects as 'services'.
  • Bloggers reffering to their art as 'products'.
  • Bloggers giving away awards to other bloggers but only if you follow this and that rule and so promote them and at least three other bloggers (I wrote a whole post about awards here).
  • Bloggers doing giveaways if you put their 'button' on your sidebar.
Nothing is free and everything comes at a prize. So much marketing is going on that I'm getting frustrated by it sometimes. Why can't a giveaway just be a giveaway? Why does it have to boost your amount of followers? And why would you want those kinds of followers anyway? People that become followers because you give something away are not the same people that become followers because they love your blog!  

A positive opinion about a book because the author asked the reviewer to promote it is worth nothing really. I want real opinions, both positive and negative!  I want information that's not biased.

Whenever one well known mixed media artist has something going on you can bet that ten of her colleagues will tell us about it on their blog too, which is annoying if only because you want original posts, not the same thing on ten different blogs.  I'll scratch your back, if you'll scratch mine. It's not the promotion in itself, it's the way it's orchestrated, faked.

I like people who promote something simply because they came across it and loved it. I like people who give stuff away for the sheer joy of knowing that it will end up in the hands of someone who adores it. I like people who trade art, because they love to exchange little treasures with like minded spirits. I like people who keep blogs just to share what they do and inspire us, or to get feedback on their work,  and who don't worry about  things like 'building an audience' or how to artificially upgrade the follower count. I like blogs where people post information without asking anything in return, just because they thought you might find it useful.

I guess it comes down to two questions: why do we make art  (or do crafts) and why do we blog about it? As time goes along it feels like I'm moving in the opposite direction of most blogs. More and more this blog becomes and act of love, something for the sheer enjoyment and connection it gives and so does my artsy stuff. Less and less I have the need to be receiving anything for it. Yes, of course I love it that my follower count goes up. Yes of course I'm over the moon with every positive comment I get. Yes, of course I was thrilled when I was published last year. I have an ego too! But I don't want it to be the focus of my art and my blog. While this is happening to me it seems more and more bloggers are trying to choose the more professional route. There's a reason artsy business classes like Kelly Rae's are doing so well. But it influences the simple honest quality of the blogs involved and that worries me a little sometimes.

The blog often no longer is a place of expression and community alone, it becomes an instrument for promotion and marketing or even a source of income. This is understandable but it still makes me sad and even more resolved to just keep things the way they are on my own blog (no awards, no advertisements, no tutorials for a fee, honest book reviews, giveaways without strings attached to them, etc.). No, this will not make me famous and generate thousands of followers, but that's not why I got into it in the first place, so who cares? 
I know I'm not alone in this and I need to believe that there are still many bloggers out there for whom the joy and love of the work itself trumps the marketing or the need to be reimbursed for their efforts.

Now I've written all the above I am decided to post it as is. I run the risk of being misunderstood, but so be it. I am very interested in your responses and opinions even if they are completely opposite to mine.  If you've read thus far I am in awe by your patience and thank you for your attention. ;-)

Hope you're all having a wonderful artsy week! I promise my next post will contain some pictures again!

29 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Your well thought out post does make me think. Though I am all for artists (and others who give a lot to their readers) deserving to be paid for their time and effort, I am also beginning to feel uncomfortable with people using their blog ONLY as a tool to generate income. In fact, this approach is being taught by those who proclaim themselves as experts in marketing and business. It's gotten so that I am suspicious of any "giveaway" or "freebie" offered, and I don't like feeling like I am only being considered an object of a sales campaign.

      Blogging used to be like an online "diary" of sorts, simply 1 person sharing their thoughts and feelings (and art) with their followers. Now it's like it is mainly a sales tactic and I am uncomfortable with that too. I applaud your willingness to speak up and your decision to avoid that approach in your blog.

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    2. Oops. I must have clicked the wrong link. This was meant as a reply to you, Caatje, not to Rita. Sorry about that. Actually, it was Rita who referred me to your post here.

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    3. Well, Rita, it seems I owe you a whole new set of visitors. Thank you! ;-)

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  2. I'm so in agreement with you, Caatje. I've unsubscribed to some blogs that began as an honest sharing and became advertisements for personal gain. They'll have to pay me if they want me to read their self promotions.

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    1. LOL Teri...and a damn good idea! winkwink

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  3. Rita referred me to your blog as some of us have been talking about and being frustrated by the amount of product selling under the guise of blogging. I do agree with you that there is too much of this. And also about giveaways--so many hoops to jump through. But, I'm not sure if I agree with you when it comes to swaps--since I don't know your situation, I can't really comment on your swap--but I am in a group and I am the leader of one of the group swaps--that means that all the items are sent to me and I swap them all out and return them. We do charge $ to participate--this covers postage and envelopes and maybe a little tiny bit extra--if you look at the actual cost of postage. However, you have to figure that whoever is in charge of the swap has to not only swap everything out and prepare the envelopes, they then have to drive to the post office to get everything posted--also in my swap, I always come up with some kind of a drawing with a prize-which I might make or perhaps buy--there are sometimes "hidden" costs which the organizer incurs that the swapper doesn't realize--like buying a big roll of packing tape etc.

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    1. Janet, if you read very closely you will see I actually mention this. Of course genuine expenses should be reimbursed, I don't expect a hostess of a swap to pay for my packaging or postage or other material items. I'm talking about charging for time and effort. I just can't see art trading as a service where you pay someone for their time. Like I said: it should be an act of love. Often when a hostess organizes something like this she will receive extra's spontaneously as a thanks from the participants and participants will even send extra goodies to each other for no reason at all (I love this). Asking for money for time in an art trade just rubs me the wrong way, even if I do appreciate the trouble that goes into it.

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  4. Great post and an interesting discussion! I suppose there are as many reasons for blogging art as there are artist bloggers. Some that I follow are the blogs of working artists where every art work posted is for sale and that doesn't bother me at all, as they are making their income this way. I read these blogs because I enjoy their art and hope to learn a bit about the artist and their process. But the give-aways that you mentioned where one has to jump through all sorts of hoops to enter, well yes, that does annoy me too. I usually stop reading those blogs if there is a lot of that going on. I don't know about swaps and not being a mixed media artist I can't really speak to that issue, but it seems to me that you make a good point. From the other side of it all though, I had a pretty active Etsy shop for a few years and regularly produced work to sell and promoted that work on my blog. I have let it go this year for a couple of reasons. One being that I was feeling that I wasn't growing as an artist. My focus became all about producing what I thought would sell. Granted, I needed the money, and making paintings to sell isn't a bad way to do that. However I have re-evaluated my focus and am working towards other goals with my art at present. The blogs that are in the business of selling you instruction on how to market your art are probably useful to some, but I have chosen to go a different way for the time being, so I just ignore all of that "good" advice. It sounds like you have your priorities well in order concerning where you are as an artist and what your reasons for blogging about your art are. I believe your honesty about your work and your sincerity in your blog will pay you back more than any other marketing tactic in the end.

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    1. You describe exactly the reasons why I may never be a 'professional' artist. For me it's all about the practice of art. Yes, of course I like it when people praise me or want to buy something, but the focus on the business part just doesn't work for me. I actually did some preparation for an Etsy and a more professional approach as in teaching and going to fairs, but I found I only got really cranky. I didn't enjoy it at all. This is very frustrating when all you really want to do is devote yourself to your art. I'm just not willing to pay that price and in the end I figured that with a full time job I have just about as much time to devote to actual art making as I would having to uphold an artsy business, except now my art is stress free! ;-)
      That being said I can totally understand that someone promotes their work and their shop or class on their blog. After all it's how they make a living. I would too. But there's a difference between a one time promotion or getting back to it over and over again. There seem to be bloggers who even just sideways will mention their class or shop in every post. I always feel a little cheated when that happens.
      There are actually artists who keep blogs without hardly any professional promotion. They keep their websites and their blogs seperately. I like that approach.

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  5. I think you and I read the same blog post! I was turned away for the same reasons as you. At first I thought she was collecting a fee because she would be doing the swapping out and re-mailing. Not so! The cost of postage is high enough...especially for those trading across borders!

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  6. I too was referred by Rita and as a person who does not sell what i make i am fed up with all the promotions and constant support of friends or the group's classes, books and shops. In fact i have started to purge them form my follow list. In addition I am fed up with buying books where the new content is limited or from posts to their blog as well as books that are compilations of "friend". most of these books have information that is not new are poorly edited and often have better photos than writings. it seems second or third books are re-has of the first. My pet peeve is all the "pop psychology" by women who appear to be trying to resolve their own problems. You will not find yourself through journaling, art or cute prompts. Make art for arts sake. Admit you are addicted to classes and love swaps or groups for the camaraderie. There is nothing wrong with that.Some on-line teachers are great but copying their work doe not an artist make if that is your concern, to have a title.

    Since I live in the USA and have no other language skills i cannot assess if this is an American phenomena or worldwide to have to promote endlessly.
    I look forward to following this blog in the future. you must have some terrific work on line.

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  7. HA! I am in the Rita group too! LOL Here is where I am with blogging. I love to blog - I have 3 blogs, 2 personal and one business. I do not promote or sell on my personal blogs. I do promote and sell and give away freebies on my business blog. I never try to deceive anyone. I meet tons of people via blogging, get tons of ideas and would be very sad if all blogs and all people were the same. I think it is very very dangerous to generalize. The 2 personal blogs are www.keepanartjournal.com and www.anadventureamonth.com - the business is www.artcampforwomen.com/blog

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    1. I don't think there's anything wrong with promoting yourself or what you do on your blog. I do think that when it all becomes about marketing and reimbursement it becomes a different kind of blog and those may not necessarily be the kinds of blogs that I like. I'm that type of personality that just hates it when people try to sell me something. ;-) I agree it would be a sad world where all blogs would be the same, although that would save me a lot of time! If you look at my blogroll you may see I actually have some of the more promotional blogs there as well, because I love the art work on them. I will definitely check out your sites!

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  8. I've been turned off that swap because of the fee. Not because I can't afford it, but because I object to paying for something I can do for free myself or on Swapbot.

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  9. Ahhh i was wondering when someone would comment on the proliferation of self-promoting that seems to have taken hold of the artsy blogosphere. I too am finding it irritating; in fact i had just yesterday read a blog post where the blogger is promoting the idea that we "deserve" to be paid for what we do, and I just think, what??? And in the past week I have come across several blogs "promoting" the idea of "paying a blogger". I blog infrequently, and blog because I enjoy it. I have a main blog, a photo-blog, and a hand-made blog; all desperately in need of updating!!!

    On a mischevious note, I blame L'Oreal - you know that "because we are worth it" notion; yes I am "worth it" but that doesn't mean I slap on make-up etc every day. I choose to blog and share what I want to share with others.

    In regards to the swap, I can only imagine that if there are a great number of participants then there is possibly some cost to the organiser involved, and I guess they need it reimbursed to them.

    Thanks for raising this subject, I do agree with what you say in your post, and I think it courageous of you to raise the subject.

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    1. Your comment made me laugh! thank you

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  10. Interesting discussion, Caatje...I have put off joining the swap again this year, taken aback by the "concept" of the fee, though not the actual amount of the fee. I will probably still join in, because it was such an incredible experience last year. But it HAS prompted some additional thought on my part, too. I was interested in your thoughts on giveaways: I was thinking about doing my first giveaway, and assumed I would do the same thing I see everywhere (comment once for a chance, link to my post for a chance, become a follower for a chance). I never thought of that as a bad thing. I may still do it that way; I don't know. But you give me pause to think! Thank you for sharing your thoughts so openly.

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    1. Andria, you should do your giveaways anyway you want. I just think that getting a follower because of a giveaway may not give you the kinds of followers you want. Ehm...or should I say "the kinds of followers I would want". ;-)

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  11. Yours is one of only 2 blogs I read.
    I read it because I really like your art, and I love the fact that you are so willing to share your skills and love of art with anyone who is interested. It is because of your "easy-peasy" tutorial that I made my first art journal page. So, THANK YOU! Please know that what you are doing is really appreciated!

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  12. Yes Caatje, I read it all... right through the end and all the comments too, some issue you wrote about! I totally agree with you! I never comments on giveaways or 'freebies' that aren't free (that is: become a follower etc. - the things you mention too) and I don't visit the 'promo' blogs as often anymore, I get grumpy when I go there for a 'new post' that's all about their workshop/book/shop. I try not to do that myself, and have another website for the 'business things' and one for the magazine - those are things that I do and they mingle into my personal blog sometimes, but only now and then.

    Aaargh, your English is better then mine and I can't find the right words in this language right now (but I wanted my comment to be in English!) but it comes down to this: I totally agree with you and I am happy there are more artists/kindred souls that think this way. Thank you dear one!

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  13. I confess to starting my blog when I became an A Muse consultant. I thought it would be a good way to show off their products and maybe generate some sales. It didn't take me long to not feel right about. I mean I still have my link in the sidebar and I do show off a lot of their product (because I like it and use it often) but I don't push it down anyone's throat. I might mention I used X and it is currently on sale, but ugh, how boring is a blog that is nothing but a big commercial? I'm tired of comments that say "I have candy" since it is all about gaining followers. Yeah, why wouldn't anyone want true followers and not just folks in it for the freebies? I say kudos to you for this post!!! And for letting comment on it!

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  14. Ah, Caatje, the brave one, good on ya! I agree in general 100%. It just really cannot be avoided anymore, tho. So, I read the blogs that I love that don't do this, and include the ones who do where I feel like there is also content that interests me in spite of the selling and advertising. What helps me a lot is subscribing to a blog via email. I can see right off usually if I'm going to read about their art or life, or if it's a promotion of some sort. I definitely respect the bloggers who are out and honest about it. It's all a timesuck and I loved Teri's comment that they should pay us, lol. xoxo

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  15. Wow! I always read your whole post. I read your blog because you inspire me. (My previously "writing only" journals are starting to brighten up!) Today I read all the comments, too! I pretty much agree with you and don't really have too much to add to what you and everyone else said here.

    Something I've noticed is that the magazines often talk about blogs as promotion tools. So, of course, people are going to use them for that reason. And if they weren't inclined to blog otherwise, that's all it is. I wish the magazines would promote more of the idea of blogging as community than I've seen. (Maybe some do.)

    I subscribe to a gazillion blogs via my Google reader. I think I clicked the "follow" button once or twice, but it means nothing to me because I get what I want in my reader. Many of those gazillion blogs are in the reader just so I can find them again if I want. Those I read every day, or more accurately, when I read blogs (every few days, usually) are kept separate and if I find myself skipping over them, they get removed from that folder, or even deleted. Those that are only advertisements don't last long, at all! What good did it do them for me to "sign up"? None, really. (Kinda like the 5620 friends some people have on Facebook. Really? I got rid of anyone I don't know in person or know and communicate with on another website.)

    I also discovered that many (not all) of those who request you to follow them, don't reciprocate. My blog isn't exciting or instructive very often. I just share what I'm doing and excited about. I also don't post every single day or more frequently. (And no, I'm not saying you must check my blog out, because that's not why I read your blog. Of course, you can if you want to, but that's totally different.)

    Wow! Large swaps are really complicated! I have done one swap, ever, and it was a matter of me mailing directly and receiving directly... no third party involved in the mailing. That works out very fairly. Of course, there were only 10 or 16 of us in the whole swap.

    And THANK YOU! for sharing freely and openly. Like I sat at the start, you have inspired me to try new things.

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