Don’t Feel Guilty If…You Give it Up for Free

by AJ on February 11, 2011 · 19 comments

I will admit it. I didn’t do my research.

When I started blogging, it was with the hope of having something to do as I faced being underemployed and a lot of free time. I was reading 2-3 blogs regularly but that was it. I knew there was Blogger and WordPress (I had never even heard of Tumblr!) and that one blogger had her title and just .com and the others had or after their names.

I chose WordPress because I liked the layouts better. That was it.

And I chose to have my blog be a blog because I didn’t know why I would spend money for something that was a hobby that I might not even like.

I had no idea people made money from blogging. That there were book deals to be had and money for clicks. Blogging for pay is awesome and a subject we love to cover here at Hollaback. But it’s not the only way to blog.

I have yet to invest a penny (besides my time, which I like to think is worth a pretty penny!) in my blog and I have yet to make a penny from my blog. I spend money on restaurants I review and races I enter, but not directly on my blog. And I’m pretty happy with that decision. Even if I could go back in time with the knowledge I have now, I don’t think I would do anything differently.

Giving it up for free is not without its own perks:

  • Freedom of Speech. I am never in situation in which I’ve accepted something for free and had to then write a negative review. Everything I review was purchased by me or as a gift from someone I know.  I’m also free to wax poetic about anything that strikes my fancy – whether it be food…or politics or the ethics of port-a-potty use during a race.
  • Time is money. My status as underemployed quickly changed when I began blogging (unrelated to blogging) and now I’m balancing two jobs. I have limited time and only so much of that can go to hobbies (I tried not doing laundry…it didn’t work). I blog about veganism, running, and queer culture because those are my passions. And blogging has become a passion, but it would be pretty boring if I devoted all my free time to it…what would I write about? The time I do have for blogging, I would rather devote to content and photos than learning CSS and perfecting my layout.
  • My dear readers. Because I don’t earn money everytime someone clicks on my blog or clicks on a corporate sponsor’s ad, I am not a slave to my statistics. I have a few loyal readers who can be counted on to generate great discussion. And that’s why I wanted to blog in the first place — to find a community and to interact with them.
  • Working girl. My job is entirely unrelated to blogging. I cannot advance my career with blogging nor do I want to make blogging my career. I love what I do professionally and I want blogging to stay a hobby. Some weeks I’m busy and I post less, other weeks are slow and I post more. I feel I know what my priorities are and although blogging is important to me, knowing I am not counting on it for a paycheck helps me prioritize other parts of my life that are frankly more important to me.

There are many many benefits to earning money from blogging, but it is not the only way to blog and the only reason to blog. That said, just because you’re giving it up for free doesn’t mean just anything goes. But the rules of Blogging Responsibily and of English grammar still apply — even if your blog is small and free, it can be great.

What do you think? Do you give it up for free or do you blog for pay? What are the pros and cons of each?

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Cynthia (It All Changes) February 11, 2011 at 7:25 pm

Hear, hear! I get the guilt of maybe I should self-host or other money making things because it’s what everyone else is doing. But when I think about it, I’m stressed. I love the ease of blogging right now. One day I may want to upgrade but for now I love it the way it is and I’m happy I’m not the only one.

marie February 11, 2011 at 7:41 pm

I think it shows integrity to write for the joy of writing instead of just using it as a means to an end. I feel like so many bloggers now are just trying to follow a protocol they think will lead to fame/money, and it shows in their content that they’re not really passionate about it.

Just the other day I got my first offer from a company that wanted to send me some free shit in exchange for a review, and I turned it down. It’s just a shame it didn’t come a year ago when I would have whored my blog out to anyone who’d take it!
marie´s last post ..c’est la vie- unfunny Friday

marie February 11, 2011 at 7:42 pm

I didn’t mean to post that comment as a reply btw. Der.
marie´s last post ..c’est la vie- unfunny Friday

Marie February 12, 2011 at 4:39 pm

I agree with you. I’ve toyed with the idea of trying to get ads and a little nudge in my income from blogging, but I think I’d start pandering too much to a certain audience that I don’t necessarily want.

Gavi @ GaviGetsGoing! February 11, 2011 at 7:33 pm

I love this post–thanks so much to you and Hollaback Health for continuing to acknowledge that there are many different ways to approach blogging, even within a specific blogging community. I also “give it up for free.” Like you, my full-time job has nothing to do with blogging, and my blogging schedule depends entirely on my level of busyness at work, my exercise routine, and what things are like at home. Writing on my blog is a fun, special treat for me, and it never feels like a chore because I don’t feel obligated to do it. It is important for me to produce well-written, thoughtful content, but I like my blog to remain a stress-free place for me.

That said, I’ve always wondered what it’s like for other bloggers who blog full-time. From the outside, it seems like it would be difficult to enjoy those special moments in life–nice dinners, quiet time with a friend or SO, leisurely runs in the park–because everything and anything is blog-worthy. I’m very curious to know what it’s like for those people that are paid bloggers. Do you find that blogging takes over your life?
Gavi @ GaviGetsGoing!´s last post ..Kaiser Permanente Half Marathon

Aj February 11, 2011 at 8:21 pm

That’s a really great question Gavi…I would be curious to hear from some bloggers who do monetize their blogs what their experience has been in terms of work-life-blog balance!
Aj´s last post ..Everything You Love About the Super Bowl without the stupid football Party

Stephanie @ Thorns Have Roses February 11, 2011 at 7:39 pm

I started blogging originally as a way to virtual scrapbook. I wanted to document daily how I spin life into something beautiful. I want my kids to be able to look back on it (assuming its still accessible) and re-live their lives through my words. I used to read blogs while at work (I work for an aging sole practicioner who finds more time to play Free Cell than work on cases) and loved the interaction between bloggers and their readers. Now that I write a blog…I wish I knew how to make it more successful but I’m not stressin over it. If someone wanted to pay me for my opinions and reviews..I’d love it. I always thought I should be paid to think and write. haha!
Stephanie @ Thorns Have Roses´s last post ..Homemade Love

Stephanie @ Thorns Have Roses February 11, 2011 at 7:40 pm

Oh…and AJ is stunning in that picture. :)
Stephanie @ Thorns Have Roses´s last post ..Homemade Love

Aj February 11, 2011 at 9:50 pm

Gosh Stephanie, thanks!
Aj´s last post ..It’s Friday…HOLLA!

Lisa February 11, 2011 at 9:14 pm

When I made the move to my own domain I thought I wanted to blog for pay. I decided that it wasn’t really for me. I didn’t want to have some company’s logo on my site and them trying to influence what I wrote about. I’m okay with being my own boss. :)

JL goes Vegan February 11, 2011 at 9:39 pm

This is an interesting post! I definitely do not blog to make money! It’s a hobby and I love it. Having said that, I did enroll in the whole Foodbuzz stuff — simply to get connected to the food blogging community. When I get my monthly email from Foodbuzz with my “earnings” I forward it to my husband and say “more big bucks for our retirement fund” because, err, it’s not big bucks at all.

I agree that there is much more freedom in determining the frequency of posts when you’re not reliant on impressions. To be honest, I’ve unsubscribed from several blogs once I realized many of the multiple posts a day were probably more about revenue generation than having something to say. I prefer to post when I have something to say / to share.

I do love several blogs that clearly are revenue generating for the blogger because they are taking the time and care into writing really valuable and interesting posts.
JL goes Vegan´s last post ..Good raw cooked eats!

Melie February 11, 2011 at 10:55 pm

I blog for free. I kind of think I should start paying people to read my blog, because I seriously doubt it can ever be the other way around… To be completely honest I never considered the possibility to blog for pay. I started to blog because my real job and everyday life are totally unrelated to blogging and wanted a way to talk and write about things I could not with my real-life friends and connect with people who had those same interests. It worked better than I expected :-)

sarah February 12, 2011 at 12:03 pm

Yes!! (With that kind of enthusiasm, you’d think I was being hounded by companies daily to advertise on my blog, but really, no). Anyway, you’ve hit on all the reasons I am completely uninterested in doing anything fancy, self-hosting, or making a dime off my blog. That was never intent, and I fear that if the blog became a source of income, however meager, it would take much of the fun away from an already time-consuming hobby.

Also, I will begin serious job searching in a few months. I do not want the blog to play any role in my professional life, and vice versa. Also, taxes, wtf, I can barely do mine with a single income.
sarah´s last post ..Flashback- 2001

shelby February 12, 2011 at 5:39 pm

Great post! I’ve been thinking about addressing this very topic and you said it better than I could have anyway.

Back when I started blogging, somewhere in my subconscious I thought that I’d have companies beating down my door with boxes of free shit once I got going. Definitely not the case…and I really couldn’t be happier about that. I do allow my blog and my professional life to co-mingle in some cases (i.e., I’m a writer, and I dabble in the running/fitness industry, so it’s a natural match) but because of that, I actually really prefer to keep my blog 100% ad-free. For instance, it’s much easier to use my blog as a writing sample when I’m writing about things that are interesting and relevant and important to me, rather than hawking some company’s yogurt or socks.

Gail @ Shrinking Sisters February 12, 2011 at 7:22 pm

I make a little bit with my blog — probably enough for the domain fee and a couple trips to Starbucks a month. I get the yogurt (and the socks) but any reviews go on my review page or over on

I also don’t feel obligated to write something in exchange for every sample I get and the companies shouldn’t expect that either. I used to work in newspapers, which had features section back rooms drowning in samples. Back in the day, they just carpet-bombed the media with stuff; with blogs the procedure it’s more of an opt-in. But I keep the product reviews on topic so my reviews don’t look ridiculously out of place.
Gail @ Shrinking Sisters´s last post ..Friday funnies- Eddie Izzards musings on vitamins and fruit

Jena February 14, 2011 at 5:21 pm

I love this! I’ve only been blogging for about a year, but I put a lot of pressure on myself to have “better” posts, and to attract new readers. I definitely don’t get paid to blog, and my job is not able to be mixed with blogging. HIPAA frowns upon giving out patient information =)
Jena´s last post ..It’s done

Pradip Gharpure March 24, 2011 at 11:31 am

I appreciate your gesture and the philosophy behind this blogging. I am also doing the same things. I started with blogger, and now own a blog on wordpress on health subject. It is four months old and getting very good responce. I intend to earn on it. Let us see what happens. I am really taking lot of trouble of doing research myself, writing my own article, making my own backlinks everything. I am working hard and hope it would yield some income in future.

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