I make my living as a freelance writer and editor; in those roles, I do a substantial amount of work with brands. As a fashion blogger, most of this work consists of product reviews and giveaways, and in some way, all of this work is compensated. Because, of course, this is how I make my living.

The question of compensation for bloggers has been a hot topic for the past couple of years. In 2009, the Federal Trade Commission revised their guidelines for endorsements and testimonials to call for greater transparency in product reviews, particularly on the part of bloggers and celebrity spokespeople. In other words, a blogger reviewing a product is now required to reveal if — and how — she is being compensated.

There are typically two ways in which bloggers are compensated for writing about products: either we are paid a fee, as part of a campaign or sponsored post, or we are provided with product samples, for a one-off review. Sponsored content is clearly advertorial — you are paying a blogger to create content around your brand or product, rather than asking for a review of that product, and you are compensating her for the content she creates. A review, on the other hand, is just that: an honest assessment of a product or service. Reviews should be entirely editorial — they should be the honest opinion of the blogger.

Giveaways are a third — and slightly trickier — category. A really good giveaway should have an editorial component; the blogger should be able to speak about why she likes this product and wants to share it with her readers. But a giveaway can be a lot of work for a blogger, and its success relies on her influence. For this reason, more and more bloggers are asking for compensation for giveaways.

Before you approach a blogger with a pitch, consider what it is you are offering, and what you are expecting in return. Remember that you are asking the blogger not only for her time and effort but for her influence — you are asking her to share your brand or product with her community, through her blog, Twitter, Facebook and whatever other online communities she participates in. In return for both the body of work she creates and her online reach, she deserves fair compensation. While there is no set standard for what’s fair, asking a blogger to promote your brand for free is never fair. Obviously.

I make a nice living freelancing, and I get to test out some really cool products.

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