How to Say No (Gracefully) to Blogs and Brands

How to say no gracefully to blogs and brands that want you to work for free - small business and blogging advice from Lesley Myrick Art + Design
Hands in the many of you have ever received an email like this?

"Hi there! I’m from Company, and we have a great opportunity for you! We’ll provide you and an elite group of other bloggers images of our latest products - declare your favorite from the different styles, then create a moodboard designed around it! From there, simply share your design and creative insights on your blog! We look forward to sharing some our favorites of yours on social. Interested? Then, just email me back ASAP, and I'll supply you with the images you’ll need to get started."

The email above is an actual email I received from a home decor site - edited, of course, to remove identifying details. It's always flattering when a company or brand reaches out - goodness knows as a pretty small-potatoes blogger I'm generally tickled! But if you read between the lines, what this kind of email is asking for from bloggers is free promotion. No compensation for your time or efforts. Only the potential of exposure to their social media audience.

And, well, that's NOT okay. 

Creating self-initiated original content and sharing it is one thing, but when a company is requesting that you share about their product, that's a partnership and compensation should be included.

I wasn't certain from their initial email if they were asking for something for free, or if this email was just their way of putting out feelers to gauge interest. So I responded asking as much:

"Hi Name, thanks for reaching out! Love many of the products you carry. Just wondering what kind of compensation is being offered in exchange for this promotion of your brand? I'd be happy to promote Your Company in exchange for either product or store credit. Let me know - thanks!"

Shocker: they were willing to ask bloggers to provide something for them, and not willing to provide compensation to these bloggers for something that they clearly see is of value to their business. Here's the response I received: 

"Unfortunately, at this time we are not in a position to partake in sponsored posts. We are truly inspired by creativity, and are interested to learn how you would add your design flair to our products. Our social team is also looking forward to featuring their favorites from this campaign on our Pinterest page!"

This response points to a dangerous trend - that bloggers underestimate their influence and value. Brands would not be soliciting us to post about their products and services if they did not see real value and results when we share with our blog and social media audiences! The potential of a mention on their social media channels is hardly compensation for your time, efforts, influence, and access to your audience. If a brand really values you as a blogger, they will compensate you. And let me tell you, companies do have compensation available for the right blogger, whether the compensation be in the form of money or product. But why would companies pay bloggers if they're always willing to work for free for potential "exposure"?

Here's how to say no gracefully to blogs or brands that want you to work for free. Feel free to copy and paste this script, or share it with others that might find it of value:

"Hi Name, thanks for your response. Unfortunately, I won't be participating. It's one thing for a blogger to mention brands and products organically in a blog post (which I often do in roundups when an item resonates with me), but when a company is requesting their product be included, there needs to be compensation involved that's mutually agreeable to both parties. Essentially what Your Company is asking for from bloggers is free promotion, and that's not fair. I assume that you personally might not have anything to do with this decision, but I think it's important for brands to be aware that asking bloggers to do this sort of thing is not right. Clearly Your Company sees value in what bloggers can offer - a new, targeted audience that would likely be interested in purchasing their products - but are not willing to compensate the bloggers for their time and efforts. The promise of potential (not even guaranteed) mention on your social media channels is not enough. I hope this information is constructive and helpful."

There are times when it's appropriate to work for free. But there are also times when it's not. By saying no gracefully to blogs and brands, we bloggers can work together to communicate that what we do matters, and what we do deserves compensation.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Have you received a similar request from a big brand? How did you respond?

Happy Tuesday!

PS. On the flip side, I have partnered with great brands like 4moms, ZPlanFab,and Poppin. High five, you awesome companies.

Image: via Lifehack

Shine On

"People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within." - Elisabeth Kubler-Ross #quote #inspiration
"People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within." - Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Have a wonderful long weekend! Shine on, baby.

Image: via Pinterest, original source unknown

Lovely Web Links: Issue 103

It's been over a month (whaaaa?) since the last Lovely Web Links, so there's a lot of good stuff I've been bookmarking for you. Grab a cup of tea and start clicking!

+ 3 ways to escape the perfection trap. (Also, there's this if you missed it earlier this week.)

+ How to actually do the stuff you say you want to do.

+ If you sell goods or services, client testimonials are essential! Here's how to get 'em without being cheesy or sleazy. Thanks to Alexandra Franzen's advice, I've added testimonials to my Press page.

+ 4 mistakes marketers use when trying to go viral. (Hint: trying to go viral is a mistake.)

+ And the top 10 mistakes bloggers make. This is a GREAT podcast episode to check out.

+ Love this real life style icon. She's a 43 year-old mother of two grown boys (seriously!) and her style is fabulous.

+ Lovely thoughts on motherhood from Erin Loechner here and here.

+ Because who doesn't have a girl crush on Jenna Lyons?

+ So fascinating - I'm a nun.

+ Artists attempt to design the most frustrating products imaginable.

+ Hehehe...a map of the introvert's heart.

More lovely web links this way. Happy Thursday!

Would You Delete Facebook From Your Phone?

Would You Delete Facebook From Your Phone? Thoughts on blogging, social media, FOMO, and time management from Lesley Myrick Art + Design.
Bold question: would you delete Facebook from your phone? I'm sure some of you are laughing (yeah, right!) and others are wishing you could (but there's no way, I'd feel so out of the loop!).

I did it. And here's why:

I love Facebook. I love peeking into the lives of friends and family. I love seeing baby photos, witty status updates, sweet messages from friends, and endorphin-boosting "likes". I love it so much that when I'm stuck at a decision point on a project, or feeling a creative block, or just generally avoiding something I don't want to do, I grab my iPhone and scroll through my news feed. And scroll. And like. And comment. And scroll some more.

And that should feel good, right?

But it never feels good. I always put the phone down 15, or 30, or even 60 minutes later feeling drained and lethargic. Feeling like I wasted time. Feeling like the connections I've made via Facebook aren't really authentic (spoiler: they aren't). Wishing that I had done something productive, something real during that time instead.

Since 2014 is my year of getting things done, wasting hours every week on Facebook is never going to help me turn that goal into a daily habit. Since I already deleted my Facebook business page I decided not to deactivate my account (since how else are my parents going to see new pictures of Ford?) but to seriously limit my time on Facebook. The app has been removed from my iPhone. On the computer, I use StayFocusd to restrict my time on Facebook to 10 minutes per day at work, and 10 minutes at home. 

Now, checking Facebook is a get-in-get-out situation. I check in, do what's important with the people that are important, and get out.

Yes, not being as active on social media brings the FOMO struggle; but the flip side is that I'm finding more joy in my life instead of envying the joy of others. Comparison is the thief of joy, my friends, and Facebook can easily become a comparison trap.

Oh, and I'm getting more done. Creating. Blogging. Playing peekaboo with my baby. Giving backrubs to my husband. Savoring coffee dates with my friends. Turning my underused patio into an art studio (eek!). 

It feels good to rebel against the pressures of social media and engage with it on my terms.

So here's my question for you: would you delete Facebook from your phone? Why or why not?

Happy Wednesday!

Image: Death to the Stock Photo

Only When We Are Brave Enough to Explore the Darkness

Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness - inspiring words from Brene Brown on Lesley Myrick Art + Design (Image: Freedom by Maris Sits)
I'm likely the last female on earth to have embraced the writings and teachings of author Brené Brown - after all, her TED talk on vulnerability has been viewed over 16 million times - but I'm grateful I finally did. (Early adopter, I am not.)

I've been devouring a borrowed copy of The Gifts of Imperfection while also listening to the audiobook of Daring Greatly, and have been inspired by the way she speaks of vulnerability and authenticity. The idea that vulnerability is actually courage and not weakness BLOWS MY MIND. It's so backwards from what is commonly accepted, yet so true. Taking risks, putting yourself out there, and moving forward despite your fears are admirable feats that should not be downplayed. These are courageous efforts that bring great rewards.

So why am I sharing this today? As silly and trivial as this may sound, I've been scared to start blogging again. As a perfectionist (who works hard not to be but still struggles with it internally), taking an unplanned but necessary break from blogging during the last few very busy weeks has thrown me off of my groove. I lost momentum. I'm sure I lost readers. I lost inspiration. I feel like I've lost the "why" of blogging.  And worst of all, I feel like a failure.

I pondered on more than one occasion during the past month if I should shut my blog down, but knowing that I do often feel joy from blogging outweighed the lack of joy I've been experiencing as of late. But then the internal critic started rapid-firing in my head:  If I'm going to start blogging again, where do I start and what do I write about? How do I return gracefully from total radio silence? Will I be judged for not posting for weeks when other "real" bloggers post daily? 

And then the voice shifted from an insecure "I" to a critical "You": You've been blogging for 10 years and never become "big", so why bother continuing? You're not unique and there are thousands of other artist/designers/bloggers out there, so is it really worth even trying when you're never going to be the best? You don't make enough art and your business isn't big enough. You're just pretending. You don't have anything of value to add to the conversation, you're just borrowing ideas from others. 

As you can see, my internal critic was thinking waaaay beyond the issue of getting back to blogging. That nasty little creature was poking at all of my insecurities and fears and vulnerabilities, stirring them up to the surface to bubble out and create a barricade to keep me trapped in darkness.

So today, thanks to the inspiring words of Brené Brown, here's what I have to say to that voice:

Fuck you.

"Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy - the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light." - Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

I may not be unique.
I may not be the most talented.
I may not be the superstar blogger that posts every day.
I may not be the artist that is constantly inspired to create.
I may not ever "make it" as a blogger or an artist.
I may not ever be a success in the eyes of the world.

But I want to live my life doing what brings joy, meaning, and fulfillment. 

So I'm going to blog.
So I'm going to create. 
So I'm going to work smart. 
So I'm going to get it done.
So I'm going to be present more.
So I'm going to be on social media less. (Especially you, Facebook.)

And I'm going to do all of these things whether or not anyone is watching, or praising, or judging, or caring.

Darkness and perfectionism be damned. Here's to being vulnerable and living in the light.

Image: Maris Sits

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