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Bloggers: Learn from Me

How does the saying go? Screw me over once, shame on you. Screw me over twice shame on me?

This year, this tiny little calendar year of just 90 or so days has seen me screwed over twice already. On two separate occasions I’ve entered into work agreements with large brands who have agreed to a predetermined amount of money. One brand had four figures on the table, another had five. Both brands had pre-production meetings with me, both brands asked me to mark off days in my calendar, both brands had conference calls with me where they asked for input, and then both brands pulled the plug.

Neither production company had the courtesy to let me know either in writing or via telephone.

Both brands used outside agencies. Neither agency will ever get a response from me again. One agency is small, the other is not so small. In both instances the agency is the one who was the most underhanded. I will not name them, but if I win the lottery I’ll hire a skywriter.

Here’s the sequence of events; and bloggers I’m hopeful you’ll learn from me, because I really should have learned this before responding to the second request.

I get a phone call or email saying that an agency would like to pitch me as part of a package. They ask for my thoughts on it, and I gave a brief summary of ways I could be involved in the project. Both times the agencies thought I was a good match, a few emails went back and forth about the pricing, and in both instances the agencies agreed in writing on a price for the project.

Here is where I want to caution all of you.

In both instances the agencies had a series of phone calls with me. In both instances the agencies asked me to mark certain days off my calendar. In both instances the agencies understood the parameters of my work, in one case it was that I’d work for a certain number of hours, in another case it was that I’d work on a shoot and they’d hire child actors.

In both cases they used my ideas, I blocked off my time, and then when I called or emailed to reconfirm with my contact I was told that they’d pulled the plug, “Didn’t they tell you?” In both cases I’d reconfigured my schedule to make it work for them. In both cases I got paid not a penny. In once instance they wanted my kids to be part of the video in the 11th hour and in another instance they wanted to double the work time.

Apparently they think I’m either broke or stupid.

Bloggers. I caution you, this is a predatory world full of second third rate TV producers who are out to screw anyone they can in order to get their creative work done free. I will never take a phone call that lasts more than seven minutes without a contract in place, and I’ve actually taken the extreme move of hiring a talent manager. I’m done with it, because agencies give me a headache and steal my ideas.

What I offer to you is this advice. Do nothing without a contract and get half the money up front. If they can’t offer you a deposit, don’t give them ideas.

And I realize that y’all probably won’t listen to this because even I am bad at taking my own advice, but I’m cautioning you, everyone is jumping on the social media bandwagon, and they’re snakes.



63 thoughts on “Bloggers: Learn from Me”

  1. Thanks for sharing Jessica… great advice. Hang in there, what I have always found is that when things go wrong you are usually directed to a different path and eventually you will find something bigger and better than you had even prayed for. This is preparing you for that! Don’t they say three times is a charm????

  2. Yup. The 50% the money up front is key and when explained early on, sends a message of “I’m legit. I’m serious and I’m worth it.”. Great post, J.

  3. I will definitely heed this advice. That is, if anyone ever calls me wanting ideas. Because that hasn’t happened. Because I have none. Hmmm, maybe I should pay someone to screw me over.

  4. Having been in this situation, not with an agency but a Fortune 100 company, I identify. Yes. Demand a 50% deposit. Also incorporate a kill fee. I’ve learned the hard way. Unfortunately, too many of us have.

    So sorry you had to go through it twice already this year. Its time for something good.

  5. It is like the “can I pick your brain” for coffee? Or the “I just have a few questions” email. I’m right there with you. I don’t work for free, and I don’t brainstorm ideas for somebody else for free. Written contract, or at least a series of emails outlining the terms of the engagement, with payment of at least half up front. Or no deal.

  6. I’m so sorry this happened to you- Those bastards!! If i hit the lottery I’ll rent a skywriter for you. I’m glad you shared because this is something every blogger should read! xoxo

  7. Thanks for the wake up call Jessica – it reminds me of the article you wrote that I always fall back thinking about “I’m Not The Welcome Wagon” and picking your brain. Carry On, full steam ahead. I hope your skywriter flies all the way to Connecticut.

  8. So sorry you had to go through this!! Thank you for the advice though and I will take it to heart. So many ad agencies want bloggers to do work and THEN get paid and all this without a deposit. It is too risky for the blogger and here is proof.

    Bravo for hiring a talent manager. I think that will help you out so much and I am hoping you get many more offers and better campaigns to make up for this crap.

  9. I’ll absolutely take your advice! This sucks and while I respect your decision to keep the names to yourself, I wish I knew so I wouldn’t work with them again either.

    Lee :)

  10. I am so sorry that this happened to you. That is awful! I hope you do win Lotto some day so you can reveal the names of the people who messed you over.

    It’s THEIR LOSS! I hope their campaigns totally flop. That will teach them a lesson.

  11. I’m currently in the midst of fighting tooth and nail for money due per a five figure contract that was canceled after the two months of brainstorming and campaign strategy and implementation was established. I was completely blindsided by the cancellation, and the worst is seeing him pay someone else to do exactly what he contracted me to do…for a fraction of the cost no less. I mean, the “ignore the correspondence and financial responsibility associated with SIGNING A CONTRACT and it’ll eventually go away” approach s highly reflective of his professional ethics. Ugh, I love how this comment turned into a generalized bitchfest…whoops.

    I heed your advice. Hard.

  12. I’m sorry you had to learn this the hard way (and twice!). After having a similar incident happen last year I always talk vaguely until there is a contract in place, and I work with an agent now as well. It offers a layer of protection that I’m finding invaluable.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences. It will help a lot of people.

  13. Jess,

    Kim and I do Campaigns and we have had something very simliar happen this year. So much so that I made a rule that I wont even give you my IDEAS before we have a contract. I find that more and more companies are getting you on the phone, asking you how you would do it, your ideas, etc and running to find someone to fill the spot…cheaper….that you just came up with. I give the worlds most generic answers now when I am approached. I say stuff like I can fulfill this, we can come up with bloggers for it, we do have the time, it wont be a problem, etc. but I will not give names, ideas, creativity, NOTHING till its solid. It gets old.


  14. Great info – especially for those of us not used to navigating the waters – afraid to both overvalue ourselves or undervalue ourselves and our ideas.


  15. Wow, Jessica. Thank you for sharing this. I am so sorry to hear that this happened – twice – to you. There are, sadly, a lot of snakes out there. We all ought to take a lesson here.

  16. Jessica, I am so sorry that has happened to you…2x this year. They will get theirs at one point or another and in the end I am sure you are thankful that you are not working for those “snakes” in the waters of Social Media because who knows what would of happened in the end.

  17. I’m sorry this happened to you. But it’s good advice (for just about any freelance industry, not just blogging). Always work with a contract and a down payment. And listen to your gut (I’ve ignored mine before and have regretted it…now I listen…I have no trouble saying “no”!).

  18. oh wow, jessica. i’m speechless yet not so shocked. this happened to me twice on a much smaller scale in the social media world. pitches, meetings, phone calls…broken promises worth a lot of money. it sucks. i’m sorry that happened, it’s awful!!

  19. Thanks for your candid sharing of your experience…I am a clinical social worker and give a short free initial consultation. This is almost always used by potential clients who say they cannot really afford to pay …but they always want advice which they get and then do not continue any further. I am rethinking my offer.

  20. I have personally experienced this twice. An agency came in the first time and an in-house person was hired the second time. Both executed MY ideas. I was never formally told either. Both generated success for the companies involved. Both made me want to quit the blogosphere.

  21. Wow. Coming at this as a vlogger who is currently in talks with multiple major brands, I have two things: first, thanks for the advice and anecdotal evidence that these people are snakes. Second, had I not read this, I might have had exactly that happen to me. I’m just so excited to expand and get my brand out there that sometimes I breeze through processes because I assume everyone is as good hearted and well versed in good morals as I am. I’m going to go back now and change terms before signing in to anything, ask for half up front, etc.

    Thanks for sharing, Jess. Much appreciated.

      1. I read through them after posting and took note of that. Thanks for making sure I knew, though. It’s an exciting but scary place to enter as a 21 year old with lots of energy but little formal business training.

  22. I’m a graphic designer and a blogger. I have always been very careful about offering ideas and always tell new designers, don’t EVER work on spec. Or take part in a “contest” which is usually just a fishing expedition for great ideas. I’m sorry this happened to you. You give a lot of good advice. If we all insist on being paid, these people will be out of luck and will be forced to pay for good ideas.

  23. I’m sorry this happened to you – I was in a similar boat (obviously much smaller – call it a canoe) where I was interviewed, gave the reporter all the info they needed for their story and then was given no credit whatsoever (as was indicated I would receive.) It was a complete waste of my time. I learned my lesson there – and thanks for sharing your experience on this one. Kill fee – I like the sound of that!

  24. Wish I saw this a few weeks earlier, some friends and I are working on a project but also keeping our fingers crossed that another agency doesn’t steal our ideas. Thank you for sharing this helpful advice that will certainly play into our future planning.

  25. Unfortunately this isn’t limited to PR/Ad agencies.It is the downside of business in general. I made a great presentation to a potential client and then watched them use all of my ideas. It was exacerbated by the large investment they received from a VC not long afterwards

    It is plagiarism.

    1. Absolutely not limited to PR/Ad agencies. Shamefully, this happened to me more times than I care to admit when I first started consulting and I’ll admit I still have people that ask for “advice” that I should have charged a consulting fee. We aren’t crack dealers – most people won’t sample and come back, they’ll steal your ideas and execute as their own and will have absolutely no idea why you could possibly find anything wrong with it.

  26. I think these people totally suck, but if the only consolation is that you have saved a whole lot of others from a similar experience, I’m very grateful you shared it!

    1. It’s not only possible, but it would be easy, a slam dunk if you will. Everything was in email correspondence.

      The problem is that the only winners would be lawyers and I’d lose a chunk of my life to it.

  27. The snakes are there first because they move fastest in every direction. In 40 years of working in the Data Processing field I’ve only had one good boss. He was the only one who could have actually done what I did for him, but then he couldn’t have done anything else and it would have taken him twice as long to do it.

    You need to know your own value, and never put up with the incompetent bosses. Yes, I’ll work for one, but only with an upfront contract at many times my usual rate.

  28. I often compare this blogging/social media business to the “wild west”, but maybe I can expand the analogy to include pirates.
    Sorry you got swindled. There are some planks that need to be walked.

  29. Jessica,

    Sorry you feel you got screwed. The way I’ve always operated is: your proposal/pitch/anything pre-1st payment is demonstrating your talent but not giving them any of it. If possible, increasing the amount of mystique and clout you have.

    You have to do some flirting before you get paid, otherwise you won’t get the work. None of us is Julia Roberts. But flirt… don’t put out, yanno? Show a little leg… don’t bend over. Just like dating.

    At least like people SAY you’re supposed to do when you date.

    HTH! You deserve the best partners and terms, but even brilliant women have to be coy.



  30. so I know you are frustrated, but have you considered that it might be something you are doing to contribute to this mess? It’s happened twice and I’ve worked with pleanty of brands and agencies without a problem. If it happened once, I can see it being just a bad experience, but when you start seeing a trend, it helps to look in the mirror.

  31. Ah, Positivebeth, have you ever heard the phrase “Blame The Victim?” What she wrote needs to be read without you adding anything onto the story that wasn’t there. If she wanted to write a story about how immature or … I’m sure she could have.

    I’m so old that I’ve unjammed card readers. And there really are lots of incompetent people in Data Processing who have to “steal” ideas to get by. I can prove that. I have worked as an outside contractor in a Union shop. There is only one reason why the employees would band together and form a Union, and it’s not money.

    1. ah, Dave, I would never insult a strong woman like Jessica by calling her a victim. I also think she’s strong enough to welcome other’s opinions. My point was that the agency people involved were telling their side of the situation, it would be a different story and that sometimes it’s better to land in neutural and build your list of advocates than burn bridges. The larger agency works with lots of clients and playing nice sometimes goes a long way.

  32. This was so unprofessional & horrid!
    I am so sorry you had to go through this. But I thank you for the wake up call that the snake charmers are back in business and out to get all the glory only for themselves. Not just in Your fiend but in all areas & financial matters.

  33. I hear you! That has been my practice now, it’s so sad we can’t trust anyone these days. I now get half upfront and I don’t give away too much without a payment. I am sorry it happened to you!

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