Content marketing: Telling Meaningful Stories

How to get paid for digital strategy


April 12, 2017


You might care about this article if:

  • You are a consultant 
  • You are trying to get paid for digital strategy, writing, etc. 
  • You are a freelancer 
  • You are a CMO who wants to hire actual experts and be fair 

I love content marketing, digital strategy and storytelling, but hundreds of thousands of readers, who knows how many likes and retweets do not pay the bills.

“Here kids. Please enjoy 200 Facebook likes for dinner.”

“Where is the bull#*{# button, DAD?”

But yet digital strategists give stuff away for free. And because we give, people take. They even expect it!

Just to be clear: I’m not talking about sharing knowledge on here. The blog posts are always free to readers. But they are not customized tips or strategy. There’s a fee for personalization – or at least there should be.

It’s super seductive to just do. We want to be helpful and also show off what we know.  The participation is payment – but it’s not! Ugh. 

Some examples that come to mind: 

The free workshop example 

I was once asked to fly to another continent for a weeklong workshop. When I shared the cost for that they balked and said that it would be a test run to see if we could work further together. But they would be happy to pay for travel. Economy! (What an offer!)

For a week? WHAT? My expertise is not free!

Sorry, but they already failed my test for standard compensation. So no need to advance to that lengthy “test.” Test of course is code for “free labor.”

But you know that’s not a clear answer in the moment since there are opportunities and if you haven’t been to that continent that’s enticing too. But: Do not do it. It’s not a hobby. 

The free strategy 

I once left a visit with a company and they asked if I could send a plan. I did it on the plane and sent it right away. 

Granted, they still might not be able to implement it but seriously, that shouldn’t be sent over for free!

Send a proposal first. Once signed, start. Once paid, send. 

The free website tips

What are three things you would do to improve our website?

This is actually a trick question. True strategists won’t say: 

  • Add a Twitter feed (Bad tip anyway – and I love Twitter!)
  • Blog, blog, blog! (Yup, totally my favorite, but don’t say it!)
  • Hamburger menu, please 

True strategists need more answers:

  • What are your goals?
  • What are you trying to accomplish?
  • Why do you have on there what’s on there now?

Asking more questions doesn’t mean strategists are difficult. They are no more difficult than the people asking for free work. But when people don’t ask questions they are not strategists. 

It’s means the strategist knows what they are doing and is a good business person. The difference between a hobbyist and a business person is the exchange of money. 

But, am I always opposed to free work? Not always, but it does show a certain level of desperation – for lack of a better word.

And I’ve done it before. I didn’t know better.

One of my first newspaper interviews made me write an article to see if I could do that. That’s actually a good idea by them. They then ran it in the actual newspaper but didn’t pay me. 

People ask me all the time to do free things. Usually now I respond that I would be happy to but given current workload demands that I do not accept work for free or the opportunity or whatever. 

Then I send a proposal. 

The people I actually want to work with understand and either send a counter offer or accept. It’s business. 

If people push for answers, don’t give them the answers, but give them a preview of how you will help them achieve their goals. Preview the process and how easy you are to work with. And show off your expertise but without giving knowledge away.

Email me here to request  a proposal if you need digital strategy help.

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Christoph blogs on The Authentic Storytelling Project and is a globally recognized content marketing expert. The IMA named him Internet Marketer of the Year in 2015. He works with healthcare organizations and other brands around the globe.

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