Things people think moms do for free. Like…work.

As mothers, there are myriad things we do for free. Happily. Willingly. Well, mostly.

should I work for free? by jessica hische

Here’s an extremely abridged list of my own:

Things I do for free:

Wash dishes

Make beds at least once every two weeks

Pour cereal for breakfast

Prepare somewhat nutritious school lunches

Volunteer at the school carnival even if my face-painting skills traumatize several children for life

Write posts about my life on my personal blog.

Leave comments on other people’s personal blogs.

Promote non-profit businesses for which I have great passion.


Tie small shoes, often several times in one day.

Listen to friends on the phone in the middle of the night just because they really need to talk.

Dedicate my weekends to ballet practices and birthday parties.

Sing karaoke off-key. (You’re welcome.)

Help my parents set up their websites.

Give business advice to good friends and colleagues over coffee.

Retweet great blog posts.

Offer to finish that last cookie for you.


Things I do not do for free:


I believe that you know some extremely good information regarding how to capture the attention of mothers since you regularly write and post content targeted specifically for women and mothers.  I am wondering if you would have time to for a short conversation to discuss marketing strategies and/or your ideas on how to capture the attention of mothers and what kinds of information mothers want.  That sort of insight would be a HUGE help as [my client] considers ways to promote his [business].


Therefore, when I refer you to some excellent blogger consultants and quote their average hourly rates, and you write back to tell me oh no…you’re not looking for consulting, I have to say, oh geez, I’m sorry but I think you’ve been misinformed somehow.

I know we are moms and the whole growing a person in our uterus thing thing tooootally throws people off, but I’m not sure it negates my college degree, my social media expertise and two decades of advertising experience. If it does, forgive me of course. But I have a sneaking suspicion that you’ve been somehow given the wrong impression about what moms–even “mom bloggers”–do for free.

Eat your last Oreo? Yes.

Discuss marketing strategies and our ideas on how to capture the attention of mothers to help your client promote his business? No.

Just thought I’d clear that one up on behalf of, well, I think a lot of us.

(However this advice? Totally free! I’m not unreasonable.)


[should i work for free poster by jessica hische]


37 thoughts on “Things people think moms do for free. Like…work.”

  1. A friend of mine often gets told, “You’re a magician? Show me a trick!” He usually responds with “You’re an accountant? Show me a spreadsheet!” or some variant as applicable based on the person’s profession.

  2. I get so many of these emails that I have a canned response that I send that is identical to yours. My favorite reply is, “well, there are plenty of other mommy bloggers that will be more than grateful to take us up on our offer.”

    I reply “good luck with your endeavors!” But what I really want to say is, “you get what you pay for.”

  3. Omg I’m glad you addressed this issue. I actually had a pr rep use your other blog as an example in an email to me why I should promote their “non-profit looking” client that is actually for profit, but collects a cut from non-profits for advertising they pay to them and the PR company soliciting bloggers for FREE Advertorials. She says her paid firm doesn’t pay bloggers because bloggers payment is being considered journalists.

    1. I’ve always said that editorial is not advertising, and consulting is neither. It’s so important that we understand the distinctions because so many PR people still don’t.

  4. Oh, convoluted nature of internet work: everything is for free! As long as you toss in an offer for coffee???

    I still remember in ye olde days of computers being rarity, how my friend was fuming that everybody expected him to “help” with brand new computers, because, well, he knows it. And enjoys it. And they asked nicely. I still remember his response: “I’m paying for plumber’s time every time he shows up (and pay dearly, might I say), why is my time less worthy? Nobody expects free de-clogging help from plumbers, but computer people, help is expected. If you have friend carpenter, would you expect him to put all your drywall for free?”
    I guess,nothing changed, except occasional switch in actual occupation name.

    1. It’s not a giant effing company, but someone big enough to hire (as in pay) a PR firm. Who then wants me to do her work for her. Maybe he should just skip the middleman then if she has to ask her audience how to do her job?

      Heading to youtube…

  5. Thanks for this. And to answer your question from twitter (“When are marketers going to understand that bloggers don’t work for free?”): When mom bloggers band together and stop working for free. There’s always somebody else down the food chain willing to do it for free (or for coupons or whatever). And while it is absolutely true, as another commenter said, that they get what they pay for, I’m not sure that figures into the equation as much as it should. This has to come from our side.

    BTW, I don’t say this enough: when I first started doing this, and didn’t even know that getting paid was an option, you were the one who was saying it. Thank you.

    1. Agree 100% – if we do not say no as a whole, there will always be someone who does something for free and as someone who is not small but not large…we (the medium sized folks) often are somewhat stuck in purgatory. So many times, I see someone just get frustrated with trying to grow bigger so they take whatever is offered. It is a lousy place to be in, but I still stick to my guns …

      As for Liz – she was the FIRST one that advised me when I got a pitch from a mommy-product that wanted me to help them make a ‘list’ to offer my paid services – and they didn’t want a list after all.ha!
      I havent’ seen their product anywhere.

  6. I don’t think she understands what the word consultant means 🙂 My dad once explained the difference between and adviser and a consultant. They pretty much do the same thing, the 2nd one gets paid 🙂 He was sort of forced into retirement but didn’t want to quite give up is working life so was advising buddies based on his experience. He was for sure not devaluing the work of paid consultants, of which at the time there were few due to the terrible economy in his field (semi mfg).

    When it comes to the consumer mindshare, there are enough people willing to pay, that I’m amazed that any business would expect advice for free. On the other hand, seems there are a lot of people willing to be advisers versus consultants. I’m sticking to the less glamorous B2B marketing where nobody expects me to work for free.

  7. So helpful, as usual. I think when people (ahem, me) start out, they (ahem, me) don’t know how things work. I’ve never worked in media. When I went to BlogHer in August I didn’t even understand why PR people were there at first.

  8. It’s not just moms, either. It’s anyone who provides a creative service, like writers, PR pros, photographers, graphic designers.

    How many times have I been invited to write for a website “for the exposure” or do PR for a reduced rate because “if I do a good job we’ll refer you more business.” Well, compliments don’t pay the bills.

    Can you imagine anyone asking a doctor to work for free or a lawyer to work for free for exposure/referrals? It’s sad how little some businesses value marketing, from strategy all the way down to company blogging. If it’s as easy! fun! as they say when they pitch it why aren’t they just doing it?

    Ahh you can see this is a hot topic for me.

    1. I’m with you. I got another pitch this week guaranteeing “lots of exposure” if I write posts for them because they will tweet it to their [way less than the number I have] Twitter followers. I was thinking, you can’t guarantee it. Because it won’t happen.

      I have been linked in major newspapers and received a lot less traffic than you’d think. I don’t know that their [very small number of] twitter followers will do better.

      I’m glad we’re talking about this. Like others have said, it’s knowledge we may take for granted but others are still learning.

  9. I love this. Mostly because it is an area of blogging that I am not remotely close to but appreciate the advice for the future. It is so in my nature to do things that I should be paid for…for free. I’ve been trying to be better about giving my knowledge (or ideas!!) away and realizing that I have something worth paying for….that sounded dirty…..

  10. Actors, too. I’ve been performing for years in a right-to-work state. It’s hard to get paid gigs as a non-equity performer because so many people are willing to work for free. “You get what you pay for” doesn’t apply in this case though–there are tons of really talented people who act for free, trying to build a name for themselves. But until they stop doing it, theatres will continue to pay everyone (lighting technicians, set designers, directors) EXCEPT the actors. PS, I’m a big fan–I wish I could hire you to help my blog haha!

  11. This reminds me a lot of what musicians go through. When anyone balks at the rate my string quartet charges an hour to play a wedding I remind them that they are not paying for that hour. They are paying for the years of training, rehearsals, and experience that preceded it. From that perspective it’s a bargain. (Musicians have the added problem that what we do is called ‘playing’ and I think people assume there is no real work involved. Just some kind of magical talent that appeared out of thin air.)

    And how nice to know what to do with my last cookie, finally!

    1. I’m getting the sense from this thread that unless you have MD after your name, there’s a perception that your skills are replaceable.

      Okay, doctors and probably astronauts. But that’s it.

  12. I think that mom bloggers that work for free do a disservice to the industry. Why is it that because we’ve given birth that people think that now negates our degrees or experience? Sheesh.

  13. My mother, who is an artist, always told me never to give your work away for free — even if you put a very small price on it, or give a huge discount to a friend, you should still indicate that your work has a value by pricing it at something rather than nothing. It’s good advice but I have to say in this new media landscape, it’s not as clear. Years ago as a journalist, I freelanced and always got paid, even by very small publications. Now, I find myself posting blogs on Huff Post now and then for exposure and even though I post there after posting on my own blog and can thus tell myself I am not working first and foremost for Huffpost but for myself, I can’t help feeling bad that I am giving them my work for free.

  14. LOVE this post. It’s gotten so bad that when someone asks me whether I know a writer who might be interested in X project, the first thing I say is: “you know, you’ll have to pay them”. Three things sad about that:

    1. that I have learned it’s the first thing I have to say
    2. that it comes as a surprise
    3. that 100% of the time they no longer are interested in referrals

    BTW, it’s usually someone’s fascinating memoir or how-to book that is guaranteed to make a ton of money once it’s published (y’know since book publishing is so profitable these days) so the writer should be willing to work for nothing now in exchange for a cut of the profits later…

    And I totally agree with Heather’s comment about you get what you pay for. The best clients understand that without having to be told.

  15. And let’s also add that even when you do get paid, it is often a small amount for which the client has huge expectations. Now I don’t want to work for pay or non-pay, just back to the good ol’ days of writing my little ol blog for little ol me.

  16. You have such a way with words, Liz. I love the way you featured this huge problem in your post, rather quietly but spot on. Like you, I work with non-profits for free, because it is rewarding work, but I realize that most companies do have a budget and I have something very real to offer them now. My new mantra is to try to be compensated for what I can do, or do nothing at all even if I don’t write about as much as I used to. But it’s also about staying true to myself and writing about what I want to write about. But it’s taken a very long time to get to this point. I also recently left the company I worked most regularly for because they also devalued my work and pay, and I’d had enough. It took me a while to get the courage to leave. Why? I don’t know. I’m working on that.

    1. I wish I could let it stop with me. Like, I say no, the end. But I can’t. Because there is some woman out there who is flattered “just to be asked” and so she will consult for free.

      I know, because I used to fall for it too. I take it personally.

  17. You have a very strong personality, it’s crucial to know how to say “NO” sometimes, but as you said some people have that talent to make you say things you don’t want to say… I sometimes hate that, in other hand I admire this type of people, they know what they want and know how to get it.

  18. Unfortunately I know this one so well—as an art director/graphic designer and as a mom. I was volunteering my “talents” so much that it didn’t leave much time for paid work… and it wasn’t bringing in any referrals for any paid work either. It just brought MORE “Can you do this for free?” stuff. So after wrapping up one huge project a year ago I hung up my hat. No work goes out this door unless it’s paid for. *pours more cereal* Consequently, there’s not been much work but I’m still not going back on that. It’s too exhausting and nothing “flatters” me anymore. Nothing but da “cheddar,” that is.

  19. *sigh* This was exactly the post I needed to read right now. I’ve just ended a very long email conversation with a company that was insistent that my readers would love to know what their client does and that I’d be doing a disservice to them if I didn’t allow them a post on my blog as a guest. I try to be polite, I try to educate, I try to explain my side and in the end … I honestly don’t think they understood a thing I was saying and that they’re shrugging right now saying, “huh, she’s a b*tch.”

    1. Or…they’re having the same conversation with 9 other bloggers right now and thinking, “hm, maybe we’re dong something wrong.”


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