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“I would do this for free, but I make you pay so that you understand the value of what you are getting.” – Mike Lipkin via Mitch Joel

C.C. Chapman had a great podcast the other day about valuing yourself and your time as an influencer, particularly in social media. I wanted to build off his conversation by giving you a benchmark for how to calculate your value.

The monetary value of your social media influence starts with your current pay. After all, it’s the fairest price estimate of what the market is willing to pay for you. Here’s how to calculate that on an hourly basis. If you’re salaried, take the total sum of salary and benefits and divide by 2080. (52 weeks x 40 hours per week) This gives you your hourly rate. If you’re an independent contractor, self employed, or hourly worker, calculate the same way – use your 2008 taxes and expenses to judge the total cost of your self-provided health insurance, income, etc.

Once you know your hourly rate, whatever it is, you understand your current market value. If a company sends you a product for review on your blog and it takes you an hour to review it, its value had better exceed your hourly rate or you’re losing value. You’re giving away more value than you’re receiving, because theoretically, you could be working for your current employer at the same rate.

When a corporation approaches you about helping them with their campaign, you must know your hourly rate as a baseline to judge whether or not something is worth doing. As C.C. said in his show, sometimes you’ll work for no monetary compensation in lieu of exposure, reputation, or other non-monetary currencies. That’s fine. You don’t have to charge your friends, but you must know the value of what you are giving them, especially if they’re representing a company in their request. For example, if Scott Monty asked me to put up a blog post about an automobile, he may know me as a friend, but he’s asking on behalf of a commercial account, and whatever comes with the request had better be valued at my hourly rate or I’m losing value.

Think about what value your personal web site provides. Check out similar sites with similar PageRanks, traffic, and reputation, especially commercial sites, and determine what an ad costs to place on those sites. If a commercial entity comes to you and asks you to display a badge on your blog, know what they’d pay on other similar sites (use Google Ad Planner and Compete.com, for example) and judge whether you’re getting that value from the company in exchange for your efforts.

The reason we have so much trouble with social media ROI begins with not having any idea what our value is. Use some of the points in this post to start assessing your own value, and you’ll have the beginnings of understanding what the ROI of your social media influence is.

How much money are you leaving behind?

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