Free Stuff! Is It Worth The Hassle?


When I first started blogging I was never contacted by companies to review items in return for a write-up on my blog.  The concept of receiving free items was the last thing I was thinking about, but almost 5 years in, I am at the point where I have to deny a good number of companies, and more than anything I understand the free never means free.  I thought it would be interesting to discuss this topic because quite frankly many bloggers don’t.  I guess it’s taboo or something…whatever.  Keep in mind that I am not a full-time blogger.  I may blog like a full-time blogger, but I still have a full-time job, so I am certain that my rules are quite different from others.  I wanted to share what I have learned about free stuff.

1)    You Have Start Somewhere.  When you are new to blogging you have to crawl before you walk.  I worked with small online boutiques before any established brand ever contacted me about sending me items.  First, it will feel very exciting for a company to contact you requesting to send free items (you almost feel validated as a blogger), but soon that feeling will dissipate and you will realize that this is a business.  A lot of businesses are making money off of the hard work of bloggers, yet the bloggers are not reaping the benefits.  If you decide to do clothing reviews for your blog do not get wrapped up in the euphoria of the moment, stay focused.

2)    Weigh The Pros & Cons.  Once your blog reaches a certain number of views per day it may be time to start requesting payment.  I don’t always request payment to review or showcase clothing from a company, but I don’t believe in charity either.  I may work with a brand just because I just really love their clothing or what they represent.  It is not always about a payday for me, I look at my blog as a creative outlet to share information.   My guidelines for reviews and payment have definitely changed, but I can always see the bigger picture.  If I am working with a company that can provide my blog exposure, I may consider working with them for an arrangement that may not include monetary gain, but in the long run it could be beneficial for my blog.  These are things that you may want to consider as you decide what companies to partner with.

3)    Know Your Worth. You have to be willing to take risks and know your worth.  If I would have continued to provide free marketing to companies in exchange for a top or dress, I would be cutting myself short.  It may seem crazy to reject free items if you don’t have clear blog goals.  If you are not careful your mind will start playing tricks on you, but free clothes does not equal payment, and you must be clear about that and understand how to work the system.  I can buy my own clothes, I do need anyone to send me anything.  Companies understand the influence of bloggers, even bloggers that are not at the top of the food chain.  It is all about identifying the blogger that they feel will get their clothing or product in front of the correct consumer.  You do not have to have the largest following in the world to partner with brands, but you have to understand your audience clearly.

4)    Set Clear Rates. It is important to set up clear rates for every type of service that you offer on your blog.  I was late to this ball game, but now I have clear rates for sponsored posts, videos, and ad sales.  You should do this early by researching how much bloggers are charging and comparing that to how many “unique visitors” your blog is getting (this can get completed so I will talk about this in another post).  Basically, you should develop a media kit and be prepared to share your rates when companies start to contact you.

5)    Always Think of Your Audience.  You should never take free stuff, just to get free stuff.  Everything that you take in the name of your blog should be items that you believe will be beneficial to share with your readers.  Integrity is important and you should never say you like something if you don’t or mislead your audience into believing things that are not true.  Try to be very transparent, and always reveal when you have been sent an item for free (per FTC guidelines, check out a post that I did on that HERE).

I hope that I have given you some things to think about as your blog begins to grow and flourish with opportunities because it can be very difficult trying to figure things out when everything is new to you.  Let me know if you have any questions and please feel free to Tweet Me your comments as well.