How to Get Free Stuff for Your Blog
Hello! I'm Charlotte, and I'm the founder of Blog and Beyond. I'm a slightly sarcastic 22-year-old grandma from Glasgow who loves The Sims, Hugh Laurie and programmes about airports. I've been blogging at Colours and Carousels for nearly eight years and work freelance in digital marketing.
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Spoiler alert: you can't.
Okay, click bait title aside, there is a misconception nowadays that bloggers are all sent lots of shiny new products for free, with no hard work involved, and it gets a little tiring. Sure, it is really nice to be seen as worthy of receiving press samples from brands, but I've spent years building up my blog and put a lot of work in on a daily basis to be in this position.
When you think about all of the hours of work that go on behind the scenes, is that new mascara really a freebie? Well, no. There is a big difference between payment-in-kind and free, which a lot of people don't realise. To create just one post I can spend hours styling, shooting and editing photographs, writing the post content, optimising said post for search engines, scheduling social promotion and monitoring analytics.
That doesn't even include the time spent researching, testing or replying to emails - blogging can be a pretty time-consuming hobby when you take each small part into account. Yet time after time I have people tell me just how lucky I am to "get sent all of this stuff for free". Whilst I am very lucky to be in this position, it's not just luck. It's hard work - and a lot of it.
"But Charlotte, you said you'd tell me how to get these not-so-free freebies for my blog?!"
Well, here are some of my top pieces of advice when it comes to securing brand collaborations and press samples...
I feel like this should be a given, but unfortunately, a lot of people don't always realise it. If you want something, work hard for it. Put in the hours to refine what you do, work on your content, improve your photography, promote your blog, learn SEO - whatever it is you think you need to do.
I'm not saying that you need to have Pinterest-perfect pictures to get these opportunities because that's just not true, but the reality of it is that with so many bloggers out there you need to be able to keep up with the crowd in some way or another.
Work hard and reap the benefits! It took me years before I was offered my first brand collaboration, and I'm still a small fry in the blogging world, but I'd be nowhere if I didn't put the time in. You can't just expect these opportunities to fall out of the sky and land straight in your lap.
Provide Mutual Value
The whole point of brand collaborations and press samples is exchanging value between all parties, so you need to have something to bring to the table. The brand is providing you with something of some sort of value, be that products or money, and in return, you're providing them with content and promotion.
They're also providing you with the opportunity to create content, which in turn is valued by your readers who come to your blog to see what you think. It has to be mutually beneficial, and as much as I wish the blogging world didn't all boil down to numbers, there needs to be something in it for everyone involved.
To be fair, though, this isn't always number focused - maybe you can provide beautiful imagery or moving words. The PRs on the other end of that email will need to justify who they're choosing to collaborate with, so it's important that you can provide something that will make it worthwhile. A big audience doesn't necessarily mean an engaged audience and everyone will have their own idea of what constitutes as being successful.
Know Your Worth
Knowing your worth is something that I've only just started to come to terms with, but is so important. Appreciating the value of what you can provide is not only important on a personal level, but for the industry as a whole.
The work you put into a blog post is valuable, you are providing a service, albeit a service that you (hopefully) love. Fair enough, not everyone has the desire to monetise or create sponsored content, but spending hours creating beautiful content in exchange for that fabled "exposure" can devalue what the industry as a whole does.
As I said in the point above, there has to be something in it for everyone and that something should be relative to your worth. Don't undersell yourself and the hard work that you do!
Professionalism and politeness are key in so many walks of life. Running a blog does not mean you are automatically entitled to samples and I hate when I see people acting as if they are. A blog is a business, so careful consideration is needed when you're putting things in the public eye. Tweet what you like, I do, but be aware that it can come back to bite you.
If you're seen to be inflammatory or are consistently slagging off brands or fellow bloggers, it might not necessarily give the best impression and could be off-putting. You might not care, and that's cool, but if working with brands is part of your overall intentions for your blog then I'd definitely spend a bit of time thinking about how you come across on the internet as a whole.
Building relationships is a big part of working with brands and so being polite, and doing what you say you will when you will, is so important. Communicate, be honest and open. It's a two-way street, and you never know where you'll bump into people again. I've had experiences where I've built a great relationship with someone who has then moved into a new role and gets in touch with new brands and opportunities or has even recommended me for other opportunities with their contacts.
Quite possibly the most important point of them all, really. Personally, I blog because I want to share the things I love, so I turn down campaigns or opportunities that aren't really relevant to me - which is quite a lot sometimes. Staying true to yourself and what you love is so, so, so, so important and it quickly becomes glaringly obvious if someone is "selling out" and writing about random topics like car insurance or generators on a beauty blog for the sake of a few quid. Blog about what you love and your passion will shine through.
At the end of the day, is that not what it's all about?