How bloggers get free products


How do I start a blog and get free stuff?

This is a question I’m asked a lot. Actually, it’s the question I’m asked the most so it makes sense I write a blog post about it. This also means I can give a more detailed answer than I ever could in a quick email.

Before I go any further, remember that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. I sound like my dad here but honestly, I cannot stress enough how much work goes into blogging and reviewing products. You may call this a freebie but when you think about all the time, effort, equipment and research that goes into a product review, you’ll probably start to wonder if it’s even worth it.

If you’re in the blagging game rather than the blogging game, it definitely isn’t worth it. I’ll save you time and just tell you to quit while you’re ahead!

You cannot set up a blog and expect freebies to start rolling in. Why not? Because you don’t have any kind of influence, that’s why! OK, you may get sent a few tea bags or a pair of socks. Yes, we all love tea and we all love socks but this really isn’t a good reason to set up a blog. (Unless you love socks THAT much. And in that case, who am I to judge?)

I don’t mean for this to seem negative, harsh or unreasonable. This is the truth.

Everyone has a different opinion when it comes to blogging and I am definitely not a fount of all knowledge. Many bloggers will dismiss a newbie who even dares to ask the freebie question but I think it’s better to tell the truth than to sell an eBook about ‘travelling the world for free’ or any such bullshit. It’s not possible, people!

When I say ‘product’ in this post I mean actual physical products as well as travels, flights, hotel stays, experiences, days out, meals. Basically anything you’ve received for free. This post does not just apply to travel bloggers, it applies to all niches. As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments too!

1. It takes time

I was blogging for about four years before I received any kind of ‘freebie’. During that time I spent about 25 hours per week on writing, editing, social media and engaging with other bloggers in order to build up a following and a decent amount of pageviews.

That’s about 5,200 hours of work before you get anything ‘for free’.

I found these extra hours by blogging during lunch breaks, writing during my commute, spending a couple of hours each evening on my laptop and I usually spent all day on Sunday blogging. I also blogged while I was travelling and I barely watch TV at all. (You’d be amazed by how much you get done by not watching shit TV.) I was doing this because I loved it and without any intention to ever grow my blog into my career.

If I’d worked those 5,200 hours at a job paying minimum wage I would have earned £33,800. Obviously you’d be taxed extra as it would be a second job but I’m not really sure how to work that out (sorry!)

£33k is A LOT of money!

During that time I also invested in webhosting, a domain name, a decent laptop and a good camera and spent hundreds of pounds in internet cafes while I was travelling. In total, that probably comes in at about £3,000. (Admittedly, I didn’t NEED a Mac or a £300 camera but they both turned out to be great investments.)

If you hadn’t guessed it already, I’m trying to say that you’d be better off getting a part-time job to BUY things than starting a blog to get freebies.

But if you’re still interested, keep reading….

 

2. Build up a proper following and a decent number of pageviews

No one will send you anything if you don’t have any readers. Simple as.

By ‘proper following’ I mean a community of like-minded people, not just fellow bloggers from #TeamFollowBack. Yes, there might be 10,000 of them out there but they aren’t of any value.

When it comes to pageviews, lots of people will tell you that a niche is more important than high numbers.

Sometimes this is true. For example, if you blog about nothing but red shoes, The Red Shoe Company might send you a pair of red shoes to review. This is beneficial for them because they know you have an audience of red shoe lovers who are likely to purchase the red shoes you reviewed.

But that’s the important thing, having an audience.

You can’t expect to receive anything if you don’t have an audience and therefore, a decent number of pageviews.

 

3. What’s a good number of pageviews?

It varies and everyone will give you a different answer. Personally (and I know some people will disagree here) I’d say at least 30,000 pageviews per month is ‘decent’.

It’s not really my place to say what a good number of pageviews is because each brand will have their own opinion and I’m not the one sending anyone products to review. Personally, I’d hate to review a product and feel as though my review had absolutely no impact on the blogosphere because barely anyone saw it.

But remember pageviews aren’t everything. You might have 2-3 random posts that receive thousands of hits from Google searches each month but no one reads the rest of your posts.

This is why engagement is also crucial as this shows that people are interested in what you’re writing.

 

4. Never, ever, call it a freebie

A sure way to piss off a blogger or a brand is to call it a ‘freebie’.

I know I’ve called it a ‘free’ in the title of this blog post but, like a good blogger, I’ve done my keyword research and found that’s what people are searching for.

Let’s say The Red Shoe Blog received a pair of shoes. The blogger will need to set up a photo shoot and photograph the shoes. She’ll then wear them out 2-3 times to make sure they’re good quality so she feels comfortable recommending them to her readers. She’ll then write about them, upload it to her blog, spend some time on formatting and make the post look nice. Once the post is live she’ll spend some time marketing it.

In total, it will probably take at least 5 hours with the photography, writing, editing and promo.

She’ll also spend about 5 hours per week on blog admin, replying to emails, engaging with bloggers and all the other bloggy stuff that takes ages.

So that’s 10 hours work. At least. And those 10 hours don’t come for free. Therefore it’s not a freebie. Again, she would have been better spending that time doing overtime at work or working a second job and buying the shoes herself.

 

5. Have a professional media kit

If anyone is going to send you a product to review they’re going to want to know what the ROI is. ROI stands for Return on Investment and basically means they’re going to want something in return for investing in you.

Include stats in your media kit such as the click-through rate from your product reviews. You’ll need a link to the product and you can tell how many people are clicking on this link by using a free tool such as Bitly.com. If only a handful of people are clicking on the link then the ROI is low.

If you can prove someone has purchased something because of your review then pop it in your media kit with evidence to back you up.

Sales aren’t always the number 1 priority, particularly with travel as it’s unlikely someone will impulse buy a holiday. Brand and destination awareness are also very important.

Until you can prove you’re influencing people’s decisions, you won’t be receiving any ‘freebies’.

How bloggers get freebies

6. Be professional

So you’ve got some professional stats going on and a professional media kit, now it’s time to BE professional.

Make sure you’re producing content everyone is happy with. By everyone I mean you, your readers and the person sending you the product. Send a follow-up email to the brand you’re working with which includes stats and reader feedback and keep them updated a few months down the line.

If you were a dream to work with once, it’s likely they’ll work with you again.

 

7. Be honest

Believe it or not, you don’t need to pretend a product was amazing even if it wasn’t. Shocking, I know.

If you pretend it is then you’re tricking your readers and they’ll never believe anything you write again.

Before receiving a product, I would let the brand know that you’re 100% honest in your reviews so they’re not expecting a glowing report of their shoddy product.

 

8. Only review valuable products

(and I don’t mean expensive)

Eeeeek, you’ve been offered your first product to review, how exciting!

But it’s a crap product you neither want or need and, chances are, your readers couldn’t care less.

Just because it’s free you don’t need to take it!

Only ever review products or trips that are relevant to your niche and you think your audience will be interested in. If you wouldn’t pay for a product with your own money, don’t bother reviewing it.

The monetary value of the product shouldn’t matter but the informative value it could bring to your audience should.

(Wow, that’s a profound thought.)

 

9. Write about what you want to be reviewing

So you want to write about luxury holidays. You know you’d do an awesome job and your blog posts would be amazing. The only problem is, no one will send you on a 5* luxury holiday because you’ve got no evidence you can provide high quality blog posts.

You might know you’re awesome, but unfortunately, no one else does.

The best way to prove how awesome you are is to pay for it yourself. Create loads of awesome blogs and use all the content and stats you produce to form a portfolio of work that you can present to a luxury holiday company as an example of what you can provide.

A fashion blogger once asked me how she could get ‘free holidays’. She has a huge audience but she’s never invited abroad – how unfair is that!? (Sarcasm there in case you missed it) I asked a PR friend of mine and she reiterated what I wrote above. You need to prove you can blog about travel before you can expect any press trip invites. A PR could never justify your invite to her client without any evidence you’d product great blog posts.

 

10. Getting on the radar of PRs and brands

There are thousands of really good blogs out there so don’t be offended if a brand doesn’t approach you. Get on their radar by being active on social media, use appropriate hashtags on Twitter, go to as many networking events as you can and don’t be afraid to approach them directly if you feel your blog can offer value.

A lot of the PRs in the travel industry will know each other so once you’ve worked with a few and produced great results, you’ll find the ball will be rolling for more opportunities.

 

11. Never start a blog to get freebies

Top tip: Never write in a bloggers forum ‘how do I get blogging freebies’ because you will get ripped to shreds by the other bloggers. I’ve seen bloggers do this and they’re like a lamb to the slaughter.

People who start blogs purely to get freebies give all bloggers a bad name.

Blog for the love of blogging. Blog because you want to share your thoughts and ideas with the world, not because you want some free shizzle.

If you’re reading this and still thinking that it’s well worth the time and effort involved in blogging then congratulations, you’re obviously a natural blogger!

If you’re reading this and thinking, ‘Hell no, that sounds like waaaay too much work,’ then maybe you should do some overtime or save your pennies and just buy the product for yourself.

There’s a great article on medium, ‘How to travel the world and get companies to pay for it‘, which is also worth a read. Spoiler alert (sorry), you work your ass off for 10+ years and be amazingly successful and then you might be able to start thinking about it.

 

Check out The Blogger Course for more tips and blogging advice!

TheTravelHack

Monica is the founder and editor of The Travel Hack. She began the blog in 2009 when she left the UK to travel around Asia and Australia for two years. She's now a professional blogger and has travelled around the world in search of stylish adventure travel. Monica has recently had her second baby and is determined to prove that travelling with a baby is possible!

SHOWHIDE Comments (47)
  1. Hi Monica 🙂

    Great blog post – very honest too.

    It can get a bit dangerous for the industry when people start assuming bloggers get everything for free, and that it’s an easy way to make money and get ‘freebies’ -because it’s simply not the case. It’s important to address the fact that any blogging benefit always comes with a huge investment of time, energy and work.

    I’ve heard graduates and students saying things like ‘I want to be a blogger when I’m older’ and that makes me a bit worried, as I’m not sure anyone has told them the level of work that is involved. I think people assume it’s an easy route to take career-wise, when it most certainly isn’t. Most bloggers I know work 1/2 other jobs (freelance or fulltime) at the same time to maintain their lifestyle.

    Anyway, great post lovely lady – and it was wonderful seeing you the other week 🙂 x

    1. It’s funny to think people leave school thinking of blogging as a career. I’m actually glad they do. People still look at me like I have two heads when I tell them I’m a blogger.
      And that’s true, most bloggers I know have 2-3 side jobs too.

  2. I’m glad you wrote this post. The “free” stuff associated with bloggers is misrepresented and misunderstood by many. Seriously, it takes years of hard work to create a comfy place for yourself. Nothing happens overnight! And besides, as you said, a blogger has to see if a so-called free product is worth a review.

  3. I think a lot of times people look at beauty and fashion bloggers and think “oh they are getting stuff for free! I want the same”. It’s not really as simple as that is it. It takes a lot of work and hours to build an audience as well as a quality blog. People should certainly blog about things that they love rather than just go with the masses for the sake of a “freebie”

  4. Thanks for the tips. Do agree that it takes a while to build up a successful blog and generate enough views and followers and fans to justify getting ‘free’ things. One thing I did want to share though as part of the ‘working hard’ part is that one also shouldn’t just sit back and wait for companies to approach you. They won’t. They have no idea who you are. Instead make sure you have sufficient traffic and rapport in your website/ social media, and then feel free to reach out to companies direct and see if they’re interested as well. Highlight why you chose to approach them (i.e. their product is amazing and exactly what you want to test out) and exactly what you’re going to be doing as part of the review. The professionalism is indeed key

  5. A great and honest look at the “freebie” fallacy in the blogging industry. I’ll admit, one of the minor reasons I got started in blogging was to get some free or discounted gear within my niche. It was NOT the main reason at all–nor did I start it because I wanted to make money… But I think you should acknowledge the potential of those things from the beginning and identify whether you want to pursue it or not. Realizing what you want and going after it will be a much better guide than waiting for someone to come beating on your door with it.

  6. Great, interesting and honest blog post!
    I recently started blogging and it is a lot of work. But it is a lot of fun. Just to do all this work to get some freebies is crazy (I mean if you just blog for that).
    I think there are a lot of easier ways to get “free” products without all the time that one spends in blogging.

    Blog for fun! 🙂 (and if something comes out of it, well why not)

    1. That’s exactly what I think too. Blogging is loads of fun but I think it’s really obvious when people don’t enjoy blogging. They’re tactical and follow all the rules but there’s no creativity or fun in their posts.

    1. Waay to complicated! I think a lot of people are looking for a quick answer. I wish I could give one but there aren’t any quick tricks or secrets. It’s just hard work and a loyal following!

  7. I’ll admit, I once thought blogging to get free stuff was a good idea. (Yes, I can hear you boo-ing).

    But it wasn’t the starting reason behind my blog. A passion for travel, adventure and writing was the reason my blog started.

    I’m just six months old and the amount of work I have to put in to blogging, day in, day out, is beyond anything I ever imagined.

    The ONLY thing that keeps me going when I’m full of cold and it’s 10:30pm and I’m still writing blog posts or replying to Twitter comments or editing photos, is not the prospect of ‘free’ stuff – but the passion and love of writing about my experience in the world. I’d be lost without blogging. It is me.

    I know that bloggers that are passionate about it as a form of communication will feel the same.
    Claire x

  8. A very honest post about the realities of blogging. I had no idea how much time it would take or how obsessed I would become. However, the majority of blogs are abandoned within a year which is very telling in terms of the commitment required.

  9. I am a Full Specialist. Nail Technician and Esthetician. I would LOVE to start a blog but am so overwhelmed to even begin! I don’t even know where to start!

    1. You should Sandy! Maybe start with social media? There are lots of nail technicians doing really well on Instagram by sharing pictures of their client’s nails. It could be a nice easy place to begin?

  10. I really did enjoy this post and agree with a lot you have said.
    It is no good blogging every day if your content is not good. It needs to be the best you can produce and people will come back. I only blog once a month but still get over 25,000 page views a month.
    Also expect a lot of companies you approach to not even reply to you. Marketing your blog and getting it noticed often takes more time than writing it.
    Blogging is not a job, it is a passion.

  11. Thank you for this post, to be honest i always wanted to write a blog but then when i came to know that companies give sample products, this made me greedy and today its been 4 days that i have been setting up my blog , I read your article and was really moved, Thank you for reminding me what blogging really meant to me earlier, thank you 🙂

  12. Hello Monica,
    Thanks for the valuable information, I was looking on how to approach companies as a blogger since I started a blog some months ago, I had that dream since some time ago but I did not how to start and felt it was going to be difficult, but then I decided to start since I don’t want to wake up one day an regret not doing it.
    I have read lots of articles about people discouraging new bloggers but despite of it definitely I am enjoying the journey 🙂
    http://www.yeyescloset.com

  13. Thanks for keeping it real. 😉 There are tons of people who have no idea how much work blogging actually requires before you start enjoying the perks (consistent income, freebies, etc.).

  14. Hey, I really appreciate and respect this. I thought I wanted to become a blogger or famous on Instagram so I could get free things. That was two years ago and I think because of that I never got started really.
    But a couple weeks ago I realised what I wanted to blog about and started doing it AND I LOVE IT. I think the key to enjoying blogging is clearly to blog about something you know and love, not something you think will get you free stuff.

    I’d love it if you checked out what I’ve done in the past week.
    Dontstayinside.wordpress.com

  15. This is a great post. My goal is definitely not to get freebies. I’m blogging and travelling like you did, mostly because I enjoy it. But yes it would be nice to potentially earn a little bit of money from it in the distant future.

  16. Great tips! I love your point about no ‘freebie’ being free. So many non-bloggers don’t realise how much work we do. Someone once said to me ‘So, there are starving children in the world and you get free stuff’…?!!

  17. Apt as I am reading this post on Father’s Day, your dad was correct! There is no such thing as a free lunch. Everything has a value and a cost attached to it. It is the value that you place on the item for your readership, combined with an honest appraisal of the item from all perspectives that is important. You are helping a reader to make a buying decision or an avoid decision. That is the cost. Great post.

  18. This was an amazingly informative!! I am a new blogger and the first few months were the pits. It was so challenging to even get anyone to know that my blog existed let alone follow my blog. You are right in saying it is a lot of work honey, but I absolutely love it and this post made me feel so much better about my progress. 🙂

  19. I really like this post, it’s great to hear advice from someone who has already gone through the process. I have a blog and it’s not yet where I want it to be but I’m getting positive response.

  20. wow straight forward and direct to the point. thank u for this. i was starting to get depressed because i dont know there are some bloggers who say this and that like we get this much freebies in just a month or in less than a year of blogging etc etc and brag about stuff and make u feel that they are more superior than u are something like that. and at first i just wanted to share my knowledge and then when u browse the web universe u get those stuff u start to wonder how come i dont get those stuff like they do. so right on. thanks and keep up the good work

  21. I have a question. When you said
    “Therefore it’s not a freebie. Again, she would have been better spending that time doing overtime at work or working a second job and buying the shoes herself.”
    does it mean that after we review things, we have to send them back?

    I’m new on this, I didn’t get that level yet, so I just want to be ready and know what might happen. Thank you!

    1. No, when you’re sent a product to review you always keep it. What I mean is that it can take years and years of hard work to get to a point where you’re sent products to review. Let’s say it’s 1,000 hours of work. And if you put all that time and effort into a second job then you’d actually end up with much more money to buy the products for yourself which is why it’s a bad idea to start a blog to get free products.

  22. Okay so here is a question for you from a brand perspective and hopefully you can help us out with this. So we had a lesson learned in regards to sending items to a “new blogger” that has a smaller audience just to help them out and get them started. So I sent quite a few items from our line and the deal was that this blogger was going to do a review of the products on their social media and blog, our products are a bit high end so we weren’t sending crappy stuff lol. That was in January….. no review to date, but she did post stuff on her Instagram and facebook page. So our lesson was just what you suggested in regards to checking out what their audience is like and the size of their following and page views, etc. This person has been trying to get items from quite a few brands I’ve noticed and I’m sure she is promising the same thing “A Review” lol, but there are literally to date only like 3 articles on the blog….., it’s our own fault I know. So I now know that she isn’t passionate about it, I think she means well but just isn’t hitting the mark. So now we are in the process of writing up a few guidelines and posting on our website in regards to sponsorships and blogger reviews In a subtle way like a sort of “Terms and Conditions” type of thing in the footer section of our site, nothing crazy. Do you think this is a wise idea and also do you have any suggestions that would be helpful? I have spoken to a few brands that have encountered this very thing, by having a false following as well and there is no real answer about this anywhere, so your article was kinda perfect! However, we’ve started doing “background checks” LOL, (j/k, but not really) into bloggers that request items so it was actually a good lesson learned and one that will not be repeated. What’s your thought?

    1. Hi Rayna,
      I think you’re definitely right to do background checks on bloggers! Most bloggers will 100% understand this so it’s fine to ask them for stats and screenshots.
      I’ve just written a blog post to answer some of your questions so I’ll email the draft to you now!

  23. Great article. I have the media kit and my paragraphs ready but as I am starting to reach out to people I am struggling with my subject lines. They all seem too sale-sy to me! Any suggestions?

    1. Do you mean when you send emails? Just do what feels natural and what feels comfortable. I don’t think it really matters to be honest, as long as it doesn’t end up in their junk folder because it sounds like spam.

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The Travel Hack

The Travel Hack is a blog about stylish adventure travel and affordable luxury.

We believe luxurious travel can be affordable and isn't just for the rich. Follow along with our worldwide adventures as we share our trips and tips for incredible travel experiences on a modest budget.