5 Things To Consider Before Accepting A Free Product in Exchange For A Review

Hello lovely people! This is an informational/discussion style post where we talk about life as a (part-time) influencer. I loved being able to share my thoughts with you all on affiliate marketing, sponsored posts and the blogging mindset in my post Remaining Authentic As An Influencer. Today’s post specifically addresses accepting a free product in exchange for a review, and why I will be taking a step back from this kind of arrangement.

But before we get started… If you’re new here: Hi, I’m Cleia. Welcome to my beauty & lifestyle blog! If you like what you’re seeing I would greatly appreciate it if you signed up to my mailing list on the sidebar. I only send one email a week, promise!

5 Things To Think About Before Reviewing A Product For Free

5 Things To Consider Before Accepting A Free Product In Exchange For A Review

First things first…

#1. There is a difference between being “gifted” products and accepting a “free” product in exchange for a review.

No, the two are not the same. Let me explain why…

In the first scenario a brand has added you to a media list or reached out to send you a product without asking for anything in exchange. You are not obligated to share the product, review the product, or even use the product even if it is beneficial to your relationship with the brand. This is the arrangement that most influencers have when they receive “PR”.

In the second scenario a brand sends you free product with the expectation that you will be posting a review of the product. The thing here is that there is an obligation for you, as the blogger to create content around the product and share it with your subscribers.

A lot of people say that accepting free products for review isn’t a sponsorship… but I disagree.

Blogging Computer & Tea

#2. Know Your Worth

As a content creator you provide a service to brands. Think about it. All of the time that you’ve spend building trust with your audience gives you credibility. Brands need that credibility to advertise to a smaller demographic in their niche, aka your readers.

Your worth as a content creator isn’t completely dependent on a follower count. Brands are realizing these days that engagement rate is more important than followers, especially on instagram. A small account with a massively engaged audience is more valuable to them than a massive account with little to no interactions.

Things that also matter are page views, content quality, and reliability, to name a few factors.

Hourglass Sands Of Time

#3. Your Time Is Valuable

By accepting a free product with the expectation that a review will come out of it you’re agreeing that the value of the product is fair compensation for your services. This means that the product isn’t actually “Free”, it’s currency.

Did you know that in some countries free products in exchange for a service is technically considered income and has to be declared?

Watch Flatlay Blogging Mess

You have a right to charge for what goes on behind the scenes

If I agree to write a review in exchange for a $15 product, I am saying that it’s worth:

  • The amount of my time needed to properly test the product. Makeup takes a full week with daily use. Skincare 1.5+ months.
  • A 1 hour photography session with my professional quality DSLR Camera.
  • The 1-2 hours it takes to edit photos, watermark them and upload to my computer so I can properly name my images before uploading them to WordPress.
  • The 1-2+ hours it takes to write my post, edit it and optimize the content.
  • In terms of instagram it also includes the agonizing hours I spend (albeit while watching TV) planning my instagram feed so that any new additions fit with my theme.

That’s literally working for less that $5 an hour and what happens if I don’t even like the product? Then I’ve accepted a free product that I don’t enjoy for 5+ hours of my time. The brand benefits more than I do in this arrangement because of my next point…

#4: The Brand Doesn’t Actually Care What You Have To Say

In many cases the brand isn’t actually looking for your opinion on the product, but for a link back to their site. I talked about this in my Authenticity Post but I will bring it up again. Any links back to a brand’s website help raise their DA score which helps with search engine rankings.

When accepting payment or a product for a review Google requires bloggers to use no-followed links. This is so that the brand can’t just buy their way to the top of the search results… However; there are some brands that will ask you flat out for a followed link to their website. It’s not a good idea to agree to this as it hurts you more than it hurts them if you get flagged by Google.

**That being said there are some great brands out there that genuinely do care and aren’t looking to take advantage of you!

Blogging cellphone coffee cup

#5: Every Opportunity is Different

I don’t want you to leave this post feeling like you shouldn’t accept free products, or that all brands are looking to ruin your life. Many of them aren’t!

Each situation should be considered with fresh eyes. If you were planning on buying a product anyways and then the brand reaches out it would be silly not to consider their offer. If you really love the message behind a brand or it’s a dream come true to work with them then by all means, do it!

Just please weigh the pros and cons of each unique situation because sometimes the cost doesn’t outweigh the gain.


What do you think? Is accepting free products as compensation okay?

Going forward I am working towards knowing my worth as a content creator. 2019 was a big year of change in my life in that nothing changed. I got so overwhelmed that I finally realized that something needed to change, which inspired me to write my 30 before 30 list. Now after 3.5 years of blogging I’m ready for what’s next!

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5 Things To Think About Before Accepting Free Products for Review



  1. August 6, 2019 / 10:10 am

    This is a great post! When I first started, while I was picky about what products I received, I also was so excited to get attention that I did say more than I said no. Now, I’m a lot more picky. I only now do free product in exchange for a review if I already liked the product and was going to get it myself anyways. Great post though, I feel like most things, this is one of those things that while I heard it a millions times, the more you blog, the more you realize your worth. Great post xxx

    Melina | http://www.melinaelisa.com

    • August 13, 2019 / 12:59 am

      Yes exactly! And the longer you blog the more trust you’ve built with your readers so I think our content becomes much more valuable. Thank you for reading!

  2. July 20, 2019 / 11:37 am

    I have been offered to review products but I have just decided against them. Half of the offers have nothing to do with my blog anyway like shoes? I’m not a fashion blogger 🀣 I have to agree though, getting free products IS sponsorship because you didnt buy the product yourself.
    Great points made though! I’ve learned a whole lot about the business aspect if blogging. I still havent taken the full plunge on going self hosted and monetizing but I would love to research and inform myself properly before all of that.
    Anyway I’m going off on a tangent lol.
    Great post! Its good for newer blogs to read so they know what they’re in for.

    • July 23, 2019 / 1:16 pm

      Oh my gosh I get random unrelated requests too! Or people wanting to pay me to publish their unrelated articles.
      As long as it’s disclosed it’s fine that it’s free! But it’s still technically sponsored πŸ€” Too bad free makeup doesn’t pay bills!
      I’ve been doing so much research on that too, especially monetization. I think I’m going to have to start watching marketing webinars and taking courses if I want to take this further :S feel free to ask any questions about the self hosting process, I’ve been self hosted for a year and a bit πŸ™‚
      Thanks for reading!!

      • July 25, 2019 / 12:05 am

        Yeah that’s not ok, I have seen lots of people not knowing the difference between getting products for free in exchange for review and actual gifted products. But yeah, free makeup doesn’t pay bills, so I’d love to take my blog a bit further and at least earn some money since I’m spending so much time on it. I just worry that if I start, and eventually get a job, I won’t be able to keep up with it.
        And thank you! πŸ™‚ Will keep that in mind πŸ™‚ <3

        • July 29, 2019 / 2:31 am

          I think if you’re passionate about it you will. Even if you aren’t able to post the same amount the space is still here, you know? But there’s no way to know what the future holds lol

          • July 29, 2019 / 8:51 pm

            Well I’m obviously passionate, I’ve been doing this for four years and I still haven’t gotten tired of it lol. The only problem is finding time once my life goes through a complete change in the future.

          • August 4, 2019 / 12:46 am

            Time is hard to find these days. Maybe you’ll have to scale back posts per week or be more strict about when or what you post? I hope you’ll be able to keep blogging!

          • August 6, 2019 / 9:45 pm

            I definitely want to keep blogging, and I’m already thinking of dialing it back a lot, maybe one or two posts a week at the most, right now I’m doing about three, but ideally, I definitely want to post once a week, that way it’s both a video and a post, or only one, so I still have two things to work on

  3. July 18, 2019 / 12:42 am

    You make very good points and share worthy food for though! I can’t comment much on this topic as I don’t know much about it and don’t have experience with being sent products/being offered free items in exchange for a review but a well written post Cleia xx

    • July 19, 2019 / 7:56 pm

      Thanks Chanelle! I hope that I can help some newer bloggers who maybe haven’t learned much about the blogging industry or anyone really who is looking to start collaborating with brands.

      I know I’m not an authority on this subject since I haven’t done many collabs but it’s good to start the discussion πŸ™‚

  4. Geraldine
    July 17, 2019 / 8:14 pm

    Definitely didn’t consider a lot of these factors! I’ve been agreeing to collabs that seemed interesting to me despite them not having much monetary value. I guess I’m just trying to build up my “portfolio” right now since I’m small / new. I didn’t even know that Google requires bloggers to use no-followed links… I have no idea how to do that! In the future I will try to be more mindful of what things I agree to. Thanks for sharing Cleia! xx

    Geraldine | https://geraldinetalks.com

    • July 17, 2019 / 8:48 pm

      Normal links are fine as long as the product wasn’t sent as part of an agreement with a brand. If you are self hosted you can get a plugin that will give you a little checkbox to indicate if you want to use a no-followed link. Otherwise you need to edit the HTML around the link. Here’s an article that will teach you to do that if you need help: https://amylynnandrews.com/nofollow-link/

      There’s nothing wrong with accepting opportunities if they work for you! I have accepted quite a few posts in exchange for review and it was only recently when I started reading about the business side of blogging that I changed my mindset. I’m definitely not a major authority on blogging and I’m sure lots of people would disagree with me lol As your blog grows and traffic increases it might be worth it to try negotiating a little for all your hard work when you get those offers!

      Thank you for reading!

  5. Geraldine
    July 17, 2019 / 8:11 pm

    There are so many good points here Cleia! I have no idea that “Google requires bloggers to use no-followed links”… I have no idea how to do that. I didn’t think of it this way, so it’s def an interesting perspective. I spend SO much time all in all (I don’t really count, but I’m sure I spend more than an hour coming up with a blog post by itself) writing blog posts. I agree to what I like, even if the value of it was very little. I guess for now I’d say I’m taking it because I’m still fairly small / new and using these would build a “portfolio”. Definitely going to try to be more selective!

    Geraldine | https://geraldinetalks.com

  6. July 17, 2019 / 7:49 pm

    Great post, so well-written and the points you made are super clear! I agree that free products for reviews are B.S.! Bloggers have to do so much work to get a well-composed review article up that it’s unfair not receive some kind of compensation.

    • July 17, 2019 / 8:41 pm

      Thank you Erica! I’m glad you enjoyed the post!
      I get so many emails requesting I review random products for free, I was even asked to review a product that the brand wouldn’t send me once! The work that goes into a blog post is immense, and us bloggers deserve fair pay for what we put in.

      • July 17, 2019 / 10:02 pm

        I got a request like that on Instagram once. They wanted me to post about something but wouldn’t even let me try the product – like what?? Crazy what some of these requests are like. I guess they assume you must be so desperate, you’ll do anything for free loot.

        • July 19, 2019 / 7:54 pm

          That’s so ridiculous, I hope you said no! I got a weird request from a company that sells on amazon wanting me to buy the product and then they would reimburse me after I reviewed it.. to which I said why don’t You, the company send it to me first and then I’ll review it? They had a million reasons why I had to buy it myself first and I just stopped replying to them.. so sketchy!
          I don’t really think that there is enough education about how the blogging/influencer industry works, newer bloggers are especially vulnerable to being scammed πŸ™

          • July 20, 2019 / 1:14 pm

            I definitely said no! Oh my gosh, I had a similar request as well – was it from a company selling toothpaste?? I thought it was so strange that I had to buy it myself. I just said that I wasn’t the right blogger to promote the product. I seriously think some of these companies think we’re either so stupid or so desperate!

          • July 23, 2019 / 1:18 pm

            Whaaat that’s weird!! Tooth paste is like $5, they could definitely send that to you without you buying it. I think they’re looking for anyone who will promote them 🀨

          • July 24, 2019 / 7:57 am

            Very true! A total joke!

  7. July 17, 2019 / 4:49 pm

    So many valid points here, some of which I had never considered before!

    • July 17, 2019 / 8:39 pm

      I’ve been spending so much time reading up about the business of blogging, it’s changed my mind about so many things!

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