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 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.
#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.
#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?
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!
#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!
Don’t forget to subscribe and share on Pinterest 😉