You’ve probably heard a million conflicting opinions on gifted products, ranging from “take what you can get” to “free products in exchange for exposure is diluting the worth of all bloggers.” Ahhhh. If it sounds complicated – you’re right – it is. There’s no cut and dry way to handle brands who “only” gift product. SC is exploring the different options bloggers and influencers have – and how to professionally handle these situations!

 

1. You Cannot Pay The Bills With “Stuff”

At Style Collective, one of our core objectives is to teach YOU how to be a successful (or more successful!) blogger and entrepreneur. That is why we place a huge importance on knowing your worth and giving you the tools you need to achieve your dreams and goals! If you get approached by a company to do a post in exchange for product(s), the first thing you need to do is figure out how much that post would be valued at. Use our Sponsored Blog Post Rate Calculator to get a rate! Same thing goes for Instagram: Instagram Sponsored Post Calculator.

No matter how small or inconsequential you perceive your blog’s audience to be, that is not grounds to give it away for free. 

As tempting as it is to get everything you can for free, remember to take a step back. This is REALLY hard to do, especially if you are a newer blogger who has been watching other bloggers reap the benefits for a long time while you have patiently been toiling away on your brand and audience! Why did you start blogging? What are your goals, short-term and long-term? Set your intentions and stick to your guns! Remember that sponsored posts are definitely not the only way to make revenue as a blogger.

Related: Staying True to Yourself While Blogging

Do not be afraid to tell the company what your value is. Let’s say you decide to proceed with the post and the product’s value is $15. That is not a great exchange if a post on your blog is worth $80! There is nothing wrong with hard-balling the company:

“A post on my blog is worth $X. Your product is valued at $Y. Is there anything you can do to make this a more even exchange?”

 

2. To Sell Or Not To Sell?

Some bloggers and influencers resell products that they have been gifted. This is very controversial, and Liz of With Wonder & Whimsy does a great job laying out both sides of the argument:

In Defense of Reselling Gifted Items:

Bloggers defend reselling gifted items for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, when a company gifts a blogger an item, that item becomes the blogger’s property. So long as the blogger fulfills her side of the transaction and reviews the item on her blog, she has no obligation to keep or promote the item beyond that. Companies often gift products as compensation for review and promotion on blogs. However, bloggers can’t pay the bills with dresses and statement jewelry, so reselling the products they’re gifted gives them a way to turn clothing into cash. Also, bloggers are in the business of advertising. A blogger who models and photographs a gifted item is much like a company using models for a campaign shoot. The purpose in both cases is to advertise the clothing, and once a blogger does so, she can turn around and sell the products if she chooses. Yes, the blogger makes money on this, but she also had to spend the time and effort styling the outfit, organizing the photo-shoot, and writing the post. If she loves the gifted item, that can be considered adequate payment. If she needs the cash, reselling the item pays for her efforts and goes towards the bills. –With Wonder & Whimsy

 

Criticisms of Reselling Gifted Items:

Bloggers have to pay the bills, but sometimes their methods for generating income is at the expense of their credibility and readers’ trust. If readers suspect that bloggers are only promoting a company to make cash, it may make readers hesitant to invest in a particular company, let alone the blogger promoting said company. Reselling gifted items from a particular brand can also be seen as disrespectful to that brand. If a brand seeks out a particular blogger and offers to gift something for review, turning around and reselling it may appear rude and ungracious. There’s also the ethical issue of accepting gifts with the explicit intent of turning around and reselling them. The intent of a gift is that you accept and use it, not turn around and pass it off on someone else. Others argue that accepting a gift with the sole purpose of photographing and reselling it is tacky. It cheapens the product and creates the impression that you can’t like it that much if you just turn around and sell it. If you don’t see it as worth keeping, why should I see it as worth buying? –With Wonder & Whimsy

 

Style Collective recognizes that no blogger or influencer is the same, and therefore, every situation needs to be evaluated and treated differently.

We would love to hear what you think about reselling products! (We will be doing a blog post on this in the near future and we need your help!)

 

 

3. Don’t Make A Promise You Can’t Keep

You cannot promise a brand they get a post if they gift you product because what if it falls flat? This is a little more controversial, but if a brand sends you a free bag and you don’t like it enough to post about it on social media or your blog, that is okay. You do need to be upfront with the brand and set that expectation, though. Your blog/Instagram feed/et cetera is a digital billboard, and if the brand wants to guarantee that they will get an advertisement, then they need to pay for that.

“I’d love to try your product, but I cannot guarantee exposure if it’s not something that I’d truly use myself or it ends up being different than what I expected. It’s one of my core values to maintain my integrity; it’s really important that my audience trusts my recommendations.”

 

4. You Can Say No

Do not feel bad about saying no! Maybe the product just doesn’t make any sense for you/your audience, or maybe you just don’t want to do a free post. Regardless, that is a choice that you can make at your discretion. Many times, it is small companies that are operating without a marketing budget that gift product. While that is a very reasonable marketing tactic for a business to employ, that does not mean you have to participate.

Recently, SC’s Instagram manager, Annah had a phone call with the CEO of a company:

“This company reached out to me on about gifting product. They had no budget to spend and were up front about that, but I really liked their product, so I scheduled a call to learn more about their company. We spent about 30 minutes on the phone talking about the product and at the end of the call, I started to push the CEO about a sponsored post. She replied that “giving away product AND paying” for an influencer was “absurd.” I told her that I respected her sentiments, but I am also a business and cannot operate on wishes, dreams, and free product. She got very quiet and said that she would think about it. She emailed me later and offered me additional free products, at which point I politely said no.” –Annah Todd

 

In short, make the best choice for YOU and YOUR brand! There is nothing wrong with saying ‘No!’

“Thank you for reaching out! At this time, I am not accepting gifted products in exchange for posts on my blog/Instagram/etc. Please let me know if you are interested in a sponsored post. I have attached my media kit for your reference. I hope we can work together in the future!”

 

5. Exceptions

We all know $$$ pays the bills, not free products. At Style Collective, we triumph girls who know their worth and give you the tools to ask for what you deserve! But for bloggers who are just starting out and need to build their repertoire or REALLY love a product, it is totally okay to do a collab that doesn’t offer payment! It is still a good opportunity to create and foster brand relationships, which can (and does) lead to paid opportunities in the future. If you want the product and feel that it truly aligns with your brand, then, of course, you can accept the product for free.

 

Brand Reasoning:

SC Team members share some of their favorite (ummm, least favorite!) things brands have said.

1. “We haven’t seen the ROI with Instagram posts.” 

This sounds like a website and conversion issue, not a sponsored post issue.

Rebuttal: “Do you have a landing page set up to effectively capture the leads? I would be happy to utilize a custom link so we can track the traffic or to share a discount code so you can track the sales.”

2. “We just don’t have a budget.” 

Do you get free groceries just because the checkout person thinks you look like a nice person? Nope.

Rebuttal: “I understand and I really do love your brand. I will reach out in a few months to see if anything has changed on your end because I really think that I would be able to showcase your brand in a genuine way that would bring you new customers.”

3. “We had a bad experience with other influencers.” 

This is a pretty lame, pass-the-responsibility-off kind of thing to say. Moreover, you are not like other influencers!

Rebuttal: “I take pride in fostering a long-term relationship with the brands I work with. It’s very important to me that every partnership I create with a brand starts on the right foot. What happened that you were displeased about? Feedback is helpful for me so I can understand how to best make this exchange positive for both parties.”

 

Sample Email:

Hi Person’s Name,

Thank you for reaching out! I took a look at Product/Company/Brand and I really like what Company/Brand is doing! I love the attention to details on the bags[Or similar statement. Don’t lie, but don’t feel shy about giving them a little compliment! Everyone wants everyone to love their products as much as they do.] 

I typically do not do sponsored posts in exchange for gifted products. Is there any budget for this project? [Short and simple. Don’t beat around the bush here!]

I have attached my media kit for your reference. Product/Company/Brand fits my brand and aesthetic very well, I hope we can work a something out. [Close with an open-ended but pointed message.]

I look forward to your reply!

Best,

Your Name

 


What are your personal thoughts? Do you accept free product in exchange for exposure, and under what circumstances?! Comment below! 

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