Can Blogging Really Get You Free Stuff?

Whenever I’m searching for a recipe, for travel ideas, or for an honest perspective on a product, I’m drawn toward blogs rather than big websites. Like the small, brick-and-mortar store, nothing can replace the unique, human perspective of an individual.

When you’re going to a new city, for example, you don’t want some sponsored list of “10 Spots You Can’t Miss,” but a local’s, well-crafted point of view.  That’s why I think blogs are such great sources of information on the otherwise overwhelming internet.

Starting your own blog also has an appeal, especially if you have a budget category that is otherwise burning holes in your pockets.  Let’s see what it takes to break even with a blog, and whether or not it’s worth it for the free stuff:

Fashion Bloggers

If you have a tendency to overspend on clothes, it can be tempting to start a fashion blog, not only to showcase your impeccable sense of style, but also to inspire others.  Another perk, of course, is that as the blog grows, you’ll spend less and look better, right?

You have to start by putting in the time. One fashion blogger told me that she spent her entire weekend planning the week’s outfits, taking her photos (and staging them in different locations), as well as scheduling her social media posts. In addition, she spent the whole commute to work liking other #ootd (outfit of the day) posts.

Most bloggers recommend that you have a solid foundation before approaching companies that you love and want to work with, which can mean at least six months of posting and engaging with your followers.  The time commitment just might not be worth it.

First step: Look inside for inspiration—inside your closet, that is. Find ways to change up what you already own, and you’re already going to be better off with your budget.

Travel Bloggers

If the itch to move is always putting a dent in your monthly expenses, you might consider travel blogging as a viable means to go abroad every year.  Because trips are far more expensive than clothes, it takes longer and requires more commitment before you’ll begin to reap the benefits of the jet-setter’s life.

Travel bloggers also have a higher initial investment: in the beginning, they have to fund themselves to create content and go new places.  They also stress the importance of networking and professionalism, more than in other areas of blogging.

If you’re not picky about where you travel, local tourism bureaus will work with bloggers to partially fund trips, in exchange for a certain number of posts and promotions.

First step: Learn to love the staycation, and make your travel blog about the places you already live and visit.  This will give you a fresh perspective on them, and it might ease your need to go somewhere new for a little while.  Plus, it doesn’t cost any extra.

Mommy Bloggers

Given that the cost of raising a child to age 18 in America is somewhere around $250,000, moms can try to ease the burden of buying new things for their baby with a blog. The key to starting a parenting blog is to be authentic and to find a community.

You won’t get anywhere looking for free stuff, they say. You have to come from a place of vulnerability and sharing about your life as a parent, with all its messiness and ups and downs.  Don’t forget that everything bloggers receive has to be counted as income on your taxes, as well.  “If you’re looking for the newest toy for your kid, you won’t get anywhere with the other bloggers,” says one long-time parenting blogger. And in this community, it’s all about getting along.

First step: Read a lot of parenting blogs, and engage with the bloggers about your concerns, including the financial ones.  Some of the people who have been writing these blogs the longest have excellent advice, and connecting with others is perfectly free.

Tech Bloggers

The tech world is some of the fiercest when it comes to free stuff. Bloggers talk about PR campaigns that cost upwards of $10,000 to send trial products to bloggers, most of whom will not even accept them in the first place because they don’t believe they can give an honest review.

Honesty is the best policy, here: if your readers can’t count on your blog for good products and well-written reviews, they won’t loyally return to read, and that’s the downfall of any blog.  Like other types of blogging, it takes a significant investment and time commitment in order to start to reap the benefits: think anywhere from 6-12 months of consistent posting.

First step: Consider sharpening your reviewer’s skills with a website that pays people to review their products.  Just remember that you want to cultivate sincerity and integrity—two things that money can’t buy.

From talking with many bloggers, I realized that it’s most important to care about the social element, to want to make friends with like-minded people in similar situations, who live across the world.   Authenticity is what we all seek in a blogger. Someone to give us some real insight from their personal perspective.

Chime in bloggers. We would love to hear your thoughts.

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