*After I published this post I had a comment from a fellow blogger that I felt needed addressing. I did not start blogging to just “get free stuff.” I did not intend this post to sound like that is my goal in my blogging career. I love blogging for the writing, the learning, the sharing. Getting items to review, or admissions to attractions, is all a huge bonus. That being said, blogging is A LOT of work, and if I can get something back from that work, I’m going to. My intentions here were to share what I’m doing, what is working for me, and, hopefully, connecting with others who are interested in the same, or similar, outcomes for their own blogs. If you’re still interested, read on to learn about how I’m using my blog to get free stuff!* ~J
I have written dozens of emails to local (and not so local) attractions, restaurants, and businesses trying to promote my blog as a marketing tool for their lovely works. You know, I’d ask for a spa treatment in exchange for a review on my blog – exposure and such. This is VERY slow going. Most places don’t write back. Or it’s impossible to find a specific person to write to and you end up just filling out a “contact us” form, which I’m sure often never goes anywhere. I’m not giving up – I want to be using my blog to get free stuff and provide a service for places, businesses, or events I enjoy.
When I started my blog I thought I’d just like to write about my life and my kids. I do love that – but now I find I’d like to do reviews and talk about stuff happening around town, and maybe delve into being tourists with kids.
I was pleasantly surprised when I contacted the Toronto Zoo. I got a reply email, with a bit of a barter – no, my whole family can’t go for free, but I get free admission for myself in exchange for my blog review about our visit to see the baby animals. This is the best “deal” I’ve worked out so far. And we were going to go to the zoo no matter what so one free admission is great!
Then I tried contacting some hotels in Toronto also. This was not nearly as successful. I did gain a contact at one hotel who suggested I email again in the summer as he may be able to work something out then. Stay tuned to see if that happens. We are always up for a trip to Toronto, so if I can finagle a free hotel room we’re there!
My next attempt is to contact a local hotel where my sister-in-law is going to have her wedding. They are doing a theme wedding in September (right at Emma’s birthday) and I’m going to ask the hotel for a free overnight and I’d write a post about the wedding (cuz it’s going to be crazy!) and also about the hotel. I think it’s a great exchange but we’ll see what they have to say about it. Edit: This worked out for me – you can read my hotel review here.
Book reviews are working out well for me so far. I’ve got a bit of a backlog to read right now, but I love doing it. And, I mean, free books! I have to be pretty up front about a few things for my book reviews though. I don’t do digital reading, and I can’t fly through your book the second it arrives at my home. Books get read in the order they get to me and I create a review (almost) as soon as I’m done reading it. This is the number one way I’m using my blog to get free stuff right now.
I’m still perfecting my pitch. It’s hard to be friendly and casual while also trying to come across as a legitimate “business” that can provide a service. I’m very excited to get this zoo post done (we’re going this weekend!) so I have something I can share with other potential “clients.” I have done a nice review for a salon in town that got some good exposure, so I might approach them for a brand ambassador style partnership.
Do any of you readers have tips for me? I see people writing travel posts all the time and I want to know how they got into that! I know my blog following is still small for big brands and companies to want to use me, but I feel like local attractions could benefit from my visits and reviews. Maybe it’s just my ability to sell myself that’s lacking – I even have a Work With Me page I’ve been sharing a bit on Twitter. I’m also open to other suggestions for using my blog to get free stuff. Product reviews are slowly trickling in – I have a toy coming the girls can play with in return for my thoughts in a review. Please comment with any hints, tips, or ideas!
Since creating this post I have worked with many brands – and been paid for some of them! You can visit my sponsored posts, and review posts – if you like what you see, please contact me for ways we can work together!