How I’m Using My Blog To Get Free Stuff

How I'm Using My Blog To Get Free Stuff

*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!

using my blog to get free stuffMy 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.

How I'm Using My Blog To Get Free StuffDo 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!

~Jess

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!

 
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34 Comments

  1. I’d probably go with other posts and focus on building your profile for a while rather than “selling”. Once you’ve got more traffic and engagement behind you, it’ll likely start to work much better (and yes, this is something I’m working on myself as I’ll be doing some sponsored posts later this year) 🙂

  2. I honestly dont know anything about this which is why I wanted to read your post. I appreciated hearing your experience and what has worked for you. I do love reading so thats a very interesting idea. #puddinglove

    1. I love doing the book reviews but sometimes I feel a bit of pressure as the pile gets ever larger and my time for reading gets smaller. And sometimes I get bogged down in a book that’s not so great so it takes longer than I’d like it to. At any rate I’m just taking what I can get, and if I manage to be more successful with this I’ll be sure to share another post of what’s worked for me. Thanks for commenting!
      ~Jess

  3. I’m sorry I’m not able to give you advice on this but it’s interesting to read and see your experiences. I’m not using my blog to get free stuff, but what I am doing is writing a book through snippets of blog posts and gaining a following, so when the time comes that I have enough material, I already have an engaged market.Who knows if it will be successful but in any case, I absolutely love writing so win win! I hope you enjoy the zoo and goodluck with getting free stuff 🙂 #stayclassy

    1. I like your idea about making a book and then already having a following to share it with. I hope that works well for you! My original idea was to just write and enjoy that, but I find blogging is a lot of work so I like the idea of maybe using my writing to save a few $$ while doing things I like to do anyway.
      I hope to get my post up about the zoo later next week, so stay tuned for that – thanks for your comment!
      ~Jess

  4. I’ve done/had tons of freebies – not through my parenting site, Im ANON on that so its difficult – but on my other site I have, and unfortunately its all about numbers! The best thing to do is to focus on that, get your traffic flowing and then it will be easier to get free stuff. I’ve literally travelled everywhere, eaten in the best restaurants and stayed in the best hotels BUT it took a long long time to get there, to get to the point where my site was a ‘go to’ for brands and business’. Eventually they will find you themselves and offer things to you which is a bonus! BUT it’s all about the waiting game and working really hard to make your site stand out and get the traffic there… sorry I couldn’t be more help, but it’s a start for you 🙂 #puddinglove

    1. Wow – that’s amazing! I’m glad to hear it’s possible. I didn’t imagine there was any magic “quick fix” way to make happen, but even sharing your experience keeps me in a positive frame of mind. Thanks for sharing and commenting!
      ~Jess

  5. I need to work on this. I’ve only made one attempt and it was a failure so I gave up trying to score free admissions. Hopefully this summer I will give it another go. Never hurts to ask, especially if you are planning on going and probably writing about it anyway #stayclassy

    1. Don’t give up after one failed attempt! I’ve had many unanswered emails, and a few straight up refusals, but I’m still sending out more. That’s totally my logic – we’re going anyway, might as well see if I can get a discount in trade for a post! Thanks for the comment!
      ~Jess

  6. Hi Jessica – you have awesome ideas so far. I never would have thought of approaching the zoo or a salon. I might give it a try. I don’t have any tips for you since I’ve never done any of this stuff but it’s great to see that some of your effort is paying off! P.S. Hi from a fellow Canadian 😉

    1. Yay for Canadian bloggers! I’m not sure what spurred me to try asking for things I was going to do anyway. I must have read that somewhere. Anyway, since my numbers are low still I’m just trying for local stuff in hopes of saving a few dollars doing things we like to do anyway. I’d love to get in with big stuff like airplane travel or free hotels but I know that’s a long way off. If there’s something you enjoy doing in your area (and you think you can write a great post about it) I’d suggest trying to pitch to them. Worst case they say no, best case you get to do what you like to do for a lesser cost! A lot of locally owned businesses here don’t do much in the blogosphere and really haven’t put much thought into it. If it’s something you’re considering, give it a try! Thanks for visiting. 😀
      ~Jess

  7. I do this too! I would like blogging to be my full time job but unfortunately I don’t know how many bloggers manage to do it and earn a lot of money and luxurious things to review…

    1. I think a lot of it is numbers – if you have a really big following bigger brands and companies want to work with you. I know I’m very far from having the size brands like to see, but I’ve been surprised by the positive responses I’ve had to a few proposals I’ve put out! Thanks for visiting!
      ~Jess

  8. Thanks for linking up with #stayclassy. I have to say I don’t blog to get “free stuff” I love to blog for me and my family and if company’s happen to get in contact with me and ask me to review I don’t mind that. xx

    1. I’m not really in it for the free stuff – it’s just a nice bonus. I’ve decided that if we’re going to go somewhere anyway I’ll toss them a pitch and see if I can get a discount (or in for free!) in return for a post I was likely going to write anyway. If I could get a bit of a Modern Mom and Travel Mom thing going I’d love that! Thanks for stopping by and commenting.
      ~Jess

  9. I think that you need to be careful with your wording. reading your article it looks like you literally just blog to get free stuff and just want more and more so please can you have tips on how to get more free stuff. That may not have been your intention but that’s how it comes across and it gives bloggers a bad name. to get my “free stuff” I’ve worked hard. I have not slept. I have not gone out. I have blogged. A new blog post 6 days a week and done up to 15 links and built my numbers. I now have a weekend in a luxury villa in the south of France, that I was offered and not that I asked for.
    please don’t give bloggers a bad name. we get enough flack as it is.

    1. Of course it was not my intention to come across that way. Apologies if you feel I’m giving bloggers a bad name, but that is not how I feel about this post. I was hoping to inspire others who may want to try to get something back for all their blogger hard work.
      ~Jess

  10. I’ve not had the confidence to pitch for anything yet – unless they’ve already asked for bloggers to apply (eg. the #bloggerswanted hashtag on twitter or in the facebook blogging groups) – but I have done a few reviews I was approached to write. I think it really is mostly about social media numbers and backlinks for a lot of companies. x #bigpinklink

    1. I started with Bloggersrequired and got a gig there pretty quickly. I’ve been approached by a few others through FB groups and other spaces. It’s encouraging that others are doing reviews and such and started small just like me. Thanks for sharing!
      ~Jess

  11. I’ve read direct contact works. I emailed all of the merchants I work with through share a sale and yes to them it’s a numbers game. Madison Reed, however, did contact me back. They were excellent to work with and have a great product. So you don’t really know. #bigpinklink

  12. Ah I’ve only contacted two brands and actually was successful with one of them. I think it was because I really love the products, it’s Lansinoh breast pump and HPA lanolin, seriously helped me with breastfeeding. Now I’m a Bdand Ambassador for them. : ) So my advice – I’m not an expert – is to go for the brands you truly love. The Zoo sounds fun, baby animals are adorable : ). Thanks so much for linking up with #StayClassy!

    1. Thanks for the comment! Glad to hear you’re able to represent something you really believe in. These are the kind of stories I was hoping to hear in the comments here. Thanks!
      ~Jess

    1. I’ve had a little success and I’m from Canada so there must be some brands and such out there looking for reach outside of the US – thanks for the comment!
      ~Jess

  13. I have done a couple of reviews, not as a blogger, but as part of review forums. I’ve put them/will put them on my blog anyway, so hopefully that will help me to get reviews from companies in future. I’ve also written reviews where I haven’t been given anything free but just gone there as a family anyway, hoping it will at least showcase my honesty or willingness to review places. Not sure if this works or not yet though, it’s early days for me!

    1. I’ve also done an unsolicited review or two of things I had a great time doing. I also like to promote events around town before they happen – I love taking in the open air events here. If those posts have good engagement you can always use them as examples of what’s working on your blog! It’s a great strategy. thanks for the comment!
      ~Jess

    1. I plan to look into affiliate stuff – I did explore that area about a year ago but I had less engagement with my blog going on then and nothing panned out. I’ll take a look at your post. Thanks for the suggestion (and the comment!)
      ~Jess

  14. We have had a few little reviews which is nice, I don’t mind doing a review and don’t get me wrong if someone offers me a great holiday or product I would jump at the chance. I think like everyone has said the key is to get your readership up and then the offers will come your way and you won’t have to work so hard for them. Thanks for linking with #PuddingLove

    1. Thanks for hosting! I know I need to get more content on the blog, as well as work on attracting people to my site. But it never hurts to ask in the meantime. Thanks for the support!
      ~Jess

  15. Book reviews must be so fun to do. I love reading and I love reading reviews as well as I realise the best best books to read are usually recommendations. I don’t have any tips but it will be interesting to see how you go. Good luck! Thanks for sharing with #bigpinklink.

    1. I really enjoy reading books – and the knowledge that I’m likely one of a select few who have even seen a new book. As a once voracious reader (before kids!) I love just sitting and reading with a coffee (or a glass of wine) and getting lost in another world. Thank you for the comment and I’m also interested to see how I go!
      ~Jess

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