If you are a blogger, this will probably sound very familiar to you. It drives me up the wall and it grates on my nerves like nails on a chalkboard. So you know those people – friends or mere acquaintances who somehow hear about all of the “free” things that just happen to show up at your house? I have written up what they will need to do, just so you don’t have to explain it all again and again. Feel free to send them over to read this step-by-step list of how they can get free stuff too!
When they ask, start with this reply: “Sure, you could probably review one. But first things first! If you want to get free items like me, just follow these steps. Anyone can do it really…”:
You’ll need to create a blog and get hosting. There are several hosts to choose from – make sure you read the reviews on all of them before settling on one …you won’t regret it!. This is a good idea because you need to know about downtime with each, processes (so you don’t overload their server, etc.). Pay close attention to the reviews about customer service with various hosts. Trust me, at some point (lots of points actually), you will spend countless hours on either live chat or the telephone with your host when your blog won’t load for whatever reason. You want a company who cares about their customers.
Choose a picture for a header! There are several sites online where you can buy graphics – good ones can be expensive. When you have chosen a graphic that just screams “ME” (you lol), upload it to a photo editing program (Photoshop, photobucket, Picnik, etc.). If you want to do really cool stuff, you might not be able to use the free versions of those program. Decide on a theme…you can install and design it yourself, or you could also hire a designer to make your header, design and button for you. If you decide to have a designer do it, the cost can run anywhere from $75 – $500.
After you have figured out what company will be your host, you will need to decide if you want to be on a shared plan,VPS or on a dedicated server. OH! You’ll also need to learn about Cpanel, FTP, PHP, widgets, headers, footers, plugins, databases and stuff. Oops – I almost forgot about html! Silly me. If you don’t know a thing about html, you definitely should take some online course, or practice with tutorials. It’s a must, as you will be using html every, single day! Don’t forget about a program to unzip those pesky zip files 🙂 – something else you’ll need for sure.
Wait, back up a minute, you’ll also have to think of a name for your blog and make sure that domain is available. Yes, definitely do this before you buy your domain. Okay, so after you have a blog, you will need to organize everything, add some widgets to the sidebar, etc. You should probably add a Google Friend Connect widget too – they are a necessity. To do this, simply sign up for a Google account, put in your info, grab the html coding and add to one of your widgets on your sidebar.
Do a few practice review posts, you know, to show reps your writing style and such. If you suck at grammar and spelling, make sure you use spell check and be sure to read and re-read each post several times before you post them. You’d be surprised how often you find mistakes on the 3rd or 4th read.
After you write your posts, you will need to think of categories and tags you want to use for each one. And create a navigation bar and possibly a second menu bar with dropdown menus. This will help people find things on your blog.
Write up an AWESOME pitch letter. I mean really awesome. It will take some trial runs to find one that works. Again, pay attention to spelling (nothing turns reps off more than a crappy pitch lol).
Find the contact information of PR reps and companies. You’ll pretty much have to search the web. It can be tricky and time consuming, but just stick with it! You can then send your pitch letter to them. Some companies only have contact forms on their website though, and many times they only allow so many words in the form. You’ll have to condense and re-word your pitch to get under their letter allotment to for it to actually go through.
Wait. Wait. And then wait some more! You may or may not hear back from those you have pitched…it’s sad but true. You will also get a lot of, “Sorry, we need better stats before we can work with you” type of responses. This gets downright depressing after you get enough of these.
If you do get a “yes” response, you will probably go back and forth about six times before you agree on something to review (okay, I lied. It will probably be ten or so back and forth emails). In all fairness most reps are on top of their game, but there are a few who make things a little more difficult than they need to be 🙂
Wait for the product to arrive. If you are expecting several things, I can almost guarantee that they will all arrive at the same time. This is an ideal time to start a calendar, and get an organizing system in place.
When it does arrive, (and this is very important), nobody can open or use it until you take pictures of the packaging! You will then need to set up a nice background for your photos and shoot it from different angles, light exposures, etc. A blogger needs a good camera, so make sure you choose wisely. For your pictures to stand out, make sure you don’t skimp when purchasing your camera.
After you have taken your pictures, you will have to edit them, resize them, upload them, watermark, etc.
Use the product for a few days! Yep, you actually need to do this. Now you are ready to start writing your review. This is where the fun begins! You should look around the company’s website to learn a bit about them. Reps really like this. Then you can start composing your post! This can take hours (literally), because of interruptions (phone, kids, doorbell, pets, laundry, dishes, etc.) and/or mental blocks. Make sure you include YOUR thoughts on the post – not just verbage from the website. You will need to look back through your emails to make sure you have included the details they have asked for – proper links, information, and that you have connected to the company’s Facebook and Twitter pages.
Sometimes a rep really, really wants their post up fast. Really badly. You may receive an email from them every other day – wondering where the post is and when it will be live. You will feel the pressure. But you really can’t put it off for too long, as you want to make a good impression. When you start doing a bunch of reviews, you could have several reps hurrying you along. Make sure you stay focused (if you can with the pets, kids, brain farts, internet distractions, etc.).
Is your post perfect? Great – go ahead and click “publish”!
Whew! Tired yet? You are almost done 🙂
Make sure you send the direct link of your post to the rep. Post it to your Facebook Fan page also (you do have one for your blog right? If not, you’ll need one!) You will need a Twitter account too. Just FYI, if you want to look professional, you might want to use a custom Twitter background. You can make one yourself, or hire someone to do it. You also might consider hiring someone to make you a professional Facebook landing page.
So, yeah, I think that’s it. Voila – you now know how to start a blog and get free products, just like the rest of us bloggers!
For more information on how to start a blog, make sure you check out this post by Sweet T Makes Three!