Bloggers: Do your friends want free stuff too? Here is what to tell them about starting a blog.

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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!

free-stuff-for-bloggers

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!

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About Author

Jennifer Regan is the owner/editor-in-chief of Eighty MPH Mom, a family-friendly blog. She is active in Brand Ambassadorships and campaigns, and is active in social media, helping brands promote!

84 Comments

  1. Great post!! but…. I don’t think that’s really it 🙂

    Don’t forget staying on top of the virtual side of life as well! You’ve got to be in-the-know at all times about what is going on where.

    Also joining several forums and trying to keep up with them all in order to get a clue about what companies are looking for help promoting their stuff – And you might want to make a few blogging friends while you’re at it too.

    Stats – Traffic – they don’t come from nowhere!! you’ve got to mingle and get involved with groups of people. google analytics vs. statcounter vs compete, klout, alexa, feedburner, and the several others! Exhausting!

    SEO classes – a must have. Don’t know what SEO is?? look it up… except everyone has a different opinion.

    Advertising?? better learn the lingo -and then try not to look stupid when you’re totally confused and chatting with them on the phone about how to get your ads set up the way you want!

    Keeping up with social networking is important too – you don’t just start those social network accounts – you have to figure them out inside and out and work them to their highest potential!

    Giveaways??? The worst part is picking the winner – contacting them all (for the correct prize) and then submitting the addresses to the corresponding rep. It gets confusing when you’re dealing with 5+ giveaways at once! following up as the middle man as well when someone doesn’t get their prize..

    Taxes! I haven’t gotten there yet, but I hear it can be terrible.

    There is even more, too..

    I am one of those ‘friends’ although – not IRL.. I just followed other’s blogs and then decided I wanted the free stuff too!! So I did it!! and man, this has become my full time job!! I love it – but it’s certainly not for someone who barely has time to take a shower as it is! My first few months I spent probably 10-15 hours per day devoting specifically to my blog. Now that it’s running where I kind of want it- I spend 4-5 hours per day usually… sometimes more, sometimes less. I could always find more places on my blog or developing my reader base/social networking stuff… If I didn’t have a family – I’d probably only get up to eat, sleep, and pee.

    it’s overwhelming really.

  2. ooo don’t forget when you do a giveaway and the company doesn’t send the prize so then you have to harass them while the giveaway winner is harrassingyou. It could take 6 months but don’t give up! 😉

    • As far as the winner not receiving the gift I have been on the receiving end and also read in the giveaway blogs that the blogger is not responsible if the winner does not receive… However I try to wait one month before sending an email to blogger and let them know I understand and I am not upset just curious! After reading this post it makes alot of sense!

      Just use a disclaimer that you are not responsible and maybe you will not be harrassed!

  3. Wow that totally sounds simple LOL I now know why I read blogs and don’t do one. I am always going to pay attention to all the reviews you do, cuz DAMN thats a lot of work you put it plus all the other daily life duties too.

  4. Great post Jennifer. This type of job is time consuming & a lot of hard work. Once the review is up is is also the writer’s job to promote that review online via several different avenues which is also time consuming.

    Way too often I see reviewer’s slap them up & never promote them.

    A few things that really “irk” me are:

    Folks who write a review & slap it up the same day they get the products. In other words, they don’t use them and they are more about slapping up 10 a day instead of actually using a product & writing a decent review about it.

    I also get irked when I see folks write ONLY 3-4 brief sentences! WTH? The sponsor DESERVES more than 3-4 sentences!

    I also hate seeing ONLY stock photos from the company posted in the review. I know there are a handful of companies who ONLY want their photos posted in the review but the majority of the companies appreciate it when you post a photo of you using the product and let me tell you…READERS love the photos you take more than the stock photos.

    Sigh…love the job but it is a lot of hard work!

  5. FREE products are great aren’t they!? Thanks Speedy Pants!
    xoxox
    Leslie

    I love my job! And I love bringing Giveaways and Reviews to Leslie Loves Veggies Readers but when my sisters Calls and says what did you get for free today, I want to smack the lips right off her face!
    grrrrr
    Leslie

  6. A.M.A.Z.I.N.G Post! I get so irritated when friends, family etc say “what did you get free today, anything good” Free are you kidding me. I spend hour writing one post, then adding in links, editing, fixing my mistakes, taking photos, editing photos, watermarking, adding into the post etc etc. It doesn’t matter if the product is $10 or $500 I put my heart and soul into my reviews because it is my job! This posts rocks WTG girl.

  7. I actually love it when people try to learn how to do this for themselves. I wrote a post explaining how to do it too about a month ago. I did have 2 people actually “do it” now . You make it sound so hard I don’t think anyone would want to do it after reading your post which I guess was your point. I make my entire review process easier than that. 1.I don’t take a picture at all. I use the companies pictures & credit that to them in the post. I’m not a photographer. 2.I get my pitch to brand emails settled in 2 total emails tops. I include all of the information in the first response after a pitch is accepted. I have a simpler approach to doing reviews so I don’t let it boggle me down.

    • I don’t want to discourage ANYONE from trying. Anyone can do it if they have the time and dedication. Granted, some reviews are easier than others, and most reps are awesome – this post was partially exaggerated to bring home the point that “free” isn’t just “free”. There is an incredible amount of time involved (and things to be learned) when starting a blog and keeping up to date on everything. That was my point exactly – they CAN get free stuff too!

  8. You are right on! It is a A LOT of work and is much harder than it actually looks. The technical stuff with hosting, plugins and then dealing with companies who don’t ship their prizes out is very time consuming. You need to be committed to it to be successful. It takes a large amount of “no’s” before you finally do start to get “yes”.

  9. I’ve thought about getting involved on that end, but don’t really want to apply the effort at this time. I do appreciate the time and effort of others though.

    I’m involved at the entering the sweeps and giveaways side. I’ve won some small sweeps prizes and a few giveaways, but am amazed at how frustrated others get at the time and effort that goes into that as well.

  10. Yes! There’s so much more that goes into it than people think… When I hear people imply products are “free” it makes blood shoot out of my eyeballs.

  11. Fabulous Post Jennifer! I did my research before starting my blog, and thankfully already knew a fair share about HTML and other various coding. Despite that, simply knowing how much work it would be couldn’t fully prepare me for the adjustment it takes getting used to having so much to do!

    I often find myself behind in one thing or another, and discovering a product I completely forgot about still in it’s mailing package a month after it’s arrival isn’t an uncommon thing for me!

  12. ROCKSTAR!

    I just posted this to Facebook for all the people asking me if they can have stuff since it was “free” and I didn’t pay for it or the ones who ask me to try and review a specific thing so they can have it. Let’s see what they say now…

  13. Great post. It really brings it home. And ‘home’ is that I don’t have the dedication to work that much… LOL

    I’m retired and I want to stay that way. So, I guess I will have to actually buy some of the stuff I see on blogs. Dang it!

    Anyway, I wrote a response about your post on my giveaway blog. It’s here: http://ggggiveaways.blogspot.com/ (I hope it is okay to post a URL. If it isn’t, I apologize in advance.)

    Thanks again for sharing!

  14. This is awesome! Everytime someone tells they’re going to go start a blog so they can get “free” stuff too, I just laugh and let them go on their way. I mean honestly…do you really think people just hand this stuff over for nothing? Ha!

    I love this post so much…I need to print up a card with the link so I can hand it out LOL

  15. Great post! Whew!

    I think you forgot: You MUST know how to write. So many people think they can write… and they just can’t! Future bloggers, PLEASE learn the language and undertand how to form sentences properly. Learn how to spell – or for goodness’ sake, use spell check!

    I blog because I like to write and interact with others (albeit virtually). I limit my reviews & giveaways now, becaue I became too stressed about that side of blogging. It really is a TON of work! I want to keep my hobby just that – a hobby. I review products I truly like and use, and enjoy providing an occassional giveaway as a thank you to my readers.

    • Good one! If you aren’t a “writing” type of person, then blogging may not be for you. I am not a math person myself, and I would never attempt anything that required daily math knowledge 🙂

  16. Oh. Dear. Lord……Can I borrow this!?!? LOL My sister is ALWAYS bugging me to get her ‘free stuff’ and as much as I try to explain things to her, the word “Free” is the only thing that sticks >.<

    This is a beautiful, beautiful post! LOL

    I <3 it xD

  17. Oh free is …. not so free 😛

    And with giveaways – promoting them! Oh goodness and events or themes…
    I think the worst part about the “free” misconception is the businesses that think we’re just after free stuff. Particularily the ones that rudely tell you to buy their product THEN review it. (Who pays someone else in order TO work? well unless you really do love it and want to share..)

  18. Great post! Don’t forget someone has to be home for the courriers! You will have to pick things up from the post office possibly. Some large and heavy.

    I’m going to post this! Great work! Personally I am not much of a photographer either and I think the companies pictures are more professional for me.

  19. LOVE this post… People have to know that it takes tons of work, effort and follow through. Plus it doesn’t come over night. If they want a quick buck, they should probably just spend their time and money on lottery tickets.
    You wrote this SO well – fantastic!!

  20. if only it were THAT easy! Because remember, you can do all of that and become quite accomplished but STILL not be able to receive every little product you might want, or what the next blogger is getting!

  21. Thank you so much for this. As a new blogger with her first giveaway going, finding this was perfect timing. I appreciate all the advice and time you put into it.

    Hugs!

  22. Haha! I’ve been saving this post in my email bc I really wanted to read it! lol This is really right on!!! From now on when I get… “WOW I should start a blog”, I’ll just send them to this post! lol

  23. Awesome post! And yeah, I feel like that’s only a small part of it. I’m worn out – free is definitely NOT free. But, if you are willing to put all of the effort and energy in it can be fulfilling. I wish people would realize all of the work that goes into maintaining a monetized blog that hosts reviews/giveaways.

  24. I’m just seeing this now and I must say it is AWESOME!

    I get tired of people not actually doing the work and wanting to get free stuff and paid for posts right away. I dug around, taught myself basic html/css, am learning more and more each day about seo, plug-ins that work well, how to pitch companies and ways to interact with my readers and other bloggers. It is A LOT of WORK to stay motivated and keep yourself on otp of the reviews/giveaways that you agree to do.

    That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like to see my friends start their own blogs, I would. I just don’t want to have to tell them how to do everything! They should get out there and google and their brains to figure things out like I did 🙂

  25. NYC Single Mom on

    Love this post, I hate that question and how the response is “I should start a blog” I never even started my blog for free stuff. And frankly the number of unpaid hours just to have gotten to the first product review would put most of the people off.

  26. I love this post, and I also read the entire thing in a very sarcastic mental voice, which I think really added something special to it. I have been asked repeatedly by so many people how they can “get free stuff” and start a blog so they can “have more free time” and “get paid to hang out at home.” I have verbally lost my shit on a few people with these shenanigans, and I also don’t know how good I feel about some people in life truly believing I do nothing all day and everything is all sunshine, happiness, and a house of free goodies. My fiance really supported my idea of starting a blog about five years ago, and because he has seen the amount of time and work that has gone into it (and he knows not to open a package unless I have already gotten pictures of it), he has heard people asking me if I could “teach them how to get free stuff” and he has frequently immediately responded with “Oh you have no idea…”

  27. I am so glad to have had the chance to read this and the following comments. I just started a blog and would like to do reviews and giveaways. One of the things I am having a very hard time with is the HTML, something that was mentioned in your post!

    There is so much good advice here! It was a little exhausting to even read about all the work bloggers do to make a good blog as well as do the reviews and giveaways. It’s even more than I thought! I have to admit that I was frustrated earlier today and posted to my own blog about just how difficult blogging can be, especially for a newbie like me. It probably sounded a little whiny, but I’m not to worried since I don’t have any readership right now. Someday, I hope that will change.

    One thing I did mention was how hard bloggers work! After reading this, it’s even harder than I thought it was. Thank you for letting me know what I’m in for and what to expect and possibly hope for if I put in the effort and have a lot of patience with the start up process and myself.

    • You are right – blogging is a lot of work! I honestly never knew how much was involved when I started, but now looking back, I have learned so much. I considered it a challenge (in a good way), learning html and everything else that goes on behind the scenes.

      You will get it – it just takes time. And remember, Google is your friend! I learned almost everything from googling 🙂

      I left you a comment on your blog…

  28. That was fantastic. I never give myself enough credit for how much I’ve learned and done throughout this whole blogging process. It’s apparently a lot.

  29. Ha! I wonder how I survived in the blog world as long as I did! I did LOVE the free products but after all the work that goes into post you’ve earned that free product and then some! Well done speedy! 😉

  30. I dunno what my older sis is gonna do when I do get a hotel stay at the Saskatoon “castle” Delta, if they actually follow through with this complimentary 2 nights I asked for. My poor older sister would FREAK! She doesn’t yet know how to get all these perks. I cut my teeth on this by ordering books to review. That is the “playground” I grew up on. Glad to have cut my teeth long ago, now.

  31. U sound like someone who thinks is the only one who can blog. If you don’t want your friends to ask how you do it, stop bragging about your free stuff.

    • Pardon me? Anybody can blog, but to go into it thinking it is easy, is a mistake. There is so much that goes on behind the scenes, but it certainly can be done (as evidenced by the hundreds of thousands of blogs online). I never brag about my “free stuff” (which isn’t free – it is work!), and I really don’t like people asking me how I do it.

  32. Great article! I enjoyed reading it, and yes it is a lot of hard work..My blog is still in the baby stage, and I gave up on it many times before finally getting it up and running.. I love to write, especially fun things me and my husband do for recreation. I knew I found my niche when I started blogging about our travels, love of music/jazz and attending festivals, concerts and events.

    Since I am reviewing places that we stay, shows we attend, and other related things, I thought to myself how cool it would be to get free tickets or hotel stays to places where we plan to visit for these events? and then review it on my blog? like I am doing now…

    I am still working out a plan on how to accomplish that, and how to get more traffic and followers to my blog…but reading your site has helped!

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