Blogging 101: How to Get Free Shit as a Blogger

Somehow over the past 5 years of blogging, I've managed to pick up some knowledge. Shocking, I know. I'm not a blogging-goals-extraordinaire-girl-boss (side note, I hate that term 😑 ) but I've learned a thing or two that I'm going to share with y'all today.

As you might have surmised from the title of this post, today we're talking PR aka press samples aka free shit. From my personal experience, PR is one of the most confounding things about the world of blogging to non-bloggers.

I have gotten a lot of questions about it lately, most were polite but a few were aggressive.
I've had people explicitly ask "how do you get free stuff and can you get me free stuff?"

Pro tip: calling it free stuff isn't going to win you any points. Yes, it is essentially free shit, but us bloggers don't like to think of it like that. It takes a large investment of time & money to get to a point where you start getting free shit. And often times that free stuff comes with strings attached.

First and foremost: what is PR? In the world of blogging, PR are samples that brands/ PR agencies/ retailers send to bloggers free of charge. Sometimes brands stipulate that a blogger must post about the product in exchange for the sample, while other times the item is sent with no expectations at all.

But that's not why you came to read this post, right? You want to know how to get the free shit.

I would like to emphasize that nobody is entitled to PR. It's a perk of blogging, for sure, but it is not a right. Regardless of the amount of followers a blogger has, nobody "deserves" PR.

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1. Discovery!

How can brands send you free shit if they don't know about you? Answer: they can't!

They need to discover you and see what kind of content you can produce.

Social media is the best way for brands to discover you. To be honest I haven't seen much brand discovery/ collaboration action happening on Pinterest/ Twitter but that's just from my experience. Instagram and Youtube and even Bloglovin' on the other hand? They're fantastic tools for brands to find new bloggers/ influencers to work with.

Basically, be present on social media so that your content is easily discoverable to brands.

2. Make it clear what your content focuses on

Okay so this tip mostly focuses on Instagram (and your blog/ youtube if you have one) more so than other social media, but I think it's an important one.

Having a theme on your Instagram will make it easier for brands to recognize what your focus is. And when I say theme I don't mean colors or aesthetics but rather actual content.

If you focus on beauty, make sure your feed is majority beauty content. If you focus on fashion, make sure your feed is majority fashion content. That doesn't mean that every single photo has to follow a theme. In fact, some variety will probably allow you some flexibility when it comes to PR/ collaborations. But if you're aiming to be an XYZ blogger, make sure that it's apparent from a quick glance at your profile that XYZ is your focus.

3. Tag relevant accounts + post stuff you already love

You know when you find a photo on your Instagram explore page and some girl is wearing a sweater that you're absolutely in love with and you need it right this second, damn it! Then you check her tags and caption and nowhere in the whole damn thing does she mention where she got said sweater. Instead, you have to download the app and like her photo and name your first born after her to find out who makes the sweater and at that point, you've lost faith in humanity blogging? No? Just me?

I understand why bloggers play that game (no shame in getting that affiliate $$) but as a reader it's frustrating. Plus, I've found it beneficial to tag the brands that I'm featuring in my posts!

Going back to tip #1-- tagging the brands that you already use and love in your photos help them discover your content! I've been lucky to work with many brands because I was already genuinely gushing about their products on my page.

And if you don't take my word for it, I've heard similar advice on Fohr Card's A Drink with James. One of my favorite episodes was an interview with Laney Crowell who founded her own digital branding agency. She mentions how sometimes she reaches out to accounts with relatively small followings because they genuinely loved the brand and were constantly posting about them.

All that said don't be a spammy asshole and tag irrelevant accounts (ie if you're sharing a photo of a Chanel mascara, don't tag Sephora, Dior, Kevyn Aucoin, YSL, and Tom Ford.)

4. Size isn't everything

I've seen people worrying that because they don't have tens of thousands of followers, they won't have any opportunities to partner with brands. That's absolutely not true. I've seen bloggers with less than 1000 followers receive PR, I've seen bloggers with less than 3000 followers have sponsored posts. Why? Because they make stellar, beautiful, interesting, genuine, engaging content.

In that same episode of A Drink With James that I linked up above, Laney Crowell specially says she sent product to an Instagrammer with around 100 followers. Why? Because the Instagrammer genuinely loved the brand and constantly talked about them.

I guess this isn't really a let's just say: don't worry too much about numbers. If you got quality content, brands will reach out.

5. Sign up for influenster like platforms + look out for brands looking for testers

No matter the size of your following on twitter, instagram, or facebook, you can sign up for programs like influenster and 0.8l. Their only requirements are that you must have a social media account-- doesn't matter if you have 10 followers or 10k. They work a bit differently but the main premise is the same, you get free products to try out in exchange for your honest review. There are other platforms out there but those are the two that I use. I would also recommend Octoly but you need at least 10k followers on Instagram or 1000 followers on Youtube.

In addition, sometimes brands and stores actively looking for testers. Jolse and Beautibi are two retailers that often look for testers for new products. By following them on Instagram or signing up for their mailing list, you can get notified for when they're looking for testers. And they're not the only ones-- you just gotta keep your eyes peeled (as creepy as that saying is.)

6. Be professional and polite in all correspondences-- public & private

You may be thinking "well no shit, Sherlock" but you would be surprised at how rude people can get. Or if you have no faith in humanity, I guess you won't be surprised.

Like the heading says-- be polite. Sometimes it's hard when a brand is being snarky with you, but you literally have nothing to gain by being rude. Actually, whenever I get handed a good dose of snark I make sure to be extra fucking polite. If you wanna bitch about it, tell it to your friends or your mom-- not the brand.

7. Disclose your press samples

This is less of a tip on getting press samples and more of a tip on what to do when you get press samples, but I still wanted to mention it. Like the tip above, you have nothing to lose from disclosing a press sample. Of course, there are a few brands who ask bloggers specifically not to disclose, but that's shady as hell and I would recommend second guessing if you really want to work with them.

Not to toot my own horn or anything (even though I totally am), but I've had multiple PR contacts tell me they appreciate my honesty. I've never had anyone say "oh I don't want to work with you because you disclose press samples."

Sometimes brands will explicitly remind you to disclose somewhere that you received the products as PR. It never hurts to do so even if you haven't been reminded. If anything, disclosing will make you look hella profesh.

Some bloggers say it comes off as bragging when they disclose PR, but I personally do not see it that way. My belief is that it's tantamount in maintaining readers' trust. Of course, we all want to think we're bias-free but the reality of the situation is nobody can be 100% objective 100% of the time. I don't think it's up to us bloggers to decide if we're being objective or not about press samples. I think it's up to our readers to determine if they can trust us bloggers and determine if we're trying to be objective.

There's also the legality aspect of it. I'm not a lawyer nor am I trying to hand out legal advice. From my understanding, the laws surrounding PR disclosure are somewhat vague, but it's better to be safe than sorry.


Um, so I don't really have anything interesting to say to wrap up this post besides the end? If you're a new blogger or you're curious about blogging, I hope this post helped enlightened you on the mystical relationship between PR and blogging 🔮

If you'd like to keep up with my posts, follow along on bloglovin' | instagram | pinterest | twitter | google +

P.s I'm so close to 1000 followers on bloglovin'! If you enjoy reading my blog, I will give you internet hugs for following me on bloglovin 🤗

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