As someone who advocates conscious consumerism and minimalism the topic of gifted items and sponsored posts often plays on my mind. Blogging is an industry built around consumerism and marketing so there is a real conflict of interest when it comes to monetising a minimalist blog. Can you really promote conscious consumerism whilst dressed head to toe in gifted items and writing your latest sponsored post?
I was fully aware of the money-making potential of blogs when I started Tartan Brunette. I’d watched so many hard-working women take their blogs full time and they were thriving. Therefore, I would be lying if I said I didn’t consider the potential when I first started out. And as many of you know this blog started out as a pretty standard fashion and beauty blog. I was sharing my latest purchases and no issue what so ever with receiving free gifts. I will admit I accepted things which were not right for me or the blog just because I was so flattered to be offered them. I’m sure many other blogs will admit to doing the same when they first started out. However, as this site changed towards a more conscious direction I became far stricter about what I would accept. No free outfit is worth your integrity.
However, that doesn’t mean I’m against gifted items and sponsored posts. I think as long as it’s done in moderation and is in-keeping with the blog sponsored posts and gifted products have real value for bloggers and brands.
Having recently returned to full-time work after a short stint as a full-time blogger I have a unique perspective on this topic. And I wanted to share some of my thoughts and feelings on sponsored posts and gifted items. I will discuss my personal experiences and thoughts on the topic both good and bad and how I plan to move forward now the pressure is off.
Let’s start with the most obvious one, shall we? Creating sponsored content with a brand obviously has a financial benefit. I don’t charge much but do think it’s important that I’m paid for the time and effort I put in. Running a website isn’t cheap there is hosting and design to pay for as well as equipment like cameras and photoshop. A couple of sponsored posts a month help pay for all of this as well as a wee treat here and there.
There is also a financial benefit to gifted items, and whilst I don’t advocate working for clothes it is a great perk. Especially as I want to share more responsible brands on here. Gifted items enable me to share more fantastic brands without the expense of going out and buying lots of new clothes. As we all know responsible brands tend to cost more so I honestly couldn’t afford to share as many brands as I want to if I had to pay out my own pocket.
Speaking on a personal level it feels great when a brand you love wants to work with you, let alone pay you for it. Take my collaboration with People Tree I was over the moon that they wanted to collaborate with me. Having a brand of their calibre want to work with little old me showed that my hard work was paying off. When you put hours of work into something having an external company see its value is so rewarding.
Having brands want to work with you validates your hard work
As I already mentioned I wouldn’t be able to share great responsible brands with you without gifted items. Receiving clothing for free allows me to explore my own style as well as share new brands with you guys. Being able to test out new brands and share my opinions is one of my favourite things about running a blog and gifted items allow me to continue doing this.
Too Much Stuff
I think I may be the only blogger out there who doesn’t want any unsolicited blogger mail. As much as I appreciate every single item I’m sent I want to control what comes into my home. While full on minimalism isn’t for me I do practice the idea that everything in my home should add value to my life. And as lovely as a full range of lipsticks is they aren’t going to add any real value to my life. I end up giving away most of my blogger mail to charity. Whilst I know someone else is probably loving the things I’ve given away I’d rather not have them come through my house in the first place.
When I work with a brand on a gifting basis it’s a different story as I often get to pick out something which I know I’ll love. However, when you work with lots of different brands this way it still creates the too much stuff issue.
I don’t know about you guys but even as a blogger with experience of working on sponsored posts I sometimes feel a little scepticism when reading sponsored content. Does she really love this or is she just saying that because she was paid to? I hate the thought of someone thinking this when reading my blog. And whilst I am completely honest reviewing products there is always that issue of being more favourable to something you got for free or were paid to review. After all, if the product wasn’t that great I haven’t lost any money. I don’t know how to get around this issue as I think we all subconsciously favour something we got for free. I can only strive to be as honest as possible when featuring products on my site.
Is she saying this because she was paid to or does she actually love the product?
Pressure to Post
When I was relying on this blog as my main source of income I really did feel the pressure to accept sponsored content. It’s really hard to refuse paid work when you have bills to pay. Now I’m back in full-time work and no longer relying on this blog to pay bills this pressure has lifted. I’ve turned down more work this last month than I’ve accepted and that’s the way I want it to be
Churning out sponsored post after sponsored post takes away the creativity which is the reason I blog in the first place. I want this to be a place to discuss things which matter to me as well as share my outfits and great new brands. When you’re under pressure to create sponsored posts, there isn’t as much space for personal content. And it’s the personal content which got the brands attention in the first place. It can be hard to balance the more personal content with collaborative content especially if you’re under pressure financially.
For me personally, I’m incredibly fortunate that I don’t need this blog to pay the bills. This certainly gives me a lot more freedom when it comes to sponsored and gifted content moving forward. I do think the benefits outweigh the downsides and want to continue working with brands. I don’t have all the answers and I’m not sure there is a right or a wrong way to approach collaborations. But for me, I want to set a few guidelines to have in mind moving forward.
Keep Things Me
I’ve been blogging long enough that my readers know me and would spot something that just wasn’t me. For example, if I suddenly started sharing pieces from Primark or H&M you would know that wasn’t ‘me’. I’m very open about my desire for a more sustainable wardrobe so it makes sense to collaborate with sustainable and ethical brands. Whereas it doesn’t make sense for me to collaborate with a fast fashion brand. Going forward a want all collaborations to be ‘me’, meaning that they should fit my sense of style and my personal ethics. You’ll never find me promoting fast fashion but at the same time, I’m not about to promote insanely expensive designer pieces. I want to work with attainable ethical brands.
In the past, I’ve had weeks when every single post was a collaboration. In my opinion, that’s too much. I want to work with brands which really resonate with me and give you an honest opinion based on more than trying something once. I want to experience the product which you can’t do if you have 5 other products to review that week. I’m thinking of only doing a couple of collaborations a month going forward. This will give me the time to probably try something out and form an honest opinion.
I like to think I’m pretty good at disclosing sponsored posts and gifted items. Going forward I want to ensure full disclosure in every post. At the end of every post, you will find a short disclosure letting you know if the post is sponsored or features gifted items.
I’m going to ignore the money and trust my gut more. If my first instinct of a collaboration isn’t 100% positive then I won’t move forward with it. A collaboration has to feel right and I need to start trusting my intuition more. So going forward all emails need to pass the gut check first.
I need to trust my intuition more
I’d love to know your thoughts on sponsored posts and gifted items. Do you agree or disagree with me? Are you more or less likely to buy something an influencer has been given for free? Do you feel differently when you see a post has been sponsored? Do you feel it promotes overconsumption?