Thoughts on Gifted Items

May 29, 2017

Read my thoughts on sponsored content and gifted itemsAs 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.

The Benefits


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

Style Exploration

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.

The Downsides

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.

Way Forward

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.

Fewer Collaborations

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.

Full Disclosure

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.

Gut Check

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?

Read one bloggers thoughts on sponsored content and gifted items and how she plans to tackle the issues going forward. Learn the benefits of sponsored content as well as the downsides.

7 responses to “Thoughts on Gifted Items”

  1. Humaira says:

    As a blogger and a reader I feel that collaborations and gifts can be met with scepticism but I also think we need to be careful and trust our gut more. I turn down more collabs than I take on so if anything does pass the test ithas to be something I think will really benefit my readers than me personally.

    Really enjoyed your post and gave me some food for thought. Congrats on your success!

    • Jen says:

      I think the gut check is so important collaborations have to work for everyone involved the blogger the brand and the readers.

  2. Leda says:

    Such a great post! I always think of really big fashion bloggers who wear completely different outfits every day because of sponsorship, and how they must have closets full of clothes they only wear once! It’s quite wasteful, but I understand the temptation. I also am always skeptical of beauty posts where bloggers say they received a skincare item that week and already “love” it. I feel like after that little time, you wouldn’t really be able to tell if a skincare product worked for you or not!

    Thanks for bringing up this important subject from both sides.

    Xo Leda

    • Jen says:

      Thanks Leda
      As you say I completely understand the temptation to accept lots of free clothes for outfit posts but as you point out what happens after you wear them on the blog. As I advocate slow fashion I would feel very uncomfortable doing that so do think carefully before accepting free items.
      With beauty blogging, I don’t think it’s possible to form an opinion on a skincare item that quickly, yes you can have a first impression but these things take a while to start working so you need to give it time. Bloggers are under a lot of pressure from brands to publish quickly which is unfair.
      Readers should be able to trust bloggers and I hate the thought of anyone feeling sceptical about any of my posts.

      Jen x

  3. Sarah says:

    Great post! I’m lucky in the sense that travel blogging doesn’t hold the same ‘stuff’ benefits. I tend not to feel the pressure as a result, with it mostly giving me upgrades in hostels or invites to vegan themed places that I would have checked out anyway.
    You’re totally right… To start with, I was just being sent loads of stuff that had no relevance to my blog at all m, and I was like ‘you want me o link this how?’

  4. Lauren says:

    I admit that whenever I read a sponsored post, a part of me does wonder if the blogger would feel differently about the product if they had to pay for it. Not that I think they’re intentionally lying, but I know I would find it a lot harder to give a bad review to something I was given for free. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who feels this way.

  5. Amy says:

    I think you’re spot on with this. A major issue for me is having unwanted things in my home. It’s not that they aren’t wanted, but it feels like hoarding to keep things you’re not going to use entirely. That for me was a main factor in deciding to turn down anything which isn’t 100% in keeping with my blog. I think it’s so true that we’re all sceptic of sponsored content and so a good balance of content on a blog is essential in building trust. Great post! – Amy

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