How to Get Free Stuff Off Brands

Emily Woodhouse Adventure Careers, Big Adventures, Business and Marketing

Okay, I’m guessing you’re here because you’ve seen other people on the internet being given things by brands. Maybe you’ve seen bloggers review kit that’s been sent to them in the post. Or maybe you’ve seen sponsored social media posts.

As a very new blogger, I used to dream of companies sending me kit to review. It seemed like magic. What, you mean you set up a website, start writing about your life and people start sending you free kit? No way!

Yes, way. But it’s not quite as simple as that. Here’s the insight into the world of getting free stuff or “sponsorship in lieu” that I wish I’d had when I started.

There’s No Such Thing As a Free Jacket

No one just sends you free kit because they love you. Correction: no company sends you kit because they love you. It is a business transaction.

Unless you have a huge following, this will rarely happen out of the blue either. You might have seen some YouTubers (for example) with huge followings who get sent unknown gifts in the post. Even then, the companies are hoping that they might get a couple of seconds in front of their audience. Again: you are not just being given kit because they love you.

Although it’s often called “gifting” in blogging world, this is not a gift. They expect something in return. You have something that they want and they have something that you want. It’s an exchange. Typically service in exchange for item.

What Can You Offer?

Have you ever heard the story of a teenager who can’t pay for their food at a restaurant? They end up washing dishes until their bill is paid through time worked. This is kind of like what getting free things off brands is. You are not really getting it for free. You are using your time or skills as currency.

A classic example is kit in exchange for a review. Why do brands want reviews? Of course they’re hoping it’ll be a good review, but often it’s a bit more mechanical than that. It’s to build trust for consumers, but also inbound link building for their website’s SEO.

There are many other examples though. If you are approaching brands, trying to get specific pieces of equipment for your adventure, think about what skills you have to offer. Are you a photographer? Can you take videos? Give talks? Do you have a really engaged social media following? Think outside the box. Sometimes the more unique skills are the ones that win.

What is Valuable to Brands?

But why would a brand want my services? Wouldn’t they just pay for someone to make professional content?

We’re going to talk about this in the context of adventure, but it can be transferred to other sectors. What companies want from you are things that they can’t do themselves. For example:

  • If a company reviewed their own product on their website, would you trust it?
  • If a company claims to have a “storm proof” product would you believe them? Or would you believe the adventurer who’s been using it in storm conditions for weeks?
  • Take a look at the brand’s social media. Usually individuals have a far more engaged audience than a brand page. It’s harder for them to get people excited about their products.
  • If a company is trying to build a certain image, they have to demonstrate it through the type of people who use their products.
  • They can take pictures of the product, but it’s not the same as a photo of the product actually in use on an epic adventure.

If you can start looking at it from the company’s point of view, you’ll quickly start to see where you have value.

How Do I Start?

My advice would be – as with so many things – to start before you are desperate. Don’t wait until you really need an unaffordable piece of kit for your expedition. By working with brands beforehand, you are proving that you are trustworthy. It’s a bit like building a portfolio of your services.

Okay, Emily, so how do I get my first brand deal? Well, there are a few ways.

1. Sign up to Influencer Platforms

Influencer Platforms are a middle man between brands and you. They advertise “opportunities” to work with brands that are actively looking for collaborations. The brand will be very specific about what they are looking for and what they give you. For example:

“We would like you to review your experience of the Adventure socks on your social channels. We are looking for 3 posts (min 2 feed 1 can be story). We are looking for specific feedback on the quality and different aspects of the socks.”

You might need a certain number of followers to join an Influencer Platform, but not always. It can be a bit frustrating if there are requirements on follower numbers to do a campaign, too. Gives us all something to aim for though!

2. Reach out to Small Companies

This is one of my favourites. If you don’t have a very big audience yet, then you’ll probably find it hard to get a response from big brands. But, luckily for us, there are loads of new companies starting day on day. These companies are desperate to get their products heard of and in front of potential buyers.

So, you may not have a very big social media following – but it’s probably bigger than someone’s! It’s also probably in a specific niche. If you can demonstrate that your followers are the target audience for a new company, then you can really help each other out. They give you the kit you need, you help them reach their target audience. Everyone wins.

The best place I’ve found to do this is on Twitter. Have a search for “People” using keywords you’re interested in. Go down the Twitter rabbit hole of recommended/related if necessary… Ask them to follow you so you can DM. See if they might be interested in collaborations and ask for an email address to send more information about what you can offer.

You can also do a quick check to see how your social following aligns with theirs.

3. Approach brands you’ve already bought from

This can be a bit of a detective mission. If you’ve bought from a smaller brand, you might be able to get them via Twitter – as described above. If it’s a bigger brand, they are probably going to have a PR agency working for them. Using the same method as above, or a bit of google searching, you might be able to find their PR agency. Alternatively, ask the brand for the right contact.

It’s important to choose brands whose kit you’ve used already – and who you love – so you can be authentic. If you can say, “I’ve been using your tents religiously for 10 years” then that’s a much more compelling approach than, “Hey, I saw your tents look nice”.

I also like the fact that I can add depth to a review for my readers. If I’ve genuinely used and loved the company’s kit before, whatever I say in a review feels far more complete.

Need More Suggestions?

It took me a while to shift my mindset and work out what brands would want from me. Once I’d worked that out, it was easy to put together a portfolio of what I could offer and start approaching them for specific pieces of kit.

To help you get started, I’ve put together a tips and suggestions PDF to help you work out what your skills are and what you can offer.

To get it, pop your email address into the box below and I’ll send you the password to the free resources page.

Now available free on the Resources Page.