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There are so many different types of blog out there, with loads of niches and different ways to earn money from your writing skills. One type of blog that has really been growing in popularity of late is the product blog, where bloggers will review a variety of different products on their site and inform their readers which products they recommend (or not).
Starting one can be overwhelming for someone new to the scene, so I’ve written a helpful guide for anyone looking to set a product blog up.
A Beginner’s Guide To Starting A Product Review Blog:
- Why start a product review blog?
- How do I start a product review blog?
- How do I find product review opportunities as a beginner?
- How do I know which products/brands to go for?
- Some important dos and don’ts.
1. Why start a product review blog?
People start product blogs for a variety of reasons, and with the opportunities available it’s a brilliant move if you’re looking to make yourself known as a writer whilst also getting to work with lots of different brands.
My blog is focused on reviews of books, experiences, and places–I never actually meant to start reviewing products as well; however, I found it supplemented my niches perfectly and added something a little different to what I was already doing.
If you’re already a blogger then you’ll know how important it is to set up multiple income streams–product blogging allows you not only to get paid for your reviews but also include affiliate links (links that provide you with a commission whenever readers click on them and make a purchase), making it a great option for anyone looking to turn their blog into a money maker.
Working with brands will help develop your professional relationships and trust which could lead to further opportunities down the line; plus, you’ll generally get your own exposure from collaborations as brands tend to share any reviews of their products with their own audience.
Simply put, there are loads of great reasons to write product reviews!
2. How do I start a product review blog?
Before being able to review products, you’ll need your own blog, which means you’ll need to choose a domain and host, set up your brand name and logo, and start planning content.
Social media is super important when reviewing products as most brands will want social coverage as well–I use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest as ways of marketing my posts, plus I’ve seen other bloggers use sites such as LinkedIn and Tumblr.
It’s important to keep your brand fluid between all accounts, so set up your usernames, profile pictures, and general design to be recognisable and similar to each other. Also, make sure to set up an email address with your business name included in it, as email is usually the best way to apply for and collaborate with brands.
If you’re stuck on how to do all of this efficiently then there are some great free tools available to help–I use:
- Canva for design,
- Buffer for scheduling social media posts,
- Trello for organising my to do list,
- and Google Calendar for arranging my schedule.
I’ve managed to get to where I am so far with no monetary investment yet–if you can invest then do (it’s important in the long-term), but don’t worry if you’re not quite at that stage as it’s still possible in the short-term without it.
One more important thing… If you’re looking to earn money (or just products) from your review then the most important thing of all is to be registered as self-employed.
If you’re a UK blogger, like me, then this means having an account with HMRC and filing your tax return online every year. You’ll need to declare not only any payments that you make but also every product that you receive–there are some hefty fines and consequences if you don’t, so make this a priority!
If you’re not good with money but have some funds to invest then I’d always recommend getting an accountant to help you or, if not, HMRC offer free training videos and literature to help you understand what you need to do (which you can access by making an account with them).
3. Okay, I’m all set up. How do I actually find product review opportunities as a beginner?
Product review opportunities can come from a variety of different sources; however, at the start, don’t expect loads of brands to approach you as you’ll need to build up your portfolio and reputation first.
Once you’ve made an account, all you need to do is browse opportunities and apply for the ones that suit your site and audience. Generally, the application form will ask about your niche, your blog stats, and will also require what is essentially a cover letter–this is crucial to success so make sure to spend time on it!
Another great way to get products to review is to use social media. I’ve found Facebook and Twitter are the best for this, with Instagram better as a platform for brands to connect with me on.
Facebook contains a whole host of different groups specifically aimed at bringing bloggers and brands together, so once you are part of these, you can receive notifications every time a brand posts in the group.
Twitter is great because you can use specific hashtags to find opportunities-#bloggerswanted, #bloggersrequired, and #prrequest are three great ones to check out; however, they can get misused which means you may have to trawl through quite a few irrelevant posts to get to the ones you’re looking for.
You will also find specific accounts on Twitter that help maximise opportunities for bloggers, so make sure that you’re following as many of these possible.
One thing to note is that many brands will want you to email over your media kit, a document containing your blog info, stats, and services–if you don’t have one of these already, you can easily design one on Canva for free.
If you’re applying for lots of different opportunities and not getting anywhere with it, then it may be that you need to get your portfolio going first–after all, why should a brand trust you to deliver an accurate and well-written review when they have no evidence of how good you are at it?
I started off by doing a few reviews of things I’d gone out and bought myself–I didn’t get paid anything for writing these, but it paved the way for paid brand collaborations. I only needed to do a couple and I was starting to get results with my applications, so this is an excellent way to get your foot in the door.
Try and go for products where you can use affiliate links within your text, and that way it’s still possible to earn money from them.
4. How do I know which products/brands to go for?
As with many industries, the content creation sector contains a lot of people trying to get quality services for next to nothing and, unfortunately, I’ve seen lots of bloggers give in to this.
It’s important to know your worth and stand by that as even if you’re new you’re still doing a lot of work for a brand, so there has to be something in it for you (and “exposure” doesn’t always cut it).
At the same time, make sure you’re not charging ridiculous amounts–like any job, your income will generally increase with experience, and sometimes negotiating may be the way forward at the start.
When you first start your product review blog, you’ll most likely be working with brands on a gifted basis, which means that they provide you with the product in return for an honest review.
Because of this, it’s important to go for products that you’d really want to keep, otherwise it’s not such a great method of payment!
Once you’ve started to secure sponsored (paid) collaborations, that won’t be so important; however, bear in mind that you might not be the right person to review a product that you have no interest in whatsoever.
You will also want to make sure that the products you are choosing to review are relevant to your target audience, who you will learn more about as you progress with your blog.
Don’t, for example, review a product aimed at menopausal women if your main target audience is 18-30 year old males!
Take advantage of your blog and social media analytics to really work out who your audience is and that way you’ll be able to identify which collaborations will have the most success.
5. Some important dos and don’ts…
Do… Be proactive in your search for collaborations
The attitude of “everything will come to me if I wait for it” does not work in the blogging world.
There’s a lot of effort to blogging that you won’t initially realise at the start, and no one is going to hunt you down for collaborations until you’ve at least had some success with it.
A big part of your job will be reaching out to brands and scrolling through opportunities until you find the right ones, so set aside some time every week to apply for opportunities and network with other professionals.
Do… Write honestly about your product experiences
No one appreciates a fake review and your audience won’t stick around long if they can’t trust your word.
Plenty of influencers have sold out for big money and that’s just not a good move–no matter how big the reward is, it’s never worth lying to the public about an experience that you’ve had.
Don’t feel pressured to write only nice things about a brand because you’re collaborating with them either–if you’ve agreed that you’re providing an honest review for them, then you are well within your rights to do so.
If you’ve got a product that you simply can’t write anything positive about then there’s always the option to decline the collaboration if you feel uncomfortable writing about it.
Do… Treat it like your business
Your blog is your brand and your brand is your business, so make sure you treat it as such. Be professional at all times, whether that’s how you communicate with other people or how you present yourself and your content on your blog.
Brands won’t want to work with you if you don’t respond to emails or share inappropriate content on your social media channels, so quit those habits if you really want to succeed.
Also make sure to schedule time in for learning and development–CPD (Continuing Professional Development) is important even when you’re self-employed!
Don’t… Take rejection personally
The very nature of obtaining product reviews means that you’re going to get rejected a lot and that’s okay.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you’re not a good blogger because you’re not getting any collaborations, when actually it’s likely down to the industry being so damn competitive.
I’ve had loads of great collaborations but I’ve had way more rejections, and it’s important to understand that this isn’t a personal dig at you, but rather that you and the brand aren’t a good fit for each other.
Don’t expect success with every application you make–instead focus on getting your name out there and improving your craft.
Don’t… Fall for underpayment tricks from big (and sometimes small) brands
A common occurrence is to receive potential collaboration opportunities from brands, usually via Instagram, where in return for a review (or being an “ambassador” for the brand), you get a discount on your product.
I have ignored every single request I’ve had for these, as by taking one on you’re essentially contributing to your own payment, which doesn’t sound that great when you think about it.
Some bloggers will take these on, thinking they’re the only opportunity they can get if they’re new to the scene, but I personally wouldn’t work with anyone that expects me to part with my own money in order to collaborate.
Don’t… Expect overnight success
This is so, so important but really easy to forget in the blogging world.
There are some amazingly successful bloggers out there who make it all look so easy, but you’ve got to remember that they put a lot of hard work into getting where they are today.
Everyone starts at the bottom of the ladder, and if you think you’ll make it right up the top within a small timeframe then you’re setting yourself up for failure.
Instead of focusing on that end result think more about achieving each of those milestones along the way, and don’t be discouraged when you hit setbacks and other obstacles. We all get them, but it’s the persistence and perspective that we have that helps us overcome them.
Hopefully, this guide has helped you decide whether product blogging is the right route for you to go down–it’s a lot of hard work at the best of times but can make for a rewarding and successful venture, if you put in the effort right from the start.
You don’t need loads of fancy tools or money in the bank to become a product blogger–as long as you’ve got the right professionalism and determination, then you’re already halfway there.
Are you thinking of starting your own product review blog? If so, do you think this guide covered the important aspects of this topic?
Do you know other important tips that product reviewers should pay attention to? Share them in the comments.
Contributor: Hannah Read