What to Know Before Agreeing To a Product for Service Exchange

Pants: Mango (similar here and here); Sweater: Zara (similar here and here); Shoes: Pairs in Paris

Today I want to discuss a murky topic that comes up a lot in the content creation industry: accepting product in exchange for content creation/a place on your social media. I think it’s a topic that’s especially relevant to newer bloggers who often tend to say yes to brands without thinking twice. However, it’s also a topic that seasoned bloggers need to discuss more openly.

First off, I’d like to distinguish between a content creator reaching out to a brand and a brand reaching out to a content creator. If you have editorial content planned and believe a product is a right fit for it, then absolutely reach out to a brand! However, what I’m addressing in this particular article is when a brand reaches out to you, asking you to put their product on your social media/blog.

There are a ton of questions related to this. Is it an acceptable practice? Does it skew the industry standards for what content creators should be earning? Does it create a cycle of brands feeling like they can garner our services for free? So.Many.Questions.

So here’s my take: I think it should be evaluated on a case by case basis. There are a series of questions I think we should all ask ourselves before embarking on this sort of partnership:

1. Do you love the brand?
So you like a lipstick from a brand. That’s great! But does that mean that said company is in alignment with your personal brand? Look through their website, their social media, and see whether it’s a real, organic fit. For new bloggers, this is especially important. I know how exciting it is when a brand reaches out to send you product for free – I still remember the first time this happened to me! But before jumping the gun, make sure that it’s the right fit. You want the partnership to be mutually beneficial.

2. Will it lead to a longterm/bigger partnership in the future?
In the past, I’ve accepted product in exchange for a service because I’ve felt like it opens the door to a longterm partnership in the future. Or alternatively, I’ve felt really passionate about a small brand that I wanted to champion. If you truly love a brand, use their products, and feel like it’ll pave the way for a future partnership, then by all means go for it. However, make your intent clear. Chat with the brand to gauge their longterm goals – will they have budget in the future? What kind of campaigns have they worked on in the past?

3. How does this help you grow?
Some brands are great for your portfolio. For bloggers that are starting out, if a brand reaches out that has a bigger following than you, see if they repost pictures from bloggers. Just because it doesn’t pay you monetarily doesn’t mean that it can’t help your business in other ways. Perhaps this is a way to grow your personal brand and get new followers.

4. Is there some other way you can make money?
Sure, you may not be making money from this particular partnership, but is there an affiliate program involved? Are they signed up with RewardStyle?

5. Does the brand chronically refuse to pay content creators?
This is the last question to ask, but a very important one. If you’ve already worked with a brand once on a barter basis, and they come to you again and again with no budget, you need to ask yourself if you’re being taken advantage of. Brands don’t always have budget, that’s totally fine! But constantly saying yes to free work doesn’t do the industry any favours. If we as an industry perpetuate a cycle of free work, monetary standards will never be set.

I’d love to get your thoughts on this topic!

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25 Comments

  1. November 3, 2017 / 12:26 pm

    I totally agree on the points you have listed.
    I have totally been one of those to jump the gun before thinking at all. Just because so got so excited about a brand reaching out!
    And then when you are in it- it is so hard to get out

    Love when you do posts like these! Keep them coming!

    Looking absolutely gorgeous in red btw!

  2. November 3, 2017 / 12:55 pm

    I’ve been looking for a post about this topic, and I’m so glad you wrote about it!

    I did have a question about when brands send bloggers stuff for free: I’m sure established bloggers have grown connections with brands or have a P.O. box, but for new bloggers, how do you gauge if it’s safe to give a brand your address and know that they’re real, even if you’ve done some research on them?

    And lastly, loved the outfit, that sweater is gorgeous!

    • siffat.h91@gmail.com
      November 3, 2017 / 8:45 pm

      If the brand is legit, has an IG page, website, etc, you’re good to give them your address. I’ve never had an issue!

  3. November 3, 2017 / 4:42 pm

    I remember the very first time a brand reached out to me – I was beyond excited to try their product.. turned out their product tastes TERRIBLE but they wanted me to write that it tastes amazing…. totally wrong!

    I didn’t end up posting anything for the brand, but that’s something to be wary of too especially for new bloggers! 🙂

  4. November 3, 2017 / 5:00 pm

    Well said, good tips!

  5. November 3, 2017 / 5:33 pm

    First off, your hair looks gorgeous! Thank you for sharing your thoughts and advice. As a new blogger, I am really trying to reach out to brands only if they match my brand/values but I can see how it would be tempting to just “take whatever you can get”. I will remember these questions when approached by brands 🙂
    xo, Serene

  6. November 3, 2017 / 7:07 pm

    Excellent tips here, it can be challenging being a blogger sometimes. And love this head to toe look and the photos!!

    Allie of ALLIENYC
    http://www.allienyc.com

  7. LENA
    November 3, 2017 / 8:40 pm

    Thanks for the advice. I’ll keep that in mind since I know companies prey on new bloggers!

    -L.
    LenaRevealed.com

  8. Amy
    November 4, 2017 / 12:50 am

    First, I love the monochromatic red look. Such a great color right now, and it looks so good on you. Second I love this post and that you are addressing it. I would have really loved reading it when I first started. I definitely still do work for exchange, but only when it feels like a natural fit and when I think it may lead to a long term beneficial partnership. Or when there are other agreements (like social shares, etc.). I feel more comfortable saying no and also asking for pay than I used to.

    Amy Ann
    Straight A Style

  9. November 4, 2017 / 5:17 pm

    This post was so helpful! Being a new blogger, I think all of these questions are really important for me to keep in mind. I was wondering — How do you determine the proper budget?

    Mia | http://www.verymuchmia.com

    • siffat.h91@gmail.com
      November 6, 2017 / 11:35 am

      So glad you found in helpful! In regards to determining a proper budget (I’m guessing you’re wondering how much you should charge?), I would sign up for a platform like Hashtag Paid as they set the price you should be charging based on your followers and engagement. You can also speak to bloggers in your city to find out how much they are charging, and set your rate based on the average. Hope this helps!

  10. November 5, 2017 / 12:42 pm

    Sif you look perfect here babe. Now let’s get onto the topic! hahahahaha Do you have time? lol Ok I have been on both sides of this where building little relationships turns into something amazing and fantastic opportunity. I have also been on the other end where you keep trying and trying and trying in hope that they one see your value. But that day never came. They would still keep wanting to use you and squeeze you dry. It has put a bad taste in my mouth. Having said that, I have learn to not undervalue my self. We all have worked so hard to be where we are and that says something. At leasts they need to recognise that this is all our full time jobs and at the end of the day…. I can’t pay rent with my clothes, nor eat my clothes or free shoes. I don’t see brands go to google ads and say “oh hey wanna take a skirt for some free advertising?” I would love to see how google would respond. I’m definitely not comparing my self to google but I feel that I do have a voice and for this industry to grow and become more stable, its up to us to regulate it and not to undervalue ourselves.

    xxx

    Ash

    http://www.missgunner.com

  11. November 6, 2017 / 10:04 am

    I really enjoyed reading this post Siffat. Sponsored content is such an interesting topic because it is so new there really are no hard and fast rules about anything. I think, like you pointed out, the most important thing is that you are staying true and authentic to yourself. A little way I decide whether or not to work with a brand is by asking myself whether or not it is a brand I would actually use and a product or service I would spend my own money on. And when it comes to exchanging content for product, it has to be an exchange you feel good about and benefit from in some way. Whether that is through gaining experience working with brands, association with a brand, exposure to a wider audience, exposing your audience to a brand you want to champion, the prospect of future work, or maybe you just love the product so much an exchange is enough.

    Jayde x
    jaydearchives.com

  12. November 6, 2017 / 12:37 pm

    I love this bridge! Such beautiful photos as always, I love the red and golden light together, it’s so dreamy. Yes, I tend to evaluate this on a case by case basis too. Some brands definitely take advantage. But others are great. It all comes down to the individual but we can’t undervalue our work, nor the patience of often a kind partner who shoots for us. Pretty sure my partner will never get excited about me getting a skirt or dress in exchange for his taking photos of me in it.
    xx Jenelle
    http://www.inspiringwit.com

  13. November 6, 2017 / 12:37 pm

    I totally agree with everything you are saying. Not accepting unpaid work and not setting the wrong standards in the industry are extremely important. However, many new blogger (as I am) find difficult to say “no” to their first ever possible collab, though unpaid. It takes time, patience, and consistency to wait for a good offer and saying “no” for a lot of times, or-worse- getting numerous “no”s may definitely challenge your motivation.

    xo Corina
    http://unbouquetdamour.com/polka-dot-tie-neck-blouse/

  14. November 7, 2017 / 6:47 am

    Lovely read dear, and I couldnt agree more. Sponsored content is one way of making money, but we should never do away of our own brand, and stick to our true and authentic identity. By the way, such a cute look dear! I love the all-red outfit, such a fab color. Also, those white sneakers really pops out of the picture.

    Jessica | notjessfashion.com

  15. November 7, 2017 / 12:08 pm

    Siffat, I LOVE this topic and it’s one I’d love to have with bloggers face to face. I just did a product for service exchange combo…I did really like the brand but looking back and reading your comments, I should have pinned them down to see what future collabo’s I could get from them. This whole working for free thing is such a bitter cycle- as a blogger you feel like you need to start from somewhere, so you take on this free collabo’s but speaking on behalf of myself- when you’ve gone through the haaaaard work of finding a photographer, paying the photographer, modelling for the shoot, writing the content, publishing the content- I look at my free product/s and I do feel like I’ve been had.
    And I feel like I have to ‘take it’ coz my traffic and followers are super low compared to the blogger big wigs or even mid-tier bloggers, so I’m part of the problem.
    Personally, I think if a brand is giving you clothes, makeup- something they want you to try on, photograph etc, they should find a way to budget for it and if this means they ask significantly less people to collabo with then so be it…
    Because although I got some ‘cool’ products from my brand collabo’s, the bottom line is a brand asked me for a service and I used a lot of my money to help them push their product. God, saying it like that makes one see how effed up our industry is…things need to change.
    And on that happy note- have a good week! X

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