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Why Free Product ends up costing us more

Why Free Product ends up costing us more

“We’d love to work with you and think our XYZ product would resonate well with your audience. We will send you XYZ and require at least 3 social shares, sound good?

Top washington dc blogger wearing a summer outfit of jeans and headwrap curvy style dc style-2

I’m certain that 9 out of 10 bloggers/influencers/brand ambassadors have received an email along those lines. If you are a newbie or even a middle newbie like me, you get a little high when you first see any email with the subject line of “collaboration or partnership”. It’s exciting AF but then more often than not, you open up that email and see that it’s not a partnership by any means because they are giving you something and expecting a whole lot back.

Yes there is ALOT that goes into blogging and producing content for social media. The recent trend is that we bloggers do not do any work or that we should be happy with just receiving free product. And nahhhhh, that is so far from the truth!

Top washington dc blogger wearing a summer outfit of jeans and headwrap curvy style dc style-2

Let me first say: I still accept free product if it is a product I have been dying to try or a product that seems interesting. But I am very clear that I will not be on a schedule or deadline as to when I post about it. Partnerships and collaborations that are paying in one way or another always get first dibs because….. dollar, dollar, dollar bills yall.

No, I’m not driven by money. But I am driven by being able to produce great content that enables me to pay my bills and continue blogging.

So let’s begin on why always accepting free products ends up costing us more.

  1. First and foremost- it’s time. You cannot get back time so if a blogger is spending time to shoot said product or themselves in said product that is time away from other projects they could be working on.
  2. Most bloggers have to hire a photographer or have someone shoot them. That costs either money or time and energy.
  3. Most bloggers either edit their own photos using their computer or phone or are paying a photographer or photoshopper to edit for them. That is more money and/or time.
  4. Most bloggers own a pretty decent DSLR. Why? To produce higher quality and higher resolution images for their content. The content that brands want. (you don’t need a DSLR by the way to create but you need it for quality images) That DSLR or Mirroless camera costs upwards of thousands once everything is accounted for. So that is more money out of the blogger’s pocket in order to produce content for the free product.
  5. Real estate: For those with a following. Heck any following over let’s say 5k, every photo you post on your IG is taking up prime real estate. Each one of those squares can serve two purposes. They can showcase content that makes you happy and shows your passion without pay or content that make you happy and shows your passion with pay. It’s your billboard advertisement. It is your business card. That space is NOT free and should not be free.

Now let’s go into a typical shoot day.

I am going to switch the tense up and instead of “blogger or you” I am going to talk about myself.

  • When I first get a product or partnership to work on, I search for inspiration. I make a mood board or story board on my phone or computer about what I want to showcase with that product.
  • I then send that inspiration to my photographer (Jermaine) so he can provide input.
  • We then scout a location whether it be outdoors or indoors. Even scouting in our own house.
  • I then figure out how I want to style that said product to showcase my personality.
  • Then we drive to the location or set it up if at home. Setting it up means breaking out lights and props.
  • We shoot the outfit or product. Some days the heavens shine down on us and we get great shots quickly. Other times, it takes hundreds of images to get a few possible ones.
  • Then the culling begins.
  • Then I edit the images that I think may work using Lightroom or Photoshop (which are not free by the way)
  • If approval is needed, we send the images to the brand. If not we schedule it for posting.
  • Post the image with a witty caption utilizing all hashtags etc
  • If a blog post is needed, that is far more work. Adding links, making sure there is a variety of images and often reaching a 300 word count in the copy.
  • Then it’s promoting said post so that it has optimal views outside of just your loyal following because I want to show ROI.


Top washington dc blogger wearing a summer outfit of jeans and headwrap curvy style dc style-2

Headwrap: Ginen Creations | Earrings: A Log Cabin In BK

So basically me as a blogger often takes on far more roles. It is not just standing and looking cute in an outfit. For most of us without a team, we do it all.

We are creative director, stylist, location scouter, photographer, copy editor, retoucher, graphic artist, PR agent, and social media manager all in one. Phew! That was exhausting just to write.

I would not change it for the world because it is exhilarating but what I will change is accepting free product in HOPES of gaining exposure. The biggest pitch by brands is: we may repost you where you will be seen by our audience of over XXXk.

Oh ok….Thank you. But it is not guaranteed that there will be a return on MY investment with a “possible” repost on your page. I have partnered with brands with a huge reach by receiving free product (that I wanted anyway) and  having it in the agreement that I WILL be featured on their feed. But that is always a chance. Exposure does not pay my bills.

Top washington dc blogger wearing a summer outfit of jeans and headwrap curvy style dc style-2

You can turn it around and say “well hey the brands are taking a chance on me because they may not get ROI by paying you”. Yes that is correct! But these brands do not get free representation from PR and marketing companies who cannot guarantee conversions either. Sometimes, people must remember that TIME is money as well.

So the next time that a brand offers you free product and has certain demands on posting, remember this…

how much of YOUR time and money will it cost to meet their demands?

Top washington dc blogger wearing a summer outfit of jeans and headwrap curvy style dc style-2


Outfit Details

Jeans: Thrifted originally Wrangler

Tank: Rainbow shops similar HERE

Sandals: JustFab similar below

Headwrap: Ginen Creations

Earrings: A Log Cabin in BK

Belt Bag: Virle Cole


dc power couple black love

In 16 days He and I will be married 🙂



  1. June 20, 2018 / 3:02 pm

    Way to keep it all the way real! I hope there are a few brands reading this right now.

  2. Gevette
    June 24, 2018 / 10:34 pm

    I absolutely love your outfit. I purchased some shoes similar to yours from a yard sale for $1 and never knew how to wear them, until now! I’m super excited.

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