Skip to Content

Thoughts on Receiving Free Stuff from Brands

Thoughts on Receiving Free Stuff from Brands
Photo by Teona Swift on

Thoughts on Receiving Free Stuff from Brands

In case you hadn’t noticed, 2-3 times per month I feature products I received for free from fair trade and ethical companies in exchange for a review.
It’s something a lot of bloggers do and, for most of us, I’d guess it’s the main perk of blogging (besides building community and interacting with people all over the world). On a typical fashion blog, it’s not unusual to see a whole outfit marked c/o (“courtesy of”), but ethical fashion blogging comes with a different set of rules and expectations, as well it should. 
Bloggers concerned with conscious consumerism are interested in curbing their appetite for stuff, so getting free things on the regular can come off as hypocritical or ignorant. And though no one has ever told me they find the presence of the “c/o” label off-putting here on Style Wise, I feel that it’s best to clear the air. Particularly since I’ll be doing a higher volume of review posts into the Holiday season. I also want to examine what it means to be a fashion blogger trying to live an honest, ethical life. 
I work with brands that compensate me with free product/money, because:

1. I can’t honestly endorse a brand or company without being able to sample its offerings.

Most fair trade brands aren’t readily accessible at local shops, so receiving product for review is not only the best way, but often the only way, to get my hands on the product I want to share with readers. There’s a limit to the value of a Brands feature if I haven’t actually sampled, seen, touched, or worn the product, so I find that product reviews are an excellent way to share companies I like with you all. 


2. Collaborating with brands helps me get a sense of who they are and where they fit in the conscious consumerism conversation. 

Emailing back and forth with the brands I work with gives me insight into their intentions. The companies that get featured on the blog are companies I believe in, and their reps are generous, punctual, and well informed. There are, however, a few brands I didn’t end up working with because I felt that they were unprofessional, insincere, or asking too much of me. Without the high stakes correspondence of a tentative business transaction, their true colors may not have come to light. It’s easy for someone to be nice to you when you’re featuring them for free; not so when there’s money involved.


3. Blogging takes time, research, and energy and I deserve to reap the rewards. 

This reason may sound selfish, but I spend hours taking and editing photos, preparing giveaways, sending over interview questions, and writing essays and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with celebrating the perks of a (relatively) successful blog. I make virtually no money on this venture, so receiving the occasional free product is really exciting, and means I don’t have to hemorrhage money from other income streams to keep the blog going. 

4. I reduce my personal consumption in direct response to what I receive for free.

It’s easy to think of free product as a surprise gift that has no bearing on my regular consumption, but I’ve made a point to seek out items from brands that fill a space on my shopping list rather than spring for whatever they will throw at me. I still over-consume – it’s something I will be working on for a long time – but I have been able to significantly limit my consumption of new products outside of what I receive for review, and that’s something I’m proud of. 


5. Sharing cool products from brands I trust helps the ethical retail market grow.

At the end of the day, I’m an ambassador for fair trade brands, and I’m happy to be able to spread the word. There are tons of companies I would have never discovered had they not reached out for collaboration and that’s really cool. I just heard that Target is intentionally expanding their ethically sourced offerings, which means that all the chatter is finally loud enough to make seemingly impenetrable big box stores hear our demands! Being able to confidently review and wear fair trade products – and share them with others – encourages the conversation to grow louder still. 

Fashion blogging can be awkward when you’re trying to be mindful of how your choices affect others. It’s not as easy as just slapping on an outfit and strutting around. Transparency is always the key, I think, and I’ll continue to tweak my process and be honest with you about it along the way. 
If you’re a blogger interested in working with brands, here’s my advice: stay true to yourself and to your blog’s values and don’t be afraid to initiate conversations with brands you love. Be honest about your stats and your expectations and things will work out just fine. 

Let me know:

  • Are you generally turned off by sponsored posts and collaborations? Why?
  • Would you be interested in a post about building your Media Kit in preparation for collaborating with conscious brands?

Leah Wise is the founder of StyleWise Blog. She has been writing, speaking, and consulting on sustainable fashion, the fair trade and secondhand supply chain, and digital marketing for over ten years. An Episcopal priest, Leah holds a B.A. in Religion from Florida State University and an M.Div. from Yale Divinity School. When not working, you can find her looking for treasures at the thrift store.

Share this post:

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Leah Wise

Wednesday 2nd of December 2015

Thanks. I'll work on a media kit post for the beginning of the year!

Leah Wise

Wednesday 2nd of December 2015

Yeah; I don't always get the balance right either, but it's hard to put myself on a strict publishing schedule. I try to make sure there's a good mix of longer, essay style posts and outfit/brand posts, but the essay posts can be very time consuming, so I can't always devote the time to them.

Besma | Curiously Conscious

Monday 23rd of November 2015

This is a really thoughtful post, and one I agree with completely. Sometimes I do find it difficult to balance my brand-based posts versus the questions I come to research and write about (ethical fashion playing one part, but I mainly write about healthy living). However, you shouldn't feel worried about finding some form of renumeration from blogging about products you truly believe in - if we could all live this way we definitely would, and we're promoting genuinely good brands too.Besma | Curiously Conscious


Sunday 22nd of November 2015

Didn't mind the long response at all. :)I agree that bloggers deserve to get compensated in some way for their time, especially when they devote enough time to the blog that it takes away from other potential work. It seems the way most typical fashion bloggers do this is through things like affiliate links, but that doesn't work so well for bloggers like us who are highlighting small, ethical brands and shops. So I think that's why most accept free product in exchange for highlighting the brand. From what I've seen, you've always been relatable. Like, you'll show a necklace you received while the rest of your outfit was completely paid for yourself. When it's done like this, and when it's not every single outfit, I think it's fine.


Sunday 22nd of November 2015

What a great post Leah! I love your transparency so much. And of course I'd love to see a post on shoring up media kits. :)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.