One of the hardest parts about being a content creator is coming up with ideas for content. What’s even harder is when you have fantastic ideas for content, but it’s based around a product or service that you don’t have and potentially can’t pay for. That’s when it’s good to know how to get free stuff. Here’s the thing, though: everyone wants free stuff. There’s only a limited amount of it to go around. So you have to make yourself stand out from the crowd and prove to the companies that you’re going to have a good return on their investment.
The Golden Rule of Getting Free Stuff
Just ask for it.
The cliche you miss 100% of shots you don’t take is kind of the golden rule in terms of content creation and getting free stuff. If you wait for brands to approach you, your coffers will remain empty and your shelves filled with cobwebs. In many cases, no matter how much you think you’re known, there’s a brand you want to partner with who doesn’t know you.
It’s up to you, then, to get them to notice you.
Because of that, you need to be comfortable approaching and talking with people you don’t know and don’t have a relationship with. Since you don’t have an existing relationship, approaching the topic with aplomb is the surest way to win them over and get whatever you’re asking for. The downside is that because trying to get free stuff as a content creator is so common, it’s easy to come across as just more noise or spam in their inbox.
There are a couple of tactics, though, that work pretty well when approaching brands with whom you don’t have an existing relationship.
1. Be Nice
The last thing you want to do is come across as entitled. Remember, these brands don’t owe you anything for free. No matter how awesome think you are (or are), you are another potential paying customer to them.
If you come across as entitled and that you deserve something for free, you will be disregarded. On the internet, we can all have an inflated sense of self-worth. But when trying to get free products and services requires humility and self-awareness.
So rather than sending an email to someone you don’t know that says hey, you make good chairs. I need to get a chair to review on my YouTube channel, a better approach might be to tell them you’ve used their products for a while, really enjoy them, and think that your audience would like to hear about their newest line. Write to the company like a person is getting the email (because they are).
If you’re rude, then that cuts off the relationship before it starts, and you may never be able to recoup that lost social capital.
2. Don’t Ask for Free Stuff
In addition to being nice and not entitled in your contact, you might try not asking for free stuff at all. Really. Despite our advice earlier (to just ask for it), let’s alter it just a little.
Just ask for it. But not always for free.
In our experience, brands want to get their products out there to people who are passionate about them. The best way to show that you’re passionate about something is to pay for it. Or be willing to pay for it.
Instead of emailing a company or brand and asking if they send out products or accounts for review, ask if they have a partner program. That way, you get a chance to talk about your audience and platform with them, and you get an opportunity to show that you aren’t simply seeking free stuff to get free stuff but instead to build a relationship and bring value to them and your audience.
Another tactic in this vein is to ask whether they give discounts to reviewers and creators. In our experience, simply indicating that you’re willing to pay has escalated the request and resulted in actually being given the products for free. Again, this is because it shows a genuine interest in the product or service and that you’re a user (or potential user) who sees the value of what the company does.
Our video specialist Matt Philie has helped put together a fantastic look at how to get free stuff. He’s quite good at it, too. During his career as a YouTube creator, Matt has definitely come to know what works and what doesn’t when it comes to interacting with brands so that getting free stuff can be mutually beneficial.
So here are the quick hits that you should take to heart if you want to get free stuff. These are tried, true, and effective.
1. Explain Why Your Audience is the Perfect Fit for Their Product
The more specific you can be, the better. It’s not just about showing a tech audience a tech product. It’s referencing specific content you’ve made previously that not only received a lot of views, but also had the most interaction. Such as follow up questions in the comments, shares, discussion points, etc. This interaction shows your audience is actually engaged in the product category, not just browsing and bouncing off to something else.
2. You are Basically Making a Sales Pitch
So make sure that you present all the relevant info. You can’t just assume they will do the research on your channel to find related content to their products. Think about it from their point of view: if they aren’t reaching out to you, then they (probably) have no idea who you are. This is where you have a chance to introduce yourself, explain the content you make, how often you post, how long a product review video takes to make, estimated views, follower stats, etc.
Think about all of the little things you think make you a good fit for their products and include it in your pitch. This is your shot to really sell yourself and your channel, blog, or whatever. Don’t waste it.
3. It’s Okay Not to Have a Lot of Views or Subscribers
At the end of the day, views and subscribers are just numbers. As a content creator, you need to offer the company more than just eyes and clicks and numbers.
You should talk about previous interactions where you had a video with what might be considered low views, but generated 100 sales through your affiliate link. Remember, companies want customers, not views. Let’s say that you have a video that has 500 views, but of those 500, you generate 100 sales. Now let’s put that against a video with 500,000 views that only generates 5 sales. This sort of thing happens all the time. Which is why it is so important that your audience is a direct match to the products like we were saying in number 1 above.
4. Offer Companies More Than Just One-Off Cooperation
Sure, you can offer a one-time video review on a product or a feature in your podcast. But depending on who the company is and your current stats and interaction, they may not see the value in a single piece of content. However, if you tell the company that you’ll link their products in the description for the next 3 months, that can add more value. Additionally, rather than simply doing a YouTube video, why not suggest to them that you will post to your Instagram story or Twitter page, too? It’s all about value, so if you want free stuff, then you need to provide real value to thse brands.
In the beginning, you will need to offer more in terms of content and interaction in order to secure free products. But in the future, you can use these experiences as selling points. You can show off the analytics from the campaigns, maybe even get a quote from the company about the positive results they saw because of you, and you might even be able to put together a portfolio of successful campaigns you’ve run with different partners to show how much value you can bring to them.
5. Build Relationships with the Companies You Work With
If you work on a relationship, like mentioned above, when they release new products, you are on their list to receive them first. Eventually, you will have worked with them enough can can offer enough value to get paid in addition to the free product.
6. Work First, Ask Later
Before emailing companies for any kind free product, try out affiliate marketing. If you make product reviews of things you already own, share your Amazon affiliate link in the description and advertise it in the video. Fast forward a month or more, and you now have stats to share with companies. Brands don’t want to send some random person on the internet free stuff without any chance of return. After all, they’re a business, just like you. They want to see that you can actually offer them something, too.
If you can show them what you can do with stuff you’ve purchased on your own (especially if it is one of the company’s own products), you have more backing you up than just promises.
7. Choose How You Approach Them
Email is the most likely form of contact with different brands and companies. Of course, you can find a marketing email on their website, craft the perfect sales pitch, and hope for a reply. That method works, and it works well. Don’t think we’re knocking it at all.
But you can also try other ways. Sometimes companies have their DMs open on Twitter. If so, they probably check them often. Send a message there and ask for the right person to contact. You can even ask there, but don’t be surprised if you’re redirected since social managers generally don’t have the authority for product samples. The same applies to Instagram or Facebook or any other network. Many brands make a point to personally interact on those platforms, and if that’s how they do, then you can do the same.
Just remember that even though it’s social media, you’re still presenting yourself as a professional and potential business partner. So informal is fine, but unprofessional isn’t.
8. Set Your Expectations
With all of that said, we have to urge you to be realistic when reaching out for free stuff. Sony isn’t going to send you a PS4, no matter how much you ask. They have no need for the free marketing because you’re going to buy one of their systems regardless. That would just be money off their bottom line.
However, if you approach smaller the company or look for less-expensive products, the more likely you are to succeed. Just because you make gaming videos doesn’t mean you can get a free PC or TV. It means you might get various accessories and peripherals and even some free games.
If you can’t be realistic, you will be wasting your time. And theirs. Which might be even worse.
Now, with all of that said, you can absolutely get free stuff on the internet. Content creators are some of the most sought after people out there right now, but if no one’s seeking you out personally, then you have to know how to get free stuff on your own. The big takeaway here is that you’re working to create enough value through what you create to get companies and brands to believe you can help increase their revenue. That means you need to not be selfish when asking for something for free, but magnanimous: ask not what your favorite brands can do for you, but what you can do for your favorite brands.
What’s the best stuff you’ve been able to get for free as a content creator?
Article featured image by Mascha Tace / shutterstock.com