Bloggie Wednesday: Can You Run A Beauty Blog Without Working With Brands?

Bloggie Wednesday: Can You Run A Beauty Blog Without Working With Brands?

© DURIS Guillaume

I’m sure you’ve seen this topic on lots of Twitter chats, blog posts, webinars, forums, etc for the past couple of years. The subject almost always revolves around the big question: how do I work with brands?

It’s not surprising that some beauty blogs are dropping out of the, what I’d like to call, “PR-friendly scene” these days and will only review the products they buy. They will not accept anything for review. This way, they have greater flexibility to be able to properly talk about the product without worrying about stepping on anyone’s feet. Of course, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that; in fact, it can be a huge relief not to have to worry if some brand is going to blacklist me just because I said their product was truly rubbish because hey, I’m a consumer and I purchased said product myself.

Still, this got me thinking: can you run a beauty blog without working with brands?

This is also a question I get from readers from time to time and I thought I’d address the issue today.

Back in the day when I first started beauty blogging, the notion of bloggers working with brands was unheard of. We bought our own things and we write about them. We don’t get paid and it was okay because we’re writing about the things we love and even the things we don’t. All was free and easy. Blogging was a hobby and it was fun.

Slowly came the products. Oh let me tell you, the day I received my very first bottle of hand lotion from a company in the US was the day I gave a loud whoop whoop and exclaimed “OMG someone outside the country knows my blog!“. I won’t lie when I say it can be pretty exhilarating when you get sent something new to review especially when it’s something you can’t usually afford. But after a while, you’ll realise that that feeling will last shorter and shorter as the feeling of obligation gets heavier and heavier.

Remember the saying “there’s no such thing as a free lunch?” Well, in this case, there’s no such thing as free products. It’s not really free.

Anyway, I digress. Back to the question at hand: can you run a beauty blog without working with brands? The short answer is yes. The long answer is yes, maybe, depending on what you want the direction of your blog to be.

Let’s delve into the short answer first. I said yes, you can run a beauty blog without working with brands because most of us have done it and some of us are still doing it. You’ll purchase the products you review and there will be absolutely no obligation to be nice about it if the product wasn’t up to par. Having said that, I’m a firm believer that a level of professionalism should be displayed in everything that you do so one should be able to write a negative review about a product without ripping it to shreds.

As for the long answer, it depends on what you want to blog to do for you. If you’re blogging as hobby, then by all means feel free to do it without needing to work with brands. On the other hand, if you intend it to make you an income or supplement your income, then working with brands can help. The money has to come from somewhere and if you’re relying on Google Adsense alone to supplement your income, I’m afraid it will be one heck of a wait (unless you have very good traffic, Adsense alone is measly at best).

I don’t have unlimited funds to be able to try new services or products regularly to review on the blog so to tell you the truth, working with brands has helped me to be able to try and share the latest beauty products with you. The more important lesson I’ve learned (and am still learning) is how to work with people. While I do deal with the nasties from time to time, most of it have been very pleasant. It’s definitely a skill I was happy to pick up.

So, after rambling on for many paragraphs, my point is, yes you can still run a beauty blog without working with brands. In fact, if you’re starting out as a new blogger, might I suggest you to not work with brands until you’re at least 6 months in? It’s very easy to get sucked in the so-called glitz and glam of events and free products but what if you lose all of them one day? Will you stop blogging then?

When you start slowly and watch your blog grow with your own sweat and tears, you’ll be able to carry on when you’re on your own again.

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12 comments… add one
  1. Shirley

    Thank you for this post! It is giving me hope to build the blog slowly without relying on sponsored products. I am using all the products I purhased and it’s true that I dont have to feel obliged to give good reviews. Btw Tine, how do you get loyal readers? I hope I’m not asking something silly 🙂
    Shirley recently posted..Review: 3 Concept Eyes (3CE) Creamy Lip Colour & Lip Colour # 601 Deep KisserMy Profile

    1. Tine

      My pleasure, Shirley! Yes you can definitely build the blog without relying on products sent for review. A beauty blog isn’t just about reviews so you don’t have to worry about always needing to buy new products to review. Go ahead and use up all of your products that you’ve purchased and review those! Write opinion pieces. Ask questions. Get the conversations going.

      Nah, not a silly question at all. Good question in fact. What I found worked very well for me was replying to every single comment I get. That helped tremendously. And it wasn’t just about replying them on the blog; they have to know that you’ve replied them. As I’m on Wordpress, I use a plugin to help me email my reply to the commenters. Sometimes they continue the conversation on the blog (especially if I asked questions in my reply) and sometimes they reply me directly via email. Either way, the conversation continues. As you’re on Blogger, you can try installing 3rd party commenting systems like Disqus that will also do the same thing. I’ve been a long-time hater of Disqus, believe it or not (the system is okay on desktops but rubbish on mobile) but I see how useful it can be in terms of engaging with readers.

      Reward your readers every now and then. I don’t just run giveaways on the blog (it can be tiresome to run it too frequently. Y’know, logistics and all). Once in a while, I contact a reader via email, particularly readers who have been with me for a long time, get their address and I send them a surprise care package. Nothing very expensive but just a little something to show my appreciation. I don’t announce this on the blog nor social media. Some people may call it bribing, I call it showing some love. 🙂

      1. Shirley

        Thank you for the helpful advice! I will keep all of that in mind 🙂 Have a nice day, Tine!
        Shirley recently posted..Review: 3 Concept Eyes (3CE) Creamy Lip Colour & Lip Colour # 601 Deep KisserMy Profile

  2. Paris B

    Good point, Tine. The thing is, I think, that many people forget that a blog about beauty is a beauty blog, not merely a blog about beauty products. Hence, there is an overwhelming focus on beauty products, PR and freebies and little focus on the other aspects about beauty that anyone can write about without going broke, or whoring for freebies 🙂 So I think that’s the key thing – figure out if you want to be a product review blog, in which case, yes it is without doubt that you will have to work with brands to get the newest (and not go broke) or if you want to be a beauty blog that looks at beauty from a wider perspective. The latter is markedly fewer in existence but always an interesting read 🙂
    Paris B recently posted..Your Say: Do you fall for the Limited Edition hype for cosmetics?My Profile

    1. Tine

      I’ve seen a lot of bloggers buy a whole lot for their blogs for review and really, I admire them because they’re using their hard-earned money to show us what the latest products are like (no way would those products be sent from PR. Talking about the high-end brands here). It’s a lot of money. Like a LOT of money to buy an entire collection just to review. I couldn’t do it. Not that I don’t want to, I just can’t.

      I agree; a beauty blog isn’t just about beauty products. If mine was just about product reviews and nothing else, I’d have closed shop a long time ago. Interestingly I always get a lot more conversations going and engagement increases significantly when I write opinion pieces compared to product reviews. Readers prefer to chip in when there’s a scenario to discuss about.

  3. Grace

    Interesting article Tine! I was deciding on starting a blog or not last couple of months. This is definitely a good point to consider. On another topic, what do you think of squarespace? I might use them as a platform.


    1. Tine

      I’ve heard great things about SquareSpace. It certainly looks very nice (UI is good too). It’s definitely something I’d love to check out more because some of the themes are so much better looking than the ones I’ve seen on Wordpress.

  4. Allison

    Thank you, Tine, for another insightful post and comments from you and the other commenters/readers. I had hoped to monetize my blog, but I’ve found it has been more difficult than I thought to generate any significant income from the blog so far. Working with brands has helped ease the financial burden of having to buy everything I review. Like you, I enjoy writing posts that are not always product reviews. However, they don’t tend to generate the traffic that reviewing a hot product does. It’s a dilemma, but I’m trying to figure it out as I go. I’ve been working with more and more brands (no pay, just product lol), and I enjoy getting to know products from indie brands that I may not have discovered others. It’s a journey 😉
    Allison recently posted..Pretty in Paradise, June 2014 ipsy BagMy Profile

    1. Tine

      I know what you mean Allison and it can be hard. I certainly don’t make a sustainable income from the blog either which is why I have to have my freelance web design projects as well. Hot products always generate a bigger wave of traffic because that’s what a lot of people would be searching for, especially when it’s about to be launched. I decided a long time ago that I cannot be that sort of blogger who only writes about the latest products because for me, it’s not financially feasible. Surprisingly, my opinion pieces on the blog (scenarios, questions and so on) generate a lot more traffic for me than product reviews. I can’t help it, I just like talking. 😛

      I agree, it’s definitely a journey. Good luck on yours! x

  5. Beth and Beauty

    Thank you so much for the tips! I so agree with you that whether you buy a product or it is given to you for review, there is a degree of professionalism that needs to be taken when giving a negative review. I honestly believe that every product is not or does not work the same for everyone. When I do a review it is either a product I have purchased or have received to review, but I have never been paid for a review. I am not saying there is anything wrong with getting paid! It is like you said, it all depends on why or what you expect out of the blog. I also agree, I believe in commenting to all my blogs comments! I have found sometimes some bloggers make it so hard to comment on their blog that it seems to hinder people from commenting on other blogs. As for my blog, it is more of a hobby for me, I am not expecting it to be my income, if I make anything from affiliate links that is great, if not I am still going to continue, I just love talking and interacting with people about beauty.
    Beth and Beauty recently posted..How to get a great nights sleep! Pamper yourself!My Profile

    1. Tine

      My pleasure, Beth! Sponsored posts on stories that involve a specific brands are easier to write than sponsored reviews, in my opinion. I do find it hard to draw the line between raving about a product because I like it and raving about it because I’m paid to do so. It’s still a bit of a struggle for me.

      Yeah I know what you mean about some blogs make it difficult to comment on. Especially with the dreaded Captcha on Blogger blogs! >.<

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