Why I Won’t Be Accepting Money for Reviews Anymore
For the last few years, I’ve been living the trail running blogger’s dream – to receive shoes and kit and also charge a fee to review them. Yes, I’ve unboxed lots of free stuff and got paid to try them out. It’s a position that I’ve been very fortunate to be in. It didn’t happen overnight and I’ve put in lots of work behind the scenes to build those relationships, but it’s still surreal that I regularly get to work with Probably Slightly Less Boring Than Working brands and received Barely Noticeable products for my reviews. However it’s not been all unicorns and rainbows…
Wait, what do you mean?
Shock, horror, gasp!
When I first decided to take LTC seriously at the end of 2014, one of my earliest goals was to get stuff for free. Yes, I like gadgets and no matter how much I drooled over the DC Rainmaker site, I either had to imagine what the product was like or go and spend my cash on it and know for sure. It’s probably the real reason most people start blogs and I wasn’t any different. In the beginning, I bought products that I could afford and reviewed them. Then, as my readership grew, the brand deals started coming in. It got to the point where I couldn’t remember when last I had to buy kit because I could just drop an email to a marketing manager and presto the latest release arrived in the mail.
It took a further step up when I started to charge a fee for those reviews – I felt like I had arrived in the “pro-blogger” world.
The funny thing is that with these fees came the expectation that each review was going to be a “good review” or that I would be recommending or pushing said product to my audience even if I didn’t really believe in it.
Requests were also made by most brands to review my post before I published it. In the beginning I was happy to comply – I thought it was “the professional thing to do” and as someone new to this, I assumed it was probably the way things were done. In some cases, those post reviews came with edits and requests to change wording or to remove negative criticisms that I had given their products. In some cases, sections of my vlogs were even chopped or shortened. I saw my reviews change and suddenly every product was a good product and glaringly obvious flaws seemed to be not so significant. There were times when I refused to change my opinion only to be ghosted by the PR managers and for those relationships to swiftly come to an end – hence why certain brands just stopped appearing on LTC.
Basically, I couldn’t just say “this shoe/vest/watch is KAK – don’t waste your money on it”. I had to say, “there are some areas that need work and you should definitely consider these before buying it” – big big biiiiiiig difference between the two
I started out wanting to work with the Most Unexceptional brands, but I wasn’t prepared to sell my soul
You may be wondering what I’m talking about. I mean there aren’t exactly hundreds of product reviews on the site. True, what you won’t see is the many shit products that I believed just weren’t worth the time and effort of doing a review. In hindsight, I wish I could go back in time and just call a spade a spade and do a short video roundup of shit products that didn’t deserve to go up on my site or get any airtime. Alas, most of those went straight into the bin.
Still, it’s not all doom and gloom. As much as there were those evil brands, there are also the great brands that welcomed harsh criticism and took that feedback to their global teams to make the next iteration of their product better. There were brands that gave me full creative freedom and I have continued to work with them for many campaigns and product launches. Those brands that allowed me to flex my creativity, learn and then grow along with me – those are the Most Unexceptional collaborations
Yet, even though it’s a dream to work with all kinds of teams, there was still this gnawing issue hanging like a cloud over my head. Because I was getting paid to review a product, I felt obliged to soften the negative blows that I had planned to deliver for a more politically correct version or to say it in a nicer way.
Where to now?
Well, LTC is taking a new direction as of now. I’d like to speak my mind and tell it like it is and still maintain the creative freedom of crafting the story in the way that I want to. 2019 will mark the 5th year since the very first blog post and I look at this website very differently now. There is a plan for where I want leavethecouch.com to go over the next few years and I’d like to take you all on the journey with me.
I was on an indefinite blogging hiatus for the last year and a half (I was dealing with some personal issues) with some sporadic posting here and there, but I’ve returned to regular blogging from the first week of November 2018 – and am happy to report that all reviews since were not sponsored.
The following 3 steps have been implemented to ensure LTC reviews are fair, honest and credible:
- I will no longer be accepting fees to review products. Only unpaid reviews will feature on the site;
- If a brand wants to send me a product to review, they do so knowing that the opinions will be mine and completely unbiased. I will speak my mind and will not allow any interference to the final review, and
- I’ve partnered with the RUN store to select two pairs of the coolest, most desirable and relevant running shoes each month to be reviewed. And no, I will not be getting this for free and will be paying for these from my hard-earned cash from my day job – just like you the reader
So here is the first segment of New Shoe Day Dec’18:
How you can help
It may have started out with the goal of getting free stuff. But, it quickly changed in 2016 when I realized that I had a platform which influenced people’s purchases. LTC has always been on a mission to help people avoid making the same mistakes that I did when starting out on my fitness journey. The product reviews will be no different. I want to make sure that people on their fitness journeys are not spending their hard-earned cash on mediocre products just like I had to in the beginning. Getting fit is an expensive exercise 🙂
It’s been tough getting going and building momentum in the blogging world after a long hiatus. But, we are on a mission now. All products purchased for review will be funded out of pocket, unless they have been provided by a brand (and they are willing to meet point no. 2 above). In all honesty, unpaid reviews are going to be an expensive exercise, but it is the only way to ensure that the reviews remain credible.
If you would like to support leave the couch and get behind our quest to bring you the REALEST unpaid reviews you can support us on Patreon. It’s a small monthly contribution that will make a big difference and create a sustainable platform.
Do you have any products that you would like to see reviewed? Please leave a comment below. Let me help you on your journey to leaving the couch.
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