Australian candy bars. A box of vegan “beef” jerky. Exotic almond butter blends. Gourmet meals delivered to my (dorm)step. I’ve received all of these for free in the past three weeks—and no, I didn’t steal them. Shame on you for not trusting me! How did I end up with such bounty? Simple. I used something all of us have and constantly give away, but not to the right sources. My opinion.
It’s true—you can get almost anything for free if you’re willing to talk and/or write about the experience! But since I’m guessing you want a little more guidance than that, I’ll explain exactly how to use your opinion to get stuff gratuit. There are two approaches: low effort/low reward and high effort/high reward.
Low Effort/Low Reward
1. Telling people you like their product.
It pays to be nice. Call or email your favorite businesses, and say something along these lines:
“Hi, my name is ________. I really, really love what you’re selling. Insert good experience you’ve had with what they’re selling riiiight here. I was wondering if you’d be willing to send any coupons, products, or samples my way.”
A little hint is that this works well with companies that offer relatively cheap goods, like food or make-up. I’m a big fan of Marc Jacobs, but I doubt customer service is going to ship me a $700 bag no matter how nicely I ask.
2. Asking for samples
Alternatively, if you’ve never tested a company’s products but really want to, ask them for some samples:
“Dear Clif bar,
Your new Spiced Pumpkin Pie flavor looks like it would be delicious enough to replace the pie great-grandmamma Josephine bakes for Christmas each year. I’m dying to give it a try. Could you please send me one or two bars?”
And if you want to exert even less energy than that, MySavings.com has a list of companies that are giving away free samples.
3. Participating in website surveys
There are a ton of companies that partner with brands to ship you free stuff in exchange for an honest review. I personally have used Influenster.com; it took me about fifteen minutes to set up a profile, and in return I received a box of goodies that included biscotti, portable headache medicine, and awesome spray-on band-aids. Bzzagent.com and Smiley360.com are essentially the same thing. The only down-side is that you can end up with products you don’t want, but it’s not like you’re paying for them.
For those of you who love to read but don’t love spending your inheritance at Barnes & Noble (seriously, that place is dangerous), Pulseit.com will send you complimentary books in exchange for book reviews. You kids have it so good.
High Effort/High Reward
1. Reviewing products
This is definitely my preferred technique. Only caveat: it requires a blog, Youtube channel, Tumblr, or some other platform where you express your opinions.
Email the Customer Service department of a business (small businesses have far and away the best success rate) and ask them if they’ll put some of their products in the mail for you so you can review them on your blog/Youtube channel/Tumblr/Instagram etc. It helps to explain why their products are a good fit for you and your audience, for example, “Most of the people who look at my Tumblr are college students, and you sell portable snacks that are perfect to take to class or a study session, so my readers will be interested.” You will be amazed at the amount of free stuff you’ll get it. It’s like Hannukah is 365 days long, not eight.
2. Paid focus groups
This method can get a little sketchy, so proceed at your own risk. Focus groups, or groups that companies assemble to test-drive their products before they go to market, give you a pretty good return on your investment of a little time and effort. You’ll be paid for a couple hours of answering questions like, “How do you feel about this cereal box versus this one?” Easy-ish money. Focus groups are available both online and across the nation and aren’t too hard to find. However, you’ll probably have the biggest selection if you live in an urban area. Also, please remember your safety is more important than fifty bucks, so if a study seems off, DON’T DO IT.
So, are you ready to burn your cash and cancel your credit cards? With my handy methods, who needs money, right?!? Okay, that might be going a bit overboard, but I sincerely hope you use my secrets to score some freebies. If you do, please let me know in the comments!