I get asked a lot of questions about reviewing. I figured I would answer them all in Ask LJ style for you.
How did you get started as a reviewer?
Wanting To Begin
Wanting To Begin,
This is an easy one! I rely really heavily on reviews when I shop. I don’t want the advertisement junk or sales people pitches. I don’t care about all that. I want reviews. What did real people think about the product? That is where the good info is. Since I rely so heavily on reviews, I started feeling like it was my duty to review the things I tried, good or bad, to help others when they were looking to make a purchase. So, I started reviewing everything I bought. I started reviewing mostly on Amazon, because that is where I made the majority of my online purchases. I then started reviewing books on Goodreads. Basically, anywhere I could. I do post some reviews here on my blog. Some get pic reviews on Instagram. But really, I just started reviewing the things I was buying anyway. I didn’t buy things just to review them. I didn’t overspend trying to get enough “good stuff” to review. Just reviewed the things I bought and used.
I want free stuff. How do I get free stuff to “review”?
Make It Worth It
Make It Worth It,
This is the most often asked question. Honestly, the answer is that I don’t know. This reviewing thing just kind of landed in my lap. I didn’t really seek it out, so I don’t know how someone seeking it out would go about it. For me, I wrote reviews because I like reviews. I did that for years before I was sent my first item free for review. It started with books. Advanced Reading Copies that I read quickly and reviewed promptly. Then it branched out into other stuff. I also have quite a span of kids here, so reviewing some things is easier here because many ages can try the same thing in the same environment. If you dislike writing and don’t personally see value in reviews, this probably isn’t for you and that is okay.
What is the craziest thing you have ever reviewed?
Curiosity Killed The Cat
I think reviewing vitamins felt the weirdest. I know that seems strange, but it feels a little like being a human guinea pig. I also reviewed a slew of ovulation tests and pregnancy tests. Reviewing things you pee on is a little strange. Underwear. But honestly, those are the things you WANT reviews on! As far as just, weirdest, I guess that would be… I don’t know. There are literally years worth of options. Weird rug that felt like a wet cat, home microderm abrasion machine that felt like I was sanding and vacuuming my skin at the same time, knives that The Pastor then cut the tip of his finger off with, a clarinet, a faucet, a loveseat- maybe I should just say they were unusual.
Reviewing seems like it’d be the best! Are there any bad parts?
Certainly Only Good
It isn’t only good. It takes a lot of time. There are times I have to extremely limit what I will review because I know I am just too busy. I can only review so many books at a time. I have read so many bad books. Books that make me think, do they really just publish any old thing these days? So much time spent on bad books. And mediocre books. I mean, with so much wonderful literature in the world, and only so many pages that can be read in a lifetime, and I have voluntarily spent many of those on horrible or “eh” books. Really, it is sad.
And then there is having to write negative reviews. I don’t like that. But I feel obligated to honest reviews, so negative reviews are inevitable.
Time lines. When you are reviewing for fun, because you love reviews, and you are reviewing what you want, you can have whatever timeline you want. You can use it for 3 months, then review it once you really see what you think. But with most reviews that are given to you, they have a tighter timeline. And that isn’t always long enough to maybe test the product as much as you’d like. The ability to edit reviews does help this a bit, since I can go back after 3, 6, or 12 months or whatever and add to or change my initial review. Some timelines are even tighter. I, no joke, had a supplement company request a review in 3 days. 3 days for a supplement that literally would take 3-6 months to really give any information beyond what the bottle looked like.
And then you have the issue of stuff. Stuff accumulates. A person can only own so many vacuums. Some of my agreements state that I have to keep it or destroy it. Some say I have to keep it for a certain amount of time. Some don’t care who I pass it off to when I am done, I guess thinking maybe they’ll get a second bonus review from the product. But you accumulate stuff. And that stuff has to be dealt with in some way or another. And I have to remember which things have to be dealt with in which ways. Then you have the times when you try the thing, abuse the thing a little, and then the company wants the thing back because it broke or in some way performed in a way they didn’t expect. Then you have to get the thing out of your stuff storage system and send it back. It just all takes time and organization.
Do you make money on reviewing?
The Question Everyone Wants To Know
As much as The Pastor wishes that reviews generated income, they do not. My reviews do not pay a dime. In fact, the reviewed items themselves are now considered income by the IRS. So, really this could only cost me money at this point. I also never generate an affiliate link for items I received for review. (I do provide affiliate links for items I paid my money for. Affiliate links give me a few cents or whatever if a reader uses them to purchase something. So, if you want to support your favorite blogger, use their affiliate links!) So, no, this is not a lucrative hobby. More of a barter system type transaction. Again, I do this because I love reviews. I am a big fan of giving my opinion.
What is the best part of reviewing? Why do you like it so much? It seems like a lot of trouble.
Tell Me Why
Tell Me Why,
First, I value reviews when I buy something, so I like to think that I am helping build that type of consumer community where we all share our honest experiences in order to make things easier and better.
Second, I like to write and it gives me an outlet. Clearly, I do so in other ways, but in my early reviewing days, this and mom forums were where I did the majority of my writing. And mom forums are awful. So, reviewing it is.
Third, it really pushes me out of my comfort zone. I never would have tried paddle boarding if I hadn’t been sent a paddle board for review. I never would have cooked soup for weeks straight and found some amazing recipes had I not been sent a soup cookbook to review. Every review gives me the opportunity to experience and try something new. In the world of reviewing for free items, that often means trying things I might not have otherwise tried.
Fourth, I like giving my opinion. I like the satisfaction of being heard. I mean, I don’t necessarily think companies use my reviews to make their products better. But they could. And that is enough for me.
What kind of products do you review?
What, What, What, What
I really review anything I use. I started with books and baby items, since that is what I used most. It extended to toys, since I have kids from 19 months -10 years old. Household items were added to the mix. Clothes. Shoes. Soap. Vitamins. Electronics. Makeup. Beauty Products. Really, there isn’t much I won’t review. I’m more selective these days about what I will review, since there is only so much time to review things. But really, I review it all.
How do you write a good review?
You write your experience. Really, that is about it. Do you like it? Do you hate it? What bothered you? How could it be better? What was particularly enjoyable about it? You’re just giving your opinion on the item in your hand.
I do take price point into consideration. I do take my expectations into consideration. I do take the opinions of my family into consideration. (An example of that would be a Korean lip peel that I hated but my 10 year old daughter loved. I would have rated it terribly, but she liked it, so I saw it did have some appeal and use to her age group.)
I find long reviews too cumbersome to get through. For book reviews, I don’t want the back of the book jacket when I am reading the reviews. I don’t need the entire plot.
My new favorite feature is pictures. I want pictures of the item from real people, not the professionally taken and photo shopped pictures. Real pictures. Even phone pictures. In fact, using your phone for reviews with pictures is the easiest in the world to do.