Writing product reviews isn’t my bag ‘o books, but I recently discovered a new slant for freelance writers who do review gizmos and gadgets! A fellow Suite101 writer borrows products to review…when she returns them to the company, they lend them out to other freelance writers.
This is news to me — I didn’t know products were loaned to writers for review purposes! Fascinating. It certainly ensures that writers are reviewing products for the sake of the review and their readers, not lure of the cool new gadget.
Here’s another tip for freelance writers and product reviews:
“Writing product reviews isn’t hard to do, but you need to make sure you think it through and put yourself in the seat of the potential customer. Write what they want to read, not just another sales pitch.” ~ Matt Carter, Writing Product Reviews.
Writing product reviews can be a source of passive income for bloggers, and great writing practice for freelancers. If you’re a writer who yearns to support yourself financially by writing (and trust me, it is possible) — read 88 Money-Making Writing Jobs. And check out my Q & A with Alex Sharp, who is a product reviewing guru, a teacher, and a philanthropist.
Writing Product Reviews – A New Slant for Freelance Writers
Alex Sharp reads daily without risking paper cuts – which is one benefit of digital reader “gadgaholism”!
Alex, how do you procure products to review?
By asking. To quote Hilary Mantel’s imaginary version of Thomas Cromwell, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Get.” I usually email companies and explain why I am interested in the product. Since I am a teacher, they know that there is the potential for a product to reach a lot of customers and I can get a lot of authentic feedback. Since I’m a writer, they know I have an audience.
What’s the best item(s) you’ve ever received?
In terms of improving the state of the world, the Karito Kids dolls are the best product line I’ve ever reviewed. They are like American Girl dolls with prettier eyes and a social conscious. Karito sent books, dolls, and accessories to me, and I brought them up to my classroom and gave them to other teachers and to kids. The company is incredibly generous, and my students loved being able to explore the product line and communicate with the company. They gave us access to their website, my kids took the dolls home, we took pictures with them – it was so fun. Karito Kids and Kids Give is just a great company and they encourage citizen philanthropy. I love them.
How do you handle a “bad” product — do you refuse to review it?
I research products before I make a request. For example, I want ereaders to appear in classrooms. They are space-saving, they conserve paper, and they offer enormous possibilities for students and literacy. So I researched the ereaders that I thought would fit the needs of my own classroom, and then I wrote to the companies that fit the requirements.
How did you discover that Sony lends items such as digital readers?
Companies lend out products for reviews; how else would reviews get written? Of course, there are limitations, as Gizmodo and Apple’s recent squabble demonstrated. They have really good customer service and they want to get to know their users, I think.
What are the benefits and drawbacks of borrowed versus free items?
I look at reviews as a chance to give people useful information and add to my writing portfolio (which is another way to create a strong writer’s platform!). It isn’t about getting free stuff, it is about communicating how products fit certain needs. Loans are nice because they keep greed in check. Free is good for teachers because schools can put anything to good use.
What are 3 tips for freelancers who want to write product reviews?
- Start with the general customer support contact and ask who to request review materials from — don’t just jump into the media department unless you are a working journalist.
- Be willing to pay a little money and always offer to return the products in perfect condition. Reviewing expensive products – especially electronics – usually involves signing a contract and paying for return shipping.
- I wouldn’t say anything negative about a product I asked to review, but I might suggest who it would actually be a better audience for if it turns out it isn’t what I thought it would be.
Alex encourages writers who get free items to “pay it forward” by donating the products to a school after they’re done writing the product review – even if the product isn’t “academic.” Schools can use things in all sorts of ways – as prizes, to help needy students, etc.
Fellow scribes, do you write product reviews? Got any tips for us?
Alex Sharp is freelance writer, teacher, and gadgetaholic. To learn more, visit her on Suite101.