I’ve always had an addiction to beauty products. It started off when I was a tiny ballerina, applying blue eyeshadow and pink lipstick before a big show, and kept evolving until I was a fully fledged adult with an overflowing collection of mascara. I’ve always scoured the shelves of Boots, researched the latest beauty products and discussed lipstick with my friends in the pub, which is why I started to channel my passion and launched this site in 2010. My original posts were (although terribly written and illustrated with awful stock images,) focused around products I was using, trends I was seeing, tips on how to cover up a hangover and what I’d discovered that weekend in Selfridges. PR samples didn’t start dropping through my letterbox until a good year or so after I started writing, putting me in a fortunate position and enabling me to start covering new things and being exposed to new brands. However, with the growth of blogs comes the growth of demand for those precious samples – there simply aren’t enough to go around.

Although the large proportion of bloggers are genuinely passionate about
their chosen topic and conduct themselves with nothing but decorum,
there’s a growing trend that bloggers are sending brands ‘shopping
lists’ of products they want to try when their readership simply doesn’t
warrant the cost associated with a freebie. Even more baffling are the
increasing requests PRs are getting from those bloggers ‘thinking’ or
‘just about to start’ a blog… Excuse me while I try and compute that
one. It seems to have been lost along the way somewhere, but every single sample or free lipgloss comes with an associated cost; that cost of sending it out to a blogger, journalist or influencer needs to be justified. If your readership is small, if you’re just starting out or if you’ve not quite found your niche yet, then you may not be quite right for a lot of brands and PRs. However, you can still establish and grow a kick-ass blog without the need for samples or freebies. Here are some of my suggestions as to how to generate great content without an endless supply of complimentary eyeshadow.

Shop Your Own Collection
We’ve all got products we’ve forgotten about or that seem to blend into the background of our routine. Sometimes those lipsticks lurking at the back of the drawer can spark an idea or provide a great basis for a post, as can that concealer that you’ve relied on for years. Regularly shop your own collection of products and you’ll be amazed at the ideas it can spark; after all, people want to know about the products you really love rather than simply what you’ve been given to try.

Open Your Eyes 
Inspiration is all around us. By opening your eyes and ears you’ll always be coming up with ideas and angles, all of which are more shareable and much more likely to spark debate. It may be that you’ve overheard a makeup dilemma, seen a new trend popping up on the streets or even been asked by your friends if they really need to apply foundation with a brush. Every day can provide a pile of ideas which could keep your creative juices flowing.

Read Magazines & Other Blogs
I love to flick through magazines and read other websites; not only does it keep me in touch with what’s going on outside my own bubble, but it sparks ideas and leaves me feeling inspired. Although magazines may only write a one-sentence response to a query, you’ve got the capacity to turn that into a full blog post. Other bloggers may gloss over a topic that you feel has got more legs, or featured products may lead you to research a whole new category. 

Write About Your Own Experiences
The reason blogs are so popular is because the reader has a personal relationship with the writer. Documenting your own experiences, opinions and tips is a great way of building an engaged readership, as well as ensuring your content is shareable (which is what great blogs have really nailed down.) Some of my most popular posts are based around my experiences, opinions and tips, so I’m going to continue with this type of content as long as I’m able to write!

Go Shopping
It may sound silly, but spending time wandering around department stores and chemists can provide a huge amount of inspiration. You don’t need to even spend any money (as a lot of counters will provide sample sizes or even give you an on-counter makeover,) but it could make a great post. I used to wander the aisles of Boots and Superdrug every Saturday and write up new products or trends I saw emerging. I may only have bought one or two things, but it gave me enough inspiration for a week’s worth of content.

How do you keep your content fresh and engaging? What do you feel about the ‘shopping lists’ and endless reliance upon freebies to keep blogs going? I’d love to know your thoughts.



  1. Holly McLoughlin
    July 13, 2014 / 5:24 pm

    Great post, it was really interesting to read and you have some really good points :)

  2. Anonymous
    July 13, 2014 / 5:30 pm

    Great post. As a newbie blogger, there does seem to be an awful lot of pressure to spend lots of money to buy high end brands to keep up with other bloggers!! But i am trying to start off by using what i have got and would only ever normally spend/buy and am passionate about so hopefully that will translate to any readers that stop by my little blog! xxBrenda @

    • Hayley Carr
      July 14, 2014 / 9:34 am

      Definitely – you don't NEED to write about anything! Everyone needs to remember bloggers that have been doing it for years get samples because they're established and have been doing it a long time.

  3. Sony
    July 13, 2014 / 5:46 pm

    this is a great blog entry!! i love your blog in general! 🙂

  4. Amy Cole
    July 13, 2014 / 6:26 pm

    I really enjoyed this post and found it helpful as i im slightly new to the blogging world. Thank you! x

  5. Alphonsine
    July 13, 2014 / 7:12 pm

    I might have too many thoughts for this one comment, but I will say:: Thank You, for putting into words something that's been annoying me for a while. As a blogger, I want to give interesting content to my readers, but more often than not, I fall back to the safe and tested format because I'm afraid to experiment. I wish there was a way for us to encourage ourselves to push the envelope more, but it can be hard, especially when there is so much pressure to be an overnight success and all.Anyway, thank you for that

    • Hayley Carr
      July 14, 2014 / 9:35 am

      Don't ever think there's pressure to be an overnight success. Most bloggers worked for years (with only a few exceptions) before making the 'big time'. Interesting content often comes from innovative and quirky ideas that don't cost a penny.

  6. Anonymous
    July 13, 2014 / 7:54 pm

    Great post Hayley. I completely agree with you 100% – i think you can tell the people who are doing this from a passion perspective and those just in it for a freebie. Free samples come once you have been recognised in the industry, and as you say each sample has to be justified by the PR or brand. It is all about finding your niche. I think your post will be very helpful to those just staring or thinking about starting out in blogging. Xx

    • Hayley Carr
      July 14, 2014 / 9:35 am

      Thank you!

  7. Vicky M
    July 13, 2014 / 8:17 pm

    That's nuts! I wouldn't have the guts to contact the PR for a brand that I liked even if I had a thousand followers, let alone none or only a few like those people you mentioned! You need to have a very large readership for a company to feel like the possibility of reward outweighs the risk that you won't review the product on your blog. I know that profit margins are great in the beauty industry, but people need to use their heads – a brand is not going to give out free product to everyone who puts their fingers to the keyboard every now and then – they'd never make any money if they gave samples to every blogger who asked for them!

    • Hayley Carr
      July 14, 2014 / 9:37 am

      It's so surprising to hear the stories (that are happening more and more) when I still feel awkward (after 4yrs and a big readership) asking for something! There aren't millions of freebies floating about so it needs to make sense for a brand. x

  8. Paigeyy Papworth
    July 13, 2014 / 8:36 pm

    Thank you, for putting this into something I agree with. Before I started my new blog, I read loads and loads of others. I was hugely disappointed with the amount of bloggers that are clearly writing ,not with passion, but simply for the free stuff. I really love writing and providing information and my own true views on the products I chose to write about, please don't be afraid to check my blog out.

    • Hayley Carr
      July 14, 2014 / 9:37 am

      Thank you! Good luck with the blog.

  9. Kat Clark
    July 13, 2014 / 8:50 pm

    Great ideas – there are so many things to inspire new blog posts! It doesn't always need to focus on product reviews – I think your beauty tips are a great example of this x

    • Hayley Carr
      July 14, 2014 / 9:38 am

      Thanks Kat – they're normally the ones I like writing most too!

  10. Katie Tuovila
    July 13, 2014 / 9:33 pm

    I love your posts about blogging! Several years ago I actually made some videos on YouTube and I think once I actually emailed a company saying I'd be happy to review any products they sent me… But only until much later did I realize how presumptuous and rude I sounded having such a small audience. Now I'm just enjoying writing about things I love. I haven't been blogging long enough to be stumped for ideas yet, but I love sharing random thoughts about life. Sometimes when I share them with my friends it makes them laugh and I'd love to be able to make my readers smile too!

    • Hayley Carr
      July 14, 2014 / 9:38 am

      That's a great outlook Katie – I'm sure your readers smile all the time!

  11. JK Taylor-Moran
    July 13, 2014 / 9:46 pm

    I can't believe anyone has the sheer brass neck to email a PR with a shopping list! especially if they don't even blog, what cheek haha. You've made some really good points about the beauty blogger obsession with posting about every new release before everyone else.xo

  12. Abracadabra Girl
    July 13, 2014 / 9:52 pm

    really enjoyed that post some really valid points x

  13. Anonymous
    July 14, 2014 / 9:54 am

    I get very annoyed with blog posts that are obviously sponsored, pr spiels are sickeningly awful to read and it's even more annoying when the blogger doesn't declare they got pr samples. I mean yeah great you got a freebie but gushing over everything (even bad products) is irritating and very see through.

  14. Penny H
    July 14, 2014 / 11:55 am

    It takes a really powerful and interesting blog post to make me comment, and this is really refreshing! If I don't like a product or don't use it myself, how on earth should I expect my readers to use it? I think I've done one post where I got a free sample and really enjoyed it so I posted it. End of. But yeah its painfully obvious and it really gives off a bad impression when bloggers do that and kind of brings down all the bloggers who have some ethics. But this is a great post! Look forward to reading more! Penny H

  15. Stephanie
    July 14, 2014 / 1:47 pm

    I think I've only been sent something to review twice, maybe three times. I definitely don't expect to get many freebies anytime soon but doesn't bother me though! I buy almost everything I feature on my blog, lets face it, even if I didn't blog I'd be buying all the stuff anyway! 😉 I do it for the love of writing! Sometimes my blog posts might not be 'breaking news' or 'hot off the press' but I love it! I manage to find content to post daily and having my little hobby makes me very happy! I can't pretend that getting more samples wouldn't make me happy, but I'm very happy in my little bubble! :)Thanks for your fab ideas for coming up with new post ideas, they will be very helpful for me in the future! I always have to write down my ideas in a little book when I'm out and about, otherwise I forget them! I always love your outlook on things!Stephanie xxxx

  16. Lily Holt-Martyn
    July 14, 2014 / 6:43 pm

    Really good advice. I'm actually a bit surprised that people thinking about blogging would contact a PR for free samples without even having a blog…that just seems bizarre, not to mention backwards.

  17. Yazzys Corner
    July 14, 2014 / 7:28 pm

    We bloggers really don't need to beg free products! I did a post reviewing high end foundations recently and because there was no way I could afford to buy the 3 foundations I reviewed, I went and asked for some free samples which was enough for me to test out for a few days each in order to give my honest opinion on them. Plus I'm not a huge beauty junky so if I did get lots of PR samples sent to me they would just pile up and go un-used anyway so I'd rather go out and buy things I'm genuinely interested in, innit ;pYazmin

  18. JaeyDar J.
    August 1, 2014 / 12:38 pm

    I may just end up being another comment but thank you for this blog post – I've only started my blog back in May and you have given me some useful tips – immediately I had inspiration for 2 posts that I will be working on as we speak. I am a silent reader of your blog but thought I'd let you know I love it!!!!

  19. Renata Burden
    August 12, 2014 / 8:20 am

    Nice post! Who wouldn't love to get PR samples? But i agree this kind of thing may take a while to happen. I think using what we already have, to start with, is a great tip. I set up a monthly budget for new products and mix with reviews of stuff that I already have in my

  20. Viennaroo
    September 22, 2014 / 7:04 am

    Love this post! Very encuraging. I agree that you shouldn't blog to get some free samples. I started my blog very recently just to get all those ideas out of my head. 🙂 Writing my blog is like talking to a friend. :)

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