Curriculum vendors sending you hundreds of dollars worth of stuff for free and all you’ve got to do is post about it on your blog? Sounds like a good gig, but there’s much more to writing reviews than that. Writing quality reviews requires an investment of time on your part (and often your children’s part), a good match between your homeschooling style and philosophy and the products you’re reviewing, and a commitment to honesty to your readers.
Anything less is a disservice to both the brands with whom you’re working and your readers.
So, how do you get started writing reviews?
Build a Portfolio
A lot of brands are going to be interested in seeing your review-writing style, so it’s a good idea to write reviews on products you already have and use in your homeschool. The bonus to that is that you’ll be sharing your feedback with your readers, homeschooling families who are always on the lookout for products that they’ll love.
It also allows you to fine-tune your review style without the pressure of a brand reading your sponsored review with a critical eye, looking to see what you’ve said about the product that they sent you.
The worst thing someone can do when you pitch a review offer is tell you no or ignore you. So, what are you waiting for? Just ask!
Before you ask, though, do your homework. Most brands are going to want some basic blog stat numbers, such as:
- Number of engaged email subscribers
- Unique monthly visits
- Monthly page views
- Social media reach
Don’t worry if your numbers aren’t what you’d consider great. Most brands aren’t going to turn you down outright based on numbers, but they do want to know what you bring to the table as far as traffic goes.
What constitutes a quality review?
Proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation. You don’t have to use formal writing – write in your voice – but make sure you’re not making careless errors.
Quality photos. Make sure you’ve got good lighting and are taking photos in a format large enough to produce large, crisp, clear images online. You don’t have to have an expensive camera to make good photos. Just make sure you know how to use your camera to its full advantage.
SEO-optimized links. A good review provides searchable links back to the brand’s website. Instead of “take a look at this Christian science curriculum here” (where “here” is the word linked to the site), say, “ take a look at this Christian science curriculum” (underlined works are linked).
Personalize it. Tell your readers what you liked (or didn’t like) about the product in your own words. Talk about the features that appealed to your family. Don’t use the description on the product’s website – people can read that for themselves. I like to try to tell my readers what I would want to know if I were considering purchasing the product.
Be Choosy. Don’t review just anything that anybody is willing to send your way. This is time-consuming and will, most likely, prove disruptive to your family’s homeschool. I only choose products that I am fairly certain, at the outset, will prove to be a good fit for my family. That makes life easier for us and also reduces the possibility of having to write a negative review, which brings us to my final point,
Be Balanced. You are not going to love every product that you review. That’s okay. You don’t have to love a product, but it’s not good business to bash it either. Balance is the key. Let your readers know what you didn’t like about it. The things you didn’t like may be the things someone else will love.
A pros and cons list provides a balanced way to handle a review on a product that wasn’t your favorite because, if you’ve been choosy, while a product might not have fully lived up to your expectations, you probably didn’t hate it either. I have had readers buy products after reading a review that some would consider negative, but they were able to make an informed decision based on the pros and cons and decided that the good outweighed the bad.
Should You Require Payment for Reviews?
Absolutely! A quality review takes time, and I don’t know about you, but I don’t work for free. As a professional blogger, I deserve to be compensated for my time.
When I am paid for a review, I am being paid for the time involved in using the product, taking and editing photos, and writing a well-thought-out, quality, SEO-optimized review, not for writing a positive review. The company is getting more than just a one-time ad-spot on my blog. They are getting my feedback about their product and, if our family enjoyed it, my personal endorsement.
The time I spend writing a review is time spent away from my family and other obligations. I am providing a service and, as much as I might like a product, free product does not buy groceries.
The exception to my expectation for payment is when a company is offering to send me a high-value product that my family has been considering purchasing. If I’m saving the money I would be spending on curriculum, receiving the product in exchange for writing the review is a win-win situation for both me and the brand.
Do you write reviews? What tips would you add for someone who wants to get started?
This post was originally written by Kris Bales in 2012 for HomeschoolBlogging.com. It was updated, edited, and re-published in 2018 by Heather Bowen, HomeschoolBlogging.com owner.