3 Awesome Things One Freelance Writer Got from Writing Free Gear Reviews

Carol Tice

The author grabs some air.

By Ted Bendixson

I’ll admit it. I’m hopelessly addicted to snowboarding.

I have been for the last six years of my life, and as I do it more and more, it’s only gotten increasingly expensive.

When you’re out there every day, you go through gear like nobody’s business. Lucky for me (and you), there is a way to use your writing skills to get the products you want for free — hundreds and hundreds of bucks’ worth.

It’s pretty much as good as getting paid, from my point of view.

Here’s how to get started:

Reach out to sites that review products

I got my gear reviewing job at ActiveJunky by responding to a Craigslist ad looking for a snowboarder to write content for the site. I’ll admit it was a lucky draw, but there are a number of websites out there looking for product reviewers.

A friend of mine runs a popular snowboarding website, and he can’t get enough people to test the products companies send him. You don’t know there’s a need until you ask.

Be active on forums and build your own website

That same friend started out in the online snowboarding forums. He built a following by doing product reviews there, and then he started to post the reviews on his own snowboarding related website.

Eventually, people started going to his website instead of the forums. The companies followed up with the products shortly afterward.

As you get further along in your gear reviewing career, more doors will open up. I don’t get paid cash for most of the reviews I write, but I do get these three benefits:

  1. Free gear. I usually snowboard over 100 days a season, so it’s very helpful to have a closet full of jackets, goggles, boots, and snowboards. It saves me a ton of money, and my friends are extremely jealous of how “fresh” I look all the time. My favorite piece of gear I got from a free review is an outerwear set from Oakley that retails for around $500. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have any other clients who are willing to pay $500 for a single blog post.
  2. Industry contacts. ActiveJunky, the site I review gear for, hooked me up with free admission to a snowsports trade show in Denver this year. It was an amazing opportunity to network and build contacts in the snowboarding industry. I’m certain those contacts will eventually lead to some paying gigs.
  3. Paid vacations. One recent sponsored trip I snagged through my gear reviews is an epic, two week snowboarding adventure in Chile. If I pay the airfare, ActiveJunky covers everything else. Their promotion of the ski areas gets them deals on food, lodging, and lift tickets that I wouldn’t be able to get on my own. On top of having a great time on this vacation, I’m pretty sure they’ll pay me to function as the editor for any content we create while we’re down there.


Companies are always looking for feedback from passionate users of their products. I don’t get paid cash for the reviews I write, but they’ve certainly made it easier for me to pursue my snowboarding addiction. Some things are better than money.

Have you written free reviews? Leave a comment and tell us how that worked for you.

Ted Bendixson is a freelance writer and iPhone app developer who travels the world to snowboard year round. In 2011, he rode over 200 days.


  1. Credit Donkey

    That is indeed one perk of being a writer/reviewer. One of these days, maybe I could start seriously reviewing books so I can get freebies as well. But I still lack the confidence. That is, I cannot write an honest review without checking my opinion against others’. Sigh.

    • Carol Tice

      The thing I learned from this writer was to review MORE EXPENSIVE things than books! I think that’s where I’ve been going wrong. 😉

  2. Glori Surban

    I really admire people who can do extreme sports. (I know, I know. technically, it may not be ‘extreme for you guys, but in snowless Philippines + a oftentimes-sedentary me,for me IT IS. 🙂 )

    Thanks for the great tip! 🙂 Got me thinking on what kind of things I want to review aside from books…

  3. anne grant

    Not only great perks, but building your platform as well…nice!

  4. Joann

    My son has been asking for a new snowboard. Maybe I should start reviewing them. 😉 Not really my area of expertise, unfortunately.

    I am starting to review a few items on my blog. I have so far always asked for the same item to give away to my readers in a contest. I like my readers to find some value in the post, rather than just offering a review.

  5. Terri H

    This post definitely came at the right time.

    In addition to being a dedicated writer, I am a hardcore dancer. I’ve been doing ballet, tap, irish dance, african dance, hip-hop etc since I was three. Though I don’t want to do it professionally, I am still active in refining my dance skills which means spending lots of money on dance classes. I was recently approached by the owner of the dance school I attend to write posts for their blog in exchange for free dance classes. We haven’t ironed out the details yet and I haven’t made a decision, but this post is definitely nudging me to accept the offer.

    • Carol Tice

      Tradeouts can be great opportunities to live the lifestyle you want, Terri. I’ve had friends who’ve mucked out stalls and washed planes to support their riding and flying habits…why not blog for dance lessons?

  6. John Soares

    In addition to my writing blog, I also have a hiking blog. I get lots of offers to review gear large and small, but I’ve only done it a couple of times, most recently for a lightweight but warm jacket.

    It’s crucial to always state that you received the item for free. Reader need to know that there is a potential bias to the review.

    There actually has been some discussion among outdoor bloggers to not take free equipment, or to test it and then immediately donate it to charity.

  7. Erica

    That’s a pretty good idea. Yesterday, I came across the blog Pencil Revolution (www.pencilrevolution.com/) on which a gentleman reviews wooden pencils. And his readers often send him free wooden pencils to test and review. And he does. Right down to their type of wood, secure fit of the eraser and smoothness of their graphite. It’s awesome.

    Fine Print: I am in no way affiliated with Pencil Revolution. This gentleman in no way asked for a shameless plug. In fact, he does not even know I exist. I just really like pencils and was thrilled to find this timely site that is relevant to this conversation. 🙂

    • Carol Tice

      That’s so funny! Too bad there’s no money in reviewing pencils. But sounds like a fun site.

  8. Ali

    Reviews are the type of copy I’ve written by far the most, and I enjoy writing them but at times I really feel bad when I have to write an ‘upbeat’ review for a substandard product/service.

    • Carol Tice

      Ali, why would you “have to” write a positive review of something you didn’t like? That’s sort of unethical. Are you saying if product makers pay you, you lie about their products? I’m a little confused there. I thought the deal was you just disclosed you got it free, and then you gave your real, honest opinion of it? That’s why product-makers like bloggers, is they’re leveraging your reputation. If you’re a liar, you soon have no reputation.

      Maybe you’re talking about writing product descriptions for a company, where it’s copy for their site? That’s different from reviews. There, we make it all sound good. 😉 Because that’s the job.

  9. Ravi

    @Carol – Need some advice

    After reading through several of your posts, it is clear that marketing involves a lot of time and effort. I can devote a focused time of 20 hours a week to writing. I want to work for another writer with this time. The writer can use this time on hunting clients who pay better. The lack of marketing does not hurt my future because I don’t plan on starting one. The decrease in payment per article will be offset by not having to spend time in marketing.

    1) Can your Den help me with this?
    2) Are there any writers who are looking to leverage their time?

    The onus is on me to prove to them that I am a good partnership. Can you help with this?


    P.S. If they have any plans of hiring someone I think trying me would be best because I am willing to the responsibility of making it work.

    • Carol Tice

      Hi Ravi —

      It is the dream of many writers to find another writer who will sub them out a ton of work, and then they won’t have to build their own business. I get inquiries like this all the time.

      But I’ve never met any writers who subcontract their work, particularly to English-as-a-second-language writers, which I’m going to take a guess is your situation, based on some of the grammar above.

      Our clients hire us because of our experience and abilities. If we slyly substituted another writer who didn’t have that experience, the client would figure it out pretty fast.

      Then we’d just be fired.

      That said, writers do sometimes REFER each other clients they don’t have time for. So it does pay to build your writer network. The Den is good for that.

      But mostly, it’s a fantasy to think you can build a full-time freelance writing living without doing any marketing. Especially since 2008. I’m not going to pretend there’s a magical subcontracting gig out there, especially one that would end up paying a living wage.

      Even if you could find this mythical subcontracting writer I have never, ever seen in 20+ years of writing, then all your eggs are in one basket. You get in an argument with that writer one day and poof — no income. It’s just not a viable idea, any way you look at it.

      • Ravi

        Thanks for the detailed-hard-hitting advice. You just might have saved a lot of my time which I would have spent contacting writers. It appears I have to work on my writing skils before I do anything. Do you have any suggestions on that?

        Would there be writers willing to let me work for free? The corrections they make would help with my English and they get a lot of my time in return.

        • Carol Tice

          Um, no. Nobody’s going to teach you English AND how to be a writer for free, likely.

          Writers are not your market, Ravi.

          Here’s an idea — why not try finding small businesses or nonprofits in your own country, in your own native language, as a place to get started as a writer? Then you could learn to write first, and be working on your English skills in the meanwhile.

          Or start your own blog like Bamidele Onibalusi of YoungPrePro did and use it to improve your skills. You can get clients off your blog if you write well, I know he does.

          Not sure why everyone thinks writing in English is the only possible market. Every country has businesses that need things written, in your own native tongue.

  10. Taylor

    Wow! This is angle that never occurred to me. I love free gear and especially vacations. I’m going to try this. 🙂

  11. Pam

    I am really hoping to find gigs like this. I’ve been writing Amazon reviews for awhile and am now a top 3000 reviewer. I’ve got a 97% helpfulness rating on 135 reviews, but I have not yet found a way to turn that into some income, or even some free stuff. I am hoping to get invited into the Amazon Vine program, but no luck yet.

    From this post, it seems there are two paths to getting better review work:

    1) There are a number of websites out there looking for product reviewers

    2) Be active on forums and build your own website

    Taking the time to build a website and drive traffic to it in hopes of getting some review work is not a good income prospect compared to other kinds of business building and income generation.

    The other path – of finding sites and publications that need reviewers – seems to be more likely to get somewhere. That would get me free stuff (no pay, but I could sell the stuff) but also open the door to other writing assignments.

    Does anyone use their Amazon reviewer rating on query letters, or does that look unprofessional?

    • Carol Tice

      I’ve never seen anyone use Amazon reviews as part of their writing portfolio.

      Seems like you’re expending a lot of effort on something that isn’t really building a portfolio for you.

      The point of the post is that reviews are generally not a great-paying niche. You could pitch clients writing product descriptions, which does pay a bit.

      But as the writer notes, if you have a hobby you need to support, free reviews can help. Otherwise, we think this isn’t a way to make a living.

  12. Adeline Yuboco

    The most that I’ve reviewed are restaurants, but I have to shell out for these. Would be really great to find a review gig in my niche (travel and food) where the flow of money is inward, not outward. So far, most of those that I’ve found that offer these are limited to other countries. I’m gonna try checking out those avenues that you’ve mentioned and see if I get any luck.

  13. Campbell

    Thanks for the great advice in your article! I like reviewing gear and have so far only reviewed items I already have. I’ve been thinking about trying to do something like this for a while, but haven’t gotten around to contacting companies yet because I’ve been busy with so many other things.

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