10 Signs You’re A Blogger Sell-Out

blog sell out


The good news is, you're making money doing what you love. The partnerships are rolling in. You're getting gifts from brands. Everything is like a dream come true. Then it happens, the nagging feeling that maybe the readers are getting turned off. Are they just jealous? Or has it been too long since you posted something that had nothing to do with a brand you were working with? No one sets out be a “sell-out” and more often than not the “selling-out” isn't something that happens over night. However keeping your credibility with your readers so they are not constantly questioning everything on your site is paid or gifted for is important for maintaining long-term growth.

We've all heard bloggers talk about learning to say no, and only taking partnerships that make sense, but how does a blogger strike a balance between editorial and branded content? While I'd like to say there are hard and fast rules about what's acceptable and what's shady, the truth is there are no rules.  So how do you know if you're starting to look like a sell-0ut to your dedicated fans?

  1. Your outfit posts consistently contain more than three gifted items or “c/o.”  Every once and a while it's ok to have multiple gifted items. But if you're consistently donned in head to toe in gifted products it might lead your readers to question the motivation behind your blogging.
  2. Every post is a giveaway. Unless your site is a sweepstakes blog, you're not going to gain editorial credibility if you train your readers to expect a chance to win something every time you post. Every blog has a different rate of posting, but it's good to follow the 80/20 Rule when it comes to this type of content. For every 10 posts you do, two of them can be promotional. For bloggers who post 5 per week, that would mean running two giveaways per month.
  3. You mostly engage with brands on Twitter. Take a look at your @replies. Are they mostly to brands? It gets hard as brands engage with bloggers as part of their social media strategy, but mix it up! I usually tell people who run our Twitter, for every one brand you engage with, engage with at least five bloggers or readers.
  4. You're posting about something you would never wear or use. This is a tough one, in the beginning I've taken on projects that weren't a good fit. Sometimes it's hard to gauge if it's worth it to pass on an opportunity. And sometimes you find something good in an unexpected place. But if you're finding yourself in a position where you're saying things like “I love Crocs” on a regular basis, and you hate Crocs, it's time to asses if these types of partnerships really makes you happy, and if they really benefits  your readers. Chances are it doesn't.
  5. You're only nice to people who can do something for you. While it's impossible to be best friends with everyone, if you're only looking to make friends with those who can give something to you, you might be missing out on building relationships with some pretty amazing people, and who knows, they may be on their way up.
  6. You're post about every event you go to. Posting about events can be great for your blog, but sometimes your readers get turned off by seeing too much. If your readers aren't commenting on an event post, or your comment, traffic, and sharing counts are low on event posts, it might mean that either your angle is too generic, or that your readers can tell the posts aren't for them, they're for the brand's PR.
  7. You gush over brand projects and gifts. If your normal tone is more down to earth and every time a brand gives you a product and say, “Oh my god I love this!” readers pick up on it. If you're given a product for review, try to be objective, no matter how exciting free stuff.
  8. You regularly binge-pin affiliate links. Your Pinterest account has little to no editorial content, it's just a place for you to pin affiliate links you wouldn't post about on your blog.
  9. Your Instagram account is cluttered with brand call-outs, and every single image has a dedicated hashtag. Just like your blog, your social media accounts should have a balance between editorial and branded content.
  10. You're afraid to rock the boat. You care too much about what everyone thinks to question or criticize anything. You're afraid brands won't want to work with you if sometimes your opinion isn't positive. While there is an art to addressing controversial topics, avoiding controversy can be equally as damaging as addressing it where need be.


Tips for avoiding “sell-out” status

While things change over time, what may make someone look like a sell-out now may be fine a year from now, or vice versa. It's important to always keep tabs on what's happening in the industry. It's even more helpful to look at other industries to see if how they've dealt with controversies, questions of credibility and trust.  For example, look through a magazine, do the ads affect your trust? When you see a product review that's just glowing, does it have as much meaning when you see the brand is an advertiser? Look at publications that have done brand integration successfully, try to identify what makes it work.

Try to go with your gut. And if your gut doesn't know what to do, I like to say go with a 80/20 balance max. 80% editorial, 20% advertising. Also, you can go with the notion that advertorials do not count as content, so for every advertorial post you do, your work is not done for the day, you still have to post your regular editorial material.

Finding a balance can be difficult, but don't be afraid of making a mistake. If you learn from it, your readers will see.


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29 Responses

  1. Kashara

    Such a great post:) I’ve seen so many bloggers that have sold out. I think blogging should first and foremost be for fun and personal enjoyment. If you’re in it solely for the money, you’re in it for all the wrong reasons.

      • Rita

        Totally agree! I like it when I find people who share what they honestly like and want to support. If I want to see just promotion, I can go and read a magazine or watch a runaway show. I say, don’t let the brands wear you 😉

  2. Jenny

    What a fabulous article! I completely agree with your points. I’ve recently stopped following 2 blogs that I’ve followed for over a year each: one because it turned into all giveaways and c/o pieces, and one because all of her posts were about sponsored parties and events she’s attending.

    My blog is relatively new but I’ve very concerned about authenticity and integrity. I’ve received 3 proposals to work with companies and I’ve politely declined each of them. Although I actually did like their products and do even shop at one of the stores, I just felt like it wasn’t the perfect fit, so I didn’t want to promote it on my blog. Saying no was hard, especially because I’ve received so few offers, but I knew it was the right thing to do.

    I think you can quickly see who is authentic in their blogging and who is doing it solely for the free gifts or perks. To each his own, but I prefer not to read blogs that feel too sponsored or unauthentic.

    <3 Jenny

  3. Jarrod

    This is a great article! I am new to this industry and have so much to learn (and months to years away from the blogging level you are talking about), but think this article is definitely a good read and it has made me put “re-evaluate” my blog on the list of things to do this coming week.

    Thank you for your insight! You definitely have experience behind you, which is THE most important aspect for someone trying to learn the ropes in this industry.

  4. karen

    great post , i think in one fashion blogger that only post pictures, non a word and she gets like 200 comments and i wonder why … she is sell out!!

  5. Naina

    I’ve turned down a few sponsorship opportunities, because the brands are something I would never wear. It’s tempting to change your style to suit the free stuff you’re given, but in the end you’ll find yourself becoming someone you don’t know.
    That being said, some bloggers have made their blogs their primary source of income and rely on sponsorship for a livelihood, so don’t always be too quick to dismiss!

    Win $100 for ZARA 

  6. BlitzAndGlam

    #6 has really become a problem. It’s starting to feel like some bloggers only go to events so they can have a blog post. It’s annoying when a blog used to have real content and now it’s less content and more “I went to this event” posts. Going to events and posting about them is completely fine. Just don’t let that become all your blog is about, unless of course, your blog is a “girl/guy about town” type of blog.

    • Mercedes

      Agree! Event posts are one of the most boring things to see in blogs. I mean, there are few events that call for pictures and a report, but so many are just pictures of the blogger, with other bloggers, and some catering. No inside, no commentary…!

  7. Kimmi @ The Plastic Diaries

    This is such a great post. I am always concerned that my readers might think I am selling out if I do a sponsored post or host a giveaway, but going by these points I have nothing to be concerned about. This post will also keep as a good reminder to put on my wall so I can always consider whether something I do is really for me and my readers or just for the brand.

  8. Rita

    Thanks, this is great. I personally prefer to follow the blogs that seem more authentic. I think it’s great that brands are reaching out to random people, instead of just established magazines or bloggers. But as a blogger myself, I prefer to share with my readers content that I truly am passionate about. But that’s just the purpose of my own blog. It will be attractive to some people and not to others but that’s what it is. The great thing is that we all have so many options to choose from!

  9. Fi

    Awesome post – it’s so, so obvious when someone’s no longer the genuine article.. And on the other side of the coin, so, so obvious when they are.

    It’s a tricky balancing act, but I think if you always go with your instinct over letting yourself be impressed by what brands offer, then you can’t go wrong.

    Don’t ruin something you’ve worked really hard on by allowing brands to take over and ruin YOUR brand.

  10. Chi

    I SOOO agree with this one. People aren’t silly….they can tell when they are being lead on. Creatively presenting products is the best way forward for bloggers. Being a spokes person with no filter is NOT a good look.

    Great article IFB!

  11. Emily Jayne

    Great post – I’m just starting to get sponsored posts etc. and am trying really carefully to find the balance. At the moment I’ve decided on no more than one sponsored post and one review per week, and only for things that I genuinely really like.

  12. Natalie

    I completely disagree that wearing 3 or more c/o items makes you a “sellout.” Some bloggers like myself never shop for clothes. I haven’t gone shopping in months but constantly get gifted items (if it’s a brand I like, I can’t pass up the opportunity because it may never come around again, you know?) so many, many pieces I own nowadays are gifted. Wearing mainly c/o items does NOT make a blogger any less authentic, especially if the bloggers chooses all those c/o items herself. In the end, it all comes down to how the person styled it. Why does it matter if it was free or not? When bloggers get clothes gift, 95% of the time, they picked it out themselves as if they were picking it out at the mall, what’s wrong with that?


    Thank you so much for #10. I had a serious problem with a product once and a fellow blogger advised me to keep the review positive anyway. What!? I can’t be dishonest like that. I think other bloggers (and even brands) appreciate honest reviews. Why would a brand want to hear about how much you love their product when you don’t actually love it? You gotta be genuine or there’s no point.

  14. debi c

    off the top of my head i can think of at least 3 bloggers who need to read this pronto..i have unfollowed such bloggers in the past.and i am on the verge of unfollowing another..i don’t mind the c/o so much you know as long as they created a really rad outfit with the clothes/accessories they got from the brands.

  15. monrix

    So many bloggers fall into this, they’re not even blogging anymore…just posting pics with brand gifts, no text at all and still getting tons of comments

  16. goodbadandfab

    GREAT post! It’s definitely a fine line to tread especially when some bloggers are dependent upon their blogging income. I’ve come across the same issues in the past and constant reminded myself to stay focused and true to my passion-writing about fashion. After all, I’m a firm believer that when you do something you love, the money will come!

    personal style and fashion musings of a LA fashion lawyer living life in the fab lane

  17. Steph

    Great article Jennine. So tired of being asked to ‘like’ a Facebook page of a brand I really don’t care about. Working in the media I can understand why, but personally when I am approached by brands, my #1 question is if I do like them independently already or not, and so far I’ve turned down all of them because the answer has never been yes!

  18. Bebe Zeva

    I wear mostly c/o items! Do you think it makes me any less authentic? No, seriously. Wearing sponsored clothing doesn’t make a person’s sense of style any less sincere. The blogger STILL had to arrange an outfit with their sponsored item in their own, personal way. If bloggers were gifted entire outfits and told not to make any independent choices in dressing themselves or describing their look, THAT would be totally artificial. And gross. The thing with sponsored clothing is that bloggers are generally treated to a store credit that they can use to select the clothes THEY want to wear, not the store manager. So it’s essentially the same as a blogger going shopping at their local mall with a gift card, except in this instance they didn’t choose what store would sponsor them. A good blogger will decline store credits from online retailers with whom they do not share a creative vision and would henceforth feel dishonest promoting. That said, I think it’s awesome when bloggers do accept store credits from shops that do not necessarily cater to their style — it shows how flexible a store’s inventory is and subsequently increases their sales by attracting more groups of people from otherwise disinterested demographics. The motivation really determines how genuine the blogger is. 🙂

  19. alyson

    Excellent tips! It can be easy as a newer blogger to want to accept everything that comes your way but I’ve learned that my words would not sound authentic and readers see right through it. And, I hate writing it. I’ve learned to pass!

  20. richa

    I realized that mine had started looking like a ‘sell out’, when my brother told me that he doesn’t read my blog anymore coz its not fun anymore & looks sponsored head to toe 😛