Ad? PR Product? Gifted? Collaboration?

There has been a lot of talk in the last few days about using the term “gifted” when a sewist receives “free” fabric to write a blog post. This is something I have been thinking about a lot recently (months really) and why some people may see this as a negative thing.

Firstly, there are a lot of regulations and standards that you need to follow when using your social media platforms for advertising purposes. If you want more information on this you should check out the ASA website. I also follow @vixmeldrew on Instagram, she explains everything very clearly and has various highlights going into detail about all of this. She is also a total boss babe!

So now for my own thoughts. The use of the term “gifted” was first brought to my attention by the lovely Vix and it really got me thinking. Am I obliged to share my birthday present from my family on social media and write a blog post on it and take high quality photographs? No. A gift is something that is given to you with no obligation to share or reciprocate or promote.

Fabric or patterns provided by a company is a different story. It is not just as simple as receiving a product and doing (or not doing) what you want with it. It is a form of advertising and for many small businesses starting out it is the best way to build a following and grow their business. I think it is a lovely way to build a relationship with a brand a support them. Likewise they are supporting you, sharing your makes on their platform and providing you with products. We all can understand that small, often single person businesses do not have a big marketing budget (or any marketing budget) to begin with so this is the best way to get your name out there. This applies to both small indie pattern companies and fabric stores.

When it comes to bigger, more established companies I think there should be more given in return. There has been a shift recently with some stores offering a form of payment for blog posts and pattern companies offering payment for pattern testing. As someone who does this as a job this is great to see.

I want to break down what is involved in writing a blog post for another company:

  • Choosing fabric and pattern- this can take different lengths of time depending on what the company is offering or their range of stock
  • Confirming the project- I usually have a few different projects in mind in case my first choice isn’t suitable.
  • Making the garment- this included per washing the fabric, cutting the pattern, and sewing. I personally feel more pressure during this stage as I want to do a good job with what I have been given.
  • Photographing the garment- again, this isn’t as simple as taking a few photos. You may need to set up a space to take the photo, travel to a location and do all this at a time when you have the best lighting.
  • Writing the blog

When it is broken down into all these stages it adds up to hours and hours of time and becomes work, a job. It becomes less like receiving “free fabric” (or patterns) as a “gift”. And there are some larger companies who expect a lot and offer very little in return.

This is my job. I don’t work full time or even part time any more and don’t have the disposable income I used to have for buying fabric. And as much as we don’t like to admit it, it is nearly impossible to grow a following on social media, to in turn help grow a business, if you don’t post new makes consistently. Most of you follow me on Instagram I’m sure, and you will know I regularly post the same garment and love styling things in different ways. But there always needs to be something new.

Recent events (ahem… Covid) have really got me thinking about who I collaborate with and what I receive in return. I have to think carefully about where I spend my time and effort as I am thinking about new ways to earn a living and ensure that if something like this happens again I will be okay. In person sewing lessons was my main form of income and when that stopped it was a wake up call. I will accept fabric in exchange for a blog as it is the only way I can continue to produce new content, which in turn helps to grow my business, but I am becoming more aware of the companies I want to work with and those I don’t.

I have been working with companies who have started paying their content creators (Helen’s Closet was one of the first) and it feels amazing to be paid for the time and effort I put into a garment. I hope this is a trend that will continue and a lot of companies have pledged to start moving towards a form of collaborating that benefits both parties.

I have also heard comments about the negative perceptions associated with receiving “free” fabric. Some may feel that it isn’t fair that some sewists are “gifted” fabric when they aren’t, and I think this is a valid point when you are thinking of it as a gift. Personally I would be pretty annoyed if everyone in my family got a gift from someone at Christmas and I didn’t. I feel that there needs to be a shift from the idea that this is a free gift, it should be a collaboration where time and products are exchanged.

So all this is to say, I will not be using the term “Gifted” (and haven’t for a while) when describing something for a blog post. I think a simple “Ad/Blog” at the start of a post and in stories is enough to identify that the fabric was given in exchange for a blog as most of us know that this will have been the case. When a pattern has been exchanged with no expection of a blog post I will use “Ad/Collaboration” or if I have been paid to write/make something I will use “Ad/Paid Partnership”. If something has been given to me as a thank you or with no genuine expectation to be shared I will say it was gifted. I am in no way saying that this is the right way to do it, I think you need to think about the terms that feel suitable and sit comfortably for you.

I also want to add that my blogs post will always be honest. The majority of the fabric I use I have picked myself and fabric and sewing brings me so much joy. So I love a lot of it! If I ever have a negative experience I will always say, but in a nice way.

As a sewing community we are very supportive of each other and want to see people succeed. I have seen a shift in attitudes to accepting free fabric/patterns and sewists are starting to ask for what they deserve in return.

I am happy to discuss this further with anyone, but please remember these are my just my own thoughts and ramblings.

Happy sewing,

Sharlene xx