How to get into reviewing

computerThere is an update to this entry since things have changed in the review world.  You can view that here.

ORIGINAL POST:

I have been asked many times how to get into reviewing.  Some people are merely curious, some want to know how to start trying to review professionally themselves.

It’s not a cut and dry answer.   I fell into it quite by accident, because I reviewed every item I ever bought online, not thinking anything would or even could come of it – I just wanted to share my experience with others because I rely on reviews when I buy things.   My reviews got noticed, I got some invitations and here I am.   But it took over a decade to get here.   Thousands of reviews, I’m not joking – thousands, literally.  Most people are looking for a quicker route, so I will try to lay out what I think is a quicker path, but it’s still going to take a good deal of time and effort.

First and foremost, review everything you ever bought (especially on Amazon).   No, there is no compensation for it, but it will start laying the foundation of having a good reviewing track record.  If people want to be able to see a sample of what you do, you will have something to show.

The next step if you want to get review items for a discount or sometimes free; is get signed up with coupon clubs.   I winced a little bit saying that.  Actually – I winced a lot.  They have a negative stereotype in the reviewing world among established reviewers (and sometimes with good reason), but this is truly the quickest way someone can get into it.   Read my blog on coupon clubs to learn what to avoid.  Doing a quick search for coupon clubs will find you any number of places to join.

But, please also follow good review etiquette.  Read up on Amazon’s terms of service (TOS) and do not sign up with any company that wants you to violate any part of it.   This could result in you being banned from Amazon.  If you review for coupon clubs and are able to remain honest with your reviews and not violate Amazon’s TOS, this will put you on your way to being a professional reviewer.

As you are progressing, read everything you can about reviewing.   Forums, blog pieces… whatever you can find.  Get all the perspectives, because there are a lot of them out there.  Also, review everything you ever bought.   Get a track record of reviews under your belt.   Hone your skills.  Add photos, consider adding videos.   It takes a lot longer, but you are adding value with all these little improvements.

Eventually with a little luck and perseverance, you might begin to have people approach you for reviews (usually once your reviewer rank on Amazon rises to a high level) instead of seeking out coupon clubs, and you may be fortunate enough to review items that are a little more high end than an oven mitt.

prudent reviewer

 

Visit my blog archives to learn more about the art of reviewing.

 

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My Chinese Translations

chinese writingAbout 60% of my emails originate from China.  I get so many emails from China in fact, that I have written up some of my standard responses in Chinese (with the help of Google Translate of course).  I didn’t have to do this but I notice some of the emails I get are a little less well worded than others, which tells me that they are probably using a translation program to write them, or they aren’t as fluent in English as some others may be.   I figured taking the time to translate a response back into their native language would be a nice gesture, and a time saver for them not having to run it through translation software.

Something I noticed though, was interesting.   My standard response when I don’t want to review an item had always been: “No thank you, but keep me in mind for future reviews.”  But when I translated it to simplified Chinese….

“不,谢谢你,但让我记住了将来的审查。”

….and then translated it back to English it read:

“No thank you, but I remember a future review.” 

This does not make much sense.  They probably thought I was a bit batty.  Evidently translating back and forth between languages is not so cut and dry.  So it made me realize to get a understandable response I have to translate it from English to Chinese, then back to English to make sure it’s understandable – or so I thought.

What I have now is “No thank you , but give me an e-mail in the future, when you have more items for review.”

Which translates to: “不,谢谢你,但给我的电子邮件在未来,当你有审查多个项目。”

And it translates back to a somewhat imperfect “No, thank you , but to my e-mail in the future , when you have multiple items to review.”

This seem slightly more understandable.  I think they can get the idea that I want them to send me an email when they have other items.  I have tried multiple iterations but this one was the closest to intelligible that I could manage.

To all my Chinese partners on the other side of the globe, I’m sorry I butchered your language.   Which translates to: “对不起,我宰了你的语言” And translated back to English reads:  “I’m sorry, I could kill your language.”

*****

Edit:  No sooner was the proverbial ink dry on this blog post when one of my Chinese contacts helpfully corrected my bad Chinese translation:

translate

It is clear I’m never going to be good with the Chinese language, but thankfully I can get a little bit of help when I need it.

By the way… if you are reading this and reside outside the United States, and the English language is not something you are proficient in, I help foreign sellers on Amazon and elsewhere write their product descriptions in English.  I have experience in technical writing (Both SOP and ISO certified written documentation) as well as creative writing (I am a paid professional blogger for two online companies), and I also possess marketing/SEO experience.  Contact me if this is a service you are interested in receiving.   My rates are quite reasonable.

 

My blog archives have amazing vocabulary and sentence structure, see for yourself!

 

Common Reviewing Questions

questionQ and A about Reviews:

What if I get a product for review but it arrives broken?   It does happen from time to time that an item will arrive broken, especially if it had a long transit time from China or was not packaged properly, and you never know what can happen during transit.   In this case my standard practice is to contact the seller to see if they want me to return the item, if they would like send another replacement item or if they would like me not review that item (since I can’t because it’s broken).

In most cases, the company will send me a replacement product and then I do the review after I have gotten the replacement.  Some companies do not respond to my inquiry.  In that case I just toss the item and do not review it.  I have never yet had a company ask me to return an item, and this is likely because it would cost them more money for me to do this.

What if I get an item, but I really hate it – should I give it a bad review?  Of course!   Reviewing means you are trying to help people decide if they would like it.   I always read negative reviews of a product first, because sometimes those are the most instructive.   You don’t have to be mean with your review using inflammatory words, but you can give a thoughtful (and honest) review that highlights why you didn’t like it.   Be as specific as possible to help people understand your rating.  Maybe you didn’t like a piece of clothing because it was sized too big, but perhaps someone else will see that and think they would like a little extra room.   A bad review doesn’t always dissuade a purchase, it informs the consumer which is the point of doing reviews.

The hidden fear behind this question is likely “won’t the seller get mad at me and not offer future products for review?”  Sometimes that may be true.  Not always though, if it is a reputable seller.    But how can you grow your reviewing hobby if you don’t give honest reviews people will appreciate?

What if I get offered the same item twice, can I still review it?  If you want to, sure – as long as it isn’t the exact same listing that you reviewed before (and you would be prevented from leaving a second review).  I have reviewed several “identical” items from various sellers… but I always leave a different review each time.  NO COPY PASTING!  That is bad etiquette, and if others pick up on this you will be looked down upon – perhaps even ridiculed publicly.   Each product gets their own unique review.

Can I sell or give away the item when I am done with the review?  If the company or entity you are getting the review item from says that’s ok – then it’s ok.  Some entities require that you retain ownership and never resell.  It is vital you find that information out first so you don’t violate anyone’s terms of service.

What if a seller contacts me after the fact and asks me to change my review, or some other request like adding the item to my wish list?  Changing a review at the sellers’ request is usually a no-no in my book.   If they point out something I forgot to mention that I think would add to the review, then I might consider it (this has never happened though).  If the request does not violate any terms of service, you may feel free to comply, or not comply based on your own conscience.  I do not add items to my wishlist that the seller asks me to, just because my wishlist is used by family to buy gifts.  I consider it a personal list, therefore not for “business” use.

 

Visit my blog archives to discover more gems like this one.

Social Media and the Reviewer

If you are reviewing exclusively with Amazon, Fat Wallet, NewEgg or any other entity (there are many out there now, and many more I don’t even know about) you may want to increase your visibility by posting reviews across a wider social network.

The benefits are two-fold.  Having a wider audience can help give you more visibility and respectability, but also it makes you more likely to be sought after for more reviews.  Of course this is not mandatory for getting more reviews to come your way, but it certainly can move things along.

I personally have found that the sellers I work with are very pleased when they find out that I not only posted a review on the site they approached me about, but I also took the extra step to post the review via YouTube, Twitter, Google+ or Instagram (without them even asking).  Some sellers are now even requiring that reviews be posted on other social media outlets as a condition of being able to review.   That seems to be becoming more prevalent I notice.

I have profiles set up specifically for reviewing so as not to co-mingle my public and private life, but doing this has the disadvantage that you have no followers when you start and have to build them from scratch, which is not the easiest of feats.  Facebook tends to be harder to build than YouTube because it is built on existing relationships or brand recognition, but each network will present some challenges if you are starting at zero.  My philosophy is that you have to start somewhere, and it doesn’t hurt to try.  I would recommend YouTube and/or Twitter as the two easiest platforms with which to gain followers.

If your friends will not be annoyed by your review posts, and you don’t mind meshing your personal life with your review life, then using the social media outlets you already subscribe to may be the better route to go.

For the truly dedicated reviewer, you might even consider a social media marketing tool such as Hootsuite (free for a basic account) to schedule posts across platforms.   I use Hootsuite Pro in my job as a marking specialist and have just recently started using the free basic Hootsuite for reviewing.  It is invaluable for organizing and tracking posts and feedback when you are sending out a lot of messages on social media.  Hootsuite isn’t the only marketing tool of its kind out there, there are quite a few others- but Hootsuite is by far the most popular and widely used.

prudent reviewer

 

Don’t forget to check out my blog archives!

What makes a quality review?

You want your reviews to be well received, and ultimately found to be helpful.  Most of the time that means a fairly long review, but not all reviews can be 500 words.   Sometimes you are reviewing charging cables.   Or toilet paper.   Or nail clippers.   No one wants to read a really long review on those kinds of items of course.   Figuring out how long your review should be really depends most on the type of product.

Consumers like a long review when it comes to things like electronics, appliances, or furniture items that require assembly.  They are reading to find out ease of set up and use (the more detail information the better), they want to find out the quality, they want to compare and contrast other similar items, and they want to know the value of what they are getting in relation to the price.   Your review should try to touch on all these things.   Really long reviews seem to get the best response when they are bullet pointed or laid out in a logical manner (i.e. first impressions, set up, how to use, overall impressions after use, and a final summary or comparison between this product and others).

Some reviews though, are necessarily short.   You should not attempt to write a 500 word review for something as mundane as a charging cable.  No one wants to read through that, and I’m not even sure it’s possible to write 500 words on a charging cable.   So keep it informational and to the point.   How long is the cord, is it as advertised?  Will it work with Android or Apple?  Does it charge as fast as other cords?  Is the cord thick or thin?  What material is the cord, rubber or braided?

Every few months go through your review history and update your reviews. My method is to tack on edits at the beginning or end of my review.   You may want to edit the entire review, but I think this takes more time and I like to leave my original review so people can clearly see my edits over time.  Sometimes I go in several times over a period of years and make edits to say “still working” or “this product has minor wear, but is as functional as ever.”  I always put the dates on my edits “EDITED 7/6/16” and make them very visible and distinct.  This is very useful information for people as most reviews are written within a few weeks of getting a product, and the vast majority of people don’t go back to update their reviews.  People like to know how things hold up over time.   This adds a lot of value to your reviews, and people will be grateful you took the time to provide the information.

Quality reviews will always have correct spelling and punctuation.   I cannot stress enough to go back and proofread your work.   There are people who will judge your discernment ability and intellect based on the grammar you use and the spelling errors you make.  Fair or not, that is how the world works.   Brush up on the rules surrounding the proper use of your, you’re, their, there, they’re, to, two and too.

Amazon highlights what they think are the “most helpful reviews” for each product.   These are an excellent resource to pattern your own reviews after.   Most of the time these reviews are thorough, well written in a logical flow, and they usually are longer than other reviews for the same product.  Study these and pattern your reviews like they write theirs.

Another tool you can use if you really want to get hard core with your reviews is finding out the Fleishman Readability Score on your reviews.  This blog entry is a high 7th grade reading level, which is about where you want to keep things for a review as well.   Newspapers like USA Today and the New York Times are written to a 7th grade reading level to make them readable for the widest number of people.  Any score higher than that and you risk alienating some readers, unless you are reviewing a very specialized type of item where you need to use a lot of technical jargon, for instance if you are reviewing things like professional grade drill presses, or medical equipment – you can be excused for having a difficult readability score.   If your scores fall well below a 7th grade reading level consider using longer sentences and more adjectives to bump it up a notch.  A score that is too low, although very simple to read, may make you seem less intelligent than you really are.  You want people to trust you and your reviews, so don’t give them any reason to think less of you.

prudent reviewer

 

Don’t forget to check out my blog archives!