So you wanna become a sex toy reviewer. I know, it sounds so glamorous and enticing. Packages bursting with free sex toys! Masturbation as a job! Merely writing about how something makes you feel! Instantaneous fame and fortune!
But of course, it is not like that. One does not just become an awesome, popular sex toy reviewer overnight. Or ever, if you suck at writing or are prone to wandering away from projects. Blogging in general takes a shit ton of time, energy, and motivation, and sex blogging in particular has a few extra caveats, like protecting your anonymity and not upsetting Facebook with scandalous photos of penis-shaped objects.
So if you are feeling compelled to stick things inside yourself and then write about it on the internet, there are some things you should know. As a formerly clueless budding sex toy reviewer (circa 2007), I am now equipped to dispense advice and crush dreams. Let’s begin.
- Interrogate yourself
- Carve out your corner of the internet
- Think like an HGTV star
- Finally, the sex toys!
- Attract readers, make friends
- Stay awesome
Look at your life, look at your choices. Ask yourself the hard questions and be starkly honest. What is your motivation for starting a sex toy blog? If the answer is “money,” please stop reading right now. Yes, I make money from this, but it took me years, and I am an anomaly. I didn’t start my blog with the goal of making money, and if I had, I would’ve given up long ago. So will you. Please. I’m really serious about this part.
Another very important question: do you love writing? I hope so, because that’s kinda the point of blogging, and if you aren’t into it — it will show, your blog will suck, and you’ll hate life. The biggest prerequisites for starting a sex toy blog are that you love writing and you love sex toys. And when I say “love sex toys,” I don’t mean in theory. You should own at least a few and know at least a little about the industry.
Now try these: are you truly comfortable talking about sex (hint: if you would consider sex toys “naughty,” you aren’t)? Do you have enough free time and energy to devote to a blog? Are you willing to start at the bottom and work your way up? Review cheaper toys at first? Review for questionable websites simply because they’re the only places that will send you free toys? Use a sex toy that you hate five times just because you have to review it? Deal with virtually nobody reading what you have to say?
Finally, if you have a partner or partners, you probably should talk to them about your desire to start a blog. If you plan to write about your sex life with them, you will have to set boundaries together. And if you’re dating one of those terrible souls who is threatened by sex toys, dump them and get a new partner who isn’t a moron. Because nobody wants to hear about your partner’s sexual hang-ups.
Carve out your corner of the internet
Brainstorm a name for your blog. Don’t choose something that’s too long, too hard to spell, too sleazy, too generic (hint: don’t use the words “buzz” or “toybox”), or already in use. More naming tips from other awesome bloggers here, here, and here. Some great domain name generators include Panabee and Wordoid. It is best if you can snag a name that’s available as a URL and on social media platforms. Use NameChk to quickly check for this (note: this doesn’t check Gmail).
Even if you think you’ve come up with something super unique, Google it. The more matches that come up, the harder it’s going to be for anyone to Google your name and find you. As an extra security measure, Google the potential name plus the word “sex” (or “sex toys”) to make sure there aren’t similarly-named bloggers.
(Sidenote: don’t ask me for ideas about this; I am horrible at coming up with names. I christened my blog Hey Epiphora because it was the only thing I could think of with my already-established name of Epiphora. FAIL.)
Get a new Gmail address. If you care about anonymity at all, this is not optional. Use this email address when you sign up for everything related to your blog. And don’t have it forward to your non-blogger email address; if you reply from within your non-blogger Gmail account, even if you are using your blogger email address, there are ways for people to see your non-blogger address. Also, whenever you sign up for anything, use your pen name unless you have to put your real name in order to get paid.
Start using two different browsers. This is simply the easiest way to keep your “regular” account and blogging account separate and avoid awkward mix-ups. I use Firefox for my regular stuff and Chrome for my blogging stuff. There are other ways of separating it — like by using browser profiles or creating multiple instances of browsers — but I like the ease of two different-looking browsers with distinguishable icons.
Decide where you want your blog hosted. Your main options are WordPress.com, Blogger, Tumblr, or self-hosted. The first three are free and subject to the whims of the platform (see next paragraph), the fourth costs money but allows you to do whatever you want1. Blogger is clunkier than WordPress.com, but with Blogger you can change your site design more easily (on WordPress.com you have to pay for CSS editing).
Most importantly, though, WordPress.com has a disturbing policy about affiliate advertising, and Blogger prohibits “sexually explicit” content. So, hooray, both suck for sex bloggers! Tumblr is more for microblogging, so it has its own cons, but at least they don’t restrict content. This post is a good, quick run-down of the pros and cons of each free host.
If you’re serious about blogging, you should consider going the self-hosted route: purchasing hosting and a domain name. Finding an adult-friendly host can be a bitch — you have to dig deep into each host’s Terms of Service to be sure (search for “adult,” “pornographic,” and “obscene”). Here are some hosts that are cool with adult content. You’ll want to install WordPress as your blogging platform, which I can do for you if you purchase from any of the following links.
- HostGator is my host. I love them. I’m on the Hatchling Plan, which offers unlimited disk space and bandwidth for one domain. You can get 25% off anytime with code HEYEPIPHORA.
- DreamHost. They use Who.is privacy protection by default!
IMPORTANT: Be sure to buy privacy protection, otherwise your name, address, and phone number will be available to anyone who looks up your domain on Who.is. It’s usually $10/year or so. Here’s how to enable it with HostGator and GoDaddy.
Once your site is up, I highly recommend purchasing CodeGuard. This service will back up your site automatically, and restore it on demand. Absolutely worth the money for the peace of mind!
Think like an HGTV star
Find (or create) the perfect design for your blog. Real talk: I know you think light text on a dark background looks moody and sexy, but many others (ME… and others) think it is an assault on the eyes. Your first concern should be readability, followed by navigability, then you can worry about bells and whistles. Keeping things simple is better than going all haywire with the design. Your blog should reflect your personality, so stock images of lips are out of the question. And for some reason this gets overlooked: always have your contact information clearly visible.
You’ll find that free blog themes are generally pretty shitty, but not always. There are also some nice free theme frameworks to get you started. But if you’re willing to pay and investigate, the designs will be much better. A good place for paid themes is ThemeForest. They have Blogger, Tumblr, and WordPress themes. Themify has some great stuff as well.
A few other web design resources that rock are Firebug, Subtle Patterns, Patterncooler, 0 to 255, Paletton, and Image to Color Palette Generator. Some excellent WordPress-specific resources are WPBeginner and WP-Snippets. Lorelle’s blog is an invaluable resource for all bloggers; Lilly’s Sex Blogger Education posts are must-reads; and Lilly and Laura’s Blogging 202 includes bad sex blog design examples and much more.
Write something on that blog of yours! No more excuses! You don’t want the place to feel deserted when you email companies. In fact, you want it to look as put-together and content-filled as possible. Sex bloggers come and go like the wind, so you need to prove that you are here to stay — that you’re willing to do what it takes upfront, before you’re promised free toys.
At a bare minimum, review some toys you already own, take some decent photos, and write up a decent “about” page. The more work you put in at this juncture, the more likely it is that companies will take you seriously when you apply to their affiliate programs and ask them for toys.
Finally, the sex toys!
Join affiliate programs. I suggest GoodVibes, ShareASale (which includes many adult retailers, such as Liberator and Spectrum Boutique), Impact (same thing, including Dame and Fleshlight), Babeland, Early to Bed, and SexToy. There are also some manufacturers with great affiliate programs, such as Crystal Delights, LELO and Tantus. Being a part of a program won’t matter unless you actually link to the place, so don’t just join everything you can find. Once you’re approved, place their banners in your sidebar and write down information about their programs (I suggest a spreadsheet).
Gently ask if you can review. This is tricky, because every company does it differently, and many don’t send out review products at all. It’s a shot in the dark, every time.
Figure out which company you want to contact. Send them a short but informative email. Explain why you like their store/product, show them your blog, and ask if you could possibly review something. Don’t be pushy or too eager, and don’t be surprised or outraged if they reject you or don’t reply. Some companies prefer established bloggers; others simply never send stuff to reviewers anyway. (Also, don’t use Twitter to proposition companies; it’s tacky.)
When working with companies, be your own advocate. As a n00b, you need to be open to reviewing cheaper items at first. But don’t be afraid to turn down toys made from morally objectionable materials, like jelly. And don’t agree to review stuff that you have no interest in; if you’re indifferent about a toy from the get-go, it will be hard to write a review of it. Watch for red flags with companies and don’t make agreements you’re wary about.
Write good reviews. Follow my 15 rules for writing a review that doesn’t royally suck, but go beyond those. Make your reviews interesting, unique, and truthful. Develop your own style. Don’t be coy. Keep the specs to a minimum and write about your personal experience. Never lie to appease a company. Always keep the reader in mind (i.e. don’t be boring). Have a partner or friend read your stuff before you hit publish.
Attract readers, make friends
If you’re not on Twitter yet, get on it, fool! And no, I won’t listen to your technophobe excuses about how trivial Twitter is. If you want people to know who you are, you must have it. And you must use it. And you must love it.
Upload an avatar, fill out your profile information, and spend a day or so submitting really clever tweets before going on a following spree. This will increase the likelihood of folks following you back. It should be pretty easy to find risque Twitter accounts; check out lists.
Learn Twitter etiquette. Lilly’s sex blogger guide to Twitter is required reading. Engage genuinely with people, not just because you want something from them. Tweet about your posts but not just about your posts (I use Buffer to schedule tweets, after years of wrestling with HootSuite). And for the love of god, don’t whine about how nobody comments on your blog. Not only can people smell desperation; it repels them.
Sign up for Tumblr and Facebook, too, if only to secure your blogging name. Facebook’s “Community Standards” are a doozy, though, so tread carefully there unless you want your account to be suspended.
Have a blogroll and keep it updated. If you need suggestions, check out my blogroll (duh). Don’t ask people for link exchanges; it’s old-school and insulting. If they like you, they’ll link to you on their own.
Link to other people in your posts. This usually sends them pingbacks, so they’ll notice that you mentioned them and are more likely to check out your blog. It’s also a great way to subtly thank people for inspiring you.
Comment on other blogs in the community. Participation is important. Put in the effort. You have no right to complain about a lack of comments if you never comment on other blogs. Leave thoughtful comments, not self-promoting ones.
Run giveaways, but not frivolous ones. People go nuts for free shit, but you’ll have better success if you’re not giving away bottom-of-the-barrel crap. Use Rafflecopter or Giveaway Tools to make it easier for yourself. Force people to subscribe to your blog in order to enter.
Submit to e[lust]. Any little boost in traffic is worth it, especially at the beginning.
Be controversial? A somewhat dubious way to acquire traffic, but it certainly works. Momentarily.
Cultivate your voice and define your niche. This is, hands-down, the most important advice I can give you. You can read all the SEO articles in the world, but you’ll find the same adage repeated in all of them: continue to create engaging content. As you write, figure out where you fit into the blogging community and what you uniquely offer. That sounds like bullshit but it’s true. You have to find a way to stand out. The internet is huge. Why should people read you?
Ask favors — gracefully. There will be times when, perhaps, you want to ask another blogger how they got in contact with such-and-such a company or what plugin makes their blog do that-one-thing. Don’t be pushy when you do this. Understand that if you email someone asking for information or advice, they are not obligated to reply to you. And if they do, you better thank them for their time.
Know when to say no. Chances are, without even trying, you’ll get emails from people offering you things. It’ll almost always be janky shit. Like they’ll want to send you vagina-scented perfume. Or a plush torso sex doll. Or a disposable stick-on vibrator. Or they want to provide you with FREE! CONTENT! for your blog, or they’ll ask you to write about their new music video (?!), or they’ll offer to host your content on their site (the word “exposure” will inevitably be dropped). These people are not trying to help you. They are in it for themselves.
Although it can be fun to take people up on their insane offers once in a while (like the guy who wanted me to review his vibrating phone app), keep it rare. Otherwise it becomes horrifying.
Know your rights. Bloggers are actually pretty well protected here in the U.S. from defamation lawsuits, but you really should read my interview with an attorney for specific, highly pertinent info.
Don’t act too big for your britches. It might be quite a while before anyone gives a shit what you have to say. That’s blogging. Accept it.
Learn, grow, and evolve. If you want to stay alive in the blogging world, you must find ways to make your site better whenever you can. Monitor your traffic and take note of what people are searching for. Look at referrals and see who is linking to you and why. Ideas can be gleaned there. Get to know your audience, get a better idea of what they like and want to read. And of course: keep writing. Constantly.
Don’t get ahead of yourself, hoss. To make money blogging, you have to have traffic. If you’re reading this, I assume you don’t. Certainly not enough to make more than a few bucks here and there. The most you can do right now is use affiliate links, write trustworthy reviews, and get your name out there. But let me reiterate: you shouldn’t be blogging for money.
You have to really love it, the blogging. And all that comes with it. I hope you’re ready to get down on your hands and knees, my friend, because this is where the grunt work begins. This is where you must interact with the community, be persistent, tell the truth, and above all — write something that’s worth reading.