How my side hustle cut my spending on beauty products

Name a beauty product. I’ve tried it and probably paid full price for it.

I’m a Sephora VIB. I buy Clinique at department stores. My vanity is bursting with products. To keep up with my habit, I used to spend upward of a thousand dollars a year on personal grooming products and services.

In the past six months, freelancing has paid for that habit sevenfold through an unexpected upside: free swag.

After Racked published “The Swag Project”, which examined the gifts its editors received in a year and how it affected their reporting, I was inspired to do the same. I tallied up all of the products I received, some requested and others unsolicited, in an Excel spreadsheet and found the cheapest retail price available. My best estimate is $7,726 of free products, excluding dinners and car services, over the past six months.


I started freelancing about a year after graduating from the University of Maryland’s journalism school. For some time, I thought I would be a beauty editor. When I chose a different career path, it didn’t stop me from wanting to write about the beauty trends I saw and products I tried.

I leveraged my network and asked for introductions to editors at particular magazines, along with following editors on Twitter to get a sense of what they were publishing. Alana Massey, author of All the Lives I Want, held a four-day freelancing seminar that was especially helpful. (If you’re interested in freelancing, I would recommend her class.)

Getting bylines helped me secure even more contacts, and I now write for three websites on a consistent basis. The past six months have been financially fruitful as well; I’ve made about $10,000 through freelance writing gigs. This, of course, doesn’t account for the 40% I’ve put aside to pay for freelance taxes. In fact, I may have to pay more now that the tax bill doesn’t allow freelancers to claim exemptions on expenses like WiFi and travel costs.

The products I receive don’t affect my coverage, but I only write about products I’ve tried. I mostly write about skincare products, but I’ve also been gifted candles, perfumes, shaving kits and makeup. The downside is I barely have enough room to store them all!

-Amanda 👡