If you follow my other blog, Mostly Morgan, you might know that I have been moving away from working with brands as my main means of monetization. If you’re looking to blog full time, you get the most return through creating and selling your own products and services. And while I don’t think that it’s wise to completely rely on brand collaborations to support you, they are fun and when combined with other monetization tactics can be a great way to supplement your income.
A lot of bloggers are very lost, though, when it comes to working with brands. They see other people doing paid collabs, but figuring out how to land those collabs, how much to charge, and how to build a positive relationship with brands is where things get tricky.
Luckily for you, I’ve been doing brand collaborations for two years now and have learned a thing or two in that time.
Before you get started.
So I’m going to be a bit blunt here: If you haven’t established a following you shouldn’t try to work with brands.
Now, you don’t have to have a huge following and get hundreds of thousands of views a month. I usually say when you begin to get 100 visitors a day that is a good time to start. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. If you’re getting 30 views a day but have 10,000 followers on Instagram you can work with brands emphasizing an Instagram collaboration.
But I won’t go too far into all of these ‘what-ifs’ and potential loopholes or I will be typing all day. For simplicities sake, we are going to assume that your following is still in the beginning stages across the board, and before you start collaborating with brands you want to build your following up.
If you are reaching out and trying to collab before establishing yourself the relationship is going to be very one-sided and only benefiting you. The aim of collaborations is to create a mutually beneficial relationship with the brand: You use your platform to promote their product, thus generating sales, and in turn the brand provides you free product and compensation.
How to Find Brands to Collab With
There are three ways that you can get in touch with brands: Networks, you reaching out to the brand, the brand reaching out to you.
There are a ton of blogging networks that serve the purpose of getting brands and bloggers in touch. This is the most common way that I get in touch with brands.
- They take care of financials – you won’t risk the brand skipping out on paying you
- Effort free – you sign up once and then the network will reach out with any relevant opportunities
- High profile brands tend to go through networks
- You get paid less than if you were working with the brands directly because the network takes a cut
- Usually there are dozens of bloggers on the same campaign so you all publish similar content at the same time
- Communication goes through a middleman, which complicates things.
Reaching out to Brands
This one is the trickiest of all. It’s hard to send an email that says, “Hey, I like you so you should pay me to write about your product.” Instead you’re better off tango-ing with the brand for a bit. Follow them on social media, mention them on Twitter, tag them in relevant Instagram post. Get on their radar and then send an email.
- You get to be very selective in who you work with
- These can easily turn into long-term partnerships
- The brands are more likely to promote your post meaning more traffic
- The courting process can be long
- You are going to hear the word ‘no’ a lot more often than ‘yes’
- Asking to be paid when you’re the one who emailed them is an awkward art to master
Brand Reaching out to You
Once you reach a certain point in your blogging journey you will start to get five emails everyday from brands wanting to “collaborate.” I put collaborate in quotes because those emails tend to go a little something like this:
Here at obscure brand we love your blog! In fact, we are so fond of it that we added you to our program that sends this exact, non-personalized email to 862 other bloggers all at once! Neat, huh? Anyhow, we are hoping that you will write about our new product because it’s great and completely unrelated to your content!
And for your convenience, we’ve attached a pdf with everything you need to know plus a coupon for $.50 off! Because there is no way in Hell that we’ll actually be sending you the product. And if you’re REALLY lucky, and we like your post enough you will be PAID…
In promotion. We might tweet you out to our 1200 Twitter followers, no need to thank us!
Can’t wait to see your post!”
Don’t fall for those, please. That is not a collaboration – that is a brand that is trying to use you and your influence without offering anything in return. RUN!
If a brand really is interested in your blog they will send you a personalized email and you will be able to tell that they’ve actually looked at your blog. Now, a lot of brands who actually care and want to work with you still won’t want to pay you, at this point it’s up to you to decide whether or not you want to go forth, I’ll go into why you should ask for payment, later.
If you don’t want to work with them unless they pay you, still consider sending out a few tweets on their behalf so if they do decide to budget for paid collaborations you will still be on their radar.
- They chose you! That is awesome!
- When brands reach out it’s easier to ask for compensation
- If they like your first post you can almost gaurantee a longer term relationship
- Often you are just the victim of a mass emailer
- A lot of brands haven’t gotten on board with paying bloggers
- A lot of brands give you the go round round when it comes to actually paying you. They say they will and then won’t.
How Much to Charge (& why you should)
So this is the subject of debate for many bloggers: Should you accept product or promotion as compensation?
While of course my word is not law and you act on you own agency, but I say no.
By working for free you devalue yourself and you devalue the industry as a whole.
Bloggers don’t get much cred’. Most people hear the word ‘blog’ and think of 14 year old girls keeping an online diary, so it’s up to us to pave a way for bloggers and establish ourselves as a serious industry.
By only accepting paid collaborations you are saying, “Yes, the work I do is work and I deserve to be paid for the time, energy, and talent I have devoted to this promotion.”
The more people who demand pay, the more brands will be accepting of paying bloggers; but the opposite is also true. So do the industry as a solid, and know that you are deserving of compensation, blogging ain’t easy, yo!
So how much should you charge?
Ah, the age-old question of how much you should charge for sponsored posts. This question is asked 100 times in Facebook groups everyday and you’ll see all sorts of recommendations: most of them are wrong.
How you shouldn’t decide how much to charge:
- Crazy formulas that only a math major can deceipher
- By charging how much some other blogger charges
- By guessing how much you should charge
How to Write a Sponsored Post.
Here is where a lot of people get stuck. A sponsored post should never sound like a sponsored post. You audience will get bored and it’s not going to be a fun post to write, anyhow. You should always be integrating the brand into a post organically.
For example, let’s say that you’re writing a sponsored post for a shoe brand. You could write a post called “My Favorite Shoes” and talk all about how great these new shoes are, or you could write one of these posts:
- The Beginners Guide to Hiking (and looking good doing it!) – highlight how these shoes are perfect for hiking, and super cute, too!
- 12 Ways to Get Fit this Summer – exactly what it sounds like! Then mention how hiking is a fun way to get in shape and that the sponsored shoes are perfect to wear!
- Happy Feet, DIY Pampering for your Feet – in this one you can talk about how important it is to take care of your feet (they carry you around all day!) talk about how when you’re out and about these shoes support your arches, and then include a DIY foot soak recipe or something.
The key is to write a post that is going to appeal to your audience. A few people might care about your favorite shoes, but people are way more likely to get excited over a post that has actionable advice for them to follow.
Red flags, yo!
A lot of brands try to get sneaky and take advantage of uninformed bloggers by making demands that you need to call out. The big ones are asking for do-follow links and not disclosing the relationship with the brand.
If a brand asks for do-follow links you can follow in my footsteps and send a sassy email, or you can choose to ignore them and move on. Do not go forth with the parntership. If they are asking for do-follow links they are sketchy and bad (or at the very least, uninformed) and you don’t want to partner with them.
Another thing that should send you running the other way: A brand asking you not to disclose your partnership. This happens more often than you might think and it’s illegal. If you are being compensated in anyway (be it money or product) you absolutely must disclose if you don’t want the fuzz beating down your door. (Or maybe not quite that extreme, but you can get into BIG trouble.)
Again, send a sassy email or move on, but do not continue with the parntership.