The good stuff is coming your way… I can assure you of that. So I’m back with an all new social media coffee chat and this time we are diving even deeper into the details, especially for you fellow influencers and content creators AND those of you who own your own business/brand and want to collaborate with others to grow your audience! Today we’re talking about collaborations and partnerships. But, if you’re just getting caught up with this series, here are the first three installments so you can read all the details:
Collaborations and Partnerships
So now, we are talking our way through partnerships and collaborations… how to secure them, how to meet your deadlines when you’re working through brand deals and how to make sure they are a success! I’ll preface this by saying I don’t pretend to be some social media guru or genius, I’m simply sharing some of the disciplines that have worked for me through my 13+ year career in this industry and what I do to make sure my clients are happy with the end product of any partnership I promote.
Needless to say, the world of “influencing” can get such a bad reputation because of a few bad apples [yes I said it because it’s true] but I assure you the colleagues, friends and acquaintances I align myself with truly give 110% to their careers and I think that’s why we continue to perform no matter what our follower count is. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… quality over quantity, always.
So, that can happen in a few different capacities and scenarios. As a partner of RewardStyle, I am contacted monthly by some of their retailers to participate in paid campaigns. A handful of these I regularly work with include Walmart, JCrew, Anthropologie, eBay, Nordstrom and more. We have an online platform where we can communicate and interact, negotiate these collaboratons with our brand liaisons, submit draft content and that is a large component of the partnerships I take on.
Having said that, a lot of the brands I work with email me to directly to work on a post/blog series/etc and that’s great because we aren’t having to go through any type of third party to talk contract details, payment terms, and/or content approval.
Some influencers choose to work with a management agency who essentially acts as their PR person to pitch campaigns to specific brands and businesses, though they can take anywhere from 20-30% of their compensation, depending on the rates they have signed onto. I looked into working with an agency earlier this year and interviewed 3 incredible firms, but ultimately decided I wanted to be able to manage these ongoing relationships on my own [a blessing and a curse I assure you]. Having a part-time assistant helps me work through those daily tasks I would’ve otherwise offloaded and for me it’s been the right decision during this season of my career [however she heads back to Dallas at the end of the summer and I am devastated to lose her, so I’ll be hiring someone to replace her soon!].
Having said that, there have been other times I have sent a brand a DM on Instagram and/or reached out to their PR/social media department via email to have a conversation about opportunities and campaigns coming up. Here are a number of brands I’ve had the privilege to partner with over my tenure… crazy to see so many household brands in this list and very thankful I have had these types of opportunities come my way:
So, when you “pitch” yourself, that’s when you send them your 1-page media kit, which highlights audience demographics + readership, engagement + reach percentages, brands you’ve partnered with, etc. Basically, that acts as your resume to any business you want to work with to show who you are, what you post and how you think a partnership would benefit both involved parties.
I know a lot of people get really nervous about sending their media kit, but this is where it’s OK to brag a bit–show off those natural strengths and talents and include a few client referrals to demonstrate your proof of performance.
Not wanting to spend a ton of money on a media kit?? You can find these templates easily on Etsy and I’m linking a few samples below… all priced at under $20 and completely + easily customizable with Canva/PicMonkey, too.
One thing I learned early on in this industry is that you’ve got to have tough skin because you’re going to be told “NO” all the time… don’t take it personal because it’s business, but at the end of the day, you and whatever brand you’re partnering with need to “mesh well” — that way everyone gets something out of the collab and it makes sense for both parties. If you’ve yet to join an affiliate platform, I would highly recommend submitting your credentials to become a partner. RewardStyle is my #1 recommendation, but other fantastic options include ShopStyle, Cohley, Linqia, Amazon Associates, AspireIQ, Fohr Brand, Shopping Links–there are a TON out there so make sure you do your due diligence!
Within these platforms, you’ll want to set your rates for collabs, input your bio + detailed info, upload photography to share with brands and in some instances, you can submit your very own PR pitch. And don’t ever be intimidated to step outside your comfort zone and simply ASK TO WORK TOGETHER… I’ve secured some of my biggest campaigns just by being honest, upfront and showing my desire to work together after showing a brand organically on my blog, stories, and Instagram.
In most circumstances, a brand will hire you for a one-time campaign to “test the waters” and see how your audience responds to their product and/or brand. It’s like a first date of sorts to see if there is a natural fit… if a one-off campaign proves to be successful, that’s when a long-term conversation can take place.
One thing I highly recommend is that if you’re in talks with a business for a long-term partnership, ask to get on a conference call to chat expectations, deadlines, overall goal for the campaign, and so on. That way, you can ask questions + brainstorm, pose your point-of-view in how you plan to stand out to show your unique vantage point, and demonstrate the value you bring to the table! This helps tremendously so everyone on the team knows the end goal and how we plan to get there.
Honestly, a lot of it is trial and error. But I’ll be upfront, I turn down probably 75-80% of the collabs that come my way. Why? Either they aren’t a good fit, pose a potential conflict of interest, timing is off, or I just don’t have the ability to take on another project [which seems to be my current vice as I always say “yes” and then regret it later].
When I’m deciding if I do want to work with a brand/business and/or boutique, I spend a good amount of time researching the brand, subscribing to their emails/newsletters, digging through their social media platforms for other people they work with/what they stand for, checking press releases and more than anything… just following my gut instinct.
One of my favorite pro tips I ALWAYS share with people when I’m speaking at a conference? Go above and beyond… if a brand asks for a story session of 3-4 slides for a specific campaign, delivery 5-6 instead. Over deliver and you’ll build credibility and they’ll appreciate the “extra” bit of help.
I know SO many people who are simply afraid to ask about compensation in this influencing world, but half the battle is getting beyond yourself and your own insecurities. Remember, this can be a full-time career so you have to treat it like one. Other industries don’t work for free and neither should you, no matter how many followers you have. There are micro-influencers with significant power so don’t ever let that follower count get the best of you.
In all fairness, you have to determine your worth… simply ask youself “is it worth my time”? You want to be motivated to give each collaboration 110% so find that sweet spot and tell them why. A simple rule of thumb is to charge $100 for every 10K of followers you have, BUT that can depend on your engagement/reach/etc so be sure not to undervalue your abilities.
There have been lots of instances where I’ve done a few campaigns with brands that are under my “normal” rate just to test my audience and engage their interest and then after a successful campaign I’ve gone back to the brand to ask for more $$$.
One final note about payment: take for instance the real estate market… it’s VERY rare to make your first offer your best and final, so don’t ever accept a brand’s initial $$$ offer= there is ALWAYS room for negotiation, whether that be extra money or fewer obligations, etc.
Now onto contracts: I know SO many influencers who don’t read the fine print and I PROMISE you [from personal experience] that you can get burned and lose out on lots of money if you fail to read every single detail. Protect yourself, ask contract questions upfront, and take notes to a lawyer who can help direct you. One of the best business decisions I’ve done in the past year is bring on a family-friend who just happens to practice law. He reads through all of my contracts to decipher the fine print and red lines any items we can’t agree to… it has saved me SO much aggravation and helped me secure more money for social media image rights, too.
I think now a lot of people would tell you no, but I disagree completely. We all know social media platforms [Facebook + Instagram specifically are the main culprits] are constantly changing algorithms and their methods of how we see and don’t see content, therefore I’ve been taught that you ALWAYS need to have some type of media that is yours and yours alone, i.e. a blog and/or personal website. Not only is this good for the short-term, but it’s a place you can guide your followers to for recipes, room reveals, travel guides, holiday gift guides and more long-term content you want your audience to be able to reference.
Another pro tip: Don’t skip and take the easy route… really put thought into your blog’s design, layout, features and abilities, as well as the information you put on your website. You want to make sure it’s mobile friendly, easy to navigate, avoid pop-ups and make it look professional. Not only will followers see this, but potential brand partners will as well.
OK now here is where my personal experience comes into play a bit. I know a LOT of influencers who make seven figures [or more] a year… not only from sponsorships, but affiliate commissions, brand deals, clothing lines, etc. No, I am not in that realm by any means, but sponsorships do make up a good portion of my income and anyone who says you can’t make money as a social media influencer + content creator haven’t seen the ins and outs of this industry.
Did you know brands actually save MILLIONS of dollars using influencers rather than paid supermodels for high $$$ campaigns?? Just think, they can hire 100+ influencers to do the work of one celebrity/model/etc and get WAY more bang for their buck = extra reach, engagement, real people relatability and so on!
But that doesn’t happen overnight… consistency is key. I have worked from the day I turned 16 and I think my drive that my parents instilled in me from an early age gives me the ambition to always work hard. Just be prepared to put in the work = on average, I work 50+ hours each week with all the front-facing stuff you see on Instagram and my blog, but a lot of those hours are the behind-the-scenes details including emails, conference calls, financial records, tax input, photoshoots, social media management, pitching brands, and more [not to mention two busy kiddos and a hubby who is a work-aholic too].
As always, I enjoy focusing on the positive, but let’s face it… just as in real life, there is the good, the bad AND the ugly and this industry has its ups and downs, too. One thing that I strive for is that I ALWAYS try to respond to every email and DM I receive… whether they come from followers or brands. I think it’s important to acknowledge that someone took time out of their day to write to you and it’s courteous to do the same in regard.
Having said that, sometimes you’ve simply got to say “no”, but you can always be gracious when giving your answer. A simple thank you will suffice, but don’t tell them to reach out in the future if you actually don’t want them to… it’s a waste of your time AND theirs as well.
And though I hate to even have to mention this, I’ve had to walk away from a few collaborations in my time and it’s not something I take lightly as when I sign on to do something, I always try to stick with it until its done. However, sometimes even after you bend over backwards to make something work OR a client always asks for edits on content OR they don’t keep their end of the deal, you’ve got to walk away. I had a long-term partnership with a local brand that after 6 months of fighting for, I was just done. As much as I hated to walk away, it gave me power knowing I did everything I could to make it work. Sometimes, things like that will happen and again you have to know your worth!!
So there you have it, the long-winded version of anything and everything you want to know about brand deals, partnerships and collaborations. I am certain lots of these things you already know, but if not, I hope this coffee chat helped in some way!
As always, I love to hear your feedback and questions AND anything else you’re wanting to know for the next installment! Get going and make it a great day 😉
Do you have any questions I didn’t answer in this post about collaborations and partnerships? Let me know in a comment below!