Working with Brands in 2018 – Everything You Need to Know + Free Pitch Guide
I don’t know about you, but I started this whole blogging thing so that I could live life on my own terms, spend more time with my babies, make a lot of money, and enjoy the sweeter things in life.
Last night, I sat on our front porch with Tommy on my lap and Emma on the ground in front of me drawing on the driveway with pink chalk. We picked wildflowers and watched the sunset. I didn’t worry about waking up early for work, answering to a demanding boss, or struggling to pay the rent.
For the first time in my life, I am happy with my job and comfortable with my income.
How did I get here?
A lot of different things contributed to my success and made this all possible. Over the past 12 months, I have worked hard to build a blogging business that allows me to work from home, pay my bills, and enjoy life with my two small babies.
A fair amount of my income can be attributed to working with brands and businesses. Last month, I hit my first $500-day from my blog, and I explained the details of how that happened in this article. In summary, I make my money from creating and selling my own stuff and promoting and selling other people’s stuff.
When I work with a brand, I’m making money from promoting and/or selling their stuff to my audience.
It’s a great way to supplement your income, and pretty much anyone can do it.
I’ve been collaborating with brands since my first month of blogging, and I have learned a lot through trial and error.
This post probably contains affiliate links. You can read my full disclosure here.
Before you start working with brands.
This might be painful to hear, but it’s something that needs to be said: If you don’t have an audience yet, you can’t really work with brands, because you don’t have anything to offer them. You will absolutely be wasting your time pitching to a brand if you don’t have readers or followers.
If you’re just getting started, then make sure you set up your blog the right way following these steps and make sure you’re steadily increasing your blog traffic with these strategies. You don’t need a HUGE audience, you just need an engaged audience that fits with the product you’re promoting.
If you’re going to make money as an affiliate through any outside company, you need to get set up on a self-hosted website. I get my hosting through Siteground and it’s only $3.95/month. Their site speed is the best and their customer service is unmatched.
Set up your blog, write a few articles, and take some time to really narrow down your niche, decide who you’re writing for, and what kind of brands you want to work with. Write a few articles that you can present as samples when you’re sending a pitch (more about that in a minute) ….
What is the point of working with brands?
The whole purpose of working with brands is to create a mutually beneficial relationship between your two companies. Your blog will serve as a platform that promotes a product or service for the brand. And the brand will get access and exposure to a whole new audience (your audience).
What do you get out of it?
The brand or business will usually compensate you with product and payment, in exchange for your work and the exposure they get with your audience.
Hence, the reason that you need an audience.
How to start working with brands.
There are basically three ways that you can start working with brands. You can join sponsored networks and get matched up with brands that fit your niche, you can reach out to brands that you want to work with directly, or brands can reach out to you if they want to work with you.
Working with brands through sponsored networks.
Here are three popular blogging networks that you can and should join TODAY:
For my full list of 50+ sponsored networks that match you with great brands, sign up for my blogging course here.
When you join sponsored networks, you simply fill out the profile section and you are matched with opportunities that fit your niche. Activate by Bloglovin’ is one of my favorites.
Here is an example of a project that I worked on with Trivago through Activate by Bloglovin’!
Working with brands that you find on your own.
The great thing about finding your own brand to work with, is the full creative control. When you work through a sponsored network, you have to abide by their rules and follow their guidelines in order to get paid.
When you select a brand to work with on your own, and you formulate a contractual agreement based on your own terms, you are in the driver’s seat.
Here’s an example of a small company that I reached out to for a partnership, landed the gig, and had a great experience with.
When you’re reaching out to brands, it’s a bit of a numbers game. The more people you pitch to, the more chances you’ll have of landing a gig. So, make a list of 10+ companies that you want to work with, formulate your pitch, and send it over. Do this at least once a week.
It’s extremely beneficial if you have already engaged with this brand and shown your support to them on social media. Like, follow, comment, and even tag them in posts relating to their brand. This pulls you up on their radar and makes it easier to connect with them when you send them a pitch.
Working with brands that reach out to you.
When certain brands reach out to you, they will sometimes send a generic email template and offer you “free product” in exchange for a blog post. Those companies are rarely worth collaborating with. I never recommend working for free.
But sometimes, if a company reaches out to you and sends a personalized email that demonstrates how much they like you and your blog, and they appreciate what you are bringing to the partnership, then it is worth considering.
Just send them a response with your sponsored post fees, your conditions, and an estimated timeline for work to be completed.
It is seriously that simple.
What you need to know about working with brands.
There are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to working with brands. I’m sure many bloggers have different experiences, but this is what I’ve learned from mine.
Choose your collaborations wisely.
As your blog grows, you will get pitches from companies that want you to share their products on your blog. There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to responding to these offers, but keep in mind that your audience trusts you and they want to see specific things from you. Think less about what that brand/business wants from you and think more about what your audience wants from you.
And always be sure to follow FTC guidelines, to protect yourself legally.
Brands sometimes want you to work in exchange for product.
My very first brand offer came in when I had been blogging for just a month and had less than 1,000 followers on social media. They offered me free product and I gladly accepted.
But, didn’t I just tell you that I don’t recommend working for free?
It’s true. I don’t recommend working for free, but you also have to weigh out the pros and the cons of working in exchange for product. If you feel that the value of the product is equal to the value that you’re bringing to the company, then it’s okay to work in exchange for product the first few times. Especially if you’re just getting started and building your portfolio.
But sponsored work is hard work. Don’t sell yourself short.
You’ll get some rejection and some silence.
No matter how great your writing may be or how many followers you have, some companies just won’t be interested in working with a blogger or influencer…and that’s okay.
Maybe they don’t have this collaboration in their marketing budget, or maybe they don’t understand the power of a blogger’s voice in 2018. Either way, you will face some rejection, and you will get a lot of unanswered emails and phone calls.
You have to have thick skin in this business.
Let it roll off your back and keep pushing forward. Working with brands can be very fun and rewarding. And when you find your groove and you’re working with companies that you love, the whole process just becomes a breeze.
How much should you charge for a sponsored post?
When you work within a sponsored network, there will either be a listed price, or a request for your own quote. This makes it a little easier on you. You can either agree to the payment and conditions, or you can offer an amount and your own conditions and await their response. The worst they can say is no.
When you’re pitching to a company on your own, with a specific fee in mind, you need to consider the amount of work you’ll be putting into this project. Sponsored posts usually require research, writing, editing, search engine optimization, Pinterest graphics, social shares, and sometimes more.
This requires time and effort and is therefore deserving of compensation. You’ll have to decide for yourself what the compensation should be, depending on your abilities, your efforts, your conditions, your following, and your financial needs.
As a very simple example, I had a company reach out to me when I was a brand new baby blogger. They offered me free product (valued at $99) and I accepted, as mentioned above.
A few months later, I had 900 followers and I decided to make my first pitch to a brand. I charged $50 + product for my sponsored posts back then, and several companies agreed to that rate. I was inexperienced, I was blogging as a hobby, and I knew nothing about search engine optimization. But $50 was awesome for me at that time! Now, I have over 20,000 followers across my social channels and email lists, and my base fee is $249 for a sponsored post.
Putting it all together.
I know that we’ve covered a lot of ground here today, and there is so much to learn about this blogging stuff.
Ultimately, these are the important things to keep in mind: You are the business owner and you call the shots. Make your fees and your conditions clear from day one, and always follow the FTC guidelines. Join some sponsored networks and apply to gigs as they become available through these networks. It takes some work, but it’s worth it. Research and pitch to companies that fit into your niche.
If you’re anything like me, you want to select sponsored work that is fulfilling to your personal brand and financially rewarding. And think about it: if you were to charge $100 for a single sponsored post, and you did one sponsored post each week, that’s an extra $400 in your bank account every month. That extra money looks goooood to this busy, tired, work-from-home mama!
It’s worth every bit of the sacrifice to work from home, make my own money, and live life on my own terms.
If you want to learn how to turn your blog into a money-making business in six months or less, sign up for my blogging course here.