Boxwood Avenue

How to Work With A Brand as a Blogger

Chloe | Boxwood Ave.19 Comments

I have recently received a lot of questions about working with brands: 

How do bloggers work with brands?

How can I work with a brand?

Do you get paid to work with brands?

I figured quite a few people would benefit from a post dedicated to the subject, so here we go. I am sharing everything that has worked for me, but I am sure there is a lot more to be learned... Some of these things I am hesitant to share, but I truly believe we are all in this together and we all benefit from shared knowledge. 

How do bloggers work with brands? boxwoodavenue.com

First off, getting a big contract involves a lot of luck. In a sea of bloggers and influencers it is hard to stand out. Even in a niche subject, there are probably 100 other qualified and amazing people similar to you. This shouldn't discourage you though, this should just give you motivation to work hard, do well, and improve your craft. 

My biggest contracts happened through a bit of luck, but I continue to work with these brands because of hard work. 

So after luck, I will say good, really good content is key to successfully working with brands time and time again. 

Recently, I worked with a company, and I know I totally let them down. The agreement was for trade only, and because of this, I put it on the back burner. I was late on my deadlines, and I felt terrible. It's not how I usually work, so I thought for a long time about why I had allowed myself to not deliver on time. When it came down to it, I realized that since I wasn't getting paid, I didn't value the relationship as much as I normally do, because I didn't feel the company valued me. 

If the partnership isn't mutually beneficial as well as mutually valued, you're better off to just buy the product yourself. I don't advise entering into a partnership to "get free stuff". Ask yourself the question: will my readers benefit from learning about this product? Do I genuinely love this product? Is this partnership a good fit? 

Payment vs Product

I think this is an important topic that we all need to think long and hard about: yes, it is nice to receive free product, but at the end of the day, many of us are treating our blogs as businesses, and it is not fair to anyone in the industry to accept product without compensation. Our grocery stores and gas stations don't accept promotion or product as payment, and neither should we. I think we should all take a firm stance and require compensation for partnerships.

Even if that compensation is simply $50, our relationships with brands will be more solid on both sides of the agreement. I know it is uncomfortable to talk money with a brand, but they are a business, and the employee you are communicating with is getting paid to communicate with you...why shouldn't you also get paid for your end of the relationship?

Of course, I see exceptions to this - maybe you're putting together a gift guide, or decorating an entire room and are in need of pillows and curtains, or maybe you realllllly love a certain small business and want to feature them on your blog anyways...you may find it reasonable to accept trade for promotion.

Content that is created specifically for a brand (especially a large brand), I am a firm believer in monetary compensation. Meaning, if the post is titled "Living Room Update with Brand Name", you should be getting paid on top of receiving the necessary products for the post. However, if you are doing an entire living room update and need new pillows, new curtains, a new rug, etc... I would find it fair to trade a mention in the blog post and shout-out on social media for the product.

Ultimately each partnership is unique, and you have to do what feels right for your blog.

How much do bloggers get paid? 

Farmhouse Kitchen with french stove from boxwoodavenue.com

When I first started out I was paid $200 for a blog post, and I couldn't believe someone was willing to pay me $200 to write about them. I was so honored. Slowly, the partnerships became $500, then $1000, then $2000, and so on. Bloggers with huge page views are paid well over $10,000 for a campaign - so just because you "don't have very many page views or followers" doesn't mean you aren't worth getting paid! With each contract I feel so grateful to be working with the brand, and always aim to exceed expectations.

I was hesitant to share numbers, but I decided I would because I feel like it is something that isn't talked about, and when I first started out I felt really alone and unsure of what to charge for my work.

It's an odd thing when a company asks for your rates and you have NO CLUE what your friends are charging or what is reasonable. We need to know our value and our worth :). So I am sharing this with you in hopes that you will feel comfortable charging for your work, you are amazing, don't forget it! 

There are payment calculators out there that factor in page views, social media, etc..., but ultimately you know your readership, and you know where they find value. Each partnership is different and payment should be customized to fit the specific requirements of the post. 

Some partnerships might take very little time and only require an instagram post, while some partnerships might involve months of work and the hiring of a photographer. Evaluate the workload for each partnership and then determine adequate compensation for your time and influence.

Exceed Expectations

With each partnership I always aim to exceed expectations. They want 5 photos? I provide them with 10. They would like an instagram post and a twitter post? I'll share an instagram story and a facebook post as well. Remember when I mentioned we are in a really big sea? Exceeding expectations will help you stand out and develop a really solid relationship with the brand. 

One of my favorite companies to work with is Home Depot. They allow for creative freedom, the lines of communication are always open, their contracts are straightforward and clear cut, and I know they value my work just as much as I value their business.

My relationship with them began as product compensation only, but I was so excited to work with them, I didn't care - I had so much fun creating the post. They were one of the first brands that I ever worked with! I went above and beyond, and since then, we have worked together on many projects. If there is a company you'd really like to work with, and they approach you with an unpaid partnership, you might find an exception to the compensation rule. Just make sure you aren't getting taken advantage of! 

With that said, I can 100% guarantee that you will be contacted, probably daily, with completely bogus deals. Be weary of SEO critiquing services, "guest posters", and any brand that approaches you without any sort of compensation. 

First of all, SEO is a lot of hard work that takes a lot of time. It happens over years of building your blog, I truly believe it's something you can do yourself. If in doubt, watch a few youtube videos on the subject.

Striped linen pillow and vintage green demi johns from boxwoodavenue.com

Moving onto "guest posters" - these are automated emails sent from random websites asking to guest post on your blog, sometimes they'll ask you to add a link into an existing post, and other times they'll ask to post about a specific topic on your website in exchange for $50. Delete, delete, delete! Pay attention to the topics they want to post about though, because you're probably ranking for those terms...so write a few more organic posts about that topic! ;)

Lastly - let's talk about brands that approach you with strange forms of compensation. This will really get me fired up! Recently we were approached by a large sandwich chain asking to post about their sandwiches using a specific hashtag. They would then determine if our post was a "top performer", and if it was, we would receive a $50 gift card. I am sharing this story because I know that just starting out, this might seem really personalized and flattering to be contacted by "insert large company", but please do not fall for this, they are completely taking advantage of you and your blog. 

We have also been approached by companies asking us to create "inspiration" posts using their products - basically designing a room with their website photos & products. This is upsetting because the large companies that ask this are paying an advertising agency to generate these emails. Once again, completely taking advantage of you and your blog. They are getting free advertising and link backs to their products for free by using you!

I usually just don't reply to those emails, unless it's a company I'd consider working with in the future, then I will reply with something like: 

"Thanks for contacting us! At this time we aren't able to take on unpaid partnerships; however, we'd love to work with you if your marketing budget ever allows! Have a great day!"

The ol' "What's your rate?" question:

Fresh herbs in vintage french mass jar farmhouse kitchen boxwoodavenue.com

Most companies serious about a partnership will either have a specified rate, or will ask you what your rate is for their request. At first I was very intimidated to reply with my rates, but my friend Julie Blanner helped me gain confidence. Now, I am comfortable replying with something like: 

"Thanks so much for reaching out! I love "insert brand!" and know my readers will too! My rate for "insert content request" is "insert rate". I look forward to working together!" 

Simple and sweet, and aim high! You can always negotiate down the road. Remember that you are worth it! If they turn down your rate, they didn't value your work, and it's okay to move on. Especially if they reply with, "we don't have a marketing budget at this time." Just shake your head, and move on (graciously - I don't advise sending a less than nice email in response).

Now...

Maybe you're approached by a brand, but you don't feel like it'd be a good fit for your blog. I always try to refer the brand to friends I feel would be a good fit. This encourages creativity over competition, and it's always nice to be able to share the love with a blogging friend! 

Wow, this post is getting to be really long, but I've still got more for you...

How do bloggers get approached by a brand?

I keep saying "approached by a brand", and you're thinking, "how do I get approached by a brand?" Remember that luck thing? That's a lot of it, but networking is KEY!!! Vital! Make friends with other bloggers, attend a conference, join facebook groups with other bloggers!

Networking is really important, but there are some other tricks you can use to get noticed. First of all, hashtags on social media. If there's a brand you'd like to work with, start using their hashtag and interacting with them on the platform (primarily: instagram).

You should also know that most brands have a social media person running their platforms. Connecting with them is a great way to get noticed. You can easily find out who this person is by using one of our best friends: Google.

Search on LinkedIn "brand name social media or public relations" and I bet you will find out who is running the social for that company. It's important not to be slimy about this though, only reach out and connect if you feel like it's going to be the perfect fit for your blog and their brand! 

When reaching out to work with a company you can say something like: 

"Hi {Insert Name}, My name is "Chloe" I write a blog called "Boxwood Avenue". My blog focuses on simple living, from-scratch recipes, and farmhouse design [make sure topics are relevant to brand].

I love "brand name", and I think my readers would love to know more about you! I have been using your products for years (or recently discovered product, etc...), and it has {insert benefit of using brand}. 

I would love to work together on {insert collaboration idea}! 

You can visit my blog here and check out my instagram here. {make sure to add links}

Thanks so much, I look forward to hearing from you!"

You also may find it relevant to mention your monthly page views and stats from previous campaigns or engagement rates. 

It might take months before you hear back, if ever, but the worst they can say is no. The best they can say is YES! And you'd be surprised! If the brand you reach out to is a great fit for both you and the brand, you both benefit from the partnership, but don't be discouraged if you never hear back. 

Now, once you get a contract, my number one tip is: COMMUNICATE!

Wait, did I say contract? Yes! Get. A. Contract.

Contracts

Get everything the brand expects you to provide in writing. Ask for deadlines, shot angles, and key messaging. Most brands will send over a PDF file outlining the terms of the agreement that will often include a contract. If you are getting paid, a contract is very important for you and for the brand. Always push for one! 

French crate in kitchen with potted plant and kitchen mixer | boxwoodavenue.com

A contract will lay out everything you need to know about your relationship with the company. This may include noncompete clauses, nondisclosure agreements, and compensation periods. Print out every contract you sign and keep it on file.

I have had to reference past contracts many times when presented with new opportunities. You wouldn't want to accidentally jeopardize a relationship because of a noncompete in an earlier contract. I actually almost ruined a really great relationship because I worked with one of their competitors down the road. If in doubt, reach out to your contact at the company before signing a new contract with a competitor! 

If you are just starting out, you might not realize that at the end of the campaign, you are expected to send an invoice for your work. Some brands might also ask that you fill out a W-9 (I keep a current one on my desktop for easy access). If you incurred any additional costs throughout the campaign (like product costs) make sure to add that on to your invoice. For example, if you are working with a wine company, and they asked you to purchase the wine, that cost should be added to your invoice, make sure to specify this in your contract at the beginning of your partnership! 

Be sure to keep all emails saved as well. Once I was asked to re-shoot an entire video because of formatting. It turns out, I created the video the way it was initially asked of me (via email). Luckily I had the email saved so I was able to reference it and avoid reshooting. So, save emails! 

Contracts are also handy when developing your content. For example, I have an upcoming partnership and they have asked me to submit photos and messaging for approval 48 hours before the posts go live. They have also given me key topics they'd like me to touch on. Keeping this contract on file helps me make sure I am fulfilling my end of the partnership.

In summary: 

  • Luck 
  • Networking 
  • Hard Work - go above and beyond! 
  • Know your worth! 
  • Communicate! 
  • Mutual Value & Benefits

I hope this post was helpful to you if you are jumping into the sea of blogging. Sometimes it's a lonely world out there, if you ever have any questions or would like to connect, my virtual door is always open! 


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