So you’re a blogger and you just got your first collaboration inquiry from a brand? Congrats! It took me almost a year of blogging to land my first collaboration so I completely understand your excitement. More likely than not, this collaboration (and others in the future) won’t be compensated. How do you know if this collaboration is worth your time and effort? Is it okay to say yes to collaborations that don’t pay? Obviously there is no right answer because blogging doesn’t have universal rules but I’m going to dig into this topic and give you my two cents!
When to say YES to a Collaboration
You already use (and love) the product or service. Collaborating with a brand that you’re already familiar with is practically a no brainer and the best scenario. When you authentically love a brand, you can authentically endorse it. Your personal experiences with the brand can also add credibility to the content you’re creating. Chances are, if you’re a fan of something you will naturally want to share it with your friends, coworkers, etc. That’s how you should see this collaboration opportunity – just an extension of sharing something good with your network. You’re getting recognized by a brand you like and perhaps for some gifted products, you get to continue to share your love for them.
Example: I’ve loved Molly Moon’s ice cream ever since I moved to Seattle five years ago. I’m also a big fan of their company values and what they stand for. Naturally, I would share my enthusiasm for the brand on my social media. Eventually the MM team noticed and I began a relationship with them – and it really just happened because I started as a devoted consumer. An example of a collaboration I have done with Molly Moon’s is they provided me with a gift card to their shop in exchange for me hosting an Instagram giveaway for them. I share about MM in the same way that I did before. Truly, the only thing that has changed is sometimes I go to their events and get to enjoy their ice cream for free now and then.
Your personal brand is the right fit for the company or brand.
PR companies and brands know that they get the most bang for their buck* when they choose people who are on brand. Why? Their customers and clients will find you more relatable. Consumers like to see “real women” model clothes which is why fashion blogs are so popular. When your brand is seeking to appeal to those of a certain lifestyle, it would make sense to have people that emulate that type of lifestyle to be your spokespeople right? (*You might not be getting cash money, but consider the value of the products or services you’re gifted.)
How do you take a chance on a brand that’s new to you? What if you hate the products once you receive them? When I was new to collabs, there were a few times when I really didn’t feel confident about what I was posting but I just held up my end of the deal out of obligation. (Pains me to admit that.) Nowadays I only say yes if I’m really sure or if I’ve done my due diligence and am willing to give it a chance. I usually say upfront that it is up to my discretion whether or not I will share about the gifted product. This sets the expectation that I will give it a try, but I’m not getting myself into a sticky situation where I promise something before I’ve even tried it.
Example: In this post, I’m wearing a midi dress that I was gifted from J.Jill. In full disclosure, I’m new to the brand however J.Jill was the right fit for my blog. How do I know that? I did my due diligence and researched before saying yes. You should always try to do your research whether that be a Google search or reaching out to a fellow blogger that has worked with the brand. Two of my friends Jenn and Katrina collaborate with J.Jill as well and I trust and respect them. So naturally I trust the companies they work with. Additionally, J.Jill’s website told me all I needed to know:
We have a relaxed approach to style. Never complicated, always easy. The perfect balance of comfort and fashion, designed for real life.
If you’ve been a reader of tiny cup of cake then you know that the statement above completely aligns with my personal brand. I definitely have a relaxed approach to style. I’m all about comfortable style that’s made for the everyday girl. That’s who I am and that’s who I aim to inspire. So, here we are. I’m so excited to work with J.Jill because I know it’s a company I’d love to support. After getting my hands on some of their clothes I’m also a big fan of the quality too. This dress is the comfiest and works for so many occasions. (You need it. There are pockets.) They simply gifted me products that I in turn really love, so I’m sharing them with you.
When to Say NO to a Collaboration
You just don’t have the capacity to deliver what the brand wants.
It’s one thing to be given a long list of deliverables for a paid campaign because that’s work that you are entering a business agreement to do. When it comes to unpaid campaigns, there comes a point where you have to take a step back and evaluate two things. Is this going to be worth your time and effort? Do you have the capacity to deliver what is being asked? I think it’s safe to make the general assumption that we all enjoy free things but sometimes that’s not enough. Obviously if blogging is your primary source of income, then this won’t apply to you. I’m talking to the people who blog as a side hobby like myself. There are certain projects that you simply cannot take on because you have your day job to focus on or your wedding to plan. You know, real life stuff. That definitely takes priority and sometimes you can’t put your real life on the back burner just to get a free watch.
Example: I have done some collabs with PR companies that are promoting new movies. When I was in college, it was a little easier for me to fit those types of collabs in my schedule. Plus, I was newer to blogging so I said yes to a lot more. One of the asks for a movie release was that I write a post sharing several outfit ideas that were related to the theme of the movie. The company offered to provide some advanced screening tickets for me to give away to readers. Oh, and the ask was for this post to go live in about two weeks. I said no thank you because I didn’t have time on top of my classes, midterms, and part time job. I also didn’t have a regular blog photographer at the time. (If it was a paid collaboration then I would have weighed the pros and cons to determine if I could adjust my schedule and get a photographer. Since it was for free, without even free tickets for myself, I said no thanks.)
The collaboration is not mutually beneficial.
Unfortunately you will probably get at least one email that is portrayed as a “collaboration” but is actually a brand asking for you to work for them for literally nothing in return. Not even offering product in exchange for your work. Some brands may try to reel you in by offering the possibility of social media shares or that they may consider you for a paid campaign in the future. Here’s the thing. There is no guarantee and you are worth more than the empty promise of social media exposure that you can get from another company that actually values your partnership. Just say no to these types of “collaborations” because they are not benefiting anyone but the brand.
Example: Below is an excerpt from an email that I received from a billion dollar company recently. They wanted me to promote their brand and in return give me literally nothing. It’s disrespectful and truthfully a waste of time. The brand wants me to do their marketing team’s job for nothing in return and they don’t even care that I don’t get to personally experience the product I’m supposed to write about. Hard. Pass.
Would you be interested in helping us announce our newest collection (as your editorial calendar allows) by writing a post on your blog? If so, I’d be happy to send you exclusive launch materials which will include model images of the new collection, as well as editorial copy that previews its inspiration.
I hope my examples are helpful for any of you bloggers that are starting to collaborate with brands! Even if you’re not a new blogger, reevaluating how you partner with brands may be useful as you grow. Trial and error got me where I am today and I still have plenty to learn.
I also want to point out that this post is applicable if you’re being compensated with cash as well. The reason I am focusing on unpaid collaborations is because these are far more available and common in the industry. There are people who don’t accept any campaigns without being paid in cash. In my opinion, that’s a bit unrealistic if you’re just starting to grow your blog. That being said, the timeline of your blog is so personal that you should not compare yourself to others. It may take you a month or a year or three years to land your first (paid) collaboration. Regardless, it doesn’t hurt to be prepared when you do get approached for a collaboration. Please feel free to send me questions or other topics you’d like me to cover in the future!