Many a year ago when I was a teenager with a blog, a company offered me £20 to post a link on one of my posts. I couldn’t believe that I had been offered money, so I showed it to my dad to get his approval. From that point on, with any company that jumped into my inbox and asked me to post a link on my posts, I would forward the e-mail to my dad for his “it’s not dodgy” sign off. I set up a PayPal account (I remember having to lie about my age as I wasn’t old enough to set one up at the time), and that’s how I’d accept payments. Over time, the collaborations grew to me either posting fully sponsored blog posts written by somebody else for more £, and eventually, I started to receive free things too – from hair products, clothes, phone cases, jewellery, teeth whitening kits, invitations – to Paris (which I couldn’t attend), LFW, concerts… I couldn’t believe it.
I was so new to the whole world of making money online and receiving products for free that I quite frankly said yes to EVERYTHING. Sponsored post? Yes. Free stuff? Yes. Anything? Yes, yes, yes. The only things I ever turned down were things that I felt uncomfortable posting online – lingerie, 18+ sponsored post, etc.
As time passed, there were 2 things that got me to start considering my partnerships more carefully. One was starting a full-time job – the extra cash was nice during school and even vital at times if I’m honest, but having a comfortable monthly pay cheque gave me some breathing room to start to be selective. And then just… credibility. I remember when the credibility part hit me – I was probably still in my teens and did a collab with a children’s nail polish brand – obviously, I never used that nail polish again. I have no damn kids ya’ll and I certainly didn’t need children’s nail polish with my fully grown self. I realised – this… doesn’t make sense. I can’t say yes to everything just because it’s free.
Now we’re a few more years down the line; my PayPal account uses my real age, my dad doesn’t have to sign off any sponsorships and I’m definitely not advertising children’s nail-polish brands. That said, as the landscape of social media, blogging and YouTube grows, as does, it seems, the available number of collabs out there. However, with the good comes to bad – more collab opportunities also means more dodgy collab opportunities. So as you consider when it makes sense to say “yes”, here are a few tips I’ve learned along the way…
🏆 1. The credibility
In a world where everything is accompanied by a “#ad”, credibility has never felt as important of a commodity as it does right now. Your subscribers/readers/followers take what you say on board, and you don’t want them to waste their money buying a product that you’ve promoted which turns out to be overall crap. In the long run, it’s more harmful than it is beneficial to you. Credibility is probably what comes first when I am weighing up potential sponsorships/collabs; I don’t want to contribute to somebody wasting time and money buying a crappy product just for the short term instant gratification of getting something for free. You really won’t see me advertising anything that I didn’t think was worthwhile. Of course, I have to caveat – the flexibility to do this comes with flexibility in finances / the things I have – blogging is not my main gig, if I went a year without a single collab or sponsorship the impact to me would not be significant.
🚶🏾♀️ 2. The approach
Never be afraid to reach out to brands you want to work with directly – I’ve done this in the past and walked away with some great opportunities. However, when we flip the script and think about how brands approaches you, always remember that their approach sets the tone. There are 2 things I am wary of: (i) any “collab” e-mail that is addressed to my Instagram @ – to me this typically feels fishy in terms of credibility; as in, did you want to me work me, or you added my name to a database and used that to churn out your e-mail; (ii) any collab e-mail that doesn’t address me at all – perhaps opens with just a simple “Hey!”, “Hey Dear” or “Hey Doll!”, this is an instant turn off and a run-for-the-winds moment and more often than not, your e-mail is probably grouped with tons of others in a BCC blast. It doesn’t mean that the collab isn’t legit, but often, its a tail-tale sign that is isn’t.
🤝 3. The offer
With “influencing” / having an online presence certainly a growing phenomenon, naturally, what comes with that is a growing number of dodgy companies trying to take advantage of people to either grow their own brand in a back-door way, or, quite frankly, a growing number of scams. Here are some things to be wary of:
(i) Anything that requires you to put up your own money. A common one here is a random “insta brand” offering you an item for free but asking you to cover some costs, e.g. the cost of shipping (which typically is something ridiculous and unrealistic vs. typical shipping cost). Avoid. The so-called “company” is not interested in your advertisement, they’re interested in your $; (ii) Brand ambassadorships. Now, there is nothing wrong with being an ambassador for a brand, at all, I’ve done it myself before. However – some of new-age brands use it to get a ton of influencers advertising their products for nothing to return. Some of these brand ambassadorships run on the basis of “buy our product, advertise our product, and if you bring any people in then… maybe we’ll consider giving you a little perk too”. I would suspect that most of the time you end up working your ass off on your “ambassadorship” and referrals and receiving zilch in return. Remember – a partnership between a brand and content creator is not always solely for the purposes of converting impressions and clicks into buys, that is of course ideal and the main aim, but even just bringing awareness to that brand that could one day lead to a buy, albeit maybe at that point not be directly associated with you, is also a benefit for said brand.
🔑 4. The major key
Finally, as I round off these thoughts, I want to add that the main thing to consider when you’re thinking about working with a brand is that your work together is mutually beneficial. Often, in many avenues in life, when you’re not the “big company” you forgot that there should be something in it for you too, rather than you just feeling grateful. This applies with many things – even with jobs. For my first job, I was just desperate to get my foot in the door after graduating, but when I had my foot in the door with some years of experience under my belt, I felt like I had more power to drive my own narrative; like, I want to know that your company is the right fit for me, as much as you want to know that I’m the right fit for your company. A company reaching out to you sees some value in what you have to offer to them – so there should be a benefit in there for you too. Don’t be afraid to negotiate (and don’t be afraid to shoot high, often you can shoot high and land somewhere in the middle, vs. undercutting yourself from the jump).
And with that, I wish you all a great week ahead! 2 weeks into 2022, and I’m finally starting to feel like I’m getting the hang of it.