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So a brand wants you to create a sponsored post for them. What do you do next? How much should you charge? How do you deal with contracts? And how do you ensure you get paid? Kat Buckley is a professional blogger at The Baking Explorer. She regularly works with brands and has worked with big names like KitchenAid, Tala and Le Creuset. And she is passionate about helping bloggers and social media influencers get paid for their work with brands. Here she shares her step-by-step guide to working with brands… (and getting paid!)
Once you get over the hurdle of pitching a brand, having them respond and want to work with you can leave you wondering what to do next.
Or if you haven’t pitched the brand, but you’ve had an email or social media message from a brand (or a PR company on behalf of a brand) asking about working with you, you may be wondering how to respond.
This guide is all about what to do next, how to figure out your fee, how to deal with contracts and how to get paid, plus it includes a free invoice template!
What to do when a brand contacts you about a potential collaboration
Is it genuine?
First of all, you need to establish who the email (or DM) is from and if it’s a genuine offer. Unfortunately, there are many unscrupulous people out there who try and take advantage of bloggers and influencers, so it’s important to check out the sender first and analyse the message.
Unless it is from a blue tick social media account (these accounts are verified by Insta, Facebook etc.), first check they are a legitimate brand. Unfortunately, in today’s world you can’t be too careful.
Don’t click on any links they send you. Instead, google the company name or product name. Is it a real product/company? Does the company have a professional looking website? Check out the person who sent it to you and look them up on Linked In. Do they exist and work for the company they are talking about?
Is it a good fit?
Next, look at the language they’ve used. Does it raise any red flags? For example, are they messaging you about a product that has nothing to do with your niche? If you’re a travel blog being contacted by a lipstick brand – it’s probably not a good fit for your brand or your readers, so decline it politely.
Or maybe you’re a baking and desserts blog being contacted by a fitness company? Your readers aren’t going to connect with something that is not closely related to your niche, and it won’t come across as authentic.
Partnerships should be genuine in order to gain audience trust and for you to be seen as an expert in your field. If Nigella Lawson suddenly started promoting gym clothes, everyone would be suspicious that she was just doing it for the money, and not because she actually believed in the product. Make sure you actually like the product and agree with the brands message before responding.
Make sure you don’t fall foul of Google!
If you receive a request to provide a follow link in return for payment, please be aware that this against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and is likely to damage your website’s traffic and Google rankings in the long run. If you are being paid, or gifted an item, in return for a follow link, your website could be negatively impacted so it’s best to avoid these offers.
You don’t have to reply
It’s also completely ok to delete a dodgy looking message and not respond! (Once you have been in this industry for a while you will get used to the number of strange requests you receive.) Otherwise, you could find yourself spending your valuable time on responding to emails that won’t lead anywhere and could potentially be scams.
How to reply to a brand collaboration email
Ok so, you are happy that the offer is genuine and you want to work with the brand, what do you do next?
Can you hit the deadline?
First, consider the timescales. Do they want you to develop a new recipe and have it on your blog in 5 days’ time? Is this possible for you whilst also maintaining quality content and living your life?
They may be willing to extend the timescale if they really want to work with you, so don’t immediately say no, but definitely mention that you’ll need extra time to deliver the work.
Can you deliver what they are asking for?
Have they asked you for a service you don’t offer or you’re not comfortable offering? For example, maybe they’ve asked for a video of you talking about and using their product, but you don’t want to appear on camera. It’s ok to tell them what you can offer instead and explain that your readers prefer this type of content and it performs well. Try to provide a recent example to illustrate this.
What’s the budget?
Have they mentioned a budget? Or asked for your fee for this work? If not, they may be looking for you to work for free, or in return for the product only. Doing work for brands for free or in return for a product only is not a good idea for a number of reasons:
- It devalues the blogging industry. The more of us that work for free, the more brands will continue to expect us to work for free. It helps the blogging industry as a whole to only accept paid work
- It devalues your skills and your time. This is especially true if you have done paid work in the past. Why should anyone pay you if you are willing to do it for free?
- You are providing a valuable service – advertising. Every legitimate business has a marketing budget. They have approached you because they believe you have value to offer them, so why shouldn’t they pay you for it?
- They won’t pay you in the future. Whilst there are some exceptions to this, in my experience, 99% of the time working for free will not lead to paid work.
- It’s not worth your time and it won’t pay your bills. You could be spending your time on something that will make you money, like working on your SEO to increase your traffic. Plus, always remember that the person sending the email is getting paid!
READ MORE >>> 21 reasons why bloggers should stop working for free
Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. If you have a close friend or family member with a small business, you may want to help them promote it. Or perhaps it’s a charity that is very close to your heart.
The other exception would be where you are being offered a high value product. If a brand wanted to send you an £800 television to review, but you would’ve only charged £500 for the review, and you want a new TV, then this may be worthwhile to you as it ultimately saves you money on that new TV you were going to buy anyway.
Fee too low?
If they have mentioned a fee, but it’s too low, then politely tell them. Explain how many hours of work what they are asking for would involve and give them a fee that you would be able to do the work for. Don’t feel disheartened if they won’t meet your fees (some brands are very well known in the industry for not paying well). Hopefully if enough bloggers and influencers say no to working for free, brands will realise they need to pay us fairly.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions!
Is anything else they have said unclear? Pretty much every message I get from a brand or PR company doesn’t clearly explain what they want, so don’t be afraid to ask questions about what exactly they are looking for from you. You need to know the full scope of the work involved to figure out your fee.
How much to quote for a brand collaboration?
This is always the hardest part for any blogger! And unfortunately, there is not a straightforward answer. Start by considering the work involved. I’m a recipe blogger so let’s use an example of making a bake for a chocolate brand. Have they asked you to make a three-layer cake with lots of decorations and multiple baking techniques? Or have they asked for a simple rocky road recipe?
If you’re a food or recipe blogger, the brand/PR company will often ask you to suggest 2-3 ideas for a recipe. So, think about what you could do with the product and try to pitch ideas that are of a similar difficulty level so you can quote the same amount no matter which one they choose.
Don’t just think of how long it’ll take you to make the cake, also consider the time it will take to:
- Brainstorm and plan ideas
- Go shopping for the ingredients (plus the cost of them, unless the brand are providing them all)
- Test the recipe out
- Making the recipe and tidying up afterwards
- Photographing or filming the content
- Editing the photos or video
- Writing the blog post and/or social captions
- Spending time interacting on social media to give the post good reach
- Promoting the post on social media, in Facebook groups etc.
- Other admin tasks like adding internal links for the post on your website, making pin images etc.
- Electricity costs if you’re using an oven, charging your camera battery or laptop etc.
Figure out how long this will take you, then settle on an hourly rate you are happy with. You can then add on ingredient costs and other related expenses, and you can increase the fee based on your follower count, website traffic etc.
Remember the brand are benefiting from a platform that you have worked hard to create, and for access to your audience that know and trust you. You may want to check out Eb’s post on How Much Bloggers Really Earn for some extra guidance.
Brand collaboration contracts – what to look out for!
Brands and PR companies will often send contracts and/or briefs to bloggers and influencers which detail the work required, key messages to include, hashtags to use, payment terms and that also cover the legal side of their agreement with you.
I cannot emphasise enough how important it is to read through every word of a contract before signing it and sending it back! (Yes, even the small print!)
These are things to watch out for…
Licensing and copyright
Wording relating to the licensing and copyright of the work, particularly any images and video you may create. I’ve lost count of the number of brands that have ‘copyright ownership of the images and video’ as standard in their contracts.
Look out for this and challenge it. Explain to the brand that you can only offer them a license to use the images and/or video on social media only as part of the campaign. This is important because image and video copyright is worth significantly more. (For example, the lifetime copyright of a single image can be upwards of £1000!) Plus if you sign over full copyright to them, then the image or video now belongs to them and they can use it however they want forever.
Once a campaign is completed, the brand or PR company will most likely want the analytics of the blog or social post(s) to see how the campaign performed. This is perfectly normal, and they will often want them within a certain timeframe – e.g. within 48 hours of posting, or within a week.
Some companies request that you send them the analytics before they will release your payment. This is not considered to be good practice but it does happen occasionally so watch out for this, as if you do not comply with the terms of the contract you could risk not receiving payment for your work. Set yourself a reminder (or several!) so you don’t forget to send them over at the right time. Simple screenshots of the analytics are usually sufficient, but speak to your contact if you’re not sure.
How long does the content need to stay on your website and /or socials? This is important to check as an indefinite timescale isn’t very realistic. You may not have your blog forever, you may change the niche of your blog, or you may even sell it one day. So the content could end up being changed or removed. Something like 1 year or 2 years is common.
Exclusivity clauses are bans from working with competitor brands for certain periods. It is fairly common that a brand will not want you to work with any of their competitors within a certain time frame – anywhere from 1 month to 6 months, and maybe longer. This can be concerning as you don’t want to miss out on potential future work.
You can negotiate the time period if needed. The longest exclusivity clause I have accepted is 6 months. I was happy to accept this as I worked with the brand more than once on different projects and continue to have a good relationship with them.
It’s OK to negotiate!
You are completely within your rights to question parts of the contract, and to ask for parts to be edited, added or removed. Most importantly, do not start any work or spend any money (especially larger amounts) on the project until the contract terms have been agreed and you’ve signed it and sent it back.
How to get paid for a brand collaboration
So you’ve agreed a fee and completed the work, but how do you get paid?
As a blogger, you come under the category of a freelancer. This means you are self employed and you work for different clients. One of the most common ways that freelancers get paid is by sending an invoice to the client (in this case the brand or PR company you’ve been working for) and then they will arrange payment directly into your bank account.
This is the most straightforward way and avoids any fees. (For example, you can send invoices and be paid via PayPal, but you will have to pay fees to PayPal for using their services.) Apart from the occasional exception, most brands will expect the invoice once the work is complete and the blog or social media post has gone live. I always send mine over on the same day it goes live.
Before doing this, ask your contact at the brand or PR company for some details to help this process go smoothly.
- A contact email for their finance department or accounts team, or for a smaller company, the person who processes payments
- Do they have any internal forms you will need to complete? For example, a supplier form or a purchase order (also known as a PO)
- What is the exact company name and address the invoice should be made out to?
- Do they have an invoice number or reference you need to include on the invoice?
How to chase late payments for a brand collaboration
Sometimes, you do have to chase for payments. This is why it’s important to have the contact details for the finance department or accounts team, so you can chase them directly, as they will be the ones processing the payment. I often find that a friendly phone call is more effective than an email. Check their email signature or the company website for a phone number if you don’t have one.
If you have any trouble with being paid, you have the right to charge late payment interest, you can also remove the content from your blog or socials, and if it is a large amount of money you can also take the company to small claims court. This is extremely rare, but it is important to know you are protected and you have rights in these very unlikely circumstances.
If you’re unsure about a brand collaboration, the blogging community is here to help! If you haven’t already, join the Productive Blogging Facebook group. You can ask questions in there and chat with other bloggers about brand collaborations… or any other blogging-related topic!
Most of all, remember that while brand work can be lucrative, it’s often seasonal and inconsistent. Work on diversifying your income streams to give yourself a well-rounded income as a blogger and content creator. Check out Eb’s Monetize Your Blog category for lots of ideas!
More from Kat Buckley
Thank you Kat for a great post!
If you want to find out more, you can…
- 10 tips for pitching to brands
- How bloggers can best work with PRs and Brands: what the PR professionals say
- How much do bloggers REALLY earn? (Statistics from the Blogging Income Survey)
- How to earn passive income from a blog: a step-by-step guide
- How to future-proof your blog