The first part of this blog post – Working With Brands: How To Reach Out To Them – can be read here
The day finally comes when you receive a collaboration request – now what do you do? Squeal? A victory dance? Probably both, this is exciting shit, and you should celebrate it. Working with brands is a great way of making a living from your Instagram work. But once you’ve calmed down, and hung up your dancing shoes, you then need to consider what to do next.
You need to think logically – this is a tremendous achievement, but does this offer really work for you and will it resonate well with your audience. It’s very easy to get carried away with the excitement of a collaboration request, understandably so, but don’t be too hasty with your reply. The last thing you want to do is to say yes to a job that could jeopardise your feed, or your blog, or worse still your morals and beliefs. To ensure this product or company is the right fit ask yourself – would you buy this product? Is it useful to your audience? Is it something you’re 100% happy to get behind and promote (because that’s exactly what you’ll be doing)? We’ve all said yes to job offers that we later regret, me included, however, if you can be clear in your own mind on what you want your feed to represent right at the beginning, then it’ll help you to be clear in the future.
If this is your first ever request, it’s highly likely that it’s going to be an offer of product for payment only. No less exciting, but it can cause some inner turmoil. Which leads me to….
The product vs. monetary payment dilemma. A controversial topic in our sphere – should we accept product only work? Or, insist on cash payments only? Shoes don’t pay the bills – although they’re always nice to receive – but then we all have to start somewhere, right? Speaking from experience, working for product felt part of the process, a kind of apprenticeship role for Instagrammers, and I was happy to go through the motions. And don’t forget that while finding your feet in the world of brand collaborations, accepting product only can work in your favour, too. Once money becomes involved, the ante is upped. So, in the beginning, while you’re feeling nervous, unsure, and a little out of your depth, you can remove the added pressure that the exchange of money inevitably brings by instead accepting product. Obviously, you can’t put your feet up, turn on the artificial light, haphazardly throw a collection of props together and begin snapping – remember, you’re still a professional with a reputation to build – but it can turn the heat down considerably. By working with product only, I gained confidence in collaborations, I gained experience in this ever-so-confusing world, and learning early on what products did and didn’t work with the aesthetics of my feed was invaluable (turns out watches aren’t as ‘easy’ to style as I originally thought).
If you decide to accept a product only job, then that’s usually the brand sending the agreed products to you for you to review, style, shoot and share on your channels. Some will give you free reign to run with it in whatever direction you like – after all, they contacted you because of what you produce – and some may suggest a narrative that they would like included. Work with them, discuss the options and make sure both parties are satisfied with the results. Your feed is your baby, after all, so don’t be afraid to shout up if you’re not happy with the way the job is going.
When £’s are involved
Once you start crossing into the world of monetizing your blog, and you now would like to request payments in the form of cash, it can be an awkward transition. Only last week you were replying to brands with an enthusiastic yes when they offered their latest product release, whereas now you need to reply to their email, media kit and fees included. This is when you’ll also face your next obstacle (whoever said this job was easy?) – how much do you charge for a sponsored post? You don’t want to undersell yourself – I’ve been there and working for a fee much less than you’re really happy to work for is demotivating – but you also don’t want to overprice and lose the job altogether. So, what do you do?
In the beginning, I was dumbfounded with costs, if you’ve never had to price your work before then, it’s daunting and there’s no Instagrammers guide to advise you on the average wage. There’s plenty of newspaper articles shouting about the wages of the Instagram elite, but no so much information about the accounts that are just starting out. So naturally, as with all questions I have, I Googled.
As with most media outlets and advertising sources, I would recommend working by every 1000 followers (£/1000). It’s a simple formula to follow, it naturally increases as your brand grows, and you can break your costs down to a brand so that they can see how you reached that fee. This is called your CPM (or so Google told me). The average rates can range from £4-£10 depending on your audience, and your engagement. Here are a few examples:
10,000 followers with a £4 CPM – £40
20,000 followers with a £4 CPM – £80
10,000 followers with a £10 CPM – £100
20,000 followers with a £10 CPM – £200
The decision of your CPM rate lies with you. If your audience is actively engaged with your work and is committed to you, then go for one of the higher rates. If this doesn’t feel comfortable to you just yet, go for a mid range price. It’s all about knowing your worth and believing in what you can offer a company. And before you nervously start underpricing yourself and your work, tell yourself this: by asking a blogger to do sponsored posts, brands are cutting out the costs of a photographer, a stylist, a make-up artist, hair stylist, image retoucher, a whole production team of experts. You’re now in charge of all of the above; you’re the whole package. You’re great value for money.
Once you send across your fees for a job, the brand may come back with a straight yes (score!), a no (some don’t have the budget for paid work), or a counter offer. If what you quoted is immediately agreed then you can move forward and start discussing the campaign more in depth. If they can’t offer you a cash payment, you can either thank them for reaching out and go no further or if you do like the products they offer, make an exception and agree to go ahead and begin discussing the terms. Or, if they come back with a counter offer, you can either accept this or if it’s slightly lower than you’d hoped for, return with another offer, maybe meet them half way. This interaction with a brand is completely normal, and usually, you’ll come to some agreement that both parties are satisfied with.
Let the job commence. With paid work, the terms are often more stringent than with product only (understandable really). Quite often, you’ll receive a brief and a contract which will include the dates on which they wish you to post, what you can and can’t include within the image, what hashtags to use, terms of payment, etc. It’s also standard practice for a brand to ask for the work to be sent to them for their approval before you post. Make sure you read the briefs and the contracts thoroughly to ensure you understand and are happy with what they expect from you.
When discussing campaigns with brands, always remember that yes they’re paying you for a job – whether that’s in clothes or cash – but ultimately, if you’re not 100% happy with the results, then it will be evident to the followers that you have worked hard to grow. Discuss options and ideas, be involved with the job, and don’t settle for anything that you aren’t entirely happy with. I’ve made this mistake before, and the image still haunts me in my sleep. Know your worth, believe in what you can offer them, and don’t let a ‘big’ name blur your vision. Working with brands can feel daunting, but if you do it right, you can create solid relationships that develop into lucrative possibilities. They want your best, as should you, so work with them to create that.
How do you deal with collaboration requests?