Working With Brands: When They Reach Out To You

Working With Brands: When They Reach Out To You

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?


  1. Johanna Siren

    13 June

    Great tips, thank you!

  2. Karla

    13 June

    Brilliant points.
    Love your work and determination.
    Keep you posted about my first collaboration request. Hope soon!
    Happy day!

  3. Great post yet again on a very hot topic. Most brands seem to want to give you a product. I also found social blue book to be a useful tool. Thank you for all the great tips and encouragement.

  4. Thank you so much for this. I’m literally in the middle of a collaboration with a brand… its my first one and they approached me having seen me on Instagram. The PR company came back yesterday to offer me a second collaboration with the same company and to say that a company I would LOVE to work with had approached them to see if I would like to do a demonstration there… (hell yes, but I’m also terrified!). I was paid with the product but don’t know whether I should also be teaching for free…? We’ll see how the day unfolds but thank you so much for this as it sets really helpful guidelines.

    • Dominique

      14 June

      Go you! A collaboration always feels more exciting when it’s a brand you already love and admire. Regarding the teaching, it’s not something I’ve ever had to do (yet), but I would be just as terrified. Public speaking is not something that I jump at; however, I guess our occupation is all about pushing our comfort levels as far as we can. I would still take into account that by doing the teaching (not sure how long they want you for), you’ll have so many hours, maybe even a day, away from the office and your own work. So take that into account when working out the logistics. If you believe it’ll be just as good for your brand as it is for theirs, then that’s great. If not, consider asking for payment, too. Good luck with it all x

  5. Dominique

    14 June

    Thank you! I still get asked to work for product only, so I completely understand. Good luck with your future collaborations and keep in mind your worth, and what you can offer these brands.

  6. Sandra

    15 June

    Great post and points! Thank you!
    I was just asked to do my very first cooperation this week.. I still have not replied with a final yes since deep down I honestly feel unsure if I would actually want to BUY the product (honestly as I write this I think it is safe to say; no, I would not buy.. but I am a little overwhelmed and flattered.. and heck!, I want some free stuff #😬🙈🤑)
    Also I wonder if other brands would be inspired to do co-ops with me if they see a ‘sponsored post’!?
    However, I only have +700 followers so nothing HUGE, yet..

    • Dominique

      15 June

      First of all, congratulations on your first collaboration request – how exciting! Without knowing what the product is and without seeing your account, it’s difficult to judge. Collaborations will, of course, show other prospective brands that you’re open to working together and what you can create when you do join up. And sometimes, if the product isn’t something you would buy, but you believe your audience would/value your opinion on it, it can be a great match. However, if the product is completely off-brand, it could go the other way. It could be mistaken that you’ll work for any company/product which could result in you being contacted by less desirable brands and offers. It’s a tough one to call. Go with your gut (and even if you decide to say no, don’t worry, more free stuff will be just around the corner 🙂 )

  7. Helga

    21 July

    Just re-read this – so useful and well written!!
    I am not a lifestyle blogger, I work as a content creator, so it is slightly easier for me to adapt to brands’ requirements as I don’t have to post the work on my feed. However, I still struggle to quote on projects accurately as finding the idea sometimes takes a lot more time than I initially expect… Do you have any advice for my case? 🙂

    • Dominique

      21 July

      Hi, Helga! Congratulations on your recent Instagram feature – it was an incredible entry and so well-deserved. The way I work all of my collaborations is with a flat rate (using the CPM calculation), but I can see how some of your ideas may take longer, use more energy and perhaps more props(?) than others. If the same rate doesn’t apply to all jobs, could you maybe only quote the brand once the idea is decided? Then at least you know what you’re working with and could even run through the concept with the brand to ensure all parties are happy.

  8. Rachel

    10 August

    This is very helpful info, thank you! Now, to raise my blog/Instagram following to the kind of numbers where I can actually do this… 😛

  9. Liz

    15 April

    Hi, really helpful post! I was just wondering how to know if companies reaching out to you are legitimate. I’m fairly good at spotting scams, but I’m new to Instagram, so not too sure how it all works. Any red flags to look out for? Thanks!

    • Dominique

      19 April

      Hey Liz, so glad that you found the blog post useful. When it comes to spotting scammers, it’s no easy feat. But taking to Google is usually what I do to get a true reflection of a company. Check out their website, their website address and Google search the name of the company with along with the word review and that should bring up any red flags (if there are any). Good luck!

  10. Nicole

    31 May

    Hi! I have a question: a clothing brand reached out to me asking to collaborate via Instagram but wants me to pay for the product (they want to give me a 20% code to purchase their product) and in-turn post pics of their clothing. They are also willing to give me my own 15% off code that people can use to purchase their product and will pay me 7% whenever it gets used. As a bonus, they will send me a free product every 4x my code gets used. Does this sound legit or should I pass? The last time I collaborated with a brand, they sent me their product for free so I have no idea what to think with this new offer.

    • Dominique

      1 June

      Personally, I would never collaborate with a brand who are asking me to buy their products. Essentially, that would mean you’re paying to work which makes no financial sense for you. I would push back and ask for the product to be sent f.o.c and still be paid commission for each sale. x

      • Nicole

        1 June

        My thoughts exactly! Thank you so much for taking the time to reply. I appreciate the advice 🙂

    • Monik

      29 December

      Same just happened to me with a clothing company. They will give me $15 off a purchase and a discount code for my followers. I don’t have too many followers just yet, buy I was excited this small clothing company reached out. So your suggestion would be to counter offer and ask for the product up front and then make the posts in exchange for the clothes? Do I have that right? They never offered me commission for my offer code being used. They said they wanted to see the reaction to my post and if I do well then offer me free products and more discounts. For someone just starting like me with less than 300 followers, do you think it’s a good move for me to accept and build off of?

  11. Hollie

    30 July

    Is it safe to give your full adrress to brands on IG that want to work with you, I’m having a hard time deciphering whether or not brands a legitimate. I have a brand that has reached out and wants to send products. I gave them my PO Box but they said they cannot ship to a PO Box, therefore they need an address.

  12. Daiana

    3 October

    Thanks for the great post! super helpful!!! 🙂
    What happens when collaborating implies deep research and content writing? I mean, when it is more than just providing brands with a targeted platform, but also producing a whole blog post for example… This takes a lot of time and effort… is it ok to charge by “hour” or it’s better to have a fixed price? Also, I guess there might be differences between platforms (ex: an Instagram post vs a written blog post). Every piece of advice is highly appreciated! 🙂

  13. Evelyn Ploughman

    21 October

    This is all very helpful. What are your thoughts on paying for shipping? I have had two brands contact me and they are giving me multiple $20-90 products but are asking me to pay for shipping. I was contacted by them and they are legit brands with 15k followers. I’m only at 200 so I don’t feel like I have much to give back yet to ask for them to pay shipping. I’m honestly just happy I like their product and it will give me experience. What are your thoughts?

  14. Patti

    20 November

    Thank you. You are one of the only articles I found that points things out straight forward. I am just starting to get requests from small companies and still have a small following. Very small. My daughter keeps warning me to ignore the requests and that they are full of baloney. But I have to start somewhere. I am kicking the crap out of seniorhood (62 but look maybe 48) and way overweight, but I have a pretty face and I am into hair, fashion and makeup before and after raising 7 kids. I just didn’t know how to start with collabs because we didn’t have social media when I was “young and fresh” or raising those 7 kids. I wanted so bad to reach out to some of the social media icons I follow but figure they’d think I was nuts and/or they wouldn’t have the time to school me. This blog along with social blue book was extremely helpful.

  15. Bushra

    5 January

    Hi, Thanks for this very helpful post. I have a blog and brands are reaching out to me. I was not sure so I was just deleting those emails but now I am ready to collaborate with brands and companies after all I have to start somewhere.

  16. dani

    14 January

    I am so glad to have found this. I have a 6 month old blog and I have no idea what to do nor charge when brands started to approach.

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