The 10 Golden Rules Of Working With Brands

Working with brands is a great way to monetize your blog. While I don't really use that concept on Amanda Cross Blog, I use it quite often over at my other blog The Happy Arkansan. Brand partnerships are a great way to make income for your blog and creating those relationships with brands are one of the main ways that some bloggers monetize their blog. So today I am sharing the 10 golden rules of working with brands so that you can create great partnerships and get paid, y'all!

The 10 Golden Rules Of Working With Brands | Working with brands can be a great way to earn money for your blog, but it does take a certain mindset. Click through for the 10 golden rules to working with brands so that you can make money for your blog without compromising your audience.

1. Always Disclose Your Partnership

If a brand wants you to hide your disclosure or include do-follow links in your promotion, they do not have your audience's best interest in mind. I am not sorry to say this. Let me say this one more time for the people in the back, they do not care about your audience. They care about the money they can make from your audience and the SEO they can make from your blog but they do not care about the people involved with that money and SEO juice at all.

Always always always disclose your partnership. At the end of the day, you will only be working with this brand for a few weeks (and maybe more if they like your work.) They are eventually going to move on from your audience and off to someone else's audience once they get all that they can from your audience. 

The only thing that you really have is your blog and they audience that you have created around it. Your audience has to be able to trust you and the content that you put out into the universe. Don't let them down by succumbing to shady business practices in order to get paid. Show your audience that you love them by following FTC guidelines and properly disclosing your partnerships.

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2. Know That Things Will Probably Be Inconsistent

Brand work shouldn't be your only income stream just like affiliate work, your own products, etc. shouldn't be your only income stream. You need to successfully build up multiple streams of income for your blog so that you are not depending too heavily on any one revenue stream. If you are depending on your blog to pay your bills you never want to depend on when someone else needs promotional work for their brand in order to get paid.

Instead, try out a number of different income streams and stick with them if they work. You may want to try having these income streams:

  • Brand Sponsorships
  • Freelance Writing
  • Coaching
  • Virtual Assistantship
  • Course Creation
  • E-Book Writing
  • Graphic Design Work
  • Opening An Online Boutique
  • Affiliate Marketing
  • Etc.

There are SO many different streams of income that you can decide to use. The important thing is that you give each stream a fair chance and you work hard to create those income streams.

3. Don't Get Greedy With Partnerships

At the end of the day, your entire blog or social media feed shouldn't be constant promotion for another person's products. You want to have a good mixture of branded and nonbranded work on your feed. I understand that because of the inconsistency of branded work, sometimes you just happen to get a lot of branded work in a short period of time. If that is this case, learn to spread out your content in a way where you can weave nonbranded content around and through it. If you can help it, try not to have two sponsored things back to back--be it on your Instagram feed or your blog page.

I know that sometimes this is rather unavoidable because we get busy and we can't always take the time to create content between our sponsored content (or sometimes it just doesn't make sense for our social media accounts.) I completely understand if that is the case for you. 

When you are scheduling out sponsored content do so in a way that makes sense for your brand. Create sponsored content in a way where you can space out sponsored content so that it works for the brands and your readers.

Also, be clever about how you bring your sponsorships to your audience. If your sponsored posts feel like they seamlessly fit into your regular amazing content then posting more sponsored content shouldn't be an issue. It's all about how you integrate sponsored work into your blog.

4. Do Your Due Diligence Before You Create The Partnership

If you are like me and you LOVE working with small businesses, this point is especially important. PLEASE DO YOUR DUE DILIGENCE BEFORE YOU CREATE THE PARTNERSHIP. When it comes to small businesses people look to sponsored work and purchases from other people a lot more because they want to see how the business works. When people see that the brand has worked with other bloggers before they are more likely to trust the brand, even if they don't know the blogger.

This happened to be a couple years back when I was a HUGE monogram lover. I had been looking for someone to replace the monogram shop I had bought my monograms from during college and I found this cute small business that was having some good sales on products. I decided that I would try them out because I had seen them work with another blogger before and their products seemed legitimate.

Then days turned into weeks and they missed the deadline of when they said they would ship by. I contacted the company with no response. I was very upset because I had spent some good money with them and I was excited about my monogrammed items. So I started digging and I did a Google Search with some of their images and it turns out they were just yanked from various Etsy shops. They weren't going to provide these items. So I filed a Paypal complaint and I let a few of the store owners know that their product photos were being used on this person's website. I was devastated because I trusted that a blogger did their due diligence before they worked with this small business.

People trust you when you work with brands. You have to take the time to sit down and do very basic Google searches and find out more about the brand before you agree to work with the brand. 

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5. Get A Handle On What Your Audience Is Drawn To Before You Partner

If a brand wants to pay you any amount of money it can be easy to get so excited that it doesn't matter what your readers would actually want to see from you. This is a mistake. Instead of taking many sponsors where you aren't sure if your readers would resonate, hyper focus on the sponsorships that you take and make sure that your readers would resonate with that brand (or at the very least that you would be passionate enough about that brand for your readers to care about that brand.)

Figure out the kind of content that your readers enjoy, take a peek at some of your followers Pinterest boards to see the kind of stuff they like, really close in on how they are as people. This way you can create the type of content they will love and work with brands that resonate which makes those brands more likely to come back to you for another post in the future.

The 10 Golden Rules Of Working With Brands

6. Don't Be Afraid To Negotiate Your Rate

If you are not getting a good rate for your work, don't be afraid to negotiate to get a better rate for your blog. Negotiating your rate is simple and you just need to showcase:

  • What your deliverables are?: What kind of posts are you making? Will the images be high quality images?
  • Who your audience is?: Is your audience made up of people who would love this sponsorship? Is your audience made up of people who have expressed tons of interest in this brand?
  • How are you approaching the sponsored post?: What will make your partnership special? What makes your sponsorship worthy of more money than they are offering?

Overall you need to believe in yourself and how much you know your audience. If you have faith in yourself, no one can take that away from you.

7. Get Sponsorships How You Feel Comfortable Obtaining Them

There are SO many ways to gain sponsorships for your brand.

1. Blog/Sponsorship Networks: One way to make money on your blog is through blog networks and sponsorship networks. All networks work a bit differently. Networks like SocialFabric showcase all their opportunities and then you submit an application to each "shopppertunity." Sites like TapInfluence work as a marketplace for potential bloggers. On TapInfluence you will not see who they are working with, but you will get a direct opportunity if the brands feel that you are a good fit for a sponsored post with them. TapInfluence also sends out surveys often to bloggers to get more information about them and see if they would be a good fit for upcoming opportunities. Sites like Izea are the best of both worlds. Izea has a few sponsored opportunities open for the public to bid on, but it also works as a marketplace where brands can reach out to you directly if they feel your blog would be a good fit for their promotion.

Here are a few different blog/sponsorship networks you can join:

2. Pitching: Sponsorship networks are great but they can also cut into your potential profits because these networks often take a cut of the money. Also, not every possible brand uses a blog/sponsorship network to work with other bloggers. There are many great resources out there for pitching like the course BossPitch by Erica of Coming Up Roses or the Facebook group That Pitch Life which is an extremely helpful free resource for bloggers out there.

Pitching brands yourself can mean that you are able to work closely with the brands you actually love and you are able to make a higher income because of it. Double win, y'all!

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8. Exposure Doesn't Pay The Bills

A few years ago a sports jersey company asked me to write a sponsored post for them. I believe it was either supposed to be a round-up/advice post or maybe it was supposed to be a fashion post, either way their payment was exposure. They said they had thousands of fans on their social media accounts and that they would share some of their favorite blogs on their social media accounts.

*Giant Red Flag Alert*

Exposure doesn't pay the bills. Furthermore, exposure from a sports jersey company definitely doesn't pay the bills. Even if by chance that companies fans were to hop over to my blog, they would take one look around and know that the site wasn't built for them. All I would be left with is an extremely high bounce rate and no money from the sponsored post to boot.

Exposure doesn't pay the bills, y'all. When you work for exposure alone you are undermining other bloggers who want to get paid for their work, and you are undermining your own self-worth. I can't make you believe in yourself, but don't bring down other people who don't want to work for exposure.

9. Communication Is Key

When it comes to working with brands--communication is KEY. You need to make a habit of communicating with the brand managers because those are the same brand managers who will notice your hard work and decide to work with you again in the future.

So, communicate with your brand manager about anything and everything related to your brand sponsorship. If you are unclear about the deliverables they expect, email your brand contact. If you need extra time to make your post spectacular, email your brand contact. If you need an update on a product shipment, email your brand contact. Your brand contact/manager is there to be your liaison between you and the brand so use them wisely.

This communication will help your brand sponsorship be a continuous thing versus a one-then-done thing. You want to start making your sponsored posts more consistent and a great way to do this is by working well with your brand manager. Brand managers want to make their job as easy as possible so if you can get on their good side and they know you will deliver a great post, you can get them to start recommending your name when future sponsored opportunities show up.

10. Don't Put All Your Sponsorships In One Basket

Lastly, let's chat about where we share our sponsored content. Since we don't want to get greedy with sponsored content, we want to find ways to expand our sponsorship basket. Think of your different social media networks and your blog as a bucket. You want to be able to spread your sponsored content across many different social media buckets. Maybe one week you want to share a sponsored Instagram post, the next week a tweet, and the next week a Facebook post.

Each of your networks has a distinct audience, even though there is some overlap to be expected, but overall you want to make sure that not all of your sponsored content is going up on your blog or going up on your Twitter page. Try to find sponsored post opportunities for different networks.

Final Thoughts

Today we discussed the 10 golden rules of working with brands. I hope that you found this post helpful as you begin to set up your blog to work with the brands that you know and love. Your audience should be at the forefront of your mind when you chose to work with different brands. I hope that I have given you things to consider when it comes to brand sponsored work.

Did I Miss Anything? What other golden rules do you feel should be added to this list?