As a voracious consumer of blog content, the sponsored game is a familiar one for me. For IRL and digital friends alike I get so excited to see them land a collaboration of their dreams after months of pushing and working and stretching their creative and personal limits. But I know most blog readers are not bloggers themselves. Many who read blogs daily may not quite understand the energy it takes to successfully run a digital content platform – and that’s OK! In today’s post, I want to lift the digital curtain for a moment to share some thoughts on sponsored content, sponsorships, and partnerships, brand deals, and anything else that may leave you perplexed.
There has been a quickly formed stigma surrounding the concept of bloggers and sponsorships. Long story short, sponsored posts are not always well-received. Somehow, digital content consumers have gotten it in their head that anything #sponsored cheapens the content they see.
Perhaps it’s because of the rise of “fast money” bloggers and Instagram influencers. Perhaps it’s because it looks too easy. Perhaps it’s because blogging is an art form and history has taught us that art is not often well received in its early years. Speculation aside, I think a communication problem lies at the heart of it all.
Bloggers forget to let their audience inside the struggle of growing a business and the all-consuming struggle to make it profitable. Conversely, the audience neglects to tell their favorite bloggers they want the inside scoop. This vicious cycle often leads to mistrust and misunderstanding. And yes, it does sound like marriage counseling because in order to be good bloggers and good consumers of blogs a sort of relationship – a trust – has to form.
The most common question I get asked is how I make money on my blog. It’s no secret. Believe me, if there is a secret formula I don’t know. But to help you and all my readers understand this business, I want to share my process.
The number one way I make income on my blog is through brand collaborations. These come a through three different ways: influencer networks, direct contact, and pitching.
Influencer networks are third-party platforms that pair up bloggers and brands for a very specific campaign. I’m a part of a select few of these platforms and when a campaign comes through that fits my blog’s constraints, I’ll apply for it. It’s about a 60/40 chance I’ll be accepted into those campaigns. If you ever see a disclosure at the beginning of a blog post that lists another company besides the one I’m promoting, that means I’ve worked with the brand through a third party platform.
And those “blog constraints” I mentioned – there are a lot of them. I’m running a brand after all and I have lists of do’s and don’ts created for my brand and honed over the last 2+ years.
Sometimes, a brand will reach out to me directly via my Instagram or email. In that case, I take a few days sometimes up to a week to review the brand – their products, aesthetic – and look at my upcoming content before I respond. Then it’s a very intentional process of getting to know the brand, working with the contact to create the perfect campaign, and often some rounds of negotiations.
This year, I’m putting a heavy emphasis on reaching out to the brands I’m passionate about via pitch emails. This takes an enormous amount of time but often results in long-term partnerships with brands. I always have a story idea in mind when I’m pitching the brand so I can be uber specific about how their products will be showing up on my blog or social channels.
From there we’ll talk payment. In the early years, I was more than happy to receive products in exchange for a post, but as this is one of my full-time businesses I have a starting rate that can often be negotiated based on their budget and the campaign perimeters. That’s not to say I don’t ever receive products for free – for instance, this post on Instagram was a courtesy of (c/o) product in exchange for a post, but I love the brand and the products so much I was happy to post in exchange for the products.
Each of these three processes takes hours to complete. And remember, this is before I’ve even pulled out my camera or started writing a post yet. If I were in blogging to make a quick buck, I’d be severely disappointed. It’s a long and often discouraging process. I get shot down more times than I get a yes. And that’s ok! I love what I do. I love introducing you to new brands, supporting amazing artisans, sharing new products from favorite companies, and revealing snippets of my life.
You should know that before you see a #sponsored blog or Instagram post hit the feed, there’s approximately 8-10 hours of strategic thought and anywhere from 3 weeks to 2 months behind it. So when I say I believe in the products and the brands I share, know that I truly mean it!
And that’s true for all your favorite bloggers! I’m not alone in this struggle, believe me. Every blogger who is passionate about their platforms has a similar process to mine. If you’re concerned about the authenticity of a post – ask about it! Ask why they wanted to share that brand, what they loved about, how they came up with the idea for it! Then once you’ve gotten your answer like, share, comment, etc that post. Because truly without your support this whole industry essentially is a bust.
Never assume a post is not authentic because it’s #sponsored. Yes, of course there are exceptions, but taking some time to understand the sponsored story and support it will override any icky experience you’ve ever had.