Welcome back to my Working with brands mini series. If you missed part 1 – My top tips for new bloggers – please go and have a read, especially if you are a new blogger interested in making money from your writing. I was so overwhelmed by all the positive comments I received on this post, so many new bloggers genuinely grateful for my advice and thanking me for sharing my experience of working with brands as a small blogger. This week I thought I would share with you 10 lessons I have learnt since I began making money from my blog, the list includes positive things I have discovered as well as some hard lessons that I have learnt along the way. I suggest popping the kettle on, grabbing a coffee and making yourself comfortable, this is quite a read but I think (hope!) it is worth it. Enjoy.
10 lessons I’ve learnt from working with brands
1. PR’s are not just contacting you – Sometimes you can tell this from their original email where they say ‘Hi Blogger!’ or don’t even say hello at all. I worked with one company who called me by my blog name throughout all our correspondence, it was very frustrating. You can also tell as you may see posts about the same product/company cropping up around the blogosphere. My advice is don’t read posts others have written before you’ve published your own as you don’t want to get their words and opinions accidently mixed in with your own.
2. Do follow/no follow links are confusing – When someone asked me for a do follow link the first time I just stared at the words for ages trying to figure out what on earth they meant. Live Love Blog have a great post about the difference between the two that is a must read for newbies. Basically, brands always want a do follow link but you can get in trouble with the blog police and all powerful Google if you include these links in posts where you have been sent something to review/been paid. It is up to you how you go about the issue, being honest with the brand about what you are willing to offer is always a good idea, they are still getting exposure to your readers when you include a nofollow link.
3. Some job offers can come to nothing – I have lost count on how many times a company has contacted me with something I might be interested in, only for them to disappear off the face of the earth when I email them back saying I would love to work together. I have no real advice for this just don’t lose faith if it happens to you. Just because this company changed their mind and didn’t have the courtesy to tell you why, doesn’t mean the next company will do the same.
4. Replying to press releases can lead to work – My inbox is always full of press releases from various blog directories and websites I have signed up to. I must admit most of them are not relevant to me at all, but for those that are I always send a quick email asking if they are interested in being featured on my blog and why the press release has sparked my interest. I have secured a few reviews this way as well as some sponsored posts too. Sometimes they don’t write back but that’s ok, I am only writing a short email not an essay so I don’t really see it as wasted time.
5.Brands sometimes want you to work for free – So, sometimes you may get an email asking for you to write something for a brand that seems to be the perfect fit for your blog. You eagerly write back and ask what the budget is for the post, only to be told it is a big fat 0. This can be really frustrating when you really want to write the content but could really do with the money. I must admit I have written posts for free before but I am doing it less often now I am confident in saying no more. I don’t mind doing it for small companies and businesses that are just starting out but it is frustrating when bigger brands who could afford to pay you still ask you to write for free.
6. There is no set fee for sponsored posts – I have worked with brands who have given me a set fee they are willing to pay for a post and others who have asked me to quote them a price. It is so confusing knowing what to charge and is something that is completely up to you. At the start I would say don’t quote a brand with a really high price as it may put them off, I normally ask around the £50 mark and, most of the time, that is what I get. As your blog grows you will be more confident in charging more for a post. I think being expected to write a post, take pictures and promote it for just £10 or something is pretty insulting considering the time and effort you will put in to it.
7. Be careful with your ‘guest posts’ – There are occasions where instead of you writing a post for a brand, they have their own content writers create something and then ask for it to be featured on your blog. Sometimes the content will be an ‘expert advice’ article or an infographic which you can introduce at the beginning of the post yourself, this kind of guest post I am fine with. However, sometimes brands will get their content writers to write a post as if it is you writing it, this I am not cool with. If a brand wants something written about in my voice then I am going to be the one to write it. I have no problem telling brands I am not happy with another writer pretending to be me, if they want their product/service featured on my blog we can discuss going about it some other way, a way where my honest blogger status and integrity are not compromised.
8. The big disclosure issue – At the end of every single review or sponsored post I add a small disclosure. Just one little sentence stating that I received an item free of charge in exchange for a review or, for paid posts, I put something alomg the lines of ‘This post is written in collaboration with X’. I always want to be honest with my readers and I’m pretty sure it’s some kind of blogging law that you don’t try and hide where you have been paid to promote something (think of all those celebrities sticking #spon on all their Instagram photos when they’re showing off a must have item, it’s kind of like that). I have worked with brands who don’t really want a disclosure but I always tell them I will be including one as I don’t want to hide anything from the people reading my blog, usually the brands will change their mind. If they don’t, again it’s up to you how you deal with this.
9. It’s hard to review products you don’t actually want. There have been a couple of occasions where I have agreed to review something I don’t really want or feel is a good fit for my blog, just because I’ve not had the confidence to turn the brand down. Don’t get me wrong I love trying out new things and discovering new products but sometimes I struggle to get excited about certain items. It is really hard to write a review the brand are going to be pleased with if you are not really into it and don’t find the product that useful or interesting. Of course reviews should be honest and if you find some negative points with a product then you should definitely include them in your post, but if when you get that initial email you don’t already feel excited about testing out the product then, it’s safe to say, this one probably isn’t for you. Reviews written just for the sake of it are easy to spot and may not perform very well, you can’t expect others to believe your words if you’re not sure if you even believe them yourself. The lesson here, you don’t have to review anything, just accept the opportunities that are right for you and your blog.
10. Working with brands sparks your creativity. Despite some of the negatives, I really love collaborating with brands. I love being given a loose brief for a post and seeing what I can do with it. I have previously made vlogs and video reviews for brands without being asked, taken a simple request for a link and turned into a post that not only offers the brand exposure but is (hopefully) interesting and relatable for those reading my blog. Photographing products for reviews can take a long time but I really enjoy getting my camera out and seeing what images I can create, it feels amazing when brands comment on the photos I have taken. With often more than one blogger working on the same campaign for a brand I think it is really important to try and be as creative as possible so your blog doesn’t just blend in with the others and hopefully you will stick in the brand’s mind for future opportunities. Also, there’s nothing like an email for some work landing in your inbox to help you shift, every bloggers nightmare, the dreaded writers block.
Phew! I feel like I could write another 10 lessons as, like with most bloggy things, I feel like I am learning something new every day when it comes to working with brands. If you are a new blogger I hope you have found this post useful. Most of us don’t start out blogging to make money but if you do decide to take your blog in that direction I hope this post has helped give you some knowledge you need to confidently take that step.
Do you work with brands, what have you learnt since you began making money from your blog? I would love to hear about all your experiences, good and bad! If you have any tips to share with any new bloggers or those with a small following, I would love for you to share them in the comments.
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