a bit on: working with brands

Welcome back, friends! Okay so there’s a million things I could say about working with brands, so this post is going to be a bit on the longer side. It’s also going to be a bit on the raw side. I feel as though I need to be really truthful about this topic, which may come off as a little harsh but trust me, I’m trying to help …and by the way, there’s a big treat at the end of this blog post.

So here a few things to know when you want to start working with brands as a blogger:

If you started blogging purely for the free stuff, seriously just quit now.
I PROMISE YOU: If free stuff is the only reason that you started this, you will not have the passion to put in the work. If you’re going to be good at blogging and work with amazing brands, it’s a huge time investment! For example, I probably shoot about four times a week, write two blog posts a week, post on Instagram at least once a day, and email back and forth with brands all the time. If I did this just for the free stuff, I would’ve quit a long time ago. I started this because I have a genuine passion for fashion, social media strategies (I’m an advertising major- I can’t help it), photography, and creating content. I love it and it’s part of who I am. Free stuff doesn’t generate enough motivation to consistently create beautiful content, trust me.

Before you start reaching out, get your feed together.
This is huge. If you’re all over the place and you’re not sure what you want your vibes to be or what you stand for, brands won’t want to work with you. You need to work on establishing your style and posting consistently (at least once a day) before you should be reaching out to brands. If you need guidance on this, check out my recent blog post about creating a cohesive feed! To brands, sending you free stuff is an investment. They don’t want to invest in you if you don’t have enough photos/work to exemplify what your style is. They want to know what they’re getting into. I would say that you should post at least 30 photos that you feel truly exemplify your style before you start reaching out!

Be authentic and true to yourself.
Yet another HUGE thing to keep in mind when working with brands. If a brand reaches out to you and you don’t love their products, SAY NO! If you aren’t true to yourself and you show your followers stuff that you don’t love, why should they follow you? Why should they listen to you? I know it can be exciting when brands want to start working with you, but seriously: Wait until the right collaborations come along because it will be worth it.

Practice your photography.
When brands send you an item, there needs to be something in it for them. Period. If you don’t have a ton of followers to give them exposure, at least be able to provide them with quality photos. If you can provide brands with beautiful images, they can use them on their social channels and that saves time and money for them. It makes you much more appealing! I would suggest watching YouTube videos on photography, practicing, and maybe taking advice from a photographer if you’re friends with one!

Followers aren’t everything– engagement is more important.
So, before you start reaching out to brands you should probably have at least 1,000 followers. This isn’t a golden rule, but it’s pretty typical. However, even more important than followers is engagement. If your followers are engaging with you (liking, commenting, messaging), brands can see that your posts might generate sales for them! This is key. To gain engagement, I would suggest commenting often on other people’s posts- they’ll likely return the favor.

When reaching out, show & tell them what you got.
If you want to start reaching out to brands, you need to make yourself stand out. Just a simple email saying, “Hey I like you! Work with me!” (that was an exaggeration) isn’t going to work. They get reached out to all the time, so you need to tell them exactly why they should work with you specifically. I’m not going to tell you exactly what I do/say when I reach out to brands, but I will say this: I suggest you link to your social profiles and I suggest you show them some of your work and photos somehow. Also, send an email not a DM. It’s much more professional!

What do brands think?
As a treat for y’all, I asked actual brand owners and social media managers this question: “What is the number one thing you look for in an influencer when deciding if you want to collaborate with them or not?”

Here’s their answers: 

I look at the photo quality on their feed first and foremost when deciding if they would be a good fit. I like to see examples of how the influencer has represented other brands in past collaborations. When I see they take quality photos that display the product well, I’m much more likely to want to work with them!” -Naomi, owner of Made in Minny

What we look for when collaborating or partnering with a blogger or influencer is authenticity. The blogging world is a very saturated market. We want to know that the blogger and or influencer is true to themselves and their following. Once we are in communication with them and know that they stand behind what they represent not only as a brand themselves, but as an individual and brand representative, we can build that trust and know their followers and ours can as well. Duluth Pack is a heritage brand with an incredible background story. Duluth Pack is the oldest canvas and leather bag and pack maker in the USA. We proudly handcraft our items in Duluth, MN since 1882, offer a lifetime guarantee on craftsmanship and hardware and source as many materials from the USA as possible. We originally started in the canoeing industry, but have expanded our lines into lifestyle, business, hunting and travel. If we find a blogger who can convey that story and has has a similar aesthetic to us, we know it will be a great fit and a successful growing relationship.” –Andrea, PR and Social Media Analyst at Duluth Pack

Posting a photo on IG is great, but if you can offer more substantial content through a blog  post or taking over our IG story, I am always much more likely to work with you. If we are going got invest in fashion + lifestyle bloggers, it needs to have more legs than the life of a simple Facebook or Instagram post. And unfortunately, the market is becoming saturated with ‘influencers’ that are really just in it for the free stuff and aren’t providing much value.” –Kelly, co-owner of Kindred People

“We look for individuals who share what Lot2029 epitomizes in the eyes of fashion, and more importantly embody the lifestyle to motivate and inspire others. We really look for a cohesive feed that has a unique style as well as a strong social media presence.” -Brittany, manager of the brand ambassador program at Lot2029

Here’s what photographers said:

“The number one thing I look for in an influencer is someone who is passionate about truthfully promoting not only themselves but everyone else involved in the collaboration. I look for people who promote brands they BELIEVE and love them, not just to get free product, as well as respect and promote the rest of the vendors involved in the collaboration.” Sophie Syvtersen

“When influencers are passionate about what they promote, aren’t just looking for exposure, and genuinely care about your talents as a photographer, it makes life for both parties so much easier. Whether I am reaching out to them or they reach out to me, everyone should benefit from collaborating in some way. It’s an added bonus when you become friends!” Tawny Irwin

“I look to see if the influencer’s feed is cohesive and if they have a definite style. Furthermore, I look to see if that style meshes with mine. If our styles compliment or match each other, we’re much more likely to create stunning images together!” Elisabeth Eden

“Typically I look for consistency in someone’s brand, however I’ve had situations where I was just inspired by someone’s look and asked to shoot with them.” –Autumn Wilson 

I really hope this blog post helped and answered some questions! Stay tuned for A Bit On another topic soon!

Happy trails to you,
Maria Helen

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