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Partnering With Brands Theme Week: Ways to Collaborate and Earn an Income on Your Blog

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Today we welcome Nikki Parkinson, from Styling You, to chat about brand work on blogs. Nikki switched a 20-year journalism career for forging a path online with her fashion, beauty and lifestyle blog. One of Australia’s best, she’s won numerous awards, travelled the world, and created a business she loves, right from her kitchen table. She’s actively worked with brands right from the start, and has enormous knowledge to share.

So you’ve been blogging for a while and have built up a solid readership and community because you consistently deliver useful/inspirational/entertaining content?

There is a fair chance if you have included a contact email address on your blog that before long an email from a brand, a PR or digital marketing agency, will land in your inbox.

You will either be surprised and delighted, or offended, that your little blog has been noticed by said brand.

It’s the surprised and delighted among you that I’m keen to talk to, because that first email could be the start of a potential commercial relationship.

That first email signifies that as a blogger you need to get very clear on your publishing guidelines.

Maybe you already mention brands as a matter of fact in your content. Maybe you haven’t. Either way, that all changes when someone is potentially asking you to mention their brand.

Only you can decide how you respond, but having a brand-publishing checklist in place will help you to make the decision that is right for you.

Brand publishing checklist

1. Is this a brand you already know, love, and use?

2. Is this a brand that you are confident that your readers either already know, love, and use or would like to know, love, and use?

3. Is this a brand that you could work in to your regular blog content in a way that is seamless? Not in a non-disclosed kind of way, more in a way that would not be out of place to what your readers expect from your style of content.

4. Does aligning yourself with this brand conflict with brands you’ve previously aligned yourself with?

5. Do you feel excited at the prospect of potentially working with this brand or does it give you an icky feeling? I know icky is not a technical term and can’t really be defined, but intuition or gut feeling is a great thing to draw on in this situation.

Working with brands

The PR pitch

Most – but not all – approaches from a brand or its agency will be for “earned” mentions on your blog. This is the traditional way that brands and their PR agencies have worked with mainstream media.

The idea here is that the PR is pitching you an idea that has some kind of newsworthy content or relevance to your blog’s audience. They are simply pitching and you do not at all have to publish anything just because they have emailed you. You may, however, find that what they are pitching could work as a part of particular blog post you’re working on, or have planned for now or in the future.

This is not something the brand would pay you to do. It is your choice when and if you choose to include the pitch on your blog. The same applies if the brand has sent you a product – unsolicited – to consider using or mentioning on your blog or social media networks. You are in no way obligated to feature the product.

Relationships

Many of my now paid commercial brand alignments have come from building relationships with brands directly or through their PR agencies. I’ve incorporated their products into my posts and have built up a relationship with that brand. The brand trusts what I do on the blog and they can already see how my readers respond to their brand.

I didn’t go into those early earned PR relationships thinking that one day I would be able to get a sponsorship from that brand, but I did start my alignment with those brands based on the five things I listed above on the brand publishing checklist. This ensured that the relationship was one I felt comfortable with from the beginning.

More and more PR companies are also including budgets for paid blogger campaigns as part of their contract with the brands they represent, so how you respond from those early approaches is becoming more and more important.

Also know that a PR pitch cannot specify to you when and how you publish content about the brand. They can’t tell you to use a certain hashtag, they can’t tell you that you need to publish a certain number of social media posts, and they can’t tell you what day you need to publish. They would NEVER ask a journalist to do the same because the only content in mainstream media that can be guaranteed is paid for – and it’s called advertising.

I see this approach happening more and more. And as a former journalist it really disappoints me. It gives the good PRs a bad name and assumes that the blogger will happily do as they are instructed without any remuneration for exposure to that blogger’s audience.

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Events

One of the trends for ways in which brands engage with bloggers is through events. These events are either hosted by the brand and the brand’s PR invites selected bloggers to attend or the events are hosted by third party brand-blogger consultants who are contracted by brands to get bloggers along to the event in the hope of potential exposure.

Either way, a blogger’s decision to even accept an invite to an event can be seen as a brand alignment. Even if that blogger doesn’t publish any social media or blog posts, the blogger could be photographed by the brands or event organiser and therefore associated with the event and seen to be endorsing it.

Once again it comes back to the brand publishing checklist above. Consider if you are happy to be associated with the host brands or brands in any way before saying yes to attend.

And, like a PR pitch, a blogger should not be coerced or expected to post anything in return for attendance at the event. The should be free to do so if they want to, not because they’ve been invited. Just as a journalist would do.

Paid brand alignments

At some point in your blog’s growth you need to take stock and put a value on the time you put into your blog and the readership you have built. Once you’ve established a set value for your blog, I suggest you review this every six months or every quarter depending on the scale in growth of your readership.

Your readership is your currency when it comes to being appealing to brands. Brands mostly want to see the numbers. The number of unique visitors to your blog is the main number they’re looking at. Why? Because it’s the number that most equates to the numbers game of mainstream media. It’s the equivalent to circulation figures in print media and ratings numbers on TV and radio.

Clever brands and agencies will also look beyond the numbers to engagement and influence. They will also look at the demographics behind your numbers – particularly if they’re wanting to connect with readers in certain locations or of a particular age or sex.

When I talk to bloggers about valuing their time and their blog’s audience, it seems quite an arbitrary thing to suggest – and in many ways it is – but increasingly, bloggers are sharing what they are getting paid for brand alignments and this helps us all to establish that value.

I suggest that $150 should be the minimum payment for a sponsored post – and then bloggers should scale up according to their readership and influence.

Why $150? If you are working as a consultant then the minimum hourly rate is usually about $100 an hour. Most sponsored posts take longer than an hour and a half this to create and compile. For 5000-10,000 unique visits to your blog a month, you could charge $1550. For a blogger with 30,000-50,000 unique visits a month, $3000.

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Ways to earn money from brand alignments

Sponsored posts: This is the most common form of commercial alignment between bloggers and brands. It works most successfully when the blogger is given creative control to write the post in the same way they would write a non-paid post to their readers. Keeping the authenticity of your voice is key – as is being upfront to your readers and labelling it as a sponsored post at the top. This is not a legal requirement, but it is practice that is very much worth embracing. You want to keep your readers, not dupe them. Being upfront has seen me grow my blog readership since I started writing sponsored posts – not have it disappear.

Social media posts: Being paid by a brand to promote their product or message via social media can be part of a sponsored post campaign or separate to it. One blogger talent agency has been reported as charging out up to $750 per brand mention on an Instagram image. With the growth of Instagram, particularly for fashion bloggers, this has become an attractive alignment for brands looking to harness its power.

Ambassadorships: Ambassadorships are the strongest way in which a blogger can align with a brand. They usually represent a long-term commitment between the blogger and the brand – six, 12 months or longer. This is a win for the blogger in regards to steady income, but it’s an alignment that needs to be fully considered before making because of the longevity of the association. A word of warning: many brands will try and “buy” bloggers as ambassadors with product only. Be careful with this because once you’ve received the ambassador title, you’ve more than cemented your alliance with that brand and don’t leave the door open for a commercial arrangement.

Television commercials: Bloggers are being included as the “talent” in television commercials and infomercials, usually as part of a wider sponsored post and social media campaign. This has come because audiences are proving more responsive to “real” people as opposed to celebrities or actors.

Blogging for a brand on their site: All bloggers know that good, solid content builds a blog’s readership. Brands have also realised that they too need good solid, relatable content on their sites to increase readership, brand awareness and sales through their sites. Who do they turn to? Bloggers who can not only create that content but bring an audience with them to the brand’s site.

Reader events: a win-win for bloggers and brands is when a blogger can offer something of value to their reader either through valuable/useful content or a giveaway. When that giveaway includes a chance to meet the blogger and attend an event that will add value or entertainment to the winning blog readers, then it’s proving to be a successful way for a blogger to align with a brand.

Event appearances: As I mentioned above, a blogger’s attendance at an event is a sign that the blogger is endorsing the brand. So it’s little wonder that bloggers can now obtain an appearance fee to attend an event. Often a certain number of social posts using a specific hashtag may be attached to this commercial arrangement.

The bottom line

Your blog hasn’t just appeared from out of thin air with a solid, influenced, and engaged audience. It’s taken long hours at the keyboard, dedication to your blog’s topic, and an extreme passion to communicate and connect with your readership.

You need to remember that whenever there is an opportunity presented to you to work or align yourself with a brand. Make good choices, disclose those good choices, and create brand content that still represents who you are and what your blog is about.

Do all this and your blog will continue to grow, as will your blog-business income.

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Comments

  1. Priya Ranjan says:

    Awesome post! For niche blogs the tips are really helpful.

  2. Zack says:

    Great read! I like that you emphasize at the end that the blog didn’t appear out of thin air. It did take hard work and bloggers should be paid for their sponsored efforts. Curious as to how you got the $1550 number for blogs with 5,000-10,000 unique visitors. That seems quite high.

  3. Alice says:

    Definitely the definitive guide to blogging with brands. As a blogger making her way through this path early on this year, each & every fact rings true. Thanks for iterating everything we need to know!

  4. Mel says:

    Thank you for this information; it’s a good starting point for working with brands.

    I have a follow up question regarding sponsored posts: first you say to charge $150 for the post, then quote larger amounts based on traffic. Is that in addition to the amount one should charge for writing the post? If the client supplies the post (not ideal, but often what we’re offered), how does that impact the fee?

    Thanks,
    Mel

    • No, it’s not an extra fee just a starting point for then scaling up depending on the size of your readership and influence. I would never run a post supplied by a client as I’d lose readers who want my voice.

  5. Just on point of clarification for the American bloggers out there: disclosure is a legal requirement for sponsored content.

  6. Tara says:

    Thanks Nikki, this is great advice. I love the checklist and the tips on what to charge for sponsored posts. For too long I’ve given away work for free and I need to change that!

    • I really want people to value their time and when considering doing something for free whether that time would be better spent on their own blog and building that or, in my case, spending time with my family.

    • Stacey Roberts says:

      Stop giving it away for free!

  7. Kat says:

    I find Nikki’s recommendations on pricing for sponsored posts incongruous with what overseas bloggers are charging – as an agency we’ve committed to several campaigns with US and UK bloggers, and we have found that blogs that garner over 500,000 UAVs per month are charging between $800 – $1500 for a sponsored post.

    Not sure how bloggers in Australia with only 5000 – 10000 UAVs can ask for the same money? We have found that Australian blogs in comparison are priced all over the place, perhaps a sign that our blogging market is only starting to find it’s feet and we’ll see these prices level out soon?

    • I can only offer my opinion and it’s this – if the brand I want to work with is an Australian brand and wants to reach an Australian audience then the UVs stack up on a per capita basis when you consider reach. We’re a smaller country so this makes sense to me. To compare pricing based on UVs between countries is a bit like apples and oranges – unless it’s a global campaign.

      I don’t seek a global audience – as it wouldn’t fit with my content because of the different seasons. So I’ve grown my blog to 120K+ a month uniques but with a 76% Australian split in that audience. That’s a very deep reach into the market that my sponsors are wanting to attain.

      • Kat says:

        Thanks for your answer Nikki. I should add, that we’ve have organised sponsored posts with Australian blogs that receive 90,000+ UAVs for around $600 – $800, with around 80% Australian audience. Sorry, I just feel that your article reports a large discrepancy to what I’ve experienced with organising sponsored posts.

        • Stacey Roberts says:

          I agree that Australia’s blog prices are incredibly varied! Nikki and I are both represented by the same agency and I do know that there are brands that pay those prices she mentioned for blogs with those UVs – but not all agencies charge that particular price (which many might feel is higher than average), and of course the people who take care of their own sponsorships might not charge similarly. I know in Australia we have quite a hard time taking ourselves seriously and pricing our work accordingly!

  8. Corinne says:

    Great topic.

    Unfortunately, I am both experiencing and reading about the increase in bloggers being contacted and expected to work for free or for something like ‘exclusive images to use in your post’. I’ve recently been told that ‘nobody has every asked for payment before, just thought it would be a fun thing to do’ when asking for the budget after being contacted. As well as being informed that I need to offer my rock bottom prices as over ’40 other bloggers’ are willing to do the same for $10 a post. It’s insulting!

  9. It’s so insulting Corinne and really not worth your time for $10. Better off concentrating on a solid unsponsored post. And PRs that pull the “fun thing to do” line should know better but unfortunately they think that bloggers need content (umm, no … we’re very good at creating our own that’s why we became bloggers) so think that giving us branded video or photos is somehow a favour.

    • Corinne says:

      I totally agree, I’d much rather write something unsponsored. I have a massive list of posts I need to get out and my editorial calendar is jam packed, would take more than $10 for me to write a post and shift everything else around so I can publish it!

  10. Hi Nikki! Thanks so much for putting this together and making it so easy to read! Loved all of the ideas and it’s really an eye opener. We were doing sponsored posts free of charge and now have taken the step to include a payment. It was a big decision but if we want to make this our career, definitely the right one! Thanks for sharing :) Looking forward to seeing you at the PBevent! e + c

    • Stacey Roberts says:

      It’s a bit unfair when they’re getting paid – but asking you to promote their product for free! So pleased to hear you’re not selling yourselves short any more.

  11. Robyn says:

    This is so great Nikki. I fall into the 5,000-10,000 category and I’ve never been paid more than $100 for a sponsored post. Like you say it really does take time and effort to write (and photograph) for them and I’ve often felt out ‘out of pocket’. I think I need to be much more assertive and better at saying no. Something for me to work on. Thanks again xxx

    • Stacey Roberts says:

      It does feel a bit strange when you really sit down and realise it takes you far longer and far more effort than you’re being compensated for! I still struggle with being assertive, but it’s saved me a lot of heartache x

    • The hardest thing in business is being able to put a value on your time and your worth Robyn. I get that – and have been trying to do that for the past 6 years. I am lucky now I have an agent who does that for me but leading up to that it was a big thing for me to try and do. Definitely lift your rates!

  12. Aaron Diaz says:

    Great post and I am very glad to come here and read your article I love your post and thanks for sharing.

  13. Brilliant post Nikki. Thank you so much for this insight. I have between 5000-10000 visits per month bracket and my rate is not what you have suggested. I need to review this. I’ve been approached to write for a website that does get 100000 traffic per month and have asked for me to write some posts for their blog that they are launching. They have told me they will put my blog links on their site but there is no payment. Even though I don’t get the amount of traffic this company does, am I wrong to ask to be paid to do these posts or should I do a few for free and see how the relationship goes? What do you suggest in this situation?

    • Oh this is another tricky one. My experience is that not a lot of traffic flows back to you in this situation. If they’re a new blog they need you more than you need them. What you have to weigh up is the perceived benefit vs how the time it will take to write those posts and whether that’s the best use of your time. And I don’t mean just work time – I mean family time too.

      It’s a classic case of the gut feeling thing. Also, yes do lift your sponsored post rates – email me if you’d like some ideas compared with what you’re charging now.

  14. Desi says:

    Thanks for the useful information. Wonderful article written.

  15. Amy Locurto says:

    Great article Nikki! I speak about pricing for your worth at blog conferences, trying to encourage bloggers and help them ask for and earn a better salary when working with brands. Even big brands who have attended my talks agree with this rate that you have shared in this article, which is the same that I suggest. It all comes down to valuing your worth, taking chances and working with brands who understand the value of social media influencers.

    Right now, bloggers are still learning how to price themselves and it’s kind of all over the place. I do the same as you and figure out my hourly rate based on my stats, audience and social media reach.

    • Corinne says:

      Your right, it is all over the place and it is hard to find how much someone should charge for sponsored posts and advertising.

      I’ve found many different theories usually dependant on PageRank or views, but I’ve never come across two of the same.

    • Great to hear Amy! I think the key in what you’ve said here is to work with the brands which understand the value. Thankfully more and more do. It makes it easy to walk away from those who don’t value you.

  16. Building a relationship certainly helps in getting consistent sponsorship offers from these companies.

  17. Thank you so much for writing this article for us. I found it very informative and helpful. I am just now starting to get offers from brands and this list gives me something to refer to. Awesome. Take care!

  18. Hi Nikki,

    Sensational breakdown.

    Align with relevant brands you know, like and trust. This is an energy thing; for example, I accepted a sponsored post in my day because the brand and message vibed with my blog, my values. I didn’t accept the post or publish the brand mention to get paid. I think that’s where many bloggers go wrong.

    Most earn an income by collaborating with non-aligned brands, just trying to earn an income. This act sends off a desperate vibe which repels other brands, especially those which align with your core values. On the other side of things, bloggers who decide to work only with brands aligning with their core values find good matches – and money – winding up in their lap.

    I did have one reservation about the brand I worked with on CWATC; it was an alcoholic beverage, and I don’t drink. The message though was pushing your limits and putting yourself into uncomfortable situations to free yourself, and I do that in my travels all over the world.

    I did it to land here in Fiji – Hi Darren from a few hours away ; – and to travel the world over the past 3 years running. So I went with it.

    All awesome points here. I like your discerning approach to calmly and meticulously. Yes, you must know, love and trust a brand, to really vibe with them, and the loving part I may not have been aligned with 100% in my case. Lesson learned though, and I’ll apply to my new Blogging from Paradise blog, to be released shortly.

    Gotta vibe with the brand to do a service to yourself, your blog and your readers. This core alignment will net you a handsome profit and in the course of doing so your readers will appreciate you keeping true to your values, and of course, your energy will remain high, and you’ll keep attracting similar opportunities which vibe with your intent.

    Thanks much Nikki. I’ll be tweeting this to my 28,000 followers.

    Ryan

    • Thanks Ryan and I think your decision was one that worked for you at the time. We can only do just that – and follow our gut feeling matched to our needs. Good luck with your next adventure!

  19. Bill says:

    Great article, it’s so important to work with brands that you actually support and know. Otherwise you just sound like an ad and nobody wants to read another ad. Thanks for your insights!

  20. vijisathya says:

    Hi ,

    The net and looking for some articles that might help me. And then, I found this one. This is really a big help and very informative. Brain-based learning is great! Such a great article to recommend. Thanks

  21. couponsnip says:

    great and informative post…

  22. Johanna says:

    As blogging is still such a new industry it’s really helpful to have articles written by industry professionals who already have a solid business case on which to draw. What I so appreciate about Nikki is that her advice always comes from a non-hype angle, and you can depend on her honesty and integrity. This post is a point in case and it will be something I that I refer back to not only for the monetary advice, but also the underlying business advice on how to be a true professional when dealing with Brands and PR companies.

  23. Daniel says:

    Fantastic post(article) Nikki.

    I was quite impressed with some of those numbers being “thrown up there” regarding sponsored posts.

    Well, considering networking is of such importance, so networking within circles where Brand reps would be attending, wouldn’t do any harm….

    My own thoughts are that the Niche as well as traffic numbers, not to mention the credentials of the Blogger, would determine the overall dollar amount being paid for sponsored posts…

    As far as an individual setting a price for a sponsored post, it may eventually come back to that old chestnut, ” That we would probably get paid according to what we think our own efforts are worth”!

    We may need to start off expecting quite low offers. Though, in time, we would be better to set the mark quite high(the requested payment for our services) and that way we would still be doing much better than having set the payment mark too low…….

  24. What a wonderful read. So much information that I need to come back and re-read it tommorow. Thanks.

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