How to Navigate Partnerships with Brands as an Influencer

April 25, 2017

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Over the past year I’ve had the opportunity to work with brands like Google, Gap, Thirdlove, TurboTax, Noosa, Origins and then some in partnership with the influencer agency, Collectively. As I’ve built my relationship with Collectively, I’ve learned so much about navigating partnerships with brands and since this is a topic I get so many questions about I thought I would share my tips and tricks for working with brands as an influencer. I admit that because influencer marketing is still such a new concept, there is still so much for even me to learn. For those of you who don’t know what influencer marketing is here’s the gist, it’s “a form of marketing in which focus is placed on specific key individuals (or types of individual) rather than the target market as a whole.” To break it down a bit more, brands hire people like myself with an audience on social media or readership on their blogs to share about products or services in an authentic way that highlights their experience. Since this business is something that I honestly stumbled into after having Owen, I’ve experienced quite a learning curve and I’d love to make the process easier for those of you just getting started. I’m here to answer any questions you might have so feel free to leave them in the comments, and for those of you in the same field I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject and anything you’ve learned along the way. Here are my top ten tricks for navigating partnerships with brands as an influencer!

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1. Market yourself as a business. This one is tricky because anyone in the influencer space is aware of the social media algorithms that can prevent businesses from having as much visibility or engagement, but I believe you need to make it clear on your site and social channels that you want to work with brands. Maybe you don’t put a note in your Instagram bio, but have enough consistent sponsored posts that will answer the question on their own. I also highly suggest having information on your blog that lets brands and influencer agencies like Collectively know that you do take on sponsored content and how to reach you. I believe that having this transparency is not only important for taking on new business, but for your followers and readers too! People don’t like to be tricked – be up front that this is in fact a for profit business.

2. Work with influencer agencies that you trust. I’ve worked with brands that have sent cold emails themselves, ones that I’ve reached out to directly and brands that are represented by influencer agencies like Collectively. I always prefer working with an agency and here’s why; their process is seamless. Rather than a bunch of emails back and forth about content, timeline, product delivery and payment, Collectively is so organized. Our interactions are always personal, but they’re efficient. They have all the information I need right up front, they send updates along the way and are so helpful with any questions I have!

3. Work with influencer agencies that trust you. Another part I love about working with an influencer agency like Collectively is that they only take on influencers that they trust and you can feel that when you start a project. There isn’t a ton of micromanaging and it makes the projects so much more enjoyable. As someone who is delivering content I feel confident that I was selected for the project because they believe I’m the best for it and ultimately the photography and writing are better because of it.

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4. Know your bottom line and stick to it. Knowing when to say no is so important, but having someone on your side to help you fight for your rate is really nice. The team at Collectively has helped me land my rate or a better rate than the brand initially offered in multiple instances. Of course having this confidence whether or not you’re working with a influencer agency is key, but it’s helpful to put the responsibility in someone else’s court for a change too.

5. Only accept projects with brands that you believe in. As your business is getting off the ground it can be tempting to take on any and all projects that come your way, but I think we’ve all had the experience of trying to sell something we, ourselves haven’t bought into. It feels gross to say the least and your audience will smell your dishonesty from a mile away. Stay true to yourself and the brand you’ve created.

6. Create content you’re proud of. Influencers typically have to work quickly as turnaround times are tight, but it takes just a few minutes to brainstorm before you shoot a project or write a piece about the direction you’d like to take. Think about the look you’re going for, the tone you’d like to write in and the general point you’re trying to get across. Imagine you’re the reader. Why read this piece, why browse through the images? Make sure there is intention behind what you’re sharing.

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7. Understand the payment schedule. As a freelancer it’s important to get a grasp on payment schedules as each brand or agency has a different system. You might have invoiced out 5,000 in a month, but that doesn’t mean you’ll get paid on it all at the same time. Different agencies have different timelines – some pay immediately, some 30-day net, some 60-day net. Make sure your accounting is organized so you can plan appropriately!

8. Learn from the campaigns you don’t land. Collectively sends me surveys for brands they’re working with all the time, and to be honest there have been a handful I haven’t landed. Now this could be for a number of reasons, maybe my prices are out of their price range, my audience isn’t the right fit or my aesthetic is off for the brand. All of which are perfectly acceptable answers for not being selected for a campaign! That being said, I keep an eye out on these brands after the fact to see who they ended up working with and take notes. Often times it just wasn’t the right fit on either side, but other times there’s something I can learn from the influencers selected.

9. Be the best, easiest and most efficient to work with. It can be difficult to respond to emails in the quickest manner when I’m chasing Owen around, but I always find that the quicker you can get back to someone the better. Chances are you aren’t the only one a brand or agency reaches out to and starting off with showing your reliability is key. After you’ve landed the job, keep up with the standard you’ve set. If you’re working with an influencer agency like Collectively chances are if things go well you will work with them again on another project. Stay on top of communication and delivery and it goes a long way.

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10. Celebrate projects you’re proud of! With each contract I sign I do a little bit of a happy dance. Building this business has been such a joy and because it’s my own it can feel quite risky and vulnerable at times. Each project that pushes me to the next step of my business reaffirms that I’m doing something right and that I can keep going. Working with Collectively has provided more and more happy dances and I’m eternally grateful.

What influencer agencies do you work with? What has your experience been? Have you learned any lessons in particular when it comes to navigating partnerships with brands?

This post was created in partnership with Collectively.

Photography by Amy Frances.

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