After my post on handling collaborations like a pro blogger, reader Sanaa reached out with some great follow up questions regarding well-known brands not being “able” to pay bloggers. Sanaa asked, what’s the incentive to work with a brand who won’t pay and won’t provide you exposure? What’s the blogger doing it for? Since these questions deserved proper in-depth answers here we are!
As a new blogger, you will get approached by brands… a lot. Nowadays brands are caring less about your following and more about marketing/advertising their products. But the catch is they want you to do all the work for free. And can you blame them? Everyone loves free stuff. In a brand’s mind, if you’re not going to provide something of super high quality with high-volume returns, they’re not going to pay you.
Unfortunately for brands, bloggers can only do so many free collaborations before their patience (and bank account) runs thin. And honestly, I don’t think any blogger should do a collaboration for free, no matter how many followers you have or how long you’ve been blogging.
Advertising is a service that takes time and effort and any service should be compensated (unless of course it’s for a charity). So, here’s what to do when brands don’t pay you.
Step 1: Make a choice
The minute a brand reaches out to you for a collaboration is the minute the ball is in your court, and you can do anything you want with it. The first thing you want to do is get all the details: background of the brand, the brand’s own social following, what they’re asking for, what their budget is, etc.
Once these questions are answered, you get a much better idea of whether this is something you want to do. I know it’s exciting to get your first brand collaboration, but trust me when I say get all the details before saying yes.
The most important question is about the brand’s budget. They’ll either tell you what their budget is, say they’re on a “tight budget”, or say the collaboration is a “product in exchange for post”.
Honestly, product in exchange for post collaborations are the worst unless we’re talkin’ a luxury bag or something (which is rare for seasoned bloggers let alone new bloggers). This is the moment you decide whether you want to go through with the collaboration or not. My rule of thumb is if you genuinely love the product and it’s worth a decent amount, then say yes. Otherwise, say no.
Brands on a “tight budget” is usually code for “we can negotiate, but it probably won’t be much”. I’ve had brands claim they have to “be careful” where they spend their money. So let me get this straight – you’ll pay a bigger blogger thousands of dollars for one post, which may or may not resonate with that blogger’s audience, but you won’t disperse some of that money across 10-30 smaller bloggers? Smaller bloggers are a secret marketing weapon because their audiences can be more authentically engaged and niche versus an influencer with 1 million followers.
Finally, if a brand tells you their actual budget, hallelujah, you’re in the zone! The next step is to negotiate a reasonable price that’s fair for both parties. (You can find more on negotiating HERE.)
Step 2: Determine what you’ll lose
When you say “no” to a non-paid collaboration, you’re going to lose putting another notch in your brand belt and a free product. But as we all know, quality is better than quantity, so you’d rather have a smaller list of high-quality brands that do pay (or at least offer nice products) than a long list of indie brands that offer mediocre products with no monetary compensation.
Other than that, you’re not going to lose much, so no need to get all FOMO when you say no. No one is going to hate you for saying no. Blogging is a business, not a friendship, so you have to do what’s best for you and your business. And the heart of every business is cash flow. Next time you’re offered a collaboration, think about how much cash flow you’ll have coming in and go from there.
Step 3: Realize what you’ll gain
Saying no is huge, whether it’s declining an invitation to an event. Saying no is empowering and boosts your confidence because it can be an uncomfortable thing to do. And once you step outside that comfort zone, it’s all up hill from there.
You’ll get familiar with staying true to your brand instead of getting starry-eyed at the idea of people wanting to work with you. There are even some pro-bloggers who “sell out” because of starry-eyed syndrome. This is a big no-no in the blogging world.
When you don’t sell out, there is exclusivity to your brand, and you’ll have businesses getting starry-eyed for a chance to work with you. A lot of pro-bloggers take this approach too… And it works!