Blogger Collaboration 101

Before I started The More You Merlot, I knew little about sponsored posts and blogger collaborations. I remember seeing some bloggers share different items that they loved, seeing the “#ad” in a caption or even taking part of a giveaway, but never knew much about the world of collabs as a blogger.

I am here to break down everything I have experienced and learned through sponsored posts and collaborations. I’m going to break it down from different types and my personal rules when working with brands! I’ll also be answering a couple questions at the end. This will be a long one, but packed with information.

What is the difference between a collaboration and a sponsored post?

  • A collaboration is a mutual effort between a brand and creative (blogger) to produce content for that brand. The brand will send you product and, depending on the agreement with the brand, you will create content for them through an Instagram post, Instagram stories or a blog post. Not all collaborations are paid for! You can view an example of one of my collabs, here.

  • A sponsored post is a mutual effort between a brand and a creative (blogger) to produce content that is being paid for. After the content is posted on social media, whether this be Instagram stories, an Instagram post or a blog post, the brand will pay the creator for publishing the post. You can view an example of one of my sponsored posts, here.

Connecting with the company

There are two ways to work with a brand:

  • A brand emails you

    • This can be through an automated email OR a personalized email. You can definitely tell the difference in the voice and structure of the email.

    • When someone reaches out to you personally, they have truly taken interested in your brand (like SporTea) versus an automated email where a group of bloggers were reached out to for the launch of a new product (like The Body Shop). Both are unpaid.

  • You reach out to the brand

    • Scroll down to the”Reaching out to brands” section to read more.

Around 85% of the collabs on my blog & Instagram are from brands reaching out to me via emails. That being said, I receive a good amount (probably 5-10 a week) of random companies wanting to collab. You can view an example of an email from a brand below. These emails are more common, but don’t feel like you need to be receiving these emails to work with brands! Keep reading to see how you can work with companies, regardless of how many people are following you!

Here is an example of an “automated” email that is sent to a handful of bloggers. For privacy reasons, I blocked out any connection with the brand. As you can see, this company would pay me with both product and a $100 Amazon gift card.

Here is an example of an “automated” email that is sent to a handful of bloggers. For privacy reasons, I blocked out any connection with the brand. As you can see, this company would pay me with both product and a $100 Amazon gift card.

Reaching out to brands

Say you really love a brand and want to work with them. It never hurts to shoot your shot and email the company for the possibility of a collaboration. When reaching out to the brand, you want to keep a couple of things in mind:

  • Always keep your language professional

    • Although you may be casual with your followers, this is a business exchange; the brand wants to know you are serious

  • Make a media kit, which is like a visual resume, to present to a brand

    • This showcases your following, a little background on you and your blog and why the company should work for you.

    • Canva is a great website to use with pre-made templates.

  • Let the brand know what you can provide them, not what they can give you

    • You are providing a service for that brand, and marketing their product or service to your audience.

  • You don’t always have to ask for payment, but know your worth

    • My rule of thumb is to post on stories or do a giveaway when I do not receive payment from a brand.

    • If I truly value the brand relationship, like with SporTea, I don’t ask for payment. SporTea sends me a box of product ever 3 months or so filled with samples and product.

    • Since I take pride in my work and the content I create, I treat it as a marketing exchange; I often ask for payment if a company would like me to post on my Instagram feed. Keep in mind that the company is saving a lot by marketing through a creative versus a marketing company.

My guidelines

As my voice and brand has developed over the years (see image below), I have become more selective on who I work with. Oftentimes I receive emails from companies that don’t match my brand or I don’t feel comfortable supporting, and I turn them down.

The hardest part about turning down a brand is the possibility of payment. Remember to stay true to your brand and the future of your company.

I only work with companies that…

  • I trust (click here for an example)

  • Have used in the past (click here for an example)

  • Am inspired by (click here for an example)

  • Have a trial period with (click here for an example)

  • Am excited to try (click here for an example)

I do not need to hit all of these points to say “yes” to a brand, but try to stick to at-least 2 when working with a company!

The left is when I first started blogging/on Instagram versus the right, which is my most up-to-date feed!

Affiliate inks

Affiliate links can be tempting when you first start blogging, I remember that was one of my first “collaboration” opportunities.

Often times, an affiliate link means the company wants you to buy the product in exchange for a discounted rate and the possibility for a kick-back if people use your discount code. If the company wants you to buy their product, this is not a collab!

Affiliate links can be great if you are willing to keep-up with them. Right now, I have on affiliate link with Follain. You can check it out here.

  • Follain is a clean beauty company that reached out to me. I tested their clean beauty starter kit, and am able to offer a 15% discount (ref15_8477un) to any of my followers. If I get a certain amount of people to sign up, I get a small kick-back.

  • I chose to say “yes” to this collab since I love Follain and have been shopping with them for a while!

How to communicate a brand deal with your followers

Be transparent with your followers. People value real and raw content; make sure to communicate a sponsorship, collaboration or affiliation with your followers. Organically Becca does a great job with this.

My history with collabs

  • My first collab (which you can view here) , with was a giveaway, was with Little Box of Rocks Shop. They reached out to me via Instagram DMs.

    • At this point, I was a fashion blogger and mainly talked about trends and my closet.

  • My second collab with with Winc, which was actually an affiliate link where I paid for the subscription box. It was a great company to put on my “resume” and taught me a lot.

The more my following grew, and the more I utilized things like hashtags, geotags and setting a “theme”, the more companies started to reach out to me.You may come across some bloggers that will take almost every collab they receive, and it’s unfortunate to see. Please do not become this blogger! You want to establish a solid following and work with brands you trust. The success will come with hard work.

Media Kits

You can view an example of my media kit here. I used canva to create my media kit, but would like to customize my own versions soon.

When creating your media kit, make sure to:

  • Keep your colors consistent with your website / brand

  • Keep your font consistent

  • This is a visual resume for brands, be honest with your numbers

  • Make it unique and memorable

  • Use the penny-per-follower rule.

    • For example, if you have 5,000 followers, you should be charing $50. If you have under 1000, I would stick to 20-30.

How to work with a brand, no matter how small your following is

You may be wondering what are the steps of a brand and how do I work with a brand? I created an infographic for you to break down the steps!

  1. Establish your brand

    • Before you reach out to a company, make sure you are confident with your work on all social media platforms. Only refer to content that you are proud of; this presents your brand and potential to the client you are pitching too.

  2. Create a media kit

    • Head to or illustrator and create a media kit. Make sure to stay consistent with your colors and fonts, to show brands you are serious about your work.

  3. Contact the company

    • Email the company using a professional tone, letting them know you are interested in potentially working with them. Always attach your media kit for their reference.

  4. Negotiate the details

    • The company will email you back with a yes or no answer, often times with guidelines and sometimes a contract. You may need to re-negotiate your price, which is ok! Just remember to know your worth and stick to a realistic price point to charge the client.

    • If you are signing a contract, take your time to read the entire thing and don’t be afraid to ask questions! The first time I signed a contract, I sent any portions I was confused on to my Mom (thanks Mom). You always want to make sure to be clear an all agreements within said contract.

    • The price, deadlines, contract and communication information should fit both the company and your standards.

  5. Create content

    • The fun stuff! You’ve landed your collaboration so it’s time to create some content! Depending on the level of quality and payment you have agreed upon with your client, you may want to consider hiring a photographer. Most of the time, friends & family do the trick. I also like to send an un-edited and edited version to the client before I post, in-case they would like me to edit the shot.

  6. Post-collaboration

    • Follow up with the company to thank them for their time. This is a great way to keep ties with the company for the potential for future collaborations.

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All about payment

Here are the three ways I typically receive payment

  • Gift card (most popular)

  • PayPal / Venmo (normally used when you reach out to a company)

  • A taxable form (which i’ve only received once)

Instagram Q&A:

  1. How do you know if you are getting a good deal with what you are producing for them?

    • Tough question! This goes back to knowing what your content is worth. If you value the companies voice, and don’t mind exchange product for free content then do so. If you feel like you should be getting paid or getting paid more, it’s ok to ask a brand for that. If they don’t want to pay you, they’ll let you know.

  2. Which one happens more, brand reaching out to your or reaching out to brands?

    • Brands reaching out to you happens more! Don’t feel discouraged if you are not receiving tons of companies reaching out to you, it’s ok to reach out to some to get your foot in the door and for other companies to start noticing you.

      • A good way for companies to notice you is to insta-story about them, tag them or follow them. That is how I started my collab with SporTea.

  3. Do you have to reach out to brands or do they come to you?

    • Answered above!

  4. So, I have done some sponsored posts but no one ever wants to pay me.

    • Companies are getting smarter, and they know that bloggers and creatives will ask for less / nothing in exchange for content. It’s OK to send a brand your media kit with your prices after they reach out to you. Remember that the company who is reaching out to you is asking you for a marketing service, which normally costs thousands of dollars! Know your worth, and stand behind it. It may be a slow process, but someone will pay you eventually.

  5. Is email the best way to get in touch? How do you start with the collaboration process?

    • Email has worked best for me, but don’t be afraid to slide into a companies DMs if you can’t find company info. I recently did this and it worked!

  6. When should I start asking to get paid vs. getting free product?

    • I don’t think you need a certain amount of followers to start asking for paid sponsorships but I only started getting paid collaborations around 1000 followers.

      • If you have a strong following with great interaction and stats, companies should value that, no matter the amount of people that follow you.

    • Some companies are just as small as we are, so not everyone can pay us. If you value a company enough, like I do with SporTea, I don’t ask for payment. This is up to your judgment!

  7. After the collab is over, how do you get them to do another collab with you?

    • Be prepared with stats to show that your previous collaboration was successful. If they only want you to create content for them, email them some recent pictures you took to prove that you can produce amazing quality content for them again! Quality over Quantity, always.

  8. How do you negotiate price?

    • I always follow the penny-per-follower rule. Don’t get discouraged if a company does not want to work with you due to payment. You can try to negotiate with the company for a lower rate or reach back out at a later time. Make sure to know your worth. If you have time to produce content for free while you develop your brand, go for it! I think it’s a great place to start. After you’ve blogged for a couple of months, it’s more enticing to want to get paid for your hard work… completely understandable! Like I said earlier, the company is asking you to advertise and market for them (which normally costs hundreds - thousands of dollars). Lastly, always list your price in your media kit, don’t beat around the bush.

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X, Natalie.