Why bloggers should work for free, at first. (Hear us out).
Here’s the scene. You’ve been blogging for a couple months. You’re putting in what feels like every extra hour of the day to make this thing work, and you start noticing that other bloggers are making money from their projects. And you’re probably asking yourself – “how do I make this happen for me?
If you’re asking that question, you’re in the right place. We’ve both been there. Dreaming of taking our side passion and making it our career. And yes, that most definitely involves making money.
Making money from your blog can be done in many ways: affiliate marketing, advertisements, product selling, e-courses, but most presumably, brand sponsorships. While the prospect of making a profit off of your hard work is exciting, it can also be a slippery slope. You want to be paid, but you don’t want to lose the trust of your devoted readers and followers. Because their trust is THE most important asset you have. You want to maintain relationships with brands. You want to make sure that you are charging the right price and providing the best content.
Just as in the military, in the workforce, and in life, you’ve got to start from the bottom. Before we get into the how when it comes to working with brands initially, let’s get into the why the heck we think you should be working for free (at first).
Earn the trust of your readers and followers.
It’s a relatively simple concept. If your favorite blogger or influencer began promoting a certain product that they’d never used before, or at least had never shared that they had a love for, and were being paid to talk about it, would you be skeptical? Would you wonder if this person was just marketing this product because they were being paid, not because they actually loved it and thought that you would love it, too?
Something that we will say time and time again, is that the relationship you have with your tribe, your readers, your followers, is the most important of them all. So, in the inception of your blogging journey, we recommend talking about products you love, simply because you love them, and are only promoting what you think is the best for your community. If, in the future, you are contacted by this company, or you have built the courage to reach out to them and form a partnership, by all means, enjoy the fruits of your labor. But when you are just starting out, and are in the beginning stages of your blogging career, you’ve got to earn before you can earn… get it?
Create a portfolio for future partnerships.
Put yourself in this position: you’re the head of PR or the head of social media at a big food company. A blogger has reached out to you in hopes of striking up a partnership, and they are asking for compensation in return for their blog and social promotion of your product. You begin to skim through their blog, and fail to notice any other brand sponsorships or reviews on their site. How will you know what kind of job they will do projecting your brand out to their audience?
It is important to build your own portfolio. This way, when you do begin to grow and afford the ability to be compensated for your work, you can showcase work you’ve done in the past. Companies will get a feel for your skills, your process, your voice and most importantly, your audience response.
Learn how to write about a product.
The days of plain-as-day product reviews are over. If companies want to get a review of their product, they can simply go onto Amazon and read through dozens of comments. It is much more beneficial for them to see how their product fits into YOUR story, YOUR life, and how it can be relatable to your readers.
As you grow in your blogging career, you will learn that your blog has almost nothing to do with you, and everything to do with the reader. Your thinking must transition from “here’s what I did over the weekend’ to “what can my readers take away from this post?” You’ve got to offer something, and more often than not, product reviews are not the most appealing of posts.
Getting familiar with the logistics and process of implementing a product into your posts can be very beneficial before you head to the big time asking for compensation. It’s not easy feat, so trust us: practice makes perfect. Think about how you would use this product in your life, how does it relate to certain aspects that pertain to your brand. For instance, if you want to review a brand of ground coffee, “5 Benefits of Drinking Coffee” is much more captivating than “Starbucks Espresso Blend Product Review”.
Form a relationship with a brand.
Start early. Lasting relationships with brands are far more beneficial than a one-off product review. You could start by sharing your love for a product on Instagram. Tag the company, let them know you use their product and that your readers enjoy it, too. If a brand you’ve never tried reaches out to you and wants to send you their product, accept it. If you don’t like it, don’t share it. If you love it, by all means, find a way to incorporate it into your social feeds. In the future, you may end up charging for this type of promotion, but in your early stages, this is how you begin to form a relationship with a company.
Once you begin to grow, and after you have expressed your interest in a particular product and brand, the brand will be more likely to want to work with you.
Now, once you get past the phase of promoting anything on your own dollar, here’s how you can start to transition past it. Here is a reference for what a brand sponsorship timeline looks like in cooperation with your blog growth.
- Promote product on your own dollar
Sharing photos of products on your social feeds or incorporating them into your blog posts, tagging the company and/or linking to their website. Getting their attention and establishing trust from your readers.
- Extend yourself
Reach out to brands via social media or e-mail. Provide them with a good understanding of your audience, and offer to incorporate their product into a blog or social promotion. The only cost to them is shipment and product. Show them that your readers are engaged and are interested in their product.
- Enjoy the fruits of your labor
By this step (the amount of time time between step one and three varies for everyone), your blog is at the point of growth and engagement where companies see value in compensating you for your promotions. You have formed trust on both ends, and are ready to profit from your business.
You are at a very important time in your blogging career: the beginning. You have your whole journey ahead of you; decide now what you want to make of it. Think about what brands you already use. Share that with your audience. Let them know how you incorporate different products into your lifestyle, and why you love and trust that brand. Keep these brands on your radar, and form a plan of action for when you’ve reached step three.
If you read this article, we are assuming that you’ve got monetization on your mind. Blogging is fun, it rarely feels like work to those who are dedicated to it, but we are assuming that you aren’t just doing it ‘for run’. You’re hoping to build a career. So, think about who you want to partner with in the future, and start fostering those relationships from the beginning.
What do you think?
- What is your opinion? Do you think it’s okay for bloggers to work for free?
- What are some examples of relationships you’ve formed with brands/how have they evolved?