Part 2: Brand Collabs and Paid Partnerships
You're back! Ok so now onto the real juicy stuff and my favorite part, working with brands!
This post will be most helpful for those of you who have already started to grow your page and want to learn how to work with brands and get paiiiidddd!!$$!!
OK ok so back in January when I had just just started, I had maybeeee posted 10 new photos tailored to my new "fashion/styling" Instagram, I started reaching out to brands. I literally had no idea what I was doing but I started DMing brands that I liked saying literally "I love your brand and would love to collab!" My very first brand partnerships was with Mejuri which I was SO excited about. They responded to my DM, I filled out an application with my IG handle etc, got approved and then received my first ever "pr package" or "blogger mail"! I had less than 2,000 followers at the time and was so excited to be working with a brand that I loved right off the bat.
The fact that Mejuri wanted to work with me so early on in this little Instagram journey of mine was so exciting. I was so surprised that it worked, that they actually got back to my DM and wanted to work with me, that I started blasting that simple message out to other brands I was interested in partnering with:
And I weirdly found that it worked. Of course a lot of brands responded and said no, or that they weren't looking for any new partnerships at the time, but a lot of brands responded with an email address where we could continue the conversation (like both of those screenshots above.) As you guys know Golde is one of my favorite brands that I still work with and hvisk was also down to work with me when I was so new to this whole world earlier this year. And so very quickly I had big dreams of working with certain brands and was having so much fun with reaching out, getting new partnerships, etc. I figured if brands wanted to work with me even when I had a really small following, that it would only get bigger and better as I continued to grow.
In the very beginning it was almost 80/20 in terms of me reaching out to brands vs brands contacting me. I was really trying to gain traction so I was doing a lot of outreach/cold messaging brands. I would say now that I am a little more 'established', it is more 50/50. I need to get back into reaching out to brands like I was in the beginning because it definitely worked.
Also back in February, I reached out to Prism Boutique, an LA based boutique that I love and wanted to work with. You can see their response, basically a thanks but no thanks answer which I was getting my fair share of at the time. Understandably so, I was just starting out.
I kept working on my Instagram and grew my platform enough to where I actually followed up in May and ended up partnering with them :) You've definitely seen some of their gifted styles in a few of my posts:
Point is though, don't give up! If there are brands that you really want to work with, contact them. If it does't work out the first time, try again.
So anyways I basically just kept trying to work with more and more brands and grow my page. I figured maybe I would start to get reposted by some bigger brands and that could help me grow as well, which it did. Who What Wear featured me in an article, I got asked to some IG takeovers, and eventually I was getting a lot of messages from brands in my DMs.
One thing that I haven't talked about on my Instagram is that I do not accept every brand partnership offer and I have also turned down paid collabs. There is a lotttt of reasons for this:
I only partner with brands that feel authentic to me so I don't agree to work with a brand that I wouldn't be excited about in real life. Free product is cool but it becomes a burden when you have to shoot something that you don't really like or promote a product that you're just ehh about.
I am really trying to make an effort to be more sustainable and conscious about my purchases/impact on the planet, so this means supporting ethical and sustainable brands. Obviously this is a life long journey but I have turned down partnerships from big notorious fast fashion brands.
Some brands don't seem to value my time/work, so I don't end up working with them. It has to be a fair exchange either wise it's not worth it for me.
Takeaway: Just start reaching out to brands! You'll be surprised at how many brands are still willing to work with you even if you have a small following. Since then, I have changed my generic DM to be more personal about why I want to work with that brand or ideas I have on content that I could create, but "hey I love your brand and would love to collab" surprisingly worked really well for me in the beginning. Realize that a lot of brands will say no, but don't be shy to reach out or keep following up.
A lot of you guys were curious about paid collabs and wanted to know how I got paid gigs with such a small following. I am obviously still new to this and am trying to figure out how to maximize paid opportunities myself, but I'll share my experience so far:
My first paid collab was with Feals for an Instagram Story Takeover. I had ~3500 followers at the time and this is how it went down:
So I was pretty lucky to be honest. I didn't have many followers and they just reached out to me with an offer. I was thrilled. It was also my first time doing an IG story takeover for a brand and my first time talking to the camera.....lol. Something I am slowly getting used to.
My second paid collab (and 3rd and 4th and 5th...I have done a few projects for them) was with Urban Outfitters. Which seriously blewwwww my mind, it was so unexpected. I was obviously over the moon, it felt surreal in a way because I have been shopping there since middle school and then they popped up in my inbox out of the blue and we have been working together ever since. Serious proof you don't have to have a big following to land dream partnerships.
I think this will be most helpful, my paid partnership with Rit Dye. This is the pitch email I sent to them:
This was the first time I pitched a paid partnership to a brand. I included a little bit about myself, why I thought it would be a good fit, and then the deliverables. They agreed to everything and it was such a fun project to work on, plus it gave me the confidence to go after paid opportunities and cold email brands.
I have had a handful of other paid partnerships that have been organic like the ones above, but there are also influencer marketing platforms that have paid campaigns you can apply to.
I have profiles on most of them so I can see what's available, but have yet to do a paid collab off one. Definitely check out Aspire IQ, Collectively, Fohr, & Activate, you never know what will come of it.
I mentioned earlier that I have turned down paid partnerships so I'll share one of those experiences: Earlier this summer Neutrogena reached out to me and wanted me to be apart of their NeutrogenaSun Campaign. I was definitely interested at first, especially because it was a paid gig. I even negotiated the budget and got them to raise the deal by a few hundred dollars. At the end of the day and the more I talked it over with my boyfriend (I consult him as if he's my manager lolz) I just realized I wasn't super excited about it. I didn't want to post photos of me promoting Neutrogena, I don't even use their product in my normal life (I have transitioned over to clean sunscreen), and they were asking for 3 feed posts + IG stories. It was all too much for a brand that I didn't really care for.
My biggest advice through out all of this and my best tip to grow your platform is to stay true to yourself, be authentic and send a consistent message. If you deviate from who you are and accept every collab that comes your way, eventually your followers will catch on and won't trust your opinion. If you promote every product, how are people supposed to know which ones you actually stand for? I could throw in a Hamilton quote here but I'll spare you guys, I think you get the point. From my weee little experiences so far, you can definitely land paid and gifted brand collabs with a small following, just foster those relationships and keep at it.
Thanks for tuning in and of course DM me @josie_francis with any feedback/questions :)