The Art of Sponsored Content: 10 Tips To Get Paid!
I've been wanting to share my thoughts on sponsored content for quite some time, mostly because I'm still relatively new to it so it's fresh in my mind! I've had my share of hits and misses, but through it all, I've emerged from each experience with something more valuable than a paycheck: knowledge. I am officially a (very!) small-business owner, a fact that will never cease to amaze me! When I first began blogging, it was simply an outlet for my thoughts and feelings, but as the years went by, I realized I could continue to express myself while also making a financial contribution to our family.
In addition, I have felt the pull to be a resource for others. I realized last year—in the midst of my own personal hell, oddly enough—that I wanted to help folks any way I could. Whether it's figuring out how to be a supportive friend or customizing your new Squarespace blog, I'm sharing everything I know in order to make your lives a little easier. Why? Being useful brings me joy.
It is in that vein that I wrote this post. As a small fish in an incredibly large pond, it is important to me that other bloggers and vloggers are aware of the opportunities to make money even if they don't have oodles of followers. Maybe you're thinking about giving blogging a try for the first time, or perhaps, you've been at it awhile, but are unsure of how to find work. Or maybe you think you simply have nothing to offer.
No matter where you are in the blogging world, you can learn the art of sponsored content, and you can do so without selling out or going bald. This list represents everything you need to know in order to get started on the right foot, so let's jump right into it!
1. Get your mind right
I literally almost missed one of my sponsorship opportunities because I wasn't actually expecting to be chosen! By the grace of God, I happened to check my Promotions folder (something I rarely do) and see the words "You're In!". The fact of the matter is I didn't feel worthy of paid work. Everyone around me seemed so much further ahead--more followers/subscribers, greater page views, and stronger influence, while I was debating whether or not to virtually pack it up and quit. Now, this doesn't mean I'm not working to expand my reach and grow my following (I absolutely am!), but I also confidently pursue opportunities and expect to be hired because I have something of value for the right brand(s): my humanness. No, really! In this day and age, consumers want brands to feel real, rather than cold, lifeless entities; utilizing regular folks like you and me is a brilliant—and potent—way to facilitate trust. Once a bond is established, consumers are much more willing to show support.
Also, simply knowing yourself and where your personal ethical lines are is vital, especially if you want to create a thriving business. What sacrifices are you willing to make? How important is your integrity? Are there companies you absolutely will not work with? Are there any past blog posts and/or videos that might contradict a potential sponsorship? Take some time to sit and think about these issues before diving into sponsored content. It is effort well spent, I promise!
2. Understand numbers aren't everything
I hinted at this in my first point, but it bears reiterating. This may come as a shock, but honestly, the people I know who are doing amazingly well don't have gigantic followings, yet they've been able to engage their audiences with valuable, actionable content. Conversely, many of the über-popular folks with tens or hundreds of thousands of followers across multiple platforms are barely able to survive. Don't believe me? Read this eye-opening article by Gaby Dunn, "Get Rich or Die Vlogging: The Sad Economics of Being Famous on the Internet". I promise you'll never think of web-based popularity the same way again.
Of course, there are certainly big names making astronomical money, but isn't it nice to know that's not the only way to be successful? And honestly, 300 engaged followers who frequently comment and share your work are a lot more impactful (and appealing to brands!) than 3,000 bots who ignore you. My platform, for example, isn't huge, but I've booked jobs through Acorn Influence and gen.video! If you're a lifestyle blogger with more sizable numbers, head to Massive Sway by the SITS Girls. Are you a Youtuber with 5000+ subscribers? Try Famebit. There are other marketing platforms, but the ones mentioned are a great place to start. Peruse each of them and consider signing up; you never know what could happen when you put yourself out there!
3. Pay attention to contractual terms & payment schedules
Always, always, ALWAYS keep a record of everything! After reading and signing, print out all the documentation and/or save it somewhere digitally. Most companies operate fairly, but it's a good idea to get in the habit of protecting yourself. Also, depending on how much you're making, you'll need those records for tax reasons. Further, some payouts are quick, while others can take 60 days or more, so make sure you budget accordingly. In addition, some campaigns include an affiliate program as part of payment, but certain states don't allow that option (Colorado, for example, doesn't participate in the Amazon Affiliate program), so be sure to double-check your state's eligibility status before you commit to a project.
4. Read the campaign instructions thoroughly BEFORE starting
This seems like a no-brainer, and yet, very recently, I made the terrible mistake of ASSuming I understood what was expected of me...and failed miserably! Thankfully, it was a problem I was able to solve without negatively impacting the sponsorship, but it was painful lesson to learn. My goal is to not only meet, but exceed expectations, but I can't possibly do that if I'm ignorant about the details of the job. When in doubt, send a quick email to the company or marketing representative asking for clarification. It takes a few seconds, but saves time—and embarrassment—in the long run.
5. Organize in order to implement
I will be the first to tell you I don't really do well with systems. I instantly feel constricted when I impose any sort of structure on myself. I also know this is an extremely immature way to behave, especially for someone who's trying to conduct business. Once I began accepting pay for my work, I made sure I had a plan for each day and executed it effectively. With three kids running around, it wasn't easy, but I coordinated schedules with my husband in order to meet my deadlines. On the weekends, he'd wrangle the kids, so I could have peace and quiet to write and/or record; during the week, I also used my my daughter's nap time to edit content, schedule social media posts, create blog graphics and video thumbnails, answer emails, etc. There's still room for improvement, but I'm much better than I used to be!
If you, like me, are somewhat disorganized, put extra effort into holding yourself accountable. Talk to your partner, roommates, or family members and let them know how they can help you succeed. Buy a planner (or use your phone) to keep track of important dates and deadlines. Get an accordion file to hold important financial documents related to your business. When you start taking yourself seriously, others will too.
6. Be honest
When it comes to my online presence, my integrity matters more to me than anything else. I want my audience to know and trust me. When they see me mentioning a product or service on my blog or on Youtube, they know my seal of approval is credible because I wouldn't dare recommend anything I don't genuinely love. Also, I want my audience to see my sincerity and understand this is a job, not a hobby. When, I created the holiday video series with Hallmark, I was very clear about the sponsorship, but also made sure to let my viewers know the project allowed me to help my family.
7. Hold on to your authenticity
At this point, most of us are used to seeing sponsored posts and video. Problems arise, however, when bloggers and vloggers become a bit too commercial and lose touch with their "voice". Do follow the guidelines of the campaign, but don't forget about what attracted the brands in the first place: YOU! Have fun with your own unique brand of creativity. Your sponsored content should seamlessly integrate with other posts/videos. Two women who beautifully illustrate this concept are Mattie James of Mattieologie and Anna Liesemeyer of In Honor Of Design. Both ladies regularly partake in sponsorships, but every entry on their sites seamlessly blends high-quality photos with compelling copy. Thus, they put just as much effort into their work whether there's a check in the mail or not. That is what keeps fans like me coming back for more!
8. Don't take every job
This goes hand-in-hand with being honest and authentic, y'know? If you've built a platform on passionate veganism, but suddenly start making recipes with meat (without a reasonable explanation), your readers/viewers are going to feel betrayed. This is why tip #1 is so important! You need to take an honest account of who you are and what you stand for before the money comes. I know it's tempting, especially when there are so many lucrative opportunities available, but be as discerning as you can. If it's a truly amazing campaign, why not recommend someone else who'd be a better fit? It's a great way to be useful while sowing some good karmic seed.
9. Balance your content
The vast majority of my content is not sponsored and I aim to keep it that way! I never want my readers or viewers to feel like I'm some smarmy salesperson trying to separate them from their money. They've taken the time to support Living My Someday and I don't take that for granted. As more sponsorships come my way, I'll increase my unaffiliated output, too. This is a great way to honor and build trust with your audience. Don't be afraid to shower them with as much love as you can!
10. Expect to lose some people
The fact of the matter is you can do everything right and there will still be folks who are offended by the very concept of sponsored content. They will unfollow, unsubscribe, and maybe even call you a "sellout" as they exit. Rejection in any form hurts, but it is an integral part of the process. Whether you're letting go of a follower or a potential brand partnership, resist the urge to take it personally (I know this is really tough, but try your best, okay?). Instead, wish them well and retrain your focus on enthusiastic supporters who love you.
11. BONUS! Take time to celebrate!
I have this nasty habit of meeting good news with an instant freak out about all the bad things that are surely on the horizon. Don't do that! Bask in the knowledge that you were hired for a job, did great work, and got paid! Let that joy empower and inspire you to keep building and growing. Oh, and don't be afraid to get a little goofy!
What do you think of The Art of Sponsored Content? Are you ready to get out there and pitch your dream brand(s)? If you have any questions or want to add to the list, feel free to leave a comment below.