Recently I shared a post about my blogging journey and the lessons I've learnt, which if you missed you can read here. Since then I've had quite a lot of emails asking for a part II to this series - specifically with a focus on blog sponsors and brand partnerships.
This can be a difficult topic to address but I'm going to give it a go! Please bear in mind that my advice isn't the be all and end all and I definitely recommend accompanying anything you read here with further research and your own trial and judgement. However I hope this answers some of your questions and please do email me if there's anything you'd like me to cover in future blog posts of this type!
WHERE TO BEGIN
This is aimed at bloggers who have begun to build an audience and are looking to begin working with brands and sponsors. I personally don't believe you need to wait until you have thousands of hits per day before beginning this step, you can start with baby steps that are appropriate for your size.
• Ad swaps: If you want to start somewhere, this is a good place to begin. It helps with figuring out your layout and how advertisements fit in, but can also be beneficial for exposing yourself to new readers. When I first began I did a swap with Bleubird Vintage and Daydream Lily. It was a great start for me as I gained a lot of new readers and also learnt about adjusting my layout to work with the changes. (Please note - this was before both these blogs have reached the sizes they're at now - if you're reaching out for an ad swap it helps to pick a blog with a similar size to your own).
• Affiliate Programmes: There are plenty of reward programmes available for you to sign up to. You can apply to join and once you're accepted there are different banner sizes you can use or text links you can embed. Do make sure you learn all the regulations around these but they are a good place to start and will help you easily measure the amount of click-through your advertisements get (and will therefore help with pricing strategies for future). Rather than joining every programme available, it's more beneficial to join less but devote more time to making them work for you. Full disclosure: I am part of Reward Style and the Modcloth programmes, but there are plenty out there - find the one that's the right fit for you!
• PR Emailing Lists: This is a great first step in developing relationships with brands. If your email hasn't already been added to any PR lists there's nothing wrong with approaching a company and being asked to be included in the newsletter mail outs. This will keep you informed of potential opportunities, event invites and new information on brands you admire.
THE NEXT STEP
• Sponsorship information: If you're ready to start taking on paid sponsors I recommend putting together a PDF about your blog. How you design it and what you include is up to you but a few of my suggestions are: Information on what your blog is about and who the target demographic are, statistics on blog hits and social media reach and a break down of your different advertising options (banner sizes, costs, payment options and any other services you're offering).
• Pitching and putting yourself out there: Now for the scary part - approaching people! Although there are many advertisers looking for blogs to work with who will approach you first, it also helps to put your information out there. There's nothing wrong with sending a friendly email to brands you admire (whether they're big or smaller/independent) and letting them know about your blog and the mutually beneficial opportunities you can offer. Keep it short, stay humble and don't be afraid to give it a go.
• Brand Integrity: Once you begin to monetize your blog, different opportunities will come your way. You don't have to say yes to everything and often you might feel like you're saying no to more than you accept. If you're a food blogger who's suddenly doing a sponsored post about diamond necklaces your readers probably won't be so happy. Always keep your blogs authenticity intact and remember if an opportunity isn't right for you, you can often pass it along to a friend who it might work for (pay it forward!).
BUILDING FROM THERE
Selling advertising space, joining affiliate programmes and developing sponsored posts are all great ways to monetize your blog but they aren't the only ways! If you have an audience and are looking for the next challenge, it's time to think about what it is that sets you apart from others and how you can capitalise on it.
• Developing your expertise: What are you an expert on? Are you like Gala Darling - full of encouraging self-help advice (she sells podcasts and bootcamps), are you a graphic designer like Tabitha Emma (she has many different design services and illustrated my blog header) or are you a talented photographer like Nirrimi who would like to offer your services to others as well? Your blog is your platform, use it for opening doors and gaining new opportunities!
• Opening a shop: Nicole from Gary Pepper sells vintage dresses on the side, Kate Gabrielle from Scathingly Brilliant sells stationery, prints and jewellery and many of us open pop-up shops to down size our wardrobes. (There are a few pieces left for sale in mine here.) Opening a shop isn't the right step for everyone, but maybe it's right for you.
• Making a pitch: If you have an idea of a brand collaboration you'd like to do, why not put a pitch together and send them an email? You've got nothing to lose but the potential for a whole lot of gain! Rather than waiting for amazing opportunities to come your way, you shouldn't be afraid of reaching out to grab some yourself, you never know what might happen and what further doors it could open for you.
So I think that answers most of the questions I've been asked lately and I hope that helps a little! If you want to break it down to my key messages my overall advice is: work hard, don't be afraid to reach out for things, always be polite and humble, keep your brand integrity and find what opportunities are the best fit for you.