Brand collaboration is by far the most common source of funding for solopreneurs. Once you forgo a traditional salary to build your business from the ground up, it’s almost mandatory you get scrappy. Sure, you can apply for grants, get creative with free resources, and work with friends who don’t charge for their services. But ultimately, keeping the lights on is easier if you can align with a brand that speaks to your mission. Knowing how to work with brands is a skill that takes experience. According to Erin Boyle, it’s a whole lot easier to stick with your bottom line if you transition to independent publishing first.
“Every interaction I have with a brand teaches me something new about how I want to approach the next interaction,” said the Reading My Tea Leaves founder during BlogHer Planet. “There’s been hits and misses for sure. This year has been particularly challenging. I think brands have really tightened budgets.”
Before turning her blog into a business, Boyle worked for other media sites where she was frequently asked to do things that she didn’t really want to do by a brand. In order to have a “moral compass” and stick to it, starting her own platform was the logical next step. Though it was risky and undoubtedly required more work, she’s now in a place where she can call her own shots and stick to the “hard nos;” aka, the things she isn’t willing to do for cash.
“There is a lot of pressure and opportunity to monetize that platform and readership that you develop,” she said. “For me, I’m not actually really selling anything. I don’t have a product other than the ideas that I have and the messages I want to share.” No matter your product, whether it’s content like Boyle’s or otherwise, develop a brand mission before you pitch. This is your bottom line and the “why?” you can reference when you’re not sure if the terms presented align with your goals.
After that, you’ll want to set some rates, whether you’re an influencer promoting a product or a brand owner offering some other type of service. It can be helpful to ask around when you’re unsure about numbers, but there is also a tried-and-true formula partly based on the amount of hours needed to complete the task up for negotiation. If you go into a potential partnership with numbers, you won’t have to think on your toes or feel pressured to give into unfair terms.
Finally, whether you’re initiating the outreach or vice-versa, you’ll want to make sure your email communication is on point and backed by research you did beforehand. There is no magic formula for working with brands–know your why, know your numbers, and keep it professional. With consistency, you’re sure to strike gold.
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