A Guide to Sponsored Posts: Getting them, negotiating and making them work for you!

I haven’t blogged about, well blogging… for a month or so now; with a lot of my posts being about freelancing instead. So today I thought I’d go back to basics with another blogging guide. I asked over in my Facebook group what you’d like to see and lots of you said content around sponsored posts; so today I thought I’d cover…

  • How I find sponsored posts.
  • How to deal when you’re offered ‘freebies’ but want to discuss sponsored work instead.
  • How to make sponsored posts work for your blog (without putting your audience off)

The types of paid blogging work

Just to clarify, today when we talk about sponsored posts, we’ll be discussing…

  • Brand/PR ops in which you are paid to promote, write about or raise awareness of a specific product.
  • SEO ops in which you are paid to write about a brand, link to them (usually a follow link) to help with their search engine optimisation (I made a youtube video on this if it helps)
  • Instagram ads.

How I find Sponsored Posts

So a question I get asked a lot is how I ‘find’ sponsored posts. Before we talk about ways to find work, I think it’s important to state…

  • You need to feel confident you’ve got something to offer. A brand is paying you to bring a return on investment for them whether that’s through a link, a photo or awareness of their brand to their readers. So although I’m all for confidence, think about this before wanting to find paid work-you need to treat your blog like a business.
  • You should have the stats to back it up if pitching. If you’re a very new blogger, then understand the most important thing to do is to work on growing your audience first (more in my growing your blog ebook here) before approaching brands or trying to get paid work.

So if you are very new to blogging, this might not be the post for you.

So let’s look at the main ways to find sponsored posts:

1.Having a NICHE. 

It always annoys me slightly when bloggers say ‘oh people just come to me’ when it comes to sponsored posts. That’s definitely true sometimes, but it doesn’t help you when you’re feeling despondent. So the first way to have ‘sponsored posts’ is to have a clear niche to make this more likely.

The reason I am approached to create sponsored content on this blog, for example, is that there are not too many people blogging about self-employed; similarly, my second blog is around gluten-free and gut health; which again is a tight niche.

Having a niche doesn’t mean you have to ONLY write about one topic but start to think about WHY brands SHOULD come to you (and not the million other lifestyle bloggers) for sponsored posts. For example, when I think of travel bloggers- there are thousands but Kirsty Leanne’s stands out because of how colourful her images are and how she focuses on plus-sized travel. Your niche can be YOU too! I follow Beth Louise a fashion and beauty blog (an area that I’m not really hugely into!) because I love how funny she is in her super-long Instagram stories.

2.Searching for opsI tend to find ops on twitter (using the #bloggerswanted hashtag), Facebook groups (UK influencer opportunities, official UK bloggers, blogger opportunities, blogger opportunity group) are good, as is the foodies 100. I won’t lie, they are hit and miss but I have found some opportunities there. I would just be cautious that you will probably be undercut by other bloggers (some of the fees suggested are ridiculous) but that’s why being confident in your niche is important. I also use Tribe for Instagram sponsored posts. If you suffer with a chronic illness (and blog about it) I offer brand ops on www.chronicillnessbloggers.com so do register!

The main thing I would say about these is brands are likely to have specific requirements they’re looking for-and you need to understand that’s them doing their job. So if you have 30,000 followers on Instagram but don’t have your own domain, it’s pointless for a brand looking to build links through to their site. Always read the requirements carefully and how to get in touch too (if a brand says email, then email them-don’t just tweet a reply!)

3.Pitching to brands

The main way I get sponsored posts is reaching out to relevant brands. To do this, I’ll…

  • Think of content I’m already planning and which brands might fit (try to think what questions your audience are asking and which brands could essentially solve this for them!)
  • Take a look at bloggers in my niche to see which brands they’re working with (a bit cheeky I know but it often shows which brands are open to working with bloggers).
  • Email brands I’m already using to introduce myself.

Either way, it’s best to start with things that naturally fit with your blog (And NOT Just things you really want to try for free)I’m not going to spend lots of time on this part as I’ve already talked about it in a few different blog posts, so I’ll link below for you to have a read.

8 tips for emailing PRs

10 things not to do when emailing PRs

My Pitching Toolkit

But needless to say, reaching out should be as simple of introducing yourself, what you can offer, the different ways you might work together and what you’d be interested in receiving in return.

What to do if you’re offered freebies rather than a fee

A lot of the time, you might be offered a free product rather than payment for your work. This isn’t always a bad thing (although some bloggers will have you believe it is). However, it’s always worth thinking about…

  • Is the product of equal value to the time I’m going to spend on promoting it? If it’s a lower-cost item, you have two choices. To either ask for a budget to cover your time OR lower the amount of work involved to ensure equal value. I am often offered food products to create recipes from or review-It wouldn’t be feasible to write about all of them (and would leave me out of pocket with the time spent) so I either ask for additional budget to create a whole blog post around the item or propose a different option. For example, I’m always happy to unbox bits and chat about them on Instagram stories. Presenting the two options gives a clear choice so you’re not just asking for money!

 

  • Is it something I know I can offer ROI on? If the product is absolutely perfect for your audience, you should have no qualms about explaining this and asking for payment. Why not mention how a similar campaign produced xx results to back up your case? However, if it’s something you really fancy but haven’t really blogged about before-then be practical. For example, I am not a beauty blogger but have really gotten into natural skincare lately. If approached to try some, I am not sure I wouldn’t be as confident in my blog audience to ask for payment as I might be for gut health.  I know everyone is different-but if it’s something interesting, adds value and could help build up a new catgory for your blog for future opportunities (e.g. starting with unpaid travel reviews) it could be worth it. With paid work can come an expectation of tracking links, reports and Return on Investment so you need to feel confident that you can offer that. I know us bloggers are so keen to encourage other to not work for free (quite rightly) that we forget to say: you need to be able to demonstrate valuable worth too.

However, if you haven’t passed the first two ‘tests’, it’s time to be honest. I probably say this a lot but one of the best pieces of advice I ever recieved is the minute you receive any payment for your blog, it’s a business. So you need to treat it like one. Some people flit between treating it like a hobby and a business and that is a mistake. So, if you receive an offer that doesn’t make sense business wise, you need to explain so!

My top tip would be to always offer choice. Not everything has to be paid-so you might offer a compromise (such an instagram story for a product, rather than typing up a whole blog post). Next, if requesting payment, spell out why: that it takes time to photograph, draft, promote and you need to be realistic.

Whether you are full-time, part-time or just a few hours a week; there’s nothing wrong with explaining ‘this is how long something would take me to do, so I’d require this payment. Alternatively, I could offer some smaller coverage without payment.‘ Don’t be afraid to give examples of successful campaigns you’ve worked on in the past-how many entries a giveaway got or stats from a brand’s report.

As much as we love to build lovely relationships with PRs, it’s important to note it’s a business transaction. And however nice you are, a PR sending the product because it will help bring a profit to the business-so you need to keep that in mind. Don’t be offended if they don’t have a budget or can’t budge.

How to make sponsored posts work for you

Finally, let’s talk about how to work on sponsored posts without putting your audience off. Years and years ago, I was on a blogging course and the blogger doing the presentation admitted that almost all her posts were sponsored, but that they were so valuable to her audience, they didn’t care. I was shocked!

It really got me thinking-and since then, I’ve gone out of my way to make sure my sponsored content is just as (if not more valuable) than my regular content. For example, one of my blog’s popular posts was all about taxes as a blogger (give it a read-Jan is just around the corner) which was in collaboration with an accountancy software company.

Initially, the company had offered to provide the content-but I spent hours (for no extra fee) reworking and writing it myself. The reason was simply because I wanted it to offer the maximum value to you all and share something that I knew would be useful. It’s that simple.

So please stop hiding your sponsored posts and stop just copying and pasting. We’ve talked a lot about brand sponsored posts but sometimes you’ll have SEO-type ones; where a company might write the post for you, including link/s to their site. The company might not be particularly bothered about how many people click through or read the post; so yes it can be tempting to just paste these over and take the money (if you accept follow links, that’s a whole other post!) but nobody knows your audience better than you.

Don’t fob them off with copy and pasted work. Sometimes it might be great content but it’s often not-and the company will often be happy for you to make your own tweaks. Think carefully how it can fit your audience.

Let me give you an example. One of my friends was approached to write about an LED lights company-it wasn’t particularly exciting, it was a follow link campaign (yes, I know, they come with their own set of problems-but that’s a whole different post) and they’d sent her some info on LED Lights.

She was about to decline as it was dull and did not fit with her blog at all- until we chatted about how it could work for her.

I would not read 500 words about LED Lights but I absolutely would read…

  • A new room makeover post with pictures
  • 10 ways to make your home cosy for Christmas
  • Top tips for the perfect winter girl’s night in 

Each of these examples could still fit-my friend could introduce the company at the beginning, explain it is sponsored, share her own invaluable tips and weave facts about the brand in to the copy.

It takes a bit longer-but it means you can be happy about your sponsored content, declare it properly and not hide it from your readers. And, of course: get traffic from it!

Finally, try to achieve a balance. Despite what the blogger said, I personally don’t like two sponsored posts in a row (although sometimes it’s unavoidable) and I try to make sure if I post a sponsored post-I’ll then create something extra special with the money earnt.

I try to see that the brand is not just ‘sponsoring’ one post; but supporting my blog. I will be working with a sponsor (look out for it on my social on Saturday!) at the end of this week and that means I’ve dedicated today to writing this mega-long post for you all (just realised it’s over 2000 words-shit!) Although sponsored posts can be very valuable to your audience, always think about what else you can offer by them sticking by you!

I hope this post has been useful and has got you thinking more about sponsored posts- any questions, do ask! I’d love to help.

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