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Working With Brands: Part 1

This is a topic I get asked about a lot,from other bloggers starting out or just people trying to work out what on earth I do and how I make any money from it. It’s a fair question. I worried it would be a totally redundant topic for the non-bloggers out there but what the heck, people are so often interested either way. Sponsored brand work has been growing into the largest part of what I do over the last 6 months. It definitely hasn’t been my intention but with so many proverbial arms to my business, I never quite know what work will come in when or which way things will lean in any particular season. That means it could be totally different in three months time…who knows.

Strangely I’ve found myself enjoying this shift, really loving the creativity I’m afforded with working on brand campaigns. I get all the thrills from styling and shooting, maybe even more than designing (never thought I’d say that out loud) so it’s brilliant that I get the opportunity to do that so much at the moment. The draw backs with this sort of work is it’s incredibly time consuming and I feel like I have a lot less control over whether the outcome is a success and it resonates with readers / followers than I do with something like design projects or workshops. Pros and cons eh?!

I didn’t have sponsored work on my mind when I started the blog, in fact that’s laughable as I didn’t even know it existed. When I think back to how naïve and in my own world I was at the beginning I wonder it makes me chuckle. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing or how I wanted the blog to grow in 5 years time but that was fine as I was only ever doing it for the pure joy of creating. That’s all that mattered to me and that was kind of nice for a time, a simpler life if you will. My only aim was that my blog might one day serve as a portfolio of sorts, a collection of the projects I’d worked on.

I started seeing enquiries about sponsored blog work trickle in when my blog was about two years old and at first I was a bit freaked out as it was totally new territory I was dipping my toe into. Was there a blogger code for this sort of thing? What on earth is a media kit? *googles to within an inch of life. Sometimes I just ignored emails in the hope I’d never have to come up with a response and face up to the fact I didn’t know what I was talking about.

It all became a lot easier when I was approached by an agency to join their blogger book. Straight away they were kind enough to inform me I was under charging…big time! I was assured that they would take care of all the negotiating so I could focus on the creative. That was music to my ears! I wasn’t exclusive to them, meaning I could still work with brands direct if they didn’t have the budget to incorporate the agency as well, which was in many ways the best of both worlds. It helped massively to absorb some of their expertise, as I literally had none! It was a small agency that also worked with some of the big dogs like Me and Orla, Fall For DIY and Little Green Shed at the time. The whole experience was probably only two years long but proved invaluable for giving me the insight I needed to work with brands on my own moving forwards.

So, for those of you who don’t really understand what I’m talking about and the whole #AD notion you see popping up all over the place, it basically means a blogger has joined forces with a brand to promote said brand’s products or services to their own readers. It can take the form of the brand gifting the influencer products or an experience or gifting along with payment to create the content around the campaign. It works in a similar way to how brands pay TV companies to promote their products in ad breaks or working with a magazine to have page spreads showing what they offer. UK brands have finally twigged that more people are spending time on blogs, youtube and social channels these days and they can tap into the audience & community that those people have cultivated over the years. The appeal is that it’s a much more authentic and personal way of showing what brands offer because it’s done in the context of people online that you’ve built up a level of trust with and you can also see how those products or services can fit in with their everyday lives and therefore with yours too. For instance if a brand has launched a new furniture range, rather than just seeing some glossy magazine pictures of a sofa and side table, adorned with a model family flashing their veneers, you could read a blog post and see how a real person has styled that sofa and side table in their own home and get some insight into how their living room set up now helps with hosting/ family time/ providing a calm space to relax in. It’s more engaging because these are real people with real lives and often are bursting with creativity, hence why they’re approached by brands.

The collaboration between brand and influencer (that word makes me shudder a little) is on the up with a bit of a slow, tentative start even though this sort of thing has been going on in one form or another for a while. You will probably see the word ‘influencer’ used a lot which is a catch all term for any one with a reach or influence online whether a blogger an Instagammer or Youtuber…. Why do I not like the word? Well it just sounds to commercialised and kind of creepy. When I hear that word I get visions of brainwashing and pushing products on people which shouldn’t be what it’s about.

I love that what started off as a passion has lead to doing it in a paid capacity, of course there are a few more limitations and boxes to tick but it allows a surprisingly amount of freedom and open briefs on the most part. I guess that’s partly because any brands that are a good fit will have come to a blogger for their voice and aesthetic in particular. I also love that being sponsored to produce blog content has meant I’ve been able to keep my blog going. Now that I’m a Mum, time is limited and so there’s not much scope to use her nap time or child care days to aimlessly come up with little projects ‘just because’. It’s sad but true. You’ll see them interspersed between sponsored work but I need to prioritise using my time to earn money to pay the bills as my husband salary along can’t support us living in London, in fact it only just covers the rent, let alone bills and food etc. The great thing is that I often spend time dreaming up new blog posts and often I get to use those ideas when I’m approached by a brand. I might need to shift the focus a little or adapt it slightly but so many of my the ideas I come up with, removed from any kind of brief end up coming to life in the form of sponsored content.

Partnering with brands also means I can create bigger and better posts as they are usually providing the materials to do so. Whether that’s craft supplies or furniture, its usually items that I can’t really afford or at least couldn’t afford the amount I would need to do the post justice. It’s great to have scope to think bigger than what my wallet at that moment in time can fund.

I’m sure lots of people don’t believe that it seems like sponsored blog work is still treated with a level of suspicion. There’s an attitude that if you were paid to write it then you probably didn’t really mean anything you said but most bloggers I know are very discerning with the kinds of brands they work with and wouldn’t do it unless it felt like a good fit in the first place. The reality for me and lots of other bloggers is that more often than not a post on my Instagram feed with #AD, will receive between 25% and 50% less engagement, which I find a bit sad really. I get it, it’s more meaningful than just seeing a promoted post from an arbitrary company pop up on your feed but you people still see it as being sold to in a space that hasn’t always been about that. Perhaps as that becomes more normal it won’t be so at odds with people’s instincts. I now make a point of liking and commenting on people’s sponsored work (if I like it obviously) as I know how much hard work goes into it, often way more than if it was just an random post from my week. I would much prefer to see sponsored posts from bloggers rather than promoted posts on Instagram and actually find a lot of inspiration for things to buy for my home, helpful items for Maggie and reviews when we’re looking to buy something substantial like say, a buggy, which could cost your whole savings account *nervously laughs. 

The world of brand collaborations can be a complicated world to navigate so if you’re looking to work with brands or just want a little window into that arena then I thought I’d share my experience and then in part 2 give you some tangible tips to put into practise. There’s a vast amount to say on the topic but I’ll cover the kinds of things I wish I’d known back when I was a clueless, novice, blagging my way through at least. 

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Hi, I’m Teri and welcome to my own creative corner of the internet. I blog about interiors, DIY projects, design inspiration and my general life so stick around have a read and say hi.

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The Lovely Drawer is an award winning blog with a loyal audience that has grown over the years. I love working with brands small and large on exciting collaborations that can bring products alive in my own signature aesthetic.

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