how to work with brands

this holiday season

…and how not to! Yep, it’s already the holiday season, and if you aren’t booked up with collabs through the end of the year, you may be wondering exactly how to work with brands this holiday season. Don’t worry, chances are unless the holidays are over, it’s not too late to get set up for some partnerships! First off, we do NOT condone working for free, more on that here, but there are some cases where a trade arrangement can make sense. Remember that your time and resources are MONEY and unless working for trade will somehow help you in the future, leave that space for brands that have a real budget. So many do, and you don’t have to be working with and audience millions to get paid for your time, content and feed space.




Two things would be helpful if you want to work with brands this holiday season: understanding what they want (content wise) and being honest about what you can provide, and for what price. Content creation is certainly not an hourly pay rate in most cases, but a great way to price yourself is to consider how much the pay breaks down per hour when working on a sponsored post. That $50 story shout-out may sound great, an easy extra $50 right? Well… it’s actually not really be $50 in your bank… after taxes, expenses for operating the equipment you need to post it, replying to, and monitoring DMs related to the product… is it really $50 in your pocket? Maybe more like $10 total revenue after all things are considered, and chances are you’ve spent at least 2-3 hours total on communications, content, editing, posting, following up on posts, etc. Making your hourly rate effectively $3-5/hour USD. Not ideal for the vast majority of us!

It’s exciting to be reached out to by brands wanting to partner with you, especially when your account is smaller or newer, but your time is STILL valuable even if you’re starting out. Please, this holiday season, offer what you can reasonably justify and remember that you are likely losing money when you accept free product or low pay in exchange for a dedicated post. 

The good news is, there is a happy medium for many of us! Accepting PR packages can be done in a way that helps your business, and you can offer something of value to brands as well! My favorite way is with gift guides or a story shoutout, and FYI the value of these gifts often needs to be disclosed on your taxes… meaning chances are you have to pay taxes on the value of the gift! Another reason not to work for free. **not tax advice, just a warning to look into this with your tax regulations!

We hold open just a few spots each quarter for product exchange with a dedicated mention throughout the year, and most are filled with regular PR boxes we have agreed to post about in our stories or on Pinterest. However, a true PR package is a gift, and should not include a requirement to post. Most brands that send us packages never ask for a post! Of course, if we love it, we share it but there is not a written agreement. Written agreements for free products should not be a thing in most cases, but there are some instances where it does make sense, especially with high value products. These types of agreements, however, should NOT require strict creative narratives, content approval before posting, etc. If a brand really wants to work with YOU and isn’t just randomly filling up their campaign, a draft approval with the option to ask for a reshoot is just ridiculous. Oh, and you need to charge for reshoots, whether it is built into the price or added on if they choose to ask for one. 

We’ve said it many times but once more – YOUR TIME IS MONEY – so we highly suggest trying to avoid having those terms included ever. Going through the process of draft approval takes a couple of hours (or more!) total, not including the post itself, communications with the brand, and follow up on the post… Remember, your “hourly rate” after it’s all said and done is a good place to bring your attention back to if you’re not sure. 

Now, onto the good stuff. Here are three ways to work with brands this holiday season, and 3 ways to not work with brands this holiday season:


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How to work with brands:


  1. Be an influencer – In a nutshell, you’re a brand ambassador because your followers trust you and what you have to say about certain products or ideas. You should still be authentic, which is why we recommend working only with brands that actually align with you and your feed’s aesthetic/content/style/etc. If your audience loves a particular brand, chances are they will love you sharing it with them, but don’t feel obligated to endorse something just for the deal.
  1. Create content – You can create content for brands in all sorts of ways, including haul videos, holiday gift guides, DIYs, product reviews, etc. What kind of content you create really depends on the type of person you are and what kind of content your audience responds to. If you’re not sure what your perfect brand partnership would look like, there are plenty of ways to brainstorm! We’ve compiled a list below to get some ideas for content creation ideas.
  1. Sell products – It’s a bit more complicated than posting a photo and getting paid to do so, but it is possible! You can set up an unbranded Instagram account and sell products like you would for any other ecommerce business. To get started, head over to MyHabit and follow the steps here! Be sure to follow these guidelines too.

How NOT to work with brands:


  1. Don’t work for free – We get that you’re excited about working with brands, and all sorts of people go this route… but we cannot stress enough how damaging it can be to your brand’s integrity and your audience’s perception of you to be working at cost; not profitability. Again, your time is MONEY. More on working with brands in general here, or working with brands in the form of affiliate marketing here.
  1. Don’t promote products you don’t actually want – Whether for trade for free product, or with cash, you can’t post about something you don’t use or care about. Period. If you were to do this consistently over time it would eventually negatively impact your brand’s credibility and authenticity. You need to be enjoying what you’re promoting if you want to continue growing an audience that trusts your opinions and advice!
  1. Don’t work with brands you don’t actually like, or brands that aren’t nice to you! – This goes along with the second point of promoting products you love and care about. You will never get what you want or need if you aren’t honest and open with the brands that want to work with you. Also, imagine if a brand is snarky and rude to you in your emails, then you share their products and your friends then have the same experience with them… no thanks!

If you have literally no idea where to start with pricing yourself, we like this calculator for getting a general starting point for most accounts. Key word – starting point. This does not consider the asset usage, rights to content, draft approval, specific content creation requirements, etc. Hope these tips were helpful, we personally can always use more help on this topic! Feel free to reach out here if you need more help on figuring out how to work with brands this holiday season! I offer one on one help with your blog or online business, and my husband and I offer web design and related services through our web design agency, Bolinc Online here. I’d love to chat with you about how we can help you reach your goals and beyond! If you just wanna chill for now and learn from us without any one on one work, make sure you subscribe below and follow us on the ‘gram!

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how to work with brands this holiday season

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