Technically, on April 20th, I hit my 8-year mark of blogging with My Style Vita. I still can’t believe how long it has been. And I still can’t believe it’s my JOB. I’m so thankful for that. Getting to do what you love is truly a special thing and not something everyone gets to do. It took WORK though and honestly, luck with the industry that quickly built itself up in 10 years.
My Style Vita wouldn’t be a business without two things when it comes to my bottom line. And that’s sponsored blog posts and affiliate income. You can read more about affiliate income here, but it’s basically a small commission that I make off of links I share from my favorite retailers. So when you shop via a blogger’s website, or social platforms or utilize LikeToKnow.it for shopping my Instagram, you help to support me and my business.
But the other way that I generate revenue for my business, more lucrative than my affiliate sales, are sponsored blog posts. You see them on here occasionally, and on social media as well. As bloggers/influencers/whatever, we have created a platform with influence. Readers like yourself, turn to My Style Vita to see what’s trending, learn how to do things like hair tutorials or styling those wide leg jeans, or just get inspired! You trust me (hopefully) and take my recommendations into consideration when making purchases. That means THE WORLD to me.
With that influence though comes a sense of responsibility. Both in creating quality content that’s authentic to me and my brand and also just being responsible for sharing brands that are doing good things. Sure, in the beginning, I probably said yes to projects I maybe shouldn’t have. But that was a learning curve for me. I’m now 8 years into this and am proud to be able to say NO to things that aren’t a good fit. Or a HECK YES to things that are that I think YOU will all enjoy because I like it too.
So What Is A Sponsored Blog Post?
A sponsored blog post is basically what is called an advertorial. It’s an editorial piece that’s been paid for. So I may write a blog post about a product, or service, that I like or have used or think you may really like, in exchange for a fee. For me, I typically only work on flat rate fees, but there are sometimes other ways to be monetized. But we’ll stick to flat rate fees since that’s all I take on here on the blog.
Sponsored blog posts can be tricky though. You want them to feel really authentic and not like you’re just selling ads to brands. You also don’t want your entire blog and social channels to feel like one big advertisement. As a reader, you don’t want to feel like you’re being pushed something hardcore and you want to enjoy the content you’re used to from My Style Vita. It’s not as easy as it sounds. I’d say these types of posts require the MOST work. Between trying to create something beautiful that both the reader and client will be happy with, and one that will be engaging even though it’s sponsored. Plus, there’s usually lots of back and forth with the client on drafts, photo approval, etc which makes them more time consuming than me just writing from the heart.
A few examples of past sponsored blog posts that I’ve loved working on are all of the Vince Camuto ones I’ve been working on. Why? Because it’s a brand I already love and wear. So it feels super organic and is never hard to do. Few favorites include this summer look and this fun holiday look.
Then there are ones that aren’t as easy to jump on and say HECK YES to. Not because I don’t LOVE the product, but it just may be harder to work it in organically and make sense. And that’s fine, it just takes some effort. A few examples of that are these delicious Wholey Cheese snacks, which fun fact are my FAVORITE cheesy cracker snack. I love them so it was a no brainer, but it can be hard to feature just a snack!
Then there are REALLY fun ones that also combine fun immersion trips to experience the brand and write about the process and product as well. A great example of that is my Coopers’ Craft peach bourbon smash cocktail. There are so many types of sponsored projects and they can all be different and unique.
A sponsored blog post (or Instagram, etc) can look very different each and every time. But the thing that I always want to achieve is an authentic story that gets my readers excited about trying something new that I have discovered and also love. I want to do all of that while staying true to my brand and my voice.
How To Find Blog Sponsors
Finding blog sponsors is always the number one thing new bloggers ask about. Where are these collaborations coming from? How do I make more money? How do I work with my dream brand? Here are a few of the ways that you can find blog sponsors for you and your blog.
Blog Sponsorship Websites
There are several great websites that offer a platform to connect influencers with brands. A few of my favorite food campaigns have come from Ahalogy who I’ve worked with for years now. Tap Influence and Collectively are another two that I often find myself working with time and time again. There’s so many out there from food-focused, travel, beauty and beyond. I keep a bookmark of all of them so I can periodically check what’s happening on them to remember to apply for projects whenever there’s a good fit.
The toughest of them all, yet the most lucrative and personally, the best partnerships. Working directly with a brand or their agency who handles any influencer programming, has always been my favorite way to secure brand partnerships. This usually starts with a strong relationship with the brand and pitching a specific idea to work on together. By having a clear pitch with an angle to highlight a brand and its product/service, you will be more successful in landing a partnership.
You also don’t HAVE to already have a relationship with the brand for this to be successful. But having a great pitch email with the right information is key. You want to include a bit about your blog and the goal of the campaign you’re looking to work on is key. You can include your media kit here as well so they can get a snapshot of your work and blog traffic. I do think it’s key to already show examples of posts you’ve done featuring that brand/product/service and so on. It shows brand loyalty and also showcases the type of work you’re able to turn out for them.
TIP: Not sure where to start when it comes to pitching a brand? You can check out THIS post on The Blog Societies with a sample email template.
Just like any industry especially for freelances, networking is KEY to success. It not only helps to grow your circle, but it will help to land you more partnership deals. You also never know where a connection may take you. Someone you met 4 years ago may come back around with a new company and opportunity for you. For me, this means attending blog events (more on that below), doing an annual trip to NYC to meet with brands in person and just always keeping in touch with past contacts. I personally keep a contact list spreadsheet and reach out to my contacts on a quarterly basis. Staying top of mind is key!
Attend Blogging Events
Some of the best partnerships I’ve received have been from blog events or conferences I’ve attended. Obviously, I am a bit biased on The Blog Societies Conference since it’s my baby. But it is truly a great opportunity to network with brands face to face and get to build that in person rapport. It’s a great way to find potential sponsors for your blog and also just to continue to build that relationship with current brands. It’s the ultimate in networking and best to also follow up and continue the conversation well after the events.
Blog Sponsorship Tips
I made PLENTY of mistakes in the beginning. 8 years ago there were NO websites to tell you how to run a blog and we just figured it out with trial and error. I’ll be the first to say that I took on partnerships I shouldn’t have. And that I should’ve done things totally different. But I’ve lived and I’ve learned. And here are some of my best tips when you seek sponsors and also work on your sponsorship projects for clients.
Make Sure It’s The Right Fit For Your Brand
It can be tempting to say yes to money, I get it. But it’s also more important to ensure you’re creating authentic content that your audience will enjoy. If you’re a food blogger and always post recipes but decide to do an outfit post just because it pays, your audience isn’t going to trust you. You’ll lose the trust you may have with them if they see you just shilling something totally random.
I’ve been there, I’m not saying I’m perfect either. I have definitely done programs on the blog that was a little off for me or didn’t feel like a 100% perfect fit. They were all moments to learn from and one can only grow from it. I think there’s always a fine line as well. For example, I did this post on cranberry pills. Personally, I was hesitant to post about it. However, I actually USE THEM. And even had a really great story that was super relevant that also included a great travel tip. But it just didn’t feel all that on brand. It happens. And I learned from it.
Plus, after doing my big brand refresh, it also became even more clear what I should be saying yes and no to. I encourage everyone who has a blog and is looking to work on brand partnerships to first get a clear vision of who you are and what you want to offer to your readers. It may mean you say yes to that opportunity that may seem a bit unique for your blog, but that you spin the angle so it suits your brand goals to make sense. It should also give you the confidence to know when to say no or yes, and that it’s the right fit for you.
Be Clear And Always Have A Contract
I can not stress this enough! A contract is SO important. You not only want to protect yourself, but you want to be CLEAR with the client. If the client doesn’t provide you a contract, have one for yourself. It should include exactly what is expected from content deliverables (number of posts, types of posts, etc) to timeline and also HOW and WHEN will you be paid.
Another major item to include in your contracts are photo rights/usage. This is a BIG deal in the influencer industry. Your photographer (or whoever is taking your photos) OWNS THOSE PHOTOS. The brand DOES NOT. So it’s important to make it clear how images can be used. For me, I have a contract with my photographers on how images can be used. I also have a flat fee on the price of the images should a brand want to utilize them without credit or in an ad and so on.
This way everyone is clear on who owns what, who gets paid and how much. It makes life so much easier when you see a brand use your image in an ad and your stomach instantly drops. I always know that I either a) approved such usage or b) need to send an email requesting they pay for the image or take it down.
Underpromise And Overdeliver
My number one tip because you should always show brands that bloggers are HARD WORKERS and that we know what we’re doing. This industry is unique in that anyone and everyone can start a blog in about 30 seconds. So it’s important to show brands and the clients you are working with that we are quality bloggers who deliver quality content. Period. This goes down to just responding to emails in a timely fashion, being thorough, providing updates throughout the campaign and sending a thank you note afterward.
I always like to underpromise and overdeliver whenever possible. If I’m working with a brand I truly love it’s actually an easy task to do. Take my Vince Camuto partnerships for example. I was only supposed to share one blog post, one Instagram post, and one Facebook post. But because these are products I truly love and wear, they keep showing up in future outfit posts! I also always share more images on Instagram because I love the pieces. It’s extra exposure and coverage for the brand that they never asked for. But it probably made them more likely to hire me again because they see how much I go above and beyond for them without even having to ask. Plus it’s FREE advertising for them! They’ll love you!
TIP: You can always send a separate email a few weeks after your partnership with these additional posts. It’s a great way to get back into their inbox and show them your brand loyalty. Once you get the conversation going, ask about working together again for the upcoming season! They’ll be more likely to say yes to you resulting in more revenue and more projects with brands you love.
Sponsored Blog Post Disclosure + Why It’s Important
Advertising on your blog is actually serious business. Why? Well, there’s a lot of legal business that goes along with it. From how you’re able to disclose a partnership, where the disclosure statement needs to go and more. Always be sure to read your contracts with brands on what has to be included.
A simplified explanation of proper post disclosure is that readers need to know BEFORE they’ve digested the sponsored content that it IS in fact, sponsored. So this means using a sentence or two at the top of a blog post saying it’s a partnership or using #AD before the text in any social media posts.
Why is it important though? We can never forget about the Lord & Taylor dress-gate that happened a few years ago. Lord & Taylor sent the same (may I add absolutely hideous dress) to 50 influencers to share on the same day for a major social media push. Lord & Taylor did NOT require influencers to disclose the partnership with #AD. All social captions were even reviewed and approved by Lord & Taylor without the proper disclosure. Most of the hired influencers abided by the contract and approved captions and not FTC Guidelines. This is a BIG FAT NO NO! You can read more about the incident and what happened here. There were lots of FTC fines handed out and a big crackdown on the influencer industry.
So bottom line, ALWAYS disclose when it’s a partnership. Anytime you’re trading product for services it is a partnership regardless of monetary compensation. Period!