Every new content creator dreams of the day when their channel hits the big time.
You know what I’m talking about — the moment when you are finally generating the income you need to quit your job and throw all of your time, effort, and money into your passion project.
And the first big step on that journey is securing brand partnerships. They’ll sponsor your content, send you stuff for free, and help set your channel apart from the competition.
But of course, to actually get there, you have to find a partner and then negotiation a contract with them.
Any sort of negotiation or interview tends to make people start to sweat, and content creators are no exception. So to prepare you for your inevitable jump into this world, here are five tips to help you successfully negotiate brand partnerships.
#1. Form Your Plan
If we’re working under the assumption that this is going to be your first partnership, it’s important to get into the right mindset at the start of things.
While “influencer marketing” has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry, you shouldn’t just blindly reach out to companies and ask for a sponsorship. You don’t want to approach your search with unrealistic expectations — that’s a fast path to feel discouraged or disappointed.
Partnerships are usually what sets content creators apart from any other social media user, a kind of watermark for once people “make it.” It’s a big deal, and that means it’s going to take some hard work and determination.
Start by studying your competitors to see who they are partnered with and how they promote that company. Look into how successful their sponsored content is. That will give you a good baseline for what you can offer to a partner and how you can integrate their products into your content.
More importantly, it’ll show you what kind of brands might be interested in working with you.
#2. Stay Realistic
Here’s the obvious (but not exactly “fun”) part of this process: Don’t shoot for the moon.
There may come a day when your favorite brands are lining up to sponsor your content. But if you are still building your channel and audience, you’re going to have a hard time convincing big companies to throw money or free services at you.
Hopefully, studying your competition already made this clear to you. But if not, it’s worth taking a step back and reminding yourself how partnerships fit into brand/company ad strategies.
Set a realistic bar for your brand partnerships. It’s best to look for companies that would benefit from working together. But don’t forget that companies are looking for partnerships too.
Your channel can be a valuable tool for another brand. And if you know there is an audience overlap, you might be able to approach a company and win them over even if they weren’t originally looking to build new partnerships.
Everyone enjoys making a profit. So if you develop a good plan and target the right companies, you’ll be able to find a balance where everyone gets to benefit — including your audience.
#3. Be (A Little) Picky
Once you have made a list of potential partners and whittled it down, it’s time to ask yourself some hard questions.
Think about the brand or company. How does it relate to who you are and what your channel stands for? Don’t promote anyone just for money. Your followers will notice and be turned off by it. (And is it worth getting a partnership if you lose a big chunk of your followers as a result?)
You can avoid this by only working with partners with proven integrity.
Let’s circle back to what it means to be a content creator. I’ll say it again: You have a responsibility to your followers, and that means not filling their feed/page/timeline with stuff they don’t care about or (even worse) don’t agree with.
Make your partners a resource that brings something worthwhile to your customers. If you do that, it means your partnership will add value to your channel and your reputation.
In the long term, that is going to be worth more than a discounted subscription or a small sales percentage.
#4. Establish Expectations
Take the time to make a checklist of your expectations for the partnership
Now that you’ve checked out similar channels and made a list of realistic opportunities, you’re on to the big step — negotiating a contract with the first company that got back to you.
Don’t worry about the actual conversation. Most people get anxious about negotiations, and there are lots of free tips to help you figure out how to negotiate. Make sure to come into the interaction with a plan.
The obvious starting point is money. The first stage of any negotiation is to establish the expectations of both parties. As the content creator, your interests should include pay rate, payment schedule, and what you need to include as far as “promotion” goes. (Is that a physical display of the product? A shoutout? An ad bumper?)
Your partners will most likely have the same interests, but for different reasons.
They’re looking for a relationship that makes sense from a budget perspective, and that means getting a content calendar together. The company will expect frequent promotions, and they’ll want to see some sort of results — chances are they didn’t agree to pay you out of the kindness of their hearts!
#5. Build A Relationship
Think of this opportunity like a business partnership
A brand partnership is just that — a partnership. Treat it like a business opportunity and not an easy source of income. But it’s also important to remember that you are partnering with people, not just a logo or company name.
Work to build a relationship with your point of contact. Treating them like a human being will go a long way, and it might even lead to more (and better) opportunities down the line.
Establishing a rapport with your contact will give you a clear way to ask questions and get information about the company, which might include new products and services or a change in focus. It’ll also help with troubleshooting since people are much more willing to help a friendly person than an annoying creator who’s only interested in a paycheck.
Keep Your Followers In Mind
Brand partnerships are more than just a source of money. And while it can be tempting to get caught up chasing after sponsors, remember to keep your audience’s interest in mind.
You have a responsibility to your followers — they expect good content from your channel, and that extends to any brands that you partner with.
Products you promote play a role in how people will perceive the “value” you deliver, and your reputation will always be more valuable than whatever a brand offers to pay.