In my InstaStories, the other day, I was asked a question about how I find sponsored post opportunities. I asked if anyone would be interested in a Q&A post about how I became a blogger, and was shocked by how many YES answers I received!
One of the most frequently asked questions I get in my DMs on Instagram is advice for anyone who wants to start a blog/monetizing their instagram/growing a following. My top 3 tips are: content, engagement, and consistency.
If you have a newer phone with a great camera, then awesome. If not, you may want to invest in a DSLR. I have a Canon T6 and love the wifi function. Work on your photography skills. You need to be able to create beautiful content to be, well, a content creator. Natural lighting is your best friend. Play around with different editing apps, too. I use Lightroom on my iPhone, and edit with a mobile preset that I have tweaked to be “my own”.
When you’re growing a following, it’s important to connect with your audience. Don’t focus on the numbers. Every time I post something, I like to think of this one girl. We’ll call her Ashley. How can I help her or inspire her? If I can do that, other people might feel taken care of too, and come back. For example: I like to think about Ashley taking the time to ask her favorite blogger a question over and over again, only to be ignored. How many times do you see followers commenting on someone’s photo, asking for outfit details, paint color, anything. As an “influencer” or blogger, you should 100% be connecting with your audience, answering questions, etc. I know it can be time consuming. I do my best to reply to all comments and questions on my posts, and do my best to get back to most DMs within a week.
First, you need to establish yourself as an expert on something – something you’re passionate about, and will be able to create new and exciting content, consistently. Parenting? Recipes? DIY? Fashion? Figure it out, and post consistently.
Do you know you have “peak engagement times”? And Instagram will even break that down for you by the day! Learn about your audience. When are they active? When are they scrolling through Insta? Also, blogging with a regular schedule can keep your sanity, too! In the fall/winter, for example, I blog Tuesdays and Thursdays, so my readers know when to come looking for new content and posts.
Ok, so you’ve got the following, the photo skills, and a posting schedule. I got a lot of questions about how I find sponsored opportunities. Half are from networks, where I can scroll through opportunities and apply, and half are from brands/PR firms emailing me with pitches.
Again, I like to think about one girl. What kind of sponsored content can I create that is relevant to her? What does she care about? Generally for my audience, I stick to mom-friendly and kid-approved content, but I am a huge sucker for trying new makeup/hair products, and loooove those campaigns too!
If you’re a blogger and you aren’t getting paid, you need to start checking out these networks. I cannot stress enough that you should NOT be working for free, or for product, or (my very favorite of all) “a discount at purchasing a product in exchange for posting about it!” — insert all the eye rolls.
A few great influencer networks for starting out are:
- Social Native – low pay, and wasn’t my favorite, but they’ve added a review process that makes working with them easier. Payment turnaround is 14 days.
- Socialix – a random mix of brands, honestly. Some paid campaigns, and some for product.
- Octoly – unpaid campaigns, but start working with great beauty/lifestyle products and brands to create content to show for paid campaigns down the road
- Social Fabric – one of the best organized networks I am a part of!
- Linqia – These are pay per click campaigns. So you have a click goal, and need to promote your post like crazy. The rewards can be awesome if you really work for it, though!
- Revfluence – easy to use network, with a lot of brands. Mix of paid/unpaid campaigns. Great chat feature for negotiations.
Once you’ve established a following and great engagement rates, I’d suggest joining:
- Massive Sway
- The Circle
- Blog Meets Brand
I also love using Facebook as a resource. The group I’m So Blogging This has been super helpful! It’s full of bloggers, some who are very experienced, and some who are looking to start a blog.
Q&A from Instagram
I want to know how you got started blogging!
Ok, so waaaaay back in the day, I used to be lowkey obsessed with how Kendall Jenner and the entire cast of Gossip Girl dressed. So I created a blog dedicated to posting photos of their outfits, with links to shop their exact pieces. Fun fact: that blog got an insane amount of hits – more than Hey, it’s Jenna gets on a good day now! 😉 After we moved, and started having kids, my blog kind of transformed with me, and I would post photos of the girls. This was right when Instagram kind of took off. I started by posting photos of Peyton in cute outfits, and also selling some of her outgrown clothes. After London was born, I started posting them in matching outfits, and a few “personal” peeks into life with two kids. One Etsy shop I loved reached out to send London some onesies with my last order and I was super shocked. Then came the bow companies. Summer 2016, I really started focusing on writing better posts, taking better photos, and monetizing my blog.
Do you keep all the products/clothing you’re given?
Not always! If it’s something I love, of course. I do keep a separate “closet” with clothing I have been gifted that I’ll wear in sponsored posts. Most of the time, I’ll give pieces to my sister-in-laws or mom!
How do you schedule posts? Do you create content far in advance?
I will never be able to snap a photo and post it to instagram in the moment. That stresses me out! Most of my sponsored content is shot a week in advance. I use the app Preview to see how my feed will look, and arrange/schedule my week in advance. I am old fashioned, and write a list of things I need to write/shoot for the week, and then when content needs to go live. It keeps me a little more sane!
What is most helpful to me is to actually write out what my week needs to look like, and then break it down into days. That way, it doesn’t get overwhelming, and I can be flexible on days when we have family plans!
I want to know if you negotiate with these various boutiques before you will sponsor/post?
Absolutely! If it’s somewhere I’ve been shopping or am already a fan of, a little less so. But if I get a cold call from a brand/product I’ve never heard of, but it sounds interesting, I will agree to have a sample sent out, so I can try it (usually for 2-3 weeks), then I’ll email them back, and let them know if I’d like to move forward with the partnership, or if I don’t think it’s a good fit. Some places don’t have realistic expectations, and will ask for 5 instagram posts a month and 10 instagram stories each week. I don’t ever want to spam my followers or bombard them with the same sponsored content all month, so if I can’t negotiate that down, I will walk away from the campaign!
Do you see yourself doing this for 5 more years?
Somehow, I blinked and I’ve been doing this for over 5 years now! So, I could definitely see it. I love creating content, and have been working on more video content this year. I actually studied video editing in college, so to continue doing this would be a dream!
Do I ever get recognized?
It’s so funny, I actually got recognized the other day while at Peyton’s swim practice! The woman was so sweet, and I love getting a chance to chat with people! That said, it honestly happens once in a blue moon, and usually at Target 😉
Do you pitch to companies yourself or use networks?
I touched on the networks above, but there are really only 3-4 I use regularly. I’m in a place now where I feel comfortable reaching out to brands. I would say my collabs are split fairly evenly between brands I pitched, ones that pitch to me, and networks. Reaching out directly is nice, because you can form a relationship with the brand, and negotiate things on your own terms! A lot of networks people use have a clause that releases content rights – and most are unpaid collabs! It sucks to see people giving away their creative content like that! So another bit of advice: always read the contract/fine print!
Can you share a format on proper email etiquette to companies? I struggle with that.
We all learn through trial and error! I like to start out by introducing myself and the kind of content I create, then I hit on my numbers, links, and engagement rates. Next, I talk about why I want to partner with the brand, and what I could bring to the table as far as content. I usually wait to talk rates/send my media kit until I hear back!
How do you decide your rates?
Good question! I know a lot of ladies out there are using some formula of followers divided by likes or something. I took a look at what I was being offered from networks, and set of a rate sheet of my own, based on amount of work/time that goes into a post and what social site it would be for. For instance, I charge a lot less for a twitter or facebook promotion, since I have a significantly lower following there than on Instagram.
I want to know how you get your husband to take your photos!
Ha! He actually took a few photography classes back in the day, and for the most part, enjoys taking pictures. He is also VERY supportive in most things I take on. We do have times where he has taken 39520 photos, and I ask to scroll through them, and then ask him to take “just oooone more!” and he replies with eye rolls. There are times he isn’t around, and having Peyton home has been awesome this summer. She has snapped a few photos for me, most recently this one! I also use this tripod with my self-timer for a lot of shots. It takes a little getting used to, but some of my favorite (and most liked on IG) photos are me with my self-timer. Like this gem!
What is the craziest pose you’ve ever done for a photo?
Hm. Probably again with my self-timer! When we were at the beach this summer, I woke up before everyone one morning, and decided to bust out some content so I didn’t have to worry about it for the rest of the week. I set my tripod up, and popped on a dress I needed to post. I was in the middle of fake laughing and having a great time with myself on the deck, when I noticed the neighbors were sitting on their porch, drinking coffee, and just staring at me! Sometimes it’s awkward, but I look at it as this is my job right now. It wouldn’t be weird to walk in on a teacher teaching a class, or a chef cooking. Nothing to see here, guys, just a blogger, doin’ it for the ‘gram! And for the record – the photo turned out great 😉
I hope you walk away from this feeling a little inspired. If you have any additional questions I didn’t touch on, feel free to leave them in the comments below!