One of the first things that people think about when they hear the title 'digital influencer' is all of the free products you can get when working with brands. And it's true, that is a definite benefit of this career and allows you to create great content while receiving things that you and your audience can enjoy. But before you accept every offer that comes your way, there are some Do's and Don'ts you should think about.
In this blog and video, I will be sharing when you should and when you shouldn't accept free products from brands. This is great information for anyone just starting their career as an online influencer, and for people who are currently stuck in the 'free product but no paid sponsorship' phase. And let's face it, even if you are already making money from your online influence, there's always more you can learn.
Let's get started!
Here are the things you should think about BEFORE you accept free product from a brand:
The very first thing you should think about is if accepting and promoting this product will truly benefit your audience. Is it something that your audience needs to hear about and is going to help them solve a problem? Is it something you would recommend to a close friend?
This is a big one that I think influencers don't think about because they don't consider their following as their community. And the reality is that a lot of the reason that your audience connects with you is because they know you, they like you and they trust you. And the trust factor is something that's going to get really, really important as you grow your following. Because if your followers don't trust you, they're probably not going to be following you for a long time. What I mean by this is if you recommend something and it turns out to be a product that doesn't work or causes harm because of the quality of it, while it isn't your fault per say, it reflects badly on you and you will start to lose the trust of your audience. No free product is worth that.
So I always say, if you wouldn't recommend it to your best friend, your sister or brother or someone that is close to you that you trust, don't accept the product.
Another thing to consider is if you genuinely like the brand. Do your research. Look into the company. Make sure they are a legitimate company before you agree to do any sort of partnership with them. Is this a brand you would genuinely use if they weren't offering the free product? Is it something you will use on your own time, and are stoked to get because you REALLY love it? If the answer is yes, that is a great partnership for you! If it's a no, seriously consider WHY you are accepting the product in the first place.
Another thing to consider is what kind of collaboration it is. Many times a brand will offer a discount code instead of free product. And sometimes that is worth it when you truly like the brand.
Were you already going to purchase it? Is it something you use daily and 25% off is valuable to you, AND you get to collaborate and offer a code to your followers? That may be something you consider worth the partnership. Others will only do a collaboration if the company ships them the product for free. I can't tell you what to do in this situation, but I CAN tell you to make sure that the brand is hitting the first two things we talked about before you even consider promoting them online.
Does the brand have a similar mission as you? Do they have the same values you do? Maybe you are an eco-friendly blogger, and care about sustainable products. You shouldn't be working with a company that is known for wreaking havoc on the environment.
It is SO important that you only promote things that you truly care about. Your audience counts on you for guidance. They are following you because they believe in you. If you are building your brand based on, let's say, being vegan, you aren't going to promote an item that uses animals in their products. This is why researching the company is SO important. They may appear to align with your core values, but after more research you realize that actually don't. Or maybe they got some bad press recently. You don't want to align yourself with that.
Now, there are always exceptions. Maybe you are changing and your core values have also changed. This is something you need to make your audience aware of BEFORE you start promoting those products. Your content should evolve with you. You may lose followers, but you will also gain followers that align with your new values. You are allowed to change, but you owe it to your audience to let them either change with you, or find someone else they better align with.
To sum it up: get totally secure and confident in who you are as a brand and make sure the partnerships you accept align with that message.
A lot of influencers lose sight of the big picture. They go into this career for the wrong reasons. If you want to be in this business just to get free stuff, you are in it for the wrong reasons. If you want to be in this business just for the free events, or just for the money, you are never going to succeed.
You should only say yes to a collaboration if it truly adds value to your life, and to the lives of your audience. Is this a brand that you see yourself having a long term business relationship? Is this a brand you would associate with in your real life? If the answer is no, you shouldn't accept free product from them. If the answer is yes, then you may have found something worthwhile. Just remember, EVERY product or company you work with is a direct reflection of you and your audience will absolutely be judging you based on it. You want to always provide them with content and opportunities that align with the bigger picture!
So far, we've been only talking about free product. In the beginning, when you're just starting out, it's fine to do free collabs. Why? Because it builds your brand, it builds your following. It builds your relationship with that company, which could turn into a paid collaboration in the future. But nothing is really free, right? They may provide the product at no cost to you but you are doing real, tangible work and that has value. Taking great photos, going on location to shoot, writing the blog, scheduling it to your pages, engaging with your audience after...time is money and all of that takes time. And this is all advertising for this brand.
Think about it. When a brand does a commercial shoot, there are TONS of expenses that go into it. They hire a videographer, they hire a photographer, a stylist, and makeup artist, a model, I could go on. How much do you think that would cost? A cheap shoot may be $1000 to produce, but others can cost over $5000.
A brand may pay an influencer $50 - $100 for all of that work. It's an incredibly good deal, which is why you should ALWAYS stick to your rate. I can't say this enough: what you are providing is VALUABLE. Do not undersell yourself. If it's a brand you really love, and they don't have your EXACT rate, you may consider giving them a deal because of the long term game, but don't say yes every single time. Really pick and choose, and know your value!
Are you ready to learn more about how to collaborate with brands? Download my FREE influencer roadmap below!