In 2015 I started working with brands directly. My goal was to secure sponsorship and brand ambassador deals!
I decided that I prefer to earn money through this blog instead of solely selling products to my community.
In the past I offered services via a membership workshop library as well as online courses, but those were passion projects, not paychecks (it took me a while to learn the distinction!).
I also found that my strengths lie in working with brands more than it does working with freelancers.
I’m very picky about the brands and companies I choose to work with and wanted more opportunities to earn money from people with a higher reach and bigger marketing budgets.
In the past 12 months, I’ve worked directly with brands like Capital One, The Neat Company, Chase, Office Depot, E*TRADE and H&R Block. In that time I earned just over $7,200 which equals about 9% of my total income earned in 2015.
More recently, I’ve been in talks with several more brands and have secured deals with MileIQ and SoFi. Not all money-making avenues work for everyone so you have to be open to experimenting with different income streams.
Earning extra money as a brand ambassador gives you the opportunity for another income stream. Plus, it opens your options up to making money outside of the traditional “hawking products or courses to customers”.
Working with brands and securing sponsorship deals is both fun and financially rewarding for everyone.
What is a Brand Influencer?
As a brand influencer (also known as a brand ambassador or marketing influencer), you’re responsible for marketing and sharing a brand or product to the public. Sometimes this means representing a company in person, or helping spread the word for them online.
You will often give away samples (think about the samples at a grocery store) or host a giveaway of free products on your blog (like a book giveaway).
You basically get paid to give away things for free or help readers know more about an up-and-coming product. Win-win!
How to become an influencer
Now that you have an idea of what a marketing influencer and brand ambassador is, you can start securing your own deals.
What kind of things can offer brands in exchange for a monetary sponsorship or free swag?
- Giveaways and samples
- Blog post series and “how to” tutorials
- Tweets and other social shares
- Newsletter ads
- Featured resources and business tools
- Industry events or conferences
- Parties and branding events
- The list goes on…
Here are the steps for how I landed brand sponsorships totaling $7,200 in just one year.
1. Work with brand networks
The easiest and best place to start with securing brand deals and sponsorships is to sign up with a brand network site. I’ve used several different ones in the past and some of the best include:
You start by creating an influencer profile, upload information about your stats and social media networks, name your price and then they make connections to brands on your behalf. It saves you a lot of time spent researching contact information, so you can simply start creating relationships and get paid for your brand ambassador work.
Brand networks are especially geared towards online initiatives like blog posts or series, social media campaigns and other online marketing avenues.
2. Target startups and small businesses
Startups and small businesses are more open to working with bloggers and online influencers because they see the value that content marketing offers. They’re looking for influencers to blog about their products and help spread the word in a more “grassroots” kind of way.
Search for startups and small biz owners in your industry that have products and services you personally use and can recommend. Then reach out to their team on social media or ask around your network for specific contact information.
Sometimes a simple Google search will reward you with the direct email address and name of the person in charge of the marketing budget or online campaigns.
Bigger corporations have marketing budgets too, but in my experience it takes a much longer time to secure a deal and then even longer to get paid. There’s a lot more red tape and hoops to jump through so in the beginning I suggest starting out with smaller startups who share a mission you believe in.
3. Reach out to brands via email
Maybe you already have some ideas of companies you want to represent (this is usually because you already use the product — those are the best kind of brand relationships!). Reach out to your contact directly, or reply to their customer service emails, and let them know you’re interested in working together.
Here’s an example of an email template that I used to reply to a regular newsletter for a small startup that I wanted to form a branding relationship with.
About a month later I received this response from their customer service department. So even if you don’t know the person’s email address directly, you can still reach out and get the information from the company, and they can help connect you to the right person.
I also want to credit my friend Simon, from TheBecomer.com, for helping me boost my income even more. With his email script and advice I’ve been able to secure bigger brands and have better deals lined up for 2016.
4. Set up a contact or sponsorship page
If reaching out to brands directly isn’t your thing, you can always get them to come to you by creating a Sponsorship or Advertising page. I have a workshop that teaches freelancers how to create a Services page that gets clients to come to you, but the principal is the same.
Create a new page on your website that explains what type of sponsorships and brands you’re hoping to secure, a list of your stats, past experiences with other brands (if any) and a contact form so they can get in touch.
You may also want to list any media mentions or magazines that you’ve been featured in to give yourself and your blog more klout. Then work on optimizing this page for a specific SEO term so when brands are looking for your type of influencer they will search for this phrase and land on your website.
How to secure brand deals and sponsorships
Before I wrap this up I want to share one piece of advice. Being a brand ambassador and securing sponsorships is one thing, but pushing out mediocre content and spammy links is a whole other story.
Make sure that when you’re working with brands, who are paying you to talk about their product, that you’re doing it in an honest and genuine way. Don’t sell out just to make a few dollars.
There are companies out there that will pay you what you’re worth and you’ll be more than happy to recommend them to your friends and family.
Be picky with who you work with and everyone will enjoy the entire process. If a brand’s not a good fit for you, you’re likely not the best fit for them either, so don’t waste their time or money.
Make sure it’s a win-win for everyone, most especially your readers and the people who value your opinion.