So you’ve made it this far. You have a blog and your social media accounts are up and running. You are doing the hard work and posting consistently, engaging with your community, and slowly but surely, your channels are starting to grow. And now you’ve started thinking about how to monetize your channels by creating content and sharing products and services that you love with your community.
But where do you even begin? And when can you begin?
These are two very big questions that people ask me all the time, and so I wanted to break them down, with some practical tips and advice for turning your hobby into a money earning gig.
Because let’s face it, if you are authentic, create beautiful content, and have an engaged following, you can and should be making money from your social accounts. There’s no reason to leave money on the table so long as you aren’t selling out – meaning, there are a lot of influencers out there who are concerned solely with making money, and will promote any product that comes their way. Don’t be that influencer.
Why? Because it’s important to be selective so your community trusts you, because trust is everything. Your followers choose to follow you because they like what they see; but they don’t have to follow you. So put your best foot forward and share only things that you’ve tried, tested, and love! Fastest way to lose followers? Lose their trust.
But back to the questions at hand.
Where to begin? If you want to land some paid partnerships, you need to begin somewhere.
In order for brands to recognize you and consider you for partnerships, you need to grow your following. To do this, it takes time, patience, consistency, and more TIME. We all like quick growth, but it’s very rare that you will grow quickly, unless you are a celebrity. Most of us need to grow slowly and consistently, and that is ok! Don’t judge where someone else is, because chances are, they started way before you did. It took me a few years to hit 50k on Instagram, and then another few years to hit 175k, and that is because I posted daily, at the same time, engaged with my community, and because I care about all of my followers.
When your account is small, you need to get noticed. And creating content, whether in the food space or fashion space or motherhood space, is expensive. So if brands reach out to you and ask to send you product in exchange for some love on social media, my advice is to do it. Create quality content, post it, and who knows?!? Perhaps your content will get posted onto their social media channels, which will also help you grow because now your content is in front of a different audience. You can decide when to stop accepting free product and start charging instead. For the most part, I stopped accepting free product when I hit 20k on Instagram, though there are always exceptions if a brand has a cool or interesting product but no budget, I might accept a gifting, so long as there is no expectation of social media coverage. When this is your business, there are only so many hours in the day, and it’s best to focus on where you will see a return. And in the beginning stages of building your online presence, it is important to accept the product and create the content. Then you decide when to stop and start charging. This is just my opinion and what has worked for me, so do what works for you!
The importance of creating a media kit and rate card cannot be understated. Think of the media kit as your way to summarize who you are, what your goals are, your target audience, your stats, and sample photographs of your work. This is a high level introduction to who you are, so put some thought into it. First impressions are everything. You can make your own media kit for free on Canva or hire a graphic designer to make one for you. It shouldn’t be more than 1-2 pages, but again, do you! If you are wondering what information to include, you can find samples online or you can ask your peers. Mine includes the following:
I also recommend creating a rate card and setting some rates for what you would charge for an Instagram post, blog post, Tiktok video, YouTube video, and whatnot. I didn’t start charging for my work until I hit about 20k followers, and trust me, I wasn’t paid much. Competition is high, so be sure to create quality content so that you get recognized and paid for your work. If you are wondering what to charge, the answer is that it varies, and different people charge differently. Talk to others and set a rate based on what you think is fair for your work. When you pitch brands, see how they respond to your rates, then adjust accordingly!
When I started my Instagram, I used to do this via direct message, but as Instagram has grown, brands are inundated with people reaching out. Send an email, which is even better, because you can include your media kit, and a few ideas about how you’d incorporate their product into your content. Brands love when you come prepared with ideas. I recommend that you do not send your rate card in the introduction email, as the purpose of the intro email is to introduce yourself, not expect payment out of the gate. Again, remember that relationships are everything! You can often find the email addresses for the brand in the bio of their Instagram page. I’d start there. And if the brand doesn’t respond after a week, you can send a follow up email. If they still don’t respond, perhaps they didn’t receive it, aren’t interested, etc. You won’t know, but you can move on to other brands.
So you landed your first paid partnership. Now what? Now you need to do great work so that the brand hires you again. Remember the goal is to not just get paid for one social media post, but to build a relationship so you can get repeat business. It goes a long way with your community (people like seeing that something is, in fact, a part of your life), and its much easier on you, because you know what content you are creating every month. Communicate with the brands, submit your content on time, and always be proactive and provide analytics after you post. It goes a long way!
I hope this blog post helps and gives you a good starting point to hit the ground running.
And to answer the last (and most important question): when can you begin? The answer is that it’s never too early to begin creating quality content. Remember, you need to love what you do and be passionate about it, without the expectation of making a penny. And that is because a lot of hard work goes into building a following, establishing your niche, and creating quality, engaging content. You need to love what you do and you need to be in it for the long haul.
But if I can do it, you can do it too! Remember I transitioned from practicing law to becoming a full-time food blogger over the course of three years. It just takes time and not letting setbacks become roadblocks. Pick yourself up and keep moving forward!