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People often don’t realize just how much work goes into blogging. You are a writer (and/or vlogger), photographer, graphic design whiz, and an SEO and promotional expert all rolled into one. It can be exhausting! Brands often forget that there are humans behind the green door, but we, too, forget that our contacts are real people, too. If you want to be a serious blogger, this post contains tips that will help you build better relations with the brands you want to promote.
I love blogging. I love encouraging people to start their own blogs. But, as a profession without any sort of rules or guidelines, people sometimes jump into blogging without realizing what goes into it, especially in terms of working with brands or public relations professionals.
I know that some brands and/or people that work in public relations are going to read my post about working with bloggers and think that I’m unfair or petty. I’m not perfect and I’ll admit to occasionally being petty, but I’m not unfair. When it comes to blogger relations, there are plenty of things that brands need to do better but there are also plenty of things that bloggers can do better.
If you want to be a serious blogger and have more opportunities for brand partnerships and brand collaborations, follow these tips.
Tips for Serious Bloggers
Nobody asked you to start a blog
I’m going to start here with the cold hard truth and that’s that nobody asked you to start a blog. It’s great if you started your blog because you want to work with companies, but you also need to recognize that until you get a little bit of experience under your belt, your blog isn’t going to be worth much. Here’s another way of looking at it: My husband is an attorney. Despite the fact that he’d gone to law school and passed the bar exam, he wasn’t qualified to do much of anything at the beginning of his career. He needed to learn the ropes and he needed to prove that he was capable of doing a good job before he could progress.
Bloggers need to do the same. Don’t start your blog thinking about all of the stuff you can get for free, how much money you want to make, or how since you started a blog all companies should be jumping at the chance to work with you. If you go into it from that mindset, I promise you’re going to hate blogging. Instead, start your blog because you love writing and you have a story to tell. Learn about social media and learn about search engine optimization (check out my SEO course!). Start putting it all together, then, once you figure out what you can offer brands, approach them about partnerships, but instead of thinking solely about what you want, think about what you can do for the brand.
Fake it till you make it
Everybody has to start somewhere. Experience has to be earned, but something you can do from day 1 is try to look as professional as possible. Put some effort into your blog. Whether you start a blog for free or set up a WordPress blog, it’s not terribly difficult to get the site looking nice. Both options have free basic templates that will get you started. Purchase your domain name from Namecheap, so that instead of a site URL that reads “iamaprofessional(dot)blogger(dot)com” or “iamaprofessional(dot)wordpress(dot)com” your site will just be “iamaprofessional(dot)com. Set up a custom email address. Take the time to learn and do the little things, even as a beginner.
Nothing is really free
Being a blogger is cool and there are many perks, like having the opportunity to work with brands. Though I’m not really a travel blogger, I love working with hotel companies and doing travel reviews. While I have been fortunate enough to trade a few stays for coverage, those stays are not actually free. They are business transactions. I received a complimentary stay in exchange for whatever coverage I offered.
When you say that you are getting something for free, it really cheapens the work you are going to have to do. Time is money and your time isn’t free.
Put effort into your pitches
For some reason, bloggers have pitched me on a few occasions. I don’t work with bloggers in that capacity, so it doesn’t make any sense. That in itself shows a lack of research, not to mention the pitches I’ve received have all been horrible. They’ve all been very short notes basically saying, “hey, I want this. Can I review it?” Yeah, no.
More power to you if you want to reach out to brands yourself! Do it! However, when you get to that point, make sure you take your time to research the company and write a quality pitch letter. Check out the Blogger’s Guide to Pitching Brands, which is a great resource. Put together a media kit. Sell yourself to the brand. Tell the brand how you will help them. Make it difficult for them to say no.
Don’t irritate your connections
Let’s say you take the time to pitch a brand. I know your instinct is going to be to check your email every two minutes to see if they’ve responded. Resist the urge to follow-up with them the next day. Brands and PR professionals are crazy busy and get pitched like crazy. Don’t take it personally when you don’t receive an immediate response as they are likely inundated with other pitches and/or their everyday jobs. Wait at least a week before following up and even then make your follow-up short, sweet, and to the point.
Write polished content
If you’re reading this post and you’re already a blogger, or you want to be one, stop right now and download the free Grammarly browser extension. Check out my Grammarly review for all of the details, but basically, this extension is a lifesaver. You don’t need to be the world’s best writer in order to start a blog, but you do need to know how to string a sentence together. You shouldn’t have too many misspellings. Grammarly will make sure that your writing is polished and free of most basic errors.
5 W’s and an H
My training is in journalism and the very first thing any journalist learns is that you always want to answer Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How. The same is true of blogging. Try to provide as much detail as possible in whatever it is that you’re writing. Think of all of the questions someone could have and paint a picture for them. Don’t just write the bare minimum.
Stand out from the crowd
I started blogging nearly 10 years ago and at that time blogs could be different. People weren’t talking about finding a niche. We wrote what we wanted to write because we wanted to write it. Now, though, people are always talking about what you should and should not do and I want to throw this out there: Instead of listening to the hive, work to stand out from the crowd.
I loved this post from A Bookish Baker and I highly recommend everyone read it: Who is making these blogging rules up anyway?
If brands are going to work with you, it’s because of your voice. It’s because you’re bringing something interesting to the table. Stop trying to blend in and make a point to zig when everyone else is zagging. Not only can you break the blogging “rules” and still be successful, but you’ll probably have more fun.
Adhere to deadlines
If you want to be a serious blogger and you want more opportunities to work with brands, you need to stick to deadlines. If a company asks that a post is done by November 13, don’t post it on November 15. Don’t miss a deadline and never follow-up with a company, either.
“Free doesn’t pay the bills”
I swear I’m going to puke if I see another blogger say “free doesn’t pay the bills” in a Facebook group. This is such a popular refrain but I absolutely hate it. Here are a couple of reasons why:
- When you are just starting off, you’re going to need free opportunities to get your foot in the door. As mentioned above, if you have no experience and nobody knows what you can do, they’re not going to want to pay you for work. Take the free jobs, excel at them, and turn them into paying jobs.
- What’s “free” to one person isn’t necessarily “free” to another. To this day, I will write posts solely for a product if it is something I want. If I were going to buy something, but a company is willing to send a complimentary version in exchange for coverage, then I’m actually saving myself money. Remember that YOU are the one that sets your own payment guidelines, not the blogger hive. Do what works for you.
Follow-up after a collaboration
After you partner with a brand on a collaboration, be sure to reach back out to them after a couple of weeks to provide them with some insights and data. Let them know how many social shares your post got and how many views. Tell them you enjoyed working with them and ask them to keep you in mind for any future collaborations.
Go above and beyond
In my post to brands, I mentioned that it’s rude to ask bloggers to do more work than they’re being paid to do. While I fully believe that, I also recommend that bloggers should go above and beyond whenever possible. Even if a brand is only paying you for one tweet, why not tweet a few more times? Or post an extra time on Facebook? The worst that happens is you get some extra traffic to your site and you’ll have better statistics to share with the brand when you follow-up!
Treat others as you want to be treated
Don’t develop a bad reputation. It’s going to get around if you are consistently late, rude, or demanding. Everyone is busy and people won’t put up with your shenanigans. If you want people to treat you like you’re a serious blogger, you need to work hard, constantly learn new aspects of your craft, and treat people well.
Do Tell: What other tips do you have for those who wish to be serious bloggers? Is there anything you’d remove from this list?
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