How to Get Brand Partnerships Without a Large Following

So many people think that you need to hit a magical number to get paid as a food or drink blogger and I’m here to tell you that that’s just not true! If you’re wondering how to get brand partnerships, even if you don’t have a huge following… You’re in the right place!

By focusing on sharing high-quality content, we were able to make 6-figures on Instagram with less than 10k followers in our first full year of The Social Sipper in 2019. And I don’t say that to brag but I want to show you that if it was possible for me, it’s possible for you too!

How many followers do you need to get brand partnerships?

Brands want to work with nano influencers (less than 10k followers) and micro influencers (between 10k and 100k followers) because they generally have higher engagement and closer, more influential relationships with their audience. 

I got my first brand partnership on The Social Sipper with around 1,500 followers but if I knew what I knew today, I would have begun pitching brands much earlier. I’ve seen our B2OB students and clients successfully get paid with a few hundred followers. What sets these creators apart is that they are able to communicate their value to brands, they get creative around adding value to their packages and they have high quality photography. 

Why do some creators get paid more than others?

Surprisingly one of the biggest things that sets higher paid influencers apart from lower paid influencers is mindset and confidence. A lot of us start a blog or Instagram as a hobby and even if you have something amazing to offer, don’t see it that way. The biggest shift I made that allowed me to double and triple my pricing was beginning to approach this like a business. When you begin to think of yourself as a brand and business and see what value you can offer, it stops feeling so personal.

What are brands looking for in a partner?

When looking for creators or influencers to partner with, one of the first things brands look for is alignment. A brand wants to see that the content you are sharing and your audience align with their customers. That’s why it’s so important to make sure that you have a defined niche, are clear on who your audience is and what they want, and your first impression makes this clear. Though it might seem like sharing a lot of different kinds of content would open up the doors for more opportunities, it’s actually the opposite. Having a clear and defined expertise and value, make it easier for a brand to see if you are a good fit. 

The next thing brands look for in a partner is quality. Brands want to partner with creators that are aligned with their style and have high quality content. When you’re starting out, one of the best things you can do is lead with high quality content. This allows you to charge more, add more value to brands and attract higher quality partners. 

How to Get Brand Partnerships: 5 Things That Helped Me

Thing 1: Focus on Quality Photography + Include High Res Photos/Videos

The easiest way to get paid more is to add more value to your packages. When I stopped worrying about my following and started thinking about how I can create more value for brands I worked with, this shifted everything. This led to repeat partnerships, strong relationships and me creating content outside of just partnerships. 

A basic brand partnership is really just the promotion of a brand to your audience, so when you include the high-resolution images in your package, that’s an extra that you should be compensated for! I go deeper into this in my FREE workshop 👉 5 Secrets to High-End Food (& Drink) Photography That Makes You More Money

Thing 2: Charge for Usage

When you provide high quality photos, a brand is most likely going to want to share them with the world on their website, social media or other platforms. As the creator of the content, you maintain rights to it (unless you sign something to transfer those rights) so you can charge for a usage license for brands to use your content in specific ways for a set amount of time. 

In my partnerships, I include reposting on social media with credit in all of my packages, but if a brand is looking to use the content outside of that, like sharing on their website or for advertising, that would be an additional fee.

Thing 3: Recognize the Value that You Offer

When I started working with brands, I had well less than 10k followers. Instead of dwelling on that, I started to recognize that beyond just high quality photos, my background as a food stylist gave me unique value as well. And you might be thinking that you’re not a food stylist BUT you most likely have some type of unique experience, background, or training that is valuable to brands. Maybe you have a journalism degree and can write amazing blog posts or maybe you’re just great on video. The thing that comes easy to you or you might not even think about can be valuable to brands.

Get creative, think outside the box and make sure you’re communicating the things that are awesome about when you’re talking to brands, on your Instagram bio and in your media kit!

Thing 4: Factor In Your Time 

When I started getting paid by brands, I had the mentality that I was going to create content anyway so getting paid anything is a bonus. This caused me to accept partnerships WAY less than I should have. I wouldn’t take a job getting paid $5 an hour, so why should I let myself get paid that way for partnerships?

Outside of the value of your audience, your expertise and the cost of props and groceries necessary to create your content, you should also be considering the value of your time.

Here are a few things to consider when mapping out how much time you spend on a brand partnership:

  • Developing and testing your recipe
  • Shopping for ingredients, props, etc.
  • Cooking and/or creating your recipe
  • Setting up and shooting your content
  • Editing
  • Writing any captions or copy 
  • Creating any graphics related to your posts
  • Posting and promoting your content
  • Communicating with the brand

When you break it down, there’s a lot that goes into creating and promoting quality food and drink content, so make sure you’re communicating this in your packages and charging for it! If you have a hard time communicating with brands, I shared some specific phrases you can use when responding to brands on our post on How to Turn Gifts Into Paid Partnerships with Food Brands.

Thing 5: Propose Long Term Partnerships

Long term partnerships are an easy way to increase your package prices but they also have benefits for you and for the brand. Here are a few benefits for a brand:

  • Promoting a brand over multiple posts makes it more likely that your audience will take notice. People have to see things multiple times before taking action.
  • The brand secures your current pricing. Most likely, the quality of your content and your following size is only going up from here. Agreeing to a long term partnership ensures a brand secures the pricing that you are offering now. And if you want, you can include special package rates.

Long term partnerships have benefits for creators as well! Income as a creator or influencer can be unpredictable at times, so it’s nice to know you’ll have recurring income from one relationship. On top of that, every new partnership takes time. You spend time reviewing each contract, learning about the brand, communicating back and forth. I’ve found that long term or multi-post partnerships take a lot less time by eliminating all the “onboarding” tasks.

One of my favorite ways to propose longer term partnerships is to look for opportunities. For example if a wine brand approached me about a cocktail partnership for Easter, I could also propose adding on another post for National Rosé Day in June. Get creative and do the work so a brand doesn’t have to!

Final Thoughts

If you’re ever feeling insecure, remember that brand partnerships are mutually beneficial relationship between 2 businesses. Negotiating with this mindset and knowing that you have something amazing to offer and your work and time are valuable, allows you to secure higher rates and creates more trust with brands. I mean, how’s a brand supposed to see your value if you can’t see it yourself!?

I hope you found this helpful! If you have any questions or comments, make sure to leave a comment below!

Ready to take your food photography to the next level? Discover how to take drool-worthy food photos 📸 🍔  that generate an income (without investing tons in fancy equipment) in this FREE workshop 👉 5 Secrets to High-End Food (& Drink) Photography That Makes You More Money

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