This post was most recently updated on September 25th, 2019

Let me begin this post with the fact that unlike the current blogging landscape in 2019, I didn’t start a blog with the intention of working with brands.

As written in my bio, my shoe blog started in 2010 as a marketing effort to promote my own product: shoe t-shirts (hence, name the Shoe “Tease”, get it?!).

After  just a few months, my blog started gaining traction, great traffic & the t-shirts became history. Well, sort of. You can still snag some over at Zazzle #shamelessplug #nonotsorry 😉

But as the blogging landscape quickly changed to one where brands decided to invest considerable marketing efforts on influencers (this term still makes me cringe, btw!), I sorta went along for the ride, not knowing what to expect.

And let’s be honest. Even 10 years later, I am constantly surprised at the curveballs certain collab will throw my way. Thing is, this grown ass woman has reached a bit of a breaking point. And I’m here to chat about it in the most logical way I can. 

Photos by Brunarico.com

6 Reasons I Post Minimal Sponsored Content

So here goes me blabbing about the 6 reasons you don’t see me posting much sponsored content. And remember, this is me talking about my choices. I’m not judging yours. 
 
Many of my reasons have to do with more than a few bad brand apples that have soured the experience for me. The MOST prominent of these reasons, however, is that I have bigger fish to fry. But more on that later.

1. I Don’t Accept All Offers

Actually, I don’t accept most. Just as many Instagrammers/bloggers/influencers/content creators (let’s call ourselves “creatives”, from here on in, shall we?) that have been at it for a while do, I decline most offers that come my way. 
 
One reason can be that the brand isn’t a good fit. Or maybe I don’t particularly like the product or need the service being offered. Or that I can’t guarantee placement for something I haven’t yet tried. Or the cost just doesn’t justify the work. 
 
I work with brands that I respect, with reps that are pleasant to work with & have a great track record of working with other creatives (yep, we talk!). I also prioritize working with those I’ve already had positive experiences partnering with. 
 
But many a time, I decline collaborations because of the expectation that creators work for free. And that doesn’t make much of a partnership now does it?
 
Which brings me to my next point as to why I don’t do much in terms of the sponsored content thing….

2. I Don’t work for free* 

*Well, let’s just say, that’s true most of the time. Let’s be honest: we’ve all done some pro bono work here & there.

It can happen when I love a product I’ve either purchased myself or been gifted. If it deserves rave reviews & fits into the content I’m actively creating, I’m likely going to talk about it.

If something is offered to me that I was on the market for already, or if an incredible once-in-a-lifetime experience comes my way? I may say yes. Especially if I have the time to devote to it.

However, generally speaking, I don’t create content for free or negotiate on my already competitive pricing. Especially not when it’s something that’s demanded of me. Entitlement is not attractive.  
 
Content creation takes time & money, people. Yet, most of those who get in touch with a blogger for their own or client’s marketing purposes, don’t seem to understand that. 
 
And this is not a small-Instagram-account-with-a-decent-engagement problem. No creator is immune.
I personally know a slew of Instagrammers, both big & small where free work is not only asked of them, but expected.
 
Doesn’t help that many newbie Insta accounts are more than happy to fund a “collab” on a discounted item. That’s a whole other story for another post, though, ha. 
 
My “favorite” ask right now is free work in exchange for a “test” post. You know, to see if the return on no investment is worth it for the company. Sorry, but no.
 
Plenty of resources are available to PRs & brands in order to determine collaboration potential. This includes software that can spell out exact reach, engagement rate, audience authenticity etc. It is NOT on you to be a brand’s guinea pig.
 
And remember that Instagram isn’t the be-all-end-all of social media marketing, either. I may not have 100K Instagram followers, but until recently, was clocking in 85K uniques & 100K monthly pageviews on, yes, this very blog.
 
Even so, many brands expect me to test out, photograph, edit, review & give them full use of my photos, for free. No social platform is immune to this!
 
So when 1/10 brands want you to work for free/mostly for free but 99% of the time one doesn’t work for free, then, yeah. I likely won’t be posting much sponsored content with those numbers!

3. Contracts That Make Me go Hmmm…

Oddly enough, the majority of my most successful partnerships involved a few quick emails & a blissful working relationship. You got it: No. Contract. Or at most, a simply worded 1-2 page document listing expectations on both sides. 
 
90% of the contracts that have come my way in the last couple of years have been tens of pages in length, poorly worded & have in no way, been in the creative’s favor. 
 
When I give a potential client my rate, this is the fee calculated for what my work + audience  is worth. And it is my minimum. I am VERY clear to that fact. 
 
Short timelines, extra photos, exclusivity or use of my photos outside of a repost, is just like guacamole: it’s extra.
 
Yet, even after an agreement has been set in place, I’ll receive a contract that includes some of the following nuggets:
  • extensive exclusivity clauses not allowing me to mention any unspecified “competitor” for weeks at a time
  • rights to sell, reproduce, alter & distribute my photos AND likeness to any 3rd party. Forevah. For FREEEE
  • all links must be dofollow links (total no-no in search engine land!)
So I proceed to tell the offending companies what I can offer them at the rate that was initially offered & agreed to. That often involves me sending back contracts with quite the amount of strikethroughs.
 
What happens? Well, it depends. The brand often declines to pay more, but still requests the added work. I sometimes get ghosted. Or the brand delays response time, then uses timing itself as an excuse to pull out of the collaboration.
 
However, pushbacks on my part don’t necessarily translate into a lost partnership. But sometimes they do. And that’s ok. Trust me, there is no better feeling than knowing your shit & more importantly, knowing your worth!
 
I am more than happy to strictly work with those who value me. There is no better collaboration than one that is founded on mutual understanding & respect. And the excitement of working together!
 
Sadly, many creators sign contracts without a second though, unknowingly giving up rights to their work, their image & efforts. Or knowingly do so because they feel like they have no choice. And I feel you, because I’ve been there.
 
The sheer volume of new accounts & blogs popping up on the daily, breeds that many more inexperienced creators that are the perfect pawn for unpaid or sneaky brand initiatives.
 
And for those giving up rights to their own images, I urge you to read & learn from THIS Tweet & THIS article. Seriously, take them 2 minutes!

4. Dodgy Post-Collaboration Behavior

This is the point that saddens me the most. Imagine you’ve gone through the motions of pricing, doing the work, posting it & invoicing the brand. And you’re glowing at the results.
 
And guess what? Your problems are just beginning. You start receiving more requests, for one more IG story, or to add a few more links to your post. Or to make said links “follow” links (insert eyeroll here). 
 
Or a new player in town: brands wanting the creative to reshoot the entire campaign, even when the collab objectives were followed to a T. This hasn’t happened to me, but I’m shocked to hear how many times it has to others. 
 
Or worse: them deciding, even after opting out of purchasing an extended licensing fee, that they will go ahead & use your photo everywhere afterwards. Please be mindful that just because you create images with a brand’s products, does NOT entitle them to use, share & or post them as they fancy. 
 
Thing is, these request often come after you’ve completed the work & before you’ve gotten paid. This allows the client to strong arm the creative into accepting their requests at the risk of having spent the time doing the work & running the risk of not getting paid.
 
Aaaand, the most prominent problem in the entrepreneurial world: not getting paid. There is nothing more life-sucking in this biz than chasing down a payment.
 
Luckily, a brief letter from a lawyer will do the trick, but unless the paycheck is worth it or you have lawyer family members/friends, the time & cost may not be worth the payout. However, there’s a lot to be said about standing up for your rights vs. standing with your tail between your legs.
 
Whether ignorant mistakes or not, it’s never fun to complete a project — or at least think you have — and then find yourself in an uncomfortable, often dead-end situation. Let’s not forget the toll it can take from one’s mental health.
 
I would have a slightly different perspective on all of the above if I were signing on minimum 10-20K campaigns, but I’m not. The emotional cost & time commitment to deal with some of this post-collab behaviour is often a deterrent for me to sign on any new work with new clients.

5. I Rarely Pitch Brands Anymore

Most creators don’t pitch & often wait for brands to come to them. Some are in a privileged position of receiving so many paid partnership requests that they can afford not to.
 
The secret of getting the most work from companies — even if you don’t have a large following — is to approach them first. And yes, you can get paid.
 
Pitching vs being pitched does not restrict you to work on a gifted basis! Think about how many emails you receive from web developers, marketers & SEO experts. Are any of them offering up their services for free?
 
Of course, pitching may not land you a campaign, but at the very least it will get you onto a PR/brand’s radar.
 
But the time it takes searching for PR contact emails, pitching, following up, emailing back & forth for a slim hope that a paid collab may surface, is not worth it for me & how I prioritize my business. 
 
Which brings me to the most prominent reason as to why I partake in few collabs. And it’s the most logical!
 
6. My Business Isn’t Founded on Sponsored Posts 

I know, it can seem a little shocking at first, but brand collaborations don’t currently factor into my ShoeTease business plan.

But don’t get me wrong, as much as it sucks my soul to deal with the above, I love working on ongoing collabs and/or with companies that truly value my time & work. It can be one heck of a great wild ride too!

However, my current personal situation doesn’t allow me much time to devote to working on professional goals. Which is shitty, but it is what it is. 

So I’ve had to apply the 80-20 rule & devote my time primarily to what gives me the most return on investment. Mostly financial, but also from an emotional perspective. And that is selling my own product — Pombons shoe clips in case you’re curious 😉 —  growing & maintaining my blog, increasing my affiliate sales/ad revenue & helping others do the same. 

It took a lot of hard work to grow my website into what it is today. But it has benefited me with a solid passive part-time income, which in turn allows me to pursue new ventures & continue topping up my current blog with SEO rich posts as I see fit.

The freedom of not being bound to brands or the Instagram algorithm for income (which is a lot more fickle than Google’s), is priceless. As is the privilege of choosing whom I work with & in what capacity. And I can’t wait to launch my SEO course for bloggers so that they too, can enjoy this same freedom!

I’m not sure what direction the industry will take, or what part I will play in it, but I’m happy where I’ve landed.  

And as far as brand collabs go, I’m likely not going to rule them out 100% quite yet. But the greatest gift of all is having the choice.  

xo Cristina

10 Comments

  1. Hi I love your post – It’s great insight into the business of blogging – I just started blogging 4 months ago for a creative outlet from my day job – medicine/podiatry. Companies have been reaching out to me but ONLY offering free products in exchange for posts – being a small IG account I get it but – it’s quite frustrating. If you decide to offer business blogging classes or SEO courses – please sign me up!
    – Casey

    • Hi Casey,

      Yes, free product for posts is a goal for many companies. I mean, if you’re just starting out, you have to begin somewhere, but be careful not get stuck in the “I need to have X amount of followers before I charge”. Many small accounts are charging too!

      I’m hoping to have my SEO course up by summer, or at the latest, by Fall, so stay tuned!
      xo Cristina

  2. Very enlightening, I have heard a few things. Currently my blog is just a passion project. Thanks for this, I look forward to reading other posts! When are you going to be releasing your SEO course? Cheers, Allie

    • Hi Allie, glad you stopped by! I’ve started putting my SEO course together and I hope it will be good to go by summer! I’ll post about when I do!

      xo Cristina

  3. PREEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAACCCCHHHHH girl!
    I am SO tired of being asked to do work for free. For the last few months (winter seems to be the worst), I have been dodging off so many shitty asks. I was getting stressed over the asks, trying to make them work… and then I came to my senses. Why am I fussing over this shit? They aren’t even paying my rate, or paying me at all???? So, I took a few hours writing emails saying no to all of them. It felt amazing!
    I want to do this work full-time, but I can’t rely on this type of behaviour to make ends meet. Thank god for my day job!

    Thanks for writing this and good luck getting your course online!
    Chantsy

    • I’m so glad you can relate and that you’re standing up for what you’re worth! I’ve wasted so much time thus far on this kind of crap that I’m not able to stomach much more of it. It’s amazing, however, what certain brands COULD achieve if they were more appreciative & less entitled. Obviously, not all are like that, but there are enough around that they have really chipped away at my patience as of late.

      Thanks for reading & for the good wishes!
      xo Cristina

  4. I really enjoyed the article Cristina – so many valuable points to ponder – Thank you!

    • Thanks Michelle! It was a great way for me to emotionally unload & I’m so glad many other could related.

      Rock on, babe!
      xo Cristina

  5. Very interesting post Cristina! Thanks to sharing your experience here. I am still a new blogger and have not had many sponsored opportunities, so I enjoyed reading an honest account of what goes on behind the scenes!

    • Thanks Jess! I hope this hasn’t deterred you from future brand collabs! They can be extremely satisfying when working with the right companies 🙂

      xo Cristina