There are few topics that inspire such passion in the blogging community as receiving money for content and how this is made clear to readers. Today, both as a blogger and a reader, I'm going to talk about this from every angle I can think of!
Ok, so this is stating the obvious somewhat, however it's worth spelling out. Without sponsorship most bloggers and YouTubers couldn't make their hobby into a career. Perhaps this does introduce a bit of a moral hazard (beauty blogger needs to pay the gas bill and gets a sponsorship offer to write about a kitchen cleaner...) but as long as things are disclosed appropriately; it's totally up to you whether you click or not. However it's pretty great that (predominantly) young women are able to become self-employed with minimal start-up costs (though I'm under no illusions that there's a certain degree of privilege in being financially able to quit the day job - or never have one in the first place - to swan around Chelsea taking pictures with luxury items when the money may not be flowing in consistently yet). If you don't want to read sponsored content then that's your prerogative however it's what makes being an online influencer a possible career for people. This is essentially rendered a moot point, in my opinion.
Sponsorship doesn't = fake
This is my biggest annoyance! I'm lucky enough to have a well-paid job so I'm really not that bothered about sponsorship and can afford to be picky. Essentially I only want to do it so far as it fits in with what I post anyway, it aligns with my disclosure policy (no-follow links, sponsorship clearly labelled in the title etc.), I am able to service what the brand wants and it falls within my tax allowance for other income outside of my job. So, in all honesty, I'm often looking for ways to say 'no' more than I'm looking for opportunities to say 'yes'! However every so often (as in, 1 in 30 offers) you get a request for a brand you love or a product you're excited about and it sparks an idea that you know your readers would enjoy.
I spend so much more money on my blog than I could ever hope to earn earn (those products that I just *have* to review for myself, finding dupes, trying new releases...and that's before the camera, laptop, props and other equipment) that why shouldn't I make a tiny amount of that back if it's right for me and my readers. The litmus test for me is 'would I have posted this if it wasn't sponsored?' Passion and enthusiasm, as well as the work put into a post, are so easy to gauge a reader that it becomes pretty obvious if the influencer was asked to talk about a product they're a fan of or if they're shoe-horning in something totally irrelevant just for a bit of extra money (when it's often clear they're already raking it in!)
How do you get sponsored?
To be honest, in my experience most paid opportunities are pretty clear from the outset - when it drops into my inbox it will say 'sponsorship' or 'partnership'. However if you don't ask you don't get: sometimes brands ask a bit too much of you and there's nothing wrong with requiring payment in those cases. As far as I'm concerned, products are sent to us for consideration (though I always look to feature everything in some way or another); not in exchange for guaranteed content so if you're being asked to mention xyz and include multiple links then you might want to enquire what their budget is.
Some months I get dozens of sponsorship enquirers, others; nothing at all. I'd imagine that full-time bloggers who aren't absolutely huge probably have to be quite proactive about getting long-term sponsorships and approaching brands they've worked with previously to sniff out new opportunities.
What to ask yourself before accepting
Obviously the big one is that you like the product. No, scratch that, not 'like': 'love'! You need to ensure you get all of the relevant details upfront and I always send across a link to my disclosure page to ensure they're 100% happy with it before we take anything further (for what it's worth, the big-name brands and agencies I've worked with have never made a fuss over disclosure and generally know the deal). There are also more practical matters to consider like payment; if it's a smaller brand, especially if I haven't worked with them before, I give them the date of the post going live in advance and ask for PayPal payment within 24 hours of it going live. If it's a bigger company, they often have to raise a purchase order number and you'll have to create an invoice. I just do this in Word and save it as a PDF. It needs to include their address, your address, the date, the purchase order number (if applicable), what they've purchased and the amount. And you'll probably be waiting a good 4-6 weeks before you see anything in your account.
You also need to consider the tax implications - as soon as you start earning from your blog you will need to register as a sole trader. Whilst you do get a small tax-free allowance for income outside of your main job, accepting money for a post means that you will need to start logging every penny you spend (on your domain, a specific blogging camera etc.) and every penny you earn. It might not be worth it for a one-off offer of £50...
Knowing your worth
I sometimes wonder if people realise the time, effort and resource that goes into creating a blog post. You not only need to cover your costs (e.g. Buying special props like a £15 bunch of flowers to show the products you're featuring at their best) but the extra effort you're going to in order to create something that's in line with their brand message and your style of blogging at the same time. Sometimes additional, specific or detailed photos are needed which could take you another half a day to complete. Not just that but I frankly find it insulting when I'm approached to do a sponsorship for £20! There are all sorts of factors that go into what you should be charging for a sponsored post: number of followers, page views, engagement, which platforms are your largest and so on. However, trust me when I say this: no matter how small your platform is, you're worth more than £20.
I personally recommend going in slightly higher than your 'walk away' figure to leave room for negotiation. If they push back you can always reduce your price or throw in a few extras, like product-specific posts on your social media channels. However sometimes it's clear that you're just not going to be able to reach a consensus and personally I'd always rather walk away than sell myself short.
Barely obeying the law isn't good enough - aim for total clarity
Maybe it's because my actual job is in a heavily regulated industry where it's just plain stupid to sail close to the wind on these things, but I've always been of the mind that if you're questioning whether what your doing is breaching regulations, then you're doing something wrong! I personally think we should always aim for best practice. In the UK YouTubers have to put 'ad' in the title where their videos contain scripted advertorial content, however many US YouTubers still don't follow suit. Likewise, if an influencer is being paid to feature a product but isn't being told what to say, they don't strictly have to declare this. I've also noticed a recent trend of having a really long title and then putting 'ad' at the end so that when the video shows in people's subscription box, it isn't clear that they're clicking on sponsored content.
If you feel like you're being dodgy; you probably are being, and your readers won't thank you for it. Always aim for complete clarity on what is and isn't sponsored and to what extent, making it clear in the title so people can decide for themselves whether they are still interested in the content. Paradoxically, being shady about sponsorship is probably a surefire way to get fewer sponsorships because your readers will stop trusting you and your paid-for content will get less engagement, meaning brands will be turned off!
Have you done many sponsored posts? Let me know your thoughts and feelings, both as a blogger and as a reader, in the comments below!