What is a Collaboration?
Collaborations and networking make the blogging world go ‘round. Working with others in this aspect comes in different forms and is important for many reasons. An influencer most often collaborates with a brand, photographer, or another influencer. Collaborations help a blogger, photographer, and brand become discovered on multiple platforms and an expanded audience when done correctly. In my opinion, a collaboration means that each participating party benefits from the work and has a voice in the project. But, after two years in the blogging industry, I have learned the hard way that it’s not always the case. Today I want to discuss why it’s so important to set boundaries and expectations before starting a collaboration.
Why is Setting Boundaries and Expectations Important?
Setting boundaries is important in any relationship, but especially when it comes to business. After two years as a blogger, one of the most important aspects I have learned is that boundaries and expectations need to be set before beginning a project. Depending on who you are working with and what feels right, these factors can be established in several ways- contracts, press kits, or even as casual as a verbal or written discussion.
When you are first starting a blog, collaborations can be very casual. People may direct message or email you, “Wanna shoot?” or “Let’s collaborate!” and you set a date and time. However, the more I work with others in this field, the more I have learned how important it is to have a discussion on your goals and vision prior to agreeing. There must be balance; you don’t want to be an asshole, but you also don’t want to be taken advantage of. One thing I have noticed after working with dozens of brands, bloggers, and photographers is that each collaboration is different and sort of unpredictable if you’ve never met in person. This is exactly why it’s so important for each party to voice what their requirements and questions are prior to starting.
Collaborating with Brands
When working with brands, bloggers are typically provided with sponsored content of their choice to participate in a given campaign. Once a blogger has a certain amount of followers deemed credible, they can even charge a varying fee per post. Some brands will even require a contract to be signed. There have even been times I have worked with brands and there was not a contract, but they directly stated what they were looking for in an email. There have also been times that brands simply offered to send me product, but didn’t directly state what they were looking for. In cases like these when the brand is very casual, I take the initiative to ask what they are looking for. During this conversation, it is important for influencers to know that they should state their boundaries and requirements in return. This is your time to gain leverage and negotiate.
Collaborating with Photographers
On a personal level, I typically wait for photographers to reach out to me. It’s not in my student budget to shell out several hundred dollars for a photoshoot and many times a photographer will expect financial compensation for their work if they do not initiate the conversation. When a photographer reaches out to me, I know they are interested in collaborating with me to elevate their portfolio and expose their work to my audience. Now, I always ask what their vision is and state what I am looking for from our time together.
Every photographer I have worked with has a unique work ethic and personality. So far, my favorite kind of photographer has been self-taught because they are often more flexible. It’s a little risky, because it’s not always a guarantee that the photos will be on point, but it’s also sort of nice to grow together as a team after multiple shoots.
A downfall I have experienced with several photographers is that instead of blending both of our visions, they instead use me as a model for a specific idea or project. In my opinion, this is exploitive because they are solely benefitting from the project and essentially using me as a free model. This is a huge issue for two reasons, I am a signed model and could technically charge for my work, and it becomes a waste of time for me when their vision doesn’t align with mine. When communication fails, the photos are often disruptive to my aesthetic and I essentially have to "throw them out" since I cannot use them or do not like them.
Be sure to always ask a photographer if they have a concept in mind and what they will use the photos for. Another requirement I state when collaborating with photographers is that I have a say in what photos will be used because there are have been many times I have worked with someone who did not let me see or choose the photos prior to sending me the edits which resulted in me being dissatisfied. If a photographer is not paying a modeling fee it is important for the model to also have creative control over their images.
Collaborating with Influencers
Collaborating with other bloggers is one of the most effective and creative ways to build your brand. Recently, I have been working to meet with other influencers more often. Collaborating with influencers or attending events is one of the best ways to build your network. It is important to work with someone who has a similar aesthetic and audience to be successful in gaining their followers.
One blogger I often work with is my good friend, Alyssa Aguilar from ReviveYourWild.com. We met on Instagram over a year ago and often help each other with photos. Another blogger I work with is my boyfriend, Mario Riveira from MayorOfFitness.com. Aside from taking photos for each other we are planning some other fun projects together which will help us continue to grow and exchange our networks.
If you are a blogger and want to meet and discuss how we could create something new and exciting together be sure to leave a comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Another aspect I wanted to mention before I go, is to have proper etiquette when working with brands, bloggers, and photographers. A lot of this comes down to treating others the way you expect to be treated. To quote the photographer that took the photos in this post, Jorge Muniz, "These photos are just as much yours, as they are mine." What I look for when someone asks to collaborate is if they show basic support by being a true fan and following my Instagram page and visiting my website. Be sure to give credit when it's due and tag their name for their work. And always be sure to respond in a professional and timely manner. Your expectations may differ and be longer or shorter, that's for you to decide.
A Final Note
Whether you are a blogger or just curious to know more about the industry, I hope my input and opinions have helped you learn something new today. I created this post to help others gain deeper insight to this industry. These are factors I wish I would have known before starting to work with others. I hope these tips help my audience and network flourish.
I’ve had a recurring whisper in the back of my mind for the last few weeks. It’s been getting louder and louder and finally the other night the whisper turned into a scream that pierced my heart. In my work life, I pride myself on thriving under pressure, but one downfall of this bo$$y characteristic is that this method is like a simmering pot. The other night, my simmering pot began to boil and the steam tipped the lid. In theory, I had a great day. I slept in, ate good food, took photos, hung out with friends, etc. Yet, I found myself in tears before bed. I was watching Law and Order SVU while simultaneously staring at my Instagram feed and this whisper began to whistle until I exploded.
“BLOGGING IS SO HARD”
When I started blogging two years ago, it was simply a form of expression and an artistic outlet. Ever since I began this hobby, I’ve had lots of encouragement, but also a lot of criticism.
“Why are you in a doorway? Your theme is boring- you need to go out and do interesting stuff.”
“Your posts are too long! Nobody is going to read that.”
“I’m too lazy to go to your website, can you just tell me where it’s from? What’s the point in having a blogger friend if I have to click on the link?”
These are things that have been said to me over the last few years. I do venture out for constructive criticism and appreciate feedback, but some things are plain hurtful. Don’t get me wrong- I have a strong support system. But as my own worst critic, I can’t help but succumb to these negative opinions. One blog post can take hours and hours of work before it is published. That aspect is hard enough itself, but to have sentences like this thrown my way have made me question if it’s even worth it.
As an influencer, I’ve constantly reinvented the way I express my style on social media. I’ve realized it’s because I didn’t really know who I was as a blogger and what my “aesthetic” or “theme” should be. It’s been hard for me to narrow this down for a few reasons. I mostly cook at home, don't go "out" much, have a small student budget, and chameleon-like style. These factors have made me vulnerable to outside pressures and opinions. In today’s social media world, we are forced to sell this “perfect life” to gain followers. You have to showcase a life that other people crave to embody. As a full-time student, part-time stylist, and blogger, I spread myself pretty thin. I have a small budget and little free time so it’s not easy for me to go out to fancy lunches, buy new trendy clothing for every shoot, or travel to exotic locations. I must work with what I have and don’t want to sell a life I don’t live. My style can also go from casual, classic, to edgy within one week. I don't want to restrict myself to one look so I have to find a way to make this all cohesive within my feed.
When I first started, I didn’t intend to monetize my blog, I was just doing this for fun. I also didn’t really know much about the industry, and considering how new it is, this is understandable. I’m pretty introverted and started my blog with 0 followers, no Facebook, a new Instagram, and only a handful of real life friends that would follow me for support. The more I step away from pursuing a 9-5 and gravitate toward creating my own business, the more I have been educating myself on this industry.
In 2015 my blog work consisted of friends taking outfit shots on my iPhone 5s because that was the extent of my resources. Later, I felt like that wasn’t good enough and became eager to work with photographers for professional photos. Lately, I’ve been doing a mix of everything which has left me feeling lost and dissatisfied. Every collaboration is different, and I like meeting new people because I feel like I always learn something unique. But, it can be hard to stick to one theme with so many different eyes and hands behind the camera. As much as I want to collaborate with many different people, I've realized that it is easy to lose a sense of self in the process because each person has their own vision. I’ve been so busy chasing different methods which has prevented me from maintaining consistency. I've learned that ultimately each blogger/influencer reaches success in a different way and it's best to do what works for you as an individual.
So, what now?
I've decided to take posting a bit slower. I'm going to take time to zone in on who I really am as a blogger and figure out a visual theme. I'm going to put my Advertising and Marketing books to use to narrow down a more strategic plan and figure out what need I am aiming to fulfill for my followers. I hope this post didn't come off as whiny or overtly negative, I just wanted to share some personal struggles I have been experiencing and explain why I have been more absent on social media. For those who have been there for me from the start, and have continued to unconditionally support my work regardless of what it looks like, I just want to thank you. Thank you for your patience during this transition, seeing the best in me, and rooting me on. Cheers to the future!