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.