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The Best Tricks For Landing Well-Paid Brand Sponsorships

From a former brand representative

Want to know the best way to land paid brand sponsorships from the people who make your favorite products? As the person who used to scour the internet for awesome content creators, these are my top tips for getting found, getting work, and getting paid by brands, small and large.

A woman in her 30s standing in a sunlit forest, smiling and looking through a camera like she's shooting photos for a brand sponsorship.

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First, a caveat: Due to confidentiality agreements with my former job, I can’t reveal exact numbers or brand names related to my work. But I can give you the methods I personally used to for tracking down quality content creators to partner with—and the things our repeat partners had in common.

 

In my most recent past life (full-time job), I worked as a Creative Director at a content studio owned by a travel brand. The brand was owned by a major RV manufacturer, and a lot of our work was for their subsidiaries  – which meant we represented a lot of RV brands. Big, juicy ones – many of them top sellers across the country. 

What does a content studio do? We create content to help position brands favorably and create marketing stories that can live forever. In my case, we were reaching out to real RV owners and offering to pay them to tell their stories, which we would then publish as a blog article on the top-level brand’s site, or which we would create a video from. 

Our goal was to show the breadth of people of all genders, ages, backgrounds, etc., who liked to camp in an RV, so we could bust up stereotypes and help new people envision themselves buying one. And truly? There’s no greater marketing power than a real person sharing a product with their friends, family or audience. A lot of advertising is subtle like that – we don’t need you to TELL people to buy our product, we need you to show people that you use it and like it. (See my article on marketing funnels here to understand why content like that works.) 

Which means I can speak authoritatively to what brands look for in content creators–because I used to be the one doing the looking. So let’s dive in.  

Brand Sponsorships Trick 1: be easy to find

When brands are looking for real people to partner with, they, uh, go hard. In my case, I was looking for people with specific brands of RV (depending on the balance we needed that quarter). I was looking for people of different ages, races, ethnicities, genders. I was looking for solo campers, couples, families – nontraditional ones, people with lots of kids or very young kids, etc. I was looking for people who traveled with dogs, or cats, or even a fish. (My favorite.) 

Because I worked on a small, majority-female team, we prioritized keeping an even balance of people we showed to our clients. We went out of our way to look for people who were underrepresented in the space – Black campers, Asian campers, Latino campers, but also solo female travelers, young couples living in their RVs full-time, retirees with ATVs.

Because it was our job to show the full breadth of real people who enjoyed not just the product we were repping, but the lifestyle associated with it, too. 

So yeah, I was looking far. I was looking wide. I was looking into deep-ass rabbit holes. This is how I found people, roughly in order of effectiveness

  • Instagram hashtags of the brand name or the product name or both
  • People who commented on other people’s posts 
  • Followers of people who hashtag the brand or product or both
  • Visually searching more generic hashtags for products that might belong to the brand (skimming 100s, 1000s of photos looking for a logo I recognized) 
  • Looking for related hashtags, like commonly used RV products or camping tools and visually searching for our brand among the photos
  • Trying to track down related accounts – like the personal Instagram accounts of the people who created an account around their RV adventures

 

It could be grueling. It’s really easy to find a certain type of content creator in any given niche – in my case, I would say white couples or families between 28 – 50 who lived in their RV at least part of the year. These people drive around with their social handles slapped on the back of their campers as a decal. 

And that’s awesome.

But there’s only so many people you can feature who look a lot like the last ten people you’ve featured. We always needed more diversity across all demographics.

It was much harder finding people who just used their RVs on the weekends in the summer. Or who were brand new owners. Or Black campers who could speak to a different perspective on camping. Or anyone who wasn’t from out west or down south, frankly. (Not as many national parks and RV campgrounds on the East Coast!) 

So if you’re easy to find, you’re going to be at the top of a brand’s list.

Use brand and product hashtags. Put their names in your captions, tag them in your captions. Put a link to your other properties prominently in your IG bio, your YouTube video descriptions, your website, your newsletters. Anytime you show a product in a photo or mention it, use its full name, like “Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts” instead of just “pop tarts.” 


Note: Although we did look at follower numbers, low numbers rarely stopped us from working with someone we wanted to work with. I can’t speak for all brands, but know that there are absolutely brands that will work with people with a smaller reach and following. It’s not a dealbreaker at all.

But if you do have decent reach, it’s a good idea to create a page on your website where you list all your numbers in one place. This can help you get more work and more money. 

A phone screen showing an Instagram profile, an easy way to be considered for brand sponsorships.

Brand Sponsorships Trick 2: be easy to contact

So we’ve established that brands will scour social media and search to find great content creators to partner with. But you know what will absolutely tank your chances, even if you’ve hashtagged everything to high heaven?

Not having a clear way to get into contact with you. 

Sometimes, there was no easy way to identify who the people were or the best way to contact them. Personally, I like to know someone’s name before I email them, even if it’s a pseudonym like “The Traveling Thompsons.”

So ideally, you’d have at least your first name prominently available, and an email address or a contact form (or on Instagram, the ability for strangers to message you).

Instagram messages weren’t my favorite way to contact someone out of the blue.

For one thing, people working for big brands don’t always have access to the Instagram account for those brands, which means if they message you, it could come from their own personal account, making them seem like total randos. Not ideal. 

But emailing a content creator is better, because you can see by my email address alone that I belong to a legitimate company who works with the brand that wants to feature you. (Related note: Check your spam regularly. Lots of initial emails we sent out wound in Spam folders, despite being legitimate.)

Which is why your email address should be prominent on at least one major platform.

The best influencers would have a contact email in their IG bio, YouTube about section, and on their website, making it really quick and easy to find, and telling me that they checked their accounts regularly for opportunities.

(Pet peeve: Don’t set up an email address for your social channel bios and then never check it. This is…more common than you would think. Have it forwarded to an email you do check regularly.)

But if you’re not comfortable with that, at least turn on the ability to let non-followers message you on Instagram. Brands can’t pay people they can’t contact easily. 

Brand Sponsorships Trick 3: be available

A woman sitting on a couch with her laptop, looking for brand sponsorships.

Obviously, when I was working with RVers, I was working with people who sometimes traveled a lot. Which could mean waiting days for an email response. And there’s nothing wrong with that – the business world moves a hell of a lot slower than everyone would like, too. 

But the easiest people to work with would 1) tell us in advance if they were going to have a spotty connection or be unavailable for a few days, and 2) follow up without needing to be reminded. 

So if you’re visiting your Nana in Florida one week when a brand emails you, it’s totally fine to say, yes, I’d love to jump on a call, but I’m with family this week, does next week work for you? Or, I’ll be away from my computer for a few days, but I’ll email you on Monday to iron out the details. 

You’re not going to lose a contract for separating your business time from your personal time, but you will lose business if we need to hunt you down for a response or you forget about planned calls or meetings. 

Brand Sponsorships Trick 4: be patient

As I said, the corporate world can move slowly. It’s not uncommon for someone like me to have to run the details of a contract up the chain to a few different people – my boss, our legal team, our client.

Each one of those people has other priorities they need to tackle first, so each person might take 1-3 days to weigh in on your project. 

Which means you could easily be waiting a week or two after you connect with a brand to see a sponsorship come through. Sometimes they take months to iron out the details.

That’s normal. 

It feels like a long time because it’s personal – to YOU. But to the brand, it’s just business. 

So a lag in communication is not a personal slight, even though it feels personal to you. Be patient. You can always send a follow-up email – I recommend waiting at least one week, but two is better – to see where things stand. 

Just remember that a lag in communication has no bearing on whether or not the deal will go through.

If we reached out to you, it means we like you, and that means you have people behind the scenes at that brand fighting hard to get you hired. 

Being patient never hurts, but being pushy can. We definitely had a few cases where someone we were working with (often young men, just being honest) would write to us, irritated about what they were or weren’t getting. And you know what? Even if we can’t always tell our clients about what a jerk you’re being, you can bet your ass we look for ways to avoid working with you. We’re not going to volunteer you for future work.

And there’s always more work to give. 

Two women hugging and smiling for a camera, posed for brand sponsorships.

Brand Sponsorships Trick 5: Be trustworthy and reliable

Speaking of more work to give, once we’ve vetted a content creator and they’ve completed a project for us, we have a pretty good idea of two things: Their capability as a partner, and how easy they are to work with. 

You don’t always need to be the best writer or have the most polished videos. Lots of brands are looking for people with smaller followings (and smaller price tags) for small projects.

If you’re trying hard and you’re easy to work with, we’re going to want to give you more work. 

It’s hard finding and vetting new people all the time. But it’s really easy to trust a proven performer with another project. It makes our lives easier, too. 

So what does “be easy to work with” look like?
  • Be friendly and build a relationship with your contact person. 
  • Write professional emails and respond as quickly as you can. (And tell us if you’ll be unavailable for a few days, which we can work around.) Spell check before you send. 
  • Look for ways you can deliver us more value. If a brand asks you to write a caption, send over two options. If they want one photo of you with the product, send them three pictures to choose their favorite from. 
  • Be gracious. Send a thank you email after the project is done, or tell us what a great experience you had. We always want to work with people who are enthusiastic about working with us. 

Brand Sponsorships Trick 6: Feel free to pitch your own ideas, too

The absolute best content creators I ever worked with were a husband and wife team who worked with a lot of brands. They had two Instagram accounts with 5 or 6-digit followings each, and they delivered quick, professional content that was always on-point. We worked with them a few times and it was always smooth and easy.

So whenever Nate would call me up, I listened.

He would tell me what he had going on – work with this other (non-competitive) brand, or a trip he and the family had planned. And would I like to work something out where our company sponsored the trip in exchange for X number of videos or articles? 

I couldn’t always give him what he wanted. After all, I was just one person in the chain, and our clients were the ultimate decision makers. 

But knowing that 1) I could rely on them to produce good work and 2) they were hungry for more, I tried to fit them into new projects everywhere that made sense. 

There’s a delicate balance in pitching content creators to clients.

We often used the same people for multiple projects, but at a certain point, our clients would get sick of seeing them. They wanted fresh people.

Which meant that even if there were many months I didn’t have any work for Nate, he was still in the back of my mind. I was always trying to see where he could be a good fit, or where we could pitch an idea of his that could fulfill a need our client had. 

I was also always strategizing to find the right time to pitch him again. Did I want to bring him up on a less lucrative project and risk the client getting sick of his name? Or did I want to wait, knowing a bigger project was in the works down the road?

So share your own ideas, and be gracious about it.

Don’t derail the project we’re proposing by insisting it needs to be different – but offer up an additional idea for later.

If the project is to use a brand new blush in a Get Ready With Me video, offer to highlight it in next month’s Favorite Things video, too. Or offer to make a second video showing three makeup looks with the same 5 products, one of which is the featured blush.

A brand may or may not bite, but it’s a lot easier to sell a second video to a brand than it is for that brand to find a totally new person from scratch. The path of least resistance works in your favor here.

Sometimes seeds you plant can take a long time to sprout.

But being patient and checking in on it every so often is always a good idea. 

A black woman in a yellow dress photographed in shadow as though posed for brand sponsorships.

Brand Sponsorships Trick 7: ask for more money


Seriously. When a brand contacts you for work, the first number they throw out is the minimum they’re willing to pay you. SO many people would accept this first number, just happy for the work.

Which was great for us, but bad for you. 

Because if a brand offers you $1000 for a project, you can be they’d go up to $1300 or $1500, no problem. That’s absolute PEANUTS to a corporate company – but it could be a big deal for you.

But I think a lot of people don’t like being uncomfortable. And haggling over pay is always uncomfortable, because of all the insecurities and doubts you carry in the back of your head about your own worth. (Look, me too. It’s just human.) 

The more information you have about brand sponsorships, and the more references you’ve looked at, the better.

If you know that a similar brand paid a friend of yours $2000 for a post, and she has fewer followers than you on Instagram, that’s valuable information.

If other brands have offered you $5000 for a 60-second video featuring their product, and another brand offers you $3000 for the same thing, well, it’s a lot easier to ask for more because you know what the market rate is. 

This is how I would word it. Feel free to copy and adjust this script to suit your own needs. 

“Hi Lana, thanks so much for reaching out! I’m a huge fan of XYZ brand, and I would absolutely love to work with you on this project.

“My Instagram channel [or YouTube, blog or newsletter] has been growing like crazy over the last six months, and I currently have XXX followers [or subscribers, pageviews or unique visitors] who would love to hear about your products.

“Based on my work with comparable brands, your offer seems a little low. I would expect it to be closer to $XXXX based on past projects and my social [or video or blog] reach.

“How close can XYZ brand get to that number? I’m willing to throw in [some small bonus – an additional 10-second Instagram story, an extra 250 words on a blog, a plug in future newsletters] if you can meet that price outright. Either way, I’m a huge fan of XYZ brand and I’m sure we can come to a mutually agreeable number for this project.”

Here’s why this works: 
  • You’re expressing enthusiasm for the brand. Nobody wants to work with someone who’s indifferent – we’ll work way harder to nail you down if you’re enthusiastic and passionate. 

  • You’re writing dispassionately — that is, as a business person. Reference other numbers, make it a data issue. Do not make it about how much you think you’re worth or how much you wish you were worth. 

  • But do lean into the high end of the range. Listen, negotiating over pay is a stupid dance, truly. But this is how the dance is done – I offer you $1 for an old flashlight at your garage sale. You say, “Oh, but based on the quality of this flashlight, it’s truly worth $10.” And then we meet in the middle at $5 or $6 and everyone is happy, because that’s what you wanted to get all along, and I still got a deal.

    So if a brand offers you $1000, and you really want to wind up at $1500, ask for $2000. I don’t make the choreography, I just know this is the dance everyone insists we all learn. (And if you knew how much money big brands spent without thinking twice, you’d hit the floor. Truly.)

  • You’re offering something else of value to sweeten the deal. This is a good faith gesture. You’re saying, this project should pay more, but I like your brand, so I’m willing to go the extra mile if you can meet that price.

    Hey, if you buy this flashlight for $7, I’ll throw in that used book you’re holding for free. Everybody loves a freebie.

  • Just don’t offer so much more that you’re undercutting your price. Content creators create value for brands. What you have is worth real money.

    Don’t offer to double the word count of an article, offer to throw in a free Instagram story mention. Or to write an extra 250 words to really get thorough on the topic they’re asking you to write about. If they want you to do a 60-second video, throw in a 10-second teaser Instagram story (cut down from the final video itself) for free.
A black woman with curly hair holding a curly haired child as though posed for a brand sponsorship photo.

Brand Sponsorships Trick 8: Be generous and spread the wealth

My final tip is this: tell us about your content creator friends. “I can’t wait to work on this project–you know who else would be perfect for it? My friend Rosie who blogs over at…”

People who are looking for content creators have a lot of work on their hands. To find ten great partners, we’re slogging through dozens, if not hundreds, of Instagram accounts, websites, YouTube videos and more. If you really want to endear yourself to a brand, make our lives easier. 

You don’t need to do this at risk to your own livelihood.

Secure your project first. Get your contract signed. Even finish the project. And then let us know who else you know who’s 1) as good at what they do as you are and 2) as easy to work with as you’ve been.

We may or may not be able to match them to something, but we’ll remember that you did some of the heavy lifting for us.

(And then immediately go tell that person what we paid you, so they can get fairly compensated, too. This is coming from me, Lana, not the brand representative, but the comrade in arms who wants you to get what’s rightfully yours. HELP YOUR FRIENDS MAKE MORE MONEY TOO.)

summing it all up

A phone attached to a selfie stick as though someone's taking a video for their brand sponsorships.

I’m sure all these points sound really simple, but you’d be amazed how rare it is to find someone who’s hitting every point. Truly. They may be simple but they’re effective.

To sum up: 

  • Be easy to find. 
  • Be easy to contact.
  • Be available.
  • Be patient. 
  • Be trustworthy and reliable.
  • Pitch us your own ideas. 
  • Ask for more money. 
  • Refer your friends to us. And vice versa.


Nail the basics, be good at what you do, and brands will seek you out. (You can always pitch your favorite brands, too — but that’s another article entirely. 

Good luck out there, honey bunnies!

A white woman sitting outside, smiling at the camera.

Hi, I'm Lana.

I’ve spent 16 years in advertising, and now I’m using that knowledge to help creatives grow their own small businesses. Will that include you this year? 


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