There’s been a lot of talk recently about how a reader only sees what’s on the surface of running a blog. Just like all those Instagram articles that surfaced showing what really goes into getting the perfect shot/creating the perfect life on Instagram, a reader of a blog often sees the end result of a very long process.
I was thinking about this in relation to my own content. How often you’ll see an update saying “I’m off to Bangkok/the Barrier Reef/ Bali” as if it just happened in a bat of an eyelid.
Sometimes, on very special and rare occasions, it does happen just like that. The Great Barrier Reef is one such example. Out of the blue I received an email from Round The Experts saying they wanted to send an influencer to the Barrier Reef to create content for both their own website and that of the bloggers. They wondered if I would be interested and what my rates for this type of work are.
But let’s give even this ‘surprise opportunity’ some context.
Five years ago I WORKED for Flight Centre UK, the parent company of Round The World Experts. I was their first ever social media hire and as my role and team expanded I was at one point involved in the creation of the Round The World Experts blog, the same blog I was now being asked to write for. I didn’t personally know (and have never met IRL) the lovely ladies who now fill the roles I once did but it’s not a massive surprise that they may think of me now that they are looking for a freelance blogger to work with.
That’s a pretty unique situation though, so how have the other brand collaborations I’ve worked on come about?
I attend tourism events, meet with PR, go to TravMedia events and meet people in person all the time. (It’s actually a good way of staying sane as a freelancer – it’s that or talk to the dog!) After doing this for a few years in London I had struck up a relationship with almost all the major travel PR agencies in the UK. Then I moved to Sydney and had to start all over again! Grr.
But I find meeting face-to-face is the best way to sell your blog, demonstrate your work ethic and have open conversations with PR/brands about their client’s aims (as well as yours) while explaining your way of working.
I also meet with bloggers a lot. Mainly because I like them, it’s good to talk to people who get you, but also because I find this is a great way to share ideas and pass on opportunities. I often recommend bloggers for opportunities I can’t take up and they me. Having a little network of people you trust like that is great for business.
Everyday I’m hustling. I like to do as much independent travel as possible in order to keep this blog authentic and true to my travel style, taste and personality. But I couldn’t produce as much content as I do without a little help from sponsors. So I research my trips, look into the things I would like to see, do, eat, stay etc. and sometimes if I have a relationship with any of those places I let them know I’m coming and see if they want to team up.
(Note: I always retain FULL editorial control of everything you see on this blog and never agree to a certain type of coverage – i.e. positive. In fact if I’ve got something wrong and end up staying somewhere/doing something I wouldn’t recommend to my friends I politely explain to the company why I won’t be blogging about them at all. You’ll never see a positive review on this site that I do not stand by.)
Sometimes I pitch to brands I don’t have a previous relationship with – say an independent boutique hotel – so this will take more consideration as I explain to these people who I am and why it’s a good idea to work with me. Then..
In the last few years I’ve got into the habit of creating my own 1 page agreements each time I work with a brand. This is just so we have a written record of everything we’ve discussed, either in person or on email, and we both know exactly where we stand in terms of deliverables.
I’ll use these agreements almost as a guide when I’m on the project – ticking off the number of social and blog posts I’ve agreed to. And yes, I do assign minimum numbers to each deliverable. I’ve found it’s better to set a clear expectation, and then often exceed it, as opposed to do a job and have the sponsor come away unhappy because they were expecting you to do more.
This touches a bit on the above but basically I always deliver what I said I would. Sometimes more. If I get on well with the PR (i.e. they get social and like my work) and their brand is a good fit we often work together again and again.
Take the awesome Karen Tippett. I first worked with her on a press trip for Tourism Toronto in 2012. We were huge fans of each other’s work (she’s like a mentor to me) and consequently worked together on 3 (at last count) more projects. Two of which involved me island-hopping around the Caribbean. My message here is a do a good job, no matter how small, because PR often have multiple clients. And they talk to each other too. Just sayin’.
More and more I’m finding that brands who work with bloggers would also like content that they can use on their site ( in addition to coverage on the blogger’s channels). I think this is great. Firstly it’s super smart – why would you not ask a blogger to create content for you at the same time? – and secondly this is a way that the blogger can monetise their work.
(I prefer to charge for output – posts, images etc. – rather than day rates. Find out more about how I monetise my blog here.)
So when you’re approaching a brand these days it’s great to show examples of content you have produced for other people. You may even be asked if you can provide coverage on additional platforms/publications. If you write for other sites this is something key to mention when discussing sponsored travel.
But the absolutely vital piece of the puzzle, which strangely rarely gets mentioned when you read posts about working with brands, is the actual readers. What’s a blog without readers, people? A diary?! Anyway, I digress. The point is the reader is always at the forefront of my mind when I’m arranging these projects.
(Ok I admit, maybe I get side-tracked by images of swinging hammocks but you’re in there too – I swear. I love my readers. Hell, I’m even marrying one.)
I think about what would give me joy to write about (coz the readers can tell when there ain’t any) and what the reader would like to see. Can I bring them joy, humour, inspiration or advice from this collaboration?
Then I keep things honest. Like I mention above, I write as if I’m speaking to a friend so if I wouldn’t tell my bestie to go/see/do something I sure as hell won’t write it here. And I try to be as clear as crystal about what’s in association with a brand and what’s just me on my holibobs with the bf. If there’s no disclaimer or mention of a collaboration on the post it’s coz there wasn’t any. See here, here, here and here for examples. That’s how I try and keep the majority of this blog. But this girl ain’t rich and she’s got to make a living so sometimes you’ll see this, this, this and this. I hope you understand why.
It ain’t a holiday
I write these posts because I hope they might be helpful to other bloggers. It’s my belief that the more professional we all operate the better it is for everyone. I assure you there are more than enough opportunities to go around and the less brands who get scared off by a nightmare blogger collaboration the better it is for all of us.
But I also write these posts for the people who don’t have a blog and never want to have one. I write it for the strangers, friends, sometimes family who ask me how my latest holiday was. Because I assure you, it’s no holiday. (See points 2,3,4,5.)
I absolutely love my work. I am still amazed/humbled/staggered by and so appreciative of the things I get to do for a living but I think I work pretty hard for it. And that’s the truth of it.
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