5 Steps I Took To Land Instagram Sponsorships Worth $10,000
Today, I’m going to share how I landed $10,000 in Instagram sponsorships as a travel blogger in 10 months. What worked, what didn’t work, and key lessons learned. If you’re a travel blogger looking to land your first collaboration or land more brand collaborations, I have plenty of useful tips for you. Find out the steps to land your dream collaboration and actually get paid for it.
These are some of the brands I’ve worked with:
- All of Us Travel
- The Travel Bottle
- Waiakea Hawaiian Volcanic Water
- The Bonham Hotel Edinburgh
- Daniel Wellington
- Glico Group USA
- Wolo Snacks
- Swimsuits for All
Ready to land more lucrative brand deals? Here are the steps to take:
1. Create a brand that stands for something
I’m sure you know there are 10 gazillion blogs out there. In order to appeal to brands, you must stand out in some way. This is one of the toughest challenges for new bloggers, and it’s completely normal. Don’t feel like crap if you don’t know what sets you apart off the bat. It has taken me a year to finally solidify what my brand is about.
There was a lot of trial and error along the way, which is all part of this gig. That said, you can speed things up by investing in your business. Take courses, attend conferences, work with a coach, listen to podcasts, and read books about entrepreneurship. You’ll fill in the knowledge gaps that will help you create a compelling brand story. You need to know what you do, who you serve, and, most importantly, why you do it. Here’s my brand mission statement in a nutshell:
I help avid travelers build an online business that gives them the freedom to work from anywhere. This aligns with my belief that time is a precious commodity we should spend doing what makes us happiest.
What’s your purpose? Write down your own brand mission statement.
Keep this in mind if you want to grow your brand
A few years back, when I was still struggling to land a traditional job, I participated in a career coaching program led by Ashley Stahl. Here’s my biggest takeaway:
Clarity comes from engagement, not thought.
This is a really important idea for any entrepreneur. You’re not going to figure out the unique value you offer by pondering about it every day. You have to roll up your sleeves and do stuff. Just one thing every day is enough. One of the ways I finally figured out my mission was by conducting one-on-one video chats with people. I would go on relevant Facebook groups and personally reach out to people I thought may fit my ideal client profile. I also sent out a survey to my (very small) email list to see what they wanted to learn about. I put all this information together and decided to focus on solo travel and location independent living.
2. Focus on one social media platform at a time
Please don’t listen to anyone who tells you that you have to dominate Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Pinterest all at the same time. That’s a guaranteed losing strategy. It’s better to master one social media platform and grow it. In the beginning, I focused almost entirely on Instagram. I mistakenly thought that I had to be an Instagram influencer in order to become a successful travel blogger. For months, I obsessed over growing my following, joining tons of comment pods, follow threads, and giveaways. It paid off: my following grew from 280 to 10k in 9 months. Once I hit the 10k mark, I started getting inquiries from brands for both paid and gifted campaigns.
A little caveat about growing your social media accounts
While I believe that growing a strong social media presence is important for landing brand collaborations, I don’t want you to obsess over it as I did. I invested hundreds of dollars in Instagram giveaways, which helped me grow my following. But dozens of people would unsubscribe after the giveaway ended and my following would drop even more if I took a break from posting. To recoup the loss of followers, I would join even more giveaways, and the cycle would continue. I really didn’t need to spend all that money on growing my Instagram and don’t recommend you do. Here’s why:
You don’t own your Instagram account. Facebook does. That means that you’re not really in control of your account. Algorithm changes can cause your engagement to plummet. You can also get shadowbanned! That’s basically when Instagram stops displaying your photos under the hashtags you use, making it harder for people to find you. This happened to me and I had no idea! I only figured it out after watching an Instagram training and testing to see if my account had been shadowbanned. Click here to do a shadowban check.
The value of an email list
Your email list is more important than all your social media combined. First, it is completely yours. Secondly, it gives you the most direct access to your readers. Thirdly, people are more likely to read their emails than check their social media. They are also more likely to purchase an offer they learned about through email. If your goal is to turn your blog into a business, then you need to be able to get in touch with your readers at any time. Otherwise, how can you reliably promote your offers? Also be aware that some brands will consider the size of your email list in determining whether to work with you.
3. Build up your brand collaboration portfolio
So how did I collaborate with brands before I hit 10k? You see, a lot of people, including myself about a year ago, believe that you need 25k+ followers before you can reach out to brands. That’s not true! This belief kept me from taking action. Once I figured out that brands work with bloggers with small, medium, and large audiences, I gained the confidence to start pitching. In fact, some brands prefer to work with micro-influencers (less than 20k) followers because their followers tend to be more engaged and loyal.
In the beginning, I pitched boutique brands that were based in California. I wasn’t really concerned with whether the brands were travel-related, like hotels or luggage. Travel is a versatile niche that covers many industries, from beauty to apparel. Next, I pitched specific brands that have well-established influencer programs, such as Daniel Wellington. They didn’t respond to my email the first time so I followed up. You have to be persistent because these brands get hundreds if not thousands of pitches every day. Take a look at my pitch email below.
The Deal With Accepting Free Products
The catch with these collaborations is that they were gifted offers. I figured I could build up my portfolio of brand collaborations that I could add to my media kit. Some bloggers are vehemently against accepting free products. The argument is that it not only devalues your work that of other bloggers as well. They have a point. Tons of companies out there try to take advantage of influencers and expect you to work for free. At the same time, when you’re first starting out and have only 250 followers, you don’t have enough leverage yet. I think it’s fine to take free products as long as you have a deadline to stop. For me, I decided that once I reached 10k followers, then I would start charging. You can start charging even earlier than that, but 10k felt like a comfortable number for me.
What is a media kit and why do you need one?
Notice in the email above that I attached my media kit. That’s essentially your blogger resume that summarizes your brand story, blog stats, social media stats, previous collaborations, and types of partnerships you offer. You can easily create a media kit on Canva. It has hundreds of media kit templates. Your media kit is just as important as your resume when you’re applying for a job. It’s how you show brands who you are, what you’ve done, and how you can benefit them. Spend time crafting a concise, error-free media kit that showcases your value. Want some inspiration to create your own media kit? Sign up below.
Download the exact media kit I've used to land over $10k in brand deals
Get my media kit + access to my free resource library
How do you find the right person to contact for a brand collaboration?
If you want your proposal to be read, it’s crucial to send it to the right person at the right time. You should always send your proposal to someone in the marketing or public relations department. One easy way to find the PR/Marketing person is to search for the company’s press releases. Search ‘Company name’ + ‘For immediate release’ and press releases should come up if they’re available online. Skim to the bottom of the press release, which is where the PR contact will normally be listed.
LinkedIn is another powerful tool to find contacts! You can do an advanced search to find people with any marketing/PR-related titles within that specific company. Here’s how to do it:
- Log into your LinkedIn account and head over to the search bar at the top left.
2. Put your cursor in the search bar to see search options. Choose ‘People’ from the drop down
3. Select ‘All Filters’ under the People page
4. Once directed to the page below, narrow down your search by choosing the company, job title, location, industry, etc. If you choose to check the Connections boxes, LinkedIn will show connections you can be introduced to through your network. If you don’t choose it, LinkedIn will show you the employees of the company who fit the criteria you’ve designated.
In order to find the right marketing contact, these are some terms to search for:
Social Media Strategy
Global Public Relations
Public Relations & Communications
Public Relations Director
Never send an email to the HR contact, an intern, or the president of the company! These people have absolutely nothing to do with influencer marketing.
4. Learn the right way to sell the value you offer
Brands work with influencers to reach new audiences and boost sales. In order for them to work with you, they have to see that they can get a return on their investment. That’s why you have to make it clear how you’ll help the brand achieve its goals. The one investment that helped me figure out the value I bring is the course, Pitch it Perfect by Julie Solomon. Even after I hit 10k, I was still accepting free product because my first pitches for paid collaboration were unsuccessful. After taking this course, I learned how to effectively tell my brand story, find the right brands to pitch and negotiate a payment. I implemented the strategies and landed my first paid collaboration: a $300 brand deal with DiFF Eyewear, I was ecstatic!
If you get rejected in the beginning, keep pushing. You will get there. But you need the right information and strategies. There’s a lot that goes into crafting a successful pitch, and there’s a ton of misleading information out there. Even top marketing ‘gurus’ are sharing bad practices, like giving brands just one rate. That’s why I highly recommend Pitch It Perfect if you’re serious about monetizing your social presence. I’ll admit, it’s a bit on the pricey side, but you won’t find the information in the course on the internet. Also, if you implement the strategies, you can easily recoup the cost and then some. I recouped the cost with my first two collaborations and also pocketed an extra $200. And that was just the beginning.
How do you determine what price to charge brands?
Pitch It Perfect also has a section devoted to pricing your offers/packages. This is copyrighted information so I can’t share the specific details. That said, you’ll need to factor in your number of followers (and your engagement rate if it’s really high) to find your price. You can use this price calculator to give you an idea of how much you should be charging.
5. Pitch Often and Consistently
In order to land brand deals, you have to pitch often and be consistent. Maybe you could set a goal to pitch one brand every week then build up from there. You can begin by making a list of brands you’d like to work with. What brands do you already use and love? Another way to find brands is to look at bloggers similar to you and find out what brands they’re working with.
Using all the strategies above, I reached out to dozens of brands and landed $10,000 worth of brand deals. This includes both paid and gifted offers. I hope this post has helped you see that you can definitely land lucrative brand deals with the right information and strategy! Don’t forget to sign up for Julie Solomon’s free training to learn more powerful strategies to score brand deals.
What’s your biggest takeaway from this post? Is there something new you’ve learned that you plan to implement? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Comment below.