Hey, y’all! My name is Kayla and I co-own Under A Tin Roof with my mother, Jill. We make handmade women and children’s clothing, accessories, and home decor. Each of our products is made by hand and some of our materials are sourced through local farms, something we are trying to be more conscious of! When Kayla approached me to write about how a proper brand collaboration, meaning a partnership between a brand representative and business owner, should go down I was not only humbled but shocked. Our business still incredibly small, and I feel like I am definitely not an expert in proper brand representation! I am merely experimenting, discovering, and learning all about business through Instagram, but I suppose experience is what prompts us to share, to help others in achieving their goals not only in business, but in life too.
So let’s be honest for a moment. We all want to strike gold. Your business could gain thousands of followers, or your personal account could suddenly get contacted by major companies to help them market their products! How fun is that? We love participating, especially when we get to meet amazing people who become great friends along the way, but it’s difficult engaging in brand representative contests as a business. We’ve held only one, experiencing the fastest gain of followers we’ve ever had. It was thrilling! We did make it a “brand enthusiast” search, which means that the person receiving product pays a percentage of the listed price of product they want. When we chose who our enthusiasts would be, quite a few dropped out because they were wanting products sent to them for free. As a customer, I understand this point of view and respect it. I also want free products when it comes to putting in the effort of dressing, posing, cleaning, and photographing my child. You are making a creative effort to document your life while also product pushing; you deserve some recognition! As a business owner, I am torn between offering free products or discounted ones. Each time we send out a free product, we are taking a huge risk. But I’ll get more into detail about that later. With that in mind, let’s get started!
Ask questions. Whether you are a business or a representative, make sure when you both are discussing the business deal, you lay all of your terms out on the table. If there is something that is confusing or uncomfortable to you, let the other person know. There is nothing wrong or unprofessional about asking a question you find silly or even dumb. It could be really important in the long run!
Set a schedule. You’ve decided to make a brand collaboration! If you are a business owner, some person has agreed to take photos of themselves or their child in your products. Awesome! Of course you want all of the photos, right? How many do you ask for? This part is tricky and is truly up to preference. Here’s a concentrated risk. Through personal experience, I asked our brand enthusiasts to try and take one photo a week for three months. Looking back, that makes it sound like A LOT of photos. If you add it up, that’s around 12 photos in total. Not necessarily bad, but they were also paying a percentage for the product. In the future, if I were to ever have brand enthusiasts again, I would probably ask for 5-8 really nice photos within three months, without a weekly limit. From what I have seen, most brands ask for 10 or more photos within a three month period from their brand representatives. This allows the photographers to evenly space out their content, take unique photographs, and time to actually live their lives. If you are a brand rep, set a picture-taking schedule! This is all about having fun and what better way to exercise your creative muscles than having a purposeful muse? Maybe you only take certain product photos on Wednesday, or you post a brand’s items every Tuesday/Thursday. If that’s what works for you, do it!
Here is the big deal: if a brand gives you a time limit that is too much for you, either negotiate a different time frame or walk away. I cannot stress enough that if you are completely in the know that you will not be able to meet their requirements, it’s not worth it! Even if the free items are tempting. On the other hand, if you are business promising product with the knowledge that you just don’t have the time to send it, tell your consumer that!!! Even if it is embarrassing. It’s better than leaving someone hanging.
Be informed. When you enter a collaboration, you are taking an immediate risk. Here’s a scenario: You take a photo of your child for a brand and send it off to them. They post it to Instagram, and then you see it appear on their website and on Pinterest. You didn’t realize that it would be used for all of those social media platforms. This is another reason to ask questions! Realize that when you agree to help a brand market their product, you are essentially using your child’s photograph to do so. I feel like is something most of you already know, but just a reminder! On the other hand, as a business, let’s say you send out a free product to a consumer who has agreed to be brand representative for you. They have agreed to take a certain number of photos, but when they receive the product they only take one and never any others, or maybe they don’t take any photographs. You’ve just lost not only a product, but money as well. This has happened to us numerous times, and it sucks. Remember that when you make these deals, not everyone follows through.
Be a friend. So you’ve finally made a successful deal! Both of you are happy, you have taken photos for your time limit and/or have sent out products and received beautiful pictures. Now what? Are you now best friends or do you both walk away happy with your business-making? It’s sort of like a horror story from the grade school lunchroom. The answer is, be friendly! Send a genuine comment to one another, check in, and remember what that person did for you in the past to help you make it to where you are today. Each of us needs help to be successful. Ignoring the people who helped you, big or small, just makes you a bad business-person. This entire process is about having fun and making friends from all over the world! Businesses like loyal customers, and customers like businesses that get them.
Only rep for brands/products you actually like. I’ve been approached by brands and consumers alike offering or asking for free products. I’ve had to turn down quite a few business opportunities because it just did not fit our personal style, our schedule, or was just unappealing to me. Of course, always explain kindly that it just is not going to work out this time around. That’s all there is to it! Let’s look at it this way, if someone sends you a product that you don’t like, are you really going to enjoy taking pictures of it? Probably not. “Free” is such a tempting word, but it’s one that you sometimes have to walk away from.
Be honest. This is my last point because it is the most important of them all. In business, it sometimes can feel like there are a lot of behind-the-scenes plays, special terms, or even ulterior motives than what you were initially expecting. This happens, and we have already covered the topic of informing yourself of the risks of making a deal. The best thing you can do if this happens is to be honest with yourself. So, some business or representative hurt you. It’s time to put on your big girl panties and realize that business and feelings do not often go hand-in-hand. That’s just how it is. Could it ever change? I don’t know, maybe, but I’m sitting here being honest with you that sometimes deals don’t work out. Please don’t let that stop you from trying again and forgiving the negative interaction you’ve had. I’ve made deals that I’ve fallen through on. I feel terrible about them, but I never meant them as a personal attack on anyone. It just didn’t happen to work into my schedule, and that is all there is to it. How can you help prevent this from happening? Be honest with the business or representative you are hoping to work with. That’s what you want in return, right? It’s that simple; we want authenticity, and that will show in your business, your photos, and your writing.
I hope that helped you figure out how to make a successful brand collaboration! There is nothing more rewarding than finding a good deal. Though we have had some floozies when it came to losing product, we have made some of the best business friendships through Instagram and have met some of the most interesting, wholesome, and authentic people. Like I have said multiple times, this is all about having fun. A positive collaboration comes from the heart, from creativity, from love. So go out there and get started!