How do Brand Deals Work? || Influencer Partnerships Explained

by kaya@comfygirlwithcurls.com

Welcome to brand deals 101…. actually, more like 101 to 401, because we’re not just scratching at the surface of what a brand partnership is, but going through the entire process of how brand deals work; from landing one in the first place, to the sending off of the final invoice.

So whether you want to be “#sponsored” yourself, or, you’re wondering what it is that influencers even do, this is the post for you.

Brand Deals From Start to Finish

If you’d like the video-version of this post, watch the below! And don’t forget to like and subscribe. ☺️

The text-version is below!


What is a Brand Deal?

Before we dive into the details of how a brand deal works for influencers and content creators, we need to define what a brand deal is.

Though you will often hear the terms collaboration, partnership, or sponsorship used to describe the same thing, “collaboration” or “partnership” might also be used to define gifted partnerships or exchanges.

And that’s not what we’re talking about in this blog post. We’re talking about a mutually beneficial agreement that a content creator/influencer has with a brand where a service is provided in exchange for money.

And usually this service is creating content that features their product or service and posting it on your social media platforms so that it can reach your unique audience.

Primary forms of brand deals:

  • Promotion to your audience, where you create content to post on your own feeds to reach your followers
  • UGC (User Generated Content), where you create content for the brand to use, but don’t post it on your own feed
  • A blend of both, where you post on our feed, and the brand also will use the content for ads and other usage.

Brand partnerships can also take on a number of other formats too, to ‘story takeovers’, speaking at events, collaborating on creating a product, etc. The heart of it is simply an agreement of some sort between an influencer and a brand.

How to Get Brand Deals as a Content Creator

Traditionally, having a large follower count on Instagram or YouTube was a prerequisite to landing brand deals.

But now more than ever brands are looking to partner with micro influencers, people with fewer than 10,000 followers even, because these creators often create in a very specific niche and have more trust with their audience.

So how do people get brand deals in the first place, especially if they don’t have a lot of followers?

Let’s dive into it.

1. Content creators or influencers can PITCH brands

The first method available to all creators is taking the initiative to reach out to brands.

You can usually find PR email addresses and contacts using tools like Hunter.io, Clearbit, or even using LinkedIn.

If you absolutely have to, you can try your luck reaching out to the brand via DM’s and asking for their email address, but I don’t recommend you send your entire pitch in the DM’s, it’s just not the most professional.

2. Newer creators can use influencer platforms

A lot of newer creators might also sign up for influencer platforms that exist to connect creators with brand deals. There’s Izea, Aspire, #Paid, just to name a few.

These platforms usually work as a bidding type process, with a dashboard of different brand campaigns and activations that influencers can apply to for consideration.

And whether you are pitching the old-fashioned way, or submitting to influencer platforms, it’s really important to get clear on your unique value. Have an elevator pitch that tells the brand more than what they can learn from checking your profile and getting your stats.

3. Established creators rely on in-bound requests from brands

Then as creators get more established, they often don’t need either of those methods because brands (or agencies representing them) often email influencers they want to work with directly.

When they do this, they usually have a specific campaign in mind and are often reaching out to say “hey, are you interested and what are your rates?”

Related Post: How to Set Influencer Rates

It’s also worth noting that a lot of brands work through a third-party agency that acts as a middleman, reaching out to you for the partnership, doing all the negotiations, and just being your point of contact for the entire partnership.

And if you want to be one of these creators who gets reached out to, check out this post on How to Attract Brand Deals Without Pitching.

But the TL;DR is that you need to create a portfolio of high quality content that a brand can see themselves in, and making sure that you are easily findable on social media.

That means implementing good SEO (Search Engine Optimization) practices, using keywords that define who you are, what you do, who you’re speaking to, and including them in your bio, your content captions, your hashtags.

How do Brand Deals Work?

Now, once you’ve managed to land a paid partnership… how do these brand deals actually work?

We’re going to break it down step by step, noting some of the things you need to keep in mind at each stage.

1. Negotiations

Once interest has been confirmed on both sides, the negotiations begin.

A big misconception about brand deal negotiations is that it’s all about money, but there’s actually so much more to it than that.

At this stage it’s important to ask questions to get a clear idea of the scope of the partnership, so you can push back on things you aren’t up for, and present a rate that accurately reflects all the work you’re being asked to do.

Related Post: How to Negotiate with Brands

Here are some different clauses and contract terms that are important to understand and negotiate:

  • Rates
  • Deliverables
  • Platforms
  • Usage Rights
  • Exclusivity
  • Timelines
  • Revisions
  • Payment Terms
  • And so much more…

Depending on the brand, some of the above might not be up for negotiation, but understanding all of the things that can affect the brand deal and your scope of work can help you counter more confidently, and end up with a partnership that truly benefits both sides.

2. Contract Presented and Signed

Then once all the terms are agreed up, the contract is presented and signed.

It is nearly always the Brand who presents the contract to the Creator, but in some instances the influencer may be asked to present one–especially if they are dealing with a smaller brand who is newer to influencer marketing.

It’s important to review the contract with a fine-tooth comb to ensure there are no surprise clauses that weren’t reflected in your email negotiations. This is your last chance to catch anything that you might not be comfortable with, or that maybe wasn’t on your your radar in prior discussions.

3. Reviewing the Brief

Next, the brand will usually send over a brief and sometimes will even schedule a call to go over it.

I personally love when I can hop on a call because it’s a great opportunity to build more rapport and connection with the brand or agency contacts.

Black woman in yellow shirt talking on a video call--briefing call on how the brand deal will work.

The brief usually includes key messaging behind the campaign, further information about the brand and the product or service they’re selling.

Briefs will also often repeat the deliverables and timelines, as well as any best practices and reminders that you should keep in mind as you create your content.

At this point it’s really important to not be afraid to give feedback to the brand.

The best partnerships are ones that give the creator more creative freedom and really trust us to know how to speak to our audience. So if a brief ever feels too stiff or scripted, or is approaching the messaging from an angle that you don’t think will resonate with your audience, speak up and offer some alternatives.

4. Concept Submission

From here things start to move a little bit quicker.

Based on the brief, the creator will put together a concept and submit it to the brand or agency for approval. I actually think it’s a best practice to submit a concept regardless of if they’ve asked you to or not.

Because the last thing you want to do is film all of your content, submit it to the brand, and have them say “this isn’t what we had in mind, can you reshoot”.

A concept can range in how much detail you want to (or are being asked to) share.

On one end, you could share just a general idea of what you have in mind, and on the other, you can have shot lists outlining the text you’re going to have on screen linking to the music you want to play in the background.

I tend to err on the side of caution and over-communicate in my concepts so that I feel confident that both the brand and I are aligned.

5. Content Creation, Revisions, and Positing

Then once the concept has been approved, it is time to finally bring your vision to life.

And at this stage there’s not too much you need to keep in mind, because hopefully you covered everything at the concept stage. Refer back to the brief, concept, and contract often. The goal is zero reshoots!

Then you submit for approval, and if you’re lucky there’s little or no back and forth.

The most-common revisions tend to be around tweaking text and captions, but sometimes they will ask you to re-edit, change the voiceovers or… fully reshoot.

Once the brand is happy, you are given the go-ahead to post! 🎉

How do brand deals work -- Influencer sitting down at desk with laptop in vlogging studio smiling in front of recording smartphone holding microphone. Content creator interacting with fans looking at live video podcast setup.

6. Post Report

And you’d probably like to think that the process ends there, but that is not the case.

There are a couple wrap-up items that need to be checked off the list.

First, being sending over analytics–brands want to know how your content performed.

Nowadays, brands have access to a lot of third-party platforms where you can link your Instagram to them and it’ll just pull all of the stats from your partnership and you don’t have to do anything.

But a lot of those glitch out more often than they should and a lot of brands just aren’t using them so will ask you to send a screenshot of your content’s analytic pages one week to two weeks after the content has been live.

I think it’s always great to go the extra mile when it comes to brand partnerships so I like to put together an entire recap report.

This can be made in like Adobe Express or Canva, and it’s basically just a branded PDF where I dump and sort all of my screenshots, and maybe throw in some of the standout comments I got and any notable DM’s.

And I think this just looks a lot more clean and professional than sending them an email with like five random screenshots attached to it.

7. Invoicing

Then, unless you were oh so lucky to have been able to invoice the brand upon signing the contract, this is usually the point where you get to send your invoice.

It’s always a good habit to revisit the contract and just make sure you have all of the billing information right, all of the tax information that they’re asking for, and then you send it off and hope that you get paid without you having to nudge anybody.

Final Thoughts on How Brand Deals Work

And that is a brand deal from start to finish. Was that more or less work than you imagined?

I hope you feel more equipped for when a paid partnership comes your way, and feel free to book mark this to come back to it again and again!

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