Want to work with brands and promote their products/service in exchange for free items and/or cash? Here’s how I work with brands as a lifestyle and beauty blogger.
I originally intended this post to be the final chapter in the Pixi Beauty series. But as I edited my draft, I realized that this post would be far more beneficial if I went into detail about how I work with brands as a lifestyle and beauty blogger and how it all started.
How I Became a (Full-Time) Blogger
This blog, The Wagamama Diaries, was once called Baby Kaiju, and it was a blog about being a first-time mom in Japan. All the Japanese baby customs fascinated me, and I wanted to share my experiences. It turns out starting a blog is easy, but building an audience is hard work!
Sometimes, it feels overwhelming keeping track of payments from different clients and staying atop of posting schedules, all while working around my daughter’s kindergarten schedule and operating EDO BEAUTY LAB. But, here I am trying to stay atop of everything.
I always thought of blogging or freelancing full-time, but I never imagined that it would happen all because I lost my job!
My daughter’s daycare was tied up with my employer, and without daycare, it was difficult to find employment. (This daycare issue is far too common for parents in Japan.) There was also the matter of an on-going pandemic. I spent the first three months of our soft “lockdown” homeschooling and occasionally musing on the blog/Instagram.
It was only after reviewing the statistics for my blog and seeing my traffic double between April and May 2020 that I began to change my mindset.
Instead of looking for a job, I thought, Why don’t I just blog and do Instagram… and stuff…?
It was vague, but it was all I needed to realize that I had everything that I needed.
I already had experience with my blog, I had an Instagram account, and I did occasional writing projects. So, I decided to merge all this experience into improving the blog.
I analyzed my blog stats and Instagram insights, and most importantly, I approached my blog the way I approached paid writing assignments. The kind of SEO-optimized articles that I wrote for clients would now appear on The Wagamama Diaries, and I doubled down on affiliate links such as with Amazon.
Meanwhile on Instagram, I started working with Japanese influencer agencies and Japanese brands where I worked on various social media campaigns tied up with Japan’s Go To campaign. In hindsight, yeah, we all moved too fast on that one, but we were so sure that COVID was over and international tourism would resume.
Narrator: it was in fact not over.
Nevertheless, by autumn 2020, branded partnership requests were steadily rolling in. Combined with a new job as a social media manager, I officially had 5 income streams that brought in more than what I earned as a semi-full time kindergarten teacher working 6-8 hours a day, 5 days a week.
Since it’s taken me about 4 years to get to this point, here’s what I would do if I were starting all over again.
Why Do Brands Work With Bloggers and Social Media “Influencers”?
Before I get into my blogging tips, let’s start with the “whys” of PR lists.
That is, Why do bloggers/Instagrammers/YouTubers/Tiktokers get stuff for free?
Long story short is basically this: traditional advertising like newspaper/magazine advertisements and TV commercials is expensive and time consuming. But, brands have figured out that through digital advertising they can reach a specific audience by working with influencers who have an engaged audience. Not only that, brands now have access to invaluable insights due to tracking links, Google Analytics, page views, shares, and comments.
Brands have also figured out that micro bloggers are just as influential as mega bloggers. This means that as long as you have an established audience, there’s opportunities for you to get “free stuff” and earn income as a blogger!
Just know that being on PR lists is a relationship of reciprocal exchange. It’s not just about getting free stuff and getting paid. You must also make sure that in exchange for goods/money, you provide an invaluable service to the brand/your client. This means abiding by content guidelines and meeting deadlines.
So, know that you know why brands are increasingly working with bloggers and influencers, here’s how to get your foot in the door.
Definitely start a personal website, be it a basic profile, a portfolio, or blog, using a domain name that you own. Even if you already have social media accounts, it’s imperative that you have your own space. In my case, wadateni.com is my professional profile page and The Wagamama Diaries is my blog/portfolio.
As we saw with the Instagram/Facebook blackout in early October 2021, you could potentially lose access to your social media account in an instant. And, that’s not to mention other risks such as losing your account to hackers or being temporarily blocked due to “suspicious activity” (mass following/unfollowing, likes, commenting etc).
And, another reason why you should blog?
Because you can repurpose previous posts and social media collaborations into list posts or “evergreen” content (content that directs traffic to your blog year-round) that you can monetize through web traffic and/or affiliate links! And, if you’re a blogger with a social media following, you can leverage your extra platforms when negotiating with brands. 4D chess, my friends.
Personally I tag brands on my Instagram account long after collaborations have finished. Firstly because I don’t like to let my skincare products go to waste! I really use everything that I get! Secondly, and most importantly, it’s my way of letting my partners know that I appreciate the opportunity to work with them. Oftentimes, they’ll reach out later with an additional collaboration!
Tips For Bloggers Who Want To Work With Brands and Get on PR Lists
When starting a blog, you’ll need 2 things: a domain name and a host. A domain name is the unique address for your website while the host stores all your files. I switched to Siteground (from a Japanese hosting service) two years ago and am happy with my decision to use them to host my websites, including [EDO BEAUTY LAB]!
As for a posting schedule, that’s all up to you. Just be sure that you have a schedule that works for you. After all, if you want to show brands that you deliver content by a certain deadline, you need to show consistency and professionalism with your own blog or social media first.
Determine your niche by focusing on you and your interests. Start with a broad category like “fashion,” “lifestyle,” “beauty.” It probably feels like you have much competition. But, if you look closely, “fashion,” “lifestyle,” “beauty” and so on actually consist of multiple niches where you can establish yourself.
Let’s take “beauty,” for example. Are you into hair, makeup, skincare? From there, narrow it down a bit more. Are you a redhead with 3A hair? Obsessed with Japanese sunscreens? Like theatrical transformations inspired by old Hollywood glam?
Narrowing down your niche makes it much easier for you to create content pillars and establish yourself as an authentic person and brand. Similarly, a well-defined niche makes it easy for brands to know what you’re all about before reaching out with a potential collaboration.
Photos & Video & Props
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You’ll want your photography to look as professional as possible for your blog. You don’t need a fancy camera, but bonus points for you if you’ve already got the equipment!
Most of your audience will probably be using a smartphone or other handheld device to consume your content. In that sense, taking photos on your phone is a great way to determine how it will look on your audiences’ screens. If you have a smartphone, then by all means use that to get a feel on how to take photos and videos.
As for my props, I save cute boxes, tissue paper and ribbons and thank you cards that come with PR packages! I also reuse cute items that come with my monthly Raxy Beauty Box and My Little Box subscriptions.
Finally, I use the following apps to edit everything: Snapseed and Lightroom for photos and Vllo for videos.
Putting It All Together
It will seem pointless posting to an audience that doesn’t exist if you’re just starting out. But, if you’re starting from scratch, my advice to you is, “Fake it!”
NO, not by buying email lists or anything like that!
Basically, if you want to get noticed by brands, you need to GIVE THEM SOMETHING WORTH LOOKING AT.
And you do that by:
1. Being yourself
2. Creating content that is engaging and informative
That sounds ridiculous and you’ll hear it repeated ad-nauseam, but it’s true. You need to find a way to make your content stand out from creators in your niche.
Then, how do you make your content stand out from other creators in your niche?
You got it.
You do that by:
1. Being yourself
2. Creating content that is engaging and informative
Now “engaging” doesn’t necessarily mean that you do TikTok dances or wacky skits. If that vibes with your personality, by all means, do that!
However, engaging can also be a stylish flatlay, a do’s and don’ts infographic, etc.
How I Work With Brands As A Lifestyle and Beauty Blogger
In my case, I started showcasing useful Japanese cosmetics as part of my “busy working mom in Tokyo” blog. Things like morning sheet masks and my favorite Japanese drugstore cosmetics. I cross-posted this content to my Instagram, the platform that Japanese brands used to connect with me.
I became more comfortable with taking photos and how to write captions in Japanese that met advertising standards. Somewhere along the way I ended up working with Korean brands like LAGOM looking to enter the Japanese market. Add in sponsored blog posts, affiliate programs, and AdSense revenue, and it all turned into a full-time hustle.
Again, it took about 4 years to get to this point, but that’s the point I want to stress. Not because I want to scare you away from starting your first blog. I want you to know that it will seem really hard. Because it is.
But, you know what else is hard?
Pretty much everything else you’re trying for the first time!
Working with brands as a blogger is not about whatever arbitrary goal you’ve set for yourself. It all starts with that first subscriber, that first like, that first follower! And, it just doesn’t happen overnight, it comes with focus and perseverance.
If you are interested in working with brands as a blogger, then I hope this post has encouraged you to start TODAY!