How to partner with brands you love… and get paid to do it!

Want to learn how to partner with brands? In this photo shows Gwyn standing with cross country skis and winter gear from LL Bean. The image was taken for a branded campaign.
An image we took for a winter campaign with the iconic outdoor brand L.L. Bean. The campaign was focused on their cross country skiing gear and seasonal outdoor clothing.

You might be wondering how your favorite content creators got started partnering with brands, and how you can get paid to create social media content, too. We’re not content creator coaches, but we have built a successful six figure business around content creation. Below are our top tips for how to partner with brands and get started with content creation!

Outdoorsy and travel content creation 101 – how to get paid to partner with brands you love

Below are our top tips for new content creators who want to get paid to partner with brands! These tips will help you get started with brand partnerships, and paid social media content creation.

Identify your content creation niche

Your niche is the primary type of content you create, or want to create. This should relate to your passions, and what you’re realistically able to create (for example, don’t pick ‘hiking’ as your niche if you don’t enjoy hiking, or do it only 1-2 times a year!). 

Our Instagram niches are hiking and outdoor adventures (like backpacking and camping), USA adventure travel, national parks, and #vanlife, which are all activities we naturally do and love in our daily lives. That makes it easier to regularly produce content about these topics!

Other examples of niches include sustainable fashion, luxury travel, and interior design/DIY. Niches can be broad (USA travel) or specific (Pacific Northwest hikes), and it can be good to have a combination of broad and specific topics you focus on. 

Identifying your niche is important for determining the types of content you should be making, finding the right audience on social media (and helping them find YOU!), and identifying what types of brands you should be reaching out to.

Begin creating the type of content brands are looking for

Once you’ve identified your niche(s) you should start creating the type of content that brands in your niche are looking for! So, what does that mean?

You probably wouldn’t get hired as a doctor if you had no previous experience in medicine, right? Think of content creation the same way. If you want to partner with brands then you first need to show them that you can actually make the type of content they’re looking for! This involves building a content creation resume. 

Start the process of creating a content creation resume by making a list of your ‘dream brands’. Then, study the types of content they share and how they work with creators, and start making similar content.

I DON’T mean copying other content creator’s work. Instead, create the same genre of content as what people in your niche are creating! If you want to work with tourism boards you might start creating travel itinerary reels and content that spotlights local businesses. If you want to create outdoorsy content then you might share gear tips and bucket list outdoor adventures and hikes

The goal of creating this content is to establish a portfolio that lets brands see the quality of your work. This also lets them understand how your content fits into their industry! Again, the goal is to showcase that you have the skills to create engaging and unique content within the niche you want to work in. This is your “content creation resume.”

Work on your pitch to brands!

An image of food at The Knot restaurant in Astoria. The image was taken during a travel campaign with the local tourism board.
An image I took during a tourism partnership with Visit Astoria – Warrenton. The campaign focused on local tourism establishments (like this restaurant), and our deliverables involved a mix of social media content creation and licensed professional photography.

Once you have a good foundation of content posted you’re going to want to work on a pitch template for contacting brands. This is critical… If you want to partner with brands then having a good, professional pitch is ESSENTIAL!

You might be wondering, what is a pitch? A pitch is an email to a brand that lays out who you are, why you’re a good fit to work with that brand, and what you might do for them.

Basic content creator pitch template for partnering with brands

Below you can find a very basic pitch template for people new to content creation. This is a great starting script to use when reaching out to brands!

You’ll notice that I mentioned a “media kit” in the script above. This post from Dani the Explorer does a good job breaking down what that resource is, and how to make one.

Looking for more inspiration? You can find a copy of our media kit and examples of our past content creation and photography partnerships here.

How should I find companies to pitch to?

A shot we took for the brand Farm to Summit, which makes amazing dehydrated backpacking meals. This photoshoot also helped us get the attention of REI.

One tried and true method is to take note of the brands that other creators of your account size and niche are working with. Send those companies your pitch, since those brands are likely open to working with other content creators and influencers. You can also network with other creators to see if they have advice on who to pitch to.

My favorite method is to brainstorm brands I use already, and pitching to them. You can really think outside the box here, too! For example, we recently got camper van insurance through Roamly. I realized they weren’t doing much influencer marketing, and saw a great opportunity for synergy, so I reached out to them about partnering. We ended up working with them to create a blog post and reel promoting their insurance. I believe we were the first influencers to work with them to promote their insurance services.

how do I get in touch with brands?

The two most common ways to reach out in order to partner with brands is via DM or email. We’ve had mixed success DMing brands, and had more success once our account was larger (40,000+ followers).

Alternatively, email is a great way to reach out directly. You may need to do some internet sleuthing, though! Search for a direct email contact, or for an influencer form. 

If you don’t hear back from a brand, follow up! We often follow up with brands 2-4 times.

Should I partner with brands for free?

This is controversial, but I think that there isn’t any shame in taking on unpaid work when you first get started with content creation. Think of it like an unpaid internship… Ideally, they should be paying you, but sometimes the exposure and experience is worth it when you’re just getting into the field. However, once you begin to establish yourself after a 3-4 successful partnerships to help build your portfolio I would strongly recommend charging for your work. Our first paid partnership was for $250, plus free product.

We now almost exclusively charge for all of our work, and very rarely free product as our form of payment. Creating good content takes lots of time and the brands that benefit from the work of creators should compensate us (and you) accordingly!

That said, make sure to never give away rights to your images and work in perpetuity for free. It’s NOT worth it! A great example? The first company we ever worked with was Selk’Bag, and it was a gifted partnership (we did not get paid, we only received free product). We couldn’t believe a company wanted to send us $400 worth of product for FREE! In the process of working with them we signed away rights in perpetuity to a handful of images and videos– we didn’t know any better. Now, many years later, they’re still getting free use of our faces and work for their marketing. Don’t make the same mistake we did! Either negotiate the terms of your contracts to remove this type of licensing and usage, or turn down the deal. Otherwise, you might regret it later.

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