A guest post by Renae Getlin
You just landed your first brand deal. Congratulations! You got a brand’s attention and proved that you can create engaging content for their channels. Now comes the trickiest part for many food bloggers: navigating brand contracts.
If you’re a food blogger who creates content for brands such as original recipes, photography, or video, you may think of negotiating contracts as a tedious but necessary evil. Maybe you think it’s something both sides need to protect their interests. While contracts do offer vital protections, they can also sustain your business and the longevity of your relationship with a brand.
In other words, contracts are powerful. Understanding a few best practices empower you to make smart decisions for your business. In the best cases, they also result in an agreement that’s mutually beneficial for both parties.
These guidelines build a foundation to for navigating brand contracts and the negotiation process effectively:
1. Align your rates with market value and usage rights.
You’ve worked hard to hone your craft and deliver content with consistency and quality. But how can you ensure your rates are aligned with that value?
Start by understanding how your time breaks down. Factors like how many pieces of content you will deliver and the type of content involved will impact the number of hours you’ll spend on the partnership.
Consider how much you’ll need to make per hour to cover your costs and see growth in your business. Multiply that number by the amount of time you’ve estimated to get an idea of what your total rate should look like.
When a brand sends you their contract, look out for “Usage Rights.” These terms vary widely. A brand can ask for anything from unlimited use of your content forever (“in perpetuity”) to a limited license that places guidelines around the length of time they can use it. Usage rights also dictate the ways they can use your content, such as for promotional use or non-commercial use on personal websites and blogs.
Before you come to the negotiating table, consider which terms you’re comfortable with and how you want those terms reflected in your rates. The more flexibility you offer, the more valuable your content becomes.
Having this knowledge on hand when you enter a conversation with a brand will help you request the appropriate rate for the content they want. It will also set expectations for any future partnerships you may pursue with the brand.
2. Provide a timeline for the brand to receive timely product shipments and approvals.
To ensure both you and the brand know what to expect from each other and when, create a timeline that outlines those expectations in advance.
Understand your own timeline first. Consider when you’ll need to receive the product for recipe development or a shoot, and when you’ll need sign off from the brand on items like recipe concepts and shooting scripts.
Connect with the brand on approvals. They may find it important to sign off on certain items while leaving others completely up to you. Your timeline should reflect these priorities.
Understanding the brand’s needs, making them aware of yours, and setting realistic deadlines for their team will ensure you can keep moving forward—and meet the deadlines you’ve promised, too.
3. Be specific about drafts and revisions.
Creative work is subjective. It can be hard to account for this in something as black and white as a contract. But including one or two rounds of revisions on both drafts and the final product can help ensure the brand is 100 percent happy with your content.
Specify what kind of revisions or how many hours are included in those rounds. Doing so will help brands understand what they can ask for, and whether any of their requests will affect the cost and timeline.
Brands rely on your expertise to keep the project on track and budget. Setting boundaries around revisions is one way to offer that knowledge, while reassuring the brand that you’re committed to following the scope of work.
4. Offer your expertise.
Your brand partner may provide you with a project brief or an outline of goals and expectations for the project. But they’ve ultimately engaged your services because they want you to do what you do best.
You know how to create compelling content that makes a brand’s product appealing and memorable. So provide that expertise when negotiating with a brand. If your contract can do that, you’ll not only sleep well at night but also set yourself up for many fruitful partnerships to come.
The above guidelines may not take the tedium out of the contract process. But they can at least help with navigating brand contracts with a little more confidence and ease. Learn as much as you can about the terms that affect you and your business will ensure you enter into an agreement beneficial for both.
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Note: The above guidelines are not legal advice. You may want to engage the services of an attorney for specific questions.
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Renae Getler is a content strategist and writer who explores food, identity, motherhood, and the way they intersect. She is the former director of content and strategy at CookIt Media, an influencer marketing agency that elevates food and lifestyle brands to success. At CookIt, she worked with content creators to help brands build a recognizable and engaging presence across digital channels. See more of her work at renaehilary.com.
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