I never really started my Instagram to work with brands, it was to share my love of books and to start to build up an audience for books I wanted to publish. But I’ve found that most of the time things do not go to plan. To date, I have worked with several different brands and publishers. I’ve been lucky enough for these to be all pretty positive experiences, some more so than others. I think that’s mainly down to the fact that I’ve said ‘no’ to more opportunities than I’ve said ‘yes’ to. I know what my account is and I know what I want it to be about. I have a very clear aesthetic and my feed is something I take a lot of pride in. To put it simply, if a brand doesn’t fit my style then I won’t work with them.
However, it wasn’t always this way. At the start of my Instagram journey, I wasn’t all that focused. I was so happy when my first brand wanted to work with me that I jumped at the chance to work with them and I don’t regret it one bit.
Working with my first brand – Benefit Cosmetics
Working with my first brand was a really exciting experience, but it was also a really nerve-racking one. What if they didn’t like my photos? What if they weren’t good enough? What if the brand’s audience didn’t like them? This was the first time I had taken photos for anyone other than my one tiny Instagram account, and I honestly couldn’t quite believe it! But working with my first brand taught me a lot of things, and I am so incredibly thankful for all of them.
Back in March 2016, I was approached by Benefit Cosmetics to do a set of photos for them to post on their Instagram pages. Of course, I thought it was a little strange, I mean, books and make up was indeed a strange combination, but I remember I had a huge smile on my face for the rest of the day. A huge brand actually wanted to work with me! At this time, I was around 1,000ish followers so I felt extremely honoured that a brand I loved liked my photos so much that they wanted me to make some for them, especially as I was doing the campaign alongside some pretty big accounts. I know, some of you may be thinking that me working with Benefit is a bit of an odd one, they are very pink and girly after all. However, at the time, my feed looked very pink and girly (remember pink book month).
Yeah. Pretty big change, huh?
The deal was that I would be sent products in exchange for five photos. After the ‘yay me I’m working with a brand’ mood had worn off, it actually began to dawn on me that I was actually going to have to take these photos. How in the WORLD was I going to incorporate books and makeup in the same photo!? Turns out, it was actually pretty difficult! I really felt the pressure, and I had several breakdowns trying to make a photo work which really wasn’t working! I had to stop and take a moment and remember that they approached me for a reason. They liked my photos. Once I stopped trying to force concepts to work, it actually became much easier and more pleasant experience for me. Thankfully, Benefit loved the photos. One, in particular, has been featured on multiple different Benefit Instagram pages – most of which I didn’t even know existed.
Of course, I wasn’t paid to take these photos, but that wasn’t important to me. My photo got seen by thousands of people and gained me hundreds of new followers. It got me exposure. I’m not sure if any of those followers have stuck around, but if you have come and say hi because you’ve experienced the whole of my Instagram journey with me!
A really interesting thing to point out is that if Benefit saw my account the way it is today, it’s almost impossible that I would work with them. Not because there’s anything wrong with either of us, it’s that I’m not very ‘on brand’ for them, and that’s not a bad thing at all. My account isn’t all pink and fluffy and girly anymore. While I really enjoyed and loved my account like that at the time, it’s just not who I am anymore.
What did I learn?
Working with my first brand taught me a lot of valuable lessons about trusting in your work and only working with brands that fit your aesthetic (you have one for a reason!) and a part of my Instagram life that I will always be grateful for. I’m lucky enough now to be approached by a variety of different people, not all of whom I will work with for whatever reason, but working with Benefit will always be a brand that I hold very dear to my heart.
If your aesthetic fits with the brand you want to work with, don’t be scared to message the, tag them in relevant posts and photos and if you are feeling really brave, email their PR team and let them know you love their brand and would love to work with them. It doesn’t matter what your following is, what’s the worst that could happen? They say no, and you are no worse off. ( For more information on how to do this – read this post by Sarah Tasker)