Seeking Advice: Unsolicited Collaboration Requests?

This is a totally selfish post on my part…I am just trying to reach a larger audience with a blogging issue which is troubling me. But to present the appearance of being not so selfish, I have included pictures of a really cute outfit that I have worn recently (insert winky, snarky, sarcastic emoji face…is there one of those?)

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Recently, I have been receiving unsolicited email requests from companies requesting collaborations and/or guest posts on my blog. The first one I received included a request for me to publish a guest post. I had no idea what this even entailed, so I reached out to a few blogger friends via email for their suggestions.

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I don’t want to overlook all the help these ladies offered me…so I am going to put a great big thank you right here to them! Jess of Elegantly Dressed and Stylish, Ann of Kremb de la Kremb, and Dawn Lucy of Fashion Should Be Fun were ever so quick to offer me their help and advice. So thank you, ladies! This newbie blogger truly appreciates your support!

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It turned out that I jumped the gun on that first request and started asking for help before I adequately researched the company that sent me the request. It turns out this company was based in India and there was not a good review to be found about their product or their customer service. Everything I read about this particular company included accusations of scams and criticisms of extremely poor quality product. So, I politely declined their offer to work with me.

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This week, I received another collaboration request from a company based in China. This time I did some research first and have found about half of the reviews are very poor, along the same lines as the review of the first company. The other half of the reviews were the polar opposite. Brilliant company, wonderful quality, etc. Then responses to the rave reviews with accusations that the company itself was posting the good reviews. My head is sort of spinning right now. Does this actually go on? Yikes. That makes me lose some faith in human beings, or at least in retailers.

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Now, I am going to jump back to last Fall when I received a collaboration request from Style Art. This is a company based in Lithuania that provides marketing for graphic artists to sell their work printed on apparel and other items. Before I agreed to work with them, I searched around online for information. I didn’t find too much information about them at all just what their own website said. There were a few reviews but even they were rather benign. I consulted my sister about this one because I was such a new blogger that I had not yet developed relationships with other bloggers and was not comfortable soliciting their advice. Plus, this little blog of mine was my sister’s brain child, after all! She said go for it. So I did.

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You can read my post here, my very first collaboration post where I was gifted the tee shirt of my choosing to review. Looking back on it, even my review of their product was quite benign. Once published, I emailed the link to the person who contacted me and received a thank you. And that was it. I never heard from them again. It was a cute tee and I have featured it one other time on my blog here. But the quality was not great and the sizes ran a bit small. But I gave my honest opinion and that’s all I could really do. I will never compromise my own integrity. If I am nothing else in this life, I am always honest. Sometimes brutally so.

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So here are the questions that I pose to you all, my respected blogger friends…how do you decide which companies you will work with? Do you only work with companies that you already patronize? Do you have a hard and fast rule of who you work with? Where do you find information about an unfamiliar company? How do you respond if you are not comfortable working with a company? Whom do you trust? Any advice you have on this topic would be so greatly appreciated.

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Outfit details:
Shirt: Old Navy (no longer available)
Jeans: Old Navy Eco-Friendly Cropped Flare Jeans
Sandals: Crown Vintage from DSW (from last year, but similar here and here
Scarf: This scarf is way older than my marriage. And if something precedes my marriage, I usually don’t remember it!
Necklace and earrings: Cato Fashions (no longer available)

I am so grateful to all of you wonderful bloggers. This community is so supportive and helpful. I am so glad that I decided to go on this adventure and I am learning new things every day. So thank you. Thank you. Thank you!

Keeping it on the edge,

Shelbee

Linking up with: These Fabulous Link Ups Where I Link Up

Follow shelbeeontheedge@gmail.com:

I am a 40 something Army wife and stay-at-home mother of 2 boys and 2 cats named Dave and Frankie. I have a passion for helping other women feel fabulous in the midst of this crazy, beautiful life.

64 Responses

  1. I don’t have a hard and fast rule. I feel like in the beginning of blogging I was saying yes to everyone that seemed somewhat legit and now I’ve backed up a bit. It is wise of you to seek advice. I also look to see if I’ve seen another blogger work with a company and might contact them to see if they’ve had a good experience or ask the company itself for examples of others they have worked with.

    • Thank you, Becky! I never thought to see if other bloggers worked with a certain company or to ask the company for examples of other collaborations. That is a great idea! Thanks so much for that little tidbit. It is very helpful and much appreciated!

      xoxo
      Shelbee

  2. I get those weird emails from companies too, wanting to do a guest post on my blog. I always turn them down. For me, the only person posting on my blog is – ME! Plus, I don’t think that they are legit companies either. It’s not like Nordstrom is asking me! 🙂 PS, love your shirt too! 🙂

    Shauna

    http://www.lipglossandlace.net

    • Thank you so much, Shauna! Yeah, I wasn’t sure at all about the guest post thing either. But you are so right, it’s my blog where I share my thoughts, ideas, inspirations, and feelings. No one else needs to be writing on my page…unless it is some other fabulous blogger who I decide I would want to work with! And it does seem like a lot of these companies aare not legit! Thanks for your input!

      xoxo
      Shelbe

  3. We tend to work with brands that we are familiar with mostly. We’ve done the same and worked with some of these brands in the past, just being new at things and had a few bad experiences, so whenever we get those e-mails now, we just ignore them!

    Brooke
    pumps and push-ups

    • Thank you so much, Brooke! I guess if they are just a bad company who are flagged as scammers, it is okay to just ignore them! The last one that I did respond to, I just said that I didn’t think it was a good fit at this time. And I never heard back from them, so that’s good! I really appreciate the input!

      xoxo
      Shelbee

  4. I’ve been getting a lot of collaboration requests lately from companies that do not fit my blog at all. If it’s a product that doesn’t fit my blog, I usually send an email right away and thank the company for their interest and then briefly state why I don’t think it’s a good fit (sending an email right away keeps me from feeling completely overwhelmed by all the emails I need to respond to…). If it’s an item that could be of interest, I do a bit of research online. Unfortunately, many of the items I’m offered don’t seem to be quality items. If there are any questions (bad reviews, extremely cheap prices, style that isn’t me, etc.), I turn it down as I think it’s neither beneficial to me nor my readers for me to feature a product that isn’t all that great or doesn’t fit my style, etc.

    • That is extremely helpful, Andrea! Thank you. I have a few emails sitting in my inbox that I still need to respond to, but I wanted to publish this post first and see what you all had to say on the topic! I guess I need to have a basic draft of my response saved somewhere so I don’t have to type out the same message every time! Your input is greatly appreciated!

      xoxo
      Shelbee

  5. Love this top!

    I usually don’t collaborate with a company if I truly wouldn’t use the product, if they don’t offer some form of payment (free product or service, money, etc.), or if they don’t fit with the interests of my blog. ie: If I had a food blog, I would not choose to review makeup. I always make sure to me kind in my declination, and usually get kind and understanding responses.

    I never thought of researching the company, but that’s a great idea!

    Sarah
    http://mybowsandclothes.blogspot.com/

  6. I feel the same way about blogging! It gives lots of energy and it is so nice to read comments and posts! I have collaborateur a few but only for product that suit me! I have had requests from Chinese company too and I dont even bother to read their requests. The important things is that I want my readers to like what I am showing and reading and not getting stuff for free. Don t get me wrong, I would looooove to get items for free, but if that means that I review things that are just not me….No thanks. Have a great day Shelbee!

    • That is very helpful, Nancy! I agree with you. I am not going to work with a company that doesn’t meet my standards. I suppose I am just unsure how to respond in a polite and professional manner especially when it’s a company where reviews called them scam artists and frauds! Thanks so much for your input!

      xoxo
      Shelbee

  7. Hi Shelbee, sorry I cannot help you with the advice as I myself is quite new and still learning the ropes of blogging, however your outfit is really cute and a scarf adds a touch of elegance to it.

  8. I usually just research the company first and see if they are legit. Most of the time I don’t like what I see and I reject them. I also have stopped doing freebies. They are too consuming and not worth it if I don’t get anything out of it. I have companies all the time wanting me to do a special post and link back to them, but if they are not going to gift me with product or merchandise, I just say no. I like your dandelion print shirt. I bought a similar shirt from Old Navy. I love that print!

    • Amy, thank you so much for your input! I definitely need to use tons of discretion with these companies! If only Old Navy would ask to collaborate, then I would be set! By the way, I also bought the midi skirt in this same pattern, but I didn’t like them together on me. So I need to find a new way to style the skirt.

      xoxo
      Shelbee

  9. First of all, I do love the outfit so I’m glad you shared–the print of that top is so pretty! I think this is such a hard question and it’s hard to know the “right” answer. I try to work with companies that fit into the niche of my blog and would appeal to my readers–busy women on a budget. I try to choose brands that I’m familiar with and would purchase from, but if it’s a new to me brand, I try to do research as well–you’re smart to do that I think. I also have to think about compensation. While my blog is a hobby, it’s one I put a lot of time and effort into, and I have to be choosy about the content I create because I simply don’t have time to do everything. So if a brand contacts me I have to think about what I’ll be getting out of it as well (a product I’ll really love and enjoy, payment, exposure on their brand’s site/social media, etc.). There’s never a clear cut answer for me, but it’s definitely a learning process. I hope this long, rambling answer was helpful 🙂

    • Very helpful, Shea! Blogging is very time consuming and I find a get a little more stressed when I am writing a post for a company that has gifted an item. Like it has to have better pictures, more detailed content, etc. But I guess if they have read my blog and want to collaborate, then I don’t need to go outside of my comfort zone either for minimal compensation. They already know how I present blog posts. Unless they are not doing their due diligence and randomly targeting any blog. Then that’s their fault, I suppose. Thank you for your input! It is much appreciated.

      xoxo
      Shelbee

  10. I’m glad you made a post about this because although I know you’re asking for advice from your readers, I’m definitely getting some advice from you haha. I’ve had companies ask me similar things in the past and I’ve usually just ignored them because their products didn’t go with the theme of my blog. For example, I do stuff about fashion, sewing, and crafts and one time I was propositioned by a company that sells nutritional supplements. I didn’t want to break from my theme so I just ignored the request… but I never really know if that’s the right thing to do? Know what I mean?

    So thank you for posting this– you, your insights, and your readers have been helpful!

    halfwaytohipster.blogspot.com

    • I am so glad that you are getting some helpful information, too, Becca! So my post isn’t so selfish, after all! I have been emailing them back with a brief response…”Thank you for your inquiry about a collaboration with me. Unfortunately, at this time I do not feel that your product and my blog are a good match. If this changes at any time in the future, I will keep you in mind.” Or for guest post requests, I have been replying with, “Thank you for inquiry about a guest post on my blog. Unfortunately, at this time I ma not accepting guest posts on my blog. If this should change in the future, I will keep you in mind.” Brief, concise, and to the point…without permanently closing any doors!

      xoxo
      Shelbee

  11. Shelbee, what a great post and cute 4th of July inspired outfit. I have the jumpsuit on that beautiful navy print and my daughter has a sundress on it. Love the jeans and your sandals, too.

    Though I have been blogging for a few years only the last couple of years has my blog grown. I have turned down more companies than the ones I have said yes too. I have never received or worked with SheIn but I have worked with several companies based out of China and the quality, look, material, size and shape of each piece was horrible. I have only worn very few of them and tossed the others. I am very very selective. Now if Target, Old Navy, Gap, JC Penney or Banana Republic and such e-mailed me I would say yes in heartbeat because they are all companies I shop at and trust. Good luck with weeding out the good ones from the bad ones. It is hard to do but I rather be honest and work with integrity than receive cheap sh*t. LOL

    • I totally agree, Ada! And I really appreciate the input! I do have a collab post that I am preparing with a company that supports local artisans all around the world. Not a clothing retailer, but when the emailed me and I researched them, I was totally on board because of what they stand for. I already received my product to review and it is awesome! So stayed tuned for that post! Thanks so much for your help!

      xoxo
      Shelbee

  12. I try to only work with brands whose fashions and or products sync up with my personal brand and lifestyle. This means saying no to some “opportunities”, but I am totally okay with that 🙂

    • Thanks so much, Joi. I didn’t want to be close off something that might be good, but I guess only I can decide what works for me. So research is key!

      I appreciate the advice!

      xoxo
      Shelbee

  13. When I first started blogging, I found myself pretty much accepting anything. I would be honest about the quality, but I would end up not even wearing the things that didn’t suit me. Now, I only accept offers that fit my niche and paid sponsorships get priority. Whenever I get any type of inquiry, I immediately send my press kit over. The serious and legit companies/people will respond to that from my experience. I also get those guest post emails from random people and companies and I usually ignore them. They’re usually in my spam folder for a reason lol!

    http://www.thebeautybeau.com/untitled/

  14. I am a freelancer, so I’ve had to learn to say no (very firmly) to any sort of unpaid work. And I get asked a lot of ‘favours’ in my professional role (translations, proofreading etc), but I make no exceptions whatsoever: no payment, no work. I have the same policy when it comes to blogging.
    And any emails from companies selling poor quality 5$ polyester clothing will be promply deleted, and I don’t even waste time answering them. They send the same email to dozens of bloggers without even bothering to find out what your blog is all about. And I never publish pre-written material (‘guest posts’) because I want to have total control over my blog and my brand.
    No wonder I don’t do that many collaborations… I might accept gifted items if the product fits my blog and I would like to have it anyway. But as gifted items are taxable income (in Finland), the item in question must be worth my while.
    It’s a lot of work doing a blog post, and you need a very good reason to do someone else’s advertising for them. My advice is this: do you get something out of the collaboration? Is it worth your time and effort? If the answer is yes, then do it.

    • Tiina, this is wonderful information to have especially as a new blogger! I certainly don’t want to compromise my integrity or what I stand for. I never want to mislead my readers. And I certainly do not have time that I can afford to waste on cheap-o products from a company that makes their business essentially from ripping off people! I can often be too nice to my own detriment, so I like that you take the stern approach on this and I need to learn from that! There is no shame in that, is there? Thank you so much for taking the time to share is this valuable input! I very much appreciate it. And I know from the comments I have received already that there are other new bloggers reading this who truly appreciate this type of info from seasoned and successful bloggers.

      xoxo
      Shelbee

  15. Hi Shelbee, I usually only review for companies I have heard of, things I love or I feel that the said piece would fit with my blog. I have reviewed lots of little thing before and they have taken me hours to review.. Now I tend to only accept things I really want (big or small but I would buy myself) as the work will take time and I have little spare at the minute. :):)

    Thanks for linking up..

    • Thanks so much, Claire! That seems to be the best way to go. I guess I need to look at it as compensation rather than just a freebie, too, because it really is a ton of work! I appreciate all of the wonderful feedback I am getting from everyone!

      xoxo
      Shelbee

  16. I definitely do a little research when a company contacts me… First and foremost: does their product/line match my aesthetic? Because if not, it’s just going to feel forced (both for me + my readers). Second is the question on quality/customer service. There are a LOT of super shady people out there, that is FOR SURE. Doing a little digging is best to try and suss out the shade before you get too far into a collab.

    Wishing you the best, lady! It’s a tough road to navigate, but trusting your gut is really key!

    -Ashley
    Le Stylo Rouge

    • Thank you, Ashley! It’s a shame that there are so many shady people and entire companies that are shady, too! We do really need to do our due diligence research to protect ourselves. I love how the blogging community is so willing to look out for each other, too! You all have given me so much fabulous advice and suggestions on this topic. Thanks so much!

      xoxo
      Shelbee

  17. Great question! I try to only collaborate with companies I have heard of before and I have a general idea of the quality (and that I would actually buy from). I have made a few mistakes before and received below standard clothing (which then got donated) so I try to be more strict on my collaborations now!

    • Thanks, Laura! Yeah, I definitely need to stop getting excited when I am contacted by a vendor of poor quality. I guess the old saying, “If it’s too good to be true (i.e. a fabulous dress for only $12!)”…then steer clear, it’s probably junk! (That’s my rephrasing of the traditional saying…hahaha!) I am definitely learning from all of my beginner-blogger mistakes, for sure. But I am also so grateful to all of your fabulous bloggers who are willing to share what you have learned along the way! Thank you.

      xoxo
      Shelbee

  18. Isn’t it great that bloggers all stick together and help each other ? How it should be. I think you have to really like whatever your advertising for the brand, otherwise it just wont shine through your writing. Plus all these businesses need to be checked out. It’s when a brand emails asking for a write up for nothing that gets back up ! The cheek of it .x

    • It really is a fabulous community, Laurie! Every one is giving such valuable input on this topic. I am really glad that I posted about this topic! I guess being a newbie, I get excited when I receive a request and then I feel all disappointed when I realize it is a junk request! Thanks for your input, too!

      xoxo
      Shelbee

  19. I’m certainly no expert in this field, Shelbee, but off the top of my head, guest posts have always been a no. My style of writing and the content I offer is the heartbeat of my blog, and not something I would pass the reins over, not to anyone. When it comes to collaborations, there are so many factors. If it’s something I’m already using (and enjoying), then yes, I’d certainly consider a non paid project provided the value of my returns equates/exceeds what the brand would’ve paid for to begin with. If it’s a new brand/product, and it’s something close to my heart, loads of research first if I’ve never heard of them before. Then the email pitch goes out which also details my fee (and media kit), and what its ROI will be. A deal is confirmed and things start going into motion. That’s the ideal scenario, of course. I’ve been played before, in fact just yesterday, I found out that a brand which told me it had no budget to pay me (and so I agreed based on the understanding I’d receive XX amount in kind), agreed to pay another blogger her asking price (and we’re both in Houston so it wasn’t rocket science that we’d find out). So now I need to (a) proceed since I’ve already committed and even if they’re not ethical, I am; and (b) when writing my post project summary, ensure they understand I want to be compensated if they’d like to build a continued relationship. I mean, I’m not even certain I want to continue working with them so let’s see. Then, in the case of declining an offer to work together, I always explain clearly my reasons for turning the project down. I’ve build some basic templates for all these documents, let me know if you’d like me to send you copies as a point of reference, my friend 🙂 xoxo

    • Sheela, thanks so much for sharing this information. That’s terrible that you have been played…especially so recently…but I admire that you won’t compromise your own ethics even though I’m sure there’s a part of you that wants to rage and strike back! How frustrating. I started my this blog and continue this blog as a creative outlet for myself and to share what I have learned in life and to hopefully inspire others…but I would like to monetize it a little since I spend so much time working on it. But I don’t want to monetize if it means compromising my own beliefs. (I am definitely not a whore for freebies!) So far, most of the requests I have received are companies that I would not work with. Although, I do have a post in the works with a company that reached out to me that I think is a pretty awesome company…that post should be up in about 2 weeks. If I start receiving tons of requests, I may take you up on your generous offer of sharing your document templates! That would be fabulously helpful! You are too kind! Thanks so much!

      xoxo
      Shelbee

  20. Shannon Jenkins

    Looking fabulous! Loving those jeans and the print on your top! So pretty!

    <3 Shannon
    Upbeat Soles

  21. It’s important to remain honest. I review companies first. I don’t get to many collab requests.

  22. Thanks for linking up to Top of the World Style.

  23. In my case, you’re gonna laugh. I was asked to review belly rings.. hahahhahhahahahhahahah
    of course I declined.
    I think its a matter of, as you said being honest to yourself.

  24. I read this post the other night and never commented but I agree with all the responses. I actually find myself reaching out to brands more and more or asking bloggers to refer me because the only companies that do seem to contact me are shaddy ones or ones from China or wanting cheap advertisement to which I delete right away or respond with a no. I don’t get very many companies reaching out to me that do fit my blog. You are doing great by ignoring or steering clear of the companies from China, etc. Lovely outfit!
    Thank you for linking up to “Bloggers Who Have Inspired Me”
    Rachel xo
    http://garaytreasures.com

  25. I always turn down offers from companies asking to write an article on my blog. I just don’t know enough about them and don’t see how it would benefit me. For other collaborations, I research the company to see if it’s a fit for my blog and if it is one that I would purchase from on my own. I sometimes reach out to other bloggers who have worked with them too to get feedback. If I decline, I just send a polite email stating so. Sometimes I reach out to brands that I see other bloggers working with and ask to partner with them. If you want the template I use as a guide, let me know! Your top is so cute! Love the print! Enjoy the long weekend!

    Jill
    Doused In Pink

    • Jill, thanks so much for your feedback on this topic! So much great information provided by so many bloggers that I adore and respect! I would love to have your template if you don’t mind! Can you email it to me? Thanks so very, very much!

      Have a wonderful weekend!

      xoxo
      Shelbee

  26. I think you definitely did the right thing to do a little research online before agreeing to work with companies. I don’t really have a rule for who I collaborate with, but I usually go with my gut. If there are a lot of misspellings in an e-mail, or if they don’t mention either my name or the actual NAME of my blog (have you noticed how many just say “I loved your blog!”), I automatically delete the e-mail. I also have added a “Sponsor Info” page to my blog, so if I get an e-mail at the address listed there I know that the company actually did a little looking around on my blog (the only problem is I forget to check that e-mail most of the time!).

    • Heather, that is great advice. I never thought of those little details about mentioning my blog name. And while misspellings and poor grammar drive me insane, I just assume that it is so prevalent these days that discriminating based on poor grammar would eliminate almost everyone! hahaha. Thanks so much for sharing this information! I really appreciate all of the wonderful feedback on this topic.

      xoxo
      Shelbee

  27. Love your outfit from head to toe 🙂
    What a great question!! I feel like I honestly got a lot of information here and the comments, loving the blogger power! I agree not being afraid to decline, I also believe you not only should believe in the product, but are also getting paid. Specially since met put a lot of work into it!
    Xo
    Melissa

    • Thank you, Melissa! I definitely need to be judgmental when it comes to this topic! It is a ton of work to write a post and I always feel so much more pressure if I received a free product (I have not received payment yet, but I imagine that would really stress me out!) I feel like my photos need to be better and my writing involves more research. So definitely more than work than just any old regular post. So much great feedback and advice on this topic!

      xoxo
      Shelbee

  28. Wow. You must be overwhelmed with the volume of responses to your question. I don’t have any advice to offer as so far I’ve not received any offers (other than collaborations with other bloggers) but I appreciate the answers you got and I will be prepared when (if) I do. Thank you for adding your post to my Fine-Whatever link up.

    Rena
    http://www.finewhateverblog.com

    • I am so glad that this post is helping other bloggers, too. I also am amazed and so grateful for all of the wonderful and helpful responses to this. This is such a fabulous community that we belong to! Thanks for reading, Rena.

      xoxo
      Shelbee

  29. I do receive solicitations and honestly tend to just ignore these emails. If it’s not a product that I would normally purchase, I do not want to work with them.

    Love your floral top!

    Thank you for being a part of TBT Fashion link up and hope to see you soon!

    Alice
    http://www.happinessatmidlife.com

    • Thank you so much, Alice. I really appreciate the feedback on this topic. I just received another one and the reviews I read are so bad that I don’t even know how to respond to these people. I don’t want to be rude and tell them that reviews make them sound like horrible people to work with, so maybe ignoring them is the best way.

      xoxo
      Shelbee

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