In my last video, I mentioned that sponsorships are one of the four ways that every YouTuber should be monetizing their platform. And you guys let me know that you wanted an entire video dedicated to sponsorships – so I’m making it happen! Let’s talk about how to get paid brand deals in 2021 even with a small following.
How to Get Paid Brand Deals in 2021 even with a Small Following
Want to watch a video version of this post? I’ve got you covered!
I’m going to be 10,000% real with y’all. I’m probably not the most qualified person to speak about sponsorships, because that hasn’t been a massive focus of mine until recently. However, you should also know that I have been a co-host/host of a podcast for 5+ years. During that time, I’ve been constantly seeking out sponsors for those podcasts – and I’ve had a lot of success with those. As I’ve been starting to look for sponsors on my YouTube channel, I’ve learned what works to get paid brand deals.
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Because I have always seen my channel as part of my business instead of thinking of myself as a creator, I never really took the time to seek sponsors for the channel. In fact, I turned away hundreds, if not thousands, of sponsorship requests over the last several years.
At that time, it felt inauthentic for me to have a sponsor in a video that I was using to promote something of mine, too. Now, I absolutely think you can do both. If you position yourself as an expert and a really awesome creator while bringing in sponsorships that help keep the lights on.
The really cool thing about YouTube is that viewers expect interruptions from ads. Even if they aren’t expecting sponsored content specifically, they’re ready for those midroll interruptions to pop up. As YouTube creators, we have the opportunity to capitalize on that without it feeling really inauthentic.
The Strategy Behind Sponsorships: How to look for paid brand deals
We have all followed those people who will sell your soul for a dollar. You know what I’m talking about – those ex-Bachelor gals who start using their following to sell Fab, Fit, Fun boxes. And you DON’T want to be that person. Selling random products pulls away from the authentic relationship between you and your viewer.
I have been really particular in choosing my sponsors even as I start to accept more. I’m not going to sell your eyeballs for $1. If I’m taking on a sponsorship opportunity, it’s something that fits you guys really well and that I know you’ll want.
How does this fit into my existing content and with my existing audience?
I would take this a step further. Ask yourself if the paid brand deal is relevant to why your audience is coming to you!
For example, if I’m talking to women on my channel, I could theoretically have a sponsor that has any product that’s relevant to women. But if I’m specifically talking to female business owners or female YouTube creators, then a random female-centric product that isn’t related to my normal content will feel inauthentic. Example: Fab, Fit, Fun box. If I sit here and tell you to check out Fab, Fit, Fun in the middle of a camera review, it feels super inauthentic.
Think about sponsorships that will natively integrate into the content you’re already creating. Those will be the best fit for you and your audience!
Don’t take sponsorships just for the sake of taking sponsorships. Be intentional with the paid brand deals you take. Make them a good fit for your audience AND for you – don’t sell your audience for a buck.
But how do I get paid brand deals on YouTube?
This is a multi-tiered strategy. Let me start by saying that if you are creating quality content and growing on the platform, at a certain point sponsors will approach you. At that point, it’s really easy to get sponsors because they’re coming to you.
But to be completely honest, that comes with time. It won’t happen for anyone right out of the gate. Right now, as a small YouTuber, the real key to getting sponsors it to pitch yourself.
Pitch yourself to sponsors.
Know your worth, pitch yourself, and ask.
One of my biggest pieces of business advice is to JUST ASK. The worst they can say is no – but even then, you’re on your radar.
But… who do you pitch?
Pitch companies that you already use.
Pick out some products or services that you already know, love, and use. And go pitch them! Find brands that are already sponsoring content from other creators who are in your niche and have your same ideal client/audience.
My biggest advice to you right now when you’re thinking about which brands you’d like to pitch is to grab a piece of paper and write a list of 10 or 20 things that you currently know, use, and love, that would be a good fit according to point number one. Learning who best fits your audience is how to get paid brand deals 101.
If you have a tech YouTube channel, Fab, Fit, Fun is not your best bet. But maybe you use a specific type of camera and you reach out to the camera company to see if they’d do a sponsorship. Maybe you like a specific type of lighting, editing software, or even SD cards. Reach out to those companies! The possibilities are endless here.
Just make sure your sponsors are in-line with the viewers you attract, the content you’re creating, and the things you love.
So make your list of 10-20 companies you’d love to reach out to for a paid brand deal. Then, I want you to make another list of 10-20 companies that already sponsor channels similar to yours.
That list might take some digging! Spend time looking for channels and influencers in your niche.
Now, all you have to do is reach out!
You’ve got your lists, so all that’s left is to reach out! Simple, right?
I know that reaching out sounds like the scariest part of this process. And it is! But I need you to remember one main thing: Do NOT spotlight yourself and your accolades. Instead, spotlight how you can PUT the spotlight on their product and how much it would serve and benefit your audience.
THAT is the key to pitching companies and getting a “yes” in return.
It’s not about pitching yourself and your stats. It’s about showing the company how your audience can be useful to them!
Yes, you should include your vanity metrics in your pitch like subscribers and watchtime hours because sponsors do care about those. But more importantly, you need to share the benefit of using you to get their product in front of their exact ideal customer who watches their channel.
So tactically, all you need to do is come up with a pitch and shoot them an email.
I’ve got an insider tip here about emailing sponsors – use Hunter.io!
Use something like Hunter.io to make emailing sponsors a LOT easier. This is not sponsored by Hunter.io (but they should really hit me up).
Hunter.io is a free Chrome extension that you can use to make pitching a LOT easier. Whenever you go to a website with the extension turned on, you can use it to find their contact information instantly.
When you’re on the main domain name of any brand’s website that you’d like to contact and click the fox in the extension that represents Hunter.io, it will populate a list of email addresses associated with that URL. And a lot of times, they’re verified – the system has figured out a particular email is definitely correct!
I’m not saying this is a foolproof method. There’s always a chance that somebody has left the company or those emails aren’t correct. But it’s a great starting point if the company doesn’t have contact information listed on their website.
Now send that email! Let them know that you love their product and want to work with them. Explain how awesome your audience is and why your audience is their ideal client. And then tell them why you’re the person who should shine the light on their brand.
Wait – but I have a really small channel!
I’m positive that your next question will be – “but wait, Jessica, I have a tiny channel!” I get that – but I need you to know a few things.
One, a lot of companies have an advertising/marketing budget that they have to spend every year. I know that sounds weird for those of us who run small businesses, but it’s true! So, these companies are constantly looking for good partnerships and creators to spend that budget.
Let’s say a company has $10,000 to spend on their budget per year. Someone who has 1,000,000 subscribers is probably charging $30,000+ for sponsorship spots because they have so many eyeballs on their content. With their budget, they can’t physically pay this bigger creator!
So, they’re going to make the most of their money by finding smaller channels to partner up with. They might pay $5,000 or $3,000 for someone who has a bigger channel and charges a bit more, but they’ll ALSO be looking for smaller creators who they can pay less for a sponsorship.
Just because you’re a smaller creator does NOT mean you aren’t able to get a sponsorship! It just means that you’ll charge less!
How much should you charge for a paid brand deal?
This is the million dollar question (but not literally – don’t try to charge $1,000,000 for a paid brand deal)!
Every person is going to charge a different amount. Someone else who has 100,000 subscribers like I do might charge at a totally different rate!
Generally, YouTube sponsors will look at the number of views per video that you receive in a certain time frame. There are creators with the same amount of subscribers as me who can charge way more than I can because of the difference in video views!
There’s not a set formula. The number that I’ve heard tossed around in the influencer space is about $100 for every 10,000 followers that you have on a platform. So if you have 10,000 YouTube subscribers, you could charge about $100 for a sponsored video.
Again – that’s not set in stone! It’s not the only rate you can charge, but it’s a great starting point.
There’s actually a service called Social Blue Book where you can link your social platforms and get an estimate of what you should be charging for a sponsorship. I will say that I charge quite a bit MORE than Social Blue Book’s recommendation for a couple reasons. And these are really great tips for you as well if you’re a small creator.
One: I don’t just charge for YouTube as a sponsorship. I also include a mention on Instagram Stories and a link on Facebook where I have more followers following me.
I bundle my social media sites together to get the price I charge. That way, I get paid more AND the advertiser is getting more bang for their buck.
Two: If you care about your audience, they will see that. And they might be willing to pay you more than your numbers are worth because they see high conversions from other ads.
I’ve had conversations with sponsors who say “absolutely not” when I send them my rate and I go back to them and explain why I charge that using facts and figures.
Three: Be negotiable!
I have set rates, and we try hard to stick to those with every sponsor. But sometimes it is worth taking less money from a brand to help establish a relationship that can grow in the future.
If someone comes to me now and says that they would like to sponsor one of my videos for half of my normal rate, but they want to sponsor six videos and then re-evaluate the cost… It could be worth it! If you blow them out of the water with your sponsorship conversions, then they will be willing to pay the price next time. That's an insider tip about how to get paid brand deals – sometimes, compromise is key.
Don’t forget about local businesses or smaller companies who might not sponsor YouTubers everyday!
This is a rule that can especially apply to smaller channels. Don’t overlook those local places you love!
Because I live in a teeny, tiny town, anytime I have the opportunity to feature a local business over a massive business, I take it!
When I wanted to get a neon sign for my new office and collaborate with someone in a sponsored way, I didn’t look nationally. I started by looking locally! And I found an awesome company a few hours away that I’m going to be working with to make the sign!
The biggest tip for smaller creators who want sponsorships? Think outside the box!
Too often, we put ourselves in the box and think that we have to do things exactly like other people do.
Think about how you can package a sponsorship so that you can make more money and give more value to the advertiser. How can you reach out to companies that might not be using YouTube sponsorships yet? How can you make your audience WORTH getting in front of for these companies?
YouTube is different from other platforms when it comes to sponsorships.
YouTube is different from Facebook or Instagram when it comes to sponsorships. And sometimes, you have to point that out to sponsors (especially if they’re used to working with a different platform).
The content on YouTube has a MUCH longer shelf-life than content on other platforms. When you are looking to pitch a sponsor, letting them in on that secret is key. Maybe you have a video from two years ago that’s still getting 100 views per week. Show them that the possibilities are endless and long-standing!