3 Shady Things People Don’t Tell You About Brand Collaborations

It’s a Sunday afternoon and I’m propped up in a chair in my Engineering Library trying (so hard) to get some work done – and all I can think about is blogging. Usually, it’s an escape for me – a way to relieve my stress and anxiety and it makes me feel successful, which temporarily banishes my depression. However, today I’m feeling more riled up than anything.

I’ve had some god awful, and some downright cheeky collaboration emails this week and I’ve been left reeling. I had a lil chat with my blogging gal squad and found out that many bloggers just don’t know where the control lies in a blogging collab, the answer is with you. You are the content creator, you are the one that shouldn’t have to answer to anyone. Here are 3 things that I think every blogger should know about blogger collabs (that no one really talks about!).

1) You Need To Learn To Stand Your Ground

Considering that I have a 35K+ following on social media, I’ve started saying a simple “no” to collabs that just aren’t worth it to me. It took me a long time to feel truly comfortable and confident enough in my blog to stand my ground and ask for more gifted products or a higher rate per post on anything sponsored.

I still get emails like “hey we’ve got this £5 lipstick can we send it to you and have full coverage on it in a weeks time please” and I’m like… seriously, wtf? When you put hours and hours into a blog post, with social media coverage, it simply isn’t okay to get paid nothing or get sent fuck all to compensate you for all that work.Technically, you become free advertising to brands.

Think about it, you need to: write the post, add links, format the post, check SEO, set up product shots. Then get the right lighting, take photos, retake photos, edit them, import them, upload them. Then arrange them in your post. The worst thing is when you preview the post and realise the edit / lighting / angle is shit and you need to start all over again. 

To this day, I still get loads of PR emails asking me to do full blog post reviews in exchange for a free sample, and I simply have to decline. The whole “if you like it, feature it” approach definitely applies here, but free advertising? Hell no.

2) Sometimes a brand collab isn’t what you think it will be

I’ve had unfortunate experiences with quite well known brands, that ask so much, for so little. Two big brands that I’ve collab’d with come to mind on this topic. Not naming names, but one is a clothing brand and the other is a beauty brand. They both emailed me to say they wanted to send over £30/£40 worth of product to me to feature on Instagram. I agreed, the stuff arrived, and a week later they kept emailing me and asking where my blog feature is.

I’ve also had a fashion brand ask me to pick out a dress to recieve as a “blogger gift”, and when it arrived, I got an email listing dates and deadlines for me to feature the dress by on all my social media, and on my blog.

It’s sneaky, and I don’t appreciate it, as a hardworking blogger trying to make a living its pretty freakin’ shady. Especially from massive brands who, clearly, make enough money to compensate a blogger properly. My tip? Just make sure you have things crystal clear before you agree to recieve anything, or create any content.

3) What to do when a collaborate gets a little… hostile

There have been occasions where I’ve agreed to be gifted products to review in return for an Instagram post (#ad all the way). On a few occasions, brands have gotten a tad bit hostile if I didn’t feature them on my blog, or even do a full positive review – even though it was never agreed on! It’s the same with do follow links, some brands just make the assumption that a blogger will do all of that for them in exchange for a candle or something. 

No wonder the public have a shady opinion of bloggers not disclosing #spon content, or giving false positive reviews – as there is a lot of pressure from these types of brands to do so! It goes as far as some brands refusing to collaborate any further until… x, y, z. Basically until they get the coverage they want, for free.

Withholding collaborations like this is just a it sad, as it makes a blogger like me never want to work with the brand again, and I personally don’t know how brands can’t see the negative image they’re portraying to the blogging world.

QVC – Peony Roses in Vintage Vase*

Balance Me – Rose Otto Giftset*

Old English Company – Ticket To The Moon Pillowcase*

Have you been in any sticky situations during a brand collab?


  1. Natasha Kendall
    April 2, 2017 / 1:24 PM

    Totally agree, I am so over the emails asking for everything for nothing!But this will only stop when bloggers stop accepting £5 lipsticks in exchange for entire blog posts. I suposeit's because they get excited that someone wants to work with them, we've all been there. Then there is also the part where brands can send a £5 lipstick to lots of bloggers with a 3k following rather than paying one blogger with a 50 following to feature it. xNatasha Kendall

    • Holly Ah-Thion
      April 2, 2017 / 7:34 PM

      Thanks so much for reading! xo

    • Shannon D.
      August 23, 2017 / 6:08 PM

      I think part of it is that new bloggers want to take the cheap product because it's their way to break into the reviewing industry. If it's a cheap lipstick review today, it could be $50 worth of product tomorrow, know what I mean? I'm not saying it's right, because paying such a tiny price for a blogger's time really isn't cool, but how do we break that cycle of new bloggers needing a way to step into the scene, brands taking advantage and subsequently thinking they can be stingy with all bloggers like that?- Shannon | http://www.goingwithhappy.com

  2. Lauren Williamson
    April 2, 2017 / 1:33 PM

    Such a useful post! Luckily I've never been in bad situations before when it comes to blogging collaborations but at the same time I don't really partake in that many collabs anyway. Definitely a great post that everybody should read.Lauren | Lauren the Daydreamer

    • Holly Ah-Thion
      April 2, 2017 / 7:34 PM

      Thank you Lauren! xo

  3. Steph Hartley
    April 2, 2017 / 2:43 PM

    I've had loads of these kind of emails this week! One in particular was offering me a bag of teabags (seriously) in exchange for a blog post OR SM post, and once I said I was happy to post about it on one platform, they changed their story and insisted on a full blog post but had 'no budget' (of course). It's free work, and it's not okay for them to try and guilt you into doing it for them! I also had one that used the term 'trackable' link to describe a follow one and only mentioned it once we'd got to the point of giving my address over for delivery. I had to back out of that one too – it's so frustratingSteph – http://www.nourishmeblog.co.uk

    • Holly Ah-Thion
      April 2, 2017 / 7:42 PM

      Thanks so much, Steph! xo

  4. Luxe Style
    April 2, 2017 / 4:21 PM

    Oh it's so bad! It seems to be getting worse too. Most of the emails I get are about collabs that are for products that would never fit in with my blog or telling me they will give me a discount if I buy something with my own money and then feature it, which is just ridiculous. They need to realise the hard work that goes into featuring a product! xLuxeStyle

    • Holly Ah-Thion
      April 2, 2017 / 7:42 PM

      Thanks so much for reading! xo

  5. Jess | The Indigo Hours
    April 2, 2017 / 7:17 PM

    My absolute pet hate is brands suddenly deciding they want follow links in a post – IF YOU'D SAID THAT IN THE FIRST PLACE I WOULDN'T HAVE SAID YES! It's so much easier for everyone if you're just up front to start with if there are certain requirements or time-frames for a collab – saves wasting everyone's time! ♥

    • Holly Ah-Thion
      April 2, 2017 / 7:42 PM

      Totally agree girl! xo

  6. bella
    April 3, 2017 / 12:36 AM

    I am not a blogger, but I read lots of blogs, and follow a bunch of people on YT and IG. It is completely unethical when people don't post that they are being sponsored. With some people I can tell and they haven't disclosed that "it's" being sponsored. As I am older, I can usually tell, but I am sure that a lot of the younger audience can't tell. It has been extremely frustrating as you don't know who to believe anymore. Actually, that's not true. I only trust three out of the forty/fifty people that I follow. As result, I don't watch/read as much as I used to do. I wouldn't mind so much if people would disclose that they are being sponsored. Just my view from being a reader.

    • Holly Ah-Thion
      April 3, 2017 / 3:23 PM

      That's exactly what I'm saying, totally agree with you!

  7. Chelsea Ann
    April 3, 2017 / 8:32 AM

    This is a GREAT post. I love this so much. As a fairly new blogger of 3 months now, I have no experience with brand collaborations just yet, but I definitely think bloggers don't speak out about the occasional downsides to it. I majorly commend you for writing up this post! My biggest struggle would also be standing my ground and knowing my blogs' worth. It's hard to do so right now as I'm still in early stages of blogging. But will definitely be keeping all these topics in mind! Much love for you & your blog! Keep at it girl x

    • Holly Ah-Thion
      April 3, 2017 / 3:23 PM

      Ahhh thanks so much, I'm really glad that it's helped you out girly <3

  8. aimee cottle
    April 3, 2017 / 1:47 PM

    Some brands are still so cheeky. I get SO MANY emails with press releases; what do they want me to do, write up a blog post for their press release for absolutely nothing? I haven't got the time for that! It's frustrating what some brands think they can get away with really. x http://www.aimeeraindropwrites.co.uk x

    • Holly Ah-Thion
      April 3, 2017 / 3:24 PM

      I know what you mean, sometimes brands just don't realise how much work and effort bloggers put into their work x

    • Holly Ah-Thion
      April 3, 2017 / 7:00 PM

      Thanks so much for reading, Britt! xo

  9. jadeannloves
    April 3, 2017 / 7:26 PM

    This is such a great, honest post Holly. It's hard to know what to do sometimes as there is no specific 'job description' for blogging so when it comes to collaborating it gets a little tricky. If a brand has emailed me and wants to kindly send me a product then I will always let them know that I will be honest if I post about it on social media or on my blog etc. I thankfully haven't really had to deal with any 'shady' brands!This post has really helped me though and I think it's so important to learn to say 'no' if you're both not 100% happy. Thanks for sharing!Jade x http://www.jadeannloves.blogspot.co.uk

    • Holly Ah-Thion
      April 4, 2017 / 3:48 PM

      Thanks so much for reading, Jade! x

  10. Michaela da Costa
    April 4, 2017 / 2:49 AM

    I'm pretty lucky that I haven't had any problems thus far but then again I don't have 35k followers so I don't get a lot of collaborates as yet. However, this was still a great read and a huge eyeopener to be careful as a blogger in future if I do ever come across any issues like this from brands. Thank you for sharing and giving us an insight on the issues you have come across Michaelawww.graceandcoy.com

    • Holly Ah-Thion
      April 4, 2017 / 3:48 PM

      Thanks for reading Michaela! xo

  11. Jasmin N
    April 4, 2017 / 8:00 AM

    Loved reading this! All so true & relatable. Once, one brand was willing to pay me 15€ for exchange for a review of their shitty product. I was like hell no, 15€ isn't worth it. ~ Jasmin N// littlethingswithjassy.com

    • Holly Ah-Thion
      April 4, 2017 / 3:47 PM

      Totally agree, so glad you stood your ground lovely! x

  12. kayleigh Zara
    April 4, 2017 / 8:43 PM

    I totally agree with you girl I have a combination of 10k and I'm still getting asked for follow links for £5 and to review products I don't normally got free x

    • Holly Ah-Thion
      April 6, 2017 / 9:26 PM

      Woaaaah definitely did the right thing standing your ground! xo

  13. Sarah in Wonderland
    April 4, 2017 / 9:46 PM

    Yesssss Holly, I love this post!!!I've been turning down so much lately because I've finally realised that they need me more than I need them. I'm not about to waste my time taking pics and reviewing a product that's worth a tenner.Sarahsarahinwonderland.co.uk <3

    • Holly Ah-Thion
      April 6, 2017 / 9:37 PM

      Thanks so so so much Sarah xo

  14. Amelia Boswell
    April 5, 2017 / 3:13 PM

    I sometimes think that shady brands should be outed.It's not professional of them to be shady so why should bloggers/influencers/ creators be any different.We are a business but like them. Would they speak to Elle or Vogue that way? That's a bit passive aggressive but it's what i think. Of course lovely brands should be rewarded.thecurlyhairedgirl.org.uk

    • Holly Ah-Thion
      April 6, 2017 / 9:38 PM

      I know right, it's just not right at all! Some brands on the other hand, are absolutely lovely and I can't fault them! xo

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