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7 Types of Sponsorships and Collaboration Proposals I Refuse Immediately as a Content Creator

Not on my website.

Image Licensed to Lucia Grosaru | 2022

Sometimes, the best decision you can make as a blogger or content creator is to say no to the money, the freebie, or whatever else a potential sponsor may offer you in exchange for a post on your website or social media channel.

I know, sponsored content is what most aspiring content creators dream about and see as a mark of success.

While many times that may be the case, I can assure you that you will soon discover that not all brand deals are built the same.

Some may push you into the influencer realm — I really dislike the term, by the way — while others may harm your brand and platform, even though your bank account may feel good for a short amount of time.

There are also those situations when the deal might be OK but the individual approaching you is treating you in a way that simply makes you refuse any association with them or their company.

I’ve been blogging on my main website — Psychology Corner — since 2008.

When I received my first collaboration proposal — a book review — I refused it immediately thinking it must be some sort of scam.

Yes, blogging itself was still a new thing, and information about monetizing your website was not as abundant as today.

Back then, old-school bloggers wanted a readership and connections with people who shared their interests. Money was the last thing on our minds… but I digress.

Since then, I received quite a few collaboration and sponsorship proposals.

I accepted several and declined the majority of them due to a variety of reasons.

Most of the time, you analyze the pros and cons of potential business collaborations and make decisions that you consider will bring the best outcome in that context.

Then there are also the emails and direct messages that completely waste your time, even though they may seem legitimate at first.

Those are the ones that in time a blogger or content creator will start noticing automatically as bad news and will come into the habit of rejecting them on the spot with no additional consideration.

I will list below several of the reasons that make me immediately refuse a sponsorship or collaboration proposal, as a content creator.

Obviously, you should analyze your own context and decide according to your personal and professional interests and goals, but I would like to consider my — non-exhaustive — list a collection of red flags that new bloggers and content creators can use to inform those decisions.

Here are 7 Types of Sponsorships and Collaboration Proposals I Refuse Immediately as a Content Creator

Some situations are clean-cut while others may require a bit of analysis to discover the deception or potential problem.

1 — When they offer to pay in “donations”.

As in, they mention they could just send you some money into your PayPal account in exchange for whatever it is that they want you to help them with — a backlink, a positive review, etc.

If someone has the audacity to approach me with a proposal that implies a less-than-legal or tax-free deal, I immediately take it as a sign of disrespect toward me and a mark of shady business behavior — if one can call that business — on their part.

If you want a collaboration to take place and not a deal, then the terms need to be clearly stated and the payments or any other type of reward for the creator has to follow an official route.

There are plenty of ways to reach a business agreement — classic or not, but the path has to be straightforward and the parties must show mutual respect for the collaboration.

Also, donations are for tip jars, and I don’t have one on my blog or social media channels.

2 — When they act as if they’re about to bestow upon me and my blog the magic perks of sponsorships.

I really dislike it when an email reads as if I should consider myself so incredibly lucky that they’ve chosen me to potentially pay for… my work and the benefits they can get from using my platform to boost their brand or product.

We’re only looking to work with a handful of blogs. Our clients are very picky” etc.

These are usually the same people who treat the preliminary discussions as some sort of audition that I never applied for.

“Send us an outline of the post and we will let you know if it works for our clients.”

Yo, you approached me. Most of the time, I have no idea who their clients are or never heard about their business. So… Go bait someone else.

3 — The random link placement requests.

Oh, how I hate it. And I know that this method is one of the most profitable for many low-quality blogs and websites out there.

The scoop: marketing company approaches you and says something like “We love your blog. We represent many companies and individuals who would be interested in gaining a mention on your blog. We can provide a steady flow of work and we will pay you this amount right after you post each link”.

As a content creator, this email may seem like you’ve found a gold mine.

All you have to do is link to some other websites or mention some individuals in your posts? And you get paid even $100 per link even with your low-traffic blog?

Wow. Great, right?

No, most of the time it’s a deal that sucks and will kill your blog in no time.

The links usually refer to low-quality websites or shady businesses.

And they’re random AF.

Try incorporating links toward some miracle cure, a new shampoo, the best life coach on earth, and some pet treats, in your niche website. And maintain quality of writing, and be regarded as a trustworthy source — by both your readers and the search engines. Best of luck.

4 — Turnkey blog posts.

Now, imagine the scenario from point 3 — you’ll be paid for the links you place on your blog — but add an extra perk: you don’t even have to write the articles.

That’s right. Your new collaborators would provide you with the entire blog posts. Photos, formatting, links.

You only hit publish.

If that’s not easy money, I don’t know what is.

Right? Again, no.

The articles probably come from some content mill — that also pays their writers poorly — and the links will be the most unusual selection ever.

Sometimes they may look nice but I suggest you check each of them.

The funniest thing that happened to me in such a context is when a company sent me a sample post and the first link I see is toward Tony Robbins — whom I’ve extensively criticized on the very website where they wanted me to publish this article.

Research: 0. So they didn’t care where their client’s links go either.

They’ve already had a link toward Robbins’s website on my blog — just not in the way they wanted it. Oops.

And yes, now you also know an ingredient to his “I’m so awesome, everyone loves me because I’m so great and popular” sauce. He pays for backlinks.

This “turnkey posts” method is also problematic because you have no control over your own platform — sometimes they would allow you to edit and make the article resemble your own work, and at other times they want you to publish it as is.

Whose platform is it again?

5 — When they don’t mention what the mutual benefits are.

“Hi. We love your blog, even though we send this same crap to tons of blog owners. Your business and our business are incredibly similar, we write about the same things. We want you to add this link to this already-published, already-getting-tons-of-traffic article of yours. Let us know what you decide.”

One day later.

“Hey. Us again. You didn’t say whether you’re interested in placing our link on your blog. Let us know. Bye.”

Ahem… Great. You want a backlink.

What’s in it for me? Why should I just do it?

There are tons of similar blogs out there. Should I link to all of them?

When someone approaching you for a collaboration does not mention what your gain would be — money, freebie, a link, a mention, a freakin’ thank you note, etc. —, does not even bother to ask what you would charge or accept as a reward or reciprocal action, and/or does not mention what they can give in return — so that you would have options to choose from and understand their budget or limitation —, I would say… don’t bother with them.

This is a business or an individual who only wants to take advantage of those several individuals who would take the bait — out of the thousands that they probably approach on a regular basis.

Sometimes, I don’t even reply to these emails, even though it goes against my beliefs regarding business management. But I don’t have all the time in the world to reply to all the predators and scammers out there. So that’s that.

6 — When the proposal seems to have nothing to do with my blog or niche.

It’s the emails that make me go “So, what the hell am I supposed to do with this?”.

“Hi. We’re So-And-So, love your blog, and represent a company that trains accountants. We would love to collaborate with you.”

I’m a psychologist, online instructor, and content creator. How does this link to accountant training?

Do you want assertive communication training for them? Do you want me to write it? To give an online class? To write a recommendation article using your information as input. What is that you would want me to do?

I can only speculate. I could also write back and ask for details but to be honest, I rarely do that since I do not like working with people who are not structured when it comes to business management.

I assume it would be a pain in the neck to even attempt to collaborate with them because it would take forever to communicate effectively.

So… again… no.

7 — When the brand is zero.

Not new. Not small. Not struggling. Zero.

As in hard to find any data about them, their founder, the CEO, what they do, or where they are located.

I’m a skeptic, I don’t collaborate with ghosts.

And I have no interest to become this online investigator every time I get that crap in the mail and attempt to find the clues and piece the puzzle image together before I even hit Reply to their initial message.

No. No time or energy for that.

Immediate no.

So, there you have it.

It’s a crazy world, this online environment.

It can be really beautiful though if you are careful not only about how you build and grow your platform and brand but also regarding the people and businesses you associate yourself with.

Sometimes, a sponsorship or brand deal may turn out to be the thing that drives your own project into the virtual ground.

Ask yourself if that’s worth $15.

Thank you for reading.

Join thousands of students from around the world. Use the referral links below and enroll in my Assertive Communication, Productivity, and Critical Thinking courses on Udemy or Skillshare.

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Lucia Grosaru, M.A. Psy.

Lucia Grosaru, M.A. Psy.

Psychology MA. Assertiveness and Critical Thinking Advocate. Author of PsychologyCorner.com.