Selling Out And That Time I Got Stuck In A Contract
I’m really honest about what products I like and don’t like and I do my absolute best not to take on any collaborations that don’t make sense with my brand. I can’t even count how many times I’ve turned down Skinny Tummy Tea and Crocs (sorry, Crocs!) because the partnerships simply wouldn’t make sense. It’s not easy when you start seeing dollar signs, especially since the less popular a company, the more they pay bloggers to promote their products, but I know in the long run, it’s more important to stay true to yourself.
We all have our moments of weakness though and I was pitched by a pharmaceutical brand over a year ago. The amount they offered wasn’t very impressive, but all they wanted was for me to write four guest posts on their company’s blog. The topics of the posts would be lifestyle focused and completely up to my discretion. They just had to mention the pharmaceutical brand in passing. Sounded easy enough, so I agreed.
As soon as I signed the contract; however, the brand went in a completely new direction. They eliminated the lifestyle aspect of the posts and requested that the articles instead be solely focused on their company. I wasn’t thrilled, but it was just a writing job, after all. Until the brand came back and told me they actually wanted four coordinating Instagram posts. Now I had to make a decision. Should I lose the contract or should I take this opportunity to raise my rate and simply share the articles in my Instagram captions using any photos I wanted? The brand promised the captions could be conversational and lifestyle oriented, so I decided to move forward with the campaign.
I worked with the brand to shoot the images, write the articles, and create captions, but the approval process was painfully slow. We’re talking about 3+ months to approve one photo, only to be told to pause, and then given a list of new collaboration requirements, including a rule stating that I was not allowed to use any of the additional images from the shoots I submitted images from for my personal use. This was a huge deal as not only had the 4 photos I submitted not been from dedicated brand photoshoots, but it took so long to approve the images that I was stuck without any content to post. Not only that, but by the time my first photo was approved, the seasons had changed and I was now required to post a winter outfit in the middle of summer. My caption had also been rewritten to sound less like me and more like a pharmaceutical ad.
Needless to say, the collaboration was making me miserable. I couldn’t even just finish up and move on because the approval process was taking so long and the more time that went on, the bigger my following was growing and the more trust I was gaining with my followers. I became scared to post the next photos. Scared my audience would think I sold out when the posts I was being forced to publish were the complete opposite of what I had discussed with the brand so many months ago.
The dates the contract outlined for the campaign came and went, but I was stuck. I still had only posted two out of the four images. Do I back out for the sake of authenticity? Do I ask to get paid for my work even though I hadn’t finished posting? Do I post just to keep the brand happy? Do I ask for more money? I had never backed out of a contract before and I was so torn, not wanting to burn a bridge.
I decided to email the company my concerns and gave them a final deadline that I was comfortable (enough) posting until. That deadline; however, passed without the brand sending any approvals. A couple more months went by before I heard from the company. They wanted me to post the remaining two photos before the end of the year. I thought about it hard. Did I care enough about the money that I would sacrifice my comfort level by posting two summer outfits not only during the winter, but in the midst of holiday content, seven months after my original contract ended? To be completely honest, I couldn’t decide, but then life happened. I got busy working on so many other campaigns that I had images scheduled for every day leading up to New Year’s. Then 2019 hit. Yes, I lost a chunk of money. Yes, I burnt a bridge. Yes, I regret how I handled the situation the second I saw the collaboration moving in a direction I was uncomfortable with, but for the first time in almost a year, I feel free.