Are You Making This Business Mistake? // Chunky White Sweater Dress + Over The Knee Boots
Running a business is all about trial and error, but not all lessons have to come with the mistakes, so maybe just trust me on this one. Relationship building is key in growing a business, so I’ve made that my focus over the past six years, attending events, meeting up with PR people, and becoming friends with fellow industry members. As a result, friends and contacts have been extremely kind, keeping me in mind for various gifting and/or sponsored campaigns. I am always so grateful for every opportunity that comes my way, but a couple years back, I used to accept every offer, paid or not, as a way to strengthen those relationships. The more people I met, the more requests I received, so after a while, I was basically working around the clock for no paycheck because how could I say no to someone if we have a relationship?
Stuck in this mindset, it wasn’t long before I was even doing multiple unpaid campaigns for some brands that I can guarantee had a big budget. Only when I agreed to create an Instagram post in exchange for a $10 t-shirt just because someone I met briefly that weekend asked me to did I realize how I got something very wrong. If you’re going to give your work away for free to every person you know personally or had lunch with one time, you won’t get very far. Now I’m not saying you should necessarily start charging your friends, but there needs to be a balance. Just because a PR person takes you out for coffee, it doesn’t mean you’re now contracted to write a blog post about one of the random beauty brands she reps.
It can be intimidating refusing someone who just paid for your lunch, but just like you don’t owe anything to the guy who takes you on a date, you don’t owe anything to the person you just met an hour ago. Most likely, if a PR contact does take you out, she will follow up with an email request. That’s the nature of the game, but it’s up to you to decide how you want to take the next step. She took you out for a reason and your value doesn’t diminish just because you’re now on a first name basis. All the power to you if you decide to invest in the new relationship by moving forward with an unpaid collaboration, but if this post can teach you one thing, it’s that you shouldn’t feel obligated. At the end of the day, you are still running a business and you need to do what’s best for you. You may even may be surprised if you decline the unpaid gig since often a brand magically gets a budget right after. ;)
It took time, but over the years I’ve learned that brands don’t take it personally when you respond to a pitch with your rates and even though PR people are hopeful when they request free press, they actually don’t generally expect it when you’re established in the industry. Moral of the story, good relationships are everything in business, but there are many ways to cultivate those relationships -- remember that.