My Thoughts On Why I Run A Business That Works With Brands

Fact: You don’t need to have hundreds of thousands of followers to have your own blog and run a business. Or to even work with brands for that matter.

My Thoughts On Why I Run A Business That Works With Brands by NYC style blogger Pink Champagne Problems My Thoughts On Why I Run A Business That Works With Brands by NYC style blogger Pink Champagne Problems My Thoughts On Why I Run A Business That Works With Brands by NYC style blogger Pink Champagne Problems My Thoughts On Why I Run A Business That Works With Brands by NYC style blogger Pink Champagne Problems My Thoughts On Why I Run A Business That Works With Brands by NYC style blogger Pink Champagne Problems My Thoughts On Why I Run A Business That Works With Brands by NYC style blogger Pink Champagne Problems

THE LOOK | dress, shoessunglasses, bag c/o

Yes, you read that right.

I don’t have 100K on Instagram. I don’t even hit 20,000 pageviews a month on Pink Champagne Problems. Yet, brands still PAY me for my work and I still run a business. I’m here today to tell you that it’s possible to work with brands even as a small fish in a big pond.

I remember my very first paid collaboration. It was with a small jewelry line and I was paid $50 to feature a necklace on my blog. I was pretty damn excited. Once I realized I could get paid for my work, I began thinking on a business level. So I made it happen. Earlier this year, I decided to turn Pink Champagne Problems into a business. I’m not the greatest businesswoman, FYI. But I do know what has worked for me. By utilizing the tactics that have worked for me, I’ve made more money some months than I do from my full-time job!

Here are some of my thoughts/tips on working with brands and knowing your self-worth when it comes to your content!

Your voice should remain the same

Let’s kick this off on a real note. YOUR VOICE SHOULD REMAIN THE SAME – whether you’re getting paid for a post or not. Many people (specifically non-bloggers) feel that the blogging industry has become over-saturated with people promoting products that aren’t really within their niche. I, for example, am a fashion/travel/lifestyle blogger. Let’s say one day you saw me promoting a mountain bike. That’s probably a red flag.

When it comes to brand collaborations, I always think about my readers first. I think about if it’s a brand that you know or would want to know about. That’s usually the first thing that’s on my list when talking with brands. Once we come to a negotiation, I make sure that I retain 100% creative control throughout the collaboration. At the end of the day, this is MY site and MY brand. The content I create should be in my voice, and I should only be promoting products that I really believe in, use, or want to learn more about and share my experiences with you.

Stop selling yourself short

I know it’s every blogger’s dream to work with brands. But come on, there comes a point when that $10 collaboration offer for 3 blog posts, 4 Instagram posts, and 12908210 tweets, doesn’t add up. YOU ARE 100% WORTH MORE THAN THAT! Just because you’re trying to build your resume when it comes to blogging and run a business, doesn’t mean you should accept every single project that comes along your way.

Even though I’d ideally like to take on more projects, not every brand has the “budget” to pay my rates.  And it’s not like they’re even a ridiculous amount. I know my worth. Basically, I’ve had to learn how to say no more often. I know what brands should be paying me based off of a number of factors:

  • My page views
  • My engagement on Instagram
  • Average blog post comments
  • Time/effort/photography fees

What it comes down to is that you should only be working with brands you really love or want to learn more about AND make sure they’re paying you what you’re worth! Just because you don’t have 10 different brands reaching out to you at the same time that are just dying to get on your Instagram account…doesn’t mean you’re not worth anything. YOU ARE! Just like any 9-to-5 job, you deserve to be paid for your time, effort, and energy put into creating content for brands. You run a business!

What about working for free?

9 times out of 10, I say no. You definitely shouldn’t work for free. But, I’m not much of a rule-follower. So there are definitely exceptions – in my opinion. Let’s talk about this Pixel Eyewear collaboration I did yesterday. I wasn’t paid for that (I was given two pairs of glasses). I reached out to the company because it was a brand that fit in with my lifestyle and what was going on with my health. It was cool that I was able to teach myself more about digital eye strain AND educate others. All while introducing them to a new brand!

When it comes to working for free: If you don’t genuinely love a brand enough to put them on your blog/Instagram at your own discretion to being with, then you should say no and move on. Or you could even ask them to consider you when they do have a budget. That’s why I make sure to never burn bridges. I’ve turned polite, friendly conversations (declining unpaid offers) into paid collaborations! Please, please, please remember to be kind to brands. We all know that these brand reps (whether they’re PR reps or Marketing teams of the brands) don’t work for free, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be snarky towards them. Or just straight up rude. Act nice and you’ll be remembered when it comes time for paid collaborations!

If you’re not business-savvy, teach yourself

This is still a work-in-progress for me.

Since I started blogging almost five years ago, I’d say I’ve learned a lot early on. Especially from the business aspect. The first thing I probably taught myself was how to effectively communicate with brands. I probably reached out to brands that were WAY out of my league a little too early on (read: I was rejected a lot.) I learned what brands are looking for when working with influencers and what they aren’t looking for. I’m super comfortable with pitching myself to a brand that I’d love to work with. I also happen to be super comfortable with contacting brands that are late on collaboration payments. As a one-man-show, these are the things I needed to learn and teach myself to gain success.

I learned how to create my own media kit (I use Canva). A media kit is essentially your resume and it should include everything a brand would want to know about your brand. I’ve learned how to document every single blog-related purchase and income. Taxes are definitely not fun when you run a business, but it is really interesting to see how much you’re spending vs. how much you’ve made. Definitely helps put things in perspective. I also know how to create brand contracts and agreements along with invoices. It’s pretty cool that brands love the agreement I’ve come up with on my own. When they agree to a contract I made, it just shows how much I’m worth to a brand (literally and figuratively). With each contract I send out, I feel like I’m getting a bit better at running my own business.

Don’t make it about the money

Yes. I’m going to be so honest. I love making money off my blog. But it’s not necessarily for the reason you’re thinking about. It’s so insane to me that I can make money through working with brands that I know and love (Yeah, obsessed with Dove products). I’ve also learned about so many new brands that have easily become incorporated in my every day routine (UM, HELLO PATCHOLOGY). Yeah, I was paid to write these posts, but I truly meant every word I’ve said about the products!

I run Pink Champagne Problems from morning till night, and please trust me when I tell you, it is not all about the money. Every day, I’m working hard to come up with new content to keep you engaged. And that’s what it comes down to: engagement. If you want to work with a brand, engage with them. If you’re engaged online, people will engage right back with you. It’s really that simple.

At the end of the day, your blog is your brand. You can obviously do whatever you want to do when it comes to working with brands and knowing your worth. I can only hope that I can help become part of the movement to help our blogging industry grow and take a step in the right direction! I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you’ve dealt with blog collaborations in the past – OR – answer any questions you might have! I’m all ears!


photos by allie provost

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  1. 8.30.17

    AWESOME post Dana, as always! You completely crushed this topic in the best way possible. I honestly agree with everything you said and love hearing that other bloggers feel the same way. Keep on being you and rocking this business!

    xo Laura Leigh

    • 8.30.17
      Dana Mannarino said:

      Thank you SO much! I’m so glad you agree. You’ve been seriously killing it since you when full time with Louella Reese. I’m glad that as a full time blogger, you can still see where I’m coming from. Love ya lady! xx

  2. 8.30.17

    Come fall I’m going to up my pitching and trying to work with collectives that hook you up with brands

    • 8.30.17
      Dana Mannarino said:

      YES! A lot of my campaigns come through outside companies, so I highly recommend that. Once you get used to pitching yourself, it becomes fun!

  3. 8.30.17
    Sed Bona said:

    I cannot agree with this post more! I’m roughly the same size (at least in blog traffic!) and it’s always such a struggle balancing paid work with work I’m excited to do. I love being able to make money from the blog organically. But it’s also hard to pitch to larger-scale brands I’ve found unless you already have an “in” or have written the most magnificent pitch. It’s certainly not easy but it’s so unbelievably satisfying when you do work with a brand you love and get paid to do it!


    Ashley || Sed Bona

    • 8.30.17
      Dana Mannarino said:

      Thank you so much for commenting, Ashley! Totally agree with you. Although it’s definitely stressful, it’s often so rewarding when you get that brand to agree to all of your terms and conditions! Keep up the amazing work! xx

  4. 8.30.17

    I love love love this post! Totally agree with you, authenticity is key and your voice needs to remain the same. I’ve seen bloggers I follow promote products that are completely off-brand for them and it just feels so disingenuous. If you can make money working with a brand you already love or a brand you’re learning to love, I think that’s awesome. Also, love this outfit!

    x Diana // Pearl Girl

    • 8.30.17
      Dana Mannarino said:

      Thank you so much, Diana! I always appreciate your thoughts on these kinds of posts! xx

  5. 8.30.17
    Natali said:

    Amen to all of these, you’re so right! Also, love your style and this outfit is so summery and girly!

    • 8.30.17
      Dana Mannarino said:

      Thanks so much, Natali! xx

  6. 8.30.17

    Nailed it! AGAIN! 🙂 .. I beat myself up about working for free sometimes but in some cases I feel it’s best to work on growing that relationship before asking for compensation. You are so right that people can tell when its not an authentic fit!

    How 2 Wear It []

    • 8.30.17
      Dana Mannarino said:

      You’re the best, Morgan! Thank you so much. And I totally agree, I have a few upcoming collabs that are for free and I’m 100% looking to turn them into paid collaborations in the future.

  7. 8.30.17

    This post was awesome and so true in every way! Being a new blogger myself, I really hope you continue creating posts sharing your experiences when it comes to blogging…that would be very helpful! These photos are amazing, by the way!

    Mia |

    • 8.30.17
      Dana Mannarino said:

      Thank you so much for commenting, Mia! I know blogging can get discouraging really easily, so I hope these types of posts help you have a more positive outlook. If you ever have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out! xx

  8. 8.30.17

    I’ve REALLY been loving your posts lately- each one gets better and better. Talking about the real stuff and still looking beautiful 🙂 thank you for this post- I’ve worked with some brands but this helps me learn more along the way.

    • 9.3.17
      Dana Mannarino said:

      Thank you so much, Emelia! Your sweet words mean SO much to me! If you ever have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out! xx

  9. 8.30.17
    Amber said:

    Nailed it!! I’ve been loving your blog posts lately! You keep it 100 about the business side of blogging. It’s like, yup. I get paid to blog but I don’t force it. That’s what I like!

    Love you boo?

    • 9.3.17
      Dana Mannarino said:

      UGH YOU’RE THE BEST! I appreciate your comment so much because you are one of the REALEST gals I know! xx

  10. 8.31.17
    Jenn Lake said:

    So good! Love this!

    • 9.3.17
      Dana Mannarino said:

      Thank you so much, Jenn! xx

  11. 9.1.17

    Such a great post Dana!! Loved it and agree with everything you said! xo Bryn

    • 9.3.17
      Dana Mannarino said:

      Thank you, Bryn! xx happy birthday 😉

  12. 9.2.17
    Logan Porter said:

    I love your voice in this piece, Dana! I’m glad you hit a lot of good points discussing this weird world we live in where we can actually make a blog a full time job. Such lovely words. Also, your outfit is adorable!

    xo Logan

    • 9.3.17
      Dana Mannarino said:

      Thank you so much, Logan! It’s so crazy that we can make livings off our blogs, but I don’t think too many people outside of our community understand that yet!

  13. 9.3.17

    Dana – great job on this post! I’m reading it at 4am (ugh!!) and it was so engaging. I absolutely love how authentic you are in your posts, and your personality really shines through. It’s clear that you are so passionate about your blog, and I think that’s what makes me come back every week (or every few days). I so agree with your point on working for free. Even for me (as a small, under-the-radar blogger) I would not want to work for free as it certainly takes time and energy to craft a post! Time that could be spent on other things, like working a typical 9-to-5 job! But there are definitely times when working for free makes sense: you are super passionate about the brand/company and want to spread the good word, you want to build your portfolio/brand, and you want to develop a relationship with a brand/company and show them your interest in their product/service. Keep up the engaging content, and I’m excited to see what cashmere finds you ‘find’ this fall 😉


    • 9.3.17
      Dana Mannarino said:

      4AM?! Girl, you’re nuts!
      Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment, Lisa! It seems that these types of posts do better because I am being myself when I’m writing. I’m OK with being vulnerable and just rambling on in my posts. It’s so fun to engage with readers and bloggers like you! We often have the same thought processes on most things, and I love hearing from you!
      Oh and you know I’m already on the prowl for cashmere;)

  14. 9.4.17
    DIANA said:

    Really great info here! Blogging has SO many aspects to it that you’d never even think of…. all of the social media and then once you start learning more about tactics and working with companies, the possibilities are endless

    • 9.5.17
      Dana Mannarino said:

      Thank you so much for stopping by, Diana! There is SO much that goes into blogging nowadays and it is pretty cool just how many opportunities there are!

  15. 9.16.17

    Dana, this post is such a good one! Love all of the insight and knowledge you have to offer!

    Xx Taylor

    • 9.18.17
      Dana Mannarino said:

      Aww, I appreciate that so much, Taylor! So flattered that you’d say something like that!