How I collaborated with 20 companies at 5,000 followers. 6 best methods!

Jae Company Collaboration
Some things to consider is that you may think that companies will reach out to you, but the truth is that you’ve got to seek them out. This is especially true for smaller brands that are just starting out. Simply put: create opportunities for yourself. 

When I was starting out with developing my Instagram, I really wanted to work with more brands. After all, the most exciting part of social media is the actual interactions you get to partake in once you've grown large enough. As a 9-5 extrovert and a 24/7 creative, I thrived on creating stories and working with people outside of my usual circles. It was exciting to forge new relationships and see what kind of creative boundaries I could push. 

The most difficult challenge to solve was, what value would I bring to these amazing companies that I'd love to work with? I had 5,000 followers, content about travel, and not much time since I was still employed full time. I started digging and ended up working with about 20 companies from the first batch of outreach I've conducted. The info is as follows:

  • I reached out to ~400 companies. ~40 said no, 20 sent me products, ~340 never answered

  • I communicated with smaller companies I found through Credo Beauty

  • I made 19 posts as collaborative efforts with those companies

So how can you benefit and start the process of talking to companies yourself? It doesn't matter what kind of influencer you'd like to be- blog, YouTube channel, Instagram account or otherwise, here are my best, personally tried out methods for being fearless when reaching out to companies.

Some things to consider is that you may think that companies will reach out to you, but the truth is that you've got to seek them out. This is especially true for smaller brands that are just starting out. Simply put: create opportunities for yourself. 

Do you need to have a ton of followers to reach out? Absolutely not. I started at 5,000 but you can start earlier. Chances are, more companies might say no but there will still be many that will take a chance on you if you seem like a good fit. 

If you're also nervous that all you have is XYZ (Oh I only have an Instagram), I ran a test to see which email- a professional or a personal one, would get better responses. It seems that my personal email fared better, as I imagine companies might have thought emails coming from my professional email were scammy. 

1. Make sure your content is in tip-top shape. 

It's understandable that since you're still starting out, you might not have a $7,000 camera with which you take the most gorgeous photos or videos. But you can do a lot with a little with how great the quality of a modern cell phone is. Use free apps like VSCO to edit the photos to your liking and make sure to be consistent. Post at least 1 post daily. Engage your followers through showing genuine interest in their work, ask questions, watch their live stories. Make sure that your numbers are going consistently up and that your engagement rate is somewhere over 6%. You can use __ to calculate your engagement rate. If you do not have a ton of followers, you can always come back to the fact that 100 engaged followers are better than 1000 disinterested, fake-bot followers. 

20 more tips on how to "tighten up" your Instagram page.

2. Optimize your page(s) to be advertisement ready

Focus on making sure you have a flowing theme that captures exactly which demographic you are targeting, and can illustrate to companies you are pursuing that you are a great bet for their products or dollars. For example, if your page is focused on lifestyle, such as fashion, beauty, travel, you can pursue a wide array of companies that can insert their products nicely with the makeup of your gallery. But if your photos are focused on lets say, technology and you want to get cosmetics companies to send you products, that will be quite challenging. You have to ask yourself, would those products (cremes, lotions, nailpolish) make sense in your gallery of gadgets and programs? If not, take actions to include more inclusive content that will set you up nicely for future promotions. Your options then become to either pivot with what sort of content you're producing, or pivot which companies you are trying to pursue.



3 & 4. Find communities and start reaching out. 

This is the most tricky part, but also the most exciting. This is the time when you can communicate with brands! This step is a two-parter! First, start by using the tools you have to find companies to interact with.

In your daily Life:

What do you eat, drink, use, think about, work with, and cannot live without, on a daily basis? What are some products you demanded that your friends try because of how well they worked for you? What was the last thing you purchased or received that made you feel amazing? Think about those tools, products, services and reach out to those companies for collaborations! I reached out to coffee companies(Blue Bottle), notebook (Moleskin), witch hazel (Thayer's), tons of other small beauty companies. Think!

On instagram: 

You can look at communities through Instagram which can be time consuming but can be great for communications. Find a hashtag that fits your strategy, and seek out small companies that may be more open to working with influencers your size. Click "Follow" on a brand's page, and Instagram will pop out more suggestions for you to check out. Do some investigations. How large are these companies? Do these companies have engaged followers (see how many comments the posts get, and how high quality the comments are. If comments are mostly emojis, the followers / engagement are purchased). I would recommend going for companies with less than 50k followers to save your time, but I urge you to experiment. DM the company to state who you are, why you are contacting them, and whether there is a contact email.

Start by saying

Hello! I'm __, and I am passionate about __. I really like what your company stands for and I'd love to chat with your marketing team about collaborating. What's a good email?

Through web/email:

You might have better odds using Insta as a base for finding communities. I started by looking at the companies at Credo Beauty, a community of green, organic, vegan, healthy products. It's kind of like Sephora but for healthy, chemical free companies. I felt that our interests and values aligned. I scanned the companies featured to understand which ones are most right for me and started to send out short but genuine emails. The emails read "

Hello to the wonderful folks at _ _ __, [This is if you don’t have a first name to use]

My name is Khrys , and I focus on clean skincare, slow living, and sustainable fashion. I found you through Credo Beauty and loved what your company stood for! I am a passionate Instagrammer who also is a total beauty and skincare addict.

I see you’ve got a high placement of value on offering healthy, green, life friendly products and I was hoping we would align. I’d love to talk about what kind of partnership opportunities are available, and see whether we could collaborate. I love telling stories through my photos and my work and I’d be interested in what we could come up together.

Please find my work at :

Very warm regards, Khrys

This is the same kind of email I would send out to folks I found anywhere! I'd search for communities through LinkedIn, Whole Foods, small apothecary shops, etc. If your targets are not beauty related, seek out centers of communities that are always bringing smaller brands to the spotlight. You can find blogs whose job and existence (Goop, Into The Gloss) focus on finding the new and the latest. 

5. Get comfortable advertising products in a genuine way

I'm sure many of my readers have followers that are friends, relatives, even exes. And while at first it may feel very silly to pose with a product you've received and are passionate about promoting, take your time and know that it's a part of the "job". Advertise only products and services you are truly happy to talk about and confident to put your reputation behind. If you choose fantastic, honorable, amazing companies to work with, it won't matter what anyone has to say.  

6. Offer creative collaborative solutions

Some companies may already have expectations from you as their influencer. They might send you a list of things they want from you- blog post, video, stories on Instagram etc. But some of the companies have never or very sodom worked with creatives. This is your chance to offer creative, interesting story telling ideas for you to create together. Take a look at their website, their social media presence. Certainly take a look at their "About Us" page before proposing anything. 

Recommend a posting strategy and an idea of the kind of content you'd focus on. Talk bout the kind of story you'd like to tell, and share thoughts on the visual component. So if you're looking at a brand with lots of oils, you can offer the idea of posing their oil bottles in front of bright flowers or some funky pattern. 

Suggest a time to chat so that you can get aligned with the company if they would like to brainstorm. Write and say 

I've been thinking about ___. I think this idea could be very fun because ____. I could post an unboxing to my story, make 1 post to my blog to describe the products in detail, and add 1 post to my Instagram gallery. I'd love this to be a collaborative process so if you'd like to chat on the phone, I am free next week.

Look forward to collaborating!



Closing notes

I've had companies try to sell me "Influencer Packages" essentially so you have products to take photos of, advertise, discuss, etc. Don't buy those. You already put in time and effort into your feeds/videos/blog posts, you shouldn't be buying products so you can advertise them. That's foolishness and it seems like those companies want to make a profit while marketing their products. 

When you get products from companies, do your due diligence. What is the company about? What do they stand for? What kind of products benefit what kinds of people? How can you help them to not only get a bit of promotion but also sell their products? Really really rep the products. Be the best cheerleader, and it will come back to you in forms of other payments. Perhaps other companies will see your love and dedication, or perhaps the company you're repping will blow up and you will be forever remembered as one of the first believers.

After your accounts grow, you should start asking for paid content. But in the meantime, do a little dance every time a company puts trust in you and your brand. You're going to do great things. ❤️ 

What about you? What other great tips can you share with our community?

R E S O U R C E S  &  F U R T H E R   R E A D I N G

Making New Clients Through Insta Direct Messages 

How to Network With Brands On Instagram Through Direct Messages