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Episode 225: Why Working For Free Is Hurting The Food Blogging Industry with Kyleigh Sage

In episode 225, we talk with Kyleigh Sage, blogger at Barley and Sage, about her journey as a new blogger and making a 6-figure income with brands alone.

We cover information about why you shouldn’t work for free, think ahead to what benefit working with a brand might bring you in 3 months and listen for tips on negotiating and pricing!

Listen on the player below or on iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, or your favorite podcast player. Or scroll down to read a full transcript.


Guest Details

Connect with Barley & Sage
Website | Facebook | Instagram

Bio Barley & Sage is a food blog focusing on scratch made recipes for the home cook and baker. You will also find educational resources for the new blogger! Kyleigh started her blog in December 2019 and a short 18 months later, she quit her day job and is now making a 6-figure income from brand partnerships alone!

Takeaways

  • It used to be you could work for free once for a brand and it would eventually turn into a paid partnership. The reality is that’s just not the case anymore, because there are just so many content creators out there.
  • A lot of brands have learned that they can just subsist solely on free content and they don’t even need to pay creators at all.
  • Just because you financially are able to accept free products in exchange for work, doesn’t mean that other people can.
  • If there’s a barrier to entry to become a blogger in terms of you have to be able to afford to work for free, we’re going to lose out on a lot of diverse voices in the space that can’t afford to do free work.
  • You may have more luck turning those low bid jobs from brands into higher paying jobs, simply by just trying to explain everything that goes into content creation and why you’re worth more.
  • A lot of times once brands understand everything that goes into content, they are willing to pay more for it.
  • Even small blogs with smaller followings can be successful with brands. Content is useful wherever the brand also reposts them such as on their website or by running Facebook ads with the photos and the recipe. So in all of those scenarios, your Instagram following doesn’t matter because it’s not just on your Instagram feed.
  • Learning to asking the brand questions is the best thing to do to gauge how they’ll use your created content.
  • Always charge licensing fees.
  • The number one tip for negotiating is to first determine the minimum amount of money that you would be willing to work for for that particular project.

Resources Mentioned

Blog post – Pricing Guide For Food Photographers

Blog post – What To Include In A Food Photography Contract

Blog post – Copyright Licensing

Transcript

Click for full text.

Intro:

Welcome to Eat Blog Talk, where food bloggers come to get their fill of the latest tips, tricks, and insights into the world of food blogging. If you feel that hunger for information, we’ll provide you with the tools you need to add value to your blog. We’ll also ensure you’re taking care of yourself because food blogging is a demanding job. Now, please welcome your host, Megan Porta.

Megan Porta:

Hey awesome food bloggers. Do you struggle with knowing exactly what you should be doing to move the needle forward in your business. Do you struggle with knowing what to focus on next? If so, if this sounds like you, I have two solutions for you. Number one is mastermind groups. There is so much power in getting people together and helping to solve each other’s problems. At Eat Blog Talk, we have put together our own mastermind groups and we are hosting these weekly. You can join at any time. You can try it out for a month or you can sign up for a quarter or you can go all in and sign up for an entire year. Come join us. See if it’s a great fit for you, and this will really help you to solve those problems you’re having in your business and give you clarity about what you should be doing next to move your business forward.

The next solution is the Eat Blog Talk membership. I have spent all of 2021 so far putting so much value inside of the membership. It is such a supportive and wonderful place to be for food bloggers. We are learning so much from each other. We are joining together in monthly intensive calls, where we focus on very specific parts of food blogging in order to grow our businesses in massive ways. We also have guest experts come in and join us very regularly to talk about really specific parts of food blogging. We get one-on-one access to these experts such as Matt Molen from email crush, Casey Markee from MediaWyse. So many great people are joining us in these sessions and they are super valuable. There are so many reasons why you should be in the membership. I could not even start touching on all of it. If you’re tired of wandering around aimlessly in your business and not knowing what to focus on, give the membership a try for free for two weeks. Go to eatblogtalk.com. You can sign up for the masterminds there, and you can also start the process of getting into the membership for two weeks, just to check it out. The rest of us can’t wait to see you inside.

Hey, food bloggers. Welcome to another episode of Eat Blog Talk. Thank you so much for being here with us today. I have Kyleigh Sage with me from Barley and Sage, and she is going to tell us all about why working for free is hurting the food blogging industry, and also how food bloggers can get paid to work with brands, even if they just have a small following. Barley and Sage is a food blog focusing on scratch made recipes for the home cook and baker. You will also find educational resources for the new blogger. Kyleigh started her blog in 2019 and a short 18 months later, she quit her day job and is now making a six figure income from brand partnerships alone. That is so awesomely impressive, Kyleigh. I can’t wait to talk about all of this with you, but before we dig into it, we want to hear your fun fact.

Kyleigh Sage:

Thank you. So my fun fact is that in true millennial fashion, I have a degree that I am not using. It’s actually in neuroscience.

Megan:

What?!

Kyleigh:

I spent four years studying neuroscience to become a food blogger.

Megan:

I always hear these stories about, I studied X and I’m actually a food blogger, but I’ve never heard such a far cry from food blogging before. That is crazy. So do you have a deep interest in neuroscience and do you follow it? Do you do anything relating to that or is it gone?

Kyleigh:

Not anymore. I’ve always loved it. My original plan was to go to medical school and after four years of neuroscience, I decided I didn’t really feel like doing any more school. So I was working in the medical field for a few years after college and just started the blog as a hobby and I’ve always loved cooking. I never really realized that I could make money doing it. Once I realized I could, I pivoted pretty quick.

Megan:

Wow. That is really cool. I love that. Neuroscience is kind of fascinating. I have to say. But obviously you’ve made food blogging work. I loved reading through your bio because holy cow, Kyleigh, that’s crazy. 18 months, you’ve been blogging and you’ve been able to quit your job and you’re making six figures from brand partnerships alone. That is so awesome. So obviously you’ve really honed in on what works with brand partnerships in this short period of time, which means you’ve probably learned a lot about how those partnerships work and what’s effective and what’s not. So today you’re here to talk specifically about why working for free is a problem. It’s a big problem. I love this message. I did it early on. I think a lot of us did for far too long. I was like, oh, cool. A free bag of apple chips. Oh, nice, a free box of cereal for my boys. We all get kind of lured into that thinking, oh, I can work for free. This isn’t so bad. So would you mind just talking to us about why you think working for free is a problem and who is this hurting?

Kyleigh:

Yes. Well, so first of all, I just want to say that I also worked for free when I started out. So I definitely don’t want anyone to think that I am shaming them. If you have been working for free, we have all been there. But yeah, it’s a huge problem because as the food blogging industry and the social media influencer, social media marketing industry has grown as a whole. There are so, so many more creators now than there were even just a couple years ago. While it used to be you could work for free once for a brand and it would eventually turn into a paid partnership. The reality is that’s just not the case anymore, because there are just so many content creators out there. So a lot of brands have learned that they can just subsist solely on free content and they don’t even need to pay creators at all. Actually just this last week, I discovered a masterclass promoting a paid course from an entrepreneur, that was basically teaching other businesses how to essentially exploit influencers by getting free content so that they didn’t have to have a budget for social media marketing. So that right there is just the biggest problem. For everyone who is working for free, it hurts everyone that is trying to make money doing it.

I think too, something to also keep in mind is a lot of people do start their blogs as hobbies and they aren’t necessarily trying to monetize, which is fine. However, just because you financially are able to accept free products in exchange for work, doesn’t mean that other people can. So if you are constantly accepting free products, you’re basically taking away from other people that don’t have that luxury. I also think that kind of plays into the larger conversation around essentially, privilege and everything in the blogging industry as a whole, because if there’s a barrier to entry to become a blogger in terms of you have to be able to afford to work for free, we’re going to lose out on a lot of diverse voices in the space that can’t afford to do free work. So I think that’s also just something important to keep in mind.

Megan:

That’s all super important stuff. I think that we don’t really give this a lot of thought; just taking the time right now to sit and think about this and really dissect it like you’re doing is really important because we just kind of go along with our days. Like you said early on, a lot of us have accepted free products. That’s okay. I appreciated it. We ate it all when I accepted it, but just really taking the time to sit with this and look at it as a whole. How do we fix this? What do we do?

Kyleigh:

The most obvious answer is that we just have to say no to free work. I know obviously that is a lot easier said than done. Whenever I tell people they need to just say no to free work, I get a lot of comments along the lines of, well, I don’t want to miss out on this opportunity. I completely get that. So I think we just need to reframe how we’re thinking about it. Is it really a good opportunity if you’re not getting anything out of it? If you are getting a $10 bag of flour or something in exchange for the hours and hours and hours of work it takes to do recipe development, photography, editing, everything that we put into our posts, especially in the food blogging space, because obviously it takes so much time to do anything related to recipes. Is that worth a $10 bag of flour? No, probably not. Is the quote-unquote exposure of maybe being re-posted on that brand’s feed worth it? Probably not. I think just kind of realizing that you’re not missing out on anything by saying no. It’s not actually an opportunity that you’re losing out on. Frankly, the amount of time you would have spent doing that work, you could be spending on other things. Doing work for your own blog, working on SEO, working on practicing photography. There’s so many other things you could do with that time. So I think just realizing that you’re not missing out on any opportunities by saying no, would help a lot.

Megan:

I think just sitting and strategizing a little bit about that might be helpful too. Just taking a small amount of time to think through it. Like you just did. Okay, fast forward a few months, how much is this $10 bag of flour really going to benefit you in three months? Just giving it some thought. Do you have a typical script that you say back when you are offered a free product? What is your typical thing to say?

Kyleigh:

So it does kind of depend on how the brand phrases it. But typically I say something along the lines of, I don’t currently accept products in exchange for work because it’s not fair to myself and my other paying clients. Normally it’s straightforward like that. Unfortunately, a lot of times when brands are reaching out for free work, it doesn’t typically go any farther than that. I very rarely have had luck turning those types of conversations into paying jobs. Simply because the brands just move on and try to find someone else that will do it for free. Which again is part of this whole problem. If you won’t do it for free, they’re like, okay, we’ll just find someone else.

Megan:

Which honestly, is fine. Right? Because if they’re not willing to pay you for the money that you’re worth, then, move on to someone else because you want to be aligned with brands who are actually going to see your worth and pay you for that. If that happens and you counter and say, I’m sorry, I don’t work for free. I value my time and they say, no, thank you, then that is actually good.

Kyleigh:

Yes. What I have had a lot more luck on is brands who essentially pitch you a very low number, if that makes sense. So they only have a budget for say a hundred dollars, but what they’re asking for is really closer to a thousand dollars worth of work. So I’ve had a lot more luck turning those jobs into higher paying jobs, simply by just trying to explain everything that goes into content creation. Because I’ve also found that a lot of brands just don’t really understand everything that is that we do. Because a lot of times they’re only seeing a final photo.

So I just try to very politely educate them on everything that goes into creating content. From recipe development, I explain that for certain recipes, sometimes I have to test it three, four or five times before it’s perfect. So that only takes a lot of time, but you know, money for those ingredients. I explain that I also consider myself a professional photographer, more than just a blogger. I explain everything that goes into creating professionally styled and shot images and editing. I basically just have a little sheet that I send out sometimes that is just an average time tracking sheet that breaks down everything I do from recipe development, testing, shooting, styling, editing, all of that, to explain that one post can take upwards of 10, 15 hours of work. A lot of times once brands understand everything that goes into content, they are willing to pay more for it.

Megan:

So really it is our responsibility to educate them because they might not have any idea, like you were just saying. They might be completely clueless about the fact that we were putting in so much time and putting money into so many different ingredients, et cetera. The more we can do that and show them here’s the breakdown of all the time I spend on a typical recipe and the money that I put into it and the energy, they are going to be more informed and it’s going to benefit other food bloggers. So we should consistently do this. Do you have a template or something that you use and tweak?

Kyleigh:

Honestly just an Excel sheet. I just really have an Excel sheet with time for pre-production, which is all of the emails, coming up with a recipe, coming up with a shoot concept. Grocery shopping, that counts, especially if I have to go to a specialty grocery store to get ingredients that I don’t have on hand. So I just have kind of an Excel sheet and try to just block out time. I find that that is really useful for just explaining to them everything that goes into it.

Megan:

Yeah. That’s great. I like that. So we’re talking about working for free, but how do you go about pitching? Because I know this can be a hangup for a lot of food bloggers. Pitching is not always comfortable. How do you pitch yourself to brands? Even if you have a really small following, maybe on Instagram or maybe your page views, aren’t where you want them to be. What are your recommendations?

Kyleigh:

So what I think is really interesting about the crossover between being a blogger and being a quote unquote influencer is, obviously there is crossover. So not everyone that has a blog is technically an Instagram influencer and vice versa. So a lot of times when we’re talking about working with brands, they only see the influencer side, if that makes sense. So they only see, oh, you have 50,000 followers on Instagram or, oh, you have 1000 followers on Instagram. So that’s the only thing they can kind of see. So just explaining to them how content is useful outside of your own personal Instagram following. Because in, I would say 99% of partnerships I’ve ever done, the photos not only go on my Instagram feed, but the brand also reposts them. Sometimes the brand will use them on their website. Sometimes the brand will run Facebook ads with the photos and the recipe. Sometimes the recipe itself will go on their website instead of my own websites. So in all of those scenarios, your Instagram following doesn’t matter because it’s not just on your Instagram feed. So that’s another kind of piece of just educating brands about why you should be able to charge for your work. Even if you have a small Instagram following, because your Instagram following isn’t really part of the equation in a lot of these scenarios. So one of my recommendations and what I did when I had a smaller following, is I would pitch myself as a freelance food blogger, freelance food recipe developer and photographer, and reach out to brands asking if they needed photos or recipes to use in their own social media or their own website. I wouldn’t even mention my own Instagram because like I said, it doesn’t matter. A lot of times when they see those numbers, it automatically makes them think that they shouldn’t have to pay you because your Instagram isn’t very large. But if you don’t even bring up your own personal Instagram into the conversation, you can steer it and more of a, what can I do for you direction versus here’s how I can influence or whatever it is, if that makes sense. So it’s really just steering the conversation away from the size of your own Instagram following and letting them see the value that recipes and photos can provide to them outside of social media in general.

Megan:

That’s so smart. I think just taking their eyes off of those numbers because we can all get so obsessed with the follower numbers and the page views. So just presenting yourself as, I’m a freelance photographer or a recipe developer, is brilliant. It’s like a new avenue. We’re taking a different path to get to them that hopefully speaks louder because we’re not talking all about the numbers. I love that. So what are your recommendations about negotiations and pricing? This is such a touchy topic. Again, not something that a lot of us love doing or talking about. So what are your thoughts on all of that?

Kyleigh:

I have so many thoughts.

Megan:

Let’s hear them.

Kyleigh:

Yes, no, I do think pricing is super important and we do need to be talking about it more. So I have a couple of different things. So first of all, in terms of determining your pricing, I know this can be really tough. I think both brands and us, oftentimes only look at the final image and like maybe the amount of time it took to create that, in terms of our pricing. We’re not thinking about expenses and licensing. So the number one thing to consider is A, how long it takes you to do that. Because like I said, for me, I can take anywhere from 10 to 20 hours to do a completely new recipe from start to finish. That’s obviously a lot of time. Then also how the brand is going to be using those images. Because if they are going to be running $50,000 worth of Facebook ads with those images, they’re going to be making a massive return on that.

You should be getting a piece of that. First of all, just asking questions is the best thing to do. So I have a client inquiry form on my website, that’s public, so anyone can find it. That just asks a lot of basic questions for the brand. So I can get an idea of how to price myself because it is very hard to price if you don’t know the full scope of the project. Then I always charge licensing fees. Licensing is something that can be very, very confusing. I also have a blog post all about that, that goes into a lot more detail. Essentially licensing is how you allow the brands to use your photos or your recipe, whatever it is. So typically, licensing is a percentage of the cost, the total cost to create the content. So if you’re charging a thousand dollars to create the content, then you could charge 10 to 20% of that for licensing. So one to $200 for licensing on top of the original fee. For that original fee, the way I like to do it is, basically based on time. So if it takes me 10 hours to create something, I try to pay myself about a hundred dollars an hour, if not a little more than that, because A, you have to pay taxes on that. So 30% of that basically goes away right off the bat. A lot of people forget about taxes. You always want to make sure you’re charging enough to cover that upfront. Then also, you know, expenses. Simply the fact that it’s really hard to work 40 hours a week for clients in this kind of industry.

So you don’t want to only be charging $10 an hour because it’s going to be very, very difficult for you to actually make a living at only $10 an hour. I know pricing can be very, very confusing and it’s very nuanced. But I do have a full pricing guide on my website. It’s totally free. It’s just a blog post that you can read through that breaks down exactly how I figure out my pricing. I know a lot of people have found it really helpful.

Megan:

I would find that very helpful. It’s a hang up, like I said earlier, because it’s like a stumbling block. Because we want to work with brands and it’s a very alluring idea because it can be lucrative and it can be beneficial for both ends. But the pricing thing, yeah, like the taxes you mentioned, oh my goodness. So many people dismiss that or not dismiss it. They don’t even think of it, I don’t think. Licensing fees. That’s such a smart thing to think about too. So your pricing guide is totally free and we can find that just on your site. Is it pretty easy to find it?

Kyleigh:

Yes. I think it’s linked on the homepage. Then also, it’s barleyandsage.com/pricing-guide. Super easy to find.

Megan:

We can put that in your show notes, Kylie. So if anyone wants to just go there and I’ll mention where that’s at in a little bit, then it’ll be super easy to find. So that is super helpful. Is there anything else about negotiating and pricing that you wanted to mention?

Kyleigh:

Yes. So my number one tip for negotiating is to first determine the minimum amount of money that you would be willing to work for for that particular project. So I’ll actually just use a real life example. I recently was contacted by a really, really big brand. They wanted a ton of content over the course of the next year. Also exclusivity, a whole lot of stuff. So when I was sitting down and going through everything they wanted, the price I came up with that was the minimum amount of money I’d be willing to work for was $15,000. Which is a lot of money. I decided it would not be worth it to me to do this project for anything less than that. So, when I pitch myself to a brand, I don’t say I want $15,000. I always increase it honestly, sometimes up to 50% because I know a lot of times there is going to be negotiation. So you want to negotiate down to your minimum amount. You don’t want to start there.

So for this particular brand, I actually pitched them $25,000. We ended up negotiating down to $17, which I’m perfectly happy with because like I said, the minimum amount I wanted out of it was 15. But if I hadn’t started at 25, they probably would have tried to negotiate down to a lot less than what I had actually wanted. So I know those are really big numbers to throw out, but even with smaller things, even if say you want to get $1,000 out of the project, I would pitch at least $1500 or even $2000 to try to negotiate down to what you actually want. Because it’s impossible to negotiate up, which is what I’ve learned, but you’re always going to be negotiating down. So even if it’s a lot more than you actually think that that particular project is worth, I would still go ahead and throw out 50% higher than what you actually want to get out of it. Just try to work down to that number. Sometimes we’ll be pleasantly surprised and they will accept the first number you threw out right away.

Megan:

Even better. That would be an awesome surprise. So I have a question or not a question, but just something to comment on. Don’t you think a lot of this is about self-worth and what you really believe you’re worth? Because I hear a lot of food bloggers have this problem where they don’t know how to price themselves when it comes to doing brand work. So they go low. There’s a huge learning curve, I feel, because you have to be in the game a little bit to learn what you’re worth. So what are your thoughts on that? How do we put a higher value on our work in order to start at this higher pay or pricing so that we’re not selling our souls to doing sponsored work for years before we learn? I don’t know. Do you have any thoughts about any of that?

Kyleigh:

Well, so first of all, if a brand has ever approached you, they already see the value in your work. So that’s just something really important to keep in mind. I don’t even mean approaching you for a paid partnership. If you tag a brand on social media and they love your photo, they ask you if they can reshare it or something, they see the value in your work. They would not want to reshare something that they do not see value in. So right off the bat, I don’t think a lot of people realize that, that if a brand has even noticed you at all, they see value in your work. Then also, just talking to people. I think having these conversations is so important. So when I first started out, I think my account was still very small. This was almost a full year ago. So I had really just started blogging and a brand reached out to me and I was so excited. It was one of the very first brands that reached out to me. I had no idea how to price myself, but I recognized the brand. I remember seeing Sam from Frosting and Fettuccine, if you know her. She had also worked with this brand and so I just sent a message to her. I was like, Hey, Sam, this brand reached out to me. I haven’t done a whole lot of brand work before. I was just curious if you could give me some insight into how you priced this project for them. She came back with a number that was so much higher than I could’ve ever dreamed of.

I was like, oh my gosh. Wow. So I quoted them something that was like a tiny bit lower than that, because I was like, well, my work isn’t quite as good as hers, but I think I quoted them something like $1,500 and I had no idea that you could even make that much money. They immediately accepted it. When I had first been thinking, I was like, I don’t know, a hundred dollars, $200. I just had no idea and had I quoted them a hundred dollars, they absolutely would have accepted that. I would have been missing out on a ton of money. So honestly, just talking to people. People send me messages all the time because I’m very vocal about this, on Instagram and stuff.

So I talk about pricing with people all the time. I think that, yeah, just kind of having those conversations is really helpful because again, if a bunch of people start only working with that brand for a hundred dollars, eventually they’re not going to want to pay a thousand dollars for content anymore. I think that, again, these conversations are so important and I think the beautiful thing about blogging and content creation and all of that is there isn’t really competition in the same way that there might be in other types of industries because brands are always working with multiple people, you know? So the more collaborative approach and us all talking about prices together and us all collectively raising our prices, just benefits all of it. So I don’t see hiding pricing information as something that helps you. I think it really only hurts you. I honestly just being very open about this kind of stuff really helps everyone.

Megan:

Oh, I love it. I love that. That’s such a good message because we all shy away from, I shouldn’t say we all, but a lot of us I feel shy away from talking about money just in general. How much we make, it’s such a secret so often, and that really doesn’t help us. As you were talking just now, I was thinking about a corporate setting. People have an idea what others make in the office and HR has a handle on that, but we’re all kind of separate entities working in the same field. Some of us make a hundred dollars for sponsored work. Some of us make maybe $5,000 for the same project because we’re not talking. So the more we talk, I think the more it’s going to benefit us. Talk to us about contracts. So do you write up your contract? Do you rely on the brand to do that? Does it depend? What are your thoughts?

Kyleigh:

So it does depend. I’ve found the bigger the brand is, the more likely they are to want to use their own contract. Which kind of makes sense because they typically have full legal teams that handle everything. But I do have a contract. It’s based off of a template that I bought and I actually reviewed it with a lawyer to add in a few clauses that I wanted. So essentially even if a brand sends me over one of their contracts that they want to use, I have specific clauses that I always try to add in to protect myself. So first of all, you always need to have a contract.

It doesn’t matter if you are only getting paid a hundred dollars. Honestly, even if you are working in exchange for a product, you should have a contract because a contract spells out what the brand is allowed to do with the content you create. So if you create something in exchange for a bag of flour and you tell the brand that they are only allowed to use the image on social media, if you don’t have a contract, you don’t really have a way to hold them to that. So they could then turn around and take your images and run Facebook ads with them and spend thousands and thousands of dollars running Facebook ads with those photos. You only got a bag of flour. So I always recommend having a contract just because it protects your work. So there are a few things you always want to make sure are in there.

So the obvious ones are the scope of work. Obviously what exactly you’re expected to create and the timeline for that. The timeline is something that’s not only important for you in terms of deliverables, but also important for the brand. Because I’ve had situations before where I was supposed to create content, let’s say by the first of the month and the client was supposed to send me a product a month in advance of that. So I had plenty of time to create everything I needed to. But they just didn’t send it to me until maybe five days before. So if you have a timeline in your contract that lays out what they’re supposed to do as well, it protects you from only having five days to create something. So the timeline is really important. Then also, I always have some sort of artistic clause that basically says something along the lines of, the work I create will be in line with my current content that I have to show for.

As long as I create the content, I still have to be paid. If you, for some reason, decide that you don’t like it, or you’re not going to use it, that’s not a reason not to pay me. Because I already completed the work. So that’s something really, really important to have in there just to make sure again, to protect yourself. Then also things like payment terms and not only how much you’re going to be paid, but when. Because I’ve also run into a lot of situations where brands will have something like net 90, which means they have three months to pay you from the date that you created the content, which is just ridiculous.

Megan:

That is ridiculous. How in the world does that benefit anyone?

Kyleigh:

I have no idea. It’s insane. They’re always like, oh, it’s like corporate blah, blah, blah. So always having dates of payment is really important. Something I’ve recently started doing is I just ask for 50% upfront. Again, it’s just kind of a way to protect myself. Not everyone does that. I don’t think there’s really a perfect answer to whether you should take a deposit or not. I find it helpful. I think it’s honestly very telling if a brand doesn’t want to pay you a deposit. I think that’s a bit of a red flag if they push back against that. So I think it can just, again, be a good thing to have in there. But then the most important part of your contract is the copyright and licensing that I was referring to earlier. So something that I think a lot of people don’t know, especially if they don’t consider themselves photographers, is that if you create an image, even if it’s something shot on your iPhone, you automatically own the copyright to that image.

It doesn’t matter if someone else is paying you to create it. You are the copyright owner. Full stop. You don’t have to submit it anywhere. You just automatically own that copyright. So by owning the copyright, that means you can determine how the photo is used. So that’s again where that licensing piece comes in. So you allow the brands to license the photo from you. So you give them specific usage they’re allowed to use. If they use the photo outside of those terms, you can actually sue them. Typically it doesn’t go that route, but you can then ask for more money. Say, you’re actually in breach of our contract, so you should have to pay me X amount of dollars in order to continue using it in this unauthorized way. So again, it’s just another thing that protects you and protects the amount of income you’re able to make off of your photos.

The other thing too, is to just note that sometimes in these big brand contracts they send over, it will say something about how you are relinquishing all of your rights to the photos and giving them the full copyright. That is not standard. A lot of people will try to say that it’s standard because people don’t know that. But by giving away your full copyright, that means that you are no longer allowed to use those photos for yourself anymore. It also means the brands could do anything they want with them. They could sell them to someone else. They could sell them as stock photography. They could put them on a billboard, they could use them on product packaging. They could do literally anything they want with those photos. So if you sign something that has that clause in there, and you only got paid a hundred dollars, that is not worth it.

So that’s just a really important thing to look out for. Also not to be promoting all of my posts, but I also have a post all about copyright and licensing that breaks some of that stuff down because I know it can be super confusing. A lot of people just don’t really know the ins and outs of how all of that works legally.

Megan:

No, I’m glad you’re talking about your content that helps, because it’s helping. So I don’t see it as you’re promoting your stuff. You’re actually providing value that will help people move through this process. So I appreciate that. The contract stuff is super interesting to me. I have one question for you. Let’s say you start working with a bigger brand and they offer you a contract and there’s just a lot wrong with it that you would like to change. Do you just counter and ask them to change it, or do you provide a counter contract or how do you go about that?

Kyleigh:

I just counter. So a lot of times I get contracts sent to me either in Google docs or as word docs. So they are able to be edited. So I always just use the edit function. So it shows what I’m striking out and what I propose to be added in. Oftentimes it does go back and forth a couple of times and that is completely normal. So just another red flag to look out for is if a brand says that their contracts cannot be edited, because again, that’s just blatantly not true. Any contract be negotiated and edited and it should be. If they’re refusing to edit it, it means there’s probably something in there that is going to screw you over.

Megan:

Words to be wary of. This cannot be altered, is probably a gigantic red flag. Is there anything else regarding brand partnerships and working for free that you want to mention? I know you have some bonus tips for growing your Instagram account, and then I have another question. But I want to make sure we’ve covered everything within that scope first.

Kyleigh:

I think so. I mean, honestly, I could talk about this for hours.

Megan:

That’s great. You’re passionate about it. Before I ask about your bonus tips, I want to ask you, so you clearly have figured this out. You make six figures and you attribute most of that to working with brands. So what do you think your biggest key to success would be?

Kyleigh:

So I was going to say, this is my favorite quote, but I’ll say it now. It’s, “fake it till you make it.” I know that’s so cheesy, but it really is true. And it kind of goes into learning how to value your own work. The thing is just having the confidence and even feigning the confidence, to know what you’re talking about and know what your work is worth. Because if you confidently say my price is $15,000, and here is why. A brand isn’t going to come back and say, oh, well actually, no. We think your value is only a hundred dollars. If you confidently project, this is your value, they’re going to believe that. So that was something that was really hard for me at first. Honestly, it can still be sometimes hard for me. But if you just fake confidence until eventually one day, you wake up and realize that you are actually that confident, that your work is worth it. Honestly, I think that’s how I’ve gotten here.

I remember my very first paid job. They asked me what my rates were and I had never been paid before. But I didn’t want to say that or insinuate that. So I said something along the lines of, oh, my rates are X, Y, Z. That’s what I’ve charged for a similar project. So even just insinuating that I have charged that much before gave me the confidence boost and portrayed to them that I knew what I was talking about. That’s literally how I landed my first paid gig. So yeah, just fake confidence until you have enough of it that you don’t need to fake it anymore.

Megan:

Until you believe in yourself, truly, because staying at those first few times is hard. Like you said, Kyleigh. I’m worth this. Then in your mind, you’re like, am I worth this? So maybe even like practicing with people who you know, and just saying that, I am worth, this project is worth $2,000. Then saying it until you believe it. Because I think once you believe it, that’s kind of the key. When you can start increasing your pricing, because if you don’t really believe it, it’s so hard, but just saying it to yourself, saying it to people. Just like you said, digging in and starting to say it so that they believe it and that you start believing it. That was a really complicated way of saying, just do it.

Kyleigh:

I know. I know. Well, and then also once you get to that point, never staying comfortable, I think has been the biggest way that I’ve scaled. I got to the point where I was comfortable charging a thousand dollars for my work. Then I was like, okay, now I’m going to start charging $2,000. I felt uncomfortable charging $2,000. athen as soon as you’re comfortable charging that, increasing it even more. So every single time I pitch a brand, I feel incredibly uncomfortable because every single time I send a pitch, I am pitching more than I pitched last time. It’s always incredibly uncomfortable, but that’s honestly how I’ve grown my business as quickly as I have. By just constantly trying to stay uncomfortable in the amount that I’m pitching. It’s been working out decently so far.

Megan:

Clearly that has been a success for you. So I know you have some bonus tips for us for growing your Instagram account. Let’s hear those.

Kyleigh:

So my two tips is, first of all, engage with the audience that you already have. Because in Instagrams eyes, at least from my own experience, engagement is so much more important than follower count, just kind of in general. The more you’re engaging with your current followers, the more Instagram rewards that. So whether that is just responding to all of your messages, responding to all of your comments, engaging with the posts from your followers. Getting on stories and just talking to people. If you don’t feel like talking to people, you know, posting other stuff on your stories. Resharing content on your stories from other bloggers that you admire, other followers that you have. Engagement is just a huge, huge piece of it. That’s also what kind of plays into the social part of social media. If you’re not being social, Instagram doesn’t like that very much. Then what helped me the most when I really grew my account this last year, was just being consistent. I think that’s one of the hardest things to do. But I’ve noticed a distinct difference in how my account has grown when I’ve been consistent and when I haven’t been.

So what I mean by that is, you don’t necessarily have to post every single day, but choosing a schedule, whether that be maybe I only post Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Sunday, but sticking to that and doing that every single week, never wavering from your schedule that you’ve chosen and posting at the same time in that schedule. So I typically post between 1130 and 12 every day. So sticking to a very, very consistent schedule. I know it kind of sounds weird, but it is the number one thing that skyrocketed my growth. I actually recently moved. So the past two months I have not been consistent at all. It has just been horrible and my Instagram reach and engagement and everything has suffered dramatically because of it.

Megan:

Interesting.

Kyleigh:

I’ve been trying to get back to being consistent again. So just for me personally, I’ve noticed swaths of time when I’ve been super consistent and not consistent at all. Just the difference is really dramatic. I went from gaining 500 new followers a day to 10, just from the consistency piece. The quality of my content hasn’t changed at all. The amount that I’m engaging with people hasn’t really changed. It’s really just been the consistency piece that changed. I’ve seen a dramatic impact. As I’ve started being more consistent again, it’s been slowly steadily climbing back up again.

Megan:

It’s such a simple, super simple concept and idea to just be consistent. But I say this all the time, too. There’s magic in that consistency. If you can do something, set a schedule, like you said, Kyleigh. It doesn’t have to be daily. This doesn’t even refer just to Instagram. But whatever you’re doing, blog posts, podcasts episodes, set a schedule, figure it out and then consistently deliver. You will get rewarded for that. People like that, consistency. Platforms like that consistency. It’s the easiest idea in the world. But for some reason it’s really hard to implement. Especially if you’re going through a move like you, but yeah, love those tips. So easy. Engaging. You said this, I love it. Be social on social media. That’s why it’s called social media. We need to be there and show up and be social and then be consistent. So thank you for sharing those. Now with everything we’ve talked about today, you have dropped so many good nuggets and hopefully you’ve inspired a lot of food bloggers to just value their work more. What would be your number one takeaway from everything we’ve talked about?

Kyleigh:

Honestly, I think just realizing that your work has value and that it has value completely outside of social media or Instagram following or blog page views or anything like that. Your work intrinsically has value. So just don’t forget that and don’t let other people de-value your work or try to say that your work doesn’t have value because you don’t measure up to certain social media metrics. Because not only is that damaging, but it also just sucks and mental health wise, it’s not great to think that, you know, your work only has value if you get however many likes on Instagram. So I think really just remembering that, intrinsically your work has value and the more you sit with that and realize that the better off you’re going to be just in general and also in terms of getting paid work.

Megan:

Such a perfect way to end. I love that. That’s like the message for this whole topic, right? You need to value yourself and understand that the work you do is valuable. So that brands take you seriously as well and understand your value. This is something that collectively we need to come together and help to educate people about because it’s a really important thing. Thank you, Kyleigh, for everything you’ve shared today. This has been so good. I know I have some takeaways that I’m going to pull away from this conversation. So thank you for taking the time today. We really appreciate you.

Kyleigh:

Thank you for having me.

Megan:

So you already shared your favorite quote, which I loved. So we’ll just move on to show notes and we will put together a show notes page, and include all of those amazing, valuable links that Kylie was talking about that lead to her content that could potentially help you navigate the process of working with brands. So you can find show notes at eatblogtalk.com/barleyandSage. Tell everyone where they can find you online and on Instagram, Kyleigh.

Kyleigh:

So I am most often on Instagram. So that is just at barley and Sage altogether. Then, my blog is barleyandsage.com. I do have lots of recipes. I’m not always talking about resources and stuff, but I do have a lot of free resources on there just in terms of pricing and blogging and Instagram and all of that good stuff. I basically tried to create resources that I wish I had when I first started out. So yes. But definitely send me a message on Instagram, if you ever have pricing questions, because I love to talk to people about this kind of stuff.

Megan:

That’s such a nice offer, such a generous offer. I was just caught off guard a little bit because I got consumed with your Instagram feed. Wow. You have beautiful photos. I love your style. They’re just so light and you have a light and airy style, which is just very appealing, so nice work. Everyone go check Kyleigh out and again, Kyleigh, thank you so much for being here and thank you for listening today, food bloggers. I will see you next time.

Outro:

We’re glad you could join us on this episode of Eat Blog Talk. For more resources based on today’s discussion, as well as show notes and an opportunity to be on a future episode of the show, be sure to head to eatblogtalk.com. If you feel that hunger for information, we’ll be here to feed you on Eat Blog Talk.


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Megan
Megan

Megan started her food blog Pip and Ebby in 2010 and food blogging has been her full-time career since 2013. Her passion for blogging has grown into an intense desire to help fellow food bloggers find the information, insight, and community they need in order to find success.

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