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Negotiation skills for partnerships and sponsorships

Negotiation skills for partnerships and sponsorships

Fab Giovanetti

Getting started with negotiation can feel complicated. It might sound simplistic, but you just need to ask to get started. If you want to transition from free partnerships to paid sponsorships (and develop new skills), at some point, you must account for paid partnership fees and risk getting rejected.

I completely recognise the value of starting by doing work to build your reputation, then moving on to reduced rates. Still, unfortunately, most people get stuck at this point. 

It may seem like a great perk to get lots of cool stuff sent to you for free, but freebies don’t pay the bills. 

When it comes to partnerships and sponsorships, you may start building credibility with key brands and then slowly but indeed start to charge based on your increasing level of value to sponsors.

It can be a scary leap of faith, but at some point, when a brand contacts you about a project, you need to go back with a reasonable price for completing the work and see what happens. 

Remember, brands know the value of partnerships. In fact, 54% of companies say partnerships drive more than 20% of total company revenue.  Don’t be apologetic in your correspondence with the brand representative. You are creating something valuable to brands (they wouldn’t be contacting you if you weren’t), and you deserve to charge for that work.

Define your standard rates

It’s always easier to start with something, and you use it to negotiate terms with clients if they want a bespoke service offering.

Most people start with an introductory hourly rate, which will differ depending on a whole range of individual metrics and audience factors. 

Remember, partnerships and sponsorships connect to audience size and engagement. Regardless of whether you want to focus on Instagram or your podcast, brands and sponsors will look for metrics to guide them in their choice. 

When you have built your following to a considerable size, say 20k+ followers, you should be transitioning to a set rate for each assignment.

Top experts and creators will typically quote a price for the entire job that focuses on the engagement they can deliver rather than the hours they put in to complete the project.

Develop negotiation skills

Don’t be married to your rates, as there will always be multiple factors at play.

If you are dealing with a major brand with a considerable marketing budget, push for your rates. However, when dealing with an emerging brand that has the potential to be a big earner for you down the line, it can be prudent to cut them some slack and offer a discount for the first piece of work you complete.

You can send them your original fee as a negotiation strategy and then offer a discount. Sponsors seeing you apply a 50% discount on the invoice makes them feel like they are getting a great deal.

You can develop strong brand partnerships through simple skills. For example, if you manage to get in at the ground floor with a growth brand, you can end up riding that wave of growth right along with them and negotiate better prices.

Are you struggling with confidence? Once you have developed strong relationships with brands, you can get confidence in your work and recognise that it has real monetary value to the brand.

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A few reminders about payments

You must agree with the potential sponsor, in writing, the following details.

  1. A detailed description of the kind of service you’ll provide
  2.  The timeline for completing the assignment and check-ins along the way
  3. The total rate for completing the project within the agreed timeframe 
  4. Your payment terms (typically 30 days from the invoice date) and whether you will be charging VAT

The main issue tends to be a lack of organisation regarding the consistency and accuracy of their invoicing process. If you manage your client billing haphazardly, you will receive haphazard payments in return. 

You can improve payment consistency by focusing on the quality and timing of your invoices. Learn how to deal with sponsors from a relationship management standpoint. In fact, by educating yourself on basic contractual agreements you can get the confidence you need to stand your ground.

Simple measures like this resolve 90% of late payment issues upfront by avoiding confusion before work on the project commences.

Negotiate with confidence

Flexibility and confidence in your ability to deliver value are crucial when negotiating with partners. You must be flexible and adaptable to your partners’ needs. Don’t box yourself into a limited position by saying you will only accept certain types of work.

In fact, building negotiation skills can help you take it to the next level. Align your ability to create engaging content with the marketing needs of specific brands.


Looking for help building your brand online? Check out the Creative Impact Collective and get a business coach right in your pocket.

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