382: 4 Tips for Negotiating Sponsored Content Contracts and Setting Your Rates with Jenny Meassick

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Two people shaking hands and the title of Jenny Meassick's episode on the Food Blogger Pro Podcast, 'Negotiating Sponsored Content Contracts.'

This episode is sponsored by Clariti.


Welcome to episode 382 of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork interviews Jenny Meassick from Chocolate & Lace about how she works with brands and negotiates sponsored content contracts.

Last week on the podcast, Bjork chatted with Katie Webster from Healthy Seasonal Recipes about the process of developing rock-solid recipes for your readers. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.

Tips for Negotiating Sponsored Content Contracts

There are so many ways you can earn money as a food creator, one of which is by working with brands and creating sponsored content. And that’s what we’re talking about today with Jenny from Chocolate & Lace!

Jenny’s been blogging for over ten years, and she currently earns the majority of her blogging income by working with brands. She has a very strategic approach when it comes to sponsored content, and we’re really excited to share her process with you in this episode.

You’ll hear her best tips for negotiating sponsored content contracts, how she sets her rates, how she nurtures strong relationships with the brands she works with, and more. We hope you enjoy this episode!

A quote from Jenny Meassick’s appearance on the Food Blogger Pro podcast that says, 'The biggest thing that I'm looking for is what they want with my content, where they're going to be putting it, and for how long.'

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • How Jenny started sharing content online
  • Why she doesn’t want to become a full-time blogger
  • Why she decided to start sharing both food and lifestyle content
  • How she approaches doing sponsored content
  • Her best tips for negotiating sponsored content contracts
  • How exclusivity works
  • Her best tips for setting your rates for sponsored content
  • What ‘in perpetuity’ means
  • How she approaches pitching to brands
  • Why she recommends following up with brands you’re working with frequently

Resources:

About This Week’s Sponsor

We’re excited to announce that this week’s episode is sponsored by our sister site, Clariti!

With Clariti, you can easily organize your blog content for maximum growth. Create campaigns to add alt text to your posts, fix broken images, remove any broken links, and more, all within the Clariti app.

Sign up for the Clariti waitlist today to receive:

  • Access to their limited-time $45 Forever pricing
  • 50% off your first month
  • Optimization ideas for your site content
  • An invitation to join their exclusive Slack community
  • And more!

You can learn more and sign up here.

If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions for interviews, be sure to email them to [email protected].

Food Blogger Pro logo with the words 'Join the Community' on a blue background

Transcript (click to expand):

Bjork Ostrom: This episode is sponsored by Clariti, that’s C-L-A-R-I-T-I.com, and I’m going to give you a really specific example of how you can use Clariti if you sign up today. And that is post or page-specific tracking of changes that you’re making. And you can use the notes area within Clariti to make a note anytime that you make a change. An example of when you’d want to do this, let’s say that you’re switching over some of your YouTube videos to be AdThrive or Mediavine video players. You want to make sure that you’re tracking to see, when you look back three months later, the change or the impact that had. And personally what we’ve noticed as we’ve worked on content is you forget. If you don’t have a system, if you’re not making a note of that somewhere, you’ll forget.

Bjork Ostrom: And so within Clariti, there’s the ability to leave a note anytime that you’re making a change or improvement on a piece of content to allow you to go back and see how that change impacted things. There’s lots of other ways that you can use Clariti, but I thought it’d be helpful just to give a really specific example. If you want to see what those other ways are, you can go to clariti.com/food to get 50% off your first month. Again, that’s C-L-A-R-I-T-I.com/food to get 50% off of your first month. You can start taking notes on the changes you’re making and explore all the other features. Thanks to Clariti for sponsoring this episode.

Bjork Ostrom: Hello, hello. You’re listening to the Food Blogger Pro podcast. This is Bjork. We do this podcast to help publishers, creators, influencers, whatever you want to call yourself or what you’re after. We do this to help you. We want you to learn how to do new tricks, learn new insights, learn new ways of thinking about your business. And I think this interview with Jenny Meassick from Chocolate & Lace will really help with that because she’s talked about her desire to stay in her career. She really likes her job. She has a successful career in finance. She’s going to be talking about how she balances the work that she does as a creator and a publisher, and also creates a really good income from that, and the mindset that she has.

Bjork Ostrom: But also talks about things like negotiation and structuring deals, and how she’s able to connect with different brands. So as much as possible, we want to have conversations from different angles, and this is an angle that I think is an important one, which is somebody who’s using their business, using the brand that they’ve built, not as a pursuit of the thing that they want to do full time, but as a creative outlet that also is income producing. And that’s a really great thing for a lot of people and the end goal for a lot of people. So it’s going to be a great interview.

Bjork Ostrom: If you have any desire to engage with this podcast community, I wanted to mention something real quick, which is a Facebook group that we have. So if you’re interested in joining the podcast Facebook group where we have conversations around the different interviews and sometimes we collect questions from that group to potentially be asked on the podcast, you can join by going to foodbloggerpro.com/facebook and see what’s happening within that group and join the conversation there.

Bjork Ostrom: But for now, let’s jump into the conversation with Jenny. Jenny, welcome to the podcast.

Jenny Meassick: Hello, hello.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, it’s good to be here. We’re going to be talking about a few different things today, your journey as a creator, we’re coming up on 10 years for you creating content online, and some of the pivots that you’ve had along the way. And we’re also going to be talking about what it looks like to balance that. You talk about on your site this idea of being a weekend blog because you’re a full-time head of marketing CMO, is that right?

Jenny Meassick: Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: The head of marketing for a finance company, so you’re doing your blog as a side hustle, but also doing it where you’re creating an income. And you’ve talked about that on your blog, and how you’re strategically thinking about pricing sponsor content as an example, so we’re going to be talking about that. So some fun things that we’re going to hit, but we always like to rewind the tape and bring it back to when you started, 2012. You started as purely a recipe blog. Is that right?

Jenny Meassick: That’s correct, yeah. I actually started as a baking blog.

Bjork Ostrom: Okay. So even more specifically, baking. What was it called then, and what was your idea with starting it?

Jenny Meassick: Yeah, so actually I started my blog when I was on my first maternity leave, stuck in a house with a newborn baby and just bored out of my mind. Now, anyone who’s been a parent knows that you’re never actually bored, you have plenty of things to do, but just really creatively challenged. And so that was right around the time that Instagram started to turn and hit, and so I was quick to the platform and started baking, hence the first name it was called was the Chocolate Covered Kitchen. I later then in 2015 transferred to the name Chocolate & Lace, which was very trendy back in 2015. Bloggers picked their two favorite things and named their blog like that. If I could go back, I would definitely change it for SEO purposes. But started just posting pictures on Instagram, and if you scroll back, the photos are absolutely hideous, please don’t. But I found that other people, whether they’re mothers, women, really like to see what I was doing, what I was cooking, helping them meal plan for their families, and just create some ideas for busy people.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Am I remembering right within your story there was a period of time where you were focused on the site full-time, or was that in the early stages when you were on maternity leave? Would be curious to know your relationship with focusing on the blog and your platform full-time versus deciding to step into the finance world and focusing on that?

Jenny Meassick: Yeah, so I tried to be a stay-at-home mom for about a month, and I found that that job was way too hard and I quit. So I’ve always worked full-time, and the goal of starting the blog was never to turn it into a business or a side hustle or even monetize it. It was really just a creative outlet. And I actually taught myself WordPress from a book that I borrowed from the library. And very, very painful process of starting that website, but it was really just something I didn’t think anyone other than my best friend might read, right? And so early on it was just easy recipes for busy people that I focused on. And then probably about 2015, 2016, I actually transferred it and started to open it up more into a lifestyle blog. And a number of things started happening with that. What I found in the sponsorship stage and space was that brands might still want a food recipe or a product placement, but they actually were looking to expand beyond just food bloggers and get into the lifestyle stage. And this is when lifestyle was blowing up, if you’ll. So it’s always been a side hustle. It’s something that people have said, “Would you ever consider going full-time?” And I’ve noodled it around a little bit, but ultimately I’ve just come too far in my career that I love. I absolutely love my career to be able to say that. So yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: I love having conversations with guests like yourself because I think it helps to reframe or to remind us what it is that we’re after, and I think what it is that we’re after is doing work that we love and showing up every day and feeling aligned with what our day looks like, what it is that we’re working on. For some people that might mean building a thing, owning the thing, focusing on that full time, but for a lot of people and a handful of guests that we’ve had, who even would have the ability to make that transition, they just really love what they do, and their blog or their platform or their business, whatever you would want to call it, becomes something that is icing on the cake, where if your career is the main focus and what you really love is that career, then you are layering on this additional thing that you also really love. And bonus, the thing that you love has the ability to also potentially earn side income or at the very least pay for itself. But as you’ve talked about, it can be pretty substantial in terms of what you’re able to do with a side hustle, a side income. So before we get there, I’m interested to hear the transition going from focusing on recipes and baking to lifestyle, because I think one of the things that would change within that is in the niche of food, one of the things people often think about is ranking for SEO. Does that mindset exist within the lifestyle world, or is it more aligned towards you have a group of people who are following you, who are connected to you, and it’s your ability to speak to those people on social platforms or on the blog is where a lot of the valuable interaction comes from? So I’d be interested to hear filling that picture out a little bit.

Jenny Meassick: So I look at myself in the blogger space to fit into two buckets, both the food blogging space and the lifestyle space. And within the lifestyle space, there’s a lot of fashion bloggers or outfit bloggers or home decor bloggers, and within each of those niches there’s a little bit of a difference. But the reason why I gravitate mostly towards the food blog space is because food blogging I found to be a game that people show up for and they take dead seriously, and they’re here to win. And so when I think about this hobby on steroids turned side business, one thing I attribute any success I’ve had to is I’ve always been really strong at being able to run a business. And so thinking of something like SEO, it was something I didn’t even know what it stood for a number of years, right? It was something that I hadn’t implemented and still implementing it to this day to have that goal of traffic and ad revenue, and that was something that just wasn’t even on my radar. But I do find that the food blogger space is much stronger in terms of everyone’s trying to get on Mediavine, everyone has a SEO audit, and they’re nailing all those down. And then I’m experiencing in the lifestyle stage it’s more of that influencer space where they’re building communities, and so they’re monetizing more through sponsorships, even things like custom newsletters or having their own communities, and then eventually whether it’s a digital or physical product. And so it’s just really fascinating to see all the different facets that you can take advantage of as a creative.

Bjork Ostrom: So I was just having a conversation the other day with somebody about… I’m trying to think. I think this was actually a book. It wasn’t a conversation. It was a really well written book that felt like a conversation. It was by a guy named Joshua Becker, and he talks about minimalism, and he just wrote a book called, “Things That Matter,” that I’m reading right now. I think it’s within this, now that I’m saying it I’m questioning and maybe it was a conversation. Regardless, the point of it all was the importance of different industries and looking at spending time with and getting exposure to other industries, and the ability that gives you to look at something a little bit different. And you see that in niches and online businesses where the influencer space is going to approach things really differently than people in the food space. And even there’s just a couple things that you talked about for me that I was like, “Oh, interesting,” and one of them was custom newsletter. Can you talk about what you mean by that and what that is?

Jenny Meassick: Yeah, and I know that food bloggers do this as well in working on that custom, but having a paywall behind the newsletter or subscriber fees somehow, so that way they’re getting first access. Because again, the difference from a lifestyle Blogger to a food Blogger is usually about the person, right? It’s Instagram versus Pinterest almost. Pinterest, they’re there to learn what you can teach them and what you can do for them. It’s all about them. Instagram, it’s all about you and the person. So to be able to gain access to this person’s first… Let’s say they’re having a milestone in their life, right? Maybe it’s their wedding. Maybe they’re getting engaged. Maybe it’s their first baby. Whatever it may be. Lifestyle bloggers are actually monetizing their lives, and so to get first access to the first round of engagement photos or their wedding in Venice, the whole thing is just really, really fascinating. And I find that from observation, because I’m not yet doing that type of monetization from a custom email newsletter or anything like that, although I do have a strong community. They’re then taking it to products, right? There are a lot of lifestyle bloggers that even have online exclusive communities. And so they’re taking it from more than just a Facebook group, right? They’re offering all of this custom content, but it’s centered around the person.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, it’s interesting. They are in a lot of ways the product. I think of Substack as an example. I know some food creators who are using Substack to create… They have a will have a free newsletter within that, but then a paid version that’s premium. This isn’t exactly the same, but I just was having a conversation with Food Blogger Pro members on a live Q and A with Nick from Side Hustle Nation, and he was talking about paved.com, which I wanted to point out for anybody who might be interested in… They do sponsorships within emails, so like AdThrive or Mediavine does ads on a blog post, paved.com does sponsorships within newsletters, and something that we’re experimenting with and looking at. So, yeah, all of those different things exist in different industries and allow you to look at things differently. And it’s one of the reasons I love going to conferences that aren’t always food specific is because I’ll go and learn from finance bloggers or fitness bloggers, or to your point, lifestyle bloggers or creators, and everybody is bringing different ideas and strategies to the table, so I really love that. Well, before we get too far away from that previous conversation that you’re having, one of the things that you mentioned was being really business-oriented in your approach to things. And I think of your background, obviously marketing is what you do in your day-to-day, but then also you have your personal finance license, so you really understand the business, the marketing, the money side of things. When you think of that as it relates to what you’re building on your site and with your following, what does that filter look like for you to look at it with a marketing and business and finance perspective?

Jenny Meassick: Yeah. So for me, it starts with capacity because I’ve got two daughters and a full-time, very busy career. It’s what can I do within my capacity and where is the biggest bang for my buck, right? And so I’ve gotten better over the years at leaning into the parts that I’m really great at and then leveraging everything else. And so everything from that and the day-to-day of the blog and different things like that. But for me, the unlock really came the year through the pandemic where I had this fantastic opportunity as a lot of food bloggers and other bloggers had to do what they love and be able to do it from home and create money online. And for me, not only could I do that at home, but I could do that with my kids either helping me, participating with me, or just being there, right? It really checked that box. And so for me as a business owner, not only am I able to see very easily from an accounting perspective and just like, “Okay, well if I make these investments, here’s how it’s going to pay off.” But I think where it helps is in the long-term planning of what I want to achieve, and then I reverse engineer what needs to happen. And so for me, the main source of income that I earn from my blog is actually through sponsorship. It is not through ad income yet. Fingers crossed. It’s a big goal of mine, but just not there yet. And so what I realized through the year of the pandemic is actually less is more, that I wanted to stop saying yes to sponsorships for a couple hundred bucks and go for longer term contracts with just a select few brands and businesses that I want to work with.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. How did you do that? I think when people hear that, it’s like, “Yes, I want to do that as well.” You are doing less work, it’s not necessarily even less work, but it’s less work for potentially the same amount of money or the payments where you could do, let’s say, 10 posts for $200, or if you can find one really good brand to work with, you could work with them and get paid $2,000. That is obviously ideal, but how do you actually go about pulling that off? Well, yeah, how did you pull that off, and then I have some follow-up questions after that.

Jenny Meassick: So some of it was luck, some reaching out to me, brands finding me. And so just how I package myself from everything from my media kit to being able to show actual case studies of the lift I’ve gotten with former brands through their products or through their services. And the other portion is me saying, “Okay, who do I want to work with? Let’s turn the table. And sure, it would be nice to get asked all the time, but who would I actually love to work with? And even if it’s right now just a dream, how do I get there?” And so that came with some pitching. But for 2021, I actually had a goal of having five annual contracts of anywhere, and where I ended was anywhere between 10 to 20K per contract. And that to me was so much more rewarding than doing all of these little jobs. Part of how I got there in the contracting standpoint was being able to understand and negotiate a contract. I think it’s a really, really critical piece that a lot of bloggers are missing, and a lot of bloggers also don’t have capacity to hire consult.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure. How do you do that?

Jenny Meassick: Yeah. So for me, I’m lucky that I have a lot of resources around me. Being in the finance world, I was able to call on contract lawyers, copyright lawyers, right? And of course that does cost a little bit of an investment. You’re paying them their hourly rate. But the first time I learned how to work a contract and it worked, I was like, “Oh my God, why have I not been doing this whole time?”

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. What do you mean, “And it worked?” When you say, “And it worked,” what does that mean?

Jenny Meassick: So this contract happened to be with Ford, the car dealership, and it was for a holiday campaign. I needed to shoot X amount of photos and create the content, but then also distribute it. So we agreed on this set of deliverables. And at the time I was really learning about exclusivity. It was also over a holiday. And this is where it really depends on where you’re at, you’re following, what you bring to the table, the quality of your content, how big your market is. And I remember reading and understanding that they actually didn’t just want a 30 to 60 day standard exclusivity. They wanted us six months. So for six months I had to say no to every other competitor, right? And it’s a game, right? They don’t know, maybe I have five car competitors coming to talk to me, maybe I have none. But because of exclusivity, I asked them to actually double my rate and they didn’t bat an eye. And I just took a little leap of faith and thought, “Oh my God, is this audacious,” or, “Are they going to break this contract?” But I made the ask and it was a no brainer. So it taught me a lot.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s interesting to hear you talk about that. I think sometimes we think of a standard rate, and this is how much I charge for an Instagram post, but really what happens when you start to look at it like you’re talking about, is you can break it down into different components and it’s almost like, to use a car analogy because we’re talking about Ford, what they’ll say is, “Hey, the base is $22,000,” but then it’s like, “But if you want windows that roll down, then you have…” All of these additions start to add up, and I feel like the same thing can apply in the world of sponsor content, working with a brand, where you can say, “Hey, baseline here’s what it is for us just to work together.” And exclusivity, I think about Pinch of Yum and we’ll work with a grocery brand like ALDI and they’ll say, “Hey, there’s exclusivity.” You can’t also then tomorrow work with Target. There’s exclusivity built in, and so that’s going to result in an increased cost in that working relationship. And there’s multiple different components that you can look at and break out and say, “This is going to result in an additional fee,” or, “It’s going to cost a little bit more.” So when you look at working with a brand, what are those different components that you break out as different variables that make up the eventual cost of working together?

Jenny Meassick: Yeah. So there are four. So the first one is what does it cost to actually create the content? So it’s any supplies. If you’re doing a recipe, those material costs, maybe you need to purchase some props. There are brands that will ship props right to you. Stop is a great one. They will just ship to you and it’s so nice because you don’t have to go shopping. But if you have to go shopping and you have to purchase a product, well what does that product cost? What’s your time cost? And then your actual rate to create that content, right? And so there isn’t a single contract that can be negotiated without quality content and you knowing and being confident in what you’re able to bring to the table. The second bucket that I look at is, okay, well now that I’ve created the content, it’s costed X amount of dollars. What is the cost to distribute it? So do they want it on my channels? How many channels? Which channels? How many following? Do they want to use it for ads, whitelisting? Do they want to use it on their channels and maybe even their website? Every now and then I’ll have someone that wants to use it in print or on a store kiosk or something like that. So just taking all those different places that you can distribute the content and saying okay, well what’s the cost to distribute this, how long’s the usage, if it’s not on something that’s own and operated by me, and looking at just all that legal jargon to make sure that you’re not signing off your life for something in perpetuity, but that you are aware of where your content is going and what costs are associated with that. So that’s the second bucket. The third is exclusivity, and this definitely depends on some seasonality as well. If you’re getting an ask in holiday, which is the busiest time for creators, if you say yes to them you’re going to say no to someone else. How much money will you be leaving on the table if you can’t do both, right? Again, the timeframe. And then the last one is the admin cost. And so there are some brands that just let you do whatever you want and they’re really reliant and trusting in you to deliver that, and then there are other brands that you’re creating an idea, you’re pitching it to them, you are creating a mood board. I provide a recap of insights that is a customized template to every single brand that I have. I also have a feedback template that I ask for within the program, within the terms that I’m asking for feedback. And so I add all those things up and put a cost to it. I think lastly, two other things and just my philosophy is knowing your worth, knowing what’s out there and what other creators are getting paid. I’m right in the middle. I’m definitely not a 100k plus following, but I’m also not brand new, right? And so the way that I think about it is that if I spend my time here, if I spend my time creating this content for this brand, it means I’m giving up something. I’m giving up something for work. I’m giving up another deal. I’m giving up spending time with my kids. Maybe it’s just playing with my mini golden doodle, whatever that is. What does that amount mean to me, and what’s going to be worth it to me, in addition to do I love the brand and is this aligned with my community and so on and so forth?

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. So within each one of those variables and even the idea of knowing your worth, what I hear you saying in that is your time is valuable and don’t discount how valuable your time is. But I’m curious to know the question that people would say right off the bat with any of these situations, “So how much do I charge?” And I think what’s really helpful is for you to say, “Hey, I had a goal of getting five ongoing relationships. And did you say five ongoing relationships in the 10 to 20k?”

Jenny Meassick: Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: For those, Yeah. And was that for each relationship or is that cumulatively? So that’s a substantial amount of money. That’s a full-time income depending on where you live, but full-time income for a side hustle. And were you able to get there or was that a stretch goal? So you were able to accomplish that?

Jenny Meassick: Absolutely. I had one brand, it was a food brand, that I had a phenomenal contract with for an entire year, and it surpassed some of those. And so you have to leverage. Not every contract is going to be a big fish, but can you get one or two big fish and then work with some smaller to medium sized fish that you absolutely love and is aligned with your community and what you love to do? And it still just blows my mind, and I come from a place of gratitude, that someone actually paid me money to talk about cheese for a year and take pictures of it. And I can’t think of a better thing to do in life than to eat cheese and take photos of it. But had I not had knowledge of the space, knowledge of what the going rates were, lacked my own value and my own worth of the content that I could produce, I wouldn’t have been able to get there.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Where did you get that knowledge from?

Jenny Meassick: So one book really changed my life. I’m sure you’ve heard of it. It’s Brittany Hennessy’s, “Influencer”. And that book changed my life and actually taught me how to negotiate that forward contract. And if you know anything about Brittany, she actually used to work in this space and hired influencers, hired creators, and she does a phenomenal job. She has all sorts of groups that she breaks things down for, and education, and it just made sense. And so being able to see behind the scenes, because you’re either working direct to brand, you’re working with a PR agency. I also really try to stay away from the platforms, because I just don’t find that they’re competitive in their pricing, it’s-

Bjork Ostrom: You mean a platform where there’s millions of creators and influencers and then there’s… Yeah. And really I think, I don’t want to speak too broadly to those, but the play there is usually one brand with a budget that goes to the platform, and the platform then divides that up to the creators. And it’s supply and demand. If you have a bunch of people who are on this platform, the chances are really high that there’s going to be a lot of people who are willing to do the work for not a lot of money. And so the economic dynamic there is potentially a disadvantage. Might be a good experience, might be good to get your feet wet, but, to your point, controlling the process through and through is important.

Jenny Meassick: Totally. And I would also recommend just calling some of the PR agencies even locally and just saying, “Do you have an influencer program? When you do, what do you look for,” and just asking for advice. You can learn a lot that way and the business behind the business, and it offers a lot of insight.

Bjork Ostrom: What were some of the things… I just pulled up this book. I’d actually never heard of it, but Brittany would be-

Jenny Meassick: Stop. You haven’t?

Bjork Ostrom: No. I read your post and you had mentioned it there, and then you mentioned it here, but I had never heard of it before then. And if she’d be available, she’d be a great interview on the podcast.

Jenny Meassick: I will introduce you.

Bjork Ostrom: Great. Yeah. You’d mentioned a few, but what were the takeaways? Because you said, it was pretty powerful, I think you said it was life-changing. What were the things that you learned from that book that were so impactful?

Jenny Meassick: How to set a formula for creating your rates. My formula is not exact to her book, but that really helps set the foundation for me to just say you should be able to have these buckets. The other thing that she shares is that I would never email out a pitch and say, “Okay, it costs line item for this, and line item for that.” You just give a number, and if they are pushing back or they’re asking you why and you want to explain, then you can take that and explain it. But I’m not pitching things line item. I’m pitching one number. I’m making one ask. So the power of exclusivity was a huge one and a huge learning for me. And she does a really good job of just explaining what’s going on behind the scenes. And I feel like even though the book, it’s a couple years old now, it’s still a lot of really relevant information. And then through her newsletters and other items, she does a really good job of just keeping us up to speed.

Bjork Ostrom: Hm. That’s awesome. We’ll be sure to link to that in show notes. I’m sure some people will pick up that book as well. So what does a day look like for you? I’m guessing the role of CMO is really demanding, and you’re a mom and you want to prioritize other things in your life, but you’re also working on this side hustle that’s producing substantial income. In your about page, you talk about it being a weekend blog. Is that really what it is? Do you reserve the weekend for working on your blog and thinking about things like this, or is it lunch and evenings and early mornings? How do you make it happen in a normal day to day or week to week?

Jenny Meassick: Yeah, so it’s a mix, but I’m a big fan of batching things that need to be done. So holiday content will always be batched and done together just from a shooting flow, working with a photographer. And so I’ll batch it by likeness, so if I’m doing recipes or food or working with a alcohol company, for example, I’ll batch all that together. And then lifestyle, I’ll have a different photographer and so I’ll batch that together. So content production is really for me about batching, and it is mostly on the weekends. Every now and then I’ll make an exception when my schedule allows, but it’s not an every day thing. I wish it was. And there are some days that I try and then I fall short, right? I think one of the things about having a lot of balls in the air is that you have to be okay when some drop, and that has to be okay with you. You can’t beat yourself up about it because tomorrow’s another day. So working 40, 50 hours every now and then. I have some travel in my nine to five, if you will. It’s a high autonomous role, and it also keeps me in this space of marketing, and so I’m constantly bouncing ideas and trying new things between one thing or another. And I’ll say, “Well, I tried this on my blog. Will this work here,” or, “I tried this here and how would this work out for my blog?” So there’s a lot of parallels, although very different categories. And I think that overall you just really have to be passionate and love what you’re doing. Otherwise-

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. If you hated the activity, you wouldn’t want to do it on a weekend. So that’s part of it is finding something that is exciting for you, that you’re curious about, that you’re passionate about so when that time does come that’s non-work time that you end up actually doing work. The work itself better have a pull strong enough to bring you in.

Jenny Meassick: Right. Yeah. So-

Bjork Ostrom: One… Finish that thought and then I have another question.

Jenny Meassick: I’m sorry. I was just going to say so it’s getting the kids off to school, hitting go, getting them home, and then doing it again.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. What a day looks like, you mean?

Jenny Meassick: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: Yep. One of the things that you had mentioned before was some of the resources that you have because of the industry that you work in, and specifically talked about this idea of copyright attorneys, I think you said, or people who can review a contract. I think somebody from the outside would look at that and be like, “Oh man, that would be so nice to have a go-to for that.” And one of the things I’ve thought about is we’ve worked on business over the years is always who am I routing things to? If something comes into my inbox, who is the person that goes to help me with that? And over time we’ve started to get to the point where it’s like, “Okay, for the most part I can figure out where stuff is routed.” But I think when you’re in the early stages, you just don’t know. And I’ll do a quick shout out to Danielle Liss, who’s been on the podcast before and a part of Food Blogger Pro. She has a practice called LISS Legal, really familiar with this space. So for anybody who doesn’t have that, Danielle would be a great solution. But for you, can you talk about the different roles that you have on your team? Not that it’s like full-time people on your team, but it’s people supporting what you’re doing and taking weight off your shoulders when you don’t want to review a contract fully or whatever it might be. So who are those people?

Jenny Meassick: Right. So I definitely do not have a team, but the people that I tend to go to, like you said, if I had almost like a board of directors. I don’t have an attorney on retainer. What I did was I got an attorney as a consult, right? I hired an attorney to teach me here are the things that I should be looking for. And then I actually got a different contracting attorney’s perspective, so I met with two, because what I found was that at that time there weren’t people doing this specifically for influencers or for bloggers, and so there was still a lot of gray. The closest thing that they could compare it to was the entertainment industry. So if I have a very large contract where I just want to have a second set of eyes, I will hire on an ad hoc basis for that to be reviewed, but I don’t have an attorney on retainer. The other thing to know about attorneys, because I feel like there’s a lot of intimidation around attorneys, CPAs, finance people, is they’re all people just like everyone else, and if you can get some really powerful knowledge to leverage, you’ll go so much further when you have the right people around you. So I do have a CPA that specializes in working with small owned businesses. Both of those you do have to have in your state, or at least them have the license in your state. And then I have a handful of absolutely amazing photographers that I work with. One of the things that I do unofficially through my community and my blog is I have what’s called a little black book. And I was actually sharing with Leslie it would be so great if Food Blogger Pro had a little black book of names that they could just put their stamp on. And so I try in my community, because it’s focused on women, to have all women owned businesses or women leaders, women positions that are in my circle that I can confidently say, “Okay, I put my stamp on this person and refer them out.”

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that’s cool. And Leslie, for those who aren’t familiar, a Food Blogger Pro team member, does a ton of work to make the podcast happen, and any members will know and be familiar with Leslie. And she’s awesome. So shout out. She’ll be editing this podcast, so I’ll be able to do a little real time shout out to Leslie and all the great work that she does. So the contracts. Let’s say it’s a contract that’s not big enough to justify working with an attorney. You’re reviewing that. What are the things that you’re keeping an eye out for, and then how do you feel confident enough to go back to somebody and say, “Hey, this should be changed?” Are you giving them language around what you want to be changed, or just saying, “Hey, this shouldn’t be exclusive,” as an example, “Can you update the contract to reflect that,” and then they use their legalese?

Jenny Meassick: Yeah, I would not update a contract. I will redline it and I will ask for changes to be made if it’s something that I’m not comfortable with. I think this is a part where you have to be willing to walk away if there’s something that you’re not comfortable with, and that gets very, very hard to do, especially when there’s money tied to it. So this is where it’s really critical for you to have a set of values to your work. So the biggest thing that I’m looking for is what they want with my content, where they’re going to be putting it, and for how long. And I will usually work with an attorney if they’re looking for pictures of myself or pictures of my family. Those are times that I absolutely will not allow usage of my content. I want to own that. Anything with your face, you want a grip of control over than just a hands and pans photo or a picture of a recipe. And so the usage of the content is really, really important for me. A lot of brands do have influencer programs, and I can completely understand why from a brand standpoint they would have these programs, and they’re usually exciting brands and you want to work with them, you absolutely love the brands, but most of them ask for your content in perpetuity, which means forever and ever and ever. What that means is they can use your content forever, put it anywhere they want. And that’s just simply not okay, because even if it is a photo of… I’ll use an example. Hotels frequently do this. I may have done a hotel stay and worked with a hotel, and then six or seven years later I’ll see my photo pop up on their Instagram. I’m like, “Oh, okay. That was six years ago.” So I think that’s the area that you have to be careful for. And if you’re comfortable doing it in the first place, then ask for the extra dollars. If it’s not something you’re comfortable with, then have it removed. And you have to be really strong in not moving forward with anything that you’re not a hundred percent comfortable with, because you just don’t know how things are going to turn out.

Bjork Ostrom: I remember when a contract for Pinch of Yum early on the first time we came up against that, and I was like, “What?” And I don’t remember if I asked an attorney or whoever we were working with at the time, I was like, “What does this mean?” They were like, “Well, essentially it means they can use the name, the brand, the photo, the logo, anytime that they want forever.” And it’s like, “Oh, that’s probably not something that we want.” But you don’t know that when you’re first getting into it, and so I think it’s important to point stuff out like that just so people are aware of it as they’re looking into it, and specifically that phrase in perpetuity meaning forever. So the other thing that I would be interested to just dive into a little bit would be how these deals are actually coming about. You had mentioned some people would reach out to you, and then you’re reaching out to other brands as well, but can you talk about how you can do that well and ways that you’ve evolved that over time that other people might be able to learn from?

Jenny Meassick: Yeah. So I have to admit that one of my biggest areas of opportunities is to pitch more, and that really comes down to a capacity standpoint. And I’m very fortunate that the majority of brands I’ve worked with have come to me or found me. I also want to call out that if someone comes into my DMs, I completely ignore it because I don’t have time to filter through a lot of the stuff that might not be that valuable. And so I’m finding that even in terms of just filtering through opportunities, you have to be pretty strategic about what you open, what you read, what you forward, what you delegate, right? And so if someone-

Bjork Ostrom: Strategic so you’re not waiting through all of the spam and junk and-

Jenny Meassick: Right, because there’s a lot of it.

Bjork Ostrom: Protecting your head space.

Jenny Meassick: Yeah. There’s a lot of it. But when I am pitching, it’s typically a brand that I’ve already either shown organically or I talk about organically. And so what I will do is I have everything templated out, but I’ll customize that template to that brand. I’ll show them some of the work that I’ve already created just organically because I truly love their product. My audience also really loves it. And I’ll send that out with a link to my media kit. I have my media kit in a Google drive. I don’t send attachments. Attachments usually go to spam. And I’ll ask to start a conversation, and it’s not necessarily an ask for here are my rates, or I’ll either pitch an idea or ask to start a connection. And I think that you have to be able to, number one, not be afraid of rejection. There’s so much of this business that has nothing to do with you as a creator. A lot of it’s seasonality and budgets and what they’re looking for. And so go for no. It’s totally okay. A thank you, next attitude. No problem. And then secondly, you have to be in the business of building relationships. And that’s where the big wins are really going to come is when you can build relationships and be a lot less transactional in working with brands.

Bjork Ostrom: And what do you mean by that? How do you build a relationship?

Jenny Meassick: Yeah, so first off, although I have done campaigns completely through email, I want to get on the phone. I want to hear the person’s voice, and more importantly, I want to hear what’s important to them, what they want to achieve from a social media standpoint, what they want to achieve from a content standpoint, what is the best case scenario that they’re looking to get this partnership, and I want them to hear my voice and be assured that my job here is to make sure that you are happy with this partnership. It’s also a great opportunity to share expectations and make sure it’s a mutual fit, right? I don’t think there’s anything worse for a creator than having a brand that you’re really excited to working with, and then they fall flat on their part of the partnership, you know on the relationship. And I think that’s just really, really disappointing because it ends up being a waste of time, and as we’ve been talking about now, time is money. So when you are able to get on that Zoom, get on that phone call, ask for that meeting, I think it makes a world of a difference. And then I actually think it’s on the creator or the blogger or the influencer to routinely follow up. So if you’re supposed to be posting by certain dates or certain times, do that and then send them a link. Ask them how they like it. Sometimes you have to go through an approval process before you do that. So even after it’s posted, what you can do and something I do frequently is I will screenshot the top five comments, or in a lot of cases the DMs and I will put together a little recap throughout the terms, the time frame that we’re working together, not just only at the. At the end they’ll do a recap-

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. And being real time as it’s happening, yeah.

Jenny Meassick: Right, because I want them to be excited that they made the right decision in working with me. And as we’re strengthening the relationship, so in the beginning we’ve established the relationship throughout the term, say it’s three months, we’re strengthening the relationship, and at the end I want them to be really happy with the result. And if you don’t ask for feedback along the way, there’s a chance you could get misaligned. So it’s half and half. I find some brands want to approve it before it goes out, and others are just really trusting. They found the right creator and they hired you for a reason. And so you have to be able to ask for that feedback, and when they tell you don’t something, you need to change it as long as it’s still aligned with you and your brand.

Bjork Ostrom: Yep. What I hear so much of you saying, and I’m glad that we talked about this, is like it’s good customer support. This is good business. It’s good communication. And they are the customer. How are you supporting them? How are you making sure that what they want is aligned with what you can offer, and it’s also aligned with what you want to offer? And the point about jumping on a call to establish that connection, I think in this space it’s so easy for us just to operate in DMs and email and messages, but to actually get on the phone I think is one of the quickest ways to establish trust by hearing somebody’s voice. So love that as a point as well.I feel like we could talk for hours about this, and there’s probably layers and layers that we could go into it, but if anybody’s interested in learning a little bit more, I know you wrote a post about it, we’ll link to that in the show notes so people can check that out, specifically around your thoughts around getting your value and knowing your worth as it relates to sponsor content. But if anybody wants to reach out and connect, Jenny, where can they do that and how can they follow along with what you’re up to?

Jenny Meassick: Yeah, so I would love to be in your corner if you have any questions around contracting or rates. My Instagram is @jennymeassick, so it’s J-E-N-N-Y M-E-A-S-S-I-C-K. Send me a DM. I will respond to you as long as you’re not a brand, but I think that’s where I live and that’s the best place for connection.

Bjork Ostrom: Cool. That’s great. Jenny, really great to connect with you and thanks for sharing your story. I appreciate it.

Jenny Meassick: Thanks so much. Talk soon.

Leslie Jeon: Hey there. Leslie here from the Food Blogger Pro team. We really hope that you enjoyed this week’s episode of the podcast, and we so appreciate you taking the time to tune in. So in case you didn’t know, aside from the podcast, we also have the Food Blogger Pro membership, which is where we teach our members how to start, grow, and monetize their food blogs. And we have lots of great resources to help you along the way, including our courses, our community forum, our member-only Live Q and As, our deals and discounts, and more. And you get instant access to all of that when you sign up for a membership. And the exciting news that we have is that we’re now offering a new membership option. So in addition to our yearly membership, we now offer a quarterly membership, which is $99 a quarter. So instead of paying for the entire year, you would just pay for three months. So it’s a bit more of a flexible option if you want to try the membership out and see if it’s a good fit for you. But if you do sign up with our quarterly membership, you would get instant access to all of the amazing things I mentioned before, the courses, the forum, the Q and As, the list goes on and on. So we wanted to let you know about this exciting new membership option in case you wanted to try it out and see what Food Blogger Pro was all about. So if you’re interested and you want to learn more and potentially sign up, you can do so by heading to foodbloggerpro.com/join. And from there you can learn more about the membership and see all of our different payment options, including the new quarterly plan. We are so thankful for our wonderful Food Blogger Pro community. It’s full of just so many amazing food bloggers and content creators, and we would absolutely love to have you join. I think that’s all we’ve got for you today, though. Thanks again for being here, for tuning in, and until next time, make it a great week.

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