Influencers: How To Get Your First Brand Collabs

August 13, 2020

If your Instagram page is established and you are ready to start joining collabs, congratulations! You have worked really hard to get to this point so *high five*. If you aren’t quite there yet, check out these helpful guides to help get you collab-ready! We want to help you get started with brand collaborations. We will explain the different types of collabs, explain how to get into them, how to follow guidelines, and how to ultimately maintain a brand relationship. So, let’s get started!

Let’s Talk About The Different Types of Collaborations

There are two main types of Instagram collaborations, paid and trade. Both types have pros and cons so it is important to know the difference.

Trade Collaborations

I know what you are thinking, “I would rather make money.” Trade collabs offer a ton of value, even if you aren’t getting paid. Here are a few reasons trade collaborations are really great, especially if you are just starting out.

  1. You get free stuff! This is a pretty cool perk to being an Influencer (especially if it is something you were going to buy anyways). Brands send you free stuff to try out, share with your followers, and help them improve.
  2. You will gain experience as an Influencer. Trade collaborations give you an opportunity to communicate with a brand, understand their expectations, and meet those expectations without as much pressure and contract restrictions as with paid collaborations.
  3. Trade collabs allow you to get into the promotional headspace. During a collab, you are working for the brand while still maintaining your own brand image.
  4. You can build your portfolio. Working with brands during trade collaborations can really prove your worth when you are ready for some paid collabs!
  5. Exposure! Brands often repost photos of their influencers and this can help you gain followers.

Trade collaborations are really popular for Influencers who are just starting out because they typically require a smaller number of followers. This means you don’t need that blue checkmark or 10,000 followers! Great news, right? The basic requirement for trade collabs is a certain number of followers that varies for each brand and network (ApexDrop’s requirement is 3,000 followers) and a strong engagement rate (typically around 5%).

Paid Collaborations

Getting paid for sharing your thoughts about products you love is the dream, isn’t it? Let’s break down trade collaborations and all of the pros and cons.

  1. You get paid. This one is the main perk of doing paid collaborations. The amount of money you make from a sponsored post varies based on things like the brand, your follower count, your engagement rate, the demographics of your followers and the budget of the brand.
  2. They can increase your following if the brand shares your image.
  3. They have contracts that can sometimes be restricting. When brands are investing money into the collab, they are more likely to have strict rules for you to follow.
  4. You may need to post more frequently. Some paid collabs require more than just a one-and-done post. These collabs tend to be more work.

Paid collaborations are something to work up to and can be really exciting when you finally land one. These typically require a larger number of followers but still vary based on the brand or network. Paid collaborations can come with pretty specific contracts so make sure to do your diligence before accepting.

How To Join Collabs

Join an Influencer Network

One main way of getting trade collabs is by joining an influencer network. ApexDrop is an awesome influencer network.  Of course I am biased, so don’t just take it from me — read the reviews from our ApexInfluencers.  . At ApexDrop, most of the collabs are trade collabs where you receive a gift valued at $100 or more. The majority of the collabs are for a single post in Instagram, but specific details vary by brand.  At Apex, we value authenticity over everything, so you will never be forced to accept a collab that doesn’t align with your brand. Even better, if you get a product you don’t love, you are not required to post about it. You can apply to join by downloading our app HERE.

Receive DM’s from companies

Another common way to get collab opportunities is to be messaged by a brand directly. Some brands will reach out to you directly via DM. In this case, make sure you are checking your message requests regularly so you don’t miss them. A word of caution, double and triple check the authenticity of DM collab opportunities because there are a lot of fraud and scams out there that target influencers (rude, right?).

Reach out to brands yourself.

Don’t be afraid to reach out to a brand yourself. If you love a brand, reach out to them via DM or email and tell them that you would love to collab with them. These conversations tend to go better if you have been a past customer.  Otherwise,  they might think you are just on the hunt for free goodies. Be sure to come across as genuine in your message to them and talk about why you love their brand.

How To Follow Collab Guidelines

Every collab, trade or paid, comes with its own rules or requests from the brand. This is typically so they can regulate the content that is representing their brand. It is important to treat collaborations like a business deal, because ultimately that is what they are.

Look over the guidelines before accepting the collab. Make sure you are able to meet the brand’s expectations. Some collabs require one post and others require multiple. There may be special requests for the photo (e.g.,  maybe they only want product photos or the photo needs to be in a gym setting). Read through all of the guidelines to avoid confusion later on.

Pay attention to deadlines. Most collaborations will have a deadline to post by. Make sure that you are able to meet that time requirement and if you can’t, communicate that with the brand or agency.

How to maintain a relationship with the brand

Once you have completed all steps for the collab, follow-up with the brand and see if their expectations were met. Giving them some insight into how your followers reacted can be really helpful for them. Let them know that you really enjoyed the experience and would love to work with them again. If you haven’t yet, follow the brand’s Instagram page and interact with their posts so they know you are engaged and interested. Don’t be afraid to reach out to them every now and then to see if there are any new opportunities for a collaboration.

Here are a few key things to keep in mind when collabing with brands:

Only accept collabs that align with your brand.

People can smell out inauthentic posts from a mile away and false claims can really hurt your followers’ impression of you. Your followers trust you and your opinion. So only accept collaborations for products you would actually use, no matter how awesome the product looks or how much they are willing to pay you.

It doesn’t have to be one or the other.

A lot of people think you either do paid collabs or trade collabs, but that isn’t the case. If you are at a point where you can accept paid collaborations, you can still participate in trade collabs that offer higher value products. Keep your mind and eyes open because a product could come along that you really LOVE and are willing to share with your followers.

Don’t forget to apply to the ApexDrop network for access to tons of trade collabs. We suggest you apply even if you focus mainly on paid collabs because you never know when an awesome product will present itself!


About the Author

Alex Sienerth is the Social Media Coordinator at ApexDrop. She has also built her personal brand @alexsiene to over 120k total followers across TikTok, Instagram, and Youtube. She is no stranger to the struggles of growing a social media presence. Have questions about this article or an idea for a future one? Contact her at

About ApexDrop

ApexDrop is a network of creators seeking education and brand partnerships.  We welcome influencer accounts with at least 3,000 organic followers to apply to our network to be eligible to receive free product gifts.