A YouTuber’s Guide to Working With Brands - From Affiliate Marketing to Sponsorships
When you’re starting to monetize your YouTube channel, the YouTube Partner Program is probably the first place you start. Revenue from ads and Super features makes up a significant part of many YouTubers’ income, after all.
YouTube affiliate marketing comes soon after that.
However, more involved brand partnerships are a huge opportunity for YouTubers with an engaged audience. Working with brands provides an income stream that’s both reliable and independent of YouTube’s revenue policies.
But what are the different ways of generating revenue from brands? And how do you find partnerships in the first place? Here are the answers.
To start with, the most accessible form of working with brands is affiliate marketing.
Affiliate marketing means that you feature certain products in your videos and add affiliate links to your video descriptions. Whenever a viewer clicks on your YouTube affiliate link and buys the product, you earn a commission.
To generate income this way, you have to join affiliate programs. Many major brands offer them – often, it’s enough to Google “become an affiliate” and the name of a brand in your niche.
Plus, online marketplaces such as Amazon also have across-the-board affiliate programs, meaning they’re not tied to a specific product.
One thing that’s crucial to know, though, is that you must declare it if you’re part of an affiliate program, or any other kind of paid promotion. This is a legal requirement in many countries.
Usually, a notice in your video description saying that you may earn a small commission if viewers buy products through your links is enough. YouTube Studio will also ask you to declare whether an upload contains paid promotion.
Next up, brand sponsorships involve a direct agreement between YouTubers and companies.
Your end of the bargain is raising the visibility of a certain brand or product in return for direct financial compensation. In other words, paid posts.
In addition, YouTubers often receive promotional merchandise, samples of products to feature in their videos, as well as discount codes or promos for your viewers.
Common types of videos that are the result of brand sponsorships include unboxing videos, fashion hauls, and reviews.
Unboxing, fashion haul, and review videos are common forms of brand-sponsored posts.
When you go for a brand sponsorship, it’s important to stick to your values and be honest with your audience. Only promote products that you truly like, otherwise your viewers will end up feeling deceived sooner rather than later.
To stay authentic, it’s also better to be transparent about where you got products from and why.
For instance, it’s no use pretending that you’ve been using a product for a while if you haven’t. Your audience will see through that. Instead, it’s totally fine to be upfront and say that you’ve only just come across a product – but that you really enjoy it.
Or that you really don’t: It is also perfectly fine and authentic to criticize a product (read the contract fine print, though). Black tech YouTuber Marques Brownlee aka MKBHD, for example, is famous for his honesty in reviews.
Becoming a Brand Ambassador
One step up from having a brand sponsorship is becoming a brand ambassador. Brand ambassadors represent, advertise, and support companies. They are meant to embody a certain company’s mission and values.
Your most important job as a brand ambassador is to put a human face on a brand, which is otherwise intangible. Your audience trusts you. As a brand ambassador, you’re there to introduce the company to them, inspire trust, and answer questions that they might have.
Becoming a brand ambassador involves the highest level of commitment when it comes to brand collaborations. It means that you’re ready to associate yourself completely with a company.
That’s why it’s essential to be sure that you identify with the company’s values and message.
How to Find Brand Partnerships
There are several ways to go about finding brand partnerships. To benefit from them, you don’t need to have a huge audience on YouTube – just one that’s active and engaged.
As mentioned above, YouTube affiliate programs are relatively easy to find.
In addition, there are several companies that specialize in connecting brands and influencers on platforms like YouTube and Instagram. Here are some well-known platforms to check out:
Here, you can sign up for a profile and wait for brands to reach out to you. However, some of these platforms do have requirements for audience sizes or engagement metrics.
YouTube itself runs BrandConnect – formerly FameBit – which, however, has been languishing in beta for a long time. Other platforms make it somewhat easier for brands to find you, such as TikTok’s Creator Marketplace.
Another way to connect with brands is to do outreach yourself. See what brands sponsor other influencers in your niche – whether that’s on YouTube or on other platforms. Then, target them directly through social media or email.
A final way to go to find brand partnerships is through a talent management agency. If you sign up for a professional agency, they will typically find and negotiate brand deals for you – for a cut of the revenue. While this can take a load off your mind, it is also far less flexible than you would be on your own.
❗ Double-Check Before You Sign
In any case, before accepting brand deals, make sure that they’re fair. Unfortunately, some brands have started to exploit creators, offering deals that demand a lot of work in return for little compensation.
How much brands pay creators varies wildly, however. Some “sponsorship offers” are even outright scams.
To create more transparency, and help creators get paid more equitably, F*** You Pay Me was launched recently.
FYPM’s purpose is to serve as an equivalent of Glassdoor for creators, where they can leave reviews of brand collaborations, compare rates for ads, and share information to help negotiate sponsorship deals.
Collaborating with brands is a fantastic way to generate income from your YouTube channel. By harnessing YouTube affiliate marketing, sponsorships, or even becoming a brand ambassador, you’ll be able to benefit from the mechanics of the creator economy.
Throughout the process, though, it’s important to stay authentic – to recommend only brands and products that you genuinely trust, and work with companies that treat creators fairly.
That way, you’ll be able to generate a profit, help brands you believe in, and give a great experience to your audience.