Issue #16

Ending a business relationship the right way

Ads and Sponsorships
11 min read
In this Article

Breaking up is hard to do, especially when it involves cutting ties in your business.

If you find yourself slogging through work because you aren’t inspired by the company’s vision, or feeling undervalued and underutilized, it’s time to reassess the working relationship.

While you may be tempted to jump ship right away, there could be steps you can take today to attempt to save the project.

In this blog post, we are going to explore the most common signs that an advertiser collaboration has gone awry and how you may be able to get it back on track. We also have tips to help you break things off calmly and professionally if it’s your better option.

How to break up with bad sponsors

Three signs you should think about ending a business relationship

When you start working with a new brand, you might do a happy dance in your living room before gushing to your friends about the new opportunity.

All of the hard work you’ve put into taking cool Instagram shots, formatting blog posts, and recording podcast episodes has finally paid off. But this seemingly hands-off, fully creative project can turn into really hands-on, highly collaborative content quickly.

When you’re creating content solely for your blog and your own readers, you only have to keep their needs in mind. Now that you are working with a brand, you’ll need to consistently communicate and meet their expectations in order to continually earn more work.

Some of your sponsored collaborations may go so smoothly, you’ll wonder why you didn’t start working with them sooner. Others, however, may not be as easy to navigate.

Let’s cover some of the signs that a sponsor or advertiser relationship may not be working out. It’s a hard thing to admit, but it’s a natural part of working with others.

Before you decide to call it quits with a sponsor or advertiser, we also have a few challenges to help you see if there are any additional steps you can take to save the project.

You feel pushed to publish content you’re not comfortable with

“I know this project may not exactly fit within your brand, but it could lead to bigger and better things!”

This response can be all too common when working with ad networks, agents, or even brands themselves. This mentality is not shared by everyone, of course, but it can be a hard attitude to confront when we first start collaborating with brands.

After deciding what brands you want to pitch, you may receive requests to write about subjects that don’t align with your brand or audience. Even if you pitched a different angle, the brand still has the opportunity to ask you to cover something else.

It may be tempting to say “yes” even when your gut says “no”. You may consider saying “yes” to nurture the relationship with the brand or for the extra income it will provide, but it can be a slippery slope.

It’s more important to keep the desires of your audience and the values of your own brand as your first priority. Sponsorship opportunities come and go, but your reputation is forever. Make sure you’re only partnering with brands on subjects you truly care about.

Challenge for content creators looking to establish boundaries

When you receive a new mass email from an ad network for a brand you’ve never heard or don’t feel your audience is a natural fit for, delete it. There will be other opportunities around the corner.

The more you try to make special exceptions for how the brand could potentially fit into your business, think instead about how it might dilute your brand.

This is a big reason why I recommend being proactive and pitching the brands you truly want to work with rather than waiting for opportunities to come your way.

Some of the mass emails you receive from ad networks may fit within your brand, which you should absolutely explore, but some of your best collaborations will come from direct brand pitches.

Communication between you and the advertiser has been lacking

When to break up with bad sponsors- bad communication

Creating sponsored content for well-known brands can sound like a dream. Many bloggers can’t wait to get into their creative zone and start independently snapping photos or writing blog posts, but there’s a lot more that goes into sponsorships than that.

What you don’t always see is the amount of time bloggers spend trading emails and phone calls with the brand’s marketing department. They could also be coordinating travel plans, explaining their project vision, or making sure their sponsored content meets the company’s legal guidelines.

There are many facets to creating sponsored content, but much of your collaboration’s success rides on your communication. If you find yourself feeling frustrated with your point of contact, it’s most likely because of the disconnect within your communication styles.

Challenge for content creators who want to optimize communication

Have you thought about if you and the advertiser simply have different communication styles? It may be as simple as voicing what process may work best for you rather than silently wishing your point of contact would change.

Instead of writing off the advertiser as the wrong fit, it may be worth asking them if they’re able to streamline their communication.

Maybe you’re irritated about getting multiple emails in your inbox a day. You could suggest that they put all of their notes from the day in one organized email and send it at the end of the day.

Maybe the advertiser likes to process things aloud on the phone but you’re never available at the same time. You could ask if they’d be willing to create a voice recording on their phone to send via email so you can listen to it on your own time and take notes.

Don’t be afraid to communicate what you need. While you’ll want to be more flexible for new brands you’re working with, it’s okay to express what works best for your own creative process. You can remind them that it helps you produce the most high value content, which is something advertisers can get behind.

You’re not earning what you feel your content is worth

When to break up with bad sponsors- not making what you're worth

If you started to work with a brand when you had far less followers and readers than you have now, you may be feeling like a price increase needs to happen. This feeling is totally natural, but knowing how to communicate a price increase can be tricky.

Since you are your own boss as a blogger and freelancer, no one will advocate or ask for a proper raise but you. While it may feel scary, it doesn’t have to be when you remember all the knowledge and experience you’ve gained.

The brand not only gets to connect with your new audience members, but you’ve probably added more internal or admin work to your process the more your brand has grown. There is more community interaction to handle and expenses that have been added to the projects.

It’s also smart to increase your pricing over time as you acquire new skills and more experience within your field of practice.

Challenge for content creators looking to increase their prices

To summarize, if your audience has grown or you’ve added more experience, it’s time to email or schedule a call with your point of contact to talk about a price increase.

Before your palms start to sweat, remember how you’ll communicate the added value you’re providing and how that translates into your new rate. This will help you feel more confident when you make the request.

Here’s a simple price increase letter to help:

Hi [name of contact here],

I hope your week is off to a great start! [any additional personal details]

I wanted to check in today and talk about my new pricing structure for [type of sponsored content you provide] that will kick in at the end of this quarter.

After growing my audience to [number of followers or readers] and adding [new skill] to my skillset, I’m excited to bring even more value to the sponsored content I can provide for you.

I would love to continue collaborating together next quarter on [what you provide for them]. Any [type of service] we work on together until then will be at my current rate of $XXX.

Thank you so much, and I look forward to hearing from you soon!

[your signature sign-off],
[your name]

What if the advertiser isn’t receptive to your price increase request?

This is the perfect opportunity to reassess what the collaboration is worth to you. Are you willing to continue working for the brand and producing content at the rate you’re at, or would you rather spend that time on other projects?

No one can decide what the best move for your brand is but you. If you need more time to decide, you can send them a quick reply saying…

“I really appreciate your transparency and honesty regarding my price increase. Do you mind if I take the next few days to consider your request before giving you my answer? I’ll be sure to contact you by [date here]. Thank you for your patience in advance.”

When it’s time to end a business relationship 

Whether you’re sad to say goodbye or pulling a Taylor Swift as you sing “we are never ever getting back together”, there are times when it’s best to politely end your working relationship with an advertiser or sponsor.

After reading through the signs and considering the challenge prompts, if you still feel like it’s time for you both to move on from the collaboration, here are a few ways to professional breakup graciously.

How to break off an advertiser relationship- communicateKeep it professional and have a conversation

Rather than pulling a disappearing act and potentially ruining the relationship, it’s best to have a professional conversation. I know it can be uncomfortable to break up with someone, even if it’s only professionally, but remember why you’re doing it.

Take some time to think through what you’re going to say. If you quickly hop on a phone call and find yourself going on tangents or feeling like you aren’t able to communicate the purpose behind the split, you may do more harm than good.

Since confrontation is not my strong suit, I like to journal my way through how I feel about the collaboration. It’s also important to effectively highlight the good things about the working relationship and how much you appreciated the partnership.

After you’ve highlighted the positive takeaways of the collaboration, you can talk about any differences in communication or vision so they understand why you feel the need to end the working relationship.

If you have an idea of another content creator who may be a good fit for their future projects, offer to make the introduction between them. This goes a long way in saying, “I know I may not have been a fit, but maybe my friend in the industry is.”

How to break off an advertiser relationship- have a contractTry to finish out the rest of your contract

If possible, try to fulfill on the promises of your contract. You did sign an agreement together, so it’s best if you can work on providing the last deliverables. Then you can make the choice not to renew the contract and explain why.

If you’re reading this thinking “what contract?”, it’s a good time to say we recommend putting a contract in place before you start working on sponsored content. Treating your blog like a business is the best way to protect yourself when collaborations go awry.

Pro-tip: Using this collaboration as a lesson, it’s also good to hold off on signing long-term contracts until you’ve had enough time to know if you work effectively with a brand.

How to break off an advertiser relationship- stick to your valuesStand up for what you believe in

Every company has a different set of values. If the company no long aligns with your values, it’s best to break off the working relationship with your advertiser now before it gets more difficult.

You can politely explain the difference in perspectives over the phone or a nicely worded email. Then the company will know the “why” behind you ending the relationship.

No one has to be right or wrong. If you form it as a difference in opinion, you’ll have the best chance of having a productive, professional conversation.


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Kayla Hollatz

Kayla Hollatz is a copywriter and content creator for creative entrepreneurs who want their words to connect and convert. Few things make her happier than ghostwriting for clients in her studio, aka her four-season porch with a lake view. She can frequently be found fighting Minnesota winters with a mug of hot chocolate in hand.

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