Leverage your social following and work with well-known companies.
The first time I received free art supplies from a company through my Instagram account was one of those “I’ve made it!” moments. Looking back, the supplies I received probably only retailed at $12, but I was still crazy excited about it. Whether you are a professional artist or just a hobbyist you have the potential to become a micro-influencer on Instagram and get free products in exchange for social exposure.
This post isn’t really for everyone and getting the “free” supplies will require work. I will not be including resources here on how to just click a link, fill out a form, and get free supplies delivered to you. Although, I did provide something like that a long time ago that has since expired–I promise if I find more absolutely-no-strings-attached-free-supplies, I’ll let you know about it.
What is a Micro Influencer?
First, getting free supplies will require that you have a decent social presence for your art. I know. I know. It’s not easy to build a following online. I’ve written a lot of blog posts on how to grow a following on Instagram and I will continue to put out more information on that subject. Though, lucky for you, you don’t have to have a butt-ton of followers in order to have social power as a ‘micro-influencer’.
Being a micro-influencer basically means that you have created a brand for yourself online and have a dedicated and engaged following. Micro-influencers are usually pretty niche and appeal to a specific audience. The exact follower range for a micro-influencer varies depending on where you get your information, but you can have anywhere from 1,000-50,000 followers.
Companies need to advertise their products, and often giving free products to a micro-influencer can be more cost-effective than spending money on actual advertisements or paying big influencers. Also, micro-influencers often have a higher engagement rate than big influencer accounts.
If you currently have an account for your art above 1,000 followers, then you can start exploring your pull as a micro-influencer and approach companies for free products. Though, this will require you to step out of your comfort zone and make the opportunities happen.
Here’s How to Get Free Supplies as a Micro-Influencer
1. Reach out to art supplies companies you want to work with.
Yup. I’m telling you to ask for free products. Though, you need to start thinking about how it’s not a ‘free’ product and it is actually a trade. In order to get a company’s attention, you need to convince them you have something to offer. Having an engaged audience that will be interested in the products you mention is the main draw.
Customer service contact information is usually listed on company websites. I look for an email address and craft a basic email that includes a few key things:
- Start with an intro of who you are.
- Explain your current social power (how many followers, your engagement rate, your niche, and how you can provide a benefit to the company by promoting their products).
- Ask if they would be interested in providing free products in exchange for social exposure or as a focal point for a review.
- You can ask to collaborate on a giveaway.
- Consider making/offering YouTube reviews or blog posts as well.
- Thank them for their time.
You have nothing to lose by approaching a company with an opportunity that can benefit both of you. Just focus on what you can offer them and be prepared for rejection.
2. Tag companies on social media.
When you create art and post it online, start tagging the companies that made the supplies you used. This is an indirect way to open the door to get free supplies, but occasionally these companies take notice and may offer up more supplies as a thank you for your dedication. Your success is their success.
Don’t hold your breath, though! The direct approach will work much better.
3. Let the universe decide.
If you want to leave everything up to chance, you can just focus on your art and growing your following. As you build a bigger presence online, companies may reach out to you completely organically to offer you free things to promote on your account. This has happened to me multiple times without tagging or mentioning any company.
One time I got free soup.
Additional things to consider
Greedy Companies: When free supplies aren’t enough.
If a company approaches you with free products, do not let them dictate the terms of how and if you present the products on your social accounts without considering requesting additional payment for your time and work.
Free supplies can only buy so much from an influencer. Your following has a value and sometimes a free product isn’t enough. I’ll go over actually getting paid to promote products in a bit.
Whenever a company approaches me, I tell them all the same thing: I’d be more than happy to try your product. If I love it, I can share it on social media as I see fit and if I don’t like it, I simply won’t say anything. If you want control over any part of the post, then you must pay for a sponsored post.
Companies weigh the cost of paying for advertisements against the cost of free products for influencers. Learn how to establish the value of your posts vs. promotions.
Companies likely aren’t just going to give you free products out of the kindness of their hearts. Free products are just another way to advertise. I know when I first started getting offers for free supplies, I didn’t realize the value of my social exposure. So, I want you to be smarter than I was and to evaluate your Instagram posts through two things: 1) the ‘reach’ of your average post through the post insights (see the left picture) and 2) a hypothetical promotion spend through Instagram (see the right picture).
You will need your account to be a business account to see both of these screens (you should get on that if you haven’t already). I took a look at the insights from one of my posts in July 2018 (I had around 53,000 followers at the time). You can see the post reached 11,343 accounts. If you scroll to the bottom of the insights, you can see an option to promote the post.
I want you to go through the promotion screens until you get to the one that looks like the right picture. From here, you can slide the Budget and Duration around until you get a projected ‘reach’ that is similar to your post. That will give you an idea of how much a company would have to spend on one post in order to get the reach your average posts get already. Then just back out of the promotion.
If a company is sending you a $20 kit of supplies, and you reach an audience that would cost more than that through paid promotions, the company will likely be happy with the results. Not to mention, the retail value of a product is marked up from the actual cost of making the product…
Greedy Influencers: Are you asking for too much?
If you approach a company first, be mindful of the value of the products you request when compared to the value you can give the company. By looking at the cost of advertising vs. the reach on your posts like we did above, you can get a better idea of what kinds of products you can realistically expect to get for free.
Breaking away from your brand: Don’t promote unrelated content.
If a company reaches out to you and their products have nothing to do with you, your art, or the brand you’ve created, then I suggest not promoting the product on your social media accounts. Building a social following takes a lot of work, and if you start to pollute your brand with content your followers have no interest in, then you risk losing dedicated followers.
Stay true to the brand you’ve created. Though, you can get away with posting company shoutouts in your stories that stray from your brand a bit.
Instagram micro-influencers can make money in addition to getting free supplies.
Free supplies are great, but free supplies plus a paycheck is even better. If you are reaching out to companies, I wouldn’t push your luck with asking for free supplies AND money unless you really have a good deal to offer them. But, if companies approach you to promote their products, you have all the power to ask for more and/or turn down or accept the offer.
You can find a lot of different suggestions for what influencers should be paid, but it’s different for every niche and company you work with. It doesn’t hurt to develop some negotiating skills. Though, to get a general idea of what you can be paid as an influencer check out this Influencer tool by Influencer Marketing Hub.
Moral of the story…
You can get free supplies if you work for it and create opportunities for yourself. Keep in mind that companies will be more willing to work with influencers who can clearly benefit them. Sell yourself. Start searching for email addresses and send out a couple of emails and see what happens.
Becoming a micro or macro influencer doesn’t sound like it should be a real thing but it totally is. You can start at any level and the bigger you get, the more opportunities you can create for yourself and the more free stuff you’ll be able to get in your mailbox. Though, the bigger you get, the more you should demand payment for your social posts.
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P.S. You probably know by now that I am here to help artists with these posts. If you need help with your online branding, Instagram account, or just want a creative accountability coach, then check out my consulting services. You can easily add a session to my online calendar now.