VEGAN PEA AND MINT SOUP WITH ALMOND DUKKA + WORKING WITH BRANDS (V+, GF, ChF, GrF, P)

VEGAN PEA AND MINT SOUP WITH ALMOND DUKKA + WORKING WITH BRANDS (V+, GF, ChF, GrF, P)

Is it just me, or did the last 2 weeks just fly by? I could have sworn I was just putting together the finishing touches to my last blog post and now I'm 'due' another one. How did that happen?
Anyway, today I wanted to talk a tiny bit about setting your price when working with brands as a food blogger. Now, if that's of no interest to you whatsoever, than just scroll down and go straight to the recipe at the very bottom of this blog post :). But, if this topic IS of interest, then do read on and be prepared to be bombarded with LOTS of info. You've been warned :)...

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When I first started food blogging, I got really excited when brands got in touch and expressed an interest in working with me. Such an honour, right?! What I wasn't sure of - as it wasn't really openly talked about - was how to set my price and manage these enquiries effectively. Now, I'm not suggesting that I have the answer to this rather tricky question, but I have developed a way of working with brands and managing the delicate issue of payments which I feel comfy with. Hence I thought it might be of interest to share my thoughts, especially with those of you new to food blogging.

So, what can and can't you expect in terms of payment when you work with brands?

1. WORKING FOR FREE
Not too long ago, I was contacted by a major, multi-billion pound supermarket chain, asking me to promote one of their vegan/vegetarian events on my social media. They requested I photograph a vegetarian dish, share it on my social media and then mention their event. 'What is the payment in exchange for this work?', I asked. The young woman who contacted me, told me that they didn't have a budget for the bloggers they were going to work with and hence, in short, I'd receive £0 for my input. 

For me, it was clear that this was NOT something I wanted to be involved in as - seeing I'd have to buy the ingredients myself - it would leave me out of pocket. But I am sure they found a good handful of bloggers who did participate in this.

Now, everyone's circumstances are different and I'm not here to judge, but (and there always is a but, isn't there? ;)) I do feel very strongly that as food bloggers we should think twice before we accept to do work for free. This is because if you do work for nothing (say because you blog as a hobby and are simply flattered someone is interested in your blog), this practice just sets the bar so low for everyone else (and yourself!) and sends out the completely wrong message to brands. In contrast, if we as food bloggers make it clear that this is not acceptable, then the big guys will hopefully stop making cheeky requests like these! Cuz, reality is, they benefit sooo much from reaching our audience; it's so important not to forget that :).

However, for me there are 2 exceptions to this rule which I feel are worth mentioning:
a) I will tag ceramic sources and food photography props on my social media for free. The reason I do this is to save myself from having to respond to the question 'Where did you get that prop from?' over and over again. It just makes life easier :).
b) If I have a very close and positive relationship with the brand/company/blogger and/or consider them a friend, then I will happily give their event or product a shout-out cuz, you know, that's what friends do :). 

2. WORKING FOR EXPOSURE
Now this one is a little bit trickier. Strickly speaking, when you work for exposure only, you are effectively working for free (see above). Hence, I'm not keen on this form of 'payment' either. However, I have worked for exposure only and would not rule out doing this again. So, how do I decide when to say yes and when to say a polite no? It's very personal, but generally I ask myself these questions when I make a decision about working for exposure:

- do I really, really love this brand, their ethos and the people behind it?
- will the exposure they offer in the short or long run genuinely benefit my blog and my work sufficiently to justify my blood, sweat and tears?
- do they have a large enough reach to make all the work worth my while i.e. 100,000+ instagram followers or/and lots of engaged facebook users? 
- is it really prestigious being linked to this brand?
- will I reach my target audience in a way I cannot on my own?
- is the project or proposal fun and exciting? 

If the answer to any of these questions is no, then, sadly I must decline. It's not good for my soul or sense of self worth otherwise ;).
Perhaps you too can create a list of questions to ask yourself?

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3. WORKING IN EXCHANGE FOR MATERIAL GOODS
From my experience, this form of payment is probably the most common one that's proposed in the food blogging world. So, what does this mean exactly? Well, brands will often contact you, offer to send you free chocolate, matcha tea, green apples, plastic cups or whatever it is they are flogging in exchange for a mention on your social media or blog. Again, this, for me is a tricky one. But, I have accepted this form of 'payment' in the past because...

- I not only liked the product, but I also really loved the ethos behind it. For example, I worked with farmdrop, who remove the middlemen and ensure more money goes to artisan producers and organic farmers and I've worked with barefoot/grown with love, who are very passionate about organic farming practices and deliver on trend vegetarian produce.
- the value of the material goods matched or exceeded what I would normally charge for a social media or blog post feature
- the material goods were things I needed, used anyway and really, really wanted
- the companies were small and true start-ups i.e. Thread and Whisk, who made stunning aprons which they gifted us for our France workshop in exchange for a mention and feature

There is 1 exception to this rule for me: cookbooks! I happily offer my services in exchange for a cookbook despite their value not matching my normal fee. Apart from the fact that I'm a cookbook addict, reviews are NOT normally paid for to ensure you are able to give an honest, objective opinion. In fact, it's frowned upon in the industry to accept payment for reviews ;). Make sense?

4. WORKING IN EXCHANGE FOR A MONETARY FEE
If you mention or tag a product or brand on your blog or social media in exchange for money here's what you need to consider:

a) Does this brand/product fit with the ethos of my blog and food philosophy? This is SO important - please only promote things you would eat/use yourself and can wholeheartedly stand behind. 
b) Is this brand/product something my readers will enjoy? Don't forget, your readers are EVERYTHING!
c) Make your brand/social media/blog desireable to work with. You achieve this by creating a clear focus for your blog (for me that's plant-based, simple food with a nudge towards food photography), creating high quality content and engaging with your followers! Without this it's tricky to demand money ;).
d) Be clear and unapologetic from the outset in your communication with brands about expecting pay for your hard work! You wouldn't work for free in a 9-5 job, why would food blogging be any different?
e) Be honest with yourself: what is the minimum pay you'd be happy to work for? Remember to think about how many hours you'll spend putting a blog post together, buying the ingredients, cooking, styling, editing your shots and promoting the recipe on social media. And, just because blogging is fun, you shouldn't sell yourself short and work for less than minimum wage ;). I'm sorry I can't give you a specific figure.
f) Will you expect the same fee from big brands as you do from smaller start-ups? I don't, but that's cuz I like an underdog ;). Surprisingly though I've found smaller companies are much better to work with than larger companies; they tend to truely appreciate and understand the importance of food bloggers :).
g) Create a price list which you send out to brands when they get in touch and be clear in your mind as to whether this is negotiable or not! Outline your rates and specify what the fee they pay will cover i.e. a mention on social media, recipe development, a full blog post, a series of blog posts etc. If the brand turns you down, please don't worry. It just means they weren't right for you and other brands WILL come along who can recognise your value and that of your followers.
h) Review your price list every 3-6 months? Has your following, reach and engagement grown since you put your price list together? If so, consider upping your fee accordingly ;) cuz - don't forget - your social media is essentially invaluable ad space!!!

Ok, that's all folks. Soooooo sorry this has turned into an epically long blog post, but I've been meaning to write about this for AGES. I so hope it was helpful.
Please let me know if I forgot to highlight anything. Also, have you got something to add or an experience to share? I'd love to hear your point of view. The comment section below is waiting for you ;). Oh and I've loved your comments on instagram so far. Keep'em coming.

Thanks for reading and sticking with me here. See you in two weeks :)

P.S. Bloglovin' have got a BRILLIANT new section all about working with brands and becoming an influencer. You can find tons of crazy cool articles like this one here. PLUS they named me one of 10 food influencers to follow right now #megaproud, so it's def. worth a visit ;)

P.P.S. Enjoyed this blog post? Then pleasssseeeeee pin away :) and help spread the word. It would make my day.

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VEGAN PEA AND MINT SOUP WITH ALMOND DUKKA (V+, GF, ChF, GrF, P)

Recipe adapted from the River Cottage Veg Every Day! cookbook, which frankly EVERYONE should have on their bookshelf. Yup, it's THAT good :). 

Preparation Time: 15 - 20 minutes
Cooking Time: approx. 20 minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients for the pea and mint soup:
1 ltr vegetable stock (I used 1 -1.5 vegetable stock cubes and 1ltr water for this)
1 tbs olive or rice bran oil
1 medium white onion
1-2 tsp dried thyme leaves
500g frozen peas
20g mint leaves, washed
a pinch of salt and pepper to taste
mint leaves to garnish

Ingredients for the almond dukka:
120g almonds
1tbs cumin seeds
1tbs coriander seeds
3tbs sesame seeds (black and/or white)
1tsp rock salt

Instructions:
Dissolve your vegetable cube/s in 1 litre of boiling water to yield a litre of vegetable stock. Set aside.
Chop up the onions, finely. Then heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat and sweat the onions with the thyme until soft and translucent.
Next add the vegetable stock, peas and mint leaves. Season, bring to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes or until the peas are tender.

Pour the soup into a blender (or use a stick blender) and blend until it has a creamy, smooth texture. Then return it to the pan and heat through.

For the dukka, chop the almonds roughly. Next, in a small pan over a low heat, warm the cumin and coriander seeds. You should start to smell their aroma after a few minutes, but be sure not to burn them! After about 5 minutes or so, transfer to a mortar and pestle and break up the seeds. Then lightly toast the sesame seeds in the same pan you used for the cumin and coriander seeds, add the sesame seeds and the almonds to the mortar and bash until broken up and combined. Then enjoy!

The dukka recipe here will yield more than you need to garnish the soup. Hence keep any left-overs in an airtight glass container, sprinkle over other soups or salads. It should keep for a few weeks :).  

Tip 1: Even if you're just cooking for 1-2, please do make this quantity and just freeze any surplus. It's great for a quick mid-week dinner. 
Tip 2: You can use red onions too. They are healthier than white onions, but for food photography purposes, I chose a white one :). 
Tip 3: To make a complete meal out of this, serve the soup with this salad here, they go really well together. 

Looking for more soup recipes? Then why not try my watermelon gazpacho or my curried root veg soup? They are both easy to make a super delicious.  

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