How to say no to a brand collaboration

In this guide, I’ll show you how to decline a brand collaboration without sacrificing your integrity, burning any bridges, or compromising your social media empire. So put on your rejection armor and prepare to say “thanks, but no thanks” with style and grace!

In the Influencer world, brand collaborations are as abundant as avocado toast on Instagram feeds, making it easy to get caught up in the allure of shiny partnerships. But, what happens when you’re not feeling the vibe? When the thought of promoting yet another detox tea leaves a bitter taste in your mouth? Fear not, dear influencer, for your Fairy Talent Manager Johanna has your back! Let’s jump in. 

how to say no to a brand partnership
How to say no to a brand partnership

What are brand collaborations?

A brand collaboration is when you – the influencer, content creator, or digital marketer – team up with a brand as their spokesperson. You agree to promote or share something cool with your audience—let’s say with some high-quality content on your Instagram page—about a product, service, or experience that the brand offers.

You might get paid for this collaboration, OR you could receive the product or service as a gift or trade opportunity. And by “trade,” I mean no money changes hands—it’s more like a friendly exchange of goodies! And hey, congrats on that! 🎉 You’re living the dream that so many of your peers wish they could experience too. I mean, being recognized as an expert in your field, catching a brand’s eye, and having them reach out to you—awesome stuff, boo! You’re rocking it!

That said, you might be receiving influencer campaign offers but need to graciously decline them for various reasons. No worries! In this article, we’ll dive right into how and when to decline. I’ll even share the exact emails I send on behalf of my clients to show you how to turn down a brand collaboration while keeping the door open to potentially become a brand partner in the future.

The Rise of Brand Collaborations in the Digital Age

The iPhone revolutionized everything, especially when it comes to how companies market their products. Remember the days of traditional marketing? Ads in newspapers? Radio spots? Ha, those are long gone!

Nowadays, it’s all about chasing customers where they are, and let’s be real—everyone’s online! Whether they’re on social media, checking out the latest news on NPR, reading recipe blogs, or watching YouTube videos, brands and marketers are right there with ’em.

That’s why digital marketing and brand collaborations on social media are the hottest things in the marketing game. Seriously, budgets are ALL ABOUT THAT nowadays. It doesn’t matter if a brand has had the same products for years, is launching something new, or is even giving away freebies—sponsored posts and social media are the way to reach those fresh audiences.

But hold up! It’s not like it was a few years back when brands were tossing money at influencers like candy. Both brands and influencers need to be picky now. There are so many influencers out there, and we all leave a huge digital footprint. Brands have to choose wisely to match the influencer to their vibe, and influencers gotta make sure the company’s values align with their own, too.

As an influencer, you know your audience like nobody else. And guess what? They’re smarter than we often give them credit for. So, being authentic is the name of the game. Your audience can sniff out if you’re just reading a script, not really into the product, or willing to overlook shady stuff for a fat paycheck. Bottom line, it’s all about that genuine connection. When everyone’s on the same page, that’s when the magic happens! 🌟

Understanding the Art of Saying “No.”

Being an influencer is all about building trust with your audience. That means always being honest and not pretending to love something you don’t. No one wants to hear you rave about a skin cream while the internet is buzzing with horror stories about it (lashgate, anyone?). 

Your reputation as an influence far precedes you, and it can make or break your campaigns. So, keeping it real in your content and reviews is a must! And guess what? Influencers and content creators are also getting savvier. They’re setting high standards when it comes to saying “yes” to brand collaborations. 

Take 2020, for example. After George Floyd’s tragic murder, many brands hopped on the bandwagon of supporting people of color, pay equity, and racial justice. We all remember those black squares flooding our Instagram feeds on Black Out Tuesday, right?

But, here’s the deal—actions speak louder than words. Since 2020, some companies have faced criticism for their hollow cries of allyship. Maybe they still run campaigns that primarily feature white faces or don’t treat their creators of color fairly.

Why am I bringing this up? Because sometimes, that dream brand opportunity might not align with your values. And when it doesn’t, it’s okay to decline it. This is just one example, and there are A LOT of reasons why people decline brand partnerships. So let’s dive a little deeper, mm-kay?

when does declining a brand collab make sense
When does declining a brand collab make sense

When does declining a brand collaboration make sense?

Sometimes, no matter how much research you’ve done about a brand or how badly you want a collaboration to work out, it just makes sense to decline the collaboration. It could be for a multitude of reasons including but not limited to:

  • your intuition is telling you to pass, 
  • the agency you’d be working with gives you pause about how horrible/tricky/annoying it would be to work with them on the project,
  • you can’t come to a happy medium between you and the agency for the scope of work (SOW) they want for the budget they’re offering, 
  • the timing is off, or 
  • perhaps you just don’t like the project. 
how to say no to a brand collab
How to say no to a brand collab

“Follow your instincts. That’s where true wisdom manifests itself.” — Oprah Winfrey

Listen up, because this is important! You never want to ignore that gut feeling telling you to avoid a certain brand collaboration. We’ve all been there, right? You go ahead with it anyway, and then during or after the whole thing, you’re like, “Ugh, I knew I shouldn’t have done this!”

Believe me, no amount of money can make up for that feeling of regret when you’re stuck in a project that doesn’t sit right with you. So, trust that instinct of yours—it’s looking out for you! 🙌

“Don’t push your weaknesses; play with your strengths.” —Jennifer Lopez

It also makes sense to turn down a project if the campaign’s goals don’t align with your strengths. Maybe they’re expecting a bunch of new clients, sign-ups on a website, or sales of a product, and you know that’s not your forte (which is totally fine, by the way!). In that situation, saying “no” is in everyone’s best interests. 

Why? Because if you’re not the right fit for those goals, neither you nor the campaign will be set up for success. It’s all about playing to your strengths and finding the perfect match! 😉

“It’s possible for me to make a bad movie out of a good script, but I can’t make a good movie from a bad script.” —George Clooney

Another solid reason to turn down a collaboration is when it feels too scripted and doesn’t leave room for your creative voice to shine through. After all, as an influencer or content creator, your unique style and perspective are what make your content stand out. If a campaign feels too rigid or not “on brand” for your personality, it might not be the best fit for you. 

“You’re only as good as the people who you surround yourself with.” —Marcela Valladolid

Another crucial factor to consider is the brand or company’s recent PR history. If they’ve been dealing with a wave of negative publicity, it’s natural to feel wary about associating yourself with them. However, there’s a flip side to this too. If the brand is taking steps to educate or make amends for their mistakes, you might consider it an opportunity to be a part of positive change.

How to say no to a brand collaboration
How to say no to a brand collaboration

“It’s only by saying NO that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.” – Steve Jobs

Sometimes, the decision to decline a campaign is purely practical. If you find yourself overwhelmed with commitments and the new campaign would stretch your bandwidth too thin, it’s okay to say no. It’s essential to maintain your sanity and deliver quality work to your audience, after all.

how to say no to brand request
How to say no to brand request

“Not every opportunity is meant to be my assignment.” – Lysa Terkeurst

Ultimately, these are all valid reasons to turn down a brand collaboration. Your authenticity, values, and capacity to deliver your best work are key considerations. Remember, it’s better to decline and find the right fit than to force a collaboration that doesn’t align with your vision and goals. Your audience – and, more importantly, your own happiness – will thank you for it! 🙌

Its Ok to Say No to Brand Collabs…

……..But Ask Yourself These Things First

Before you decide to turn down a paid brand collaboration, let’s explore a few things worth considering. 

First, think about whether this project would be an excellent addition to your portfolio and personal brand. Sometimes, a collaboration can elevate your image and open doors to exciting new opportunities.

Second, could this be your foot in the door with a brand or agency you’ve been eyeing? Building relationships can lead to more significant projects down the line.

Third, if you recently added a new team member, involving them in this project could be a fantastic chance to teach them your process and vibe. It’s a win-win for both of you!

Next, consider whether this project’s earnings could be invested back into your business. Sometimes, taking on certain collaborations can give your business the financial boost it needs.

Lastly, ponder whether saying “yes” to this brand partnership might lead to other significant opportunities in the future. Don’t underestimate the potential of making valuable connections.

That’s not to say that these points should in any way outweigh considerations based on instinct, branding, or work-life balance. The key is to think beyond the immediate project and see how you can leverage this partnership for other possibilities. I just want you to keep an open mind and explore all the angles.  

Now, if you’ve still determined that the partnership isn’t a good fit at this time, let’s talk about the art of writing that email declining the campaign. It’s crucial to handle it with finesse, so let’s dive into the details! 😉

How To Politely Decline A Collaboration

The most crucial thing to remember is to be polite and professional throughout the process. The Influencer Marketing Industry is a small world, and you never know when you might cross paths with the same person again. It’s essential to leave them with a positive impression of connecting with you, rather than being rude or dismissive. Believe me, news of any unprofessional behavior can spread like wildfire, potentially harming future campaign opportunities.

Once you’ve worked through all your questions and determined that the brand collaboration isn’t the right fit for you, I have a few examples of how you can let them know. 

How to Politely Decline a Paid Collaboration Offer — Email Examples 

You may wonder, “how do I say no without any explanations?” I got you! These are example emails that I have used for my clients in the past:

“Hi (name),

Thank you so much for reaching out and inviting me to be considered for this campaign with (brand name/brand campaign). I really appreciate you sharing all the details with me, but unfortunately it’s not going to work out for me this time. Best of luck for a great campaign and I look forward to staying in touch for future things. I’ve attached my media kit for you to have handy for anything that pops up down the road. 

— Your name”

That’s one option, short, sweet and right to the point. 

Here’s another option. 

“Hi (name),

Thank you so much for reaching out and inviting me to be considered for this campaign with (brand name/brand campaign). I’ve had working with this brand on my vision board for a couple years now and I was so flattered to receive your email. I appreciate you sharing all the details with me, but unfortunately it’s not going to work out for me. I have to respectfully decline this offer. Best of luck for a great campaign and I look forward to staying in touch for future things.

— Your name”

And here’s another option that goes a bit more into detail as to why you’re saying no. 

“Hi (name),

Thank you so much for reaching out and inviting me to be considered for this campaign with (brand name/brand campaign). I’ve had working with this brand on my vision board for a couple years now and I was so flattered to receive your email. I really appreciate you sharing all the details with me, but unfortunately it’s not going to work out for me.

This coming month when the campaign starts, my calendar is already packed with projects and I just don’t have the creative bandwidth to give this one the time and energy it deserves ~OR~ 

This coming month when the campaign starts, I’m on the road for a couple client projects (or personal things) and logistically this a really quick time frame that doesn’t work for me.  ~OR~ 

After all we went back and forth on regarding the budget and SOW, I’m not at a place where it works out for me financially. 

I’m so bummed and would love to find a way to make it work in the future. 

Best of luck for a great campaign and I look forward to staying in touch for future things.

— Your name”

That second paragraph gives you some options on how to bow out. 

It goes without saying, make sure you give a reason that’s true, if you choose to go that route. You might wonder if you really have to explain why you’re saying no, and the truth is, you don’t have to. 

However, I do recommend providing some context, especially if you’ve had extensive discussions or negotiations with the brand. Offering a reason can be helpful as they might ask for an explanation to share with their team or superiors about your decision.

Sometimes, I’ve had instances where I had to decline on behalf of a client due to budget constraints. Surprisingly, in some cases, the brand has come back with additional budget, which is fantastic! I share this to show you that negotiating brand partnerships is possible, even when the initial offer might not seem like the right fit.

So, remember, honesty is key, and providing a reason can lead to better understanding and potential opportunities in the future. Negotiating is part of the game, and you never know what positive outcomes it might bring! 🤝

Now that we’ve gone through ways to decline a brand collaboration email, let’s talk about the context of saying no. 

When to Say No to Brand Collaborations

Are there times I say no right off the bat, when I get an inbound email? 100%. If the offer seems spammy or the rate and terms are way off from what my client would consider, it’s a clear “no-go.” Experience has taught me to spot the difference between genuine and BS email inquiries.

Just so you know, I make it a point to respond to every single email that comes in on behalf of my clients each day. However, having been in this game for so long, I’ve developed a knack for identifying inquiries that won’t lead to any meaningful collaboration.

It’s all about efficiency and focusing on the opportunities that have the potential to work out, because, let’s get real — there’s only so much time in the day. So, if something feels off right from the start, I don’t hesitate to say “thanks, but no thanks!” 

Remember, saying “yes” to something means saying “no” to something else, so make sure you’re only saying “yes” to the things that make sense for you and your career. 😉

PRO TIP : Check the email address. If it is sent from one that doesn’t match with the company, that’s a red flag. 

It’s unfortunate, but I’ve noticed that many inquiries from non-USA based companies often don’t align with our business practices or budgets.

PRO TIP: Ignore the offer if they only want to chat on Whatsapp. 

So yes, there are times when I reply immediately with…. “Thanks so much for reaching out, but (client name) will pass on this project. Best of luck.” And that’s exactly what I will write. 

My philosophy is that I don’t want to be ghosted or ignored on any email I write, so I always respond to anything that comes inbound to my clients. It’s the Golden Rule!

PRO TIP : Respond to all inbound emails. Don’t ignore any of them — even if they’re seemingly fake.

How do you respond to a gifted collab?

So far, we’ve focused solely on paid collaborations, and let me emphasize once more that it’s perfectly okay to decline a paid collaboration. That said, I want to again stress the importance of thoroughly examining all aspects and considering why it might still be a smart decision to say “yes” before making your final choice.

Now let’s say a trade opportunity or a gifted collaboration appears in your inbox. This means that they’re offering you something (shampoo, expensive skin care, a night at a hotel or free concert tix) in exchange for your content. While these opportunities can be great for Influencers who are just starting out, they may not be a good fit if you’re a more established Influencer.

Here’s how you decline these ones.

“Dear name,

Thanks so much for reaching out. As I do this work full time (and employ a team to help me – again, say this only it’s true!), I’m not in a position to take on any gifted or trade opportunities. I’m happy to send over my rates should you have a budget. Best of luck and thanks for thinking of me.” 

— Your name. 

Let’s look at this from another perspective. What if you’re a brand?  

How do you say no to an Influencer as a brand?

In my experience, it’s quite rare to receive a straightforward “no” as an Influencer or talent manager. Usually, the response is worded as “the brand went in another direction” or “the brand was looking for someone with a different audience.”

More often than not, when I follow up with agencies after not being chosen for a campaign (it often takes 2-3x following up to get a response), I find that it’s not due to anything personal. Instead, it’s often for reasons beyond the Influencer’s control.

Campaign demographics can change, and that can impact which talent the brand selects. Maybe they decided to go with someone whose followers are primarily based in Chicago or they specifically wanted a mostly millennial audience. Other times, the brand may be looking for Influencers with over 100k followers or those who excel on both Instagram and TikTok. For your own edification, these are all real-life examples that I’ve come across.

One important thing to understand is that it’s almost never about the brand disliking the talent’s platform or intentionally choosing not to work with them for that reason.

Let’s face it; you can’t win ’em all! Just remember to not take it personally if you aren’t selected. Unless, of course, you have a reputation for being an absolute nightmare to work with! In such cases, opting to “go in a different direction” may indeed be personal. Life lessons, people!

So, the key takeaway here is that in most cases, it’s not about you personally; it’s just a matter of finding the best fit for the campaign. As an Influencer, it’s essential to stay positive, professional, and keep exploring new opportunities. 😊

PRO TIP : Don’t be a jerk. Rule #1.

How do you turn a gifted collaboration into a paid one?

Assuming you got a gifted offer and you’re at a point in your career where you don’t take unpaid work, is it possible to turn those gifted offers into paid? The answer is “heck yes!” and here’s how I do it:

“Dear (name),

Thanks so much for reaching out. As I do this work full-time (and employ a team to help me – again, say this only it’s true!), I’m not in a position to take on any gifted or trade opportunities. I’m happy to send over my rates should you have a budget. I’ve done similar partnerships like this and they’ve always gone over really well with my audience. Your new products of ABC that you launched last month at Target would be a great fit for my audience. Here’s a couple examples for you to look at – example 1 (link to it), example 2 (link to it).

I’d love to find a way to make this work for both of us because (give example about your connection to the brand) and (give another example of why you want to do it).

Any chance we can hop on the phone for 10 minutes to figure out what’s doable for both of us? 

Look forward to hearing from you. 

— Your name. 

Don’t Be Too Big For Your Britches

Before I wrap up this blog post, I want to address a common disconnect I often see among baby influencers—i.e. those who are just starting their journey with a relatively low number of followers. Sometimes, these aspiring influencers feel hesitant to accept brand collaborations, and some even take offense at offers of trade or gifted products.

Let me make this crystal clear: when you’re at the beginning stages of being an influencer, with a following in the double, triple, or low quadruple digits, your ability to negotiate for monetary compensation is limited. It’s essential to understand that this isn’t a personal judgment; it’s merely a matter of budget allocation and marketing dynamics.

You might be a highly successful individual in another area of your career, and that’s fantastic! However, as you venture into the world of fashion blogging or content creation, your current following size will determine the compensation you receive for brand partnerships.

You might think to yourself, “But I’m Johanna Voss, a successful CEO and founder of a talent management agency.”

Yes, you are undeniably amazing, and deep down, you know your worth as a content creator. However, what brands are paying for is exposure and connection through your social media platforms. Until your follower count grows, you’ll likely only be able to engage in gifted and trade collaborations.

We all know that algorithms can be challenging, and even if you have a good number of followers, only a small portion might see your content. So, the price tag you might desire from brands isn’t feasible at this stage.

Does this all make sense? As I mentioned earlier, it’s not personal—it’s just a matter of numbers and the reality of the industry. So, embrace those partnerships and leverage them for future opportunities. Building your portfolio and relationships will pave the way for growth.

Remember, even the uber-successful influencers you admire started somewhere. Everyone begins their journey from the ground up! Keep going, and success will follow. 😊

Pro tip : If you’ve loved this article, sign up for my weekly newsletter HERE. It’s full of industry insights, brand negotiation tips and scripts, events I’m attending, perspective on how to grow your Influencer business and more. I keep it pretty scrappy and real – would love you to join us over there! CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP.

How to say no to a brand collaboration FAQs

How can a blogger do a collaboration with brands

This article covered various reasons to decline brand collaborations, but it’s essential not to forget about the numerous fantastic opportunities that await when you collaborate with potential brand partners. There are so many steps you can take to set yourself up for success in these partnerships that I even dedicated a whole separate article to it! Trying to squeeze all that valuable information into just a paragraph or two wouldn’t do it justice.

So, when you’re ready to say “yes” to a brand partner that’s the perfect fit for you, make sure to check out my article on how to work with brands as an influencer. It’s packed with valuable insights and tips to help you make the most out of your collaborations and thrive in the influencer space! Happy reading! 😊

What are the pros and cons of collaboration

Excellent question! Let’s look at some of the pros and cons of brand collaborations. These points are in no particular order; they’re just some reasons why my clients often say “yes” to a brand partnership.


  • You already use and love the product, making it a perfect opportunity to become a brand ambassador and showcase your genuine enthusiasm.
  • Collaborating with the brand allows you to build an impressive portfolio, demonstrating your creativity and skills in action.
  • Financial considerations can play a significant role, making it a compelling reason to say “yes” to the collaboration.
  • Working on the client project provides a chance to hone and enhance various skills, from negotiation and creative processes to editing and more.
  • It’s a valuable opportunity to guide and mentor a newly hired team member, showing them how you handle sponsored content.
  • Building a relationship with the agency that approached you can lead to future fruitful collaborations.
  • The project might challenge you to learn new skills and tap into your creative potential.
  • Depending on the project’s scope, you might need to enlist a team’s help, contributing to the growth and expansion of your brand.


  • Some brand partnerships come with specific briefs and rules that could limit your creative freedom and visibility, depending on the brand’s requirements.
  • During the collaboration, you may realize that your values and brand don’t align as well as you initially thought.
  • Following directions from someone who isn’t as familiar with your audience and brand as you are might prove challenging.

Remember, it’s all about finding the right opportunities that align with your goals and values!