How to work with international brands, with superstar Alisha Johns
Watching a few amazing Instagrammers and wondering they all get to work with international brands?
Have you ever wanted to catapult your business by collaborating or working with world class companies?
Our talented friend Alisha Johns of Lish Creative does it for a living!
Who is Alisha Johns?
We met Alisha way back when Plann was still an idea, she built up her Instagram account and made some great relationships with big brands, eventually taking a humongous risk to build her own creative agency. (moving across the country to do it, now that’s dedication!)
We recently spoke to Alisha about how she got started, how she negotiated her first deal and how much of a say she gets in her creations so that you can learn exactly what it’s like and how to work with international brands.
Being a content creator is more than taking pretty pictures.
We consider Alisha a brilliant creative strategist and content creator – one glance at her Instagram feed and you can absolutely see it’s in her blood (along with continuing to find THE perfect Instagrammable walls, and ice cream flavours!), she’s definitely got an eye for it. Fusing her love of photography with storytelling, Alisha creates striking brand photography used for social media, advertising campaigns, digital and print media and online stores, making sure that the product is always the hero in a shot yet tells a bigger story with use of placement and props.
Her work in the field has attracted a client base many dream about, and she was the perfect person to talk you through how to work with international brands.
We caught up with Alisha to chat about her pumping business and the ins and outs of how to work with international brands.
How long have you been using Instagram, and what were you posting when you first started?
I started using Instagram in a more professional capacity (beyond the filtered photos of my friends & latte art) in 2014 when I was trying to get a job in the advertising industry. I used it as a creative portfolio piece and a way to differentiate myself from other candidates – and it worked! As I worked as a social media strategist and then as creative strategist, I continued creating content on the nights and weekends, just for fun, capturing bold color, sprinkles, party streamers, basically everything that inspired me that was nowhere to be found at my 9-5.
How long did it take before you started to work with international brands?
I landed my first sponsored post in the fall of 2015, and from there I started to attract the attention of other companies. Motorola was my first big brand client, also that fall, and I was actually able to get that gig through the app, Popular Pays. So to answer your question, it was about a year and a half of daily posting, engaging and building a portfolio of work.
Talk us through how it all happened! We want to know everything!
I had been receiving free product offers for a few months and then it just hit me that this was a service that I could add to my freelance repertoire. As soon as I put a media kit together and started asked for money, I started getting it. Sometimes it’s just about knowing when it’s time and putting things into action. I only had about 5000 followers at the time but knew that I had the potential to still create something worthwhile. I’ve never felt limited by numbers – I think that’s the wrong mindset. I always think about the value that I can add, and use that as a negotiating tool.
Is it much different to working with smaller brands?
My process is the same but there are definitely differences when it comes to communication, payment terms, contracts, usage rights, those kind of details. I also think they look for an overall higher level of professional, starting from when they first land on your site.
Who have been your most memorable brands to work with?
I have absolutely loved working with Chatbooks! They’re a styling & photography client that I work with on a recurring basis, and I get to have a lot of fun styling their product in studio and also out in the wild. I recently worked on a travel series with them, where I brought their books along with me to Palm Springs, Atlanta and Bermuda for some great photo opportunity. My influencer projects with Method Home have also really pushed me creatively. They always embrace my crazy, messy ideas, like a hand coated in rock candy.
How much creative say do you get in your shots?
I serve as the creative director, stylist & photographer for most projects. Sometimes I bring in stylists and photographers to help out, but I am managing the creative. I think that’s the reason most brands hire me actually! They love that I handle every step of the process for them, from defining their brand, to composing a shot list, to delivering the final files.
How many shots do you send them, and how many do they typically pick?
We agree on a set number of images at the very beginning. Then I create a detailed shot list for their approval before we even pick up a camera, and then the final images are delivered a couple of weeks later.
Do you now approach brands, or do they approach you?
I’ve been very lucky and have just been reacting to the opportunities that come my way. But I recently decided to work with a manager who will be able to negotiate inquiries for me and also bring in projects that are a really perfect fit.
Would you recommend people approach brands? If yes, any advice on how to get started?
Definitely! Always think about the value that you can add. Don’t feel intimidated by your numbers, or lack of experience, just think about what it is you can bring to the table. Do you target a certain niche? Do you live in a unique area? Do you have a unique style? What is it about you and your work that these brands should pay attention to. Pull specific statistics into a a professionally designed media kit for extra oomph. Anyone can work with international brands if they understand their value.
Have you ever said no to working with anyone? What happened?
Yes! All the time actually – sometimes products and brands just don’t feel like a good fit. I try to say it as kindly as possible and explain that we’re completely booked at the moment. No one wants to hear that they just aren’t a good fit..! And usually we are booked, but if it’s a brand I’m dying to work with, I’ll work overtime to squeeze them in.
Could you list what information you have in your media kit when you’re asked to send one from brands?
This is a great question that i get asked all the the time! So often in fact, that I am co-launching an online workshop this series to walk people through it! We will have a blogger guest expert and a graphic designer on to really dig deep and go over the nitty gritty details. We will also have sessions on standing out, pitching, pricing and next level income. To give you a head start, You always want to have an intro, past work/career highlights, notable stats & contact info.
What are your favourite types of content to create?
I love travel photography more than anything actually. Exploring a new place and finding the colorful spots and little gems is what really inspires me most.
You’ve got your own agency now called Lish Creative, how long did it take before you took a leap of faith and truly went for it?
I had been freelancing on the night and weekends for about 2 years, and as my Instagram grew, I was able to get more inquires that way, and that’s what made me feel more comfortable taking the leap. I left my full-time job in January of 2016 and set out with the intention to work with international brands.
Your feed is so creative and lovely to look at! How do you design your IG feed, what are your ‘rules’?
- Never post the same color background back-to-back or stacking
- Never post two visually “busy” photos back-to-back or stacking – give them room to breathe with negative space!
- Never post “hands” back-to-back or stacking
- Never post the same subject back-to-back or stacking
- Try not to post from the same perspective too often within a set of 9
- Try to vary colors within each set of 9
- Always stay consistent with the LISH creative brand of fashion, lifestyle & hospitality imagery
Phew! This list may seem extreme, but I truly believe that it is this level of detail that makes certain feeds stand out.
I’ve used a lot of random different apps to plan this flow over the past year, but none have been as visually impressive and flawless as PLANN.
We notice a lot of Ice Cream in your feed and heard you’re lactose Intolerant… does that mean no one gets to lick the spoon afterwards?!
That’s right – such a travesty, right?! I also have a gluten allergy so that means no cake, donuts or croissants either. Every time I’m styling those items I get major sugar cravings, sometimes resulting in me just eating straight up frosting from a spoon.
Are you Inspired?
We are! We can’t wait to see you use Alisha’s incredibly generous information to get you on your way, we’ve definitely learned HEAPS about how to work with International Brands!
We designed Plann so you can create a premium looking Instagram feed (within 90 seconds!) so brands know exactly what level of quality to expect in a single glance.
If you’d like to see more of Alisha’s amazing work and connect with her on Instagram – or if you’re a brand that would like to connect! – please pop over and say a giant friendly hello on Instagram!
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Hello Alisha !
Alisha Johns is the color-loving & plane-hopping Creative Director behind LISH creative. Before starting her own agency, she worked as a creative strategist and stylist in the advertising industry for global brands like Dolby and Coca-Cola, but now she can call clients like Dunkin Donuts, GE, and Lenscrafters, her own. She’s a Pittsburgh native, but currently calls an industrial live/work loft in Los Angeles, home.