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Dancing was Jordan Friendly’s first passion. Growing up in New York, she studied the classic styles. Ballet, lyrical dance, tap—she had visions of becoming a Rockette one day. Or maybe a Broadway star.
Her parents were always supportive, but as she approached high school graduation, they made her a deal: They’d send her to college at NYU as long as she majored in something besides dance.
“My parents are business people,” Jordan said. “So I was in school for regular academic classes. And then I would dance every day at Steps on Broadway or Broadway Dance Center.”
Jordan held up her end of the bargain but, upon graduation, decided she had to give dancing a real shot. Having long since determined that her singing and acting skills weren’t exactly up to Broadway standards, Jordan moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the hip-hop style popular on the West Coast.
“I think my mom cried a little,” Jordan joked, recalling how she broke the news of her post-college plans at a Sherman Oaks Cheesecake Factory on a junior year spring break trip. “But she came around.”
Jordan danced professionally for six years—briefly on a cruise ship, in two different dance companies and several live shows, in commercials and one TV show. She even landed music videos with some names you’ve likely heard of—Train, Ty Dolla $ign, and Capital Cities to name a few.
“I like to joke that I was in music videos for people either right before or right after they blew up,” Jordan said.
She documented her journey on a blog she started in 2011 originally called “The Dancing Donut.” At the time, the space was mostly just a way to keep her friends and family posted about her life on the West Coast. She also had an Instagram account that she primarily used as an online dance portfolio.
Jordan had no immediate plans to monetize her platform. Instead, she was supplementing her dance paychecks with a series of odd jobs that included nannying, restaurant work—even some hand modeling. She also started pursuing an MBA at UCLA Anderson as she realized she might be better suited for a comfortable 9 to 5 rather than the constant grind of professional dance.
By 2015, Jordan was ready to take her online presence more seriously. She rebranded her blog and IG account and officially launched Dancing for Donuts—a platform for recipes, travel tips, and healthy living inspiration made for “babes on a budget.”
“It’s so important to be well from the inside out,” Jordan said. “And that is something that I’m really passionate about and something that I want to share with others.”
It’s so important to be well from the inside out. And that is something that I’m really passionate about and something that I want to share with others.
Dancing stopped being as fun for Jordan as she got older and it became more about her job than the joy of it. But with an MBA on her resume and agency and consulting gigs making up most of her income, Jordan has been free to run Dancing for Donuts as a side passion project.
“While my Instagram is super important to me, I’ve never just focused on my social media or Dancing for Donuts brand because I don’t want to suck the fun out of it,” Jordan said. “I’ve always had work on top of that, and I wanted to keep it that way.”
With her time occupied with other endeavors, Jordan spent little time doing outreach when first looking for brand deals. She did, however, sign up for a matchmaking service that paired creators with brands interested in working with them.
Jordan fielded a lot of proposals as she found her footing in the space. But she discovered that many brands approaching her through the matchmaking service either didn’t pay what they should or just didn’t share her vision.
She remembers one early partnership with a teeth whitening company specifically. And while she doesn’t regret penning a blog post for them, she does admit that that isn’t the kind of partnership she would ever accept now.
“When you’re starting out, you’re like, ‘Wow, they want to work with me?’” Jordan said. “But that [collaboration] is not something I would do now unless [the product] was nontoxic or somehow fit into the wellness space. But a regular teeth whitening thing, that just isn’t aligned [with me], and integrity is so important to me at this point.”
Jordan has had the best luck securing brand partnerships by organically and authentically speaking about things she loves. And although she has plenty of successful paid partnerships in her portfolio, she’ll still accept products in exchange for content as long as it’s something she would buy herself.
“I just started working with a clothing company that I’ve been obsessed with for so long,” Jordan said. “So to share and wear them in content for free is no sweat off my back because I’ve already been doing it. Those partnerships really just have to be aligned.”
Building a strong working relationship begins with that first outreach message. A word of advice for brands: Give your messages a human touch. At the very least, using the creator’s first name in your initial outreach message is essential.
“I can’t tell you how many emails I get that say, ‘Hi, Dancing for Donuts,’” Jordan said. “I mean, I have a name, and it’s literally on everything that I have on the internet. So, that’s step one.”
Because creators are directors, photographers, writers, and stylists all wrapped into one, Jordan looks for companies that respect the work that goes into producing content at a high level. And the brands that Jordan has the strongest relationships with are those who trust her skillset enough to give her the creative freedom she needs to speak about their products in a way that she knows will resonate with her audience.
What does that creative freedom look like, exactly? For Jordan, it depends on the brand.
For an upcoming campaign with a food brand, Jordan will get a campaign brief asking her to make a seasonally inspired dish with minimal editing. It will also come with suggestions for ingredients or an approach that will help highlight the featured product. But besides a few light guidelines, Jordan is free to create whatever she wants.
Another company Jordan works with asks her for concepts ahead of time. After providing two or three ideas for a given month, the brand picks the one it likes best and leaves it to Jordan to execute.
“I also think that if companies are reaching out to you, they already know your style, and they should be OK with that,” Jordan said. “If you don’t like the videos that I make every day, then you should probably not reach out to me.”
But Jordan doesn’t believe nurturing relationships falls solely on the company. As someone who also works with creators on the brand side of things, Jordan has seen prospects who seem more interested in snagging a quick partnership than really taking the time to get to know a brand and its products.
“I think just being very friendly and personable goes a long way,” Jordan said. “It’s a miss, in my opinion, when creators are like, ‘Thanks so much for reaching out. Now, what’s your budget?’ And so many people do that.”
An affiliate model or commission structure works great for many creators, but Jordan prefers to know for sure that she’s getting paid for the work she’s creating and exactly how much. Her flat rate includes the post itself, while extra perks like exclusivity or creator licensing come with an extra fee.
Jordan limits the number of partnerships she has going at a given time to keep her promotions as authentic as possible. Four collaborations per month—one a week—is her sweet spot.
“I see so many creators posting every-other-day ads, which I, as a consumer, do not like,” Jordan said. “I think you have to say to yourself, ‘Leave the money and just stop for a second.’”
Although she doesn’t have a posting schedule set in stone, Jordan does stick to a loose formula so she doesn’t inundate her audience with endorsements. A maximum of two sponsored posts per week is ideal, with at least one organic post separating them.
“Never back-to-back [sponsored stories],” Jordan said. “I’m very aware of how many sponsored stories I share, how many links I share in my stories, how many infeed posts are sponsored, and stuff like that.”
Jordan has a handful of multi-year relationships with brands she loves to work with. But she noted that those relationships didn’t start out long-term. And while brands and creators often have the most success when they can grow together over time, there is nothing wrong with a “trial run” to determine if the partnership truly has a future.
“Unless I know that I enjoy working with a company. I don’t want to sign a three-month contract,” Jordan said. “[My long-term partners] didn’t start off as year-long contracts. Those started off as maybe one to three posts, and then they turned into your-long partnerships or recurring partnerships.”
And whether it’s a one-off partnership or a multi-year contract, it doesn’t take a massive following for creators to land the collaboration of their dreams. The key is producing quality content that brands can use throughout their marketing mix.
“I don’t have the biggest platform, but I know how to do sponsored content,” Jordan said. “I’m creating content that brands can repurpose on their own channels or for ads. And I think once you start doing it, practice will help you stand out.”
I don’t have the biggest platform, but i know how to do sponsored content. I’m creating content that brands can repurpose on their own channels or for ads. And i think once you start doing it, practice will help you stand out.
Jordan noticed a little online community beginning to form when people outside her inner circle began posting comments on her social media channels. But that didn’t happen until she opened up and started sharing more of her vulnerabilities.
“When I shared my first post that had a longer caption and felt a little more vulnerable and a little bit more real, that’s when [my content] started to hit,” Jordan said. “And I kept doing that. I would just genuinely share about real stuff, and I think that is a big part of the reason why I grew back then.”
The vulnerabilities you share don’t have to be deeply personal, and the insights that accompany them don’t necessarily have to be profound. The most important thing is that you’re peeling back the curtain on your life and allowing people to find something that resonates with them.