To followers, the life of an influencer is all glamour. But any successful influencer will tell you that behind the scenes, most of their time is spent strategizing and negotiating collaborations. Being an influencer is about the delicate dance of being a creative business person, building your brand and honing the right partnerships.
But attracting brands and negotiating those collaborations can seem like a lot to take on. How should you determine your rate? What's the best way to showcase your work? What are the tools you should be using to build your influencer business? Navigating these questions isn't easy. Luckily, there are a few simple rules and tools that can help you put your best foot forward and nab the collaborations you want. To set yourself up for success, follow these rules of thumb and heed the advice of those who've walked the influencer path before.
Learn to Love Negotiating
Whether a brand approaches you or you pitch them, negotiating is part of the collaboration process. This is the first step for both parties to get to know what it's like working with each other. Though negotiating can be intimidating if you don't have a lot of experience, a few tricks can help you learn to embrace this valuable skill.
Start with an intake analysis: Find out the campaign's objectives and deliverables. “Is it transactional? Does it have long-term value?” asks Eric Dahan, CEO of Open Influence. “Always evaluate the type of relationship you have with the other party.” Compare their objectives with your own to see if it's a good partnership, not simply a good paycheck.
Don't shy away from talking numbers. Be direct and ask about their budget upfront, but avoid giving your number first. “Make sure you negotiate confidently and with hard facts to back your rates up,” says Christian Velitchkov, a growth expert and COO at the digital marketing agency Twiz IO. “These facts can include your active followers, engagement rates and exclusivity.”
Michelle Cehn, founder of World of Vegan with 1.1 million followers on Instagram, recommends talking with other influencers in your niche. “Openly share your rates and media kits and experiences with brands. I become a stronger negotiator and I bolster my confidence in my worth as a creator.”
Invest in a Media Kit
“Media kits are an essential part of showing brands what quality of work you can do for them,” says Irene McConnell, a career coach at Arielle Executive. Think of it as your business card, resume and portfolio all in one — and a great way to make a big impression. Making one can be a bit of a time investment, but it's worth it: It showcases your work, your personality and your potential.
“A creative and unique media kit can help you build credibility in the eyes of the brand and help grab their attention,” McConnell says. Plus, having one handy can save you time when pitching potential partners. “It puts off a credible image of your influencing capabilities and starts off the negotiations at the right time.”
Be sure to include your bio, engagement analytics and reach and samples of your work. Including testimonials is a good practice, too. Balance the information and the design (sites like Canva have good templates), but most importantly, make sure it reflects your personal brand and vision.
And keep it fresh. “Brands will always ask for your analytics, so having an updated media kit will make negotiation a breeze,” says John Eringman (@Johnefinance), an influencer with 1.2 million followers.
Prove Your Worth
Starting a new partnership can be tricky. Proving yourself can be even harder. In the eyes of a brand, an influencer's value is all in the growth potential they bring to the table. Give them a taste of what you'd contribute by proactively assessing their needs and offering ideas to support them. Show why you're a good investment for them by outlining the results you brought to previous partnerships and collaborations.
“An influencer's social media account should be well managed to the point that it proves their worth as a social media powerhouse. If your social media account is decorated with collaborations with different brands, it will give a powerful impression to the brand trying to retain your services,” says Dror Zaifman, Director of Digital Marketing for iCASH.
Determine Your Rate
Your starting rate sets a baseline for your financial relationship and trajectory with any brand. It might sound counterintuitive, but veteran influencers swear by not fixating on an exact rate. While a fixed rate is standard in many traditional industries, the collaboration world takes a different approach. As Eric Dahan, CEO of Open Influence, says, “There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all brand partnership. For the same reason, there’s no such thing as one-size-fits-all pricing.”
As you discuss payment potential, there are a few guidelines influencers use. One is figuring out the cost per acquisition for your industry. “If the cost per acquisition is $50 and you can get 100 people to buy, you can charge $5,000,” says Eringman.
Zaifman adds that another rule of thumb is “adding the number of likes and comments on your posts and dividing it by the number of followers you have on your social media account. Then multiply the accumulated number by 100, and you can get your engagement rate on one post. This will be your charging rate per post.” Explore the different pay structures and see what feels like the right fit for you.
Social media presence — check. Media kit — check. Reach, pay structure and promising partnerships — check, check, check. You're doing all the right things but remember: the influencer industry is highly competitive and always changing. To stay ahead, make sure you're using everything at your disposal. Here are a few apps the pros sweat by:
Onlypult: Schedule and publish your posts on multiple accounts
SquareLovin: Marketing suite for analytics and social commerce
Navigating the negotiation process and building your brand on social media is a challenging but rewarding experience. Keep in mind that social media success revolves around one important value: community. Use the community and network you build to support your growth, not just apps. One last piece of advice from Eringman: “Start a group chat with other similar size and niche influencers. Be open and honest with what you're charging. You'll have a better understanding of what you're worth when talking with other similar influencers.”
Jenna Scatena is a writer and content strategist with a love for stories that have never been told before. More than a decade of working with prominent magazines and brands informs her approach to impactful storytelling. Her stories have reached more than 30 million readers, won multiple awards and been anthologized in books. Jenna's work has appeared in Conde Nast Traveler, Vogue, Marie Claire, The San Francisco, BBC and The Atlantic. She's the founder of the editorial consultancy, Lede Studio.