Bringing Home the Bacon: A Guide to Setting Your Rates
This Snapfluence guide to compensation will help you confidently ask for and defend a reasonable rate for your content. We’ll explain all of the different factors to consider when setting your compensation rate and when to say “No thanks” to an offer. Unfortunately, the influencer marketing industry has grown faster than we can keep up with, so there is no such thing as an “industry standard” for compensation rates. But that doesn’t mean you should throw darts or pull a number out of a hat. Don’t scroll down looking for a compensation calculator, because it doesn’t exist. And it shouldn’t.
What's the Draw?
There are many factors that may make you appealing to a brand. Your images might be the perfect style, your follower base may be giant, or your engagement could be through the roof. Maybe you are the trifecta of all three.
Each brand will be looking to fulfill different goals with their campaigns, so the first step is determining the client's’ goals. This could take a couple of conversations with a brand manager or agency handling the project, but it should become clear quickly which of these main goals a brand is hoping to achieve:
- Reach-- For some brands it’s all about exposure. They are trying to get their products in front of as many eyes as possible.
- Content generation-- Some brands need beautiful images to populate their social channels and help boost their creative efforts.
- Engagement-- Most brands will want to see good engagement rates. This is where the value of influencer marketing lies-- with the people who have cultivated meaningful conversations on social media…. That’s you.
Determining their main goals can help you negotiate effectively. If you say “I have 1 million followers, so I charge this much…” That won’t mean a whole lot to a brand who is only looking for beautiful photos passed their way and not even posted to your channel.
Who is the Brand?
When evaluating a brand proposition, question numero uno should be: Does this brand have relevance to your life? Lifestyle match is the key to influencer marketing-- for brands and for content creators. If you don’t genuinely enjoy the brand, your posts will not be authentic to your audience or beneficial for the brand. Your engagement will suffer, your followers could even drop away if they perceive you to be insincerely promoting brands. You may turn down an offer that doesn’t fit with your content or lifestyle, or you may charge more to create content for a brand that isn’t an easy or exact fit.
Note about lifestyle match: You don’t have to already know and love the brand for there to be a lifestyle match. If you are approached by a brand you’ve never heard of, check them out. Test their product. Determine if they fit into your world. A meaningful product review (with good and bad points) is valuable for your audience and also for a growing brand as they strive to improve. In the world of social media, strong products and meaningful brands spread through word of mouth marketing. You could be part of introducing the next Lululemon or
Along with lifestyle match, you should consider your interest in the products and the value of the brand collaboration. Is this something awesome that you want to get for free? If yes, maybe you can work out a deal because the product has value to your life. Some brands think that you are going to create tons of content just because they were benevolent enough to send you some merchandise. That’s not the case. You should pretty much always be financially compensated for your work-- especially if content creation is your main job.
You should also think about how valuable the brand partnership could be to your portfolio. Could this brand make you more appealing for future collaborations? A big name brand will look impressive to future potential clients and even if your rate for the initial project is low, being associated with big names could help you justify charging a higher rate in the future.
Who are you?
Unless you are outbound pitching to a brand, you have been approached for a project either by a brand or an agent. Like we discussed in the intro, that brand has a particular goal in mind and you fit that goal. When determining your compensation rates, you should be self-aware and informed about the client’s goals.
A big part of what qualifies you as an “influencer” is the audience that tunes in to view what you create. The size of your follower base should factor into your compensation rate, especially if the brand’s main objective is getting in front of eyes. BUT followers cannot be the only factor.
A cautionary note about followers:
Your value cannot be entirely determined by the number of followers you have. Any brand worth their weight in the influencer marketing space will know to look past that number, no matter how alluring it may be. They will want to know if your photos or videos are high quality, do you match their brand feel, are your captions perfectly witty-- and how your followers respond to your posts.
So do not base your compensation entirely on your reach because as brands become smarter about their campaigns follower-based fee structures will not be sustainable justification for pricing.
One factor that smart brands and marketers will focus on is engagement rate. If your followers are always engaged with your posts-- liking, sharing, leaving comments-- and if you are engaged back with them-- responding to their comments and answering their questions-- this will significantly increase your value. We think this is the most meaningful factor in all of the influencer marketing equation. If you have a reasonable number of followers (for most brands this is 10,000 + on a single channel, but that varies) and a stellar engagement rate, your posts are going to be very appealing to brands. This shows brands that you hold actual sway with your audience-- they care about what you have to say and they will be more likely to take your product recommendations to heart. Check out the metrics section for more on the importance of engagement.
The quality of your content should fall somewhere between professional and exceptional if you are hoping to make a real name for yourself and a real living in this space. Meaningful brands are looking for content creators who are a perfect lifestyle match to give creative professionalism to these campaigns. They should provide guidelines and thought-starters for content, but you should be prepared to put serious time and effort into these campaigns. You will not get away with charging big bucks to shoot a quick selfie with a product (not for long anyways.) Think about lighting and composition, think about how to incorporate their hashtags and requirements into your caption so they don’t stick out like a sore thumb. If you do these things well, you are worth more than a few crappy selfie-shooting product hounds-- no matter the size of their follower base. Be prepared to show examples of beautiful content you’ve created for previous brand collaborations.
What content are they looking for?
We’re back to that first section again-- determining what the brand is looking for. There are several things to consider about the brand’s ask. One of the more obvious questions is the amount of creative control you will have over the content.
Is the brand asking you to collaborate in a true sense? Meaning they are asking for your ideas and listening to your feedback? Or are they looking to pre-approve posts, dictate captions or edit photos? Brands who are entering into influencer marketing for the right reasons should be comfortable educating you about the campaign goals and then allowing you to create content. If a brand wants you to copy/paste their prescribed caption or post a photo they create and send, what they are really looking for is an ad placement and you should feel confident saying “No thank you.”
Ask smart questions ahead of time to avoid edits or issues in the creative process, like:
- How does the brand want the product featured?
- Do they want a “link in bio” ?
- How much of the caption content is dictated?
- Do they want to review concepts or approve photos?
- How difficult will this be to create?
If it sounds like it will be very hard to make a natural, authentic post with this brand or product, maybe you need to reconsider whether they are a good lifestyle match. If the lifestyle match is correct, but the product will still be tricky to integrate in a non-spammy way, maybe you need to charge a little extra for the time and work it will take. This brings us to the question of time.
Estimating the hours it will take you to complete a project and then assigning an hourly rate to establish your quote is how a large majority of creative work gets done. Many creative professionals-- especially photographers-- charge an hourly rate to create images for brands. his can be valuable in helping you calculate and establish your rates, but may not be the best client-facing metric since content creation is similar to other creative services in some ways, but very different in others. Equating yourself with graphic design, web design, or production photographer rates could backfire, as the brand may not see influencer marketing’s value in the same way.
Content Rights & Exclusivity
We have a whole other guide to understanding and negotiating this realm, but here are the basics of how these two factors can influence your campaign rates.
The term “rights” really spooks people-- when content rights, or copyrights come up in conversation people go on the defensive. It is important to have a clear understanding of who will own the content, who is allowed to use the content, and how they are allowed to use it. If you write that out in plain english so everyone is on the same page, then you will all feel more comfortable with the agreement. If a brand wants to own your content 100%, you might charge a little more. If the brand wants to use your content, but still allows you to maintain ownership, you might charge a little less.
Exclusivity should theoretically affect your posting rate more than content rights because exclusivity can hamper your ability to make other deals. Many brands are realistic about the fact that influencers have multiple campaigns going on at a given time and will be flexible with exclusivity. As a professional courtesy you should give your clients exclusivity within each branded photo and for the day that the photo is posted.
Example: If you are posting a photo for Coca Cola, there should be no other competitor brands visible in the photo or tagged in the caption (this means other drinks or snacks) additionally you should not post a photo about Pepsi later in that same day.
However, some brands will request that you give longer periods of exclusivity to their products-- say no posts about competitors for a week before or after the post. This could inhibit your ability to earn money if you were approached with a deal from a competitor during that same time period, so exclusivity of this kind might mean you charge more for the campaign.
Marketers love metrics. They love to test, measure and prove, over and over again. You should be able to directly answer tough questions about what value you can provide to a project. Bloggers have years of experience in this space, providing monthly readership stats, traffic, subscribers, etc. This can be a little trickier for people with influence on other channels-- like Instagram. Know your current follower base and engagement rates. Determine upfront what metrics you can guarantee. Click through to sales should not be a viable metric for brands who are engaging with influencer marketing for the right reasons. If you have an agent or are working with an influencer marketing partner, these metrics will have been negotiated already. If you’re going it alone, just be careful what you promise.
Don't gouge em
Many brands are already skeptical about influencer marketing and a good experience with a creative professional could open the doors to future collaborations and help warm the climate for reluctant brands to wade into the influencer marketing pool.
Many agents will charge insane amounts of money for single posts in an effort to maximize the value of each partnership-- especially if they hear a big brand name is involved. We don’t believe that this is a sustainable way to do business or grow a portfolio for yourself. Yes you may get a few giant deals, but agencies and brands will stop knocking on your door as they start to find equally talented people with more reasonable rates. This is why it is not only important to determine a fair posting rate for your services, but also be able to back that rate up with metrics and reasoning. The lack of standard industry rates is easy to take advantage of (or be taken advantage of) but will level out as influencer marketing becomes a more disciplined and common practice for brand managers and marketers everywhere.
Learning to say "No Thanks"
On the other hand, there is a line you need to draw for yourself. Once you determine that correct
rate-- and what factors influence you to accept less and what factors will make you charge more-- you have to learn to say “No Thanks” if a brand is not willing to compensate you fairly for your work.
Just as you should not turn down a brand if you’ve never heard of them, or gouge a big brand just for the one-time pay off, you also should never let a brand take advantage of your work. Trust that you’re doing everything you can to build a strong creative presence and the deals will come. Confidently turn down deals that do not align with your lifestyle, morals, or grossly undervalue your content.
Creative Community Director at Snapfluence.
There is often a pen stuck in my hair.