Your Work Has Worth: Why Influencers Shouldn’t Work for Free

Many of us start out as creators/influencers at least in part because we want to work with brands. It’s one of the most externally appealing parts of the “job”: getting to collaborate with companies we love and sharing those partnerships with our audience. But what I learned quite quickly is that far too many companies expect influencers to work for free. Despite the immense value the influencer industry has (estimated $15 billion by 2022), too many of us still get insulting offers in our inbox. Ever get asked for multiple in-feed posts & stories in exchange for one serum? Or a year-long partnership with multiple deliverables each month in exchange for 2 products? Personally, I’m over it. In today’s post, I’m going to be talking about why influencers shouldn’t work for free. I’ll also tell you how to respond to those emails.

And if you’re just here for the template and don’t want to read my impassioned explanation of why creators shouldn’t work for free *damnit*, scroll to the section called How to Respond to a Brand That Wants You to Work For Free.

Why Influencers Shouldn’t Work for Free

If you’re on the outside looking in, you may be wondering why a job that consists of posting on Instagram merits payment. “That’s so easy though! Anyone could do it.”

Wrong.

Sure, anyone can post on social media – the influencer industry has a very low barrier to industry. But to have real influence – the power to persuade people to buy or not buy something, to have your opinion matter – is much more rare. When you do have that influence, brands want access to it. But often, they try to devalue it to save themselves money.

When a brand is working with an influencer, they’re getting a product tester, photographer, editor, reviewer, and consumer relations specialist all wrapped into one. Most importantly, they get access to an engaged audience. Developing that loyalty and trust with your followers can take months of years. The recommendation from the right influencer can be hugely lucrative for a brand. . In the skincare realm, they’re getting amazing product photography – which could cost $1000s of dollars if they went to a photography studio. Can you imagine trying to ask for all that for free to a traditional media agency? They’d laugh in the brand’s face. The bottom line is, the work influencers do has value.

Standing Up For Your Worth as an Influencer

Telling a brand you won’t be doing that for free – especially when it’s a brand you do want to work with – can be scary. Brands can get nasty when they don’t get what they want. The best (read: rude) response I got to telling a brand I wouldn’t post on my feed multiple times about their box of products for free was that I wasn’t “famous enough to merit payment.”

This is where I’m going to be brutally honest. If a brand doesn’t value you as an influencer you shouldn’t want to work with them anyways.

Remember that while it may feel like the brands are in a position of power, they want something from you. Your time, energy, passion and creativity have worth – and believe me, it’s much more than one lipstick or mascara.

Determining Your Rates

If you’re new to being an influencer or perhaps just new to getting paid for your work, you may be wondering how to determine your rate. In this section, I’ll give a brief overview of how I determine my rate.

First, for a MINIMUM rate, I start with 4% of my following. At the time of publishing, my following is around 2830. Therefore, my minimum base rate for 1 static, in-feed post is $113.

From there, there are a number of factors I consider when determining my rate. Here are a few:

Six Things to Consider When Determining Your Rates

  1. Your engagement rate. I use social blade to calculate this. If your ER is above average, you can charge more – a more engaged audience means more awareness and potentially more conversions for the brand.
  2. Quality of your content. If you’re shooting next-level, studio quality photos, then you absolutely should charge more.
  3. Probably the most important, the deliverables. Videos cost more than photos for me personally due to the amount of time. Multiple deliverables = more $$$. It’s great to bundle things together for brands to make it more appealing, but don’t undervalue your work. You also should consider the deadline – if they want the content quickly, make sure you charge more for that quick turnaround.
  4. Other platforms you can offer. If you also have a blog or a youtube or a TikTok, you can repurpose and recycle content (or at least the content ideas) to other platforms and thus charge more than if you were only working with the brand on Instagram.
  5. Usage rights. So far, I’ve only been discussing rates for you posting to your own platforms. If the brand wants to own the content you’re creating and use it on their own socials and in ads, you best be charging them a pretty penny for that! Remember: ads are revenue generating. If your work is going to be used to earn a brand money, you deserve to be fairly compensated for it.

There are even more factors that go into what your final rate is that I haven’t covered here, such as whitelisting, exclusivity, etc. But the key point that I want you to take away is that your work has worth, and you deserve to be compensated fairly.

How to Respond to a Brand that Wants You to Work for Free

“I get it! I deserve to be paid. But how the heck do I tell a brand that?”

I’m so glad you asked! Because in today’s blog post, I’m going to give you my exact wording of how I respond to brands who ask me to work for free. Feel free to copy/paste and change around what is needed – just remember to take out the notes I’ve put in for you!:

Dear [Insert name of person from brand emailing you],

Thank you so much for reaching out to me. I would love to discuss a mutually beneficial collaboration between myself and [brand name], as I’ve [always been interested in your products OR have been a long-time fan – whichever is true].

Due to the amount of time and energy that go into content creation, I don’t accept only product in exchange for my work. For the deliverables you have requested [Note – if they haven’t set out any deliverables, give your rate for 1 static in feed post and say that you would be happy to share rates for other content types once they tell you what deliverables they’re looking for], my rate would be $XXX (Note – always give a higher amount than your minimum you’d accept, because brands will always try to negotiate down). I’ve also attached my media kit for you to review. (Note – don’t have a media kit? Get my free template in this blog post).

I look forward to potentially working together.

Best,

[insert your name]

Summing Up Why Influencers Shouldn’t Work for Free

Influencing is not as easy as snapping a photo, posting it on the gram and having thousands of like & comments roll in. It takes work – like, enough work that our screen time is far beyond what is normal. That work merits compensation. I hope you have walked away from this post understanding your worth as an influencer & creator, and that you’re ready to stand up for yourself when brands come to you looking for freebies.

Have any questions? Drop them in the comments!

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