One of the most mysterious aspects of the influencer world is how people actually make money from creating and sharing content online. Although it’s been a minute since I talked about monetizing your blog or social media platforms, since my six figure blogger post last year, I’ve gotten a lot of inquiries about how to figure out what to charge as an influencer. Today I’m answering that question in depth, plus sharing when to post for free. Keep reading for the tea!
The Old Ways Of Figuring Out What to Charge as an Influencer
Over the three and a half years that I have been taking my influencer business seriously, I have seen countless number of equations and guidelines for figuring out what to charge as an influencer. Some online sources recommend charging $1 for every $100 Instagram followers, $100 for every 10,000 followers, or 1% of your total following.
Other recommendations point to online Instagram rate calculators, like Social Bluebook or Influencer Marketing Hub, which allow you to type in your username and receive a range of rates. If you’re a member of Fohr (which you should join if you haven’t already!), they also provide an estimated rate range.
While these are great places to start if you have never charged for a post before, most online calculators grossly underestimate your potential rate because they only take into consideration one metric: your follower count.
Setting Your Rates Based on Your Value, Not Your Follower Count
The issue with setting your rate purely based on your follower count is that accounts with the same number of followers provide very different returns for brands. Some accounts have much higher engagement than others, some people are much better at driving product sales, and others create high quality imagery that can be repurposed by brands for their own marketing.
Early last year, I started hearing from brands and fellow bloggers alike that I was charging too little for the quality of my content and my engagement with my audience. So I went back to the drawing board to figure out what my Instagram campaign rate should be based on my value, not based on my following. And I ended up adding another zero to my rate!
So what exactly determines your value? After reading Brittany Hennessy’s book, I now think about rates for content in three distinct ways: the cost to use me as talent, the cost to produce, and the cost to distribute.
- Talent Cost: this is the cost to use your face, image, and likeness in association with a brand. Think of this as if you were asked to be in a commercial for a company (which a sponsored post essentially is), and the company is banking on your audience recognizing you in the commercial and having a positive affinity for the brand.
- Production Cost: this is the cost of the labor that goes into creating the content. The photography/videography fee, the cost of hair/makeup/styling/props/location scouting/etc, the cost of the time used to create concepts/draft captions/provide revisions, and the administrative cost of replying to emails as well as sending invoices.
- Distribution Cost: this is the cost to disseminate content to your audience, and is usually the area that follower-based calculations focus on. However distribution costs should also consider exclusivity (because for most niches, a post about a specific laundry detergent means you won’t be able to work with another laundry detergent brand for some period of time, cutting into your potential revenue), as well as usage. Usage is really where the dollars can start to add up; if a brand wants to run ads on the content you’ve created, they are basically using your image to save themselves the cost of hiring a photographer and model and crew to create a brand-generated image. Furthermore, the longer a brand wants to use your content, the more you should charge, because that can affect other competitor brands’ desire to work with you.
Based on all those factors, I now don’t have a standard rate for sponsored projects. While my talent cost is the same across the board, the production and distribution costs can really vary depending on how time intensive the campaign might be, whether I need to book or scout a location to shoot in, and what the brand plans to do with my content afterwards. Similarly, you should have a baseline rate for the minimum you’re comfortable charging as an influencer, but have a range of fees based on a variety of factors.
If you want to ignore all the above about charging based on value versus followers, and you’re looking for an easy math equation to help you get started, most bloggers that I know charge somewhere around 3-4% of their Instagram following for an average campaign (1 post + 1 set of stories).
When to Post for Free
So all that said about charging based on your value, is there ever a time when you should do work for free? Do I ever post for free? The answer to both questions is yes, absolutely. There are four main reasons that can help guide you on when you should post for free:
- You need the content/product: This is the most straightforward for me. I need a couch and a brand wants to provide a couch and no additional payment? Count me in. But if a brand is offering you lipstick in exchange for a post, and you don’t need lipstick – or their lipstick – then turn it down. Now say you post exclusively about fashion and you’re trying to break into the beauty niche, and a brand offers you lipstick. Then you might need the lipstick to help you create content. In that case, consider taking the campaign.
- You gain something more valuable than money out of the collaboration: Now a lot of brands try this when they ask for a post in exchange for “exposure”, but if they have a much larger following of similar minded people as the ones you’re trying to attract to your page, then a repost may have value far greater than a few hundred bucks. Or if a brand offers you VIP tickets to a concert in exchange for a post; the cost of those tickets is likely more than your rate anyway, so feel free to take the campaign!
- It’s a great cause: Someone wants a post about breast cancer awareness, and you’re passionate about breast cancer because it has personally affected your life? Then by all means go ahead and post for free! Remember that while you have to make bread, it’s not always about the money. Even non-influencers do pro-bono work.
- Posting is easy: Some people might disagree with me on this, but if a campaign requires minimal work, time, and effort, and you need additional content for your feed, then stop overthinking things and just go ahead and do it for free. Again, it’s not always about the money. Think about the value you could be providing for your audience, or the relationship you could be building with the brand.
As an example, I posted about Rent the Runway for years for free, because I genuinely believed it was life changing, I wanted my audience to know about it, and I was wearing the clothes regularly. They eventually offered me an Unlimited membership in exchange (or maybe as a thank you) for regular posts and tags, which I was doing anyway, and my continued dedication to the brand eventually landed me in an Economist feature. Recently – three years after my very first post about Rent the Runway – I was able to do a paid partnership with them, and they met my desired rate. So my working for free definitely paid off in the long run.