Welcome to the comprehensive guide on Brand Deals for creators! Whether you're a seasoned influencer or just starting out, understanding brand deals is crucial for monetizing your online presence.
Brand deals have emerged as one of the primary revenue streams for creators. From micro-influencers to global celebrities, brand collaborations offer a unique opportunity to not only earn but also to enhance one's brand value and reach. It's not just about the money. It's about building relationships, expanding your audience, and aligning with brands that resonate with your personal brand and values. Your followers trust your recommendation and insights, so it's important to take this trust seriously.
The journey of figuring out brand deals can seem daunting. The initial steps are often filled with uncertainty: How do I approach brands? What's my worth? How do I negotiate? But here's the silver lining: like any other skill, mastering brand deals comes with experience, knowledge, and the right tools. The initial hill might seem steep, but once you've climbed it, the view is rewarding. This isn't just a metaphor: creators who know what they are doing can earn thousands and even tens of thousands of dollars per month.
With a structured approach, understanding of the tools at your disposal, and insights into the brands that align with your niche, the process becomes not only easier but also more fulfilling.
Through this guide, we'll provide insights, strategies, and tools to help navigate working with brands. From understanding the basics to mastering the art of negotiation, we've got you covered. So, whether you're just starting out or looking to refine your approach, read on to unlock the potential of brand collaborations.
Brand deals, also referred to as influencer collabs, are collaborations between brands and creators.
Often times, a brand is looking for exposure to certain audiences, or is looking to drive sales in a given demographic. While some campaigns might focus on raising awareness about a new product or service, others might be geared towards pushing sales during a particular season or event. Knowing the primary objective of the campaign is key so you can make sure your content is geared towards those objectives.
Payment can structured in various ways too. Brands might offer free products so creators can try a product before experiencing it. However, many deals go beyond free product, especially if you are a creator with a sizable following. Creators might receive a flat fee for their efforts, or they could be paid based on performance metrics like CPM (Cost Per Thousand Impressions), CPA (Cost Per Action) or CPS (Cost Per Sale).
Understanding the compensation structure is not just about knowing how much one can earn, but also about grasping what the brand values most in the partnership. If a brand is willing to work on a CPM deal, they are focused on brand exposure, so they are willing to pay for just impressions. Alternatively, if you're a large creator, you might insist on being paid on a CPM basis. Even in these situations, it's important to understand what the brand is evaluating behind the scenes.
Even if they are paying you on a CPM basis, they may be backing out the effective CPA on their end. If they don't get the results they are looking for, they may refuse to work with you in the future. So, as you can imagine, it's important for you to understand what the brand's goal is for that specific campaign. Keep in mind that goals can change over time and across campaigns.
A brand deal is a contract between you and a brand for you to deliver media. Don't forget that.
Most collabs come with contracts that outline the responsibilities of the creator and the brand. These contracts specify deliverables, compensation details, and often include clauses about what creators can and cannot do. For instance, there might be exclusivity clauses preventing creators from promoting competing products.
Before you agree to a deal, you want to make sure you are aware of contingencies and clauses like:
There are many more contingencies but these are the most important and most common ones creators should be aware of. Brand deals are legal partnerships, but hopeful the conversion should never become legal in nature. Instead, if creators can make sure they understand the brand's objectives, the compensation intricacies, and the legal requirements, then both parties can be satisfied. Of course, things do happen, so creators should always be informed about what they are signing.
Brands know that creators have a loyal and engaged following that trusts their opinions and recommendations.
While numbers do matter, for brands, it's not always about the sheer volume of followers. Instead, they prioritize the quality of engagement, the authenticity of the creator, and the relevance of the content. A creator with a smaller but highly engaged audience can often be more valuable than one with a vast but passive following. There's a trend of valuing micro creators over larger mega creators since smaller creators often drive better performance.
One of the primary objectives is to acquire net new customers through these collaborations. Specifically, they're looking for high-quality consumers. These are individuals who don't just make a one-time purchase but become repeat customers or high retention subscribers. These customers represent a higher lifetime value, making them more lucrative for the brand in the long run, which can often help justify paying creators higher rates.
One thing to keep in mind is that brands know it takes a decade to build a brand's reputation and one tweet to destroy it. Brands are cautious about who they partner with. They will only work with creators who align with their values and can represent the brand responsibly. The last thing any brand wants is a PR crisis stemming from a creator's actions or statements that contradict the brand's ethos. If the brand does not feel they can trust your judgement, they will pass on working with you.
Securing brand deals is a blend of strategy, research, and effective communication.
The first step is to identify brands that resonate with your personal values and align with the interests of your audience. You have to identify brands that you would be happy to promote. A lot of this depends on your niche and online personality.
Once you've identified potential brands, the next step is to find the right people to connect with. Platforms like LinkedIn can be invaluable here. By searching for roles such as the influencer marketing manager, content manager, or affiliate marketing manager within your target brands, you can pinpoint the decision-makers. Finding them is only half the battle. Reaching out to them effectively is equally crucial.
Tools like Rocketreach or Hunter.io can assist in finding email addresses of these key individuals. If you're unable to find an email on these platforms, you can try looking up someone else at the company and see what email convention the company uses. For instane, if another person's email is firstname.lastname@example.org, then if you know the influencer marketing manager's name is Jessica King, then her email might be email@example.com.
Pro Tip: Another tip to keep in mind is that it might be worth starting your search by googling "brand name influencer marketing" and see what shows up. You can also try variations like "brand name ambassador program" and "brand name referral program". You might be able to find a person or team where you begin your initial outreach and ask them to connect you with whoever runs affiliate.
With the right contact information in hand, crafting your outreach email becomes the pivotal point. Given that these brand representatives likely receive numerous pitches from creators, standing out is essential.
When reaching out, it's vital to communicate several key points:
Securing brand deals is about more than just having a significant online presence. It's about strategic alignment, effective research, and clear, compelling communication.
One Last Bold Pro Tip: This might be too bold, and definitely isn't something we recommend to do often or casually, but sometimes, if you're trying to get in touch with someone at the brand, and email the CMO, CEO or Founder. You're either going to be bugging them and they'll ignore you, or if there really is that great of an audience alignment, they might forward your email to the marketing team and recommend they work with you. This could be really annoying to an influencer marketing manager, so we would only ever recommend perhaps picking one dream company that you might want to try something this bold with. This likely won't work at a large company though, only a small or midsized company.
Let's look at some sample emails a creator might sent to a brand.
Imagine a creator with the following background
Subject: Collaboration Proposal: Bringing Canva to Aspiring Designers
Hi Canva Team,
I've been a passionate user of Canva for years and appreciate the company's mission to democratize design. As a YouTube creator focusing on graphic design, I've often showcased Canva in my tutorials and have seen my audience's keen interest in your tools.
My audience consists of budding designers and digital art enthusiasts, many of whom are always on the lookout for accessible and user-friendly design tools. I believe a collaboration between us could introduce Canva to a wider audience, eager to explore their creative potential.
I have a unique idea for a series titled "Design on a Dime with Canva," where I'd showcase how to create professional-grade designs without breaking the bank.
While I typically charge a flat fee for brand collaborations, I'm open to discussing a performance-based component, ensuring our collaboration is mutually beneficial. For reference, I've previously collaborated with brands like Adobe and Procreate, and have driven hundreds of trial sign-ups from my audience. You can view these collaborations here.
Looking forward to the possibility of working together!
Here's the same email as a template that you can use yourself for future outreach.
Subject: Bringing [Brand Name, e.g., Canva] to [Specific Audience, e.g., Aspiring Designers]
Hi [Recipient Name],
I've been a passionate user of [Brand Name, e.g., Canva] for [Duration, e.g., years] and appreciate [Specific Feature or Aspect of the Brand, e.g., the platform's ability to democratize design]. As a [Your Platform, e.g., YouTube] creator focusing on [Your Niche, e.g., graphic design], I've often showcased [Brand Name] in my [Content Type, e.g., tutorials] and have seen my audience's keen interest in your [Product/Service, e.g., tools].
My audience primarily consists of [Audience Description, e.g., budding designers and digital art enthusiasts], many of whom are always on the lookout for [Specific Need, e.g., accessible and user-friendly design tools]. I believe a collaboration between us could introduce [Brand Name] to a wider audience, eager to explore [Specific Benefit, e.g., their creative potential].
I have a unique idea for a series titled "[Your Series Idea, e.g., Design on a Dime with Canva]," where I'd showcase [Specific Content Idea, e.g., how to create professional-grade designs without breaking the bank].
While I typically charge a flat fee for brand collaborations, I'm open to discussing a performance-based component, ensuring our collaboration is mutually beneficial.For reference, I've previously collaborated with brands like [Past Brand Collaborations, e.g., Adobe and Procreate], driving a [Specific Result, e.g., hundreds of trial sign-ups] from my audience. You can view these collaborations [here or link to your portfolio].
Looking forward to the possibility of working together!
Brand deals are an art, which means compensation can vary significantly. There are a few things that impact how much creators can or might be earning from brand deals at a given point in their journey as a creator: their platform, their follower count, and their niche.
Note: We're only talking about what creators might be making from brand deals and not cumulatively from all their income sources.
To answer how much creators can make from earnings, we need to discuss how the scale of the creator's following makes a difference. Creators are often categorized as Nano, Micro, Macro, and Mega influencers.
Smaller creators, with their higher engagement rates, often lead to more interactions, be it comments, likes, clicks, or sales. Brands are well aware of this dynamic and often seek out these creators for more authentic and intimate campaigns. On the other hand, larger creators, with their expansive reach, offer brands visibility on a grand scale. Their premium status often allows them to command higher rates.
However, the size of the creator isn't the only determinant. As a creator, your earning potential from brand deals is influenced by:
Putting all this together, Linktree, every year, releases an Annual Creators Report. From this, they've shared the following stats.
As you can see, only 2% of creators begin to make a wage that could sustain them as a full time role potentially. This report isn't even limiting income to just brand deals, so the numbers are actually lower. However, from other surveys, it's clear that brand deals are the top way creators earn income.
Going deeper than this, there are other ways to understand how much creators could earn, but it requires theorizing along the lines of "how much would a personal finance YouTube with 100K subscribers make?" o r "how much can a TikTok creator with 1M followers make?" (The answer to the first one is: a lot.)
For instance, here are some rates for Instagram creators based on their follower count:
Meanwhile, another source cites the following numbers for TikTok creators. However, we believe the numbers below are exaggerated and higher than what we would expect, especially since TikTok has the lowest engagement given it's quick, short-form videos.
YouTubers are the most highly compensated creators. This makes sense when you consider that the average successful video on YouTube is around 10 minutes long. YouTuber allows creators to build the most intimate relationship with their subscribers, and so they have the most sway and influence on their thinking and purchases. YouTube also makes adding a link in the video description super easy compared to TikTok and Instagram. For all these reasons, brands are usually willing to pay the most on YouTube.
It's not easy to make sense of the various narratives and data points around how much creators earn. Some reports talk about how creators can hardly earn a real living, and others talk about high rates per post across platforms. There's also tons of articles from sites like Business Insider that cover how much specific creators make and how that breaks down.
For instance, here are a few:
How are these creators earning so much while the majority are earning less than 500 a year?
This actually hits at the core of the thesis of why we started The Creator Investor. We believe that creators are a massive shift in how consumers consumer information and make purchase decisions. It's not that these above creators are exceptions as much as that other creators have yet to figure it all out.
At a high level, you need a following and you need to be able to monetize your following. If you don't have the following yet, you need to figure out how to build your following and community. If you have the following but aren't monetizing it effectively, you need to educate yourself on the various monetization opportunities, figure out which ones are work for your audience and platform, and iterate your way to financial freedom. (And once you start earning money like the creators above, you should make sure you are smart with your money, and stay ahead of platform changes and disruptions.
We're here to help.
You can get anywhere from as low as $100 for a TikTok post to as high as $50,000 if you're a celebrity.
YouTubers make anywhere from $1000 to $50,000 or more for a single video. These numbers might be skewed from the last few years and rates may be going down in 2023 though.
While there is no set number of followers you need to get brand deals, most brands will want to work with creators with at least 10,000 followers on the low end. The more creators a brand works with, the more management of individual creators the brand has to deal with. However, if a brand works with a creator with 1 million followers, they know the engagement rate will be lower. As a result, they may work with a variety of creators, but usually, not below 10,000 followers.
Influencers can use platforms like LTK, MagicLinks, Mavely, Howl, Swipehouse and many others to find deals. You can also potential find brands on affiliate platforms and networks like Impact Radius, Commission Junction, Awin and Rakuten. You can join as an affiliate and then reach out to brands to ask for a brand deal.
Waiting around for brands to reach out to you is a more passive approach and is leaving brand deals to luck. If you are the number creator about shoes, then maybe Nike's influencer team might reach out to you eventually. However, minus these rare situations, we recommend creators to be more proactive and find brands on various platforms or do your own outreach to relevant, targeted brands. However, there are platforms that creators can get listed on where brands can find them like LTK and Collabstr.
Depending on what platform you have your following on, you can make anywhere from $200 to $10,000. At $200 for 100K views, you are getting a $2 CPM, and at $10,000, you are getting a $100 CPM. A $2 CPM is insanely low and even lower than what brands pay for low quality display ads. However, a $100 CPM is also insane and unheard of for the average campaign.
Most of the influencer marketplaces have various options for creators withdrawing money. This can include withdrawing via PayPal, a wire transfer, or ACH withdrawal.
Our best bet would be Mr. Beast, who's real name is Jimmy Donaldson. It's reported that Mr. Beast earned more than $50 million dollars in 2021. In second place is Jake Paul, who earned $45 million dollars that same year.
For your first brand deal, we recommend one of the influencer marketplaces and platforms. These deals may not pay the most, but they will help you get some experience working with brands and building a relationship. Some of the platforms include LTK, Howl and Swipehouse.
Finance brands probably pay creators some of the highest CPAs. This can include brand like Robinhood, Chime, and Dave. Separately, subscriptions products are also able to pay higher rates because if they believe your audience will be high quality and stay a paying customer for a long time. In particular, VPN brands are big creator advertisers on YouTube. These products are high margin products with no marginal costs to serve one more user, so they are willing to pay a lot to creators to drive these sales.
You could be doing a variety of steps wrong in the funnel. For instance, are you identifying the right brands to reach out to? Are you reaching out to the right stakeholders at the brands? Are you reaching out with the right email and messaging to brands? Are you asking for too high rates that brands can't afford to work with you? Is your channel brand safe for the brand? Do you have a bad reputation with brands in this niche? There are many reasons you may not be getting brand deals. Many are probably things you can fix.
Check out our Brand Deals Outreach Template above. Or, potentially consider using AI to craft the perfect outreach email. Even Beacons recently built an AI brand deals outreach tool.