It’s no secret that the average woman's earnings are lower than the average man's across nearly all industries. However, in the influencer space, women are dominating this field, but when we look closer across each race in this industry, there is still a disconnect. The truth is, Black women are trailing farther behind and are not getting paid their worth in comparison to their racial counterparts.
But, what can we do about it? How can Black women finally get paid their worth in an industry like the influencer space where Black women generally have no pay standards to reference, and typically no colleagues to discuss how to negotiate?
What's evident when we look at the pay gap that exists in each industry, when you’re unaware of what other people are earning or what the industry standard is, it becomes easy for you to be low-balled, and to lack confidence in negotiating.
Because having real conversations about the influencer pay gap is still new, we spoke with four Black women influencers to discuss their experience with the influencer pay gap, negotiating, and their tips for their fellow Black women influencers on getting paid their worth.
There have been several times when a brand has low balled me, and in the beginning, I didn't know any better and was just happy to work with the brands. I now know my worth and ask for my rates. Of course, there is always room to negotiate but, offering product in exchange for content creation and/or a low rate to produce content, post on your social channels, do a blog post, usage, and licensing is a lot to ask for. I was once offered $300 for the deliverables I just listed above and I walked away because like I said I know my worth.
I think we get caught up most times because our "dream" brand reaches out to us and then we get caught up on the name, but we have to start looking at it like it's a business. Of course we do this because we love it, but we also have to get paid in order to pay our bills.
My advice would be to set your rates, and negotiate. One thing you can do is if the brand isn't willing to pay your rate, you can ask to take out some of the deliverables.
For example, if my rate is $2000 for an IG post, stories, and a blog post and the brand says that is over their budget, I could negotiate to see if they would be willing to just do the IG post and stories for the $2000 and drop the blog post. A lot of times they are willing to take out deliverables to meet your rates, and then you can still work with your "dream" brand, but you aren't leaving any money on the table.
Early on in my full-time blogging days, I was getting burnt out because I was taking on a lot of campaigns in order to cover my living expenses. When I spoke to a white influencer at lunch one day and compared rates, I realized that I was making considerably less than her, even though we had similar followings and content. I started gradually raising my rate after that, and was shocked at how large brands' budgets were, and how much I was lowballed in the past.
There are a lot of things to consider when calculating a rate. When working with brands, first ask yourself: how much will it cost to produce the content? Are you hiring a photographer? Buying props? Traveling to a shoot location via Uber or are you using your car? Are you spending money on editing software? What about your internet/wifi costs? Break all of that down first. You should be making enough to cover all of these costs, and still turn a profit.
Another thing to consider is usage and exclusivity. If the brand request content licensing, this is something that established photographers charge quite a bit for. Make sure to factor that into your rate as well.
Also, keep in mind, exclusivity can prevent you from working with other brands in the same niche, so I would add in a bit extra to compensate any potential lost income as well.
With the recent social uprising and efforts for businesses to be more accountable, I lost one of my biggest brand deals. Though I hated to lose that partnership, I stood my ground. I felt powerful knowing that I could demand what I was worth. Moving forward, I’ve been confident to present my rates. If a company doesn’t see my value, I walk away. I’m also open to negotiating my services and making sure my followers get something out of the deal. Whether that's a coupon code, a free gift, or something - just something that lets them know the brand cares about their business.
As an influencer when it's time for you to negotiate, my advice is: KNOW YOUR ANALYTICS.
It’s all well and good to think you deserve equal pay, but can you sell yourself according to the data? Do you have goals for your brand other than getting 10,000 followers? Do your followers leave thoughtful and engaging comments on your posts? Are you consistent in posting content on your social platforms? Lastly, do you have a website? Knowing the answers to these questions can help you leverage payment.
Lastly, it’s great to have a bunch of followers and likes, but if you can convey your value according to analytics, you’ll be hard-pressed to receive what you’re worth. Get on Google, learn what reach, impressions, and engagement numbers mean, then move forward with demanding payment.
Back when I started in 2016, influencer marketing was just now becoming a real thing. Initially, I honestly didn't even know what to charge because everything was so new, and other content creators were so secretive about what they were charging.
I remember one of the first big brands that I worked with was Chili's. I remember at the time when they reached out, I immediately jumped on it and was scared of charging too much because I didn't want to scare them off. Over time, I gained the confidence to really charge what my brand is worth, considering how much work goes into creating content.
One resource that people can go to now for insight on negotiating their pay is the Influencer Pay Gap Instagram page. It's an anonymous page where people are just sharing their experience with brands, what they made, and information on their following and engagement rate. It's a really great way to figure out what people are being paid out there, and to be able to compare it to your own following and your own engagement rate to see if you're undercharging brands.
As the fight continues for Black women to get paid their worth, it's time for us to be more transparent and comfortable with talking about money. We hope that the advice from each influencer will serve as a helpful resource and source of inspiration the next time you are in the negotiating room.
*Feature photo credit: Tom McGovernfirstname.lastname@example.org