NOTE: This blog post is part 22 of my INSTAGRAM SERIES - content all about helping YOU manage your way around instagram. In the INSTAGRAM SERIES I've touched on subjects such as how to get paid for posting content on instagram, how the algorithms really work and is your instagram account worth following. Just click here to find all the other parts in the series. Now on with today's controversial (?) post...
How much should an instagram influencer slash content creator earn? How much should we charge for our work as photographers, food writers, stylists? It's a question I get asked quite a lot and one that recently came up inside my creative community. I've written about the topic before, more broadly, but that blog post feels like ages ago and hence a few years older and wiser, I thought I'd tackle the question again on instagram and here on my blog AKA my home turf.
WHY IS IT SO HARD TO TALK ABOUT MONEY AS A CREATIVE AND INSTAGRAM CONTENT CREATOR?
What I (very naively) hadn't expected when I posed the question on instagram was how uncomfortable a topic it would be for people to address openly. In fact I had my first troll comment and someone getting VERY defensive. But the most common response, by far, was the 'ohhhh I can't wait to hear what YOU think Kimberly (and I won't tell you what I think until you tell me what you think)' scenario.
Why is this? I think culturally talking about money has always been considered taboo, 'wrong' and money in and of itself 'dirty'. We are ashamed to want money and worse still to admit we have it (or don't, as the case may be, either way, we're screwed!). On the one hand, I believe it's good that we're made to keep personal matters private. It's no one's business but our own how much we earn and we should only share this information if we feel comfortable doing so. On the other hand, we are doing ourselves as online creatives and creatives in general a major disservice.
I say this because if we look at other professionals say a nurse, a school teacher or a firefighter; going into those roles you KNOW what salary to expect. It’s out there on the job board for everyone to see. It’s ‘fair’, it’s transparent, it’s an age old job to which we have prescribed a set salary, which we (society, the education board, the state) consider appropriate. Doing this also allows for us to feel much more okay about talking earnings and income and comparing notes because give or take we're all pretty much in the same boat; only those with more service years under their belt earning a smidgen more.
WHY KEEPING STUM ABOUT EARNINGS AS A CREATIVE IS POTENTIALLY A BAD IDEA.
And then new jobs emerge like ‘influencer’, blogger, content creator and we’re baffled and seal our lips completely on the whole money talk thing. The result, (best case scenario) we’re all just making it up as we go along. Or (worst case scenario), we’re selling ourselves short because there are no set rules, no guidelines, no point of comparison. I say the latter with some confidence because as females and/or creatives our tendency is always to doubt ourselves and our self worth; it's our default position and with society questioning whether being a content creator is actually a job, who's to blame us?!
SO, WHAT SHOULD AN INSTAGRAM INFLUENCER AND CONTENT CREATOR CHARGE?
I asked this question both on my instagram grid and on my instagram stories resulting in VERY mixed results…
SHOULD YOU CHARGE BASED ON YOUR INSTAGRAM FOLLOWER NUMBER AND IF SO HOW MUCH?
YES! The general consensus was that follower numbers should play a role in how much you charge despite the fact that the waters are a bit muddy as people can buy followers. I TOTALLY agree that genuine follower count affects what you can charge and urge you to set a base rate for the ad space and audience access you're offering on your instagram grid.
What should this set base rate be? Your answers were soooo varied yet again, but I believe on average someone with 5K or less should have an ad space rate of £25 - £50, someone with 5K-10K followers a base ad space rate of about £100, someone with 30K-95K a base ad rate of approximately £250 -£700 and someone with 100K-150K followers a base ad rate of about £750+.
SHOULD YOUR ENGAGEMENT RATE AFFECT HOW MUCH YOU CHARGE?
YES! Only a few of you mentioned this as a factor to consider, but those who did pointed out that it takes a long time and lots of hard work to build trust with your audience and - dare I say it - influence. That's why the base ad rate I suggest above is quite broad, meaning that someone with 30K followers could potentially charge as much as someone with a follower base of 50K if the former has higher engagement and is considered an authority figure within their specific niche.
SHOULD YOU CHARGE FOR YOUR FOOD COSTS?
YES! YES! YES! Most of you didn't mention this, but I would urge you to charge your food costs ON TOP of your base rate. If you don't know how much you're going to spend on groceries to create the post, take a wild guess and build this into your quote when asked. Also, always clarify if the brand you are working with will send you their branded food items or if they expect you to get them yourself.
SHOULD YOU CHARGE FOR YOUR CREATIVE WORK?
YES! Many of you noted that what you charge or would like to charge needs to take into account how much time you spend working on the project. I couldn't agree more and hence I believe that on top of your ad space, access to your audience and your food costs, you should also charge for your recipe creation, photography and editing work.
There’s a big elephant in the room though, isn’t there? How on earth do you know WHAT to charge for your creative work? When I asked you all on instagram, there was no clear consensus. Perhaps that’s because there is no one right answer to this question; it’s incredibly subjective.
That’s not really helpful though, is it?! So what I suggest is the following. Please identify how much you feel you need to earn per year to pay your grocery bills, put your kids through school, make rent/your mortgage, pay your national insurance, buy your food photography backdrops etc. For the sake of this exercise I’ll make that figure £48,000 (you’ll see why I chose this figure in a moment).
There are 52 weeks in the year, but you need to give yourself a few weeks holiday (let’s say 4 weeks, which is the very basic holiday allowance most of us get in the UK), leaving 48 actual working weeks. £48,000 divided by 48 weeks, means you need to earn around £1000 per week to meet your yearly income target. Make sense?
Let’s say you work 5 days a week, this means your day rate is approximately, £200. If you only work 2.5 days a week it’s £400. You get me?
A word of caution: How much you need/want/deserve may be different things that may also be hard to untangle. As mentioned before, I think we have a tendency to undervalue ourselves and our work, but do believe that our ‘right’ to charge more increases as our experience, skill, knowledge and costs of running our business grows, would you agree?
Another important note: I don’t think it’s necessarily helpful to compare yourself to another influencer - their income needs and running costs may be totally different to yours! Having said that if the ‘going rate’ in your industry is 10x lower than what you’d like to charge, it may be time to take stock and consider re-jigging your prices. Just saying ;).
Before I move to my next subheading, please consider this one last issue - as a freelancer, photographer, content creator, stylist, you’re unlikely to have work 5 days a week, 50 weeks out of the year. Hence if you have a clear yearly income goal in mind, be sure to make it achievable when setting your hourly/daily/weekly/monthly rates.
ARE THERE THINGS I NEED TO CONSIDER AS A PHOTOGRAPHER OR INSTAGRAM CONTENT CREATOR WHEN SETTING MY PRICE?
Your country - The USA is miles ahead when it comes to blogger-brand collaborations with Australia and the UK slowly catching up. I’m also really interested to see how bloggers and brands in India are working together. But for bloggers in the Middle East, Southern and Eastern Europe blogger-brand collaborations are still in their infancy. This means that the rates noted above may be light years away from what any brand is willing or able to offer bloggers outside the US/UK/AUTRALIA bubble.
Repeat collaborations - The reason I feel it is SO important not to undersell yourself is because life in the freelance/entrepreneurial lane is VERY unpredictable. One month you may be super busy, and another you can barely get work. It’s why you should ALWAYS aim to work long term with a client or brand. Having that steady, reliable income source can give you some peace of mind and financial breathing space. So much so, that I think it’s a VERY good idea to offer those who work with you in the long run, more competitive rates.
Working for free - I wrote about this issue in quite some detail in this blog post here which I urge you to read at your own leisure. Has my tune changed? Only slightly. I am at a stage in my career where working for free - unless it’s for an amazing, non-profit, charitable cause - is not something I would consider. However, if I were starting out now in this crowded market and wanted some solid experience under my belt, an opportunity to build my portfolio and the chance to forge relationships with small brands I truly love, I’d consider it (for a limited period).
WILL BRANDS ACTUALLY REALLY PAY THIS AMOUNT OF MONEY TO PHOTOGRAPHER AND INSTAGRAM CONTENT CREATORS?
It really depends on the brand! Some recognise how much time and skill is required and really value food bloggers’ influence within their unique instagram niche. Others allocate pennies for brand-blogger collaborations and would look at the above figures in total disbelieve. So where does that leave you? Whether you take on a gig that does not pay what you’d like is your choice, no judgement my end, ok? I just invite you to do the maths, take a deep breath and then make your decision.
Personally, I’ve often resented brand/content creator collaborations where I’ve felt short changed. However, I’ve never regretted walking away from a deal that really wasn’t a ‘deal’ at all.
So are brands just out to rip us off? No, absolutely not! I’ve worked with some gorgeous brands and gained so much from doing so. What I would say is that they have a business to run, just like you do, and managing a profitable business means upping your income and lowering your costs. Simple! In other words, the agencies representing the brands are just looking after their clients and putting their clients’ needs first. Now it’s your responsibility - not the brands’ - to look after YOUR affairs and put yourself first.
CONCLUSION: HOW MUCH SHOULD AN INSTAGRAM CONTENT CREATOR EARN?
There’s no clear answer, no one size fits all response, but as long as you ensure you recognise the ad space you offer, honour the direct connection to your amazing audience, factor in your out-goings and value your time, skill and talents, you’re on your way.
WISH TO 'PAY' ME FOR THE CONTENT I CREATE FOR YOU HERE ON THE BLOG;)?
Like the free content I create here on the blog? Get joy from my (food) writing, my food blogger tips, my styling and food photography insights as well as many plant based recipes? Then may I kindly ask you to vote for me in this year’s Saveur blog awards? A vote from you would be super cool and totally make my day. Today’s your last chance to support The Little Plantation. Just saying’ ;).
P.S. Today’s post not convince you to vote for me? No worries. Then please check out my blog post number 1 (all about whether food blogs are so last year) and my blog post number 2 (talking about simplicity in food being the new orange) in my Saveur Blog Awards countdown. Thank you. I appreciate it.