Let’s talk about sponsored Instagram posts. A little under a year ago I received my first (uninsulting) offer for a sponsored post. I had 40-50k followers, and was offered £350 to share a photo that I’d already taken, with a caption that pointed towards a tourism board. I retained the rights to the photo.
I’d done a few unpaid adverts before this. You know the drill. I received a watch, probably with a production cost of 10% of the RRP, in exchange for advertising on my Instagram account. I have since observed said watch company, you probably have too. They’ve become a multi-million pound business, and have gone from occupying the arms of a few Instagrammers to occupying many of the arms of the general public. I would put big money on the notion that this growth is due to unpaid Instagram labour. This is my first point.
Never sell yourself short
At first there is a novelty value in working with brands. An offer of a free gift might be tempting, or you might feel flattered to have been contacted directly by a popular brand. A couple of free gigs might help you understand how to liaise with people or how to deliver what a brand wants, but after that (or even before), you should know your worth.
Think of the time and energy invested into growing your account, the time and energy invested in the creation of the content itself, the time you take to work on your admin tasks such as answering emails, and the publicity you are giving the brand by sharing their product with your followers. If the brand wants full rights to use your image in advertising campaigns, what would a photographer charge? It may well be hundreds, or in some cases thousands.
The brand representative is probably being paid a salary to reach out to you. Why should you be any different?
Knowing my worth was made easier by the fact that I was employed at first. If I wanted to work on an Instagram campaign, I’d have to take time off work to shoot in natural light, so the collaboration instantly required greater pay than that time at work.
It’s important to talk about money
One of the frustrating things about the UK is that money is often a taboo subject. Knowing your worth is a great deal easier when you and your Instagram or blogging circles are open about fees. Ultimately, money discussions empower the group as a whole. There are often people who may be greatly undercharging and lowering the average value of a sponsorship in your niche, or simply just missing out on their potential.
I’ve found myself in a few situations where I have worked with others on a campaign, only to find that I’ve been charging five times more than them for the same work with the same exposure, and the brand has been willing to accept that. I’ve also had the reverse occur, and discovered that someone with the same following and a similar skill level has been charging a whole lot more than I have for exactly the same work.
In these cases, I don’t believe there is a right answer. Working as an influencer is new to both brands and the influencers themselves, and I feel like we are all guilty of making it up as we go.
Is there a golden rule?
The current word on the street in my echo chamber (I’m sure everyone hears differently) is that Instagram influencers can charge between £6-10 per thousand followers. But this rule is pretty stupid in that it’s overly simplified. It doesn’t account for the quality of the content you are producing, nor engagement rates/ghost or fake followers. Nonetheless, I think it’s a decent place to start.
I use this rule as a baseline, and assume it’s what I should charge based on following quantity and a simple/fast/lowish quality still image without full ownership rights. I then ask, how much time will it take for me to prepare? Sometimes this will be hours or even days. If this is the case, the rate goes up. What about the quality? I only want to share a photo that I’ve invested time in perfecting, and I prefer to shoot high-res images in a professional setup – the output might be comparable to working on a photoshoot, and could therefore be used in other advertising. Are there expenses involved such as travel, props or food? All of these things will increase the rate.
There are points that might lower or even negate the fee. For example if you’re being given a hugely expensive holiday that you are free to enjoy at your leisure. (Note – I currently charge for most travel posts, because they usually involve declining other work options and meeting a long brief, therefore making them business > leisure).
On a rare occasion I will be offered something and think ‘I want that thing so much, and would have paid to have/do it anyway’. In those cases I might be willing to offer coverage for free. But I can’t stress enough that this is rare and almost never happens anymore.
So take that rule with a pinch of salt. Actually, take it with a whole grinder full of salt, because it doesn’t work for most people in most cases. But at least it’s a starting point.
If you have 5,000 followers, but you’re kick-ass with a dSLR/iPhone, are required to take a lot of time to make the content, or your engagement is above average, you are worth FAR more than between £30-50, and you shouldn’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Of course, you don’t want to price yourself out of the game. But I have found that by charging more there is an added mutual respect involved. I also feel that I have to work to a high standard to match the rate, so the brand ultimately gets better content, and I am generally taken more seriously for it. I was initially worried I’d run out of work for charging more, but I haven’t.
Don’t bite off more than you can chew
Another factor to consider, is that the more advertising you do, the less influential it might become. I try to abide by the 80/20 rule (80% organic and 20% sponsored at maximum), but there are times when brands want certain deadlines and lots of jobs land in a small window. Sometimes that can’t be avoided. I also went through a phase of getting over excited and accepting every job that came my way. A good deal of people unfollowed me for it, and I don’t blame them – it was probably annoying to watch. Nonetheless, it was a learning experience.
Always declare your ads
It’s a legal requirement to do so, and in my opinion it is disrespectful to those following you if you don’t declare. I don’t think ads are a bad thing, but think it’s only fair to be explicit about them.
What exactly is the point of this blog post?
I hope reading this might have been eye opening or empowering for some. Maybe it has helped shift the taboo of money talk. There is a big part of me saying ‘don’t post this’. But an even bigger part of me feels it’s important for the rep of an instagrammer to be taken a little more seriously (to some at least!). Most importantly, don’t forget to value yourself. 💜
I should also add that earning through Instagram has been a positive byproduct, rather than an intention. I joined Instagram for a love of photography. My use of the app was sustained by a kind and positive community for five years before it became apparent that I could earn a living. That community is still the driving force behind my usage, and I hope you feel the same.
This article is based on my own experience as an Instagrammer. Someone in another circle might have very different experiences or thoughts on sponsored Instagram posts. You’re welcome to share if that’s the case.
Want to read more about Instagram income beyond the world of sponsored posts? Check out ‘On Getting Paid’ by Angry Baker. She’s awesome.