How Much Do Social Media Influencers Really Make?

Jenna Kutcher 

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October 19, 2018


I have to be honest, the term “influencer” makes me want to throw up… and it’s thrown around a lot these days. Before we dive into the world of “influencer marketing” I want to remind you: if you have ONE follower, you have influence. K, cool? Cool.

It’s crazy that we live in a world where people actually get paid to post about things on an app, am I right? But how much do social media influencers really make? And, how do you become a top earner in this field? That’s what I want to cover today and as someone who makes over 6-figures a year just in sponsored content, I understand how absolutely crazy it is to get paid to post and share the things you actually love.

As crazy as it is, it’s also an awesome opportunity to monetize a platform you’re already using every day. But first things first, if you’re wondering what an influencer even is or how to get started, head straight to this post where I spill all the beans and share my best tips. Let’s pull back the curtain to reveal how much social media influencers really make and how you can make an actual income hitting publish on the apps you love to hate. Let’s cover the things that are important to consider to be able to command larger paychecks for your influencer marketing efforts.

What’s important to brands when looking for influencers?

In today’s online marketing world, brands are looking for so much more from influencers than just the number of followers they have. Brands don’t just want a big number under a name, they want people who have true influence. If they are wise, they won’t get stuck on the number of followers but will look at a more complete picture of what true influence looks like in the people they are choosing to represent and share their brand.

Here are a few key things a brand will likely look at:

  • Number of followers
  • Percentage of engagement (likes/comments on posts)
  • Alignment with product or service
  • Quality of content
  • Frequency of posting
  • Demographic of audience
  • Past campaigns you’ve done
  • If your followers engage with sponsored posts
  • How you speak about products/services
  • What it’s like to work with you

While it’s tempting to lead a pitch with a number, it’s more important to be able to speak into things like the way your audience engages with you and trusts you or how you plan to share about their product or service. It can be freeing when you understand the depth and considerations that go into how brands choose to partner with influencers and including some of the above areas when pitching to brands can help you to land deals.

How to pitch yourself for partnerships

When you’re just starting out as an influencer, the best way to get going is to pitch yourself. I know it feels weird, but you’ve got to be willing to put yourself out there if this is something you want. Draft up an email about who you are, who your audience is, include any stats that will help show them who you can share their product to, and then propose a collaboration.

At the beginning, I wasn’t getting paid to post, but I was reaching out to brands with products that I loved and in exchange for the product, I would share a post with my followers. This was an exciting start and helped me to understand influencer marketing and what brands wanted more of. Now, the brands I was working for on a “product for post” situation are paying for the posts so relationships can evolve and might just need to start somewhere to get your foot in the door.

Educate brands on why you’re a good fit

It’s so important if you’re going to pitch yourself to make sure you are actually invested in the brand. Have you purchased their products before? Do you engage with their account on social media? Are you active in their community? Have you tagged their items before? It’s so important to be able to really, authentically reach out to a brand and tell them WHY you love what they do. Don’t skip this step because it will show brands that you understand what they do, you are invested in helping them spread the message, and you’re the right fit!

One of the biggest surprises for me, when I started influencer marketing, was in the amount of educating I needed to do with brands. I found myself teaching them about influencer marketing: why it worked, who my audience was, what they would resonate with. When you’re starting out and working with companies who are willing to take a chance with you, a lot of time it’s up to you to share why it’s worth it for them, how YOU have influence on your people, and how you will share about their product in a way that will reach your followers in a way that will invite them to take action. Don’t shy away from this step, this helps make the collaboration so much better and will likely give them even greater results (and a bigger chance to want to work with you AGAIN!)

How to present your rates, key stats and growth metrics

One of the best tools I developed for influencer marketing was my media kit (you can buy my exact one here) because it helped me to tell brands more about me, my brand, who my audience is, what my rates are for different levels of partnership, and the kind of work I love to do. It’s basically one link that will give them all the information they need to know if I’m a good fit for their campaign and it saves us a lot of back and forth discussing the details. Having a media kit can make you look more legit and can help brands see that you take this seriously and you understand what they need to see in order to choose you.

As an influencer, it’s important to know your numbers and not just the number under your name but understanding your average engagement rate, average story views, post impressions, audience demographics, and past results you’ve gotten for brands. The more information you can share with a brand, the less digging they will have to do. I’ve had bigger brands literally lay out their stats next to mine to see things like: audience overlap, gaps in demographics, and geographic location of my followers. 

How to price yourself as an influencer

Before we dive into the standards, I can share my own experience. My current rate for one post is $5,000 and I’ve booked brand deals that rivaled my corporate salary in the past year. I had to do some research for what’s average because the rates can vary based on how many followers you have, impressions on the post, post engagement, and/or sales made from a post.

One article from Sprout Social shared: Just as there is no one-size-fits-all algorithm you can use to evaluate an influencer’s value to your brand as a collaborator, there’s no blueprint for payment either. It will vary based on a number of factors, so keep that in mind as you keep reading. Influence.co recently published the results of their research into Instagram influencer payment. They looked at the average cost per Instagram post and found:

  • The overall average price was $271 per post.
  • The average price for micro-influencers with fewer than 1,000 followers was $83 per post.
  • The average price for influencers with more than 100,000 followers was $763 per post.

When I look at the partnerships I’ve done in the past, here is how they’ve kind of laid out from lesser pay and obligation to high-paying partnerships with exclusivity. The range I’ve found and experienced here starts at $500 – $50,000. 

  • Instagram Story Post
  • Instagram Post
  • Instagram Post + Giveaway
  • Exclusive Contract + Monthly IG Shares

Where I’m at with influencer marketing today

When I first started out, I was totally smitten with the idea of getting free things in exchange for posting it. About a year into that, I got really tired of feeling like I had to photograph everything and use a post to talk about a brand instead of just showing up for my audience. As my following grew, so have my rates.

I now turn down about 90% of the requests for sponsored posts because I want to protect my feed and I’ve found it’s far better to pitch my own products and resources than to constantly be pitching other products (I’d prefer to keep the money and leads in house!) I love doing longer-term sponsorships like 6 month long contracts that pay as much as my corporate salary once did where I give my audience time to learn about the brand and see my relationship with them is authentic.

So what do you think? Did this help pull back the curtain on a taboo topic? Do you feel more confident to put yourself out there and charge what you’re worth? I hope so, and I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!


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Before you get any further... Hi! I'm Jenna Kutcher!

A small town Minnesota photographer, podcaster, educator and puppy rescuer, my happiest days are spent behind my computer screen sharing my secrets with the world. I'm glad you're here.

I’m an expert at online marketing, a nerd when it comes to the numbers, and my obsession is teaching others how to make a living doing what they love (without it taking over their life). 

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