How Small Influencers Get High-Paying Brand Deals

Black Content Creator Showing ways she makes money as a small influencer

How can you leverage more money out of a brand deal when you don’t have that many Instagram followers?

The key to making money as a content creator these days isn’t to go viral or have hundreds of thousands of followers. It really comes down to knowing how to being able to attract brands, and making the most out of the offers on the table.

I myself am a micro-influencer, and I make enough to do it full time.

And while some people seem to think I’m lying about my income, all I want is to share the information so that we can ALL secure the bag.

If you are someone who prefers video content–catch the details here! ⤵️

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So let’s get into it.

Why would brands want to work with small influencers?

Well. Back when influencer marketing was new, follower count was everything.

But that’s not really the case anymore.

Especially now that we know a viral video can blow up someone’s feed and leave them with a lot of ghost followers that aren’t actually interested in them or their content.

And let’s not get started on the people who buy their followers.

What matters most is quality content, engagement and brand affinity.

Smaller influencers, even those with followers under 10K are being increasingly sought out by brands.

That is because their engagement rates tend to be higher as they are able to connect with more of their audience on a personal level.

And with there being quite a few small influencers to choose from, brands can really find somebody whose content aligns with them.

For example, a company selling hiking gear is likely to get a higher return on investment investing in a small influencer in the outdoors niche over a bigger creator that does a bit of everything. 

Related Post: Do Content Creators Need a Niche to be Successful?

How influencers and content creators can negotiate HIGHER PAYING brand deals:

Attracting brand deals is definitely #Goals, but how can we make sure we are getting properly compensated for the partnerships?

Learning to better-negotiate with brands is what has helped me make a living income as micro influencer, and there are a few things that can increase the overall dollar value of a paid partnership.

And none of them have to do with follower count.


Definition: When a brand asks you not to collaborate with or share content featuring or mentioning their competitors for a specific length of time.

Before providing a brand with your rates, please ask them if there are any exclusivity expectations, and when you receive your contract keep an eye out for this term. Many will try to sneak it in.

Signing a contract that prevents you from working with other brands means you could potentially be losing out on money. So brands need to pay up if they are requiring this.

I am pretty firm with charging for exclusivity, and in my experience, brands will either agree to pay, reduce the exclusivity expectations, or just drop it all together.

All of which are options I am comfortable with.

How much should you charge for exclusivity?

The short answer: Enough to account for any potentially lost business.

The long answer:

I usually charge a monthly rate for each month I’m asked not to collaborate with a brand’s competitor.

On average I will say 50% of my base rate per month of exclusivity, but the rate or percentage I choose depends entirely on how broad the exclusivity terms are.

For example, if a yogurt company asks me not to post any other yogurt products for a month, I’m not going to be charging them that much because I’m not missing out on a lot of business.

If they’re asking me not to work with any dairy brands, however, the rate is going to be higher because I need to account for more potentially lost business. 

If they want to put a restriction on food and beverage companies, then the cost is going to be even steeper.

(Although that’s all a lot of talk for someone who’s lactose-intolerant.)

Black woman signing a contract to get a higher-paying brand deal.

Usage Rights 

The second way you can increase the value of a brand deal is through usage rights.

Definition: Whether or not, and to what extent you permit the brand to use the content you’ve created.

If a brand wants to use your content on their website, or run digital ads on social media, then they should have to pay for it

That is because if a company uses your content in those ways, they are likely to make an ongoing profit from it.

So, whenever I’m in the negotiation stage with the brand, I ask how they intend to use my content.

I’m usually comfortable with organic reposting within the month that I’ve posted, but if they plan to use my content well into the future, or if they want to run ads with or whitelist it, I charge a monthly rate where they can use my content however, they wish or at least…however we agree to. 

That being said… Do not sign away your rights in perpetuity.

Look for that term on your contract because that means you have signed away the rights to your content forever.

This sucks for two reasons:

  1. The brand can profit on your content for months or years into the future, while you don’t get a dime.
  2. While you are aligned with the brand now, but you might not feel the same in the future.

Imagine a brand has a scandal; or their products just don’t work for you anymore. If you sign away your content in perpetuity, even though you no longer stand behind this brand, they can continue using your face and your content where you say they are the best thing ever. 

Related Post: Avoid these brand collaboration red flags!

Leveraging Other Platforms 

Last but not least…

The primary way I increased the dollar amount of my brand deals: using OTHER social media platforms.

I don’t just have an Instagram account.

Yes, that’s primarily where brands find me and it’s the primary place that they want me to post, but I also have a:

  • Blog
  • Pinterest
  • YouTube
  • TikTok

With each platform having it’s own unique value-add in a campaign.

So whenever a brand approaches me to create Instagram content, I always pitch my other platforms as add-ons.

And if I’m providing more deliverables and am adding more value to the brand, I have the opportunity to make more money. 

This is why I always recommend creators (especially newer ones) include multiple platforms in their content strategy. And if you can only choose one to focus on? Focus on Pinterest.

Final Thoughts

The game is really changing in the creator economy.

It’s no longer about follower count, but strong content, community, and business-sense. And in following these tips, you’ll be well on your way to securing higher-paying partnerships, even as a small influencer.

So which of these are you already using, and which tips will you be implementing in your next brand deal negotiation? Let me know in the comments!

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1 comment

Marvette Critney September 12, 2022 - 5:47 am

Thanks for the reminders. I will definitely be reaching out to several brands. I don’t have a large following on IG, but I do have over 17k people in my FB group and I’m working on growing all of my platforms.


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