F*** You Pay Me looks to help close the influencer pay gap
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I recently wrote extensively on whether there is an opportunity to close the gender pay gap with the rise of the Creator Economy.
While the creator-led economy opens the door for individuals to make more money than they made in traditional roles, the answer isn’t black in white in regard to how much any influencers are actually making (male or female).
Rates are all over the place and there’s little transparency into what (and if) brands pay influencers, making it difficult for influencers to understand their monetary value.
@MsYoungProfess, founder of F*** You Pay Me (FYPM) created FYPM in response to this problem. The organization’s mission is to bring more transparency, accountability, and fairness to the influencer industry, and to make sure influencers get paid what they’re worth.
@MsYoungProfess points out that, “77% of influencers identify as #womxn.” This means a lack of transparency around fair payment isn’t only an influencer industry issue—it’s a feminist issue.
To demystify the topic and try and do better, let’s take a closer look at the influencer marketing industry as a whole, the value of influencers to brands, the value of brands to influencers, and some do’s and don’ts brands can keep in mind moving forward.
Influencer marketing industry worth
The influencer marketing industry is growing rapidly. In 2021, the global value of influencer marketing was estimated at $13.8 billion by Influencer Marketing Hub. And, this year experts project it will grow into a $16.4 billion industry.
It makes sense why the influencer marketing industry has seen such colossal growth. Of course, there’s the pandemic, which forced more people inside, online, and onto their phones than ever before.
Since 2019, there’s been a steady growth in everything online, including commerce, gaming, and time spent on social media. Social media usage from 2019-2021 showed significant growth on every social platform—especially TikTok with its 38% increase.
We’ve also seen more interest in people leaving traditional jobs to join the Creator Economy. SignalFire reports 50 million people make up the Creator Economy, and it’s only growing from here.
More influencers are supporting themselves financially by building an audience, creating digital experiences, and entering into partnerships with brands.
The Creator Economy is on an upward trajectory, but what does this mean for brands and influencers?
The true value of brands partnering with influencers
The value of partnering with influencers cannot be understated. Influencers are highly valuable to brands because they have already built niche, loyal, and engaged followings—followings that are brands’ exact target audience.
As the Creator Economy grows, it opens more space for brands to leverage creator audiences. The built-in benefits are robust, including:
- Increased trust: Consumers are responding to influencer marketing, especially over branded content. Stats show 37% of consumers trust social media influencers over brands. And, Gen Z and Millennials are 2x more likely than Boomers to trust influencers.
- High engagement rates: Stats show 91.7% of influencers engage with fans multiple times a day. Brands don’t often have time to engage with consumers as steadily as influencers do, but this ongoing connection breeds trust and loyalty—which is what makes influencers so valuable to marketers.
- Product discovery: You’ve heard the stats about how it costs 5x more to acquire a customer than keep an old one. While this may have been true years ago, new data shows people voluntarily turn to social media and their favorite influencers for product discovery. 28% of consumers discover new products and brands through influencers.
- Return on investment (ROI): The ROI of influencer campaigns is high too. Some studies show 11x the ROI of using banner ads. The average ROI for influencer marketing is $5.20 for every dollar spent.
With these kinds of benefits, investing in influencer marketing is a no-brainer for brands. That’s probably why 66% of brands say they will be increasing their budget on influencer marketing.
But, it also begs the question, with all the value influencers are giving to brands, what value are influencers getting from brands in return, especially female influencers?
What value are influencers getting from brands?
The founder of FYPM doesn’t mince words when it comes to industry rates for influencers (most of whom are female).
She argues that influencers aren’t being paid fairly, and the industry hasn’t been held accountable.
The FYPM Mission Statement (2020) says, "The influencer marketing industry doesn't have a problem with money. It has a problem with sexism, racism, laziness and exploitation."
She aims to change this one influencer review at a time.
FYPM is a place where influencers can post what they are making from certain campaigns, review brands, see what other influencers are getting paid for similar campaigns, and use that data to establish a proper baseline for pricing.
FYPM also uses Instagram as a tool to teach influencers their value and to stand up against poor industry practices. For example, FYMP says:
“Reminder: It isn’t rude to ask for money! It might seem uncomfortable transitioning from gifted to paid, but brands that see your value WILL continue to invest in you. And if they don’t… there’s other brands that will.”
This is especially true considering the value of micro-influencers to brands. Study after study shows micro-influencers are a massive asset to brands and have even higher engagement rates than big influencers.
It’s why 90% of marketers state they are most interested in working with micro-influencers over macro-influencers (72%).
What does this mean? Even if influencers have smaller audiences, they still provide loads of genuine engagement—and that’s a commodity worth an exchange of cold, hard cash.
Another example? FYPM consistently points out issues surrounding the gender pay gap. Here’s an Instagram post for reference:
FYPM also helps influencers get fair rates by outlining everything to do when the influencer enters a brand partnership. A brand may only see an Instagram post, but influencing means more than creating a single, static image.
It means audience building, photography, videography, directing, editing, sales, copywriting, research, community engagement, graphic design, strategy, and expertise. And creators deserve fair compensation.
As the FYMP initiative is all about transparency and helping influencers get what they’re worth, it also often draws attention to the positive—to the brands who are paying fair and equitable wages.
While FYPM and other initiatives like Influencer Pay Gap’s Instagram account are rooted in bringing pricing transparency to the influencer industry, the question remains:
Why does it take independent sources to make compensation for influencers fair and equitable? What can creators do to demand fair pay and what can brands do to take the lead?
Creator compensation do’s and don’ts
If we are going to close the influencer pay gap (especially the gender gap), it’s critical to provide transparency into pricing, treat creators as partners and assets, and engage in some best practices.
Creator do’s and don’ts
Do: Ask the brand for their campaign goals. As Dr. Margie Worrell found, about four out of five women say it’s difficult to express concerns or make requests. But asking a brand for its campaign goals is less daunting than asking for more money.
Once you know the specific value you can create (can you offer half a million followers to contribute to their “brand awareness” goal, for example?), you’ll be more comfortable justifying your fees.
Don’t: Offer a single pricing package. “99% of creators don’t (offer multiple packages,)” notes Justin Moore. “Never, never, never spit back just one number.” To get your full value as an influencer, change what you charge based on how much you offer in return.
Do: Retain the power to walk away. “If you can’t walk away from a negotiation, then you aren’t negotiating,” says James Altucher. If a brand didn’t need your services in some way, they wouldn’t have approached you. Remember that power—and remember that if you don’t get the terms you want, you’re always free to say no.
Don’t: Accept free products as payment. Early in a creator’s career, getting any payment in exchange for influencer services can feel like a win. But you may already be underselling your value. After all, you can buy all the lip gloss you want when earning the appropriate money.
Do: Be polite. This may seem counterproductive to the “f*** you pay me” motif, but research suggests politeness has positive effects on how others perceive your answers. Influencing is a business, after all. Professionalism is always appreciated. Just remember that it should be the candy-coating around a die-hard commitment to getting what you want.
Brand do’s and don’ts
Do: Offer real payment. Not gifts. According to FYPM, this is one of many red flags that can turn off high-quality influencers. It suggests that not only is your brand avoiding business basics like having a budget, but that you don’t value the other party’s time.
Don’t: Talk to an influencer without having clear goals. Here’s a positive review from working with LEGO—good pay and “one of the best produced briefs I’ve had to follow,” according to the influencer. The more clear you are about your goals, the more likely it is to set your influencer up for success.
Do: Listen to counter-offers. Sure, there are plenty of fish in the influencer sea—but you reached out to this influencer for a reason. Listening to counter-offers can result in a happier negotiation on both sides. It also communicates that your brand is willing to be a solution to the pay gap problem.
Don’t: Ask for free work. That includes dressing up alternative benefits as “payment,” such as added exposure, or the ability to use the work they did for you in an influencer portfolio. Asking for free work has no place in the legitimate business world and will only earn you a reputation as a brand to avoid.
Do: Give influencers the freedom to roam. A clear influencer brief is helpful. But one reason you reach out to influencers is because they’ve earned a connection with an audience already. Let them speak to that audience in their own terms. Set clear goals in your brief and establish brand guidelines but give your influencers the space to create strong content.
Closing the gap together
FYPM and other accounts are doing important work: shedding light on the influencer pay gap by showing what brands are asking. But that knowledge isn’t enough. It’s up to each influencer to know how much value they bring to the table—and to ask for value in return.