Become a Paid Influencer: Insider Secrets

Influencer Brand Deals

September 27, 2021

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 10 tips to learn how to become a paid influencer. 

Have you ever wondered how to become a paid influencer or what (exactly) it is that brands look for when choosing influencers for campaigns? If so, you’re not alone! Often influencers believe that they are perfect for an upcoming brand campaign. They send the best pitch, they have a really engaged audience, and they use the brand’s products regularly — but for some reason they’re passed up by brands left and right. So, what gives? If you want to become a paid influencer there are a few things you want to do to set yourself up for success.

In this post I’m explaining what (exactly) brands ARE looking for when they’re scoping you out for a potential partnership. So, if you want to know how to work with brands on sponsored posts, keep reading because I’ve got 6 tips for you, plus 3 bonus tips so make sure to read this entire post!

Become a Paid Influencer

So, if you want to know how to become a paid influencer, but have found yourself wondering why brands choose one influencer over another, or why you weren’t chosen for a campaign you pitched, you’re not alone. I’ve personally worked with a lot of brands over the past 10 years, and I can tell you that they consistently mention that they’re looking for 5-10 very specific things when choosing influencers for paid campaigns. 

SO…while it can seem like the size of your audience is the determining factor in a brand’s decision, the truth is brands are looking at much more than the amount of followers you have!  So let’s chat about these things so you can make sure you’re standing out from all the other influencers you’re competing with. SO, to start, let’s chat about your niche and brand values. Specifically, I want you to ask yourself…”What audience am I targeting?”

Because one of the very first things brands want to know is… “Is this influencer in our niche?”

11 St. Studio Influencer Agency

By the way, if you’re new here — welcome, I’m Jaye and I’m the creator of 11 St. Studio influencer agency and I’ve been helping influencers like you price their rates for brand deals, and negotiate brand contracts, since 2019. With that said, I recently launched a NEW webinar where I share exactly what goes into calculating rates for brand deals — IN DETAIL —  because let me tell you, it is NOT a one-size fit’s all approach. And in that webinar I also reveal how to get your hands on my personal influencer rate calculator, because trust me when I say, it’s a MUST-HAVE if brands are asking for your rates.

Again, I reveal IT ALL in the webinar. So make sure to click the link below this video to join the webinar because I don’t want anyone (who’s interested in learning how to price their rates for brand deals the RIGHT way) to miss it. Also, if you’re new here, make sure to join our private influencer community!

An influencer rate calculator designed to calculate sponsored post rates and brand deals

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#1 — You are focused on ONE niche

And listen, I’m sure you’ve heard it before — if you want to land paid brand deals you need to target a specific niche. But it’s worth repeating. Why? Because if a brand comes across your profile and sees that you’re posting about ALL the things (think fashion, and home decor and food and travel) they’re 100% going to be turned off. Why? Because unless you have been blogging for the past ten years and have gained… for example… 500k+ followers, you can’t possibly reach their target audience like the influencer with a clearly defined niche can.

So that’s one reason why brands will choose another influencer instead. Now, don’t get me wrong, if you want to SOMEDAY create content about all the things and live the best “lifestyle influencer” life you can, then by all means, do so! But for now, I highly recommend you work on choosing one niche to focus on in order to start attracting brands searching for influencers in their niche NOW.

Remember, you can always expand into other niches once you’ve earned a name for yourself in your niche, but for now the best strategy is to focus on one. Ideally you want to become an expert in your niche and provide brands with the audience they’re seeking. 

Trust me, this is a guaranteed way to kickstart your success as an influencer, and as you can imagine, the number one way to set yourself apart in a VERY saturated market. So, if you want to know how to work with brands on sponsored posts, that’s important to keep in mind.

#2 — You have Strong Brand Values

OK, now, let’s talk about your brand, because that matters too!  Once a brand determines that you’re within their niche, they’ll start to check out your other posts, and will search for you on other platforms too in order to determine if you’re a good brand fit. Meaning, regardless of your audience, if they look at all content across profiles, and discover that your brand values aren’t aligned with theirs, chances are high they’ll move onto another influencer. 

And that makes sense because they want to know that your brand is a good fit for their brand. Ask any brand manager, influencer manager, agent or PR agency and they’ll likely ALL tell you that if an influencer’s brand values are not aligned with the brand’s values, they’ll keep looking until they find one whose values align. 

And — this goes both ways! SO, if by chance a brand pitches you, and YOU determine their brand values don’t match yours, don’t let them persuade you into partnering with them — because doing so COULD cause you to lose out on future opportunities with other brands because if they see that partnership, they could be turned off by your lack of authenticity. Not to mention, so could your audience. Why risk it?

#3 — You Maintain a Healthy Audience to Engagement Rate

OK, now let’s chat about your unique reach. Because that’s important for those who want become a paid influencer. There’s no denying that nano and micro influencers are on the rise with marketers because their engagement is significantly higher than say a macro or mega influencer’s. But… don’t get me wrong — reach matters too! 

So, while brands may say they’re only searching for influencers with high engagement, trust me, they’re still using tools to determine your true reach because depending on their campaign goals, that’s important too.  So, what’s the secret formula? Well, many brands say they’re looking for influencers with the best engagement and reach, and they’re investing in sophisticated software to spot influencers with fraudulent accounts!

Meaning, brands know immediately if your engagement to follow rate is OFF, and they’ll quickly move on to the next influencer. Now, if you’re concerned that your account isn’t growing as rapidly as you’d wish there IS hope! Make sure to watch my YouTube video: How to Get MORE Engagement on Instagram for some tips.

But for now, I suggest you start by consistently engaging with other influencers and brands! So for example, try to leave thoughtful comments on their posts, send them DM’s, and engage frequently with brands you love to attract their followers to YOUR profile! Trust me, a little goes a long way. I suggest trying to spend 30 minutes a day engaging and watch how quickly you gain new followers.

Also, try to collaborate with other influencers, vloggers and bloggers regularly! This is a simple way to tap into a similar audience, AND it’s free. So, don’t be shy! Reach out to your favorite influencers and suggest a collaboration — it’s a really simple way to gain followers quickly! Now, as a side note: by collaboration I’m not suggesting giveaways or contests — but genuine collabs where you can possibly get together for photoshoots and tag each other in an authentic way to essentially “share” each other’s audience.

After that I suggest tapping into growth hacking. SO, basically know your skills and stick to the platform that best highlights them. Are your videos jaw dropping? Showcase them on TikTok and direct people to follow you on Instagram. Do people love you for your personality? Highlight it on YouTube and promote your Instagram in your videos! Do you love showcasing your DIY projects? Show them off on Pinterest and link to your Instagram!

These strategies will help you gain followers quickly! And, you never know… you may even go viral! OK let’s get back to what the brands are looking for in influencers so you can learn how to become a paid influencer too.

How To Become a Paid Influencer

#4 — Your comments are 100% authentic

The next thing they’re searching for is authentic comments (and replies)! Basically, brands are looking to see how authentic your audience’s engagement is. SO…They’re looking for comments that show genuine interest in your posts, not comments that were clearly purchased or left by pods. If they suspect your comments aren’t authentic, well… that’s a huge red flag and they’ll be onto the next influencer in a matter of seconds.

What they WANT to see is organic comments that are relevant to your post’s topics, and are encouraging people to check out your other posts, as well as specific BRAND references within the comments. They’re also looking very carefully to see how YOU reply and engage with your audience! 

Meaning, if you’re not replying consistently, or comments are going left unanswered, that’s a HUGE turn off. Basically, they want to see how much “influence” you have, not that you’re essentially ignoring your audience, or as I like to say, posting and ghosting. So, the takeaway here is that brands will typically choose the influencer with the strong engagement and smaller reach over the influencer with the massive reach and weak engagement because more often than not, data proves their ROI is significantly higher. 

Now, if you’re struggling with engagement I suggest including more CTA’s in your captions because influencers who use CTA’s (call to actions) in their posts have very high engagement rates! That can be anything from asking them a question, or asking them to tag a friend, to telling them to swipe through your carousel, to asking them to save the post or share it with someone.

As for comments, remember, your audience may want to comment, but some people are shy and need a little encouragement — so give it to them!The other take away from this is that engagement pods are inherently detrimental to your overall growth and brand appeal.

In fact, using pods is a quick way to get blacklisted by brands. Remember, this is a small industry and brands, influencer agents, managers and PR reps TALK. Why risk it?Instead, strive for authenticity and genuine connections everyday and always, always underpromise and overdeliver. That’s what attracts the BEST brands and creates a positive reputation in this industry!

Want to know how to become a paid influencer? Read this guide!

#5 — You Follow the 80/20 Rule Re: Organic vs Sponsored Posts

OK onto the next tip for those wanting to become a paid influencer, and pay close attention because this can literally make or break an influencer, so keep this in mind going forward to maximize your partnership appeal! Strive to create more organic content than sponsored content.This is pretty straightforward, right? So, just like your audience, brands are drawn to influencers that publish more organic content than sponsored. If they see that every other post is an ad — or worse, an unpaid partnership, they’re not going to be impressed. 

The truth is…a lot of brands don’t want to be associated with influencers who are a walking advertisement! Truthfully, it just doesn’t look good for the brand, and it certainly doesn’t look good for the influencer. On the other hand, if they see that an influencer is telling an intriguing story and has a loyal audience who is super engaged (regardless if the post is organic or not) they’re quick to discuss a partnership.

So… what are they looking for? They specifically search to see how many of your posts are sponsored, and consistently partner with the influencers who are selective about which brands they partner with and how often they post ads. And, on a side note, this is why many influencers remove past sponsored posts from their feeds.

SO…if you’re reading this because you want to know exactly how to become a paid influencer, remember that on average, brands look for influencers with approximately 20% branded content. Meaning, if you share 30 posts a month, only 6 of the posts should be “sponsored”. The rest should be organic. So keep that in mind.

#6 — You Maintain a Positive Industry Reputation

OK, now onto the last thing brands are looking at and that is your reputation as an influencer! Now, I may have mentioned this in a past video, but it’s important to repeat because brands are so passionate about this, so I feel it’s incredibly important to mention once more! Brands, more often than not, choose to align with influencers who are fun to work with, who act professionally and who are responsible. The influencers who respect brands, adhere to brand deadlines, and are easy to work with are chosen time and time again. 

Now, on the flip side, the influencers who are a struggle to work with typically get a bad rep fast and, ultimately lose campaigns left and right — regardless of their reach and engagement. SO, if you have a positive, optimistic attitude and are open-minded and passionate about creating amazing content for brands, you’ll earn a great reputation, and brands will likely recommend you to everyone they talk to, meaning doors will open up QUICK. So, remember — always strive to always under-promise and over-deliver!

How To Become a Paid Influencer

OK, we’ve covered just about everything regarding become a paid influencer in this post! Hopefully you now understand how to become a paid influencer! For even more influencer tips keep reading the blog or head to our YouTube channel to learn more tips on how to work one-on-one with brands.

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