I often get the question “But… how do you make money?” because a lot of people genuinely have NO idea how I manage to support my family and a team through a career as an “influencer”! And that’s fair! I don’t know how you’d know or be able to comprehend it without being in this industry yourself. So, I’m here to change that! We work with brands, we travel, we sell products, we have ads on our site… so. many. things. Today I’m breaking down the major categories in which we make our money and a bit about what that means. Hope it’s helpful!
Brand sponsorships make up for about 70% of our income. We have a management team who handles all of our sponsorships. They act as a liaison between us and the brand and handle all of the contracts and negotiating. We connect with sponsors in a few different ways. First, they may come directly to us, via email, asking to work together. In that instance, assuming it is a brand we want to work with, we connect them with our management team to take it from there. Our management team also is actively pitching us for campaigns they feel we might be a great fit for and will bring us offers from their efforts. And lastly, we email brands ourselves and pitch them if it’s someone we genuinely want to work with. Here’s a few different ways we work with brands once we connect with them:
Sponsored Blog Posts + Social Campaigns
Sponsored blog and social campaigns are the most common form of sponsorship we work in and what makes up the bulk of our income in this category. When we connect with the brands about a campaign, they typically have a specific product or message they are looking to promote. They then ask us to create content around that product/message. We will generally receive a brief from the brand outlining the messaging, product incorporation requirements, timeline, links, tags and other expectations. The creative flexibility we have varies greatly between brands. Some have a loose idea of what they want and look to us to conceptualize everything from top to bottom. Other brands have very specific guidelines for what they want incorporated in the content and we have to work within those parameters. When it comes to the blog, typically the product has to be incorporated into at least a certain number of images and we have a certain number of times we are required to mention it in the text as well. We take all of the information we’re given and then pitch them a concept that feels authentic to us while also achieving their goals for the campaign.
Almost all brands also pay for a round of social posts promoting the blog post. That includes a share on all (or some of, depending on what they choose) our social platforms (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and occasionally YouTube).
These days, many brands want to focus solely on social posts and only want to contract us for a partnership there. The process looks very similar as it does for a blog post, but instead of the blog post being the “hero” content, typically the “hero” content will live on Instagram and be promoted to other social media platforms from there.
Events + Appearances
Brands will often throw large scale events surrounding a product launch, holiday or other major event/milestone. They may contract me to do an “appearance” at the event where I will attend the event and promote it on my social media channels. If it’s a public event, they may ask me to promote it ahead of time and then again from the event and if it’s a private event, they may just ask me to do the latter. For this type of partnership, I’m usually required to capture a certain element of the event, showcase a certain product at the event or get across another specific message.
I have also hosted workshops for brands or acted as co-host of events if they are looking to incorporate Studio DIY deeper into the messaging of the event itself. These typically involve more hands-on time for me because I will usually contribute creatively to the event instead of just attending.
Brand Ambassadorship/Long Term Partnerships
Sometimes brands are looking to partner with bloggers or influencers on a larger, more long-term basis. This can often be called a “brand ambassadorship” and will generally include several blog posts, social posts and events. But they can also include attending meetings at the brand’s headquarters, doing media interviews on behalf of the brand or giving creative input as they develop a new product or design.
These partnerships are great because they allow both myself and you guys to get to know the brand over a long period of time. But with these partnerships also comes a lot of risks as you are often required to be exclusive with that brand in their category for a long period of time which could mean losing out on other campaigns. But in this industry where it’s not very easy to “guarantee” income, these partnerships are one of the few instances that allow you to do just that and that (combined with higher rates) typically makes it worth the exclusivity.
Our products that we design and sell account for about 15% of our income. Similar to our management team that negotiates our sponsorship deals, we have a separate team that exclusively negotiates our product deals as well. We also currently work with a product company who facilitates the sourcing, manufacturing, distribution and advertising of all our products so we get to focus strictly on the conceptualization and social marketing aspects. I’m not at liberty to discuss how exactly we make money from our products, but here’s a few common ways influencers make money from the products they sell through a 3rd party company or license: receiving a guarantee (a sum of money paid out to the influencer no matter how many sales are made) and then a royalty (a percentage of each sale AFTER exceeding your guarantee) or receiving strictly a royalty (i.e. no guarantee up front or over time, only making money off of what is sold), profit sharing (sharing the profit after all the costs are subtracted).
Affiliate links are links that I share in blog posts or on Instagram where I receive a percentage if you click or make a purchase via that link. This makes up about 8% of our income. It’s essentially a “commission.” Similarly to who a real estate agent would get a percentage if they found you a home, if you purchase a pair of shoes I recommend or a mirror from my home, I may make a small commission off of that purchase.
You’ll notice there are several ads that pop up on my site (at the bottom, in the sidebar, within posts, etc.) and this accounts for the remaining 7% of our income. This is one of the only true passive income streams we are able to make. We get paid a certain rate based on how many people see or click the ads on the site. The rates vary depending on season and depending on the prioritization of the ad. We work with a third party company who manages all of our ad spots on our site.
And there you have it! Myself, like a lot of influencers, are currently working to make their profit pie chart a little more evenly split and not so heavily weighted in sponsorships. It’s never good to have all (or most) of your eggs in one basket so we work every day to make our ratios balance out a little more! But that’s my reality today so I wanted to share it! Feel free to leave any more questions you have below, who knows, maybe it’ll spark another post!
Just want to say that in addition to your beautiful content, your authenticity is what keeps me coming back. Thanks for the transparency you always display!
Thank you so much, Natalie!! That means a lot to me.
Thank you SO much for answering these questions. I’ve definitely wondered them, but didn’t want to pry and ask. Of course, you were already on it! Love that you continue to put it all out there for us and those aspiring to follow in your footsteps. 💖
I’m so glad, Emma! It’s such a new industry that there are so many question marks out there. Always open to clearing some of those up!!
Karen Fickel says
I’m just wondering how your personal friends feel about you being an influencer. I think you are awesome and love your products! But I can’t help but wonder if I ever became and influencer, and most of what I post became sponsorships and products, would some of my friends say, “see ya” and just unfollow not wanting to be sold something all the time. I’m sure you have friends that aren’t into the products you sell – did they stick with you? In other words, do you keep business and personal separate at all? Thank you!!
Good question! I guess we don’t really rely on social media to keep up with our closest friends and family. Though some of our closest friends are also in the business so they definitely understand! Otherwise, we don’t have personal profiles, just the ones we use for business, so our friends definitely follow us but they know it’s our job so they don’t look at it how they’d look at other friends’ who are just using their Instagram for personal use! We usually text photos back and forth or use photo streams to keep up with them!
Isn’t this more than 100%? 😉
Ha yes! Product is supposed to say 15%. Good eye!
Hey Kelly! So interesting and cool! I’m so impressed with the amazing brand you guys have built and love the insight on how you’ve done so. Thanks for sharing with us. 🙂
Sharon Stanley says
Great article! I would love to know how long it took you to actually be able to make a living as an influencer….as you said, it’s all such a new way to do business. And how did you fall into this interesting career?
Joy Cho says
Such a great breakdown!!!
I love you authenticity and honesty on this subject. Have you ever regretted working with a brand ? Bad choice for your blog or the partnership didn’t go as planned ?
Graet blog post! After following several bloggers I had a general idea about how they make money, but it’s great to see it explained in detail. I’m wondering how you get people interested in articles you write for a sponsor? How come they don’t stop reading those?
How did you figure all of this out? I know you’ve been in the industry for a min but, when/how did you find all of this out?
Thank you for the insight. I had a question, on the brand ambassador deal, do you get product as compensation in exchange or is it $$ paid?
With brand ambassador deals that we do, it is always paid. However, I know there are some smaller companies that have a team of brand ambassadors that help them out in exchange for just product.
When it comes to just sponsored content in general, typically, we get both product and payment. We’ll receive monetary payment to create the content and then the product will be sent to us for free to include in the content. Sometimes we work in product-only deals but we don’t treat those the same as sponsored posts that are paying us. If we are only receiving product, we have much more freedom with how we incorporate it and how much we promote it, the brand doesn’t get final approval over content, etc.
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