August 09, 2016 / by Jeff Barrett

It’s 2016. Everyone is swiping right on influencers. It’s a welcome result for many of us who have poured our blood, sweat and crying emojis into this line of work.

We are getting big awards, magazine spreads, TV deals and more. Some have even been asked to The White House.

But that’s surface. I know plenty of influencers, including myself at one point, who wrestle with whether they should take a “real job” because the money isn’t or wasn’t there. Last year I won the same award as Taylor Swift, Chris Pratt and Malala Yousafzai. But weeks after that I thought about giving up all I had built since 2010.

I had turned 30. I was craving stability. And the offers I was receiving from brands were falling short.

One of my favorite influencers took a real job last week. Congratulations? It’s a great job, great accomplishment. But this person generates more impressions than most digital outlets. It’s like Steph Curry taking a full-time job.


New things take time. Baseball, football and basketball stars in the early days of sports, before large TV contract revenue, had to take second jobs during the offseason. Imagine your favorite sports stars having to do drywall or bag groceries in the offseason. That was real life.

That’s where some influencers are. Potential money isn’t money. You can’t buy a car or even a Jamba Juice with potential.

So where is the disconnect? It’s the approach.

If brands were on Tinder, they would be the duck face or the mirror selfie, the guy flexing his muscles. It’s all about them.  

But I can’t place all the blame on brands. As influencers, collectively, we haven’t communicated our value enough or made it easy to hire us. There is no standard, no blueprint. If you want to hire us, what are you getting? Do you have to find us by sliding into our DMs?

This whole thing is accidental. Most influencers, myself included, will level and say we had no intent of making this our career. We are passionate about creating great content, building an audience and having a voice that resonates.


Stephanie Be echoed a lot of this in a recent podcast. The travel star highlighted both the highs and lows of being a social entrepreneur. She is now in the magazine cover, sky is the limit space. But it was a long, hard climb with plenty of ups and downs.

She has done a better job than most of clearly defining her leverage, her value proposition and what you get when you hire her.

Brands are terrible at dating, initiating the relationship. They send you that 2 a.m. text that reads “you up?”

One time, a brand sent me some very clever swag. Excellent, I appreciated it greatly. They then asked me to attend an event on my own dime and cover it. I loved the project but if I lost $1,000 on every project I would be out of business soon.

Now, this isn’t all brands or agencies. Some get it. Some understand what value needs to be created to take things to the next level.

An influencer is building a career. Money certainly helps. But being able to point them toward other money is equally valuable. If you don’t have a budget to pay influencers, think about what contacts you do have. If you get someone else to pay them for another project, if you can open doors for them, if you can help them progress in their career, they will be thankful and pay it forward.


To summarize, here are some tips to keep in mind:

1. Keep relationships at heart

2. If you can’t compensate, give something of equal value, like media coverage, networking opportunities to build more relationships, products/services, etc.

3. Create a small team of influencers exclusive to your brand. Attract them by creating a strong bond and introducing them to other influencers.

4. If you pay, you must disclose this, otherwise the FTC will be at the door.

It’s that simple to get a relationship out of “It’s complicated.”

MARCH TS_Real Time Influence_FINAL_Twitter- Lead Gen

Images via Pixabay: 1, 2, 3

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About Jeff Barrett

Jeff Barrett is 2015’s Best Business Blogger (Shorty Awards), one of the 50 most influential people on social media (Forbes), the #1 Ad Executive on Twitter (Business Insider) and dances like Drake. Find him on Twitter @BarrettAll.