Creators, Do Not Take Sh** for Free 

 A short guide to better brand deals and how you can better understand your revenue opportunities, increase your monthly earning and make a living out of creating content, even if for a small creator

Let’s imagine for a second that you own a small yet well-known independent jewelry brand. I bet that one of the most common DMs you will receive on Instagram contains a phrase similar to this “normally, brands send me one or two of their products for me to post.

I’m positively sure that this “phenomenon” happens for all kinds of brands and to creators of any size and following. That represents a huge problem for the Creator Economy as a whole and especially for each creator that is asking for free sh**. There’s an alternative to that that works best and starts with understanding your value as a creator.

When it comes to content creators, working with brands is a great way to build a sustainable business. Nowadays, creators are the ones on the front lines of any trend, from fashion to crypto. Content creators share their thoughts on a product, elaborate on them, curate content and experiences alike, and then share their truth with their audience.

In many ways, content creators had become the experts, and there’s value in that. And I don’t mean monetary value; I mean a three-way street value-generating relationship for the creator, the audience, and the brand. A Win, Win, Win situation, if you will. So let’s have this in mind.

Asking free products in exchange for advertising is not something new; many brands even today approach creators with unfair exchanges of products for advertisement. The problem with these transactions is that they often bring value only to the brand. This is because the creator is talking and sharing about a product they might not believe in, so there’s no value for the audience. But also, the creator is not rewarded properly. And sometimes, this kind of transaction is not even bringing value to the brands. It can also place its products in front of the wrong audience.

The good thing is that it doesn’t have to be that way at all. As creators, we can all learn to create valuable, long-lasting interactions and collaborations. Creators and brands alike should pay more attention to the value each brings to the table. From a content creator perspective, creators need to understand the value of their voice before going into any brand deal or collaboration. And what becomes relevant if a creator decides to approach a brand is how to measure their value.

The best tool creators have at their disposal is at their fingertips: data, lots of data. And I’m not talking about the number of followers, as it’s well known that followers can be easily bought. I’m talking about meaningful connections, interactions with your audience — true insights into the creators' relationships and their communities.

So if you are a creator and you are not aware of the above, you might be going into a brand deal asking too much or, in most cases, not asking enough. Also, it’s incredibly important as a creator to do research and keep your value estimations in mind and update them often. The idea, in my opinion, is to build a good long-term relationship with brands instead of a one-off deal.

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Every deal is indeed different from the next, and also every platform has its metrics. When it comes to getting a good idea of how much you’re worth as a creator, this might help.

  • CPM: this means “cost per mil” or the “cost per thousands.” It can measure the cost per X amount of followers, views, clicks, etc. Sometimes brands use this value to measure the cost of hiring a content creator for a campaign. On YouTube, a rule of thumb is a good CPM (based on views) of around 25 USD; on Instagram, 10/15 USD per follower, Twitter is slightly lower. So if you have 1K followers on Instagram, do not go to a brand asking for an electric bike. Understand your worth, what makes you unique, and then create a value proposition that will help you build long and lasting brand relationships.

  • RPM: “revenue per mil” is something brands can use to measure how much value in revenue are those product placements paying. From a creator’s perspective, how much revenue are you producing for yourself with a certain piece of content? It is extremely useful to measure the performance of your content, on YouTube, for example. And you can increase your RPM by adding more layers of monetization to your content, such as the Amazon affiliate programs or other affiliates. If you are a travel and lifestyle creator adding platforms like paak.io (yes, the one I co-founded) for sharing curated travel experiences with your audience can help you earn more from that piece of content than just YouTube adds revenue. Every monetization layer you add as a creator helps to increase your RPM per content piece.

  • Engagement instead of followers: on platforms like Instagram, the engagement rate is more important than anything else. I believe that besides YouTube, all the other platforms are engagement-based. A super healthy engagement rate is around 10%, but those cases seem to be less common nowadays with so many algorithm changes. Obviously, the bigger the audience and depending on the segment you are, this number will drop significantly, but that’s expected. The key is to build meaningful relationships and organic engagement.

  • Reach: This is also extremely important; if you are a creator whose reach outpaces the following or subscriber count, that’s something extremely valuable. It’s quite usual when it comes to video content or when your creations go viral. And if that happens often, then you have something extremely valuable in your hands.

  • Downloads: an extremely relevant metric for podcasts. But it can be relevant as well if your creation core is based on digital product downloads. It is a good metric to share when it comes to subscriptions or digital products.

  • Demographics: the last piece of the puzzle is to understand your demographics. It seems obvious, but your audience composition is of great importance when approaching brands. If all the metrics above are great, but your demographics are not right, then a good brand deal might not be possible. For example, it’s usual for brands to start asking for two key aggregated metrics, top 3 countries or regions, and age brackets. The rest they can get easily from databases.

So when it comes to accepting free products, the key is to arrive at a win-win-win scenario. For example, let’s say you are a content creator with 1K followers on Instagram and a 12% average engagement rate based on the last post. A brand that you like or use and will add value to your audience approaches you to offer a free product worth 30 EUR in the market. Then it’s a good deal.

Now let’s say you are a YouTuber with 20K views per video on average, and a brand relevant to your content approaches you with 200 USD worth of “free” product in exchange for sponsorship, then they are coming too short. I would recommend making a good CPM estimation, and on top of that, add the product. This is because the 200 USD worth of product is measured at its retail price and not the cost it has for the brand (which is for sure way lower). So it is not fairly priced.

At the end of the day, it’s all about a good negotiation; if you ask a brand an insane amount of money just because it is a well-known one, I can guarantee you that the brand will most likely never call or consider you again. Instead, if you understand your worth and try to negotiate a better and more reasonable deal, brands are most likely to listen by just having an informed conversation. They might accept your terms or come with a counterproposal.

If all of the above fails and it is hard to get an idea of your worth as a creator. You can always Google how many creators in your same category are being paid approximately. Any number you come up with will be better than going blind to ask for a brand deal at the risk of losing it or ask for too little.


If you are a content creator in travel and lifestyle and are looking into new monetization alternatives, that will help you increase your RPM! be sure to head to our platform 👉paak.io

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