Having conducted a number of influence.co member interviews these past few months, one thing is clear: No one’s certain what they should be charging for brand deals. “It’s sort of like the wild, wild West,” @ModernMomProbs said. A lot of advice gets thrown around (Start high. Ask first. Never accept a primary offer), and Influence.co has a rate map to help you see what other influencers are charging. But if you're not confident about the number you should be working towards, you’re basically fumbling in the dark. That’s where Lissette Calveiro comes in.

I first came across Lissette on TikTok, where she shares advice as part of her work as an influencer coach. The former Director of Influencer Marketing at Ogilvy, Lissette became an influencer herself. She knows how both sides of the industry work, and is using that wisdom to help up and coming creators. 

“My big belief in building a business as an influencer is [first], definitely master working with brands, but also find a second revenue stream,” she tells me over the phone. “Whether it's having your own product, selling a digital offer, building a course. All of that together is really what makes people a good six figure influencer.”

But nobody really tells you how to get started working with brands, and what you should be charging them when you do. Ahead, Lissette answers our six biggest questions about brand deals and negotiating rates. 

Should I reach out to brands or wait for them to come to me?

A hundred percent reach out. And when you're reaching out, the key is to not just say who you are or how many followers you have, but why your followers are relevant to the brand or why your story is relevant to the brand. Spend most of your time reaching out to brands, introducing yourself, to kind of start to build your network. Joining influencer marketplaces or influencer platforms is a huge way for people to get started and work with brands.

 Is there a formula I can use to figure out my rate? 

There is no industry standard, but there is a better understanding of rates these days. I personally have come up with a rate formula based off of what agencies are paying and what I believe influencers are charging on average. On average, the base, as in this is the minimum anyone would ever take for a campaign, is about a penny per follower. So divide your follower count by a hundred for every single post that they're asking you to do. 

My recommendation is that your rate has to include three elements. Number one, the amount of time the entire campaign is taking. Truly get into the exercise of breaking down what you're doing. You are planning, you are strategizing, you are sourcing products and sourcing locations. You're shooting. You have post production and editing and then you have to post. And when you post this stuff, you're going to have to engage with your audience. So with all that in mind, a full campaign will take anywhere from two to five hours for a very basic one-post campaign. So you have to ask yourself, ‘How much am I willing to accept hourly if I was being paid hourly to participate in something like this?’ 

Part two of your rate is what they're actually asking you for. So that's the deliverables. That's where the “divide your follower count by a hundred” comes in. There are other elements like exclusivity, which means you can't work with competitors over time. So you as a business owner have to ask yourself, “How much money would I lose if I accepted this exclusivity?” The other piece of that is usage of your content as a content creator. If a brand were to use it as an advertisement, whether it's on social or on their website, you need to be charging for that extra usage. 

Then part three is your worth. So that one is the gray area for a lot of people, because you really have to ask yourself, “Me in this industry, am I someone who is in high demand?” Then you have to charge more. “Am I someone who is not really talking about this subject much, but I would love to participate in that campaign?” Then maybe you're going to charge less than average. 

When you add these three elements together, you really have to look at that and ask yourself, “Am I comfortable as a business owner receiving this? Does this number make me happy? Yes or no?” And I truly believe that you should follow your gut reaction.

Conventional wisdom is to aim high when it comes to naming your price. Is that true for the influencer industry?

Yes, but two thoughts: Don't go so high that you can't meet the performance of what that campaign is asking for. Then they're disappointed with it. But always shoot higher than the minimum you're willing to accept, and honestly, to practice knowing your worth, and every time you're hearing a consistent yes, start giving yourself a raise. I also have this rule that if you're fully booked, you're underpaid.

Does experience play a role?

Yes. Not just your experience as an influencer, but your experience in the topics that they're asking you to talk about. If you are a physical trainer who turned into a blogger and you're being asked to do a fitness campaign, you have to charge like a physical trainer. That is your expertise. 

One thing brands truly, truly value outside of follower count is community. Not just engagement rate, because engagement often includes the amount of likes you have, and truly likes are vanity. [Brands are] looking at the comments, they're looking at, “What are people saying to this influencer, are people actually invested in what they are writing about? Does the influencer write back to her audience? What does that community look like?” They're trying to reach those people. The age of influencer as super transactional and basically just a billboard is over.

What are the common mistakes you see influencers making?

Two come to mind. Number one, you cannot send your rate over without knowing the deliverables, exclusivity, usage, rights, and timeline of the campaign. Usually brands will reach out with two out of the four. They're like, “We want you to do XYZ” and then you get a contract and it's like, “You must be exclusive for a whole year.” Then you have to negotiate again. So if they don't give you that upfront, always ask, ”Hey, before I send you my rate, I just want to confirm the deliverables.” Whatever they're missing. Then you can go in and make a more educated estimate on getting paid. 

The other big mistake people make is they don't read their contracts. I know we're not all lawyers, but you do need to at least look for those top four things, the deliverables, the exclusivity—if you literally control-F “exclusivity,” control-F ”usage,” and likely they have snuck in 'We own your content in perpetuity,' which means forever. And it's not that brands mean to be sneaky, it's just that these are usually very standard contracts and the brands will always do what it takes to protect themselves. Unless you ask them to please remove it, it's going to be there. 

Is it ever okay to accept products or exposure instead of money?

You should be always fairly compensated for the act. Now compensation sometimes might mean a trade if you value that trade. I'm very understanding that sometimes [influencers are] looking to build up their portfolio or they really just want to show that brand what they can do. In those cases, what influencers need to do is make it clear why they're accepting a trade that isn't paying them what they feel they're worth. For example, “I'm accepting this. Normally I would charge XYZ, but in the case that I'm building my portfolio, I'm accepting this trade.” Because what that does is it makes the brand continue to learn that people do need to be compensated.