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There are several ways you can go about bringing on help as you find yourself unable to juggle the day to day of a content creator or influencer. Some people opt for assistants or interns, others for a sole manager (a little rarer to find) and the majority of talents sign to agencies, if they choose to do so at all. Most of the time they’ll require exclusivity with a contract of one to three years, which means whatever work comes in through your inbox or theirs, they’ll take a cut. The standard is 20%, in case you were wondering and that’s usually added on top of your usual fee so you won’t feel like you’re taking home any less. If you’ve gotten to the point that you’re inundated with requests, struggling to keep those inbox numbers down and you just need more time to focus on a particular side of your work, it sounds about right that you’ll need to outsource. Congrats! That’s a huge step to take. Here are the five questions to ask influencer agents from boutiques to some of the largest agencies in the world.
1. Why do you see us as a good fit or what attracted you to my profile?
I’ve been in meetings where a simple Google would’ve told an agent that I’m also a journalist and that writing is a really important factor for me. They didn’t think to research or read my website because it’s about the ‘gram to them. This could work for a lot of people who focus solely on Instagram but if not, it suggests that they’re about short term cash-ins than your development offline. We’ll get into that point more a little later.
This question is a big one because it indicates whether they see you as an artistic talent or someone that has a lot of influence (of course you can be both but most often, you’ll fit more on one side than the other). You can then compare your stature to the other people they represent. Agents don’t like too many of their talents to be the same. Following is also not a make or break factor for them, as there’s a demand for micros (under 50k), sometimes due to brand budgets. It’s also well known now that micros have a higher engagement percentage. While this isn’t ‘official’, you’ll find that big global agencies like Next, Storm and Elite will have girls that are ‘it girls’ and are well known in their respective industries, be it social, music or fashion. Model agencies with digital talent divisions tend to stick to what they know best – models that have a healthy social media following. PR agencies like Purple also represent talent, they’ll likely be global or already have a big name as an ex-model or editor. They tend to operate more like socialites than influencers. Then there are huge commercial agencies with teams for sales and agents that sometimes source talent from outside their board. Gleam for one does this. They gravitate towards mass-appeal content creators that are multi-channel, so a mix of YouTube, Instagram, blog and soon, TikTok.
2. What’s the communication style?
I’ve asked this question at every meeting and it’s important to set your expectation. If you don’t even know what you expect, it’s always better to ask for more and scale back than to go in blind and claw back visibility. For example, most agencies will allow you to keep control of your inbox so long as any paid request is forwarded onto them. As for updates, they might say WhatsApp any time or only during office hours. How suitable this is for you somewhat comes down to: do you need moral support or someone to simply manage the business side? Some will prioritise face to face meetings on a regular basis, some agents promise monthly ‘reports’ on outreach and how likely a campaign is to happen. Others say that this isn’t possible because one brand might be interested, disappear for months then come back with a big budget. If you’ve been in the industry long enough, you’ll know this to be true. It’s critical to ask this question to a talent agent because it holds them accountable. It’s essential your agent has your back and will tell you in an honest and constructive way why you might have been overlooked.
3. How much PR support is involved?
Some agencies will promise you a degree of public relations but most often, these efforts end up directed at the highest earning individuals on the board. I’ve been on both ends of the spectrum, it’s capitalism so I’m not going to cry over it. However, it’s important to get a strategy in writing to refer to if anything goes wrong. It’s also a valid reason to break things off if you feel it’s really not what was promised. Most importantly, it’s about the alignment of your goals. So, if it’s valuable to you that you’re at Fashion Week dressed in the appropriate designer, with a hotel to stay in, then it’s something you should voice. Some agencies are able to do this, no problem. Others don’t feel it’s necessary to provide PR and work on a purely transactional basis. In situations like these, it’s best not to commit to full exclusivity.
4. What would you charge for my fee?
This is one of the essential five questions to ask influencer agents because most will take 20%. But don’t fear. As I said before, most of the time, this percentage is added on top of your rate (which they dictate). If you’re astronomically successful, you might be able to whittle that number down to 15%. I like to ask this question not to hear a particular number, but for the reasons why. Every agent has quoted the exact same fee to me and it’s always 2k. Bear in mind, yours might be different as my following is mid-level and I shoot 90% editorial, which is an expensive content genre to produce. Also, I want to warn you not to take that as a gauge of my actualised fee, because middle men like to start high and negotiate down. I also tack on the question about hidden likes, dropping reach and a generally less engaged user base on the app, and how they’ll navigate this instability. How your potential agent answers this is very telling of how much they stay on the pulse of the industry and which metrics they use to give you value.
5. It’s about how much you want them!
While all queries are important, the most pressing fifth question depends on how much you already know about the agency. Do your homework before the meeting. If it’s a relatively new division and with less than ten individuals, you’ll want to ask how much they’re looking to expand. A lot of fashion models tell me that while you’re bringing in the work, you’ll be treated like family but once there are new faces that are bringing in fresh requests, you get kicked to the sidelines. It’s not much different with influencer agencies. If they have a fixed quota within a time frame, you’ll know you have a certain window of dedicated attention, which is important in building trust and handing over your business. Sometimes you’ll find an enquiry or invite has been directed to you but in the best case scenario has been shared with someone else. And in the worst case, siphoned off to another person on their books that is more likely to book the job. PR agencies have also shared with me that it’s frustrating to hear a pitch on other people that they’ve not signed off on and didn’t ask after. If it’s an established agency, you might want to ask what the parameters of your exclusivity is. Most will let you keep your past and current contracts to yourself and still take work from influencer apps. Some are flexible and are willing to give a trial or work on a casual referral basis. While this isn’t mutually financially beneficial, it does allow you to get a sense of compatibility. If you’re confident in your ability to pull in clients, the topic of payment terms might be more pressing. My last agency paid within the week a job was booked, which was great for cash flow but hard for money management as someone who was used to a monthly injection. However, the standard is that you don’t get paid until they do, which means if a client is a month late fulfilling that invoice, having an agent doesn’t do much by way of getting that payment any sooner.
Got anymore questions about this topic? Drop me a message on Instagram @fleurandrea