how to get brand deals

Understanding How Brand Deals Work

Your Introduction to the brand deal income stream.

Teaching you everything you need to know about how to get brand deals.

The advertising landscape is changing drastically as companies turn to content creators to reach their desired target audience. Social media has become a powerful tool for advertisers to tap into a specific niche and get a better return on investment (ROI) with their campaign goals.

Brand deals are not specific to one type of content or platform. For example, some influencers are bloggers, while others leverage Youtube or short-form content like TikTok and Instagram Reels. 

The key idea to understand is as long as you build a strong audience and content that resonates, the opportunities to make money as a content creator are abundant.

What is a Brand Deal?

Youtuber, TikToker, Influencer, and Content Creator are a few names that may come to mind when you think of public figures that you see promoting products online. 

It’s becoming challenging to scroll through your feed on any social media platform without seeing promoted brand deals. However, advertisers are doing a great job with blending into existing content (more on that later). 

Brand deals are an arrangement between a company and you, the content creator. You promote their product or service to your audience in return for money or products, and sometimes both. Offering free products to influencers with a smaller audience is a common practice.

Doing this allows a brand to test the waters and keep their expenses low because they already own the inventory of the products. Larger creators usually will receive money because they are typically not as easily influenced by free products. 

Another thing to factor in is because they are full-time content creators, they have to manage their time, so brand deals must be enticing. Each brand deal is unique; terms will vary, but this outlines general practices.

The Basics of a Brand Deal

A recurring misconception is that only A-list influencers get paid to work with brands. If it was still 2014, that might be a true statement, but like social media algorithms, a lot has changed. Micro influencer brand deals have become a lot more common.  

Early in your creator journey, you will likely have to reach out to companies to secure brand deals. However, brands will reach out to you as you build an online presence.

Brands will come to you because:

  • You have the reach. 

  • You have the audience.

  • You are already creating the content they want.

What brands are discovering is that it’s better to focus on a smaller audience than a broad audience of millions. You can search a specific keyword on any platform, and boom, the top creators for that topic pop up. 

Now brands can hunt down specific creators to work with and promote their products. While 2,000,000 followers sounds great on paper, odds are only a fraction of that number will become a customer.

As traditional advertising practices like pay-per-click ads become expensive, brands are cashing all in on influencers. 

Optimizing User Generated Content

While most social media platforms are shifting towards short-form content, TikTok brand deals have really paved the way. Companies are getting smarter about making their marketing efforts appear organic. 

Trends come and go but posting daily routines and vlog-style content remains popular. It’s not uncommon to see influencers sharing their favorite products in their daily routine videos. Whether a jacket, shirt, or a skin care product, brands see the value in this outlet to market directly to their demographic. 

It feels natural, and sometimes you are unaware that it’s a sponsored post until you find the #sponsored or #ad in the caption.

how brand deals work
A brand deal I did with Qatar Airways.

Knowing When to Seek Brand Deals

Similar to recommending the best cameras, it isn’t easy to define when you can start getting brand deals. Each case is unique, and it will ultimately depend on your content, audience, reach, and overall engagement. 

A media kit is essential for sharing these metrics with potential clients and allowing them to understand who you are and what you offer. 

Join LCA today to get exclusive access to my personal media kit.

So, what is the perfect number of followers to start getting noticed? 

A good number to get brand deals is around 10,000 followers or subscribers. You have established a good foundation at this number, and brands have begun to take you seriously. 

Regardless of your number of followers, it should not discourage you from reaching out early. If you can effectively communicate your niche, value, and target, you can start getting paid before 10,000.

Many creators have hundreds to a few thousand followers who regularly get brand deals. If you have a tiny niche, a smaller number might be worth more than a prominent content creator who does not make content about your industry.

How to Get Brand Deals as a Small Creator

You are not on the radar when you first start creating content. You are in a sea of creators by the millions, but it doesn’t mean you can’t swim to the top.  

Searching ‘the best travel vloggers’ on YouTube will not bring your name up. It’s not that you don’t create great content; brands cannot find you yet. 

While there is no cheat code to fill your inbox with brand deals, you can start by reaching out to local agencies. They might have events where you can network and even get some clients. Nevertheless, contact them and introduce yourself if the agency is not in your area. 

Your first collaboration might start unpaid, or they might send you a product. There is an upside to receiving free products that every content creator should leverage. 

If you need a specific product or service, try reaching out and offer to do a review of their product in exchange. For example, if you’re building a studio, reach out to a company for lighting or other equipment you need. 

Not only is this good practice, but it also saves you money by not spending on things you already need. It might put you on their radar if you do an outstanding job.

While doing free work might not sound exciting, it’s better to be known as someone who will do free work early on to build a reputation. Be sure not to do free work long-term. Take the first free deal, then start proposing new collabs with pricing and deliverables. Realize your value, and don’t be afraid to turn down brand deals if they are not a good fit. 

Tips for Free vs. Paid Brand Deals

  • Do not offer the same deliverables in your free work as you would for paid work. 

  • Be specific in what you include in a free deal vs. a paid deal. 

  • Do not go above and beyond the scope of work for a free deal or partnership. 

  • If they keep asking for free work, it’s time to move on. 

  • Not everyone will be willing to pay, but if you think the exchange is worth it, go for it. 

Negotiating Brand Deals

It’s always best to negotiate your own brand deals, especially early on, because no one will care about your brand like you do. If you are not keen on doing this, here are some alternatives: 

  • Working with a Multi-Channel Network (MCN).

  • Hiring an in-house brands deals manager/consultant.

  • Going direct with an Ad agency.

Multi-Channel Networks (MCN)

MCNs are large agencies representing content creators in obtaining and brokering brand deals on your behalf. In return, they take a percentage of AdSense and a sizable chunk of any brand deal’s profit.

Less established content creators will not get favorable terms, likely giving away around 20% of your brand deals in fees and exclusive rights. Mid-sized to bigger content creators can usually negotiate a better MCN deal for non-exclusivity, lower rates, etc. 

Here at LCA, we don’t recommend doing this, but it’s your decision. 

The good news is most brands these days are going direct to content creators instead of going through an MCN network for brand deals. 

Hiring an In-House Brand Deals Manager

Bringing on an employee to manage your brand deals can be a great alternative to joining an MCN. 

What are the benefits of bringing on a brand deal employee?

  • You control how much the individual is paid. 

  • They will look out for your best interests to succeed in their role. 

  • You will have additional free time to focus on your content and business.

  • You will have someone comfortable with negotiating.

Working Directly With an Agency

Typically you won’t hear directly from a brand but an ad agency representing a company. For example, you might receive an email from XYZ advertising, wanting to send you a free coffee maker on behalf of their client in exchange for a Youtube video. 

Big companies hire agencies because of their expertise in social media advertising. Usually, they allocate a budget specifically for social media that the agency can use to meet their advertising goals.

Agencies can promise a higher quality level of views. A company may say, “We need 100,000 quality views that have a high probability of converting to sales.” Then the agency will seek out potential creators to work with that align with the company’s advertising goals.  

What you need to understand about working with agencies:

  • You can usually get paid pretty well for it if they come to you. 

  • Build solid relationships with clients.

  • Keep working relationships alive and well. 

  • Ad agencies are numerous but not infinite; building meaningful relationships is essential. 

  • Word spreads fast as the brand deal community is relatively small. 

Get Exclusive Access to How I Structure and Manage My Brand Deals

Hopefully, after reading this guide, you better understand how brand deals work. Interested in content creation but don’t know where to start? Check out my brand new 10 Day Creator Challenge here!

Let’s get lost in the next one!