An Instagram influencer with about 40,000 followers explains how much money she makes and the email template she uses to turn gifting offers into paying deals

  • Emma Cortes has about 38,000 followers on Instagram and was able to book $40,000 in brand deals in 2019, she said. 
  • She works with brands on creating fashion and lifestyle content and strategically negotiates with the brands to turn their offers into long-term, paying deals — even if the brand only offered a gift. 
  • Business Insider spoke with Cortes about her negotiation strategy, which she breaks down step-by-step, and an email template she uses for turning a gifting opportunity into a paid deal. 
  • Subscribe to Business Insider's influencer newsletter: Insider Influencers.

Emma Cortes is a Seattle-based fashion and lifestyle "micro" influencer with about 38,000 Instagram followers. And in 2019, she booked $40,000 in brand deals, which she credits to her negotiation strategy. 

Cortes started her blog, Emma's Edition, in 2014 and started taking it more seriously in 2016 while she was working a full-time job at an aerospace company. That same year, she landed her first brand partnership as an ambassador for American Eagle Outfitters. That partnership was unpaid, but American Eagle sent her free clothing throughout the year-long program.

In September, Cortes went full time as a content creator after being laid off because of the pandemic. 

"It just happened to time out this year that I was financially ready to do it," Cortes said. She had already been planning to go full time as a creator in 2021, but didn't expect it to be under these circumstances.

But she said she feels confident that she'll be able to soon match her former salary.

Cortes is one of many "micro" influencers (who generally have below 100,000 followers) that have turned their side hustles into sustainable careers.

One of Cortes' keys to success is turning gifting opportunities — when a brand is offering to give her products in exchange for promotion — into paying brand deals.

About 90% of the deals she secures are from brands reaching out to her, Cortes said, and she does anywhere between four and six each month (including long-term partnerships).

"No matter what, I reply back and I restate what the brand is asking for," she said, to make sure she is clear on what the brand wants.

After this first step, she then starts to negotiate the terms of a deal and how much money she would charge for this set of deliverables. 

"The main things I charge for are timeline, exclusivity, usage, and then the scope of deliverables," she said. "If there's no exclusivity, then I won't charge [a brand] my full rate. But if I can't work with a brand for an additional three months, I'm charging for that." 

Exclusivity and usage rights are two highly negotiated terms in brand deals for influencers. Exclusivity limits how many brands a creator can work with for a period of time, while usage rights can grant brands the right to re-use a creator's content for a set time period. 

"I never really give a flat rate," Cortes said. Instead, she provides a range.

Right now, her average rates are between $1,500 to $2,500 for an in-feed Instagram post and a few story slides, she said. Business Insider verified these rates (and her income) through documentation provided by Cortes.

From there, Cortes and the brand go back and forth, adding or removing deliverables and adjusting timelines or usage rights. This can take anywhere from a week to about a month, she said. 

And if the brand isn't able to meet her at her rate, she'll often walk away. 

"I think one thing I've noticed with influencers is that people are really afraid to say no, or, just accept whatever the brand's offering," she said. But in the end, if a brand has the ability to pay for an advertising or PR agency, they may also have the budget to meet her rates, she said. 

So far, this strategy has allowed Cortes to secure some five-figure deals that are multi-month contracts, she said. It's also led her to start selling her own course about negotiating rates and deals as a creator. 

Here is an email template Cortes uses for turning a gifting opportunity into a paid brand deal:

Hi [BRAND] ,

Thanks for reaching out! May you please let me know if there are other opportunities with the brand besides gifted campaigns — or — the affiliate program? I'd love to explore a collaboration with [BRAND] and potentially provide the requested:

One Instagram Post
3 Instagram Stories

Here are my most recent Instagram stats and my media kit is attached for your reference:

Instagram:

  • # impressions and # reached last 7 days
  • % engagement rate, # followers

Example of previous Instagram brand collaborations:

  • Brand 1
  • Brand 2
  • Brand 3

Thank you! I look forward to hearing from you soon!

Sincerely,

Emma

For more information about the influencer industry, check out these Business Insider articles:

  • 15 top talent managers helping micro influencers land brand deals and grow their businesses on Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok

  • Gen-Z influencers are charging the highest rates for sponsored Instagram content, beating millennials, Gen X, and Gen Alpha

  • Retail brands like Kohl's, American Eagle, and Express are touting their work with influencers to investors. Here are the key takeaways from our analysis of over 50 mentions on earnings calls.

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