How to negotiate brand deals as a micro-influencer in 2023

By Jen Glantz

Photo credit: Parilov/Shutterstock, Remix by Caterina Cox

At the top of any influencer’s to-do list is figuring out how to land new and more lucrative brand deals. Some of the bigger, top-earning influencers are lucky enough to have a roster of brands they can reach out to for new partnership proposals. Other creators, especially ones with smaller audiences or who are establishing their niche or audience, struggle.

They might find themselves having to be strategic about how to pitch brands. No one teaches you how to negotiate with brands that work with micro-influencers—at least until now. Here’s everything you need to know to land new deals and get paid what you deserve. 

How to negotiate brand deals as a micro-influencer in 2023

What is a micro-influencer? 

A micro-influencer is someone with a small, yet loyal and engaged, audience. Take Cheyenne Wilder for example. Walker is an assistant account executive at the integrated marketing agency Codeword. More importantly, she’s also an active TikTok influencer. Wilder defines a micro-influencer as a creator who has between 1,000 and 50,000 social media followers on one or more platforms. 

Wilder says even though her follower count might not be in the six-figure range, this is less important than trust. Wilder’s smaller audiences tend to trust her opinions more, sometimes feeling as though they have a closer relationship with her. Since she’s selective about the products she chooses to sell, her sponsored posts are special. This can make brands more interested in working with her over a bigger creator that is constantly pushing brand deals and affiliate codes. 

Of course, building trust isn’t easy. If you are looking to continue building audience and revenue, here are some helpful tips on how to negotiate brand deals and find brands that work with micro-influencers.

How to become a micro-influencer in 2023 

Whether you’re just starting to build a social media audience or you’ve been in the influencing game for years, it’s important to have a niche for your audience. Katie Penny, director of influencer relations at DeVries Global, says that to become a stand-out micro-influencer who attracts brand attention it is important to signal to companies what types of products and resources your followers would be interested in learning more about.

In addition to that, Penny says brands want to see what kind of benefits your content brings to viewers and that you’re being consistent with posting content and engaging your followers.

“There is no set follower number that a creator needs to approach brands,” Penny says. “A brand collaboration with a creator should provide a mutually-beneficial result.”

For example: If a skincare brand catering to those who deal with eczema is launching a new campaign, they will be looking for creators who can personally speak to these concerns, make authentic recommendations, and provide reviews of the products. 

“Whether the creator has 100 or 10K followers could be a secondary metric,” says Penny.  “Does the influencer have an audience that will benefit from the products and will they be receptive to branded content from the creator?”

Will companies reach out to me or should I be proactive? 

While some brands might pop into your inbox, Lauren Ludlow, the founder of Ludlow Social, an influencer marketing agency, says that it’s important for micro-influencers to initiate conversations with brands.

“Message them on social media, check out their website to see if they have an ambassador or influencer page,” says Ludlow. “Don’t be shy to email the partnerships team to inquire about opportunities and who is the best contact for you.”

What are the brands that work with micro-influencers?

Ludlow says that she’s seen micro-influencers work with big-name brands, such as COVERGIRL, First Aid Beauty, Bubble, Fabletics, AERIE, and Anthropologie. 

“Every brand in 2023 has a marketing budget, and influencer marketing isn’t slowing down with its projected value of $24 billion in 2025,” she says. “It’s very likely that your favorite brand has a PR or influencer team, and they need to find great talent like micro-influencers to promote their launches.”

How to negotiate a brand deal as a micro-influencer

Even if you’re eager to land brand deals and make money, Ludlow says the first step you should take is building a relationship with the brand. For example, mention the brand on your social media, share products you actually like and use, and communicate to the brand the value of working with you and your audience (whether inside an email pitch or media kit). 

Where do micro-influencers go wrong negotiating brand deals? 

After you establish a relationship with a brand, it can be easier for negotiations to happen and for brand deals to be offered.

However, Jess Flack, co-founder and CEO of influencer marketing platform Ubiquitous, says there are some things to look out for when negotiating these deals.

First, Flack recommends not taking purely commission-based brand deals, since they can require a lot of work for the creator and might not pay off in the end. 

“I see many brands preying on micro-influencers by offering no base pay and a small commission based on direct sales from their posts,” says Flack. “Influencer Marketing is inherently difficult to track and attribute currently, so the influencer loses almost every time and brands know this.”

Instead, if a brand reaches out with a pure commission offer,  Flack recommends countering with a base and commission structure that includes the rights for them to use your post in ad content. 

“Then, your time and effort is covered by the base pay and any incremental revenue you bring to the brand is icing on the cake. It creates a mutually beneficial relationship that could become recurring if your posts perform well,” says Flack.

Wilder warns to beware of the brands that try to lowball micro-influencers just because of their follower count.

“Do your research,” says Wilder. “As a micro-influencer, it is important to discuss rates with fellow influencers and research, on the internet, what others charge. Do not let brands lowball you.”

How to make money as a content creator: get your audience to return your investment 

Once you’ve landed the brand deal, it’s time to make sure it’s a successful campaign. To do that, Maggie Reznikoff, the Vice President of Account Management for influencer agency Open Influence, says you want to keep your audience engaged in the content by prompting them to take a clear call to action.

“This means when sharing a promo code, it’s important to also make sure the link is easily accessible, such as on a story frame or in bio,” says Reznikoff. “The more “steps” that need to take place in the purchase path, the higher the drop-off will be. Simplifying that path with concise and honest testimonials followed by the CTA will help drive action.”