Navigating Red-Flag Creator Deals With Supermanager Victoria Bachan and Influencer Melissa Tovar

Photo courtesy of Whalar | Remix by Cole Mitchell

We’re sitting down with leaders on the business side of the creator economy to get their advice for creators looking to launch and develop their careers.

This week, the Daily Dot spoke with a couple of folks at Whalar, a creator commerce company that connects brands to creators. Whalar has worked with major brands including Netflix, Disney, Gucci, Nike, Amazon, and Mastercard. It also works with a network of thousands of creators, and has over 120 creators who are represented by its internal agency. 

Some creators Whalar represents include fashion TikToker Devon on Deck, YouTuber Michelle Kare, dog influencer Doug the Pug, finance TikToker Taylor Price, and fashion influencer Joe Ando. Whalar also represents the cast members of the all-Black creator house the Crib Behind the Corner, and the all-Latino creator house Familia Fuego.

Victoria Bachan, managing director of Whalar talent, started working for Whalar in 2020. Prior to Bachan joining Whalar, it did not have an internal agency to manage creator talent. Bachan helped build out a full-brown agency at the company by recruiting managers, bringing in new talent, and creating infrastructure to develop creator careers.

Bachan began her career in the live music industry, working with the producers behind Coachella, the Governor’s Ball, and the Vans Warped Tour. She then went on to pursue a career as a manager for creators like Doug the Pug, Michelle Khare, and Adam J. Kurtz—all of whom came along with Bachan when she joined Whalar. 

Bachan has watched trends in the creator economy for years now. She told the Daily Dot that she thinks the most pressing issue creators face when trying to work with brands is weeding out scams and illegitimate deals. 

“A lot of things that look like legitimate opportunities often end up being phishing or scams,” Bachan told us. “There are a lot that also ask influencers to skirt the law and not put in FTC disclosures.”

Creators, take note: The FTC, or Federal Trade Commission, requires that creators post obvious disclosures of “material connections” to brands. Material connections include personal, familial, or financial relationships to a brand. This includes a brand giving you free or discounted products and services, according to the FTC’s website.

“Ultimately, at the end of the day, if you get caught for that the responsibility is on you. When in reality, it should be on the brand,” Bachan continued. “Be very, very cautious about what’s coming through your inbox and what you’re responding to.” 

Bachan also said that today, creators are struggling to keep up with unrealistic demands from brands. She said that agents like herself are able to help creators establish good business boundaries. 

“One of the issues with this industry overall is that we’re losing a little bit of humanity,” Bachan said, “The best brand deals are ones where people are realistic about timelines. Right now we’re in a pandemic—they need to be realistic about if the talent gets COVID or if anyone is ill.” 

Melissa Tovar, a skincare and beauty TikToker with over 256,000 followers, is represented by Whalar and echoed Bachan’s sentiment. 

“If I’m sick, and a brand is emailing me every single day saying ‘Hey, hey, hey, where’s your content?’ and I’ve already communicated that I’m sick that’s usually a red flag.”

Tovar also told us about another red flag: Brands that require a script. 

“As a creator, I want to have creative freedom,” Tovar said, “Most of the time, I’m the type of person who will send over 3-5 videos and say, pick your favorites. Sometimes brands will be like, we want all of them. That’s what happens when I get creative freedom—I’ll give you a range instead of becoming a robot.” 

Bachan agreed that having creative control is important for creating good branded content. “Sometimes you can see when someone is just doing the brand deal to just do the brand deal,” Bachan said, “The heart is kind of taken out of it. You can tell.” 

Even though creative control is important, Tovar expressed that you can’t just make whatever comes to mind if you want to make money from your content–you have to be marketable. 

“My biggest challenge was: I didn’t know how to make the transition from becoming a content creator to becoming a brandable content creator. I was pretty much just sharing fun things about my life,” Tovar continued, “I think that people just don’t understand that you can have a lot of followers but a lot of followers doesn’t mean you’re going to have brands wanting to work with you.” 

When it comes to getting paid, both Tovar and Bachan said that having a manager can help people navigate a tricky financial landscape. 

Bachan explained, “There’s a lot of nuance in pricing. A lot of it comes down to big things, like what usage does the brand want? What’s the exclusivity?”

Bachan said that exclusivity in brand deals drives prices up. “We have creators who are in much more niche spaces that have huge levels of exclusivity. They could be making a lot more money because there’s only so many brands in that space.”

Tovar said that getting a manager finally helped her turn her content creation into a full-time living. 

“I had no idea what I was doing when I first started. I feel like a couple of years ago pay transparency just was not as big as it is now,” Tovar said, “I was like, I have no idea what I’m charging, reading these contracts is just driving me crazy, I’m spending hours on emails.” 

We asked Tovar and Bachan for their closing advice for aspiring creators. 

Bachan replied: “If you are a creator nowadays, you are a small business. I really hope all creators—whether they’re managed or not—look at themselves as that. What is your output? What are your rates? Are you making sure that your rates are growing as your fanbase is growing?” 

Tovar replied: “My biggest advice for aspiring creators is to not overanalyze what every single person is doing. What works for someone else might not work for you. It’s easy for us to get on an app and want to copy everything that’s going viral but that’s not necessarily what our own followers are going to enjoy.

“Really, if you can find something that you love, something that you don’t mind doing every single day, you’ll be able to create content out of it and it’ll feel natural.”

We’re interviewing business leaders working in the creator economy. Reach out to [email protected] for a chance to get featured in an upcoming newsletter. 

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