Great news: You don’t need millions of followers to make a living as a content creator. Most people who land brand sponsorships have fewer followers than you think. Micro-influencers—accounts with less than 25,000 followers—make up a large portion of brand sponsorships. This is because micro-influencers—and even nano-influencers (<10,000 followers)—often see higher engagement rates than macro-influencers, which means they’re part of an authentic, tight-knit community.
As influencer marketing continues to blossom, brand sponsorships are becoming less about follower count, and more about:
Knowing how to build a great community
Straight up business knowledge and work ethic
Understanding your value to brands—and how to express it
With this in mind, we’ve created an easy, step-by-step guide on how you can land more—and better—brand sponsorships, by building a niche for yourself.
Choose Brands that Value Authenticity
While some brands still prioritize follower counts first and foremost, they may not be the brands you want to work with. Brands that have more experience with creator marketing understand that authenticity is key to a good sponsorship deal.
When brands look for creators to partner with, they’re typically looking for three things:
Content quality: Do your photos and videos look professional? Are you showing off your creativity in your feed?
Brand fit and authenticity: Does your niche line up with their niche?
Engagement rate: Do you have a solid community of followers who share and comment on your posts? Is your engagement rate remaining strong as your follower count grows?
How Brands find Creators to Sponsor
According to experts, brands typically find creators one of three ways:
Direct through social media platforms: If you’ve ever received a message asking for a collab, you know what we’re talking about.
Creator agencies: Brands will often work with agencies when they’re scaling their creator marketing efforts and need to outsource their search.
Creator platforms: Similar to leveraging an agency, brands will leverage creator platforms to perform searches based on category, niche, engagement, and follower count.
Thinking of Yourself as an Entrepreneur.
One of the most important things you can do for your career is to shift your mindset from “I’m an influencer” to “I’m a business owner.” That means creating content is an important part of your job—the most important—but it’s not everything.
Content creators are tempted to think broadly about content because they’re creative and have a lot of ideas. Entrepreneurs know how to find their niche and prioritize content that helps them achieve their financial goals.
Here are some important milestones to hit:
Find your niche: Be as specific as possible when defining your niche, and make sure 80% of your content fits within your category. When you’re diligent about specificity, brands will know right away, at a glance, whether you’re a good fit for them.
Grow your following: Focus on creating relevant, shareable content, and follow other accounts within your niche category. Your follower count isn’t the only indicator of your value, but some brands do look for certain follower count thresholds.
Engage with your community: Carve out time every day to respond to DMs and comments, and comment on other people’s posts. Consistency here will improve your engagement rate, which will show up on creator platform listings.
Develop your fundamental processes: Think through every step of a brand sponsorship, from pitching, negotiation, agreement, and content development. Where can you use templates? And after each partnership, note what went well and what didn’t, so you can improve your processes each time.
Learn some basic contract language: Two things you’ll want to watch for as a content Creator—exclusivity and perpetual use. You don’t necessarily want to avoid these types of sponsorships, but they do affect how much you can charge (hint: it’s higher).
Get an invoicing and payment platform: Most established brands have payment processes that require invoicing and credit card payment. Make sure you’re set up to fit into those processes, so you’re easy to work with.
Building Your Niche as a Content Creator
We’ve devoted a lot of real estate in this article to emphasizing the importance of building your niche as a creator—but what does that actually look like?
Choosing a niche can feel uncomfortable. When you’re committing to a niche, you may feel:
Anxious about alienating audiences that don’t fit within your niche
Scared to miss out on opportunities that fall outside your niche
Limited in your creativity as a content creator
While all of these hesitations are valid, the benefits of choosing a niche are worth it:
You’ll gain a sense of clarity about your long-term goals.
Brands looking for creators in your niche will see right away that you’re a great fit.
Your pitches for brand sponsorships will practically create themselves.
Building your niche is an ongoing process—you’ll always be tweaking and improving your focus. But here’s where you can start:
List the characteristics of your passion: You know you’re passionate about a topic when you can talk about it non-stop without any preparation. If you’re into yoga, for instance, take stock of all the content you’ve created about yoga and list common characteristics. You’ll start to see patterns and anchor points that can help you generate similar (and better) content.
List audience pain points: After you’ve committed to a topic, make a list of problems people like you face within your category. For every problem, list a possible solution. This is the beginning of your content calendar.
Research niche competitors and hashtags: Extend your knowledge of your own space by following similar creators and hashtags. They may technically be your “competitors” in a business sense, but in a human sense, they’re also your community.
Test and commit to your niche content: This is the hard part—now that you know your niche, you need to commit to it with consistent content that fits. That means discarding ideas that don’t fit and spending time only on the ones that do. A great rule to follow is the 80/20 rule—80% of your content should fit within your niche, while 20% can branch out a little to show you’re a well-rounded human being.
Now that you’ve built your niche, the next part of this series will focus on how to pitch to brands to get those sweet sponsorships. Let us know whether you found this article interesting in the comments below.