How to Work with Big Brands as a Small Influencer (And Get Paid for It!)

So you’ve seen every Bachelor contestant known to man selling skinny-fit tea. And you’ve noticed Julie with 1.2 million followers traveling the world, sharing bikini ad after bikini ad. So how do they do it? And more importantly, how can you get involved? You’ve done everything right, and your Instagram has officially taken off, but, you don’t have a million followers. Maybe you don’t even have 10,000 followers. So do brands want to work with you? How can you get paid to promote brands on social?

First, let’s break down the numbers.

Brands care more about something called your Engagement Rate than they do about the number of followers you have. Your engagement rate is calculated by looking at the average number of likes/ comments divided by the number of your followers. So, for example, let’s say you have 1000 followers, and each pictures gets an average of 100 likes/comments. That would make your engagement rate 10% (this is a great number!). Now let’s look at an account with 100,000 followers, and an average of 1000 likes/comments. Their engagement rate would only be 0.1%- not a great number! So even though you may be smaller, as long as your followers are engaging with your account, you’re considered more valuable in the brand’s eyes.

Why does the Engagement Rate matter to brands?

A brand is paying you to promote their products, in order to sell, sell, sell! If you have an audience that is truly interested and engaged in what you have to say, then they are more likely to buy what you’re promoting. Simple! This is why it is extremely important to build an authentic, real audience (and why engagement pods/ buying followers is simply fraudulent). If you fake your followers and/or your engagement, then the people following you most likely don’t care about your recommendations, meaning you’re not going to be selling much product.

Where to Start?

Based on your numbers, if you are a small account with a large engagement rate, then you most likely have a large influence on your followers. Big brands DO want to work with you! Why? Smaller influencers are cheaper and are able to post much quicker than large influencers. Plus, you can generally go directly through them instead of dealing with agents/ agencies. So now that you’ve gained a ton of confidence (trust me, you’re #worth), it’s time to get started!

Media Kit

The first thing you want to do is make a Media Kit. A media kit is a sort of creative resume that shows off your stats, your contact info, and the types of services you offer. This makes you #legit. You can create this with resources such as Canva (start a free account with them!), and use other free resources to find your stats. I like Phlanx to calculate my engagement rate, and I take my other stats from my actual Instagram business analytics, in the app. Add a few photos to show off who you are, and wham bam you’re in business!

Initial Reach Out

Now it’s time to find your first deal! This takes a bit of prep work, so get started on your prep work before you even send an email. First, ensure you’re following the brand on Instagram and interacting with their posts. For many companies, the person handling the social media presence is also the one hiring influencers for sponsored media, and will hopefully remember you had been interacting with their account. Write insightful comments, like everything, and respond to their stories! Be sure to also tag, tag, tag! Wearing their product in a post? Tag them! Talking about how much you love them in your stories? TAG! Force them to know your name!

Next up, send a reach-out email. Don’t do this over DMs!! If you can’t find a contact email, then reach out via DM asking for the best contact for their brand rep. Once you have their email, sit down and write. I am providing a template for a good initial email. You’ll want to say explicitly how you can help them by promoting their brand, why you’re interested in this brand specifically, and include your Instagram/ any blogs you’ve/photos you’ve shared written about their industry as an example.

Sample Email I wrote to a dog food company:

Hello {Company Name} Team!

My name is Hannah Schneider and I am a Content Creator/ blogger out of {Your City}. I run a blog for {describe your audience} all about {describe your niche, what your blog is about}. My blog keeps women informed, inspired, and educated on all things pop culture, wellness, fashion, and how to care for man’s best friend.

{Share your experience with the product and how it has helped you}

I have been feeding both of my dogs your product for almost a year now, and I am amazed at the quality. One of my dogs, Rylee, used to have super itchy skin and was very picky, often not eating for days if she didn’t like what we were feeding her. Now, her itchy rashes have gone away and she NEVER skips a meal!

I have an active and engaged audience on both Instagram and on my blog, and I think that my combined audience would benefit from learning about your products. I have followers all over the US who don’t seem to know what to feed their dogs. I think we can change that.

After showing my audience a short clip of my dogs enjoying their {product name}, I would like to feature more of your products on my blog and Instagram.

Here is a sample blog that I wrote to help dog owners combat separation anxiety in their pets.

You can also view my Instagram here.

Does {Company Name} ever collaborate with Social Media Influencers? If so, I would love to work with you. As a growing blogger/ Influencer, I want to bring more awareness of superb products such as {Company Name} to my followers. Let me know if you would be open to chatting more about this potential partnership.

All the best,

Hannah Schneider

Owner of Harper Grey Lifestyle, LLC

After sending that email, I got my first collaboration within 10 minutes. Seriously, that fast!

Pick a couple companies and send out emails. Prepare to receive some no’s, but don’t let that stop you! This is sales baby!

A campaign I did for True & Co.

Prepare your Offer:

So what should you charge? SHOULD you charge? Here are some good guidelines to go off of. Smaller influencers (>10,000 followers) still deserve to get paid for their work! Imagine your boss telling you to work for free for a week in exchange for one item of clothing from inventory. Would you do that?? No way! Your effort, skills, and creativity have given you a platform, and you deserve to get paid for your work! Now, let’s say the company want to offer a free product in exchange for promoting them on your social accounts. Generally, if this is a product you really want, or it has a pretty high numerical value (<$100), then it’s fine to take the product in exchange for the work. Many brand new influencers will also do this exchange. This totally fine, just make sure you aren’t selling yourself short!

Utilize a Website to Help Find Brand Deals!

Looking for smaller, one-off collabs? Utilize websites such as Heartbeat, AmbassadHer, Fohr, Glambassador, Palm, and AspireIQ to get teamed up with brands! My personal favorite (and where I’ve found most success) Is Heartbeat. This is excellent for smaller influencers! Create your profile and simply apply to any campaigns that fit. When you are accepted to a campaign, you will create your content and share it, and once shared, you will be paid via PayPal. These sites will generally calculate your rate for you based on number of followers/ engagement. 

I sincerely hope this helps get the ball rolling for you! Remember, influencer marketing is one of the most effective ways to sell a product in this day and age, so don’t EVER sell yourself short! Companies want to work with you! Good luck, and as always, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to DM or email me.



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2 thoughts on “How to Work with Big Brands as a Small Influencer (And Get Paid for It!)”

  1. Oh wow this was such a helpful post!! It’s always been daunting thinking about reaching out to brands for collabs but you definitely broke it down and made it super more approachable! xx

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