4 Ways Creators Can Get Better Brand Deals in 2024

Isabel Sachs
Community Manager
Learn about the four best ways to get better brand deals in 2024.

Good communication skills are at the heart of building a strong relationship with brands for any creator. With a little bit of education and a lot of practice, you can learn to master brand communications and get what you want out of every brand partnership.

Take a look at these four tricky situations where communication between brands and creators tends to break down and see our best advice for coming out ahead in the conversation.

Asking for payment

Asking for payment can feel very challenging, especially when the brand is offering just a gifted product or, worse, just a “trial.” You know you deserve to be paid for your work and your time, but it sometimes feels uncomfortable to ask.

There are a lot of psychological elements at play in these types of negotiations, and it’s easy for either party to get defensive and to end the conversation with a negative impression - and without a partnership

Here are a few things to keep in mind when asking a brand for payment:

  • Be mindful of the “negotiating words” you use and how they’ll make you come across. I love this thread about never using the word “why” in a negotiation, and how to use “calibrated questions” to align yourself with the person across the table from you. The point is to feel like everyone is on the same team and wants the same outcome.

Check out this great thread where I got some of the information in this post ⤵️

  • Communicate the value of their investment. Any information and stats you have to share about past campaign performance and your audience demographics can help them feel more confident in working together.
  • Remind them that the real value of an authentic partnership happens over a period of time and can’t be seen through a piece of test content.
  • Show an itemized account of your financial investment in each piece of content. Many brands aren’t aware that their flat fee covers not just your time spent filming but also editing, your taxes and insurance, business expenses, and more.
  • Consider an adjustment to the terms of the request. If you’ve never tried the product and they want a guaranteed feed post in exchange for a freebie, try communicating to them that you would love to try a free product but aren’t able to commit to a feed post before having experienced it. Ask if they would consider just sending it and circling back on the details of a collab after you’re sure you want to move forward, or if a story unboxing works until you’ve formed an opinion.
  • If they ask you in real time, like on a phone or video call, ask for some time to think it over and get back to them. They know if you feel pressured to respond on the spot you’ll likely cave or ask for less than you deserve!

Here’s an example scenario:

Imagine you’ve done cold outreach to a bunch of brands you would love to work with for your content. They’re places you’re familiar with, items you have used and sometimes have even already promoted for free in the past because they’re authentically aligned with your audience. You’re SO PSYCHED when you see a response in your inbox from one of them, but your heart sinks when you open it to read that they’re down to send you a product and set up an affiliate link for you to earn small commissions on sales, but there’s no mention of payment for content creation like you were hoping.

Here’s an outline of what you could say in response to try and get closer to that brand deal:

Hi (NAME)!

Thank you so much for your response - I’m truly thrilled to hear from you as I’m such a huge fan of (BRAND).

I appreciate your offer of (whatever they offered) and I’m excited to learn more and about how we might be able to work together. I’d love to find a time to chat briefly and learn more about your goals for content partnerships, as well as any budget details and desired parameters for your projects.

Are you available at (date and time) for a quick chat? I also wanted to share a past campaign that I did with (similar brand) - it performed really well with my audience (insert stats) and I know they’re eager for more content like that. (Your brand) would be a great fit since I’m already a user and have featured it in the past (link to past content).

Excited to chat further!

Your Name

Negotiating terms

Negotiating is hard enough when you’re trying to advocate for yourself to get something you want. But it can get even more challenging when it comes to knowing when to walk away or say no to an opportunity.

As humans, we have people-pleasing tendencies so it’s essential to find and hold the boundaries that are right for YOU when negotiating contract terms with brands.

Why does it matter that you know your boundaries and build confidence in sticking with them when the negotiations get tough? ⤵️

  • Your boundaries support your authenticity with your audience. Making choices that align with who you are and what your content represents, rather than taking any deal that comes your way, helps your audience see that you are trustworthy and consistent.
  • Your boundaries support your future earning potential. It might seem counterintuitive, but sometimes saying no leads to bigger opportunities down the line. By keeping your content consistent and aligned, you leave the door open to what’s RIGHT, not just what’s there. And what’s right tends to be more lucrative, because it’s more authentically aligned and it will perform better.
  • Your boundaries support other creators and the profession as a whole. If an opportunity really isn’t right for you, but it seems like a good one otherwise, recommend a creator you love in that niche to pay it forward. Or if it’s a shady one, saying no sends a message to that brand that they can’t take advantage of you like that, and the more creators who turn them down, the less likely they are to continue trying to get content for free, or whatever they’re up to.

What are some situations when you might need to have clear boundaries as a creator?

  • When you’ve been negotiating with a brand and you just can’t agree on terms, it’s important to feel confident walking away instead of giving in to their demands. Plus, understanding your own values helps you know what terms to not budge on!
  • When someone approaches you with an offer to work with a brand you don’t know well, having boundaries helps you evaluate if it’s an authentic fit or if you should decline.
  • What is your personal stance on posting about politics, current events, or prominent happenings in the news? Is it important to you to comment and take a stance, or will you keep your page focused on other types of content? You’ll likely get pushback either way, so it’s important to understand why you’ve made your choice in order to hold strong.
  • When do you block someone or delete comments from your feed? What’s the line you hold for the kind of space your content creates online?

These are just a few examples - I’d love to hear more about the real-life scenarios you’ve found yourself in down in the comments!

So how do you find your personal boundaries?

There are two main ways creators can figure out when to say no:

  1. Thought work. It’s important to do some mental prep before landing in a real-world scenario where you might have to say no. Write down your values as a person and get clear on what your content stands for. Think through some of the tough situations we outlined above and how you might respond, or what you want your boundaries to be.
  2. Practical experience. To a certain extent, setting up your values and boundaries before you’re in an actual situation to practice them is like planning what kind of parent you’ll be before you have kids: sometimes it just goes down differently than you expected. It’s necessary and totally okay to adapt on the ground. The important part here is reflection: if you found yourself unexpectedly having to turn down a partnership, take note of what made you uncomfortable.

Once you know what your boundaries are, how do you actually hold them?

Holding a boundary is basically just a fancy way to say “No, thanks!” It means being firm with your offers and not taking less than what you feel is right and deserved. Or on the other hand, it means having the integrity to not participate in something, even though the offer might look super attractive.

Having to hold boundaries, say no, delete comments, or turn down opportunities feels scary and like something you may want to avoid, but ultimately the more real life experience you have in practicing your boundaries, the stronger they’ll become!

Asking for an extension

As a creator, there may be times when you need to ask a brand for an extension on a project deadline. This could happen for personal reasons like a family emergency or your mental health, or it may be for external reasons like a focus on current events.

While some creators want to continue with their regular programming during times of stress, others may feel like it’s not appropriate to continue posting their regular content during this time or they might feel personally unable to keep up with obligations. Since our theme this month is authenticity, we’re encouraging you to reflect on what’s authentic for you and your content in a difficult situation and represent that to your audience.

Everyone’s situation is unique, but no matter what your perspective is on pausing or continuing to post, it’s good to have the skills to request a deadline extension from a brand partner in case you ever need to request one.

Here are some steps you can take to effectively communicate and request an extension:

  1. Assess the situation: Evaluate why you need an extension and determine a reasonable timeframe for the extension. Think about why you’re feeling overwhelmed or unable to post and what might help you (more time to create, a later posting date, etc.)
  2. Be proactive: Don’t wait until right before the deadline, if possible. Reach out to the brand as soon as you can to let them know about the potential need for an extension.
  3. Provide a clear explanation: Clearly explain the reasons why you need an extension. Be honest and provide any supporting details or evidence, such as unexpected personal circumstances or feeling uncomfortable posting a sponsorship during a complicated or emotional time.
  4. Connect it to value: Let the brand know that you feel your own or your audience’s attention are elsewhere at the moment, and they’ll get better value and return on investment by waiting.
  5. Offer a solution: Never just say you can’t do something or have to go back on an agreement! Propose a new deadline that you believe is realistic and achievable, and explain why that timeframe is better for everyone under the circumstances.
  6. Show understanding: Acknowledge the impact of the extension on the brand and assure them that you value their partnership. Express your commitment to delivering high-quality work within the revised timeline.
  7. Request an official contract revision, or at the very least get agreement in writing. This ensures clear documentation and helps avoid any miscommunication about what’s supposed to happen when.

For some examples of templates to write brands for an extension, we love this post from Fohr:

Requesting an extension doesn’t have to feel intimidating. With these steps, it can be done professionally and with respect for the brand's needs and timelines, and without damaging your relationship with them for future partnerships.

Collecting payment

Getting ghosted by a brand that owes you money is one of the scariest things that can happen to a creator.

Imagine: you reach an agreement, sign a contract, and create some killer content for a brand. The post goes up, the payment deadline arrives, and then all of a sudden the brand is not responding. It’s happened to the best of us, but it never gets any easier. Here are a few tips for what to do in this situation:

First of all, the best solution to this is to take preventative steps (duh, sorry, but we had to say it!)

  • Thoroughly vet the brand ahead of time.

Ask around, post in the community, DM other creators you see working with them - do whatever you have to do to get a read on a brand’s reputation for working with creators. This applies even to super well known or big brands, because how they treat their creator partners could be a different story. If people seem hesitant to share, or have stories about difficulty communicating or getting paid, steer clear - and be honest with the brand about why! They should know that they have a reputation for being shady, so they can correct it if it’s not really true.

  • Include late fees and mediation agreements in your contract.

The best protection against funny business is legally enforceable clauses that require additional fees for late payment and a plan for what you’ll do as a next step if you don’t get paid or stop hearing from them. Protect your rights in writing, always!

  • Ask for payment up front.

You can’t get a landscaper or a contractor to schedule work on your house without a deposit up front, and it’s thankfully becoming more common for creators to take deposits as well. This way, at least you have something in hand if they vanish later on!

  • Build relationships and contacts with multiple people at a brand.

Life happens and it really is possible that the person you were communicating with got laid off, went on vacation or parental leave, or lost track of your email in their inbox. Having additional contacts at the brand means you can make sure the problem isn’t something simple or an honest mistake before you escalate things.

Of course, it would be nice to turn back time and prevent this from happening with the steps above, but if you’re already in the “ghosted” category, here’s what you can try:

  • Reach out to someone else at the company.

Even if you didn’t build secondary relationships ahead of time, you can try to find an email on LinkedIn or a social media account to DM and see if someone else will respond to you and help you address the situation.

  • Consider letting it go - and blacklisting them, of course.

If the amount you’re owed is small enough that you’re actually losing MORE money by trying to fight it, I hate to say this but it might be in your best interest to let it go - and make sure you never work with that brand again, of course, share with other creators not to work with them.

  • Hire a lawyer to enforce your contract in court.

If the amount is high enough or meaningful enough to you that you really don’t want to let it go, consider getting a lawyer to enforce your contract. They can read through it and explore your options.

  • As a last resort, try going public.

Some creators see success getting a brand’s attention by blasting them on their channels. This is somewhat of a nuclear option, though, as it’s not likely to create good will and other brands may be wary in the future lest you turn that negativity on them. So, just make sure you weigh your options and make this decision carefully!

Take these new communication skills into your next conversation with a brand, and you’ll be sure to come out the other side with even better brand deals.

Isabel Sachs
Isabel is the Community Manager at Beacons, the all-in-one creator business platform. She has been sharing her expertise in content and community with creators via creator economy startups since 2020, prior to which she was a mental health professional. Keep up with Isabel and access her best free resources for creators at https://beacons.ai/isabelsachs.
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