Rising and top influencers have proven to be powerful partners for brands. They bring a level of authentic and creative storytelling that can help bolster a brand’s image, and they provide a direct channel to consumers that are engaged, loyal, and (often) eager to hear their product recommendations.
However, this isn’t an easy feat — each influencer often takes on several roles from talent, to producer, to editor, and more. Because of this, brands know that they need to strike a balance between paying influencers fairly, without breaking the bank.
In order to get more insight and help brands understand how they should budget/plan partnerships, we surveyed rising and top influencers in the US to understand:
- How much do they make annually, and where?
- How does financial stress impact them?
- What are some key financial challenges they face?
How Much Do Rising and Top Influencers Make, and What Impacts Income?
The data shared below comes from a top influencer income report that Traackr co-produced with the American Influencer Council.
Rising and top influencers on annual income
When asked, more than half of US creator respondents said that they earn less than $100K annually. And, a shocking 18.4% of creators said that they make under $30K per year. (Download the full report to get the full breakdown of annual incomes from rising and top influencers).
To further contextualize this, the average annual salary in the United States is roughly $59K. Considering that influencers are often doing several jobs at once, the income-to-work ratio is quite low.
This is why it’s unsurprising that 47% of creator respondents reported feeling stressed about their finances. And, a smaller subset (29%) said that their financial stress depends on the month, indicating that income streams still feel unpredictable throughout the year.
For more information about which social platforms influencers make the most income on, how much creators make in a single brand deal, and what experts had to say about this data, download our full report.
Rising and top influencers on income challenges
So, we know that creators are stressed about their income, but what are some of the contributing factors?
While Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube seem to be the platforms that generate the most income for top creators, this isn’t the case for all creators. When asked, rising and top influencers reported several big challenges when it comes to earning steady income from brand deals:
- 43% of creators said that a big challenge is simply finding out about brand sponsorship opportunities
- 23% if creators said that a big challenge is the volume of competition (against other creators)
- 43% said that they have faced discrimination when pursuing brand deals
- See more of the top challenges that influencers face in the full report.
On this last point, 24% of creators said that race is the biggest component in the discrimination they’ve faced, with age coming in second, and body/weight coming in third. While diversity, equity, and inclusion has become a bigger focus for brands’ influencer programs, it appears that there is still a lot of work to do. (More on that in the next section).
Why this matters for brands and how it impacts their influencer programs
While it’s true that creator financial stress could cause extra strain on creator/brand relationships (especially around topics like budget negotiations and contract details), it can also negatively impact the quality of partnerships. 32% of creators stated that financial stress impacts their mental health, and 22% stated that it negatively affects their creativity.
So, how can brands help? Here are a few ideas:
- Focus on long-term relationships with influencers. Instead of paying for a one-off sponsored post, brands should consider creating a package or bundle of engagements with an influencer. This will give the creator some income stability, and may provide the brand with an opportunity to negotiate the rate of each individual deliverable. This type of sustained partnership also tends to produce better content (because the creator is less stressed, more creatively empowered, and more familiar with the brand), and better results (because their audience has more time to engage with the brand).
- Commit to pay transparency and fairness. It’s imperative that influencer programs ensure equitable compensation for all content creators, irrespective of their background or niche. Financial stress stifles creativity and impedes the genuine connection that top influencers have with their audiences. Marketers must commit to transparency and fairness to allow creators to focus on what they do best – inspire and engage.
- Deliberately advocate for diversity and inclusion. Brands must set a precedent by embracing diversity in their influencer program. For creators of color, breaking the glass ceiling of brand deals often hinges on access to resources, knowledge, and specific networking opportunities. Marketers can be proactive about finding and working with these types of creators by utilizing an influencer marketing tool with a wide breadth of data to find diverse top influencers that are a match for their brand. However it’s important to remember that while data can be a powerful tool, there can be some algorithmic bias. Learn more about data bias and how to avoid it in your influencer program.
Ultimately, successful influencer programs hinge on the marketing team’s ability to build strong relationships with creators. Creators are true professionals, and brands need to think of them as extensions of their team. Similar to any other employee, creators crave stability, growth, partnership, and care. Read our full report to discover other recommendations from experts on how brands can support their creator partners through their influencer programs.