If you go through old posts on Caitlin Patton's lifestyle and fashion blog, "Sophisticaition," you'll likely find some clearly written for a PR class.
The Purdue University grad studied public relations in college and took a class which required her to start an online portfolio. Then the summer before her senior year of college, she decided to purchase a domain, and turn that portfolio into a blog.
"If you go back, my oldest blog posts are clearly written for a PR class," Patton said.
Patton, now 25, already had an Instagram page (before starting the blog), which was dedicated to sharing "outfit inspiration" with close friends. She took that account and used it to promote her blog, slowing building a following on social media.
After gaining traction online from sharing posts likes apartment-friendly workouts and what to wear to a sorority formal, Patton said she now treats her Instagram page and blog more like a business.
Micro influencers like Patton, who has 24,900 followers on Instagram, prove that you don't need to be Kylie Jenner famous — with 149 million followers — to earn a couple thousands of dollars from a sponsored post on Instagram. (A micro influencer is generally considered to be someone with fewer than 100,000 followers.)
Patton said her digital brand is one of her top sources of income. She earns her money by promoting products for brands online and through affiliate marketing.
After graduation, Patton moved to Chicago and worked for a marketing company. Now she works for herself, on her brand as "Chicago Blogger," and occasionally consults local brands on social-media growth.
How she earns money online
Patton said on average she'll charge around $2,000 for a sponsored campaign on Instagram, which typically includes an in-feed post, story, and video mention on YouTube.
She also earns a commission through the affiliate program, rewardStyle. The program allows fashion influencers like Patton the option to include a link to outfits on Instagram, giving followers access to purchase those pieces within the "liketoknowit" app.
RewardStyle and its mobile app liketoknowit are among the most popular fashion affiliate programs.
Influencers typically earn between 5% and 20% of an affiliate sale, according to an industry professional in influencer marketing. There are a number of factors that will play into the percentage, like the company's size and budget.
While it's hard to pin down an exact rate, Patton said she does use a general rule of thumb and that taking advice from similar influencers has helped her understand her ask rate. Patton said her rates vary based on the time frame, brand, deliverables, and exclusivity.
The general rule of thumb
The rule many influencers will follow when they first start out is to set their sponsored post rate at $100 for every 10,000 Instagram followers.
"Having a really good, strong support system in the industry is key," she said. "I started with the industry standard until I understood the other dynamics of it (usage, exclusivity) because that's what truly drives the number up past the baseline. I think my favorite campaigns, and the ones that are most successful, are the multiple posts."
Social-media influencer Jehava Brown (77,200 followers), previously spoke to Business Insider about how much brands pay influencers starting at 10,000 followers. Brown also followed this $100-for-10,000 rule when she was first starting out.
Katy Bellotte, a YouTube creator and Instagram influencer, previously spoke to Business Insider and broke down how much she earned per sponsored Instagram post. Bellotte said rates varied based on what the brand is looking for and that, on average, she earns between $2,400 and $5,000 for a sponsored Instagram post. She has 166,000 Instagram followers.
Follower counts aren't everything, however. Now that fake Instagram followers are so easy to buy, some brands are getting smart and have new ways to measure the success of an influencer campaign. Instead of using metrics like follower count and likes to measure the success of a campaign, some brands are instead focusing on other metrics, like saves and comment sentiment.
Negotiating contracts and what to watch out for
To keep track of upcoming sponsorships, Patton created an editorial calendar for her blog and Instagram.
"With the holidays coming up, I have a certain number of sponsorship spots that I have available that will tie into my other non sponsored content," she said. "I want to pitch as much as possible to fill those slots, but I also know that I am going to be getting a bunch of last-minute email blasts."
Patton said she'll pitch brands with sponsorship ideas depending on how many requests she accepts at the start of a month.
She said she always expects to receive more requests during the holiday season (November and December) and fewer at the start of the new year. And of the campaigns Patton receives (usually via email), only around half get negotiated, she said.
"At the beginning of your career as an influencer, you'll get a contract and you'll be so excited that you don't really read the fine print," she said.
She warned to always check a contract's "usage rights." Signing off on "full usage rights" allows a brand full access to use the material an influencer created for a campaign later on, without compensation.
"It's important that people educate themselves," she said. "If a brand wants full usage rights they should be willing to pay extra for it."
For more on how to become a successful influencer, according to YouTube and Instagram stars, check out these Business Insider Prime posts:
- YouTube creator Natalie Barbu breaks down how much money she earns from a video with 100,000 views: Natalie Barbu, a social-media influencer and YouTube creator with 227,000 subscribers, shared how much money she earns from a video with 100,000 views.
- An Instagram influencer breaks down how much brands pay for sponsored posts, starting at 10,000 followers: The social-media influencer Jehava Brown spoke with Business Insider about how she determines her rates when negotiating with companies like Disney and Walmart.
- YouTube star Shelby Church breaks down how much money a video with 4 million views made her: The YouTube creator Shelby Church, who has 1.3 million subscribers, broke down how much she earned in Google AdSense from a video with 4 million views.