Influencers: What to Do If a Brand Doesn’t Pay

Normally at the beginning of blog posts like this, I’ll go into how powerful influencer marketing is, how content creators are making $$$$ through their platforms, blah blah blah.

[Street Cred: I rep brands in influencer partnerships, coach influencers and I’m also a lifestyle blogger. If you want to get better brand partnerships, check out my course: “The Art of Negotiation for Influencers.”]

If you’re here, it’s (likely) because you’re an influencer, and you know alllll that ish. You’re here because a brand hasn’t paid you what you’ve agreed upon, and YOU’RE PISSED OFF.

But wait.

You know that it doesn’t look very #Classy to call out a brand for non-payment on social media. So before you tag them in a series of Instagram Stories to get that $$$ – here are a few methods to try first.

DISCLAIMER: Because I don’t know the specifics of your situation, I can’t promise the impact of these methods. Be sure to read your contract (does the brand stipulate that you can’t say negative things about them? If so, dragging them may not be a good idea!!), and talk to a lawyer. This knowledge is shared from my past experience, and using it may have negative impact on future earnings and relationships.

Step 1: Get a Contract & Avoid Hot Messes

While email is considered legally binding in many areas of the world, nothing says, “Don’t mess with me!!” like a contract. Make sure your contract includes penalties or late fees for late payments. I like 10% for every 30 days late, some folks do more!

Hot Mess Express?

Additionally, if a company can’t get it together enough to send you a contract — I wouldn’t work with them. The beginning of a partnership is when everyone is on their best behavior. If they can’t get it together enough to CYA their own employer or themselves… Well, they probably won’t pay you on time.

Say “No thanks!” to that headache.

Step 1b: Get a Deposit

A deposit helps you cover your risk for partnerships, but it ALSO shows that a brand has a system in place to pay influencers.

I can’t tell you the # of horror stories I’ve heard from other influencer marketing consultants, who have found that their brand client doesn’t have a dang clue how what platform they’ll use (Bill.com, PayPal, etc) to pay influencers.

Getting a deposit shows that there is a system and process to pay you. Get a deposit. I prefer 50%, but even 10% helps show that the brand has a dang system.

Step 1c: Are You the Problem?

Did you follow all contract terms and agreements? Did the content you created fit stipulations the brand made? If so, read on. If not — I’d talk to a lawyer. You may still be entitled to compensation.

Okay, now you know all this for the future. How can you get your money asap?

Pre-Work: Hire a Lawyer

Deciding to hire a lawyer is a good idea, but you need to look at the lawyer’s rates before moving forward. Is it worth it to drop $500 in legal fees for a $350 sponsorship? Up to you.

Is it worth it to have a lawyer get involved on a $25,000++ brand deal? I would!

Make sure you understand what the lawyer is offering, as well as how much support you can expect AND it’s cost.

Step 2: Assume Good Intentions

You’d think that a company that’s offering $$$ for influencer partnerships would have a system for paying influencers, but, alas, this isn’t always the case.

If your payment is late from a brand — your first job is to assume good intentions. There are good people in the world (I’m one!!) who want to pay influencers fairly. Accounting systems get messed up, checks truly do get lost in the mail, etc.

If you’re waiting on payment, I recommend following up FREQUENTLY until you’re paid. Squeaky wheel gets the grease!! I would email every 2–3 days.

Hi (name),

I want to give official notice I have not received payment for our partnership. Can you please update me on the date I will receive payment? Happy to use PayPal or automatic transfer.

Best,

(Your name)

Step 3: Get Accounting on the Phone

Oftentimes, an influencer is talking to a PR firm or agency — not the actual brand. If you haven’t gotten paid or are getting the run around, ask for the contact for “Accounts Payable.”

Then bug that person.

Hi (name),

I want to give official notice I have not received payment from (Brand) for our partnership, that (Agency Name) managed. Can you please update me on the date I will receive payment? Happy to use PayPal or automatic transfer.

Best,

(Your name)

Step 4: Use Your Network

Ask other influencers for their contacts. If you’re part of a campaign, reach out to all the other influencers involved and see if they were paid. Ask if they have an email contact — theirs might be different from yours!

[Note: Want to network with other influencers and get better paying brand sponsorships? Check out my course: “The Art of Negotiation for Influencers!]

Step 5: WTF? A brand ghosted me!!?!

This happens more than we want to admit, but brands do ghost on influencers — failing to answer their emails.

IT’S TIME FOR TWITTER!

Before you take to the internet with your mighty wrath, go a level above them and reach out. Most influencers I work with have their smallest followings on Twitter, so you can start with that platform and tweet at the brand.

Hi @BrandName! I have completed an influencer partnership with you, and I haven’t received payment. I have followed up multiple times via email. I think my email is going to spam. Can you please DM with the contact of the lead person in your finance department?

Twitter is a smart move because it puts skin in the game. You’ve gone public (ish), but you’re trying to be civil. We even gave the brand a way to save face in the above copy, noting it might be an email issue.

(It’s probably not, but we’re trying to save the relationship here!)

They’re going to try to give you a general email, like support@crappybrand.com. I would refuse that email and say, “This matter has gone past general support. Please share a specific contact email linked to a manager or leader in your organization.

Get alllll your friends to like your tweet. Literally text the link to people and ask them to comment/like it. This shows the brand you have support and people are watching.

You can also message a brand’s FB page and DM them on Instagram, using similar tactics.

IT’S TIME FOR LINKEDIN!

If you get the run around on Twitter, your next stop is LinkedIn. I recommend looking up directors and VPs at the brand. You can send a few requests to connect, and when you request to connect SEND A MESSAGE SHARING YOUR ISSUE.

“Hi (VP name)! I have been trying to get ahold of someone at your org to process payment for an influencer partnership. Payment is (X DAYS) late, and (agency name or employee name) managed the campaign. I don’t want to take to social media and “drag” (brand name), so I’m trying LinkedIn first. Could you please accept my connection request so we can resolve this issue?”

Step 6: Ready to Raise Hell

I’m a big fan of raising hell, but you gotta be smart about raising it. If you call out a brand publicly on your Instagram Story or YouTube, you want to be sure to share alllll of the above that you’ve done to try to get in contact. Specifically list your timeline and issues.

Raising hell is delicate, because future brand sponsors are going to see the content. Even if you delete it. The internet is forever!!

For that reason, as an influencer — I wouldn’t take to my largest social media platform to complain if the brand is less than 30 days late. You don’t want future partners to say to themselves, “Wow, she created a PR crisis for [brand name] because they were a few days late?! Yikes! No thanks!”

If you decide to raise hell, do it knowing potential consequences with other brand partners. Be strategic. Sleep on it, and make sure you’re doing this with a cool head!

And if you’re gonna raise it, RAISE IT. Send your content to as many friends as possible, so they like/comment/boost the crap out of it. The brand needs to see some clout.

Finally

I’m sorry that you’re in a situation where you had to read this! Please know that your work has value, and that you can (and should!) advocate for yourself.

FYI: How to Become an Influencer — Ebook!

I’ve coached a TON of people on how to become an influencer, and I found that people had the same questions:

  • How do I make an invoice as an influencer?
  • What do I charge as an influencer?
  • How do instagram influencers make money
  • How do I plan a photoshoot?
  • How do I pitch brands as an influencer?

Seeing this, I decided to write book on how to become an influencer, with ALL of the information I wish I had access to! Check out this ebook HERE fo $7.99!

Book details HERE!

Wanna hang out? Join me on Twitter or Instagram!

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Queer feminist and activist. Designer via @Stanford. Freelance creative & consultant. Here to raise a little hell. www.thehuntswomangroup.com

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Brianne Huntsman

Brianne Huntsman

Queer feminist and activist. Designer via @Stanford. Freelance creative & consultant. Here to raise a little hell. www.thehuntswomangroup.com

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