Mikai McDermott first realized how underpaid she was when she had her first photo shoot. McDermott, then a 19-year-old influencer and the only black model on the set, asked for £ 100 a day without knowing what to ask for. During a break, she turned to a white model and asked how much she was earning. The answer shocked her. The woman said she made a total of £ 1,000 a day – ten times more.
“I looked at her and I thought this girl didn’t know I was here for £ 100,” she tells me. It wasn’t even the worst part of the shoot. McDermott says the hairdresser didn̵
“It was a whole day full of micro-aggressions, so in the end when I asked [the model how much she made]I just got over it and wanted to go, ”she says. “Now I consider it a learning experience.”
McDermott is one of many color influencers who have started talking about wage differentials in the industry. The influencer industry is proud of its entrepreneurial spirit and focuses on the accounts and perspectives of the individual. Because of this merit, influencers don’t have a network to look for resources in. They have no wage standards to refer to, no union to turn to, and no real employees to talk to about what to expect and how to negotiate. Now an Instagram account called Influencer Pay Gap tries to change this reality and at the same time uncover the wage differences between color influencers and white influencers.
Influencer Pay Gap was created by Adesuwa Ajayi, a black woman who works for the talent agency AGM and manages influencers. Through the account, Ajayi asks influencers to anonymously describe their previous brand campaigns and engagement rate (what percentage of people interact with their content), how much they paid, what they had to do, their race and where they are based. Ajayi opened the account about a month ago, and over 30,000 people are already following it. She says that she receives at least DM 100 a day, which has resulted in several “sleepless nights”.
“I think sometimes we forget that the influencer area is still in its infancy compared to different forms of marketing or whatever,” she says. “So it’s largely very unregulated, and what has definitely become clear on the site is only to see how many influencers need help.”
In some cases, influencers have shared success stories with Ajayi. For example, one influencer said that she was only offered $ 5,000 for a YouTube campaign and that she could negotiate up to $ 10,000. However, many others mention their worst experiences, most of which brands ask them to publish content for free. A post contains a detailed contract that defines the hashtags and content that an influencer should create while being paid with just a box of wine and cheese. Below this post, a woman tells her own story about an event company that asks to speak at a business event for women and later tells her that she has to pay to attend and speak.
Ajayi says she created the account after working with influencers for a few years and finding that black influencers’ experience, payment, and access to their white counterparts were not the same. She also wanted to help people learn about best practices and even some of the basics.
“I sometimes think that if you don’t know what other people deserve or what your room’s potential is, it is so easy for you to have a low ball and it is so easy for you to have no confidence in the negotiations worth it, ”she says. “And I really wanted to create something where people could just feel a sense of trust.”
The site now contains over 300 contributions from influencers from different population groups who specialize in multiple domains. Ajayi stores all the data she receives in a table and hopes to be able to publish infographics that make the trends around payment even clearer. After all, she also wants to divide it up across industries so that people know what to expect depending on the specialty and which companies and industries pay best. The key to the success of the account is that users continue to share and remain transparent.
McDermott submitted their own story to the account, describing an incident where a beauty brand requested four videos, four photos, a YouTube tutorial, and an Instagram tutorial for just £ 300. At the time, she had 60,000 followers.
“It was a shit job,” she tells me, and for little money.
While the contributions to Influencer Pay Gap shed light on the different rates in the industry, the value also comes from the comment section in which other influencers offer their advice and perspectives. The answers on McDermott’s post are cathartic: “Excuse me ????? £ 300 for all this work? PEOPLE HAVE TO PAY INVOICES. “
Another black influencer, Rachel Duah, tells me that the account has made talking about money easier for people, especially for those who don’t have to consult influencer friends. She says her first brand contract was that a fast fashion company sent her shoes for free and then expected her to write about it. She was not really paid and wishes she had negotiated now. At that time, she was just lucky enough to have a brand that turned to her, although she now knows that she should have paid for its content. She sees other people making the same mistake on influencer pay gap.
“There is one thing that recognizes that you can make money, but another thing that recognizes how much you should monetize, and it is difficult to assess whether you do not know what other people in the industry are doing,” says she.
In another case, Duah said a brand asked them to collaborate via email but did not offer to pay. The same brand accidentally emailed her again with an offer that should go to a white influencer – in this case, offer money. Duah looked at this person’s account and found that they had fewer followers and less engagement than they did.
“That made it clear to me:” Okay, something is wrong here, “she says.” And I mean, you can see that [is happening] via the Instagram page. “
Influencer Pay Gap emerged at a time when influencers, especially black influencers, were talking about their experience in the field. For example, in June a group of influencers published an open letter to Fohr, a marketing platform for influencers, asking the company to compensate color influencers in equal measure. You coined the hashtag #OpenFohr and opened an account for the conversation. Fohr replied on his Instagram and committed to publishing quarterly payout reports detailing CPMs and the total number of influencers whose platform is served by ethnicity. It also posted a town hall meeting on its YouTube channel.
It is crucial that the discussions and the cooperation between influencers lead to changes.
The talks in the Influencer Pay Gap comments were valuable, Duah says, and important because an influencer who doesn’t know its value affects everyone else.
“They fumble the bag for everyone when people don’t know their values,” says Duah. “If we have all prices and all fees, it’s up to the company to rely on what everyone brings to the brand, not what is free.”
Thanks to the Instagram account, she is now asking for more money from brands and rejecting offers that do not meet her minimum. Meanwhile, McDermott said the report made her feel “less alone” because other influencers clearly had the same problems in the room as she did.
While opening a conversation is part of the solution, McDermott says that this is just the beginning for systemic changes. Brands have to work to reverse negative stereotypes of black and colored women, she says.
“I think we talk to each other or influencers who talk openly are literally just the first step,” says McDermott. “I don’t think it will happen without the contributions from the brands themselves.”