What influencers should know before signing with a talent manager and red flags to look out for, according to industry experts
- Many influencers sign with managers to help grow their careers and land brand deals.
- But there are several things industry experts say influencers should known before signing with a manager and red flags to look out for.
- One red flag is a manager asking for an up-front fee or "deposit," the experts said.
- "You're never asked to pay a deposit," said Erin Cutler, a talent manager and the founder of the influencer talent-management agency Neon Rose.
- Here are the other factors influencer industry insiders say to consider before signing with a manager.
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When a talent-management firm called IQ Advantage reached out to influencers with flattering messages offering representation, many thought it was a good deal, they told Business Insider.
Influencers often sign with talent managers or agents to support their growing careers.
IQ Advantage pitched management services like reaching out to brands, negotiating deals, and building media kits. But there was a catch: a $299 "deposit" they had to pay up front.
That deposit should have been a red flag, six influencer industry experts told Business Insider. Instead of charging an up-front fee, talent managers typically earn a commission between 10% and 20%.
"You're never asked to pay a deposit," said Erin Cutler, a talent manager and the founder of the influencer talent-management agency Neon Rose.
"No agency would ever ask for a retainer, that's red flag number one," said Qianna Smith Bruneteau, the founder of the influencer trade organization the American Influencer Council.
Of the influencers who ended up paying IQ Advantage — which has now shut down — 13 told Business Insider that they felt the firm had failed to deliver on its promises. And only one of them was refunded the money (after disputing the charge on PayPal).
Read the full story about IQ Advantage: Influencers say a talent management firm run by a 21-year-old took hundreds of dollars from them but failed to deliver on promises. When we started asking questions, it shut down.
With a cautionary tale like this, the first red flag was the deposit. But industry experts said there are other things influencers looking for representation should watch out for.
Here are a few things influencers should consider before signing with any manager, according to industry insiders:
- Carefully consider if you are really ready for a manager. Signing with management, especially if an influencer is not yet a full-time creator, doesn't always make sense financially. "We tell people all the time: You need to be working pretty heavily before, or at least significant enough to warrant an agent or a manager," said Lynsey Eaton, a cofounder of the talent management agency Estate Five.
- The manager-influencer relationship is supposed to be mutually beneficial. "It's not a transactional process," said James Nord, the founder and CEO of Fohr, an influencer-marketing platform that connects brands and creators. "It's a courtship. This person is essentially becoming part of your team."
- Ask questions about their process and how they work with influencers. When first considering signing with a talent management agency, influencers should ask questions like "How quickly do you respond to emails?" or "What kind of transparency can I get into what you're doing?" Nord said.
- Request references and case studies. Asking for references is an important first step, according to Nord. But go beyond the references they provide, since they're likely to recommend the most flattering reference, he added. Most agencies will also have a roster of influencers, either as a document or included on a website, that prospective influencers can reach out to. Case studies that demonstrate past partnerships are also helpful, said content creator and influencer coach Lissette Calveiro.
- Check out the agency's website and social-media presence. Do they have an active, authentic social-media presence? Do they have any articles written about them or their work (that weren't paid for)? These are a few things that Calveiro also suggested influencers look at before signing anything.
- Be wary of mass emails that feel generic. Managers don't typically send out mass emails to influencers looking for new talent, according to Neon Rose's Cutler. "If it's not personalized, that's a big red flag," said Calveiro, who had been reached out to herself by IQ Advantage.
- Never pay a deposit and avoid cash apps like PayPal, CashApp, Zelle, or Venmo. Not only are deposits a red flag, according to experts, but the AIC's Smith Bruneteau also advises that influencers get as much banking information as possible so that if needed, they can pursue legal action, such as through small-claims court.
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