How to Land Paid Brand Deals as an Influencer

If you want to step up your influencer game and take content creation seriously, this episode is for you! We go through the 3 areas in your business to audit so you get a HELL YES from brands that want to work with you, as well as insider tips and tricks for success in the industry.

I’ve been a travel influencer for over five years now, scaling my business to multiple six-figures. It has enabled me to travel full-time, impact lives, and work with amazing hotels and tourism boards around the world. In this week’s episode I’m going to share with you exactly how to work with brands and get paid!

Tune in or scroll down to read the blog version!

Prefer to read? Here’s the blog version…

I am getting married next month!! It’s insane how quickly things can change in such a short amount of time. Within like three months time, I will have gone from a girlfriend to a fiancé to a wife.

We’re having the wedding in England, and we’re going to drive down to Spain for a few weeks, then go back to New York for the holidays. I’m so freaking excited!

Introduction

In today’s episode, we’re going to be covering How to Land Paid Brand Deals as an Influencer, creating sponsored content and promoting different travel brands, different hotels, resorts.

I’ve been a travel influencer and online business owner for over 5+ years now, and it has enabled me to travel full-time and live the life of my dreams.

My background is in Finance and Entrepreneurship, so I entered this industry with knowledge of what it takes to be an effective influencer, and what businesses look for when scouting for new influencers to work with.

I get so many questions about becoming an influencer, and I have helped so many clients become influencers themselves. If you would like to learn how to become one, check out The Travel Influencer Handbook.

I felt the need to record this episode because a lot of people DM me asking where they’re going wrong on their Influencer journeys. They’re sending out so many pitches and they’re just not hearing back, or no one is interested and they simply don’t know what to do next.

So in this episode, I want to give you clarity in what you should be auditing in your business to make sure that this is a sustainable business model for you. If you want to have and commit to a full-time career in content creation, then this is for you!

What is an Influencer?

An influencer is a person who creates content and shares it with their audience on a regular basis.

They often (but not always!) have a large and loyal audience who they have built trust with, and an audience who are invested in their lives. Because of this trust and loyalty, influencers are often able to sway the buying behavior of their followers by sharing products, services, and destinations.

Think of influencers as the modern day magazine or media outlet. For example, travel influencers as the modern day Condé Nast. There are just as many people getting new destination ideas from social media and blogs, as they are from print and online magazines.

Influencers can be in various niches, from travel to fitness to lifestyle to parenthood to video games. They can also choose to be active on just one, or many platforms.

Because of their heavy “influence” and ability to make money for hotels, destinations, and brands, they are paid by brands to share products and services with their audience.

What is Influencer Marketing?

Influencer Marketing is a form of Marketing by businesses that allows them to collaborate with individuals or teams with large followings for exposure.

The Influencer Marketing Industry was $21.1 billion USD in 2023!

Businesses big and small will invest their time and money into Influencer Marketing because it is a powerful way to reach thousands and millions of targeted audience members, increase exposure, and drive conversions.

How much do brand deals pay influencers?

Brand deals pay influencers depending on the size of their audience, the size of their budget, and value they expect to receive in return.

The value should be equal or greater than the amount of Marketing budget they would otherwise spend on traditional Marketing channels for a Return on Investment (ROI).

Brand deals can vary from unpaid to upwards of millions of dollars.

Think of various Marketing channels like billboards, radio ads, TV ads, social media ads. The purpose of all of them is to increase sales and conversions for the brand, right?

Let’s take a hotel for example. Let’s say they have a Marketing budget of $100,000 each month, and one month they choose to invest it all in billboard advertisements. From that Marketing investment, they make back $150,000 in bookings (1.5 Return on Investment, or ROI).

Now let’s say the next month, they invest $100,000 into social media ads, and they make back $250,000 in bookings (2.5 ROI).

Depending on your audience size and your ability to make back the money for the brand, they will invest whatever they think you are capable of returning to them in traffic and sales.

Will you prove to be a better investment for them than their other Marketing alternatives?

How do influencers get brand deals?

Influencers get brand deals by offering value to the business they are working with, either in user-generated content, content creation on their own platforms, or services like photography and videography.

As an influencer, you can either reach out via social media or email and pitch the brands directly.

You can wait to have brands reach out to you with collaboration opportunities.

Or you can sign up for online websites and agencies that connect influencers and brands so that you get opportunities delivered to your inbox every day! You can get my list of 100+ Platforms That Pay Content Creators when you purchase the Travel Influencer Handbook.

Audit Your Services

What services are you currently delivering for your clients?

Sometimes when I ask people this, they honestly don’t know, they’ll tell me like, I can post on my Instagram page. And I’m like, anyone can post on their Instagram page, like my mom travels a lot and my mom can post on her Instagram page. That’s not building an Influencer business.

If you are stuck, ask yourself what services can I offer?

I want you to put yourself into the shoes of a company that you want to work with.

I recommend starting with small businesses because once you can help a small business with limited resources and limited budget, if you can test out your services and prove yourself valuable to them, then you can definitely work with the bigger companies with bigger budgets and the ones that are harder to get.

Once you build up your portfolio helping small businesses, it’s going to be easier to scale up.

An Example of Offering Service Value

I am the co-founder of ANDA, an ocean-inspired jewelry line. Let me just take you behind the scenes of what we are currently working on and what kind of influencers we work with.

As a small jewelry business, my business partner handcrafts every single piece we sell. We buy all of the supplies, the materials, and she literally sits at the desk and makes every single jewelry piece and it takes her, you know, from 15 minutes to half an hour to make each piece.

There are raw materials, there’s labor, there’s all that time that it takes her to make one.

Ideally we want to sell that right via our markets, via our social media channels online, and we want to make a positive return on investment.

We really do our due diligence in finding influencers to work with because if we are sending them a few of our pieces and not making sales on them, if we’re sending free pieces and we’re paying the Influencer to create content, then we’re expecting at least a positive return on investment, right?

We’re not expecting them to just post on their page and that’s it. Like end of collaboration. We hope that by them posting on their page, they’re gonna drive traffic and sales to us.

What we don’t want, are the influencers who don’t deliver. We would get nothing from it. Or they would just send us like a few iPhone photos, like iPhone selfies, and we’re like, okay cool that’s nice, but we’re probably never gonna work with you again and we won’t consider you for our future campaigns.

Do you see how If you put yourself in the perspective of a business and a business owner, you can ask yourself, “How do I become an Influencer that delivers value and every brand wants to work with me and pay me?”

“Because I can either drive traffic to them or I can deliver outstanding content I can create user generated reels for them. How can I be of value?”

So going back to the original question, if I asked you, what services do you offer as an influencer, don’t just tell me I can post on my Instagram. Instead, the selling point actually is I have X amount of followers on my Instagram who follow me, who support me, who trust me, and they will most likely buy the services that I recommend.

It’s not about just writing a blog post and promoting a product or service. It’s about having an audience of devoted readers that really take into account what you are saying and it helps the business and brand.

How to Get Brand Deals with a Small Audience

If you don’t have a large audience, let’s say you’re starting from scratch, you can still be of value.

As a small influencer, you most likely have a highly engaged audience, which brands notice and value.

Your services could also look like modeling for campaigns.

We have photo shoots for ANDA, and we constantly need models and the models aren’t all signed.They align with our values and they are free and they are really enthusiastic. So we hire them for shoots.

You can also become a social media manager for the brands. Let’s say they don’t have time to post or be active on Instagram.

You can sell your services as social media management and offer value there as a content creator.

You can also of course sell your photography, your videography services so that they can use the content for their website, social media, marketing channels, advertisements.

Screenshot

Really think about how you can shape your offers to be of value.

If you are putting yourself in the shoes of your client, it’s going to be so much easier for you to land these brand deals than just sending generic emails that don’t get read and don’t get responses.

Audit Your Credibility & Professionalism

The second area to think about in your Influencer business is your credibility and your professionalism.

Let’s go back to the ANDA example. Let’s say you own a small jewelry business and an Influencer sends you a DM in your inbox. They are one of 10 who send you messages and you go onto their page.

The first thing that usually sticks out is their credibility and their professionalism.

  • Are they an established Influencer?
  • Does the page look like a business page or does it just look like a personal page with a random array of travel photos that are all edited differently?
  • Do they have a website?
  • Do they have a portfolio?
DM Inquiry Example

If you self-audit where you stand, then you can start seeing how other brands perceive you. Then you can shape your own social media to be more credible and more professional.

Do you have features from big publications? Do you have other testimonials of clients vouching for your work?

And when we do get pitches from influencers who are asking for either free pieces or for a paid collaboration, we ask ourselves, do they align with our values?

As a travel Influencer, when I am pitching to hotels, to tourism boards, I want to make sure they are aligned.

I wanna make sure that my followers will want to go there. I’m not gonna promote something that is completely out of line. I’m probably gonna have more success with surf-related, tropics-related destinations, right?

Know your market and know your own brand very well. Continuously be improving your credibility and professionalism.

Audit Your Work Quality

And then the last area we want to self-audit is the quality of your work.

  • Do you use professional equipment?
  • Do you have very consistent delivery times?
  • What is it like working with you?
  • Are you just gonna take our product and run and not deliver?
  • What is it that we are expecting and do we expect that you can deliver?
  • Ask yourself: if I was a brand or a hotel or a business owner, would I want to hire myself?
  • Do I operate at a standard where it’s professional?

The quality of work is something that people say hell yes to, because if it’s not, then I would start there.

I would start with taking courses, practicing increasing your skill level to that of a reputable content creator so that the chances of these businesses saying yes to you are a lot higher.

What To Do If You’re Still Not Hearing Back From Brands?

After auditing your business in these three areas and you’re like, yes, I overdeliver in my value and my services, I have the credibility, I have the professionalism, my quality of work is insanely high, and I know that I can provide value. I am putting myself in the shoes of my client and seeing what they need and curating my pitches to fit them.

Build Relationships With Brands And Agencies

If this is you and you’re still not getting any paid brand deals, most likely you are not sending out enough pitches. If you are just starting and people don’t know about you, if these media agencies don’t know about you, it’s going to take a lot of pitches for you to find your first yes.

The good news is after you hear back from a few, you can offer free value or discounted value so that they establish trust with you and will want to work with you again.

The biggest mistake I see nowadays is almost like ego-based, entitled, influencing and content creating where they don’t have the reputable and the proven return on investment, but they are expecting a thousand dollars in payment.

So the value to the price ratio is a little off. And that’s why I encourage you to really build the relationships with the brands.

A lot of influencers we work with for ANDA, we first saw how credible and how amazing they are to work with, and we continue our work with them, campaign after campaign.

We didn’t just say yes to the first person that popped into our inbox, they were more than giving in the beginning, like for a few photographers, they offered to do a free shoot with our jewelry and then now they’re like our designated photographers.

So same thing with influencers. If you can overdeliver, people are going to want to work with you again and you’re going to be top of mind when the paid campaigns come out.

Play The Numbers Game

Going back to the numbers game, if you’re just starting, you want to have as many people on your list of brands and be on as many people’s radars as possible.

When I first started pitching, I sent out 10 to 50 emails per day. I knew that my first collaboration, it had to eventually come to me if I was that persistent, even if it was the most random brand, like I knew that it was just a numbers game.

What’s really handy is nowadays there are platforms and agencies that you can just sign up to as an Influencer and they will email you with other brands that are on their platform who are looking for influencers. So literally, I’ve signed up to every single one of them, and every day I get brands looking for influencers delivered to my inbox without me having to pitch.

I’ve listed all of these in my hundred plus Platforms That Pay Content Creators. You can purchase that when you purchase the Travel Influencer Handbook, including the option to get my personal Media Kit and Rate Card Template that I send to brands and hotels.

Start Small & Local

My other piece of advice, if you’re not hearing back, is to start small and start locally. A lot of the big airlines, the big hotel chains, they have a full team managing established influencers.

If you’re just trying to get started, it’s a a lot easier to be a big fish in a small pond rather than a small fish in a big pond.

Start locally, you have a competitive advantage there because not everyone’s going to be looking in smaller areas or lesser known destinations that you may be traveling to.

And there you have it. Honestly, if you can craft your pitch, your services, your brand, and optimize it, then it just takes one conversation to change the momentum because the first few are always the hardest.

I guarantee you, once your foot is in the door, it’s just going to start snowballing because you’re gonna understand how it all works and how you can monetize. 

The Importance Of A Diversified Income Stream

The last note to offer full disclosure and transparency. I’ve been in the Influencer world for many, many years now, and I will say very few of my influencer friends only offer one service in terms of content creation or press trips.

Many of them have diversified their income streams instead of only focusing on brand deals.

If you are in any of my private coaching programs or in the Business Academy, you’ll learn that brand deals and collaborations are location and time dependent.

You physically have to go create the content, you have to go there, and it’s not entirely freedom-based. It’s so amazing to be able to work with like luxury hotels and tourism boards, but there is a trade off in terms of how much you can scale.

Conclusion

Comment below and let me know what you are currently struggling with and where you currently are on your influencer journey!

I look forward to connecting with you and seeing all of the amazing collaborations and jobs you get to work on around the world. Have an amazing week, guys, and I will see you in the next episode

If you’ve enjoyed this episode, it would mean so much if you could leave a review on Apple Podcasts. This helps us spread The Wanderlover mission to those who need a dose of inspiration today.

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Danielle Hu

Danielle Hu

Danielle Hu is a multiple 6-figure travel influencer, business coach, and Founder of The Wanderlover. She has traveled to over 65+ countries running her online business and surfing in remote tropical destinations. Her mission is to help creatives and coaches achieve time freedom, location freedom, and financial freedom through online entrepreneurship.

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