Should brands, even small ones, pay creators? Does being paid or receiving free product make a review less trustworthy? I chat about these things today on the podcast in light of the recent drama in the Happy Planner community involving the HP Squad selection process.
Colorful words may be used. don’t be alarmed.
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Well, hi there friends. Welcome back to the uncurated life podcast. Today. I’m going to be talking about brands and whether or not they pay creators and should they pay creators why they should pay creators and why I don’t do sponsorships or brand things where they pay. Let’s talk about it. So the reason that this episode is even happening is because of the happy planner squad.
More specifically, this has to do with entire situation that was brought up. By several people in the planner community. I believe MyraPlansIt from the planners and wine podcast was the first one to really point this out, correct me if I’m wrong. I was sort of observing this as just an observer because I am not a happy planner person.
I don’t use, I really don’t use the happy planner and I’ve never really been interested in the whole. Happy planner. I mean, I, I like to observe the happy planner world. It’s fascinating to me, but I’ve never really wanted to like be a part of it. It’s not my speed. Anyway, this is all very anecdotal. I’m not, I’m not giving like extreme facts here because this, like I said, I was only looking at this as an observer.
Consider this to be more of a gossipy friend than a news broadcast. Does that make sense? Take everything I say here with a grain of. The happy planner has the squad. You don’t know what the squad is. It’s their design team, their PR people it’s, it’s a group of people who are basically the reps to rep it into the planner community, to be like the, the cheerleaders in the planner world for the, the new releases, the happy planner, et cetera.
The squad’s been around in various iterations for several years now. And some of the original squad people have gone on to become some of the bigger names, not only in the happy planner community, but in the planner community in general. So it can be seen by some, as a springboard into quote unquote planner fame, right.
I have all sorts of feelings about design teams and about the squad process. In general, a lot of people spend the whole year curating their feeds, putting pictures up, using planners and everything to make it really what they think the happy planner wants in order to potentially get picked for the squad with the next time the applications come out, which is once a year.
I have a whole bunch of feelings about the whole like hunger games aspect of this. And that’s actually going to be in next week’s episode when I talk about like mingling in the planner community and so on and so forth. But this actually, I’m more interested in this episode about dissecting the idea of paying creators, paying influencers, this conversation around.
Yeah. Around the squad and the paying of influencers really began with Myra from this particular conversation. And she started it because the application for the squad came out and there were some very specific requirements. If you were on the school. Things like you couldn’t use other planter brands. You couldn’t have a sticker shop.
You could only put happy planner stuff up. There was a whole bunch of restrictions, but the only compensation you would get is free product and exposure on the happy planner to have planner Instagram. And I’m an artist. I have a lot of feelings about work for exposure, but. They were required to submit so many projects a month, they were required to not use or be part of affiliate programs for other.
And again, like I said, I, I, this is all from my memory. So if I’m wrong about any that you can let me know, but this was kind of how it came out. And, and my rightfully pointed out that like, that’s a lot of work and a lot of expectation for some free product right now. You could. Stop and examine it and think, okay, well it’s free product and the potential to be boosted, which will give you the opportunity to make more money elsewhere.
There are previous squad members like say Heather Kell, or Mary Ellen from planning with Bumble, or Marquita from at-home with Quita who have taken their initial squat. Stardom their fame and turned it into successful Patreon, successful sticker shops, businesses like that. And, and that might like some might say, well, being on the squad is, is a way to get that.
But if you look at the number of people who have been on the happy planner squad, and then you look at the number of people who have reached that level of like success, both socially and financially, You’ll realize that a that’s not a guarantee. And B it to me at least seems like the people who got in first were the ones who got the most use out of the exposure.
Correct me if I’m wrong, I’m gonna keep saying that in this episode. So the argument that. Exposure is worth all of these restrictions and all of these requirements for an entire year. Not to mention the year you spent ahead of that, trying to get picked in the first place to me that it doesn’t compute it doesn’t, it doesn’t make sense.
But then again, To me, this entire situation is a whole bunch of people competing for the right to be a commercial for somebody else. Unpaid now after the whole conversation happened. And there were a lot of people talking about it and a lot of people sharing their thoughts on it and everything else, happy planner did change it.
They did change it to say that squad members would be compensated and they did. Less than the restrictions. Like you could be a sticker shop owner and beyond the squad, if it was a small sticker shop that they had a list of, like, I think it was like nine planner company, direct competitors you weren’t allowed to use, but you could use smaller companies or whatever.
Like they did make some changes and allegedly the squad members are going to be Bob and stated for it. But that just opens up this broader idea of brands paying influencers and creators, social media people to create content for them because often a brand will send you free product with the expectation that you make a video, or you make Instagram posts about it or whatever the case may be.
And your compensation is the free product. No. Before I get a little deeper into, into the generalization of this. So what I’ve sort of laid out the happy plan. Sort my thoughts a little bit around that, because I, I think you’re going to understand sort of my thoughts on doing work for a brand paid or otherwise throughout the conversation here.
But if you are interested in an episode where I talk about the ways that somebody who is a creator on the internet can make money, not just with brands, but in other ways, let me know post on Instagram, tag me at llamaletters and your stories. And let me know that you are interested. But now let’s step away from the happy planner situation and look at the bigger context of creators getting paid for doing work for brands and brands decide how brands want to compensate creators.
So first and foremost, a lot of. Smaller brands say that they don’t have a budget for influencer marketing, so they can’t pay influencers to make content now for one. Okay. This might sound harsh, but. A brand not having money to pay an influencer, to make content does not mean that the influencer needs to make content for no money for them out of charity, because they’re still going to be the ones who benefit from it.
If you think about it, there is, if I receive a pack of watercolor paints for free, and they’re like, I need you to make a video about this. Talk about my watercolor paints. I’m giving them to you for free. And I make the video about the watercolor paints and link them. And it’s not affiliate link or anything.
It’s just a link to their website. Right? I’ve made the content. I might make money on the ad sense revenue from that video, which is not very much, but they will make money from every single sale that I send people to. They’re making money off of the audience that I built. By paying me with a set of watercolors that arguably would cost let’s just say 50 bucks retail, but their price, their cost was probably even including shipping, maybe 15, 20 bucks.
Right? So they’re basically paying me 20 bucks for however many sales. I can drive from my office. No. If you think you take that context and you compare it to the money that brands will pay to put a single commercial on TV or a single commercial on the radio. Now I’m aware that TV radio are not exactly the things that people watch as much or consume as much anymore, but the amount of advertising money that was put towards those mediums versus the.
The amount of money that is not put towards influencer marketing. It’s a very disparate amount of money. And it’s almost silly when you think about it on top of that. It totally discounts the labor that it takes to create a good piece of content. Now I’m not saying that everything that’s social media influencers, the content creators put out is great quality.
Like shit, my quality’s not that great, but even if your quality is not the highest, even if you, you have. You’re using your phone or whatever, and you’ve got basic setup. You still have the cost of the basic setup. You have the cost of whatever editing software you use, and then you have your time, the time it takes to, to put together the video or whatever it is, the time it takes to test and review the product in the first place before you create the video on it.
The time it takes to post at the time it takes to engage with it. All of those things take time and they take resources. You’re not only paying like somebody is not only doing the work that one time, but like if I make a video for somebody I’m not just as I was just the time. Making that video. It’s also the time I spent learning how to make videos in the first place, getting better at editing, getting better at sound quality, learning these skills.
And the time I’ve put towards those time is a finite resource. And when you think about like video for product, it’s not video for product, it’s the product that they send. That’s, you know, there’s just, there’s a lot going on there now when it comes to various. Like Etsy, shop owners, very small brands that are like handcrafting their things or whatever the case may be.
I can imagine that doing like, like content for product, especially if the content creator is smaller, I can see where there’s a, a, a. A much more mutually beneficial relationship, this like it’s not so cut and dry as every single brand needs to pay every single crate creator X amount of money or no dice.
Like I actually have a great book. It’s the graphic artists. Graphic artists, Guild guide and sustainable. It’s a, it’s a big fat book that basically gets put out every year or two that has real examples of price ranges that graphic designers and illustrators can charge for the work that they do based on the industry, based on their experience, based on the size of the.
The company based on the reach of the product, there’s a lot that goes into it. So it’s not just like I charge X amount for extra idea X person. How many places are they using it for? How long are they using it for? There’s a lot of considerations. And I think that that sort of thing actually matters when it comes to talking about brands, paying creators.
If you are a small creator with a thousand people on Instagram and micro influencer, if you will, and you are a small Etsy shop creating handmade paint cups with ceramics, and you don’t have a very big reach either you and that you might reach out to a creator like that and have a mutually beneficial partnership, because you might be able to grow together because you.
You may be able to come up with affiliate links or whatever. It’s one of those getting in on the ground floor sort of things. But when a big company asks an influencer or when a small company asks a big influencer or when there’s not as much mutual opportunity for growth and, and profit from something, then absolutely somebody should be paid.
Right. And I compensation. Like you can’t pay your bills with exposure and you can’t, you can’t pay your rent with a watercolor palette. Right? So I think the idea that pain compensating, somebody with free product to create advertising for you is just sort of a bunk idea. The number of people who are willing to accept that is why that idea continues.
And if that’s the way you want to play it, then that’s the way you want to play it. Like no judgment here. But one of the reasons that that graphic artist skilled guide comes out every year is so that illustrators and graphic designers can keep their prices within. The, the amounts that other ones are like, it can stay sort of in the same vicinity based on experience, based on size, based on the different factors so that you’re not devaluing the industry as a whole.
And that’s the problem I see when people fall all over themselves to, to work with a brand for free product and do all their shit because it’s basically devaluing all of us as a whole. Okay. I don’t know if that was a big ramble. I don’t know if that makes a lot of sense. Because I have so many thoughts on.
On brands that just expect that exposure is going to pay someone’s bills when it doesn’t. And the concept of being shared on someone’s big Instagram, because you got their free product and you made a bunch of shit for them. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to get a big influence influx of followers.
And a big influx of followers does not translate to more money necessarily. It might just translate to more people who aren’t paying attention to your shit. Anyway. But on that note, I want to kind of, I want to kind of pivot into something that really concerns me about free products, being the mode of con of compensation.
It’s something that really bothers me. And that is how it blurs the line. If you get paid. To make a piece of content for a company, the new happy planner squad. For example, if they’re going to get compensated with money to create all of this content for the happy planner, then the content they’re creating for the happy planner as a member of the happy planner squad is at its heart.
No matter how much they are doing it because they love it or whatever the case may be. It is a commercial. It is a commercial for the happy planner. When you’re getting paid to do something like that, the lines are a lot less blurred because you were getting paid to put out content about that stuff. So people know if you’re disclosing it, which you should be because it’s the law in the U S at least that people know you were paid to make that content.
So people know when they look got it, that they are looking at a commercial, they are looking at an advertisement. It’s helpful to know that doesn’t mean people still won’t get value out of it. That doesn’t mean people still won’t enjoy it, but that’s what it is. It’s a commercial when you get free product from somebody, but they’re not paying you, it blurs the lines a little bit more.
Now, in my personal opinion, if you get free product from somebody with the expectation that you’re going to do a review on it, that is also a commercial. But it’s not exactly the same thing. That person wasn’t given money. That person like if you, if you turn it on its flip side, right. If somebody is not being compensated beyond getting free product for something, then the opposite needs to hold.
True. Right. Is it really a commercial if they’re not getting paid? Or is it them being taken advantage of, or is it them being like, no, I really wanted that, but I couldn’t afford it right now. And so they gave it to me for free. Sure. I’ll make the video. Cause I got the thing I wanted. Right. Who knows is it as commercially?
I’m not really sure. I’m not sure what the line is, but what I will say is that it does mean for me that I take any review or any opinion on a product that was given to somebody for free. With an entirely, not just a grain of salt, but an entire box of kosher salt. And the reason why is because, and I could speak from experience on this.
Once you get, especially if you’re with a brand that puts out new products on the regular, like say the happy planner or Erin Condron could be a makeup brand, like ColourPop, that puts shit out every two seconds. If you get on their list of people that get free. You want that free product? Not just because you’re going to use it, but if you’re a content creator giving a free product, if you get it from a company ahead of the release, that is an, it’s a higher chance that you’re going to get more views, which could equal more ad sense, which could equal more money.
And so you’re going to want to stay on their good side so that you can continue getting their free stuff. I’m gonna talk a little bit more about this and this whole hunger games mean girls side of things, because I have heard rumor that, uh, that at least I know at the rumor and it’s a rumor, I’d have no idea how true it is, but that some, the way that.
Some of the people, not, maybe not all of the people, but some of the people who decide who gets what free product from San new Erin Condron launch might depend on how successful they are as an affiliate, how many people they can drive to their affiliate links. I don’t know how true that is. I have not been like receiving free products since last year.
I’ve been using their in Condron stuff since last year. And I don’t know firsthand information on this, but what I will say is that. If you build a relationship with a brand and there’s nothing wrong with that. Again, there’s nothing wrong with building a good relationship with the brand. A lot can come out of that, including financial opportunity, but then what you sacrifice by building that relationship with the brand is a certain amount of credibility when it comes to your opinions on a product from.
If you have a great relationship with the brand and you want to maintain that relationship with the brand. I have heard that there are some influencers who, if they don’t like a product, they just won’t talk about it. And that’s fine if that’s what they want to do, but those are not going to be the people I go to for honest reviews, because all I’m going to see is their positive thoughts.
I’m never going to know. They might like everything. I don’t like everything. There are brands. I absolutely adore and I don’t like everything. So it’s very hard for me to take, reviewing, to take opinions, to take ideas like that from people who have such great relationships with brand, I can’t take them as informational for me.
The biggest I take from them is like, well, if they’re going to get the new product early, that I can get an idea of it. Is out there so that I know what I might want to order, but I’m not going to necessarily trust their review as to the quality of the product or the way it’s put together or how nice it is or whatever the case may be, because I don’t know how much of their opinion is influenced by their, their wish to maintain a good relationship with them.
I want to, I want to add to this, that, that doesn’t mean that I think anybody who has a good relationship with a brand is terrible, or I don’t, it’s not the case. I totally understand that. I get it. There are certain brands out there where if they really wanted to have not in the plant, mostly in the art supply community, because art supplies are fucking expensive.
Y’all but like, if I was reached out to by. I don’t know, like Winsor and Newton to be an ambassador for the, yeah, I probably do it because I fucking love their paints, but generally speaking, I don’t, because I would rather like for me, free product and early release product is not worth being able to put out reviews of things and have the full credibility that I am.
That I’m giving my honest opinion without any bias. And there have been times I have reviewed something where I have been biased. When I talk about something from Chrissy and designs. Like I do work for Kristen, a lot of the stuff I talk about. Like whenever I put out the new celebrations collection video, I’m like, yeah, I’m biased my artworks in here.
Of course I’m fucking biased. Right. But I admit that and I am upfront about it. So you can imagine from all the things I’ve just said, I don’t take sponsorships. I don’t have those kinds of relationships with brands. And the reason I don’t is specifically because I like to review products and have that, that credibility, that knowledge, that like, I’m, I’m doing this because.
Because I’m reviewing it. I buy things with my own money. I do get products up to me for free occasionally, and I will always disclose that. But for the most part, I have stepped away from that and not even start taking. And it’s mainly because I have too much shit and B really wants to just make sure that when I review something I’ve paid for it with my own money, because.
It keeps my credibility. And it’s the reminder of how much something actually costs. One thing I noticed in the beauty community is that the richer an influencer gets and the more free shit they get, the less they remember how much a $40 palette, which to them might be nothing to somebody else might be everything.
The worth of something matters a lot more when you pay your own money. You’re a lot more likely to be critical of something, to look at something with a critical eye, if you’ve paid your own money for it. And that’s the path I want to walk. So I don’t want to be paid by brands to do influencer content.
I’m going in a different direction. The reason I even have my Patrion, which is by the way, the sponsor of this episode, www.patreon.com/cindyguentertbaldo to find out more. Wasn’t that smooth. Oh yeah. The reason I started my Patrion was so that I could support my family with the work I’m doing without having to rely on brand deals or sponsorships.
I could make so much more money if I was doing those things, but I’m not because to me, it’s just not the direction I want to go. Both because of that credibility thing I was talking about. But also because I don’t want to be told what to say. I don’t want to be given a script. I don’t want to be told I can’t cuss, like fuck off.
I might take sponsorships in the podcast one day that’s entirely possible, but when it comes to my YouTube channel, especially because I do product reviews and things like that, it’s just not the business for me. I prefer to make money elsewhere by selling art by doing freelance work by. Teaching all of those things, rather than taking sponsorships, like that’s just not an income stream.
I, I wish to pursue, but I want to make clear, I do not judge people who do those things. It may sound like I’m being judgmental, but the judgingness comes from my, like from people. Whack ass expectations on people who are being paid by brands. Like brands should pay people if they want people to make commercials for them.
But the people who are making commercials for them need to be honest about what it is that they’re doing and recognize that that is what they’re doing. That’s as long as people are doing that, I don’t give a shit, like, make your money. I want people to make money on the time and the effort that they’re spending to do things and a brand, especially a big brand, like the happy planner has the money to pay them.
So fucking pay them, but just be up front that that’s what you’re doing. If you are on the happy planner squad, you’re making commercials for the happy planner and that’s totally fine. I hope you’re getting paid. Because this whole like, oh, we’re doing it just for the love of the product thing. Yeah. You might be doing it for the love of the product, but I can promise you the company is doing it because they are making money.
Anyway, if you are somebody who is finally getting paid by Uber, More power to you. Rock the fuck on. I’m so happy for you. It’s not the path I’m going to take, but for anybody who does take that path, just make sure to disclose that’s all I ask. Next week, we are going to talk about the hunger games, kind of style of this, the way the competition to do it.
The way that this competition makes people feel, especially the people who aren’t going to get to do it. The in congruency, between. The mentors and the people who used to be on the squad, telling people that it’s not your time, just suck it up, buttercup and all this toxic positivity bullshit. When they were the ones who felt really bad when they were told they couldn’t be on the squad anymore.
Myra pointed that out as well. And I really appreciate that. Uh, let’s just say that. It’s going to be a bit more spicy, but this particular episode, like part of me feels kind of like a douche, because it sounds like I’m totally talking shit on content creators who want to make money and build relationships with brands.
But I’m really not just because it’s not the thing I want to do. Doesn’t mean that I don’t think it’s a good idea. I want to make sure that people realize that when you are competing for the attention and the love of a brand, even if there is a person at the face of that brand, that you’re trying to become friends with them or whatever a brand’s job is to make money.
And you are a piece of that making machine, not the greatest person in the world. That’s the big thing. And I think it’s a disconnect that can get easily lost when a lot of brands have built their marketing around being your best friend. Anyway, I hope that that was interesting. Let me know your thoughts on it.
I’ll be bracing myself.
But in the meantime, be sure to tag me at llamaletters with your thoughts and your stories on Instagram or come to the discord, you can also go to www.cindyguentertbaldo.com to join my monthly newsletter. A download for you when you join, we’re gonna be having some fun, hopefully. I don’t know, I’m still getting back in the swing of this podcast thing.
You guys, I’m just glad you’re here. Thanks for being here. Make sure to subscribe and share this because that’s the way this podcast gets found. And until next time, my friends peace out.