A 5-step plan for creators in choosing the best influencer agencies and talent managers that will boost their careers, according to experts
- Selecting management or a talent-agency partner is an important step in an influencer’s career.
- Executives from agencies such as Gleam Futures and Fanbytes gave tips on picking the right partners.
- Those include closely researching an agency’s roster and deciding how much creative control to cede.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
As content creators begin to draw higher audience numbers and gain the attention of advertisers, many influencers have to make big decisions about whom to partner with to help manage their careers.
From talent-management agencies to individual managers and agents, influencers need to distinguish which options will work best for them.
While an agent in the US typically has to be licensed to negotiate deals, managers take on a more holistic role and deal with the wider support of a client’s brand and image, as well as reaching out to relevant agencies and brands, as explained by the website StageMilk, an acting resource. Both agents and managers can opt to take a commission of a client’s earnings, usually no more than 10% for an agent, but this can go up to 15% or 20% for a manager. Managers can also be salaried. (Some US states and other countries have different requirements concerning the distinction between agents and managers.)
Insider spoke with representatives from Gleam Futures, Kyra, Trend Management, and Fanbytes, plus two creators, who gave advice on how to pick the perfect managers and agencies — and the pitfalls to avoid.
1. Influencers should be cautious when approached by managers and, ideally, check contracts over with a lawyer
“There’s not always a ton of creators doing outreach to management,” said Giorgia Aubrey, a talent manager at Kyra, a Gen Z media company with its own talent division. She added, “There’s definitely always a lot of management looking for creators, however.”
And not all of those approaches are coming from a genuine place. Insider reported last year on the talent firm IQ Advantage, which required a $299 deposit from influencers when they signed contracts — but 13 influencers said the firm refused to refund their money or didn’t respond to their requests for a refund. The firm then shut down. Industry experts told Insider last year that the requests for deposits should have been an immediate red flag. Mass, non-personalized emails should also be treated with skepticism, those experts said.
Influencers should take a forensic view of any contracts they are presented with by potential managers, experts said.
“We always recommend the talent procure a lawyer to review any contracts or agreements,” said Shan Lui, the senior vice president of talent at Kyra. “If they are unsure how to find a lawyer, I would recommend they start by asking their trusted fellow creators and taking the time to choose the right one.”
That’s what Benji Krol did. Krol has more than 21 million followers on TikTok, and he signed with Kyra’s talent division in late 2020 after a previous negative management experience.
“When I started gaining a following in 2019, I was like, ‘Oh, maybe I need some management,” Krol said. “I accepted the first person that came to me, which was not a good idea.”
That manager wanted Krol to enter into a four-year contract, he said. Krol opted to enter into a trial period instead.
“Thank God I did that,” he added. Krol said he signed with Kyra after seeing how his friend Abby Roberts, a popular beauty-focused creator who is also on Kyra’s roster, was quickly finding success and getting big brand deals.
2. Look at the talent the agency or manager already works with, and how long they’ve been working with them
“Talent should be looking at the existing roster of any management company or agency,” said Lucy Loveridge, a managing partner at Gleam Futures, an influencer marketing agency and management company that manages the likes of YouTuber Zoë Sugg and creator Gemma Styles, who runs the “Good Influence” podcast.
“Establish how long they have represented some of the talent, and what they’ve achieved during that time,” Loveridge added.
Experts advised Insider last year that influencers can also request case studies or reach out to influencers already on an agency’s roster.
Lily Pebbles, a lifestyle-focused content creator, has been signed to Gleam Futures since 2013, and she’s seen the industry change significantly in the past eight years.
She said it’s important to look into who else an agency represents and ask yourself, “Are there others similar to me on the roster?” to work out how the agency can help.
“It may seem like being the only fashion creator on a roster is a good thing,” Pebbles said. “But, actually, you want an agency or manager who regularly works with brands that are relevant to you.”
While an agent works mainly on the brand-deals side of influencer operations, and therefore won’t need constant contact with the client, managers tend to play a much more integral role in an influencer’s career, so defining how much time they can offer is key.
Ted Raad, the founder of the social-media management company Trend Management, suggested that the market average is 10 influencers per talent manager; though, he said, some can work with as many as 20. “I highly suggest joining a management company that keeps those numbers low to ensure quality,” he said.
Loveridge said prospective influencer clients often asked about the amount of contact they would have with their manager. Other queries she often gets: How big is the team? What services does the agency provide in-house? Which brands and platforms does the company has preexisting relationships with?
3. A talent manager should help build an influencer’s reach and earnings beyond sponsored posts on social-media platforms
Influencers are no longer stand-alone social-media content creators, with many opting to build their portfolio to encompass products, podcasts, books, and appearances in mainstream media.
“When we work with our creators, we’re constantly thinking about how to build out their brand,” said Timothy Armoo, the founder of the influencer marketing agency Fanbytes, which represents popular TikTok stars such as Lily-Rose and Itzshauni. “It’s the ultimate thing.”
An agency should be able to say to a client, “You brought the audience, I brought the business nuance, and together we built something,” Armoo said.
Brand deals are a key way in which influencers make their money, but it’s not the only option available.
Loveridge gave the example of an influencer wanting to write a book. They should ask, “Does the agency have a literary agency in-house, or does it partner with a third party?” Gleam, for example, launched its own literary representation, Gleam Titles, in 2016.
During her career, Pebbles has launched a podcast and written a book, and has worked on events and charity initiatives. She said she credits the breathing space that being signed with a management agency allows, which gives her time to focus on the creative process rather than the contracts.
4. Influencers should think about how much creative control of their output they want to maintain
Influencers often enter into agreements with agencies to free up the time to focus on the creative side of their work instead.
“The brands that were already coming directly to me would be directed to my managers, which meant while back-and-forth emails, legal contracts, and the finer details were being sorted, I could focus on creating content and be looped back in for the creative part of the process,” Pebbles said.
Not all management teams plan to work through the entire brand-partnership campaign process with influencers.
“A talent agent will retrieve and negotiate offers for the influencer, but will then leave campaign details to the influencer to get from the brand themselves,” Raad said.
It’s important for influencers to consider how much involvement they want their agency or manager to have in content creation and direction.
“There is an abundance of management companies and agencies now, but they each offer something slightly different to one another, and you need to be sure that they can deliver what you want and vice versa,” Loveridge said. “At Gleam, for the vast majority of our creators, we are their sole representative, so we do cover everything.”
5. It’s important to track progress and data
A relationship between a creator and management shouldn’t work in the abstract. Having tangible data points and goals is a way for influencers to make sure they are on track and gaining what they need from the relationship, experts said.
Influencers should expect to discuss business growth strategies and forecast growth trajectories, earning potential, and new partnerships with their management, Raad said.
While Loveridge said that working out a strategy should be the first thing an influencer does once they sign with a management agency.
“Some of that may include raising a talent’s profile through the partnerships we broker, publicity, event attendance, and awards we can nominate them for,” she added.
In recent years, brands and agencies have been able to better track the success of their campaigns.
Pebbles said, “I think as analytics and case studies became more available and budgets started to be prioritized in different ways, brands were able to really test out what works for them and what doesn’t.”
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