Remember the days when people got paid for the work they did, in a timely manner? If you’re a content creator, those days seem to be long gone. It feels like more and more companies are pushing their payment terms back as far as they can possibly get away with and it’s got me thinking… Do the people that hire us have to wait 3 months to get paid too? I doubt it. So why are the content creators working now and getting paid months later? And more importantly, why isn’t anyone speaking up about it?
When I first started doing this full time, in 2017, many of the agencies and platforms paid prior to or shortly after our posts went live. Today, most of the agencies and platforms are paying between 45 and 120 days later!
But that’s not the longest we are asked to wait. One of the platforms terms state that they pay net 60, but that’s not 60 days after you did the work, or even 60 days after you go live… it’s 60 days after they close the campaign on their end (which could be a month after your post went live because of the time it takes for them to complete reports for the brand). And because they often require you to submit your drafts a month or two before you go live, it could be 6 MONTHS between the day you did the work and the day you get paid.
I started thinking… I can’t be the only one that feels that this is both insane and unacceptable! What other industry asks you to do work and makes you wait half a year to get paid? I can’t think of any. So I spoke to a number of content creators who rely on their income to pay the bills and I found that I’m definitely not alone.
“I don’t think people look at influencer marketing as a legitimate business or job. So they assume we don’t rely on it as income.” said Adrienne (@hellolittlethree), who has been a full-time influencer since 2018. Adrienne is right. Influencer marketing, though proven very effective over the years, still isn’t respected as it should be. Just google it. I found so many articles from people bashing influencers and calling them spoiled brats who just want free things from small businesses in exchange for a photo on Instagram. People don’t understand the amount of work that goes into each and every one of those photos you see on our feeds.
“Our work as full-time creators is very time consuming, which often has to be completed within the brand’s tight deadlines. We shouldn’t have to settle for longer approval times, extended terms and past due payments. We are a small business and deserve to be paid timely just like everyone else,” added Denise (@partyof4sometimes2), whose husband recently left his job in IT so that they could become a full-time content creator family, creating a community through their social channels and building relationships with brands.
For people like Denise and I, that support our families solely through our blog and social channels, we rely on these payments to pay our rent, our bills and put food on the table. We work 40-60 hours a week on photography, videography, marketing, content and planning. We bust our butts for the brands that hire us, even when they demand extremely short deadlines.
“I think it’s really unfair when a company reaches out to us and expects a very quick turnaround, but then they don’t pay us for three months. Our rent is due every month, we have to sustain our families. That’s why in traditional jobs, people are paid every two weeks,” said Ashley (@ashleyjtodd), who has been a full-time content creator since 2016.
But, if we are waiting months to get paid, how do we eat tomorrow or even next week? It might not be an issue if we were constantly getting new campaigns. But with the recent FB boycott and COVID, this year has been slower than I ever remember and many of us are struggling to stay afloat, even though we have pending payments and we are technically still working. Remember, just because we don’t have any sponsored campaigns coming in, doesn’t mean we stop creating. It’s our job.
Samantha (@imsamanthagomez) who has been a full-time content creator since 2018 is equally as frustrated with the extended payment terms. “There definitely needs to be a change. Most of my campaigns these days are paying net 60 or net 90. When you work a 9 to 5, you generally get paid 2 weeks later. Since I don’t have a manager and I do everything myself, I’m sometimes chasing these companies down at the 60 and 90 day mark because they still haven’t made the payment.” While most companies are great about paying on time, we do have the occasional situation where we have to spend days, weeks, or sometimes months, chasing the payment and becoming our own collections agency. Samantha added, “I’ve received ridiculous deadlines, sometimes within 3 days. I’ve pushed other projects aside to meet the deadlines and then I have to wait months to get paid.”
“There are just so many unknowns right now and for us to feel comfortable waiting 60+ days for payment seems ridiculous“, said Adrienne. “So much has changed in the last 6 months and so many companies have gone under. If we agree to longer payment terms and something happens to their company, we will never see a dime and there isn’t much we can do about it.”
From what I was told, directly from a brand, most agencies are paid a retainer when they sign their contract. If that’s true, these agencies have the money to pay us, before they even hire us. And if, for some reason, they aren’t getting paid on retainer, maybe their procedures need to be re-evaluated, so that they can pay their content creators in a timely manner. We are the backbone of this industry, so why are we not treated that way by every company we work with?
What Can Content Creators Do?
First and foremost… know your worth. Know that you deserve to have a say in the terms of every single contract you sign. And don’t be afraid to speak up and share your concerns before you sign, either. If they really want to work with you, they will find a way to adjust it. And if they don’t, don’t feel obligated to agree to their terms. This is your business, you can choose who to work with and who to walk away from. Hopefully if more of us stand our ground when it comes to longer payment terms, we can help companies to understand why things need to change.