4 negotiation mistakes to avoid with brands

 Today, we’re going to talk about the 4 biggest negotiating mistakes I see women make when they start to work with brands and my best advice on how to avoid them. Whether you’re a veteran of the Social Media Influencer industry or you’re a freshly minted inductee, I have a feeling you already know: it is HARD WORK! 

From figuring out how to develop an editorial calendar to consistently creating content, understanding the importance of SEO to juggling relationships with brands, there’s a lot going on.

While I can’t claim expertise in all the many facets of your influencing career, one thing I AM an expert at is negotiating with brands. When you hit the point of being able to hire an Influencer Manager like myself, we’ll take care of all the nitty-gritty for you. 

But what if you’re still a solopreneur navigating the choppy waters by yourself? You have to be your own best advocate! Until we get a chance to work together, I’m here to help educate you on how to protect your best interests.

Mistake #1: Leaving Money On The Table

We’ve all heard the awful statistics that even as of 2020, women earned just 82.3 cents to every dollar earned by men. That’s not even taking race and ethnicity into account. Women of color have it worse: on average Black women earn just 64 cents and Hispanic women earn just 57 cents to the dollar.  And gals? That’s for the same work. Things have to change!

While I’m not here to victim blame (and I fully support wage transparency), there is something that women — especially badass freelancers like yourself — can do to close the gap. ASK.

It might sound scary, but as working women, it is our duty to ask for our due. I know societal influences have groomed us to think of talking about money as gauche but lemme tell you a little secret: men do it all the time!

And guess what? Brands expect to be asked about things like their budget. They expect for you to negotiate with them. If they come in with an offer that feels too low, you don’t have to take it! 

So, what’s your next step? Counter with another offer. Negotiate the SOW (“statement of work,” i.e. what your deliverables would be). Shrink the usage of how they want to share your content. Ask what flexibility is possible. If they can’t budge on the price, can they shorten the window of time for exclusivity and the list of companies on it? Look for creative ways to align on the project —including both the budget available and the work required of you — so that both sides are happy.  The last thing you want is to start a project feeling resentful of what you agreed to.

Need some help with your negotiation skills? Check out my article on how to get better at negotiating.

4 negotiation mistakes to avoid
4 negotiation mistakes to avoid

Mistake #2: Not Asking, “Why Me?”

One of the first things I suggest you ask of anyone who is proposing to work with you is: how’d you find me? Why are you attracted by my content? What caught your eye? In asking this question, I’ve often learned of a new top ten list such as the Best Mexican food creators to follow that highlights a client of mine. 

When you understand their “why you,” you suddenly have more leverage to work with. For example, if they are after your followers, consider sharing the ins and outs of your community that are selling points to the brand, i.e. what do you know about your community’s habits, desires, wants, and needs? 

Knowing who they are looking to reach gives you leverage if you can deliver that specific audience. Even better is if you can show how engaged your community is and demonstrate their hunger for the information/trip destination/recipe hack/product the client offers.

Or, if the company is a fan of your photography, see if you can simply sell them a photo package to make the contract better worth your while without any social obligations on your platforms. 

In addition to being able to better negotiate your contract with this particular brand, knowing how the brand found you will also help you to acquire more brand partnerships. As they say, knowledge is power! 

4 negotiation mistakes to avoid
Why you? Learn to answer this question.

Mistake #3: Not Asking “What Are Your Expectations Of Me (Or This Partnership)?”

Make sure you get a very clear picture of what the brand is asking before agreeing to anything.  You know the whole adage about assuming, right? Something about making a donkey of you AND me? In this case, I hate to tell you, but you’ll end up the bigger donkey here.

While you’re a freelancer working out on your own, those big brands have a lot of people- and firepower behind them. If they determine you’re not fulfilling your end of the contract, chances are they already have a whole legal team waiting to spring into action. 

If you assume that the company would be happy with a single post on a single channel, but they were really expecting multiple posts (both static and video) across multiple channels over a set period, well, that’s just not the same thing!

When the contract isn’t explicitly laid out with exactly what you are creating and posting (blog, social content for IG, a TikTok, or something else), it’s really hard to argue your case in your favor. And make sure to quantify everything, even down to the number of IG story frames. 

If you haven’t done your due diligence to know what the brand is asking of you before you sign the dotted line, they can string you along and continue to make demands far beyond the scope of what you *thought* you had agreed to.

So, be sure to ask in no uncertain terms: what are your expectations of me for this contract? Have them list out every single deliverable that you are responsible for. 

As an added bonus, this clearly itemized list will help you assign a reasonable dollar value to the total package! When you know their ask, you can assess the amount of your time and energy they are demanding and make sure that you’ll be paid commensurately. 

4 Things Not To Do When Negotiating With Brands
I love negotiating for my clients, including Lorraine (L) and Yvette (R)

Mistake #4: Not Asking About The Goals Of The Campaign

When you enter into an agreement with a brand, make sure you’re aware of their goals. Is this campaign about conversions or brand awareness? Because the approach to a brand awareness campaign is far different than one designed to get people to act on your call to action.

Knowing if the brand is looking for app signups/downloads or new customers is great if you’re awesome at converting or making sales with your links. If you have case studies and analytics that back up your case, use them. Conversely, if that’s not your strength, it’s good to know to avoid those partnerships. 

They also may not know your capacity, so it’s up to you to spell it out for them. If they want a piece of SEO copy but you’re a photographer or videographer, you should let them know that they may need to source that piece elsewhere. Honesty with yourself and with the brand is key to your continued success.


As you start your journey working with paid brand partnerships, the most important thing to remember is to go into it with your eyes wide open. That means asking lots of clarifying questions so that you fully understand the project and proposed scope of work.

Make sure you’re covering your booties here, ladies. It’s not that brands are out to get one over on you, but it is literally their goal to make as much profit as possible. For companies with shareholders, it is their legal obligation to maximize shareholder profits – even to the detriment of their freelancers.

That means they aren’t going to offer up the best rates in the first round of negotiations. They’ll try to get the most work out of you for the lowest amount possible. This isn’t a bad thing, per se, but it’s something you need to know in order to maximize your earnings and create a comfortable working environment for yourself.

If you are able to perform the duties outlined in your contract, you will inspire the trust of the brand. It’s that simple! 

The goal here is to set yourself up for success so that you can continue working with the brand going forward. Remember, lasting professional relationships are the bread and butter of profitable influencing.

Until next time, I leave you with a powerful quote: 

“You get life what you have the courage to ask for.” ~ Oprah Winfrey

4 negotiation mistakes to avoid
4 common negotiation mistakes to avoid – become a pro!