Plenty of creators launch their content business by accident, without thought of needing eventual help like a talent manager. Streaming your gameplay on Twitch, sharing fashion finds on Instagram, or writing your favorite recipe stories on their blog might have started as a fun hobby – until it wasn’t.
Eventually, successful creators draw an impressive online presence that attracts offers from brands, and they realize their hobby is now a fledgling business that has the legs to become something big – or at least full-time work.
They are great creators, but they don’t have enough time or knowledge to handle all the business side of the operation. Those are the signs pointing toward the need for bringing a business or talent manager on board.
We spoke with six business or talent managers – Emily Ward and Jess Hunichen at Shine Talent Group, Becca Bahrke and Savanah Deming at Illuminate Social, Damian Skoczylas at ICON, and Caleb Dempsey – to find out when creators should consider signing with a talent manager, and how they can help build a content business.
4 signs you’re ready for a talent manager
When are you ready to make the leap? These are the green flags.
1. You quit or are on the cusp of leaving your 9-to-5
“You need to recognize that this is a business, and when you’re ready to take that business to the next level, that’s when we find talent have the most success,” Jess says.
Becca agrees. Illuminate Social, she says, looks to work with people who are ready to make the leap to full-time content creation. “They’re able to survive on doing this, just having this be their only income,” she says. “If you’re making anywhere around $100K a year – maybe a little below or a little above– that’s where we feel like it’s our niche where we’re able to take that to the next level.”Creators who make around $100K a year can benefit by hiring a talent manager to help take them to the next level, says Becca Bahrke of Illuminate Social. #ContentEntrepreneur #ContentBusiness Click To Tweet
Caveat: Talent or influencer managers typically earn a 20% commission for any business booked through them. “We only make money if they make money,” Becca says.
2. Your inbox is overflowing with brand offers
If you’re spending so much time responding to brands and not enough time thinking about your actual content, it might be time to get some help.
“There are some self-managed people who do really well in terms of negotiating their own deals and making sure the value is there, and understanding and reading contracts. And they can deal with the conflicts that can come up,” Emily says. “And there’re other people who need that kind of support earlier than others.”
Becca and Savanah say it’s common for influencers who come to their firm to say they barely have enough time to create content as they deal with the nitty-gritty of content creation – from redlining contracts to responding to emails.
3. You’re ready to trust somebody with your business
You raised your content creation business from the beginning. For some, it can be hard to let some of that go. You need to be ready to hand over, even a little bit, of the reins before signing with a manager. “That’s the biggest hurdle we face as talent reps,” Damian says. “… It’s a bit of a letting-go process to let somebody else be able to handle those business things.”You must be ready to hand over a little bit of the reins before signing with a manager for your content business, says @Damian_ICON. #ContentEntrepreneur #CreatorEconomy Click To Tweet
4. You can’t seem to break out on other platforms
If all your engagement happens on one platform and you aren’t successful on another channel, you might want to dial up some help. “Being a content creator does not equal years of strategy on social media platforms to the point where you can post anything on a platform, and it does well,” Caleb says. “Creators should reach out to someone when they feel like they don’t know what to do next. Because that’s when you start getting frustrated, and that starts to reflect into your content.”
4 ways managers can help creators
If the flags are waving that it’s time to take your content business to the next level, here’s how a talent manager can help.
1. They can bring deep knowledge of the industry and market
There’s no price list or menu in the influencer or creator industry. What brands will pay and whether a deal is fair often is a mystery to newcomers. A manager has worked in the industry for some time – and with multiple clients– can bring a perspective that’s difficult for a single influencer to acquire on their own.A manager works with multiple clients. They can bring a perspective that's difficult for a single #influencer to acquire on their own, says @Slindenfeldhall. #ContentEntrepreneurs #ContentBusiness Click To Tweet
They know how much brands are paying other influencers. They understand how creators can position themselves best for new opportunities. And they’re familiar with dozens of potential sponsors, steering clients to a business they never considered.
“When you’re one talent, getting one steam of inquiry, that’s great,” Jess says. “But when you’re part of a network, like a talent management agency – and we represent 100 to 120 talent give or take – you have that power of all the inquiries that are coming in behind you.”
2. They often have a direct connection to social media platforms
Top talent managers will have a direct connection to real people employed on social media platforms. “We have access to very professional resources such as Instagram and Facebook, working directly in contact with them,” Becca says.
Says Damian: “We have relationships with a lot of the platforms. So, if there is an issue with Twitch, we have a line to help them where normally they would have to apply to a faceless wall and get an answer within 48 hours or whatever the time frame is.”
So, when somebody wants to change their handle, merge accounts, or finally get verified, a professional talent manager can bring those relationships to the table and, hopefully, get some swift answers and resolution.
Caveat: Business and talent managers often specialize in specific kinds of creators. So, one may be well-versed in Instagram and TikTok and another may focus primarily on Twitch.
3. They steer you toward new opportunities
Whether it’s a new product line, a podcast, book deal, TV show, or collaboration with another influencer, managers can identify what’s possible and help a creator prepare for the next steps or how a feed can improve to lure a new sponsor. “In this industry, everyone is in a little bubble,” Savanah says. “Sometimes it can be very hard to get outside of that bubble and look at your feed from a business and client perspective.”
4. They take away the not-so-fun stuff and act as the heavy
Behind the scenes of successful Twitch streams, Instagrammers, and podcast hosts is a lot of paperwork and legalese. Managers can help sort out the offers, determine the best deals for an influencer, and read through the contracts to ensure they’re fair. And they often function as a conduit between brands and influencers– sometimes playing the role of the bad guy and pushing back on contract clauses or constant requests for revisions when needed.
“Brands will sometimes try to keep getting away with more and more and more in terms of deliverable or creative input,” Damian says. “We’re really there to be their voice and their advocate and to put the foot down in some cases.”Managers can be the creator's voice and advocate, and put their foot down with brands in some cases, says @Damian_ICON #ContentEntrepreneur Click To Tweet
The bottom line, according to each manager, is they can help you focus on what you do best. “The more time you pull over onto the business side, the less time you have to be creative,” Jess says. “That’s always our major talking we have with talent: Let us do all of this and you can do what you actually intended to do and are really good at … It’s amazing how much more success they have because their focus is exclusively on the things that are really important to them.”
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About the author
Sarah Lindenfeld Hall is a longtime journalist, freelance writer, and founding editor of two popular parenting websites in North Carolina. She frequently writes about parenting, aging, education, business management, and interesting people doing remarkable things.