692, 000. That’s how many pairs of eyes are on Maureen Waititu at any given moment on Instagram. As a full-time influencer, she fully supports herself through her Instagram page from brand deals, thanks to this huge following to which she promotes certain brands and lifestyles.

“I don’t want to talk about the amount, but I can tell you I earn well from Instagram than any other social media platform. The money is good enough to pay school fees, my big bills, and leave the balance looking good on my bank statement,” says the mother of two, a social impact influencer.

Maureen is among the many public figures in the influencer world who make a living from selling brands through sponsored content. At 692 000, Maureen is considered a Macro Influencer, a tier with a follower count of between 500, 000 to 1 million. Mega influencers have the largest follower count of more than 1 million followers.

Nano influencers have a small following, usually between 1 000 and 10 000 followers. Micro-influencers have between 10 000 and 50 000 followers while the mid-tier category carries between 50 000 and 500 000 followers.

Maureen’s rate card comes in three different packages: for corporates (Large), SMEs and micro-enterprises. Maureen has segregated her clients this way to ensure every tier gets the exposure and visibility they pay for.

“I have three different rate cards because I like to accommodate everybody. My rates are priced per item, so clients can choose what they want. Sometimes they ask for a specialised package where they tell me what they want, and I charge accordingly. I also have a rate card for the smallest companies; I wouldn’t put them on my timeline, but I can post them on my Instastories for a certain period,” she says.

Typically, influencer charges depend on several factors, which include:

The number of followers they have – the number of people an influencer has access to from their platform

The social media platform they are on– the rates and types of audiences vary on different platforms. The resources used to create the content vary as well.

Their follower engagement – comments, likes, retweets or reshares are examples of engagement. Engagement varies from influencer to influencer despite the number of followers. For example, an influencer with fewer followers might get better engagement than one with more followers.

Their industry or specialisation – popular social media niches (parenting, beauty, fashion, fitness) tend to have more influencers, and the pricing may be lower than niches with fewer influencers.

Their type of content – The more effort an influencer puts into creating content, the more likely they will charge more.

Exclusivity – influencers who work with a non-compete agreement in their contract will price their content higher since they are prohibited from working with a competitor, essentially losing potential income.

Including the factors mentioned above, Maureen says her charges also depend on the client or brand she wants to work with, the deliverables they will ask for and the length or period of the contract.

Apart from sponsored content, influencers earn money on the internet through product promotion or displaying ads on their content and through affiliate marketing. In this process, one earns a commission for marketing another person’s products.

For mid-tier influencer Stephanie Mulinge, the resources that go into the type of content she makes, or a brand asks her to create, play a huge role in determining how much she will charge for a given campaign or gig.

“I consider two things; I’m the one who’s bringing my photographer and videographer, or is this being provided by the brand? If I’m doing my content, I always have a photographer and videographer, so I’ll account for them when I come up with my rates. But if all I have to do is to show up to the shoot, then I won’t charge more,” she says.

Additionally, reproducing it will incur a separate charge if the client wants to use her content on a different platform than the original one agreed upon.

This is why she insists that influencers carefully read their contracts to avoid being undercharged.

In most contracts, the influencer is the author of the content and copyright owner. Therefore, a brand cannot use the content for purposes other than what it was intended for without the influencer’s consent/permission. If a brand wants to use this content on other platforms, say print or billboards, they should pay additional fees to reproduce the post(s).

And if the brand wants the influencer to be exclusive to them for some time, then that also means they will have to pay extra.

“Those are the best contracts for me,” Stephanie says about exclusivity. “I love doing long-term jobs that are exclusive because there is room for negotiation,”

Like Maureen, Stephanie also has different rate cards for different brands depending on the size of the brand. “I won’t charge a small salon the way I’ll charge Safaricom which is a big brand and the association that comes with it.”

Similarly, lifestyle content creator Joy Kendi has three rate cards:

“I have three different rate cards; a high, medium and a low. My low is the lowest I’m willing to go, and it’s usually for brands that I know don’t have a crazy budget, and I’m willing to work with them because I genuinely do love the brand. Then I have a medium which is the majority of most posts, and that’s where most of my rates are. And for the high, I use the US rating system, and once in a while, you’ll get a brand who’s just like okay, cool, and they don’t argue with you, which is fantastic,” Joy said in a past presentation about The Business of Content Creation.

However, she stresses the power of skilful negotiating when hashing out a deal.

“With whatever rate card you have, always be willing to negotiate with clients in the sense that you don’t want to say no to a client because there’s a KSh5, 000 difference. Sometimes it’s just simple communication with them. Try to reduce how many deliverables you will give them so ‘instead of three posts, I’ll give you two’ to make up the difference,” she says.

Although it has been around for a little over a decade, influencing is now a career with significant power over how users make decisions on the internet. It is now a legitimate career aspiration for people of all generations, with options ranging from becoming a nano-influencer managed by companies that specialise in that kind of work, like Wowzi in Kenya, to being a big-ticket influencer like Maureen.

Still, it is hard to understand how it pays compared to traditional careers, and the information gap is not just in Kenya.

According to a Harvard Business Review podcast titled The Ins and Outs of the Influencer Industry, there is a lack of transparency when negotiating deals in terms of pricing, and not all influencers are paid using a one-size-fits-all approach.

“This is something that happens very differently depending on the influencer of the brand and the campaign. I think this points to one of the prevailing problems in the influencer industry today: there is little to no transparency in how these deals are being made. There is little transparency about how influencers are being judged. Also, there is no transparency in pay,” says Emily Hund, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania and author of the book The Influencer Industry: The Quest for Authenticity on Social Media.

She continues: “There is a huge variety and disparity in what type of content is worth how much. There are many stories that circulate about a brand engaging a number of influencers for a particular campaign. Then, paying them different amounts or bringing influencers on trips and providing different perks for the same trip and the same amount of work.