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How To Work With a Talent Management Company and Find An Agent As a Blogger

Let’s talk about management as an influencer and how to find an agent. The more I saw that bloggers had managers the more I wondered if it was worth it. I asked around but quickly found out how little other people share in the space and how much they didn’t want you to know who their agent was or what management company they were with. So I’m here to tell you the ins and outs of having a manager and how to hire a management team. Everything you need to know to figure out if it’s right for you.

What we’re going to cover:

The basics of having an agent

Simply put, you hand over the business side of things to your manager and they take a percentage of your deals or charge you a flat fee.

I watched the video with James Nord on the subject of management and he said, “That person works for you, not the other way around.  Train them on how to operate inside your universe.  Management teams usually take between 15-20%. So remember, you’re giving your money away for them to work for you. You’re their boss. They would say it’s more of a partnership but at the end of the day, you’re the talent so if over 50% of the money is coming from inbound brand deals then you’re in charge.”

What do you want to gain and why do you want to find an agent?

Ask yourself these questions before you start this process. It’s very important to know what you want and why you want it when you find an agent. There are managers that have a flat monthly fee and those who take a percentage. Do you want someone to handle inbound deals for you, negotiate on your behalf, review your contracts, redline and negotiate those contracts, increase your rate, give you more credibility by having representation? Are you just overwhelmed, are you wanting to learn more and talk out campaigns and blog life with a manager? Can you afford to give up 15-20% of your income? Would you prefer they collected invoices for you and sent you a check or would you rather pay your manager and handle all the invoices yourself? What do you want to gain? Know these things before getting started.

Read Next: How To Negotiate Brand Contracts For Bloggers + Influencers

Why I hired a manager

If you’re wondering what I wanted, it’s to make more money. To have someone focusing on deals so I could create more content. Someone who could be more responsive with emails and stay on top of my inbox so I wouldn’t miss out on anything. To have someone negotiating my deals, increasing my rate with conviction, knowing more about whitelisting, licensing, and usage rights and knowing the rate to charge for that. I wanted someone else with more backing to be in charge of collections, invoices, and payments. I wanted to be paid weekly and not worry about anything else, like tax forms. I wanted my manager to handle inbound deals but not solely. They also have to be continuously pitching me, landing deals, have their own client relationships, and providing feedback. I wanted a team that also could provide my clients with more value like wrap up reports but also someone who was friendly and communicated well with clients. They had to be able to represent my brand and me professionally.

I needed to find an agent that could not only handle brand deals but a team that could pitch me for TV, books, licensing deals, products, and more. People who are not only knowledgeable in the space but have experience handling it.

I wanted a team that was going to handle not just the little $700-$1500 campaign requests but increases my deals to $10-$15,000/campaigns.  A team who worked with bigger brands, and with longer annual deals so I had guaranteed income quarterly.

I come from a sales, advertising, and marketing background with over 15 years of experience so I knew the team I chose had to be extremely smart and knowledgeable in the space. I needed the entire team to impress me and know exactly what the plan was to crush it.

Read Next: How Do Travel Bloggers Make Money

How the initial contact works when you find an agent

Before I hired a management team I did some research. I asked around in the blogging community and to my blog friends to get their opinions. Then I reached out to the ones I thought were a good fit. Typically after the initial email, they will send you a questionnaire to fill out. Once you email that over then you set up a call to chat and see if it’s a good fit. I know initially, it feels like they’re interviewing you, like how many followers you have, what your engagement is, etc… when it should be the other way around. I know having to answer a few questions first without even talking to them may seem like you’re not in the driver seat but you are. Once on the call, here are the questions I asked.

20 Questions to ask on the initial call with your potential manager

(In no particular order)

  1. How do you answer an email? (including if you’d like to be copied on all emails)
  2. How quickly do you respond to emails?
  3. How do you turn people down?
  4. How do you relay good and bad news?
  5. What does your reporting look like?
  6. How do you speak about me?
  7. What tone do you use?
  8. Do you bring deals before you answer or do you negotiate before you bring me the deal?
  9. What does the relationship look like?
  10. How is the payment structure set up? (How am I paid? When will I be paid? Am I in charge of paying you or will you be paying me?)
  11. What percentage do you take? Is this negotiable?
  12. Do you only handle inbound deals? Do you pitch for me? Is there a dedicated pitching team? Do you pitch everyone you work for or just me? Can I continue to pitch myself to brands? Do you handle network deals?
  13. What do you think of my rates? My stats?
  14. What can I work on? How can you make me better?
  15. Do you have your own contracts? Do you negotiate on my behalf? Do you review contracts? Do you handle collections and late payments? What does that look like? What does that include ie. late fee?
  16. Who do you represent? What types of people? What verticals are they in? Do you have a well-rounded roster? Will I be competing with myself?
  17. What is your turnover like? How long is your longest talent been on the roster?
  18. Reasons for letting someone go? Why does it generally not workout?
  19. What are your goals for working together?  Talk about your goals and ask how they can help you achieve your goals.
  20. Do you require a contract? Is there a probation period to see if this is a good fit?

*PRO TIP: DO NOT sign a year-long contract when you find an agent. There has to be an out clause or a temporary probation period to see if it’s a good fit. Typically 3 months. During this time, teach, train, and monitor everything. 

Keep in mind, these things should come from you. What works best for you. How you operate. If you prefer one way over another, set it up and make it happen. Make sure it works for you.

If a management company only handles inbound deals it means that answering emails is their only job. And there is NO way I’m giving up 20% for that.

Do not give up control + why checks and balances are important

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked a friend to intro me to a brand because I do that all the time for them and they’ll say, “Oh, I don’t have the contact, my manager does. They handle my communications.” That’s great and all but how do you not know? You can ask first of all and secondly, you should have access to your contacts and be copied in on emails and brand deals. If your manager isn’t sharing contacts with you but handling all of your inbound deals and collecting your contacts then that is shady AF and you don’t have a good manager. Either that or I’m being lied to.

There are people ruining their client’s reputation in the space because not enough influencers are checking their agents. Audit their work. Every month. Check the emails. Check the brand deals. This is your reputation. This is your livelihood.

I can’t tell you how many bad stories I’ve heard. I’ve heard of things slipping through the cracks, no response, bad responses, brands hating agents and managers so they fire you, etc. It’s ugly. I’ve also heard of management companies just working with bloggers and influencers for a month to collect their contacts and then firing them.

Read Next: What Is A Rec List And Why You Should Have One As A Blogger

Q&A with Estate Five Talent Management

I asked my management team at Estate Five to answer some commonly asked questions about having a manager and how to work with management. Here is what you can expect when you find an agent.

When do you recommend hiring a management team/ manager? 
The best time to start with management is when you feel like you need support. Often the best indicator is when there is more work than you can keep up with and you’re unable to scale on your own.
What does a management team handle? What can someone expect? 
Management handles everything for a paid campaign other than the creative. They will seek out opportunities, negotiate terms for all programs and then oversee the execution of the deliverables. Good managers also educate brands on how best to leverage influencers and manage their expectations throughout the process.
What’s the best way to utilize a manager? 
Collaborate and communicate with them! Make sure you are aligned on your goals and the direction of your business. Even day to day things that come up can become monetizable opportunities, so make sure they are in the loop. Tap into their expertise and get their advice. Chances are they have had relevant experience and can provide valuable insights. 
What are the benefits of having a manager? 
The real benefit of having a management team is to alleviate you from having to deal with all of the business demands so you can focus on creative. They can help you scale much faster since they have many more resources than you would have on your own.
What would you say to the people who complain that they had a horrible management experience?
Yikes, we have heard all of the horror stories (hence why we formed Estate Five two years back – to fix things!). Make sure you know what you’re signing before taking pen to paper.  
What do you look for when you sign on new talent? 
We value relationships above all else. In turn, we look for hard-working, responsible, nice people that have a unique perspective. 
What would you say to the people who feel they aren’t good enough to have a manager? 
Ask a management agency for their opinion. They will be able to give you suggestions for things to work on if you aren’t quite ready. But never base your value on follower counts or likes.  That isn’t where we look when evaluating talent.
Are managers just needed when you have a big Instagram following? 
NO! Some of our busiest talent have smaller, highly engaged followings.
How is Estate Five different from the other talent management companies? What makes you different? What makes you special? 
Estate Five assesses opportunities from various tactical vantage points while always exercising full transparency – with both talent and brands alike. This enables us to be strategic, direct, ethical, nimble, efficient – and, we’re rather pleasant, too!
We are data-informed, versus data-led; meaning we take numbers into account without limiting ourselves to stats alone. We work to connect our talent with top brands looking to establish meaningful connections with relevant audiences and deliver results that are never murky or vague.
What questions do you ask the talent before signing them on or recommend they ask you before they sign on with management? 
We like to get a sense of their goals and ambition. We also like to hear about their experience and vet how successful we will be in marketing them to our partners. 
Influencers should make sure management is aligned with their vision for their platforms and that they get a good feeling from conversations with them. If managers are only focused on their bottom line then it might pose problems later down the line.

How to find an agent: Other talent management companies to check out

I recommend Estate Five hands down but I know they have a waitlist currently. If you’re looking to find an agent you can ask around or do a quick google search for talent management companies. Here are a few other management companies you can look into that have either reached out to me or were sent to me by other bloggers.
  • CEG
  • Frame Work Digital Media
  • CESD
  • CAA
  • Eris
  • Blogist
  • Whalar Stars
  • DBA
  • Ford Models
  • Gleam Futures
  • Follow Agency
  • Obviously
  • Boldstreak
  • Boost Society (travel, Canadian but also taking US talent)
  • Abrams Artists (has a book division)
  • APA
  • Socialyte
  • SIMPLY (now Socialyte Prestige)
  • Shine Influencers
  • The Influencer Grapevine
  • RPR
  • Follow Agency
  • Kombo Ventures
  • Chic Influence
  • Mirum Agency
  • Bodega7
  • Bottle Rocket Management
  • Sofluential Media (Military Influencers)
  • INF Agency
  • Jabbers Haus
  • SLAY Media
  • Pulse Talent Management
  • Matter Media Group
  • Lola & Ivy PR
  • Trident Media Group (literary agent)

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