Social Media 101: The cheeky tactics influencers use to demand more money from brands

In years gone by, the holy grail of marketing was celebrity endorsements. The process went a little like this- the PR reps of the fashion brand contacts the PR/publicist of the celebrity and would then ship over a selection of the range with the hopes that the celeb may wear it at an event or be papped in it walking the streets. The product may then be shown in a few glossy mags if the celeb is big enough.

Fast forward to 2017 and the process is much more organised. Designers or retailers simply email a list of thousands of “influencers” who have amassed followers thanks to their good looks or enviable style. Gaining their email addresses is as simple as checking out their Instagram or Facebook profile or popping them an inbox message on the social media outlets. Emails are then exchanged and a price for a single post is agreed upon. The influencer then posts the image and tags the brand. Their followers see the image and hopefully follow the brand tagged in the image because, well, if the Insta famous celeb has the cool dress, then they must have the cool dress.

It’s a relatively simple exchange and can be carried out in a matter of days and because it’s a business transaction with real life money swapping hands, the influencer is guaranteed to publicise the product.

Instagram has been the catalyst to democratising this entire process. Prior to social media, only brands with huge marketing and PR departments could gain access to celebs. Now, the playing field has shifted as influencers aren’t only A-listers, but could be the pretty popular girl at the local high school. This girl won’t have a publicist so will be happy with any exchange- be it $50 cash or a bunch of free products. This in turn allows the smaller brands and retailers to get their brand out there for very little money.

So, what should you be paying per Instagram promo shot?


1-10,000 followers:

No money should be exchanged, however these up and coming Insta famous stars are usually happy to exchange a post for free product.

10,000-20,000 followers:

$50-$150 per post depending on engagement (we’ll cover that soon).


20,000-50 000 followers:

$100-$300 per post


50,000-100,000 followers:

$250-$350 per post


100,000-500,000 followers:

$300-$500 per post


500,000-1,000,000 followers:



1,000,000+++ followers:

$Anywhere from $1000- 1 million dollars (if you want Kylie Jenner repping your product)


Now, buyer beware:

Many of these “Insta famous” stars will have purchased fake followers and/or likes for their profile.

Buying followers is an extremely simple and cheap process, which is why so many of them do it. For example, an Instagram user can purchase 10,000 new followers for about $10 AUD. These followers are however, not real. They are fake accounts. It’s as easy as buying a new dress online, so it’s not surprising that so many famous wannabees do it.

But as a brand, you need to watch out that you don’t get sucked in by these profiles that seem to have 100,000 followers and are asking for $500 for a post, only to receive no ROI from that investment because no real people have actually seen your product on the model.

How to spot an influencer with fake followers:

It’s relatively simple to spot an account with fake followers or likes.


  1. What is the engagement level on the profile? Take a look at how many followoers the influencer has. For example, if she has 100,000 followers but only has 200 likes per image she posts, you can safely assume she has purchased several followers. There is no hard and fast rule when it comes to engagement, however the common sense test will guide you here.
  2. Who is following the influencer? Click on the influencers followers, scroll down a little while and start to pay attention to the profiles who have followed this influencer. If there are a heap of profiles with no profile pictures, foreign languages or profiles with no images of their own or images that are completely different to the demographic this influencer is targeting, these are also red flags.
  3. Who is liking the images? Similarly, influencers can buy likes for their images so their engagement appears to be high (to keep up with the followers they have purchased). As you do with the followers of a profile, check out who is actually liking these images. Do the accounts have profile pictures? Do they have a bunch of foreign writing or symbols as their name? Do they have very few images in their account? Do they have extremely odd or unrelated content to the demographic this influencer is targeting?
  4. What are the comments like? Comment pods are a tried and tested way of increasing engagement amongst Instagram profiles. A comment pod is where several like minded influencers comment on every new image of an influencer in that pod. They comment with things like “so great!” “great pic” “awesome” “so cute!” This is a dead give away that these comments are not interested followers or potential customers. They are either paid comments or comment pods. Either way, you wont be getting followers or customers out of these guys.

It’s also worth paying attention to the demographic of the influencer you are interested in working with.

Even if the model has high (real) engagement and a heap of (real) followers, the ROI from a bunch of old lonely men or young teenage boys who often frequent these half naked model profiles, probably isn’t your ideal demographic if you’re seeing clothing or jewellery for the 18-25 year old female target market.

Everyone is desperate to be an Insta famous celeb and be paid for simply taking selfies, who can blame them. As a brand, you need to make sure you’re not falling into the trap and paying someone to broadcast to 1000 real followers and 50 000 fakes.

If You Can’t Cover These Costs, You Can’t Run a Business

I’m not sure who said it, but the general consensus is that 90% of tech startups and one in three new small businesses fail within the first year.


This extremely high rate of failure comes down to money…and a lack of it.


I like to keep my posts very hands on and practical so they provide tangible value aspiring entrepreneurs can add to their businesses. This is probably the most honest post you’ll ever see, and it will scare you. That’s ok though. Get used to being scared.


Most budding entrepreneurs underestimate the huge costs involved in starting a business from the ground up. They simply don’t crunch the numbers regarding the amount of capital that is needed to turn an idea into reality and then, more importantly, the cashflow needed to keep the idea going and growing.


If I had a dollar for every time someone came to me and said they were “just going to make a free website and start selling online!” I’d be very rich- and they would be very poor. Many entrepreneurs see online businesses as a cheaper alternative to traditional bricks and mortar businesses. In some ways they are, but just as if you pay $20 a week for a shack in the back alley of tumbleweed town, if you simply have a website sitting in cyber space with no paid marketing to attract visitors, no one is going to find you.


I’ve put together a cheat sheet that outlines all of the costs that entrepreneurs will have to cough up in these early stages.


My experience is in online and bricks and mortar fashion retail spaces, so some of these costs may not apply to you, but hopefully the overall size of the list will encourage you to do your own due diligence before it’s too late.


As always, these costings’ from my experience only and will obviously differ depending on industry and location.


I have rounded up the costs in the interests of conservatism.


This is a very high level overview for the sake of simplicity for those who are new to the small business world. Please contact me if you would like more detailed explanations of each category.


ACTIVITY: $$$$$$

Public Liability insurance


Business name registration with ATO


Register a PTY LTD company with the ATO



$500 per year


$34 per year


$500 + $300 per year renewal




Weekend and holiday loading





End of year bonuses


Worker’s Compensation insurance





Depending on amount of employees, starting from 1K per week for 1-2 casual employees




$300 per week



Depending on amount employed, 2K per quarter +



1K (if required)


$500 per year






Shop front- prime CBD location for a small shop


Office space



10K per month +


5K per month

INITIAL INVESTMENT IN PRODUCT: $10,000 (bare minimum to fill a small bricks and mortar store or populate an online store satisfactorily)




Website subscriptions- plugins, live chat, Shopify costs etc


Domain name


Web host


SSL Certificate (Secures your website and checkout)


Paypal fees



Afterpay fees


Ebay, Etsy, and other marketplace fees


Newsletter provider eg Mailchimp


Ongoing website support from developer


Payment gateway from your bank in order to sell online





Anywhere from 1-5K depending on level of customization and capabilities


$200-$500 per month


$100 per year


$200 per year


$300 per year


2.6% + 30c per transaction (entry level package)



6% per transaction


From 5% per transaction


From $10 per month (up to 500 subscribers)


$100 per month as required


From $99 setup

$20 monthly fee

1.5% transaction fee


Brand identity: initial outlay for a graphic designer


SEO services




Facebook Ads


Google Adwords + Google shopping


Remarketing Ads


Management fees for the above


Instagram influencers





$2000 per month (It is very important to employ a local SEO company. Overseas lead generation often leaves websites vulnerable to hacking and corruption.)



$1,000 per week for any real results


$1,000 per week


$1,000 per month


$1,000 per month


Exchange product for post, however the major influencers with followings over 100K will charge anywhere from $500++ per post



Accountant for basic end of quarter BAS and end of year reconciliation


Legal services for new leases, employee contracts etc


Subscription to accounting software




3K per year



1K per year average as required for very basic work


$30 per month for basic package



Computers for office


Point of Sale system for bricks and mortar store


Hardware for Point of Sale system:


-Receipt printer

-Label printer


Security system


Internet and phone connection





10K for license + $100 per month subscription









$100 per month per location



Basic prepaid satchels


International shipping


Shipping on imported overseas product


Duty rates on imports over $1000


Sales tax on imports (GST)



$100 per 10


$15 per 500g parcel


$1000 per shipment (using an express courier such as DHL)


Average 5%










Make Up Artist


Stylist (if required)


Location hire (if required)



1K for full day


1K for full day









In a major shopping centre


Smaller boutique not in a shopping centre


Bank guarantee for shopping centre/bond for physical store





5-50K (food businesses will require much more capital than a simple clothing or accessories store)


4 months rent in advance






Photographic equipment





Photographic backdrops






5K ++

BANK FEES (for physical EFTPOS machine)




Credit card fees



Terminal rental




.20c per transaction


1.5% per transaction (varies between banks)


$40 per month


(These can be negotiated between banks)


I started my business with $10,000- This is how I did it.


  1. $5,000- Website

Yes, $5,000 for a website is wayyyyyy too much, but a few years ago, when I started, it was pretty standard… or maybe I was just taken for an extreme ride. Either way, I wouldn’t pay more than $1500 for a basic e-commerce website right now.

Shop around and NEGOTIATE. Every hipster and his dog is a website designer these days, so shop around. Send at least 100 emails off for quotes and don’t be afraid to tell your preferred designer you can get the work done somewhere else for much cheaper, they’ll always come crawling back.


  1. $2,500- Stock

I started with a small online store and branched out to a small market stall in a Sydney shopping centre to help with cashflow. $2,500 got me a few racks worth of stock. Pick your stock WISELY!!! You can’t afford to pick fugly stuff and then have to put it all on sale. Test a few pieces with your target market first (both friends and strangers) to see if you’re on the right track.


  1. $2000- Model, HMUA, photographer and studio hire

Why spend a shitload on a website if you’re going to populate it with dodgy AF images?

You can find some amazing models through Instagram, which will save you a huge amount of money in agency fees. If the girls are keen for work, they will have their email address in their bio. Send them a casual email explaining your brand and ask for their rates. You’ll be surprised how reasonable some of their rates are before they’ve been corrupted by agencies.

If you’re totally desperate, you can get the models to do their own make up, but I would always opt for professional make up and hair if possible. Opt for a student HMUA from a college for a better price.

A pro photographer is pretty crucial as well, however a pro camera is more crucial. If you can only afford one, I would opt for a great camera and take the pics yourself. Make sure you take a variety of e-commerce (studio) shots against a plain wall for website images as well as lifestyle shots (outside, with props etc) to use on social media and promo material.


  1. $500- Advertising spend

Be sure to leave a little in the kitty for some advertising spend. The easiest way to draw attention to your brand in the early days is to either put together some ads on Facebook and blast them out to your target market or pay an influencer who your target market is obsessed with, to advertise your product on their social media channels. Usually influencer promo will cost anywhere between $100 to $1 million (if you want Kylie Jenner to promo your stuff!)

Once again with this, NEGOTIATE. The influencer marketing industry is so unregulated and quite frankly dodgy that there is absolutely no consistency in rates. Come up with your own budget and don’t be afraid to negotiate with the influencer as they will more than likely say yes, don’t be intimidated by their Instagram profile, they are probably not making any more money than you are.




The number one question that I get asked when I tell people that I own Stylehub is, “How did you start?”

I guess it’s a totally reasonable question- starting is the hardest part of any venture, right? ha- totally not right, but I’ll get to that later.

So where did it start?

I had just graduated from my journalism degree at UTS in Sydney after undertaking about 400 (actually 15) internships at various fashion magazines and websites. It was 2012, the print media was dying and no one had worked out how to make money from online media yet. So it was this weird limbo period in the world of publishing that made everyone nervous and therefore unwilling to open their wallets to pay us mere interns.

After the fifth magazine internship- I had worked at Grazia, Harper’s Bazaar, Yen, Madison and The Daily Telegraph weekend magazine, I kind of realised there wasn’t much of a future in this industry- not just for me, but for all aspiring mini Anna Wintour’s. Beneath the glossy exterior, the girls were hating life. They worked 12- hour days for $12 an hour- and they were the lucky ones. This was not a new and exciting industry, it was an industry that was struggling to keep its head above water.

On the third day of my Harper’s Bazaar internship, I had an epiphany, went to lunch and just never returned. I doubt they even realised I was missing. I just knew it wasn’t for me.

I worked at a restaurant PR company to build up some money so I could go away to Europe. (Could I be any more Gen Y?) This job was where Stylehub began. Literally.

The PR company was heavily print focused and the two dinosaurs running it refused to believe the internet was a thing. (This was 2011, not 1990, btw). I set myself up in the quietest corner of the office, did my work for the day from 9-10am and spent the rest of the day researching fast fashion and e-commerce.

There were a million things I needed

-Who would supply me with stock?

-Who would my customer be?

-How do I get people to actually buy my stuff?

-How do I make a website?

-How much do I need to start this thing?

I knew absolutely nothing, but by the time the dinosaurs told me that I wasn’t needed at the PR agency anymore, I had a web developer ready to go.

Of course, this isn’t the ideal way to start a business, but I was young, selfish and un- engaged- a dangerous combination for any employer.

I wanted to create a fun experience for girls my age who wanted fun fashion to wear for the weekend that wouldn’t cost them the earth.

Of course fast fashion wasn’t groundbreaking. It still isn’t, but I honestly thought I could do it better than anyone else at the time. I was working casually at Sportsgirl at the time and listened to customers cries that their prices were becoming way too expensive for this age bracket.

I truly believe the best entrepreneurs find a gap in the market and fix it. They don’t create something that has never been done before, they simply make existing ideas better. Zuckerberg didn’t invent social media, he just improved upon Myspace. Richard Branson didn’t invent aviation, he simply created a better experience.

I also wanted to use my hard earned degree and create a space where everyone could read and interact with an online publication.

Hence the name Stylehub.

I used my life savings of $10,000 to employ a designer to build the website ($5,000- can you BELIEVE I paid $5K to have a WordPress website built?) and the rest of the monety was spent on buying some stock from China and also making some cool short run exclusive designs.

I remember spending $500 at the local fabric store one Saturday- the owner hit the jackpot! I then drove around Sydney getting to know every dressmaker who works out of their garage. The dressmaker sent me to a cutter, the cutter sent me back to the dressmaker, they both sent me to fabric places- it’s amazing the things you learn just by asking questions.

I couldn’t afford intricate designs, so I created about 10 styles- simple body con skirts, shirts, pants, boob tubes- it was all ridiculous and I was totally out of my depth but I was actually selling my designs!

The website was made by this creepy dude who conducted Skype sessions topless. He created a website that was so ridden with bugs, I spent another 5 grand to get it fixed over the next few years. The creepy web designer has since fled the country- way to pick em.

I had a website, I had a few designs and I spent my last few hundred dollars on a photo shoot- I hired a professional photographer and models and everything!

I was off!

Now, to start actually making money…

Websites are notoriously hard to make consistent income from, unless you have funding to sink a few thousand into PR, SEO, Google marketing, social media advertising and every other type of exposure.

When you’re bootstrapped, this isn’t an option.

I was lucky enough to know some people in the media industry from my internships and friends who had actually made it as journos.

I had a few articles written about me in the early days and put any money I made from the dribs and drabs of sales into Facebook advertising to create some more buzz.

A few months in, I was doing ok, but not well enough to support myself.

I needed to kick start the cashflow. At this point, I had a serendipitous email from the owner of the Emerging Designer Markets in Westfield Sydney CBD.

I had one rack’s worth of stock and not enough money to pay a full month’s rent upfront, so I struck a revenue deal where we would split the revenue of the store 50/50. (I use the term store loosely, as it was really just one rack.)

I spaced out the clothes so far, so I could fill the rack and look like a “proper” business.

I sold a few pieces, reinvested the money into new stock and kept expanding from there.

One rack became two and two became three until I had my own little store space.

At this point, I stopped making my own products because I just didn’t have the time or funds to run around Sydney finding dressmakers. I also didn’t have the scale to think about manufacturing in China, so I sought out some affordable brands and negotiated purchase agreements.

From there, I started to focus full time on buying for the store and website and could afford to employ staff to run the store.

I remember going into the store one Saturday and being told we had made $500. To a broke 21 year old, this was mind boggling. It took me weeks to make $500 just a few months prior, and now I was making it in one day!

This was going to work.

From there, I expanded my little store and ended up with about five racks. (woo!)

My restlessness with being told what to do had reached boiling point when I was told I couldn’t expand my shop. I couldn’t build my empire with five racks!

So I by passed the landlord and went straight to the top- Westfield directly.

I asked if I could directly lease a permanent spot with them.

Ask and you shall receive! I had a one year lease and my own little space- no one could tell me what to do.

After a year in that space, I re signed for a permanent five year store, and this is where we are today.

With a team of five, the store runs itself right now, so we have decided to expand to another shopping centre in November.

Having a retail store takes up A LOT of time and unfortunately, the e commerce side of the business took a back seat while the money maker allowed us to grow.

I have now decided that the website needs to be the main focus of our future. We are truly an omnichannel brand and we have implemented systems that allows our stock to be updated across all channels.

We have recently started from scratch with our website as the old bug-ridden site finally crashed a few months ago.

In some ways, I feel like I’m right back where I started- learning how to market a website from scratch.

Except now, I have a tidy social media following, a few years of retail experience, a team behind me, a soon to be completed MBA and $$$ to invest in everything I couldn’t afford to do from the outset.

I have no idea if this is the way to do it- countless people have told me that shopping centres are dead, but I genuinely believe I wouldn’t be where I am today without that single rack at Westfield a few years ago.

So, I guess that’s how I started- not so much a story of crazy start up triumph, but one of consistent and slow growth, multiple setbacks and bad decision making and most of all, not waiting for opportunities to come knocking, but creating my own.

I never got around to creating the publication section of my website, partly due to the incompetence of my first web designer and partly because I didn’t actually know what to write. I probably didn’t know what to write because I hadn’t actually experienced anything past dirty uni parties and internship nightmares.

I am now three years deep into a business that I built from the ground up, and still have a lot of building to do.

How cool would it be to create the dialogue that I never did, but make it about empire building?

What went right, what went wrong (so much, dear Lord!) and what we need to do to achieve those lofty heights that we have set for ourselves.

Stay tuned, this is only the beginning.





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