How an Instagram influencer with under 10,000 followers booked $10,000 in brand deals last month thanks to short-form video

  • Khadijah Lacey-Taylor is a fashion influencer with about 9,800 followers on Instagram. 
  • After only one year of working part time as an influencer, she booked three deals worth five figures in one month for the first time in September.
  • Business Insider spoke with Lacey-Taylor about how she landed those paying brand deals as a "nano" influencer, what her pitching strategy looks like, and why she's leaning into short-form video content.
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One year into her part-time influencer career, Khadijah Lacey-Taylor inked three brand deals in last month that added up to $10,000 — with only about 9,800 followers on Instagram.

Her strategy? Create short-form video content for brands.

Of the three brand deals that Lacey-Taylor landed in September, each incorporated a 15- to 30-second video on Instagram. (Business Insider verified these sponsorships through screenshots of emails between Lacey-Taylor and the brands.)

This trio of deals for Lacey-Taylor is indicative of two trends happening in the influencer industry right now: brands increasingly looking to hire "nano" influencers (those with fewer than 10,000 followers) and the rise of short-form video on platforms like TikTok and Instagram.

Lacey-Taylor, who is based in Dallas, began working as a content creator in September 2019 and also has a full-time job as a boutique owner.

"I literally had no idea where to start," Lacey-Taylor said when recalling how she first decided to pursue an influencer career last year. But she realized she already had a professional photographer and videographer: her husband, and now business partner, Tamarco Taylor.

After a few months of actively posting on Instagram, she landed her first paid brand deal with Tampax in January when she had around 2,800 followers. 

But it wasn't until July of 2020 that her budding influencer career saw a big surge thanks to short-form video. Lacey-Taylor and her husband posted a 13-second, TikTok-style video on Instagram dancing and changing outfits to the song "Swag" by rapper YG. The video swiftly caught the attention of other accounts and several started reposting it.

Within days of her video going viral, she gained over 4,000 followers, and has continued to gain followers since.

"Before we went viral, I wasn't really pitching myself to a lot of brands," she said. And when she did occasionally pitch brands, she hadn't received many responses, she added.

But after growing her audience and recognizing the impact of short-form video, partnerships started picking up and she recalculated her strategy and rates. 

Here are her starting rates for Instagram posts:

  • Instagram in-feed video or Reel: $2,500 to $7,000
  • In-feed photo: $700 to $1,000

"Always aim high then work your way down," Tamarco Taylor said.

Taylor said that brands have offered $200 to $950 for video content, but he and Lacey-Taylor either negotiate for higher or politely decline because of how long the content takes to script, create, and edit. The two work full-time jobs and spend an additional 20 to 30 hours each week on pitching and creating content.

How Lacey-Taylor pivoted her strategy toward video when pitching brands

Recently, with the help of The Influencer League, an organization that teaches influencers how to grow and manage their businesses, Lacey-Taylor developed a new pitching strategy that emphasized her and her husband as a package deal, a couple that specializes in fashion video content on Instagram.

In an email to a potential brand partner, Lacey-Taylor introduces herself in the first paragraph, and immediately after, she includes links to her Instagram and specific content that has performed well. Then, she includes screenshots of her analytics and if she's already posted organic content about the brand, she'll highlight how those specific posts and their engagement metrics.

After she outlines the metrics and introduces herself, she dives into a pitch for a specific brand, offering video content that will live her feed and on Reels, Instagram's TikTok competitor, and on her feed. 

"Video is taking off, and as a videographer, we can produce high quality and engaging video," Taylor said. He films all of Lacey-Taylor's videos and stars in many of them.

Videos under 30 seconds perform best and are also the length that brands are asking for, Lacey-Taylor said. So far, videos that they post in-feed, rather than as a Reel, have been performing better.

This lockdown has had us looking raggedy for too long! So long to all those outfits we “saved” 😂🤦🏾‍♀️ We’re pulling them out for chick fil a runs and all. There are no rules at this point! We’re a couple who loves street style so we wanted to give you a look into how we do it! Comment if you 🤎 this video! Swag- @yg

A post shared bykhadijah | content creator (@miss.laceyyy) on Jul 19, 2020 at 9:18am PDT

Brands see potential in working with 'nano' influencers 

"Nano" influencers like Lacey-Taylor present a different opportunity for brands than social-media celebrities and mega influencers with millions of followers. 

"These are people who are actual consumers, they're actual shoppers, they're everyday people," Brian Freeman, the CEO of Heartbeat, previously told Business Insider. Heartbeat is an influencer-marketing platform that specializes in connecting brands with smaller creators.

Between May and July of 2020, nano influencers made up about 30% of brand collaborations on Instagram, according to data from Socialbakers, a social-media marketing company. And nano influencers often have higher engagement rates than their counterparts with hundreds of thousands or millions of followers.

For instance, fashion brands can expect an average engagement rate of 5.67% from nano influencers, higher than any other tier of influencer, according to a recent report from the influencer-marketing company Traackr. And Lacey-Taylor herself has an impressive engagement rate of 11.9%, according to data from the analytics company Social Blade.

This engagement has value for brands and it's been reflected in the deals some are being offered. While free gifts in exchange for promotion was previously what many brands offered nano influencers, paid brand deals are becoming a more realistic goal for many, like Lacey-Taylor, who can make thousands of dollars for branded content.

For more stories on how influencers earn money on Instagram, check out these Business Insider articles:

  • An Instagram 'nano' influencer started making money with fewer than 3,000 followers. Here's how much she charges for sponsored posts and how she lands brand deals.
  • 'Micro' and 'nano' Instagram influencers have proven effective for many marketers, but new data suggests only a small fraction of them are working with brands
  • Influencers explain the 9 best ways to make money on Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok — and how much they earn

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