What you need to know
More than 50 million people worldwide class themselves as creators, with the creator economy growing exponentially. The potential of overnight fame and associated fortunes lures people in every day to set up a YouTube channel, open a TikTok account, or transform their Instagram profile into something more substantial and professionalized.
Most of those 50 million creators will try but struggle to make it big. However, two million of them are professional creators who make their living from their content on platforms.
Jumping from being one of the masses of amateurs into a professional creator isn’t as simple as flicking a switch. The lines between creating content as a hobby and doing it for a living become blurred – and it can be difficult to understand when you need to begin thinking more formally about everything from taxes to legal issues to managers and agents.
But when should you look for representation, and what should you be looking for?
Look for “somebody who can actively help you build your brand, and not just act as someone perfunctory who negotiates incoming opportunities and takes a fee.”Gil Kruger
When the inbox starts overflowing
“One school of thought is to look for a manager when you can't handle your inbox anymore,” says Gil Kruger, whose decade-long career in the creator space includes being co-producer of Camp Takota, Grace Helbig, Hannah Hart and Mamrie Hart’s feature film, and director of creator partnerships and success at Clash App. When creators reach a critical mass of followers, they begin attracting attention from brands offering sponsorship opportunities that can flood your inbox. “Oftentimes, the creators that reply to briefs soonest are the ones who get the jobs,” says Kruger. “Bringing on a manager to help manage your incoming can help you land more sponsorships.”
Managers can also help with outbound opportunities – where creators pitch brands on their suitability for a partnership, rather than waiting for brands to pitch them. “Hiring a manager with existing brand relationships who can pitch on your behalf can save you a lot of time and frustration, letting you focus on making great content,” says Kruger.
Finding the right person
Not all managers or agents are created equal, and the creator space has historically had more than its fair share of bad apples. In part, that’s due to the meteoric rise of the creator economy and the money that’s flowed into it. For every good manager wanting to do right by their talent, there are plenty of people looking to get rich quick.
Who you need to hire is the first question once you’ve realized you’ve gotten to a point of needing help. “An agent's job is solely to sell, move fast and bring really great deals,” says Kevin Herrera, co-founder and CEO of TheMachine, a creator management company. “A manager's job is to manage a team, help build it out and protect the creator,” he adds. “And a lawyer’s job is to handle the legal stuff.”
Creators can pick from all or none of those, depending on where their weaknesses are. “It could be as simple as lawyer to like handle deals, but that could end up getting expensive,” says Herrera. Managers can handle the whole communications process from start to finish – and agents can support them by bringing in new business.
Some agents, managers and lawyers will work on a per-job basis, allowing you to bring in people for particularly tricky conversations or when you’re feeling that the strain of running your business is getting in the way of creating content. But many will sign long-term deals.
What to look for
There are plenty of people out there who profess to be able to do the job, making a creator’s life difficult. You want to look for “somebody that represents creators in your category, ideally people who are further along than you that you want to emulate,” says Kruger. “Somebody that has brand relationships that make sense for your audience.” Both of those can be achieved by asking fellow creators who they work with and for their experiences of dealing with them.
Word of mouth goes a long way in helping weed out representatives that have a creator’s best interests at heart from those that don’t. Likewise, Kruger says you should look for “somebody who can actively help you build your brand, and not just act as someone perfunctory who negotiates incoming opportunities and takes a fee.” Talking to them about what they get out of your business relationship – as well as what you do – is one way to figure out if they’re invested in your success as much as you are.
Likewise, don’t be afraid to ask people pitching to act on your behalf what exactly they’d do. “I would have the other side explain things in a very clear, bullet-pointed way of what the business side is doing,” says Herrera. Establishing goals and the division of labor early on means that a creator can be clear about what they need to keep an eye on – and more importantly, what they don’t – and ensures that nothing falls between the gaps because the other side thinks someone else is handling it.
Ultimately, you have to empathize with the person you’re getting to represent you, and they have to do the same. There shouldn’t be any trouble in contacting each other, and negotiations should happen from an open place. “Communication shouldn't be something that anyone is hiding,” he advises. “I've seen that be bad in the past, with representatives hiding things. If there's ever any hiding, or you ever feel weird about a relationship with a representative, trust the gut is what I'd say.”
By weighing up carefully whether you need representation - then asking the right questions of those seeking to represent you - it’s possible to keep building your business as a content creator with less stress and hassle.