One of the most common pieces of advice offered to new content creators is not to do it for the money. Getting to the point of making any decent cash takes a long time for the majority of up-and-comers, and if money is all that’s on your mind - instead of passion and the joy of creation - you’ll soon burn out.
All that said, if it’s your dream to do this full-time you need to make money at some point, and you may not need to be quite as big as you think in order to land your first financial opportunities. But you need to be aware of them, and of how to make them happen. That’s what this article is about, and in addition to the advice of our content creator community right here on Just About, it’s supercharged with the wisdom of the major creators we hosted at the Just About Creator Collab at EGX earlier this month, where we held a panel on monetisation tips and how you can take those first steps into earning money. We’ll start by talking about brand deals.
How to land your first brand deal
Speaking on our panel about creator monetisation at the Creator Collab, Josh Rhodes, senior influencer relations manager at the legendary UK games studio Creative Assembly, explained how brands scout for creators to work with. Initially, they will look at their competitors - devs who are making similar games, for example - find the creators who are making content in that space, and build a list from there. Make content for the games you love and you’ll have a better chance of getting scouted to work on similar ones, in other words.
What puts you at the top of these lists? Rhodes says he, and others in his role, are looking at “your most-viewed content, and also consistency - frequency of uploads, tone, brand safety, and views over the last 30 days."
While Creative Assembly is big enough to have its own in-house influencer team, many game devs will rely on agencies to match them with suitable creators. Anthony Pakrosnis, director of creator services at the marketing agency Fourth Floor Creative, explains the process:
“Agencies like Fourth Floor have relationships with publishers and brands, and can access audiences - their job is to match needs. It’s a competitive space, but as a growth sector the opportunities are continuing to expand.”
Agencies will be looking for similar traits as in-house teams like Rhodes - scale, commitment, and brand safety - but they could be your gateway to several of their clients. It’s just about whether there’s a fit in terms of the audience you can bring and the brand you represent, so develop and understand them both. If you make strategy gaming content and you reach out to a studio or an agency that mostly works on shooters, you’re probably wasting your time (and looking a bit silly).
Alongside registering with an agency, Pakrosnis suggests networking as a way to get your foot in the door. The games industry is “quite social and connected”, so “networks are powerful”. Go to events - like our Creator Collab - talk to fellow creators, as well as folks like Rhodes and Pakrosnis who are working in the space. If you have friends also creating content, chat with them about their experiences so far. They may have been contacted about an opportunity that you’d be a better fit for and would be able to put you in touch, for example.
Our panel host, the influencer to the influencers Rob Ryan, also suggested focusing on smaller games first, especially in the world of mobile gaming. The big publishers and platform holders - Ubisoft, EA, Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo, etc - will already have a huge network of creators they can reach out to, so to get some experience and build up to that level, have a look at the app store to see what’s new and who might have the budget available. Any deals that come from this may not bring in the big bucks, but they will give you experience negotiating with brands, will add to your portfolio, and will let you demonstrate in future conversations that you’ve done a deal and delivered it like a professional.
How to negotiate
It’s difficult to know exactly how much you’re worth as a creator, especially if you’re new to this world, but you don’t want to undersell yourself. Rhodes ties this back to the advice about signing up with an agency because they can help determine your value to brands, while also having the incentive to drive viewership.
“The biggest pitfall influencers fall into is treating themselves as a one-time employee rather than a business. You’re selling yourself, your brand, and your community - talk about appeal, brand safety, who your community is. Why would a brand want to talk to your audience? Show your value and you’ll improve your negotiating position.”
One way of showing you have value is if you have a Patreon, as brands will see this as “proof you’re already providing monetizable value to an audience and operating like a business.”
Ryan has a solid, specific tip: consider asking for a “virality clause” in your deal. This is essentially an additional fee if you manage to hit a certain number of views within a specific timeframe. It’s usually offered in exchange for a smaller fee up front, but that might be enough to lock down a deal that otherwise wouldn’t happen, and in any case the idea is to think long-term: get your foot in the door and show the brand that you’re serious about delivering for them. Even as a small creator this is worthwhile; it may not be enough views to be strictly considered 'viral’, but since “there are only so many spots or so much budget for a campaign, you should put your best foot forward when you can.”
Once you’ve landed that first brand deal, you need to “build trust and look to be long-term and strategic”, according to Pakrosnis. Keep up with the publisher’s release schedule and reach out whenever anything else you’re interested in is coming out. Rhodes recommends you have a direct line to the influencer manager, ideally via Discord for quick communication - a good way to open one up is to ask for feedback once your initial campaign is done (feedback has obvious intrinsic purposes in helping you to improve, too). If you can keep the communication rolling, they’ll be more likely to add you to their influencer programme. If you enjoyed the game itself, producing additional content that isn’t tied to the brand deal can help secure repeat work.
Relationships are everything. If your contact at a brand or publisher moves companies, they will often look to bring their existing connections with them. Become known as reliable, professional, and personable - hit your deadlines, deliver what you promise, and reply to communications promptly and courteously.
Affiliate marketing and creator programmes
@MURRRAAAAY suggests anyone, no matter how small, should get involved in affiliate marketing, which is essentially when you earn a small share of the sale price from a product or sevice you’re partnered with. Alternatively, you may have a discount code that your audience can use on specific sites and products. There are plenty of schemes out there you can join, like Amazon’s Affiliate Program. While they will rarely bring in much, it’s a nice additional top-up whenever your discount gets used.
And finally, Rhodes and Pakrosnis both explain creator programmes allow you to learn more about your craft, network, and earn money, usually for a specific length of time. They can be immensely helpful in meeting like-minded creators, granting access to games early, and topping up your income, but you must work hard to maximise your opportunity within them because the more you put in, the more you’ll get from it. Rhodes cautions that they’re not sustainable for the long term, though, so you’ll want to add other strings to your bow.
Do you have any additional tips? We may look to update this guide in the future, so keep them stored somewhere helpful or comment below, then remember to enter any future bounties we run on the same topic! Make sure you also check out our other article on discoverability tips for content creators, which was produced off the back of another one of our creator collab panels at EGX 2023.