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Influencers want pay equity. But what about their kids?

There’s one creator-economy group that has, perhaps, been left out of the equal-pay conversation: kids.
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Illustration: Dianna “Mick” McDougall; Photos: Instagram/@kylamariecharles, @payalforstyle, @theautismdiva

· 6 min read

We don’t need to say it, but we will: Pay equity in influencer marketing has been a particularly hot topic lately.

A December 2021 report found that, on average, Black influencers earn 35% less than their white counterparts. Other findings indicate that male influencers make more money per post than women influencers do—despite only 15% of 2021 influencer deals belonging to men.

But there’s one creator-economy group that has, perhaps, been left out of the compensation conversation: kids.

They’re posing for sponsored Instagram pics, too. The Motherhood, an influencer marketing agency that partly specializes in parenting influencers, recently shared with us that it surveyed 359 influencers in its network, and 97% said they include their children in sponsored content.

But how often are those kids paid for their work? According to The Motherhood’s survey, 53% of parent-fluencers don’t charge an added fee when including their children in content, whereas 47% do.

When it comes to child influencers, few regulations or laws exist, leaving it mostly up to parents to determine if and how their children get paid for appearing in sponsored posts. “Kidfluencers do not have the same protections as youth employed as actors or performers, and they have no legal rights to the earnings of their family business,” Qianna Smith Bruneteau, founder and executive director of the trade group the American Influencer Council (AIC), told Marketing Brew.

Legislation like California’s Coogan Act protects kids in the entertainment industry by ensuring that they receive at least 15% of their earnings, but nothing similar exists for kidfluencers.

“There’s so many different ways that we have seen this handled,” Cooper Munroe, CEO of The Motherhood, told Marketing Brew, adding that decisions about how to charge brands for posts featuring kids are highly individual and different for every family. “But it feels like for most people, it’s very much top of mind. It’s something that they really are thinking through, that they care about, that is a priority to figure out.”

Marketing Brew spoke with three influencers who each approach payment differently when their kids are included in sponsored content. But experts argue that perhaps brands should be thinking about this question just as much as the influencers.

To ask for extra cash?

Payal Desai is an influencer who has done brand deals that involve her two children. She told us that when she first started doing influencer deals, she didn’t charge extra for social media content including her kids.

“I’ll be honest, initially when I got into this space—because I just really wanted to build my resume and my profile—I was accepting anything…It still had to be equitable pay for the time that we were putting in, but I didn’t have the thought of charging more for my child,” Desai said.

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But that’s changed as her account has grown. About two months ago, Desai updated her rate sheet. There’s now one rate for how much she charges for solo shoots and a different, higher “family” rate she charges when including her children. As of now, she charges an extra $100 for the family rate, but Desai told us she knows influencers who charge a lot more than that.

That extra $100 isn’t set in stone, though: Desai said there’s room for negotiation and that brands are generally willing to meet her somewhere in the middle. In the two months since she updated her rate sheet, Desai said only one brand, Seed Probiotics, met the $100 asking price in full.

Desai told us she puts the extra money she charges for her children in their bank accounts. “I think it’s important to make sure that they’re compensated, because they’re essentially working as well,” she explained.

Munroe said “if your kid is front and center, and they’re doing a lot of the heavy lifting in this content,” then asking for extra compensation is “the right thing to do.” However, she emphasized that it’s a very individual decision for each family, noting that she didn’t want to be prescriptive.

Or to hold off?

Kyle Charles, a “mom lifestyle” influencer, said she does not charge brands extra for social media content featuring her children. “I keep my rate the same throughout because I base my rate off of my analytics,” she explained. Charles, who has four children, said she puts 10% of her influencer income into her kids’ savings accounts.

But she added that she does charge brands an added fee for licensing any photos with her children in them. That fee wouldn’t necessarily apply for photos of herself alone, she said. “A lot of times they’ll ask for photo rights for free, lumped in. … I make sure to charge for the image rights,” she said, adding that she’d prefer not to have other companies profiting off images of her children for free.

Stephanie Gilbert, a creator who includes her kids in influencer content, also told us she does not request additional payment from brands when her children are in the content. When brands offer to pay her for social media posts including her children, Gilbert suggested that she doesn’t see the stated rates as negotiable, saying “this is the rate they’re paying, and you either accept it or you don’t.”

“My son has autism, so [we] probably don’t always get the payments that some of the other influencers look to get,” Gilbert said, explaining that her son often plays with toys that don’t match his age, which could impact how brands determine payment when striking deals.

But perhaps these decisions shouldn’t be in the hands of the influencers alone. “Kidfluencers deserve the same safeguards as child entertainers,” Bruneteau said, saying she’s “a big advocate” of the Coogan Law. For kidfluencers, “work permits could be a viable solution” to the equal payment problem, she said, noting that New York State currently issues child performer work permits.

“I think brands need to be very cognizant of their rates for influencers, and how much they’re budgeting for these things, factoring in all of this [and thinking], ‘Not only am I working with the influencer, I’m working with her child too,’” Deanna Tomaselli, VP of client services at The Motherhood, told us, specifying that brands should consider extending their budgets to factor in kids.

“These families are taking time to shoot the content. Maybe they had to take time off from going to soccer practice that day to shoot something,” Tomaselli continued. “I know that brands are spending more on influencer marketing this year, more than ever, so I think they need to factor that in and make smart decisions on the budget that includes children.”

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