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Cynthia Ruff, Founder of Hashtag Pay Me, on Nuanced and Fair Creator PricingoLeap Features

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Cynthia Ruff, Founder of Hashtag Pay Me, on Nuanced and Fair Creator Pricing

Brand deal pricing can be one of the trickiest parts of working with a brand. Many creators don’t know what to base their prices on, which is where the data-based platform Hashtag Pay Me comes in. Hashtag Pay Me is an unbiased platform that helps creators value and price their content based on multiple factors rather than audience size alone.

What is Hashtag Pay Me?

Cynthia Ruff, Founder of Hashtag Pay Me, shares that her company is “an unbiased platform to help influencers price their brand deals.”

The name, Hashtag Pay Me, was a running joke between Cynthia and her husband based on the Hashtag Pay Me SNL skit with Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake. 

“It [The name] was a funny way to say you were able to communicate your worth, and it was a good deal on both ends.”

Cynthia Ruff, Founder of Hashtag Pay Me, on Nuanced and Fair Creator Pricing

The Origins of Hashtag Pay Me

Cynthia Ruff graduated with a degree in Finance and has a background working in sales and HR compensation. In 2018, she worked as a creator full-time. 

“I had my own agency working on digital campaigns for brands and executed social media, did some influencer relations stuff, [and] went back for my MBA at Georgia Tech and started to really think about solving a problem based off of what customer needs are versus just creating a product.”

She notes that the idea for Hashtag Pay Me was conceived during her time as a creator when she noticed that a lot of pricing was based on word of mouth. Cynthia also has experience working in HR consulting, where they used market data to price employee salaries related to current employees’ corporate salaries. 

As a result of her background, Cynthia realized that there was a huge need in the creator economy for an unbiased influencer pricing platform that would help creators value their work. 

“I started seeing the same problem with influencers of pricing their work with some sort of data-backed approach instead of using other tools out there that continuously undervalue their work based off of just one metric.”

After graduating with her MBA in 2021, Cynthia completed a tech accelerator startup at Georgia Tech. 18 months later, Hashtag Pay Me soft-launched. Hashtag Pay Me is now planning several more tool launches this fall. 

Cynthia Ruff, Founder of Hashtag Pay Me, on Nuanced and Fair Creator Pricing

Fair Creator Pricing

During Cynthia’s time as a creator, she realized that many people price their brand deals based on a single measurement. 

“I never really felt good about the prices that I saw out there that people recommended for my rate of influence because it was very singularly focused, and so we took an approach of what is the worth of a person working a job and not a digital channel doing one post.”

This approach incorporates elements like the ROI of the brand deal, the reach of the channel, the work being put into the digital content, and much more, rather than just a follower count. 

“We don’t look at your creation as your ability to just reach an audience. We look at it based off of your skill and your time in the industry, and as we roll out new tools, it will be based on what brands you’re [already] working with and whether you’re working through an agency or not, and all these other factors that are compensable that most of the time they don’t look at.”

Cynthia shares that many creators don’t take these factors into consideration, which can lead to much lower rates than they should be charging for their brand deals. 

Hashtag Pay Me also estimates increased prices for cross-promotion, as well as multi-month campaigns, which will have a different rate than a one-off post. 

Cynthia Ruff, Founder of Hashtag Pay Me, on Nuanced and Fair Creator Pricing

Who Can Use Hashtag Pay Me?

Cynthia shares that Hashtag Pay Me is a completely free base rate calculator that anybody can use, including brands. 

“Our goal is, of course, to preserve the positive relationship between brand and influencer by having a transparent and open conversation about pay, where we allow people to go in and see where it’s acceptable to start charging for influencer campaigns.”

She adds, “I believe we help [to] start chipping away at that, like negative transparency or opaqueness and shrouded mystery on how pay is calculated for this world.”

Brands are even encouraged to use Hashtag Pay Me so that they can know how much to pay influencers. 

Hashtag Pay Me offers the Hashtag Pay Me Pledge for brands that have reached out to them. This pledge indicates that a brand has become more informed about the right benchmarks to base creator pay on, which is crucial because every industry and campaign has its own data and parameters for pricing influencer work. 

Cynthia Ruff, Founder of Hashtag Pay Me, on Nuanced and Fair Creator Pricing

The Future of the Creator Economy

Cynthia shares that the future of the creator economy will be fun and dynamic. She’s also excited to see creators pricing themselves more fairly based on their experience and data.

“It’s kind of like the corporate world. There’s entry-level jobs…as you climb the ranks as a creator or just a regular corporate employee, you’re going to continue to increase revenue, but it’s going to be more of an attainable bucketed metric. So, it’s like saying, “If I’m an expert in this field, like photography or videography, I can make more money. If I have more publications in my bio where I’ve been produced or had press features, I can make more money. It’s not always just related to reach.”

She adds, “You’re taking the stress off of creators to have a high reach to make high money because that’s not the indication at all based on the data we’ve seen.”

She shares that this can lead more micro and nano influencers to have thriving, sustainable careers online. 

In the future, she’d love to see creators take more control back and value their own work.

“Being able to value their worth based off of things that matter: your ability to create community, which doesn’t mean it has to be a large community, just means it has to be an engaged community, your ability to monetize off or your skill, your ability to monetize off of your experience, your ability to monetize off of your network.”

Cynthia notes that Hashtag Pay Me wants to empower more creators to rise from wherever they are currently. 

Cynthia Ruff, Founder of Hashtag Pay Me, on Nuanced and Fair Creator Pricing

Future Plans

“We are on a mission for influencers to become their own agent, so we are building our tools to help them understand their audience, understand how to communicate and streamline their communication with brands, being able to get brand deals at whatever stage you are.”

Cynthia shares that Hashtag Pay Me will never be a marketplace and doesn’t plan on ever connecting brands to influencers. Their primary goal is to provide influencers with tools and resources to find brand deals and effectively be their own agent, empowering them to negotiate fair rates for themselves. 

Hashtag Pay Me will be releasing more tools this fall to help creators do an audience deep dive and really understand what their audience is interested in related to brands, as well as tools that can help creators understand how to use affiliate marketing and monetization tools better. 

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Amy DeYoung is a freelance blog post writer covering influencer marketing and business topics. As the daughter of two business owners, she's been fascinated by all things business from a young age, which led her to graduate from college with a bachelor's degree in business. When she's not typing away, she spends her time reading nonfiction books and mystery novels, baking scrumptious desserts, and playing with her dog.

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