By now, FYPM’s origins are the stuff of creator legend. Lindsey Lee Lugrin, a former model and content creator with a master’s degree in finance, was elated to be paid $1,000 for a Marc by Marc Jacobs campaign back in 2015. But after seeing herself plastered all over the internet, she realized she’d maybe undervalued herself.
That experience led her to launch F*** You Pay Me in 2021. It’s a platform that allows influencers and creators to post and compare brand deals and their brand partnership experiences. (The platform is often referred to as the Glassdoor for creators.) She started out with 100 reviews, all from her personal network. Today, the site has over 18,000 reviews from 13,000 users, with more clamoring to get in — there’s a constant backlog of 500 users, all of whom have to be approved by either Lugrin or the company’s paid intern. “That’s why we’re building a product that can scale,” Lugrin says.
Lugrin and her team are in the process of rebuilding the FYPM site, so it can be of service to the whole creator ecosystem. That includes brands and agencies, as well as creators who are just starting out — after all, they’re the most likely to be underpaid, if they’re paid at all. FYPM is part of a larger labor movement sweeping the country, with creatives on the front lines calling for higher wages and more pay transparency.
Earlier this year, the company released “F*** you pay me… the right amount,” its first-ever creator pricing benchmark report. The goal was to identify industry standards and trends for compensation. Here, we chat with Lugrin about what she learned through the report, the creator economy gender gap, and what’s next for FYPM.
What have you learned in the two years since launching FYPM?
Everyone’s just trying to do their best working off of whatever information they have — and that includes brands. Most of the negative reviews of brands on our site reflect the normal growing pains that come with starting a company, and building a communications team or influencer marketing team. It still feels like there are literally no rules, so there’s so much trial and error involved. The brands with early bad reviews that learn from those experiences tend to do fine later on.
How has the way creators use FYPM changed over that time?
When we first launched, figuring out pricing for creators was like looking into a black box. So in the beginning, a lot of people used [the platform] just to figure out a baseline for compensation and what might be an appropriate rate for them for a given brand.
Now, people are using it to do their due diligence. You’ll get a message from a brand, and go to FYPM to check them out. Then you can decide whether to email them back, or just not bother.
Earlier this year, FYPM released its first creator pricing benchmark report. What was the goal of that report?
We analyzed 16,000 crowdsourced brand deal reviews on our site, and looked at pricing trends across different types of creators — those with different follower counts or working in different niches — and different brands. We wanted to come up with some kind of normalized standards in this space.
What did you learn putting together the report?
A lot. For instance, the highest paying brands, across the board, are Walmart, Adobe, Target, McDonald’s, and Nike, in that order. These brands pay the most relevant to their peers, even after controlling for follower count, deliverables, terms, and other key pricing variables. So no matter who you are, or where you’re at in your career, they’ll pay the best.
What about who pays the worst?
The lowest paying brands are Javy Coffee, NA-KD, Glamnetic, Fi [smart dog collar], and Marée. They typically don’t pay much at all, and a lot of them have bad brand scores on our website, too. They also do a lot of outreach, so it’s probably more likely you’ve gotten some inbound from these brands.
What about the report surprised you most?
I thought there would be a stronger correlation between receiving higher pay and having a positive experience with a brand, but that isn’t necessarily the case. The things that are tied to a positive experience are things that are typical to the traditional workforce, like communication (i.e. communicating deadlines and expectations), creative freedom, and autonomy. And being paid on time. That’s a big deal.
You’re currently working on the next iteration of FYPM. How will it be different?
Different brands have different budgets for different types of campaigns. For instance, their cash compensation range could be anywhere from $0 to $125,000. But we don’t currently have any way to communicate the context. So this next phase of the site is going to be about rebuilding it, so creators have exactly that: more context for each review.
I read that you’re also incorporating a resource center. What will that look like?
The resource center will be a part of the new Professional product, which is going to be like FYPM on steroids. Creators will be able to search for brands that might be a good fit — like those who are looking for influencers who match their profile, or who are doing promotions for products they’re interested in. And, if the brand has also joined FYPM Professional, creators will be able to find contact information for the right person at the brand to talk to.
Like Glassdoor meets LinkedIn?
I like to think of it more like Bloomberg Terminal. The FYPM Professional product is really meant for the whole influencer marketing ecosystem. What we’ve been doing until now has been for talent managers and experienced creators — one of the rules to join is that you have to review a brand you’ve worked with. That’s how we’ve been able to create such a robust database. But this next version will be for talent managers, brands, and influencer marketing agencies, as well as creators, including those who are just getting started and just need access to the information.
Is there a certain type of creator — industry, tier, niche — that tends to undervalue themselves more? Or be undervalued by brands?
It’s always new creators who haven’t been doing it very long. So, either young people, like Gen Z, or other people who are just getting started.
Say you’re a creator who’s just received a message from a brand. What are some red flags to watch out for?
Well, if they have bad reviews on FYPM, that’s a red flag. And there are brands that do a lot of spammy outreach, so if they’re not using your name or handle, and if the message is super generic — “Hi there! I really love your content, etc.” — that’s a red flag.
What about green flags?
It’s always a good sign if it’s easy to tell that they’ve looked at your page and understand what you blog about. And if it seems like they’re organized and have a built-out process and influencer program, that’s a green flag too.
How have brands reacted to FYPM?
Most brands have really embraced us. Our tagline for the new Professional product is “Transparency is professional.” We’re going to be encouraging brands to share the actual dollar amount of the budget they have behind each campaign they’re running. Then they’ll be able to show, using a toggle, how much of each budget has been committed — 20%, 80%, 100%. And if all the money is allocated, they can leave the campaign open for creators who really want to work with that brand, but at least they’ll go into that conversation knowing there’s no money left.
It’s reported that men are 60% more likely to be compensated in cash for their content, while women are more likely to receive free products. Where do you see the creator economy gender pay gap heading?
77% of influencers are women. And we know that unpaid women’s labor follows women, not industries — meaning it’s women who are undervalued, not the work. For instance, computer science started off as a woman’s job. It was tedious — you just sat there writing code. And then more men started getting into it, and it became a more respected career and it paid better.
We’re seeing something similar happen in influencer marketing. Influencer marketing has been around since the beginning of the internet, but the VC world sees it as brand new. And so they’ve given influencers a new name, “creators,” so men feel comfortable in the space. I’d like to reclaim the word influencer one day. There are a lot of things I want to do, and making “influencer” not a bad word is definitely one of them.
It’s been a tumultuous couple of years, economically. How is the creator economy doing? Where do you think it’s headed?
Our report showed that budget cuts didn’t hit the creator economy uniformly — Instagram macro-influencers took the brunt of the decline — but the median cost per brand deal was down 18% in 2023. The other thing we saw is that gifted collaborations were on the rise, after two years of decline.
Having said all that, I still think the creator economy’s going to explode. In times of economic uncertainty, especially, your personal brand online is everything. It’s something you build over time, and you can use it to change careers or launch a business. And as all the platforms keep competing for talent, creators have more choices in the direction they take their lives.
Where are you seeing the most exciting growth within the creator economy?
Well, the creator economy is powered by micro-influencers. The bulk of our $18 million brand deal database comes from creators with fewer than 50,000 followers. We also busted the myth that creator pricing boils down to dollar-per-follower. Pricing actually gets discounted as following size increases.
So follower count is becoming less and less relevant. It can’t really be used as a proxy to measure the level of influence a person has. We say it all the time, but someone with 50,000 highly engaged followers who talks about something no one else does online can be incredibly valuable to a brand. It’s almost like the value of your follower count is capped by your niche, and that’s something most people ignore when they talk about influencer marketing.
You’ve said that FYPM was birthed out of rage. What motivates you now?
I love helping people, and every day I get to wake up and help people. It’s amazing! I finally have meaningful work. I get thank you messages every single day. All I’ve ever wanted was to wake up and be excited about what I’m doing, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.
FYPM Professional is expected to launch by early 2024. Sign up at FYPM to be the first to know.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Photo: Courtesy of Lindsey Lee Lugrin