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5 YouTube talent managers share the secrets of what it's really like to work with influencers – from dealing with account hacks and breakups to finding an ostrich for a video

YouTube talent managers 2x1
  • Many YouTube creators have a talent manager who helps them secure major deals and diversify their online brands.
  • The life of a YouTube talent manager can be exciting, with red carpet events and fun projects.
  • It can also be a challenging gig, as "cancel culture" continues to grow and the latest crop of influencers gets younger in age. 
  • Business Insider spoke to five talent managers who work with YouTube creators across the lifestyle, gaming, beauty, and fashion verticals to learn what it's really like to manage influencers.
  • Click here for more BI Prime stories.
YouTube creators rule the influencer industry, some with millions of followers and lucrative six-figure brand deals.
And while many of these social stars are the face of their businesses, they aren't doing it alone.
Creators often have a talent manager who helps them secure major deals and diversify their online brands. Talent managers typically advise clients against promoting products that could damage their careers and help in operating companies and selling direct-to-consumer products.
The life of a YouTube talent manager can be exciting, with exclusive red carpet events and fun projects. It can also be a challenging gig, as "cancel culture" continues to grow and the latest crop of influencers gets younger in age.
Managers earn revenue by receiving a cut of the influencer's earnings, which typically ranges from 10 to 20%, depending on how much the manager does for the client, according to industry insiders.
Business Insider spoke to five talent managers who work with YouTube creators across the lifestyle, gaming, beauty, and fashion verticals to learn what it's really like to manage influencers. The talent managers, whose identity is known to Business Insider, shared their experiences anonymously so they would be able to speak more freely. But they weren't allowed to use this privilege to bash specific creators or companies.
The talent managers painted a picture of a job that often consumes their entire day, from chasing down their clients for a response to spending hours talking them through a sudden PR disaster. Some managers shared experiences when a brand didn't take their client seriously or tried to sneak in agreement terms on a contract.
"We end up becoming the talent's most trusted advisor," one manager said. "We get phone calls when talent are going through a breakup and we have to be the understanding shoulder to cry on, and that's not in the typical job description."
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Talent managers wear many different hats, from business partner to crisis manager

Talent managers are always putting on different hats, from negotiating brand deals, talking a client through a hard day, to managing a social-media crisis, according to the five talent managers Business Insider spoke with.
"There's scandals, people going on Twitter and PR disasters that you have to talk them through," one of the talent managers said. "I've had a couple of hacking scandals – that happens a lot where the account gets hacked into and they lose followers. I've had people hacking in and take nudes and leak nudes. I've had people take photos of underage clients at parties and take photos of them smoking weed and that's ruined brand deals for them. I've had parents steal money from clients before."
Many influencers skip college after rising to fame as a teenager in high school. Some of the internet's most popular influencers right now are Gen Z and millennial creators like 16-year-old TikTok star Charli D'Amelio or the 22-year-old YouTube celebrity MrBeast.
Some influencers "just don't do email" managers said and so they communicate with them mostly over text messages.
Talent managers sometimes act more like a parent to their clients, trying to squash certain developing traits that could damage a career.
"Sometimes they just need an adult to tell them 'don't react' and 'this will go away,'" one manager said. "And I've heard clients in passing say words that aren't OK, and I turn and say 'that word needs to be out of your vocabulary.'"
Talent managers live in fear of the next "dramageddon," or of waking up to a Twitter scandal that involves their client. Unless the talent is David Dobrik or Emma Chamberlain-level famous, they usually don't have a publicist who would normally step in to clean up the mess.
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An honest 'day in the life' of a YouTube manager

Between hours spent on the phone or on email, to attending events like VidCon, Playlist Live, or a movie premiere beside a client, no day looks the same for a talent manager.
They sometimes field odd requests. One manager had to get an ostrich for a client for a video, and another had to get a tarantula and a snake.
"I wake up and look at my phone every morning to figure out where the day is going to take me," one manager said. "There's no real break from any of it. Therefore, you as a manager don't have a break from your job."
YouTube creators are often active across all major social-media platforms, like instantaneously uploading clips of their day to Instagram Stories and engaging with their audience on Twitter.
"Vloggers are so stressful because every day they are trying to upload and if something like a brand deal is delayed that throws off their whole 'posting streak' and they get all flustered," one manager said.
There's dozens of pieces of content that a single creator shares every day, all of it linking back to their personal brand and larger business.
"Schedule-wise it's insane because you always have to be strategizing, thinking about what you need to do next and keeping track of your client," one manager said. "Keeping track of their videos and social-media platforms to ensure that there's nothing incriminating on social media and making sure that they don't say anything that's offensive."
There's a lot of pre-planning that goes into big events months prior, which can sometimes roll over to the weekend, especially if a manager is chasing down a client or brand when securing a major opportunity.
"In a way you are like a guidance counselor, making sure their career trajectory is where they want it to be," one manager said. "When everything goes right, you don't hear anything. But when something goes wrong, especially for some of the talent who've had all this control, they can flip out."
Other times the job is exciting, like when a manager works in tandem with their client toward a goal.
"It's fun to build something together that you are fully invested in," one manager said. "It also is fun that your clients are happy to take meetings in pajamas sometimes. It's informal sometimes and that can be very appealing as a manager."

'These are people who have done it all, for the most part, themselves and so they often don't understand the value of a team'

For a lot of social-media creators whose career launches from videos filmed in their childhood bedrooms, being an influencer is their first, and maybe only job.
"These are people who have done it all, for the most part, themselves, and so they often don't understand the value of a team," one manager said. "They don't understand why they can't do certain things, especially ones who have been on YouTube early when there were no rules."
This could be the first time they've heard "no" when it comes to the business they've built, or they may need certain business-related things that seem obvious to others explained to them.
"A part of the job is educating your clients on how the actual world works and how business works," one manager said. "I can't blame them, because they have sort of gone against the rules. They have built businesses out of nowhere, so they are not always entirely wrong. The problem is, is that building your own business has a limit to it, at some point to scale everyone needs the help of others."
The biggest challenge? Convincing talent to start delegating tasks, instead of doing it all on their own, the managers said.
Some of YouTube's most successful creators, like MrBeast, David Dobrik, or Shane Dawson, have an entire team of people, from an assistant to a video editor to help with the production.
The managers said editing is the "biggest time suck" for their YouTube clients, but influencers are often hesitant on hiring someone to take over.
"It's also about getting them to really invest in hiring the right people, instead of random people that aren't so reliable," one manager said. "Once they start hiring editors and building out a team it's like 'Hey, do you have NDAs and work-for-hire agreements with these people?'"
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The art of negotiating a deal

In the influencer industry, brand deals and long-term partnerships have long been a lucrative revenue stream for a creator (before advertisers began to slice budgets due to the coronavirus pandemic), and one of the main ways a manager gets paid.
"Percentages on management commissions have changed," one manager said. "Traditionally speaking, managers are paid 10%, but when it comes to digital you're seeing 15 to 25%."
An influencer-marketing campaign is when a creator promotes a brand or product in exchange for compensation.
"You are the one working with the brand and the attorney to close that deal," one manager said. "A lot of brands, especially when I am working with the international ones, sneak details in there after the fact and after you negotiate the deal points. That's why it's always good to have an attorney to help catch those details."
For a single deal, a manager's time is spent strategizing, talking to talent, to the brand, and throughout, making sure talent is on top of their deadline.
It's not always comfortable.
"One of my clients promoted a big movie that came out, but then we were sort of treated like kids around the premiere to make sure we didn't get into trouble," one manager said. "And these are with some of my larger clients who don't need to be babysat. If one of my clients is doing a video where they are playing a video game with an [athlete], it's going to be my client who draws all of the viewership and actually drives all of the traffic, but the athlete or the celebrity or whoever will often get a lot of the budget and then we will get the scraps."
The managers said they keep a sharp eye on the agreement terms, so that the client is protected from the brand potentially repurposing and reusing the content again without payment. If something is missing from the sponsored content after it's posted (like a certain hashtag or link) the brand will typically ask the talent to post it a second time, this time without payment, which managers shared can be hard to get a creator to do. 
"You need to have a ton of patience and an extreme amount of attention to detail," one manager said. 
woman using computer at home

What a manager looks for in a client, and the traits that turn them away 

Signing with the right talent manager can help take an influencer's business to the next level.
Some seasoned managers have longstanding relationships with major brands and companies in the DTC space that can quickly help expand a business.
For the manager, signing a new client is hopefully the start of a long-term relationship. Managers usually stay with their clients for several years, or even throughout their whole career, so it's important to be a good fit.
"I definitely want them to have some level of good values," one manager said. "But mostly I look for people that are doing it for the right reasons: They have talent and they enjoy making content. I definitely don't want anyone who just wants to be famous or is doing it because of the money. The money side has to be second."
Some managers have had poor experiences with a client, and in a worst-case scenario, the partnership comes to a close.
"I have had bad experiences, and a lot of it was due to the influences around them," one manager said. "I definitely have had people that were jealous, like other creators who were jealous of my client's success come and try to infiltrate, and I've had an experience with an agency where I've brought a client over there and they basically stole the client."
Through it all, working alongside influencers on YouTube to help them turn their wildest dreams into a reality can be fun and exciting, the managers said. But it's a job that you have to be "100% passionate about."
"For the most part it's a thankless job," one manager said. "I think the one thing to remember is that your job is in service to them, and especially when managers and others have their own success, you often can want some of the shine for yourself."
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For more on the business of influencers, check out these Business Insider Prime posts: 
  • The top 14 talent managers for YouTube creators and influencers who are shaping the future of digital media: We highlighted the 14 power players of talent management, based on who is successfully assisting creators in their digital businesses.
  • YouTube star Tana Mongeau's manager explains how they've built a money-making business despite controversy, including $40,000 from T-shirts of her mug shot: Mongeau's talent manager Jordan Worona spoke with Business Insider about the business behind controversial content on YouTube.
  • The top 14 PR pros and publicists for YouTube creators, Instagram influencers, and other digital stars: These are  the leading PR agents in the influencer and creator industry, who stand out in how they respond to news events and help clients jump on social trends.
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