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Johanna B. Voss: Influencer Talent Manager

Curious about what an influencer talent manager actually does, or what it’s like as a brand to work with a manager or agent? In this Art of Sway episode, we set out to de-mystify the influencer management space with Johanna B. Voss, a talent agent who represents female multicultural influencers.

Johanna B. Voss is an influencer talent manager specializing in representing a variety of female multicultural micro-influencers who have an individual reach of hundreds of thousands and exhibit high levels of engagement on their social media platforms. On behalf of her clients, she’s closed over $4 million of brand deals, partnerships, and speaking engagements. Her clients have partnered with brands such as Kroger, Walmart, AARP, Little Northern Bakehouse, H&R Block, and Aldi.

What you’ll learn in this episode:

  • Why brands REALLY hire talent (hint: it’s not because of the manager)
  • How talent managers make their money — and why that’s good news for both influencers & brands
  • The talent manager’s superpower: building relationships
  • What brands should do if an influencer talent manager asks for too much $$$
  • When it’s officially time for brands to go over the manager’s head

Episode 22: Johanna B. Voss Transcript

Danielle Wiley: Welcome to The Art of Sway. This is a podcast that brings you inside the world of marketing through the lens of influence. I’m your host, Danielle Wiley. Each week through candid conversations with industry insiders, we will uncover how influencer marketing is making an impact across all consumer buying habits and is changing the way we talk to each other. Let’s dive in.

Danielle Wiley: Johanna B. Voss is a talent manager trusted by social media influencers who want clarity on how to build their brands, grow their businesses, earn their worth and plan strategically for the future. On behalf of her clients, she’s closed over $4 million of brand deals, partnerships, and speaking engagements. Her clients have partnered with brands such as Kroger, Walmart, AARP, Little Northern Bakehouse, H&R Block, and Aldi negotiation is something she thoroughly enjoys, be it for her client’s friends, or with strangers entering her 13th year of working for herself. She understands all about the necessary pivots. Entrepreneurs take along their journey. Prior to her work in the talent management space, Johanna worked on the presidential campaigns of Hillary Clinton and John Carey for more than seven years.

Danielle Wiley: Wow. This conversation was just such a delight. Johanna is a talent manager who we work with quite frequently here at Sway Group, and she joined me for a super honest conversation about the management space in general, how to deal with the bad players out there, and even gave some tips for maximizing your relationships with talent managers. Please enjoy.

Danielle Wiley: Well, hi, Johanna. It is so great to have you on. I’m very excited for our conversation today.

Johanna B. Voss: Yeah, me too. Thank you so much for having me. I’m jazzed to be here and just talk about all the things that we’re going to talk about. I feel like there’s such a thirst for it, so I’m excited to… I appreciate the opportunity.

Danielle Wiley: Yeah. Yeah, so you are a talent manager, which is a job category that we have not yet spoken to on the podcast. So why don’t we just get started. I’d love to hear, and I’m sure our listeners would love to hear, just your journey and how you came to be doing what you’re doing today.

Johanna Voss: Yes, I’m a talent manager. All my clients are women. They are all social media influencers and also moonlighted book authors and speakers and workshop presenters and TV media personalities. I do all the brand negotiations and also stay in the project management space. So once something has happened, I kind of help see them through to the end. I have been working for myself since January of 2011, which feels like 27 lifetimes ago.

Danielle Wiley: Yeah, that’s the same year that we launched Sway Group.

Johanna B. Voss: Oh, yeah. So you’ve lived 12 lives basically since then.

Danielle Wiley: Exactly.

Johanna B. Voss: Yes. As I’m sure you can relate, every good entrepreneur, I’ve had multiple pivots. I’ve had two pivots, two key pivots that. When I launched my business, I was living in Barcelona, Spain. I had just come off of a year of backpacking around the world, which is a whole nother podcast for another day. But one of the coolest things ever done. I was like, “Okay, money’s been going out. I need money to come back in. I want to be a contributing member of society.” And so I became a nutrition coach. I run a lot of half-marathons. I’ve always been super healthy food, food, just like… I don’t want to say food focused, but just very healthy. Always making healthy choices.

Danielle Wiley: Yeah, yeah.

Johanna B. Voss: So I became a nutrition coach for women who were doing half-marathons and mini-tri’s, like shorter distance triathlons, helping them with their nutrition plan to support that kind of training.

Johanna B. Voss: Loved it. Absolutely loved it. On Saturdays in Barcelona would go to my friend’s house with better Wi-Fi than I did because my Wi-Fi would just cut out all the time. And I would line up on my clients and I would just sit there and have my coaching sessions on Skype, which is crazy because we didn’t have FaceTime and iPhones and stuff. That was how I launched my business. Did not intend to be an entrepreneur. It was more just I was teaching English, which I hated. I needed something more sustainable for me.

Johanna B. Voss: Did that for a few years. And then in some point in the duration of that, I had been part of some different business coaching groups and marketing groups. It seemed like back then there wasn’t a ton. Now you can’t walk two feet and without tripping over 27 kinds of coaches.

Danielle Wiley: So more of a mastermind group type of a thing or-

Johanna B. Voss: Yeah, it was kind of like a mastermindy for entrepreneurs and business focused. I feel like now they’re a lot more flushed out and probably way more effective now because-

Danielle Wiley: And more expensive. I’m in a CEO advisory group and it’s not cheap.

Johanna B. Voss: Not the cheapest thing, yes.

Danielle Wiley: And it’s invaluable, but-

Johanna B. Voss: It is.

Danielle Wiley: It’s an investment.

Johanna B. Voss: It is. And so anyhow, so in the midst of… I would create courses and I would launch things and I would mean just figure it out on the fly. I do not have a marketing degree. It was just basic common sense. And I don’t know. I like being in the business, I’m super organized and I worked on campaigns for eight years. So it’s very time management and project management and working backwards from a plan. And like, “Okay, this is our goal. We need X amount of people on election need to vote.” So you just kind of work backwards and you’re constantly changing the plan. So I just basically took that skillset to my business and I would make courses and launch courses and create sales pages and all that sort of stuff. And people just started asking me like, “Oh, I see you did that. Can you help me with mine?”

Johanna B. Voss: And so I just started saying yes to all of these requests. It happened over a couple of years. And it would go from like, “Hey, can you just take a look at something?” And then it would be, “Hey, can I hire you for a week or a day just to talk me through all the stuff?” And then it was like, “Hey, can you come behind the scenes with us for a month just behind our business as we launch and just help us launch?” And so I had this epiphany one day when I was like… Because I always said yes, and I always got paid and I just did it for fun on the side. And it made me realize that most people who start their business don’t want to do the business side of it. They just want to do the art or the service, the creation.

Danielle Wiley: You have this and I talk about this a lot. I had the idea for Sway, and I love what we do. But then you start it and all of a sudden you need insurance, and you have to be looking at P&L and figuring out if you’re running on a cash or a accrual basis. And there’s like all this super, super not sexy stuff that you never think about when you’re dreaming of what your business.

Johanna B. Voss: I just want to coach people, or I just want to do nutrition plans. I don’t want to figure out the marketing and running the business. And I really like that and I’m really good at it. And so long story longer that became, I had this moment where I was like, “Huh, what if I tell people I do that.” I lead with that as my business because I was doing both. But if you met me, then I only talked about nutrition. So I flipped my website. Literally, nothing changed because I was actually making more money with this operation stuff. And so then that became my first pivot, and I just leaned into doing operations and strategy, basically became a outsource COO on retainer for a number of different small companies. And created this strategy session, which was a two-day dive into someone’s business who didn’t want to hire… They weren’t looking to hire someone, but they were just give me a plan.

Johanna B. Voss: I’ve created business, I’ve been successful. It’s plateaued. For whatever reason, life, that’s just where you’re at in business. And now someone’s ready to grow. So I would come in and pick apart the whole business. Okay, what do you do? How do you make money? How’s this work? What are your offerings that are most requested? Give the person a plan and then leave. And this woman, Lorraine Ladish hired me to do this in Florida in 2017. She’s an influencer. And it was my first real introduction to the world of influencer stuff. I have been kind of doing, what am I see operations clients I have been, you did a bunch of keynote stuff. So I would handle it for her. And I didn’t even realize that was kind of what I talent manager stuff does.

Johanna B. Voss: So anyhow, so Lorraine hired me, brought me down. We had a session. It was amazing. We just got along a house on fire, super fun. There were two partnerships that reached out when I was down there. And she was like, “Pretend like you’re my manager.” So I was like, “Okay.” Literally. I’m like, “Okay, well we just did your rate. So they want this, so it’s this, they want this.” And I just kind of did the math and I’m like, “Oh, they want it next week for Mother’s Day. That’s a quick turn. So we should probably charge them more money because I think that’s what people do.” I asked for, let’s just say it was like $3,500. She would’ve asked for 800. So it basically was having this heart attack of like, “Oh my God, you asked for this much money.” And then they emailed back, no issue within right away.

Johanna B. Voss: And we’re like, “Okay, that’s fine.” So then she had another heart attack to be like, “Oh my God. They said yes.” And I’m thinking, “Oh, this is so easy. This is so fun, just doing this.” So I left to come back to Colorado and she asked me to be her manager. And truthfully, I didn’t really know what it meant. I just said yes on pure gut instinct because I was like, “I love figuring stuff out. I love new stuff. This was fun. I really enjoyed hanging out with her just like we got along really well and she’s Spanish, I speak Spanish. We have that connection.” And I just said, “Yes.” And I was like, “We’ll figure this out.” And so again, now I’m doing operations with her on the side. She is very open about her life, and so would share about me to her community, which at that point was mostly Facebook and a little bit of Instagram photos.

Johanna B. Voss: And most, she had I think 19,000 followers or something, and was basically a six-figure business. And at that point there were mostly talent managers. The culture seemed to be around, if you’re a big YouTube star, if you were just a person, one person who just did stuff on Instagram and some blog content people didn’t really know that you could have a talent manager. It wasn’t really as big of a thing as it is now. So word of mouth through her led me basically to all my other clients. Literally, there’s just a trail of breadcrumbs led me to Jeanette, led me to Yvette. Laura knows her. Ali knew her. It was like I met Ali at a conference. I mean, it seemed random, but now I completely know. It’s just breadcrumbs in the universe very clearly was like, this is what you need to do.

Johanna B. Voss: And I’m like, this is it. All those pivots and journey, I’m like, “This is what I’m supposed to be doing, and I love it.” So I was doing that on the side. Again, if you met me, I never talked about it. And then one day I was like, “This is so fun. I love these women. We’re just having a great time.” And so I thought, what if I just flip? And I actually quit doing all my operation stuff. And I just thought, let me lean in 100% to doing talent management. I love betting on myself. I can figure it out. And I haven’t looked back. And it’s been the best thing ever for work.

Danielle Wiley: And are you a one woman show, or do you have people assisting you? It’s just you.

Johanna B. Voss: One woman show. I have a couple of people that I hire for project work to create me graphic designs for a quarter of content. But no, I’m a one-woman show. It’s just me. I have no assistants. I don’t desire to hire any other talent managers. I don’t want to grow my agency so big that I need other staff to support.

Danielle Wiley: And how many creators are you working with now?

Johanna B. Voss: I have seven right now that I’m working with.

Danielle Wiley: Okay. Yeah, because it’s a lot. I mean, we actually started our business with a similar model where we had a bunch of people who were started with 25 who were exclusive to us because of the needs of our clients. And similar to you, we kind of stayed involved throughout the whole process to make sure that the content was where it needed to be. But because of the volume that we were doing, just because of the clients we had, it wasn’t anything I could have ever done just by my… I’m also not very good with operational stuff, so we had to have other people and it wasn’t sustainable. So we had to change our model, but that’s fascinating.

Johanna B. Voss: I mean, I’ve managed tons of people before on campaigns and I love it, but I very much value my independence and my freedom. And so it’s enough to just work with these women, and they keep me busy enough. And I mean, we’re super integrated in our personal lives and professionally, so it’s not just like we only talk about work. I talked with Shauna for two hours on Tuesday and Yvette for an hour. Yes, we had work stuff, but we’re just like, “Okay, catch me up on life. And you were in El Paso and how’s the family and what’s going on? And how’s your aunt? Is she still sick? Is she in the hospital?” And then we’ll pivot to, okay, so that campaign, are you free? Can you do it? And then we’ll just go back to family stuff.

Johanna B. Voss: So I didn’t set out to build my business like that, but that’s how it’s become. And now it’s just a key part of who would be a good fit for us and how we operate. And it’s like I don’t want to have to recreate and obviously can’t teach that culture. It’s all personality. I love it. Just being me.

Danielle Wiley: That’s awesome. So taking a step back, so your first client kind of came to you because she had this need, but for someone right now, I’ve had a lot of just friends who have become influencers and they reach out and ask if they should hire a manager and if it makes sense. And at what point do you think it becomes a benefit? And then what are those benefits? I guess kind of a two-prong question.

Johanna B. Voss: Yeah. First early part of that is that we work off of commission, so we need our client’s making money. That is just fact. It’s just fact. I have a business, I have bills to pay. I need my clients. So I look for clients to be at a 100,000-ish with brand partnerships because sometimes people will be like, “Oh, well I did. I have an e-book and I have an E-course and I have digital ads.” I’m like, “I don’t touch any of that.” So I just look at how much they’ve earned for their brand partnerships. One, because 20% of a 100,000 is obviously $20,000. You take out taxes, you take out overhead that doesn’t actually leave you with that much money, for me.

Danielle Wiley: And especially for the time that you’re putting-

Johanna B. Voss: Yes.

Danielle Wiley: Like I said, since you’re taking them through the entire project, that’s time-consuming.

Johanna B. Voss: And most of my clients, and I think most influencers, anyone in this space they… I mean, my clients will say no to anywhere from 80 to 85% of the opportunities that come in. So most of my time I’m technically not getting paid for because nobody earns on that. So we may have a project that’s like $50,000, I earn $10,000 of that. It may be the easiest project. Sometimes those bigger projects end up being the easiest ones. And then the lower price ones are the biggest pains in the butt.

Danielle Wiley: Yep. Every time.

Johanna B. Voss: Every time without fail, right? And so I may earn my 10%, I don’t know why it just air quotes, I may earn my 10%. It may be the easiest thing, but I’m also like, well, that just covered the 37 emails and calls I just took on your behalf. That did not come to fruition rightfully, but did not come to fruition. So that’s my-

Danielle Wiley: They need to be getting inbounds. There needs to already be brand interest in what they’re doing.

Johanna B. Voss: Yes.

Danielle Wiley: Okay.

Johanna B. Voss: Yes. And the other reason I have that requirement, which I think is actually more relevant now than it was when I first started this is. There’s a lot of noise in this space. There are a lot of people who have one of these who are like, “Oh, it’s easy. I just take some pictures and I post them on social media.” And it is not. It’s a business just as you would create a brick and mortar or any launch, a hairstyling business or a life coaching business, business coaching business. So there’s a lot of noise of people who are possible. And for me, if you have earned 100,000, and I’m like flex, I’m not like, it’s more just indicative that you’ve been in this space. It means you’ve done this before. It’s not your first rodeo. I don’t want to handhold you through how it works to talk about timelines and briefs and client calls and the required hashtags and the content direction that you may not like, and the approvals from the brand that you may not like, but why they’re necessary.

Johanna B. Voss: I need you to figure all that out before me. And also, if you’ve done a 100K or so in partnerships, you’re on the brand’s radar. You’re in their databases, they have experience with you, they can refer you, they’ll come back to you. You have relationships that you can either lean on or when you bring on a manager, part of that is what I do is reach out to past partners just to say, “Hey, so excited to partner with Tessa, da da da da da. I want to introduce myself. I’m her manager. I’m the point of contact. Here’s our updated media kit. It’s a way to stay top of mind and reach out and reconnect.” So if you’ve done partnerships, you have those relationships, people can vouch for you. You’ve got some street cred. So brands hire talent because of the talent’s client portfolio, not because of their manager.

Johanna B. Voss: We’re here just to help facilitate and hopefully make it easier for everybody. So I’m not here to build your brand that’s on you, the talent. So by having done six figures in partnerships, it’s like you figured out who you are, who serve, how you serve, what’s your process, what’s your system? Do you have your team members? That’s not for me to figure out. That’s not my social genius at all. So those are the two reasons. And like I said, I think that second one is a lot more relevant now because there’s so many more people that want to be brand partners.

Danielle Wiley: And I mean, your clients have to believe and see the proof that, I mean, presumably because you’re taking a commission, you’re making them that much more money. Plus, there’s some kind of… I mean, there’s probably two benefits financially. Presumably you’re making them more so that they’re kind of covering the cost of hiring you on. And then…

Johanna B. Voss: Well, if I can jump in.

Danielle Wiley: Yeah, yeah.

Johanna B. Voss: I realize the second part of your question is that. That is part of the benefit of having a manager is just to hand it over to somebody else.

Danielle Wiley: That was the other one helping with a lot. That back and forth is tremendously time-consuming.

Johanna B. Voss: Yes, it is. And to the point of what we were talking about earlier, nobody likes to do it except for me and us talent managers.

Danielle Wiley: Well, it’s very hard to negotiate on behalf of yourself. I talk about this when I’m with my husband buying an appliance or whatever, and he has no problem negotiating on behalf of himself. I don’t know if the gender-

Johanna B. Voss: No, I totally get you.

Danielle Wiley: But I want to hide in the fetal position behind the nearest refrigerator. I cannot handle the stress of negotiating for something that impacts me personally, but I have no problem asking for more money for someone else.

Johanna B. Voss: 100%. Yeah. Okay, let’s just say for easy math, a project a talent was going to be paid $5,000. And even if that’s what they would’ve asked for, and that’s what I asked for, and that’s where we met, and then I earned my $1,000 off of it. So technically their take home is 4,000. There’s a really good chance that the influencer wouldn’t have stuck it out to even see it through to make the project happen. Because I know my clients, they respond to me, but there are emails that get lost in there. I have to message them and be like, “Hey, somebody messaged you, look for this title. I need you to forward it to me.” And they’ll be like, “Oh, yeah, that was five days ago. Sorry.” I get it. They have lives. So, but this is my full-time work.

Johanna B. Voss: So their full-time work is content creation or recipe testing, whatever it may be, or traveling. I have a creator who’s a travel creator. I travel for fun, and I’m like, “I do not know how you get the content, make the content, have a full itinerary plan. At the end of the day. You come back, organize your photos, look at the brief.” I’m like, I’m cross light after 4:00 PM. You know what I mean? Yeah. It’s amazing to me how hard they all work. And so having all my clients are always just so grateful. I’m like, “Hey, do you want me to catch you up update?” They’re like, “Nope.” Literally, just don’t even tell me about it until-

Danielle Wiley: Make it happen, yeah.

Johanna B. Voss: Yeah. So I mean, I think that’s the biggest benefit.

Danielle Wiley: Kind of related to the fact that you’re earning your commission. We talked a few weeks ago with Jason Falls, who is… I keep calling him an OG in the influencer space. But we were chatting about managers, and as I’m sure I’m not breaking this to you for the first time. I don’t think it’s any surprise that sometimes managers and agents kind of get a bad rep, and the reputation, that reputation is not always super positive. And one of the things that he said to me, I don’t want to misquote him so I’m going to read it. What I would say to managers and creators is that the day that the creator hires a manager does not multiply their audience by 30% or their efficiency by 30%. So it better sure. Not multiply their price by 30%. And I think that’s sometimes one of the things, I mean, not always, certainly, and I am a huge proponent of women getting paid what they’re worth and have gone on the record multiple times saying that women do not charge enough.

Danielle Wiley: Typically, I have told women to think about how much you want and then double it, that your stomach should hurt when you’re asking for money. So just setting the stage that I want women to get all the money that they deserve. And typically, it’s more than they realize. But I think being where I sit, which is kind of weird where I have a foot in the creator side, and then also on the agency side. We do sometimes see that situation where someone suddenly gets management and then their price balloons, and it’s not always kind of commensurate with what they should be making.

Danielle Wiley: So assuming that you’re not someone who’s doing that, but what’s your advice for agencies dealing with that? You’ve worked with someone, what kind of output they do? The quality of it, the performance of it. We work with multiple creators. We can compare them to others and see how they’re helping us meet our KPIs, and then suddenly that price multiplies, and we’re not necessarily seeing the why’s-

Johanna B. Voss: Return, yeah.

Danielle Wiley: … behind that, yeah. Yeah. I just would love to hear your thoughts on that and maybe get some advice on how to handle it.

Johanna B. Voss: I have thoughts. Yes. I know Jason very well. Like I said, we were legit emailing this morning about something else.

Danielle Wiley: Too funny.

Johanna B. Voss: And I meant to tell him I was-

Danielle Wiley: And you were quoted in the questions that-

Johanna B. Voss: I was like, your legacy lives on, I’ve done his podcast, so I had done with trouble because it’s like, “That’s such a Jason quote.” I just have to say that he and I have talked about this many times, and I get it. I totally get it. There’s a lot of new creators in this space. There’s a lot of new people that are like, “Oh gosh, I post on social media and I’m a social media manager, and every once in a while, I work with talent. I can be a talent manager.” So I think there’s been such an influx of people that are in the talent manager space that don’t fully understand. So perhaps a situation like that, “Oh, I’m just going to increase your rates.”

Danielle Wiley: Yeah. We see it very often. We see, “Oh, this is my new talent manager and it’s their next-door neighbor or their husband.” Or it’s someone who’s-

Johanna B. Voss: Like a cousin or something.

Danielle Wiley: Yeah. Yeah, yeah.

Johanna B. Voss: Yes. That’s what I’m talking about. I see a lot of that too, because then I see in this influencer marketing group that I’m a part of questions that those people ask, and I’m like, “Dear God.” You’re representing someone and you don’t know these basic things. You were doing it. They’re giving their trust to you. It takes all my effort not to reach to the computer and be like, “Don’t do that. Yes, I totally get it.” So I will say for transparency’s sake, I had one client who, I don’t remember the exact math, but her rates absolutely went up. She was insanely undercharging. Like insane. Like insane.

Danielle Wiley: And that’s totally, I think that I know that happens. I’m doing some research now on how women negotiate compared to men and how we perceive our value, but putting aside the ones where they clearly have been underselling themselves.

Johanna B. Voss: Yeah. Yeah. And I mean, what you were saying, all my clients are women. Majority of my clients traditionally are women of color. So I’m also fighting for every dollar and often deal with, “Oh, this is Hispanic market budget, not general market budget.” And I’m like, “Memo, Latinos and Hispanics are also general market. There is no difference.” Or like, “Oh, this is our budget for…”

Danielle Wiley: I think, and they’re also, there’s not as many of them. And so they actually should get more.

Johanna B. Voss: Yes, on the talent side.

Danielle Wiley: That’s the thing that makes me crazy, right?

Johanna B. Voss: You’re appreciating [inaudible 00:25:41].

Danielle Wiley: Oh, you need Latina, you need a Black woman for this. You need someone of color. Well, then you probably should be paying more.

Johanna B. Voss: At least, yes.

Danielle Wiley: If you have a specific need, right?

Johanna B. Voss: Yes, yes. I mean, that is-

Danielle Wiley: Supply and demand. That’s like economics.

Johanna B. Voss: That is a whole another podcast. I will say, Danielle, for another day on my experience of what talent manager experience about how agencies look for diversity. They’re like emails to us. I mean, it is mortifying, but like I said, another podcast for another day. So your question about raising rates, a couple of things. One, have a legit talent manager. Don’t just have your neighbor who’s home and wants to help you, who has no clues of what’s going on. So have a real talent manager, one myself and the talent managers that I know we’re committed to the success of the project. I only win when my client wins, and my client wins when the agency client wins. So we’re all invested and tied to each other’s successes. And I want them to all have a good relationship and experience because this is a long game. I want them to come back for that client or me to my roster, which I’m very grateful.

Johanna B. Voss: I have people who are like, “Hey, we loved working with you. We’re looking for this person. Anyone in your roster that fits? Or Do you have a recommendation because you have great recommendations.” That to me is the larger thing. And then the campaign is just sort of the short-term thing that’s happening. So every project that comes in, I bring to my clients and I’m like, “Hey, this is what’s happening best and final offer. Here’s where we’ve got, here’s the experience. Here’s a statement of work.” So at the end of the day, I always bring it back to my clients and I’m like, “Listen, it may be under your rate, but it’s a good agency. I’ve worked with this person a hundred thousand times before. They pay on time. They’re great. It fits your portfolio, whatever.” So I think obviously, right communication is the key to everything.

Johanna B. Voss: But for managers to have that communication so that the agencies and brands are not experiencing that whiplash of wait, what your rates are, how much more, but your audience hasn’t grown to compensate appropriately for that, or story views are down stuff that’s completely out of talent’s control because Instagram does whatever Instagram wants to do to help just navigate that space. And when I take on new talent and I am reaching out to past partners or someone who’s emailed, let’s say they’ve worked together before I was on the team, I’m out front. I’m like, “Listen, hey, I just want to let you know the rates have changed since you last worked on a project because of it’s been five years. They now have 500,000 more followers. Now the website is a million views and it had 250, three years ago.” Whatever the case may be.

Johanna B. Voss: I’m very upfront about being like, “Listen, I may or may not know what you did on the project two years ago or even two months ago. Here’s where we’re at, but we love the relationship. We want to make this work. Is there a way we can meet in the middle? Happy to put these new rates aside for three months.” I’d much rather have the project done, the client have the campaign, the agency have a great opportunity, and just to have it happen. So…

Danielle Wiley: Yeah, I love that you go back to the creators if it’s not quite what they wanted. Because I know when I complain about this, it sounds a little bit, “I don’t want to pay that money.” But truly, truly a big piece of my concern is we often see creators get priced out of programs and we know that they could use it, and they’re missing an opportunity that would be great. And we suddenly don’t have access to them and can’t have that conversation. I mean, even as a company, we’ve taken programs for less than we would typically charge because we see that there’s an opportunity there to grow the business. And-

Johanna B. Voss: Yeah, it’s a longer-term strategy.

Danielle Wiley: It totally, it’s not always black and white, cut and dry.

Johanna B. Voss: Yeah. And I hear those stories all the time about from the agency’s odd like, “Oh, we really want to work with this talent. We keep reaching out to the manager, the manager’s like blocking us, says, no, no, no.” We’re pretty sure the manager hasn’t taken the project to the talent because maybe that person, they follow them personally. So maybe they chat back and forth on DMs. And they’re kind of like, “Oh, I actually know that the talent doesn’t know about the project, but I’m being blocked by the manager.”

Johanna B. Voss: Honestly, I would say go around the manager. If you’re running into that and you’re like, “Hey, listen, this is going to be everything. You just had a great project, great opportunity. We’d love to work with you. Okay, maybe we can’t meet you at your higher rates, but we could give you another 2K or whatever.” I don’t know. I say go around the talent because I’ve heard those stories and the talent’s like, “Oh my God, yes, I’d love to do this. Talk to my manager.” And you’re like, “I have been. I’m running into a roadblock.” And then the talent’s pissed that the manager is blocked for whatever reason.

Danielle Wiley: That was going to be my next question is just advice that you have on dealing with those difficult managers. So from your perspective, it is totally kosher to go around if there was some kind of prior relationship, direct relationship there.

Johanna B. Voss: Yeah, I mean a little lose, okay, piss off the manager. Great. Well, we already don’t like them, right? So you already don’t want to work with them. Yeah, and I think a lot of people, again, take on managers that don’t, or they just hand it off and maybe they don’t talk to their manager a ton or they’re just super trusting and the talent is good. I am texting and talking to agency people all the time just on the side separate from projects just about what they’re hearing. “Hey, this is what’s coming up and this is what we’re noticing.” So I may have a campaign opportunity to come in at a different price or a different rate that’s below rate, but I just generally know there’s conversation in the industry about X, Y, and Z. So it’s like I have that context that the talent may not have. But yeah, I mean especially if you have a past relationship, like I say, reach out to the talent directly can’t hurt, right? And could help them see maybe they haven’t brought on the best team member of their business. You could bring them a service.

Danielle Wiley: I know we’re kind of running out of time here, but I’d love to just close with any other tips that you have for brands and agencies who are working with managers. How can marketers best take advantage of that relationship and use it for maximum benefit for their brand?

Johanna B. Voss: Yeah. I would say that we are here as a resource. We are here, right? Managers that are good at their job and know what they’re doing, have their head screwed on straight, we’re here to help facilitate. I don’t see myself… My main priority is to respond to emails and any sort of messages inquiring about talent and then getting to a yes or a no. I don’t want to waste your time. I don’t want to waste my time. I don’t want to waste talent’s time. And so those are my priorities. Whatever I can do to help facilitate that. And again, I know not all managers are like this. I know there’s always a couple that give us a bad rap, couple bad apples, but there’s a lot of us that are really good, that are doing good work, that are in it for all the right reasons and are helping educate talent as we learn things from agencies, and we get feedback that maybe you couldn’t say directly to talent and vice versa.

Johanna B. Voss: So we’re really here as a resource and to help to continue to educate this industry because there’s still a lot of education that has to happen and to lift up and continue to bring out the best in these opportunities and pivoting as we have to with all the change and stuff that’s happening, just we’re all kind of in this, working through it together. So use us as a resource. A lot of us have rosters with more than that one person. So getting to know us, take 10 minutes just to call me and ask me about my roster and what’s my focus. Great. I’m all women. I just signed a white woman actually. But before that I was all… So she’s, my diversity is one of my clients just told me. So majority of my clients are women of color, mostly Latinas. And so I’m often tagged when people are like, “Oh my gosh, we’re looking for a Latina creator.”

Johanna B. Voss: I’m often tagged, and if it’s not my client, I have a long list. Every other talent that I recommend is a person of color. So get to know us and just how we work. Building relationships with us is beneficial to everyone. And because I get it right, I’m the messenger for my talent. My agency person is the messenger for the client. I get it. We’re both kind of in this middle link on the chain. And so even to come to me and just say, “Hey, can we just have an offline conversation about this? I’ve had people say that to me before. I’m going to send you this offer. I know it’s below your rate. I have to send it because the client and wanted them a certain way, but just we have a sideline conversation that I can then relate to my talent.” I’ll be like, and they’ll say, “Hey, I want you to message back this.” Because I need you to say that. Not me, the agency person or just, “Hey, the clients moved up, the deadline calling me and saying, is there any way you can have this happen sooner?”

Johanna B. Voss: Just realizing we’re all trying to get across the finish line and to remember that we’re all humans. I’m human. My clients are human. We’re all caring for families and parents and kids, and we all have things going on. We’re trying to keep our sanity and stay healthy and sane and drink enough water and get enough sleep and all that sort of stuff. So just realizing that we’re here as a resource and building relationships with us can I think be the agency people that I have the best relationships with. Call me, text me. We’ll just chat on the fly. It’s super quick and it’s really helpful because it’s like we don’t have to be like, “Hi, my name’s Johanna. I’m, dude.” It’s like we can just get there and as a get to the yes or no quicker.

Danielle Wiley: Awesome. This was so great. I’m so glad we connected. I loved chatting with you.

Johanna B. Voss: Me too.

Danielle Wiley: Before we go tell people where they can find you online if they want to learn more.

Johanna B. Voss: Yes. So I’m always hanging out in two spots. My website,, J-O-H-A-N-N-A V as in vegetable, O-S-S. And then same thing on Instagram. I’m always hanging out on Instagram. It’s all brand negotiation negotiations, like collabing with brands. All of my content just swirls in that space. So I try to do a lot of education and insight for people that are in the industry.

Danielle Wiley: Awesome.

Johanna B. Voss: So hopefully people find it helpful.

Danielle Wiley: Very cool. Well, thank you so much. It was so great.

Johanna B. Voss: I appreciate it, Danielle. Thanks for having me.

Danielle Wiley: Follow her on Instagram @johannavoss. Thank you for listening. Don’t forget to share and subscribe. Please check back next Monday for a new episode featuring marketing conversations through the lens of influence. I am your host, Danielle Wiley, and this is The Art of Sway.