Paid vs. Unpaid Campaigns.. which one is better?


So, the big question.. which one is better?

The answer is it depends (surprise, surprise).

Generally speaking, Macro Influencers (100k plus) will require payment to work with them, while Micro Influencers are more likely to agree to unpaid collaborations (for a variety of reasons).

When deciding, consider the type of campaign you’re running, your campaign goals and budget and the calibre of the influencer you’re engaging.

Here are some pros and cons we put together for you..

Unpaid Campaigns - Pros and Cons

When we refer to an ‘unpaid’ collaboration, we mean monetary compensation isn’t involved. Instead, product will be gifted to the influencer in return for content and/or a post to their social channels.

Unpaid collaborations, also called ‘gifting’, ‘product-only’ or contra campaigns, are the most widely used form of influencer marketing as they require minimal budget and often get a relatively good return even if that return is not guaranteed.


  • One of the biggest benefits of unpaid collaborations is cost. The influencer is being gifted your product in return for content and or a social media post so you don’t need a monetary budget to get started.

  • Note this can often be a great starting point if you’re just starting out with influencer marketing


  • One downside of unpaid campaigns is the completion rate. Influencers will not always post when it comes to unpaid, gifting campaigns. The post completion rate for a new brand is usually 60-70%.

  • The other downside is that it takes a lot of time and resources to implement. There is so much outreach and follow up to be done.

  • This is something that Hey influencers deals with directly ($ vs GIFT), so if you want to cut the time and resources needed for unpaid campaigns, Hey could be a good option for you to try. Apply for a free trial here.

Paid Campaigns - Pros and Cons

For paid campaigns, influencers are legally bound to terms of the brief since you have paid them to perform. Therefore one upfront advantage is that the negotiated terms are highly likely to be fulfilled.

Keep reading for our evaluation of both sides..


  • Deliverables are ensured since influencers are in a binding contract.

  • Usually take less time and resources to organise as you’re not constantly following up and relationship building with an influencer like you need to in an unpaid (or product-only) campaign.


  • Cost! Not all brands have unlimited budget to spend on paid campaigns. This can be mitigated if you do diligent research on the influencer/s you’re interested in working with, and making sure that your campaign ideas and execution align with your objectives.

Note sure what to go with? Our best advice is work backwards from your primary goal. Don’t worry if you haven’t figured out what that is yet. We put together a guide to help you address that exact issue here.

Gretta van RielComment