Jordan Watson, now a celebrated brand strategist and content creator, really hit his stride in 2018 after opening a cannabis shop in Los Angeles. During this time, he figured out innovative ways to grow the brand’s presence despite all the red tape that makes it challenging to market cannabis on social media.
For Watson, better known as Ace King on social media, building a dream job meant weaving together his passions for two industries that take so much from Black Americans — and give very little in return. Black content creators of all types are compensated less than their white counterparts; this is especially ironic given that so much of what trends comes from Black culture. Because of this, he wants other Black creators to rise up and demand what they deserve.
Getting his company’s following to a solid 10,000 was the branding needed to grow the business from one shop to three across LA. Still, he knew from the beginning how hard it would be to make a living curating cannabis content.
“You’re expected to do and give a lot before anyone decides to cut you a check. And then when they do decide to cut you a check, you get paid pennies on the dollar for what your platform and your work is actually worth,” Watson says about brands that work with Black and brown influencers.
This, of course, is not unique to the cannabis industry. A survey called “Time to Face the Influencer Gap,” published by public relations firm MSL and The Influencer League, found a 35% pay gap between Black content creators and their white counterparts. The report also found that 59% of Black influencers noticed negative financial impacts when they made race-related content. Despite these depressing numbers, Watson found that as a consultant for cannabis brands, there were aspects of his identity and experience he could use as leverage to build lucrative partnerships.
He also found that white social media professionals who occupy most high-level marketing positions across industries don’t latch onto trends like Black content creators do. And if Black creators are connecting with the masses, they should be compensated as such. “That’s what really got me into continuing to find ways to advocate for myself,” Watson says.
Since making this assessment, Watson has found himself in rooms creating content for major brands such as Jordan Peele’s Monkeypaw Productions and Meta. Still sticking close to a cause that’s driven him from day one, though, he recently joined forces with Cannaclusive, serving as a creative consultant for the Black-owned collective that facilitates inclusion in the cannabis industry.
Now that he’s learned how to leverage his own brand and many others’, he hopes to teach other Black content creators how to do the same — and to get compensated fairly while doing it. Here are a few valuable he shared for all the talented Black creators out there looking to secure to the bag.
Protect Your Work
Getting credit for what you do essentially means that you’ll have grounds to demand compensation for it. “Copyright, no matter what,” Watson tells me, “and if anyone uses your content without permission, you can file a copyright infringement if they refuse to take it down. So don’t be afraid to call people out for credit.”
Once a creator uploads original content to their page, in most cases, it belongs to the creator and is subject to copyright law. However, creators can pay a fee to have their work copyrighted or to add watermarks, copyright symbols and/or contact information to content to ensure they are credited when it is shared. Knowing the terms and conditions of the platforms where you share your content is also helpful.
Know Your Worth and Ask For It In Writing
Research what the standard is for a job you’re doing and establish a rate that feels fair based on your skills and experience. And then, create a paper trail for offers and negotiations. “If you say this is your rate and this is your value, stick to that,” he adds.
Asking for what you’re worth can be daunting, but doing so (over email) makes everything feel more set in stone. Watson suggests creating a visually appealing media kit that you update with the logos of the brands you’ve worked with, your services, and your rate — it can cut down on the back-and-forth of negotiation.
Research Any Potential Partners Carefully
“Don’t be afraid to look up the numbers. ... If they are a publicly traded company, oftentimes you can find out how much money they make annually,” Watson says. “And if you do an SEO search, you can find out how much someone has raised in funding.”
Watson says that knowing how much a brand is worth is essential in determining how to pitch yourself and what you may be able to charge. Doing so gives you a better sense of what the brand can offer you regarding budget, which can help you create a pitch perfectly tailored to the brand’s identity and capacity.
Don’t Take Things Personally
“If the brand doesn’t want to work with you, it may not be because of you,” he says. More often than not, brands pass on working with creatives for reasons that have nothing at all to do with the creative. A brand may not have the appropriate budget to work with a creative, or there may be things going on in the background far out of everyone’s control. If you believe you presented yourself in the most professional way possible and they still don’t want to work with you, just keep it moving.