As a college athlete, you see the media coverage about the glitzy side of NIL - the big dollar amounts, huge companies, and the star power of the athletes signing the deals.

But behind all the news is the fact that NIL is another big responsibility for athletes like you, who are already balancing school with their respective sports.

All around the country, athletes are dealing with those demands in a number of different ways, so here’s a look at some ways you too can deal with the details of your NIL fame. 

Treat NIL like a business

Nearly every athlete you see interviewed about NIL likens it to running their own business and being an entrepreneur. And that comes with a lot of responsibilities, most of them on your shoulders. 

Time management is the first key to handling things yourself. Oregon basketball star Sedona Prince, who has done multiple high-profile NIL deals, says she takes her time much more seriously now

“I’m handling myself as a business rather than as a teenager”, says the TikTok influencer and Duck’s superstar. “It’s kind of like I have three jobs.”

As a student-athlete, your schedule is often made for you, between classes, practice, and games. But NIL will require you to pay more attention to detail, so using these tools and apps is a great start to keeping track of it all.

Accepting NIL deals means finding them first, and at least in the beginning, you’ll need to put in the work to market yourself, utilize social media, and search for brands that match your skills and ideals.

Once you find deals that interest you, it’s important to make sure they are legitimate and also a good fit for you. Your school can help verify the deals will keep you compliant and eligible.

NIL platforms can help with behind-the-scenes details as well (see the next section), but ultimately you are the one who has to say yes and be comfortable with what you are doing. 

When money starts coming in from deals, it’s crucial to keep track of what’s coming in and going out. This basic financial tracking template is a good start to doing that. 

Knowing what you are taking in, what you are spending, and setting a portion of the NIL money aside to pay yearly income taxes are all vital for your financial well-being.

Also include the names of each company you work with so that you will know from whom you will expect 1099 tax forms at the end of each year.

Join a NIL deal-making platform

If the idea of finding and vetting your own NIL deals is overwhelming, you’re in luck. 

Since NIL became law, dozens of online marketplaces and deal-making platforms have sprung up, offering a wealth of choices for you to get help finding deals. 

Platforms such as Dreamfield and Opendorse allow athletes to create profiles where businesses can find you when they are looking to make NIL deals. 

Whether you are offered one NIL deal or one hundred, the most important part is making sure the brand you will promote is one you want to work with and will inspire you to give your best.

As Nebraska volleyball star Nicklin Hames says, “I never want to do something with a brand where I’m not a hundred percent sure about the product or what I’m putting out there.”

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While being comfortable with the brand and your own work ethic is up to you, most NIL platforms have dedicated staff who can make you feel sure that the deals you find within their digital space are legit, safe, and compliant.

Most of those same platforms are helping their business clients by creating curated lists of athletes to participate in their NIL campaigns. 

So being on the platform, being active, and performing well in the deals you take can lead to even more opportunities for deals. 

In addition to finding deals, NIL platforms will often take care of behind-the-scenes details such as contracting and ensuring you receive payment.

Hire a trusted support team

There was a time when it was against every NCAA rule for athletes to retain the services of an agent. Now, they are just one of the many professionals that athletes are hiring. 

As the landscape has evolved in the early going, agents are often working in tandem with NIL marketplaces to find and vet deals for their clients. 

Chloe Mitchell, a volleyball player at NAIA school Aquinas College and 2-million follower TikTok star, has put together an impressive roster of NIL deals with her agent’s help.

Mitchell says her agent helps “navigate offers and pitch me for deals that pertain to my brand”, allowing her to be sure she is maximizing her massive following.

While agents are by no means required, it is crucial that you have someone you trust to help you consider deals carefully and advise you with your best interests at heart. 

Managing finances is a huge part of the NIL equation. As such, many athletes choose to make financial advisors, such as CPAs, and tax professionals, part of their support teams as well.

You may have never had to manage your own finances before, and especially with taxes, enlisting the help of professionals can keep you out of trouble and help you plan for your future beyond school as well. 

Working closely with your school’s compliance department is another crucial aspect of your journey with NIL deals. That personnel can help verify that agents are properly licensed, and that the activities you are involved with will not result in your losing eligibility.

If your school does not have a compliance department, as was the case for Richard Washington, it is highly advisable to make a NIL-savvy attorney part of your team.

To Recap

  • Treat your NIL journey like a business
  • Time management, tracking of financial data, and tax considerations are crucial
  • Marketing yourself on social media and other channels is vital to find deals 
  • NIL marketplaces and deal-making platforms can help you find deals and take care of things like contracting and payments from companies
  • Having and hiring a support team to help you navigate the NIL Landscape is vital.
  • An agent or trusted advisor will help you decide which deals to take and will have your best interests at heart
  • Financial planners, tax experts and your school’s compliance staff are also crucial

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