It's Expensive To Be On The Bachelor, But Contestants Make It All Back On Instagram

Photo: Courtesy of ABC.
Since The Bachelor's inaugural season in 2002, there have been 23 Bachelors, 14 Bachelorettes, many tears, many Laurens, a few babies, and a whole new vernacular including such terms as "two-on-one" and "hometowns." And 17 years later, there's still no shortage of hopefuls looking to find love on TV — or, if that doesn't work out, at least a long and prosperous Instagram sponcon career.
Which prompts the question: How much can participants expect to milk from their few weeks of fame? While ABC does not disclose compensation for the show's contestants or leads, we do know that leads make money — Colton is likely earning at least six figures. Contestants, however, do not.
In fact, they end up spending a lot of money to be on the show. Many Bachelor contestants drop as much as $1,000 on beauty products and treatments in preparation for the competition, on everything from spray tans and eyelash extensions to makeup and nails. Jaclyn Swartz, who was a contestant on Ben Flajnik’s season of The Bachelor, followed by Bachelor Pad and Bachelor in Paradise, said that while she didn't do much prep for The Bachelor, she spent around $5,000 getting ready for Paradise.
Contestants are responsible for bringing all of their own clothes as well, including gowns and suits for cocktail parties. Jillian Harris wrote on her blog that prior to Jason Mesnick's season of The Bachelor in 2009, she remortgaged her home and spent a whopping $8,000 on clothing. Contestants are, however, given goody bags upon arrival to the mansion, filled with supplemental clothing. As Harris described it, "some stuff that [the producers] wanted us to wear but half of it didn’t even fit." (Swartz seemed to like the goody bags on her season more, which she said were “full of bathing suits, OPI nail polishes, makeup, Kai products, Rich & Skinny jeans, Wildfox tees, and the Sultra Bombshell wand.”)
It's a bit different for Paradise, though. Reality Steve reported that contestants on the spin-off do, in fact, receive compensation for filming — between $7,000 and $15,000 for the whole season, with every cast member making the same amount. And for some, the associated costs of prepping for Bachelor in Paradise are easier on the wallet than the costs of Bachelor or Bachelorette prep. Taylor Nolan, who was on Nick Viall's season of The Bachelor, says she spent between $1,000 and $2,000 before going on the show, despite being fresh out of graduate school with student-loan debt. But when she went on Bachelor in Paradise, she could get away with spending less on clothes due to the more casual nature of the beach locale, where contestants basically just gallivant on the sand in bathing suits all day and are too sweaty to wear much makeup.
And then there's the whole issue of, uh, the job you leave behind. While some contestants are able to take leaves of absence, many others are vocal about the fact that they had to quit their jobs to come on the show.
JJ Lane, who was on Kaitlyn Bristowe's season of The Bachelorette, worked as an investment banker before his foray into reality TV and underestimated how difficult it would be to re-enter the workforce post-Bachelorette: “I didn’t understand the magnitude of the show and how hard it is to get a real job right after,” he told MarketWatch. “Everyone knows who you are and employers see it as a distraction.”
Still, for all the money spent primping for the show, many contestants easily earn it back — plus a ton more — once the season wraps. Contenders who make it even a few weeks gain sizable Instagram followings nearly automatically, some of which have higher engagement rates than those of A-list celebrities (our dear Grocery Store Joe even skyrocketed to stardom despite being eliminated on Night One). And these followings, plus sponsored content, can equal a lot of money. Mediakix estimates that, based on an average of seven to eight sponsored posts per month, at a rate per post of $5,000 on the low end and $15,000 on the high end, Bachelor influencers with fewer followers and lower engagement rates earn approximately $444,000 a year, while those with higher numbers can rake in between $888,000 and $1.33 million per year.
Just last summer, we interviewed this former Bachelor contestant, who earned $4,000 for a sponsored Story promoting an online resale site that involved five to seven posts and took her only 15 minutes to complete. She told us that her rate depends on the type of post, but that she has charged as much as $9,000 for a profile post and Story.
And, of course, to supplement their sponcon incomes, Bachelor alums know a thing or two about podcasting. There have been so many podcasts born of the Bachelor franchise (my favourite du jour is Bekah Martinez's Chatty Broads) that basically, if contestants can't get their job back after the show and need to pay their rent, they can count on getting a podcast deal (or at least a stint guesting on someone else's).
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