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Young workers are ditching corporate jobs to become social media influencers

Everyone thinks that content creators and influencers make a big income, but that’s far from the reality.

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America’s youngest workers want to become business owners, but not in the way their parents might envision.

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According to a new study from Adobe Inc., approximately 45% of Gen Z creators surveyed said they aspire to own a business and make money from content shared online. , according to the company’s May survey of more than 9,000 influencers and creators in nine countries.

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Adobe defines creators as those who post social content with the intent of increasing their online presence or promoting their creative work, from photography to music to NFTs. The influencers surveyed reported over 5,000 followers on their main social media platform and earn money by posting content.

Gen Z content creators and influencers are part of the wave of entrepreneurship that has accompanied the labor market upheaval of the past two years. While many Americans started businesses during the pandemic lockdown out of necessity, the streak continued, driven by a desire for flexibility and greater control over one’s financial future. A record 5.4 million new businesses were started in the United States last year, according to census data. While the monthly rate capped below its 2021 peak, it remained well above pre-pandemic levels.

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While there has been a lot of speculation as to whether this increase in small business creation was an aberration or the start of a long-term reversal, “what we’re seeing is that this trend doesn’t show no signs of slowing down,” said payroll economist Luke Pardue. Gusto service platform.

The changing dynamic is partly generational, he said. “Specifically among younger workers, we see this trend that even in a tight labor market, workers don’t see wage gains that keep up with inflation, so they turn to self-employment where they can determine a less their pay more independently,” Pardue said. “There’s not much that the 9-to-5 job can do to achieve some of the milestones that were available to previous generations.”

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While millennials try to have a hustle alongside a daily job, Gen Zers are more focused on turning a project into a career, said Maria Yap, vice president of digital imaging applications at Adobe. “They think, no – my regular job might be what excites me.”

Some colleges, such as Duke University, University of Southern California, and University of Virginia, have responded to the changing demand by offering courses on how to build successful social media businesses.

Even amid a tight job market, workers aren’t seeing wage gains that keep up with inflation, so they’re turning to self-employment

Luke Pardue

Adobe research suggests that moving from enterprise scale to the Instagram grid can generate a six-figure income if done full-time, although the reality is often more complicated.

Creators who monetize content earn an average of $61 per hour, according to Adobe. If done 40 hours a week, Adobe estimates that would translate to an annual income of US$122,000. Influencers surveyed by Adobe earn $81 per hour, which would be around $162,000 if they worked full time.

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Still, the lines are often blurred between amateurs and scammers, and most of the people Adobe interviewed aren’t full-timers. Content creators spend an average of nine hours per week and influencers spend an average of 15 hours per week creating content. In the United States, six in 10 creators have full-time jobs, Adobe found. If the creators were to give up their day jobs, it’s unclear if they’d be able to generate enough business to fill a 40-hour workweek.

The public perception is often that content creators and influencers with more than 10,000 followers earn a significant income, but that’s far from the reality, said Qianna Smith Bruneteau, founder of the American Influencer Council, a trade association for social media content professionals.

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Of those who create content full-time, only about 12% earn more than $50,000 a year, according to a global survey of more than 9,500 content creators published in April by Linktree, a link-sharing platform popular with influencers. . The living wage in Manhattan is nearly US$53,000, according to MIT’s Living Wage Calculator.

Is content creation a good dream job?

While some creators and influencers find success, for others it takes countless hours of hard work without pay to build a following, according to Bruneteau. “To produce content every day, in a video-first environment, it takes a tremendous amount of work,” she said. This can mean years of free content before a creator sees dividends. “When you’re starting out, you can’t expect to make money immediately. Like any small business, it takes about two years to break even,” Bruneteau said.

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Even with large audiences, monetizing content isn’t easy – it takes a keen business sense to pitch to brands and build partnerships. And successful creators often have to strive to generate as many revenue streams as possible across all platforms, from ad revenue and merchandise to workshops and courses.

Tejas Hullur, 21, is a New York-based influencer. After starting to post about crypto and finance in the summer of 2020, Hullur said he hit his stride of posting about the creator economy itself. “It’s very ironically meta, in the sense of creating content for other creators,” he said.

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Like many of its peers, Hullur quickly had to diversify its revenue streams after revenue from brand deals proved spotty. Yet the unpredictability of revenue makes effective planning difficult, especially with an economic downturn threatening corporate marketing budgets. And influencer career longevity is an issue. Oftentimes, internet fame – and the money that comes with it – doesn’t last forever.

“We are playing in this world of hype. You can feel like you’re on top of the world,” Hullur said. “I’ve seen this time and time again – the number of TikTokers that were on top of the world in 2020, who still have a fully monetizable and thriving business today is, I would say, less than 5%. It goes up and then it come down.”


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