Ten years ago the term ‘influencer’ wasn’t a phrase many of us were very familiar with. Little did we know it would soon become a common word in most vocabularies, as well as a whole new category of self-employment, income stream, digital content medium, and marketing channel.
For those who still aren’t entirely familiar, an influencer is somebody with a large (and loyal) online following who has the power to influence sales of products and services—hence the name.
You’ll typically find influencers on social media platforms like Instagram, YouTube and TikTok but ‘influencing’ also extends beyond the most popular platforms into more niche parts of the digital world too.
Is being an influencer a ‘real’ job?
Yes, absolutely. In fact, according to a recent study by Adobe, UK social media content creators are now earning an average of £137,000 a year.
This is significantly more than other average salaries shared by the UK Government’s National Careers Service:
- Solicitor – £100,000
- Software developer – £70,000
- Accountant – £65,000
- Train driver – £65,000
- School teacher – £42,000
- Firefighter – £32,000
- Nurse – £32,000
Although some traditionalists might snub the idea of ‘influencing’ being a real career, the potential earnings mean it’s fair to say that it’s an extremely valid and lucrative way of earning a living.
Plus, while it might look easy and glamorous at times, producing the kind of digital content that engages an online audience so effectively that you can turn it into an income stream takes a great deal of time and skill.
The growing appetite for influencer marketing
Not only does influencing have the potential to be an extremely profitable income stream for the content creators themselves, but it can also have a powerful impact on the success of the brands and businesses they’re affiliated with.
According to research published by The Social Shepherd, 93% of marketers said they had incorporated influencer marketing as part of their overall strategy. This means almost all of those surveyed had worked with influencers and content creators to:
- Raise brand awareness (86%)
- Reach new or targeted audiences (74%)
- Improve brand advocacy (69%)
- Increase sales conversions (46%)
The same study found that 61% of consumers say they trust influencers’ recommendations. With a statistic like that, it’s clear to see why so many brands and businesses rely on influencers to help grow their digital presence and boost the bottom line.
What do you need to be an influencer?
Technically, anybody can become an influencer. Due to the fact influencers can run their business anywhere in the world with an internet connection, it’s actually a super inclusive and accessible way to make money.
Plus, with free access to social media platforms and advanced smartphone technology, great potential really is at our fingertips these days.
This applies whether somebody is a full-time influencer or if they influence on the side to supplement an employment salary. It also applies whether somebody is an influencer with hundreds, thousands, or even millions of followers, or if they are what is known as a ‘micro-influencer’, somebody with 1,000-10,000 followers.
Unlike many jobs, you don’t need any specific qualifications to be an influencer and the nature of the role is extremely diverse and expansive. Age, experience, and location are some major factors that often determine access to ‘regular jobs’, whereas influencing is open to anybody who wants to give it a go.
That said, there are some areas which might be worthy of consideration becoming an influencer as a way to generate income, including:
- Have a niche area that you specialise in and build your content around that
- As well as having a niche, have a target audience that you want to reach and engage
- Stay on top of your social media skills and the latest trends so that your content stays current
- Make sure you have time to post regularly and interact with your audience, as well as liaise with the brands you work with
- Be consistent—sporadic posts aren’t the way forward if you’re going to make a successful business from your online content
- Analyse how your content performs closely so that you can do more of what works and less of what doesn’t. This requires some knowledge of analytics platforms, most of which are now integrated into the digital platforms themselves.
The pros and cons of being an influencer
Below are some of the advantages of the role, as well as some things to consider. It’s important to remember that influencing isn’t just about getting nice things for free and editing Instagram reels in your PJs.
The benefits of being an influencer
- You have complete flexibility and autonomy over your own time
- As with all self-employment income streams, any post-tax profit you make is all yours to keep
- For people who are passionate about this line of work, it can be a whole lot of fun
- You have the chance to positively influence a large audience and make a real difference
- You get to try products, visit places, attend events, meet new people, and have experiences that you might not otherwise be exposed to
- Start-up and overhead costs can be super minimal. All you really need to get started is the smartphone that’s probably already in your hand right now.
Some things to consider
- Just like with any form of self-employment, you are responsible for generating your own income
- Similarly, you are also responsible for reporting and paying your own tax
- As influencing is so inclusive, this means that the competition is high too
- There isn’t necessarily as much job security as with salaried employment
- Even though it’s a lucrative industry right now, nobody knows the future of influencer marketing
- You may well need to share a part of your life with the world online, and sacrifice some of the privacy and anonymity regular employees or self-employed people have
Think a career as an influencer might be for you? There’s only one way to find out! Head over to our hub to find more information and support for freelancers.