More and more young people are demanding work-life balance, fair workloads, as well as financial security and freedom. And becoming a content creator appears to be an increasingly popular career choice for those searching for a lifestyle that’s starkly different from their parents’ and grandparents’. Clara for Creators founder Christen Nino De Guzman noticed this trend years ago. With her app, she sets out to bring greater financial transparency to creators, and develop better pay standards in the fast-growing industry.
Nino De Guzman started working with influencers in 2015, while at the media company PopSugar. “Our team would work with bloggers and brands on big campaigns on Instagram, Pinterest, or YouTube. That was my start in the influencer world,” she shares. She then worked at influencer marketplace Aspire, later moving on to Instagram, Pinterest, and TikTok, spearheading programs that helped grow each platform’s creator community. For Nino De Guzman, it has never been about just working in the creator space, but revolutionizing it.
Looking back on her time at Instagram, she says, “It was still early creator [economy] days. Creators weren’t really a thing, and people at Instagram weren’t really leveraging them in ways that I had seen at [previous jobs]. So me and one of my colleagues proposed a pilot program where we marketed new Instagram product features through influencers.” She elaborates, “The hypothesis was that if we got influencers to use influencer features, that their audience would be more likely to adopt the features.”
The features that were proposed — including now-widely-used functions like sharing music in Stories, and the “ask me anything” Questions sticker — have been adopted by more than just creators, effectively changing the Instagram and social media experience as we know it.
The creator economy has grown a whole lot in the past few years, with numerous platforms making content creation more accessible, not to mention easier for monetization with in-app features for creators. But is the wealth being distributed fairly? In short, the answer is no. However, with the industry just starting to kick off, we are in a remarkable precedent-setting position.
Nino De Guzman’s app, Clara, is helping promote synergy and increase transparency between brands and creators with a self-disclosure system. The premise of the Clara app is simple: after creating a profile complete with follower counts, creators are able to report how much a brand paid them for a project, and what their experience was like working with that particular brand. As the database grows, influencers will be able to gauge how much they might make on a campaign and pitch to brands accordingly.
“I noticed that, with the boom of TikTok, there were so many amazing people finding overnight success and growing to have millions of followers. A lot of them didn’t understand the basics and fundamentals [of brand partnerships], like how to negotiate. And there wasn’t really a platform out there, or a resource for them to learn or see what creators were getting paid,” Nino De Guzman says.
She adds, “I wanted to help create a community where creators could share what they have been paid. The idea is that if they have access to that information, they’ll be able to negotiate a higher rate for themselves.”
Salaries have always varied within titles. With conventional jobs, we can at least get a ballpark estimate based on our experience. However, for creators, they are often forced to rely on their social credit — followers, views, and engagement rates — to determine their wage.
Some of Nino De Guzman’s biggest concerns are the disparity between creators’ wages, the lack of standardization for creator jobs, and the financial and algorithmic hardships that face creators belonging to marginalized communities.
“Something I noticed was you’d have all Black creators talking to Black creators, or fashion creators talking to fashion creators, which is a problem because it creates this silo of communication,” Nino De Guzman notes. This creator compartmentalization has not only hindered the cross-pollination of information amongst creator niches, but it has also prevented financial gain and literacy for creators. “The rates are so sporadic [and can range] from $300 to $30,000,” Nino De Guzman explains.
It’s a big gap to close, but Nino De Guzman knows that financial transparency is key to not only strengthening the creator community, but also changing the way that brands look at creators and advertising.
“At the end of the day, I’m trying to help brands learn how to work better with creators,” she says. “From my point of view, a lot of brands don’t necessarily have malicious intent with creators. I think both sides need education. The idea is that if I have a lot of brands being reviewed, ultimately, I [can] give that information to brands and say, ‘All these fashion clothing companies typically provide a baseline of [an x amount of money]. You are lower than everyone else, so you should probably consider upping your baseline.’”
The Clara app may be less than a year old, but creators are already using it as a tool to build their careers. Nino De Guzman hopes that once the app is being used at its capacity, it will not only help open the line of communication between creators and brands, but also set a precedent for market value.