Monetization

What Is a UGC Creator – And Is It a Sustainable Career?

UGC User Generated Content Creators Products Influencers Brand Social Media Marketing

If you’re on TikTok, you may have noticed a number of creators talking about UGC (user-generated content) and the money they’re making from it. “I’ve made a little over $2,000 in my first month as a UGC creator,” one shares. “I’m making more than $10,000 this month from UGC, and you can do it too,” another tells her viewers. Many are posting videos about UGC examples that have landed them paid deals, and tutorials on how to build a UGC portfolio. It’s enough to make your head spin.

Ahead, we break down what you need to know about user-generated content, how you can create your own, and if it’s really the gravy train some TikTokers are claiming it to be.

What is a UGC creator?

A UGC creator is a content creator who specializes in user-generated content. While the term can apply to anyone that makes content about specific products (including real customers who aren’t paid to post such content), most of the UGC creators you’ve seen trending on TikTok do it for the money. They make content for brands that looks similar to something you’ll see on an influencer’s social media page, but with one big difference: where that content lives.

When brands work with influencers, they’re paying for access to that influencer’s community. That’s because when the influencer recommends a product, their community is more likely to purchase it.

UGC creators, on the other hand, don’t usually post the content they’re paid to create on their own profiles. They may have their own following, sure, and they may even be an influencer in their own right. But when a brand pays for UGC, they want content they can post on their channels. It’s authentic-feeling content that the brands are after, not the reach of a creator’s channels.

UGC can take many forms, from static images to short videos to longer reviews. UGC creators often specialize in one or more of these formats.

@sociallyaziz

Been so busy creating content for awesome brands 🥹❤️ 2 month update coming soon!! 👀 here’s an example of a UGC video in my portfolio #ugc #ugccreator #contentcreator #ugcjourney

♬ original sound – Salha | UGC Creator
@theugcsociety

UGC example straight from my portfolio! I notice that a lot of brands really love simple videos like this that just show the product in action🕺 I label this as a product demo on my portfolio😊 #ugccreator #ugcexample #ugctips #ugccommunity #ugccreators #ugcportfolio

♬ Casio – Jungle

You’ve probably seen a slew of TikTokers and other creators promoting UGC as a great way to quickly make money through content creation. So what’s behind it all? Like any TikTok trend, it’s hard to say exactly why UGC is trending, but we can make some educated guesses.

Rachel Karten, social media consultant and writer for the Link in Bio newsletter, shared her theory with the writers from Embedded: “TikTok and Instagram are prioritizing more personality-based, lo-fi videos so brands are now scrambling to get more ‘real’ content for their social feeds.”

Should have known it was an algorithm thing. It seems like two of the most popular social media platforms are shifting away from more traditional influencer content, which in turn is making brands value UGC more. And as TikTokers are starting to make money producing this kind of content, they’re excited to share their success with their followers. We wouldn’t call it a vicious cycle per se, but it’s definitely a cycle.

How you can become a UGC creator

One of the advantages of being a UGC creator — as opposed to a traditional influencer — is that you don’t need a huge following to get started. Since the content you create is getting published on a brand’s channels instead of your own, it’s more about the quality of the content than the size of your following.

So, in order to start your UGC creator journey, you need to start building your content creation skills. Remember that just because UGC is lo-fi, that doesn’t mean it should look unprofessional.

Learn what makes good content

Start by looking up brands you’d like to work with. What kind of UGC do they promote? Are there similarities between each piece of content? Is there a niche you think you’d be particularly strong in?

You should also be going out of your way to find and consume UGC content. Don’t just scroll through, but actually evaluate what you’re consuming. What makes good content stand out? How can you create your own quickly and easily?

Practice making content

The first piece of content you create probably won’t be your best. Look at the content that you researched and try to recreate it. If you want to focus on photos, start learning the basics of photography, including how to properly light a shot and how to pose. If video is more your style, you’ll need to work on reading, memorizing, and delivering scripts. You’ll also need to study camera angles, transitions, and multimedia effects such as overlaid text and audio tracks.

Start hunting for opportunities

Brands aren’t going to come knocking just because you’ve gotten really good at making content. When you start out, you need to be proactive to secure your first deals. Even if you’re already an experienced content creator looking to branch out into UGC, you’ll need to find those first few brands yourself. You can find opportunities for UGC through general freelancing services like Upwork or dedicated platforms like Influee.

Remember that being a UGC creator, just like any other kind of content creator, takes time and effort. You will make mistakes, but you’ll learn from them and become better at it.

Is UGC creation a sustainable career?

Yes and no.

While many TikTokers are claiming they’ve made thousands of dollars in just their first month creating UGC, this doesn’t guarantee that you will. Remember that — assuming everyone’s being honest — you’re just seeing the TikTokers who made that much money. How many others do you think haven’t made nearly as much, but aren’t advertising their lack of success as liberally? And do you think the TikTok algorithm would pick up their TikToks if they did? This is called survivorship bias, meaning there’s more focus on the people who made it past a certain selection process (in this case, making money as a UGC creator) than on those who didn’t.

Some sources say brands will pay at least $250 for 60-second videos. However, a quick search on Upwork reveals that some pay as little as $5 per video. If you’re trying to make a full-time living as a UGC creator, how much content will you have to make to afford rent, food, and other necessities?

That’s not to say there isn’t money in making UGC. There absolutely is. And if you’re an established content creator, you can and should take advantage of the current demand for UGC. If you’re just starting out, take on UGC deals as a source of side income, but don’t think you can go all-in on this type of content and immediately replace the income from your 9-5.

At the end of the day, if you choose to be a UGC creator, your income will be dependent on brand deals. While demand for UGC is high now, a decrease in that demand can potentially leave you struggling to make any income. So if you want to be a full-time content creator, don’t focus entirely on UGC. Build up your content creation skills, find your niche, and build your brand. Treat UGC as a way to bring in extra money, instead of the be-all and end-all of your content creator career.

Keep creating

Creators who specialize in user-generated content got started much the same way as any content creators did. They started honing their skills, learned from their mistakes, and kept chasing opportunities until one of them stuck. And while UGC may not be the big-shot career some TikTokers are making it out to be, it’s still a great way to bring in revenue — and to acquire skills that’ll serve you well no matter what the future holds.

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Nicholas Bouchard
About the author

Nicholas Bouchard

Nick is a content writer and marketer with a passion for creation. His hobbies range from writing fiction to slamming folks around the wrestling ring. He can only be photographed in national parks and on mountains, and pictures of him usually come out blurry. Some wonder if he even exists at all.
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