Donna Gail sitting on newly paved asphalt wearing a Pixar Cars inspired outfit - a black and white plaid shirt tied up, a pair of high waisted red shorts, and Lightning McQueen shoes. Picture taking during mid-hair flip

Everyone Wants to Be an Influencer But No One Wants to Work for Free

Lately I have been reading some new material to try to better myself as a content creator. With over fifteen thousand followers on Instagram, most people would usually say I have reached micro-influencer success and that “you have it all figured out so why learn something new?” Well the simple answer being, just because my follower count says one thing, does not say anything about me as a creator, and so I have to go to influencer school on occasion. I have to track trends, find new spots to take pictures that aren’t clichΓ© or overdone or always a tourist spot. I have to plan my feed and work through when I post what and on which platform. I toss out content that I work hard on because it doesn’t fit with my theme or I just can’t edit it right. I have to research and read up on my niche’s news so I can be the one to put a foot forward before others. I do a lot of work, and guess how much I get paid? Next to nothing.

Working with Winner Winner Claw Game App inspired me to put together this post. I edited a giant game-play claw in the sky with puffy white clouds that are similar to what you see in the game, with featured prizes that you can win within the game itself floating in the sky!
One of my biggest accomplishments of 2020 was this sponsorship! I got paid a rate that I did not think possible.

Come off it, with that many followers you must get paid something. You probably just don’t think it’s a lot. Ok fine, let’s get in to it. In 2020, I made a total of around $700 as a content creator.


Absolutely. I am the biggest abuser of my time. I work myself very hard and I can’t pay myself anything. (No, this is not my full-time job, but I work hard so that it can maybe be a part-time job for me in the next year or so).

The reason I want to talk about this is because the influencer market is extremely saturated – everyone and their dog thinks they can be a content creator or influencer and the reality is that they can’t. Nowadays the word “influencer” is kind of a dirty word. The type of word that if you go into a job interview and they ask what you do for a living and you say “Oh I’m an influencer”, you might be met with an eye roll, a face scrunch of disapproval, or a very insincere “oh that’s nice..”. The fact is EVERYONE THINKS THEY ARE AN INFLUENCER which then makes the word itself into something that isn’t “a real job”. And what’s worse is that everyone who thinks that becoming an influencer is as easy as posting about what they had for breakfast that morning or a candid picture of them on a street corner, thinks that earning money as an influencer comes even easier than that.

Don’t get me wrong, some people truly have the intrepid spirit of successfully making it as an influencer, but others simply do not. Because what people do not understand is how long it takes to make this in to a full time job, and more importantly how much you will have to spend upfront to form a loyal following.

My most favorite Tron edit features me in a matching two-piece black workout set with white contrast stitching. In the background I edited in a landscape of the Grid in Tron Legacy.
I spent three hours editing this picture. Did I get paid? No, because I just wanted to make something cool. You have to put in time for your non-sponsored content to keep your following engaged with your page!

Well how much does it cost to get a following? Honestly, there’s no number and it really could depend on the niche you want to work in. And to be clear I don’t mean that you ‘ll be spending money on actually buying your following (that’s cheating and it will mean you are a fake). You will end up spending money on answering these kinds of things: Do you need to buy the hottest look, a nice camera for pictures, go on the fanciest trip, wear the newest clothes, drive to that cool location, purchase the most popular new Disney collectible? Now whatever you have to tangibly buy to keep your audience excited to see something new from you, it will be nothing compared to your most valuable resource – your time. And trust me, you will spend a lot of your time trying to curate the best page for yourself.

For me, I don’t even have an account with every social media platform because it’s just me doing this and I can’t afford to spend all my time doing work for free, which is why I have another job. At this point in time, I am active on this blog, my Instagram, Facebook, and my Pinterest, but Instagram is where I focus on. Per day working on all of those aspects of what makes Donna Gail Blog a reality is probably around six hours a day, but if I have a big project I am working on like a video or one of my insane edits, then I could be looking around ten hours out of the day. This is not time just actively creating content, mind you. It could be me learning something new, researching for a blog, engaging with my followers or with other pages on Instagram, or just brainstorming possible ideas for content. Thankfully I have had a lot of time on my hands with being furloughed and transitioning in to a new job role elsewhere, but for now this is what I have and this is what I am trying to make better for myself.

So let that sink in for a second. In one whole year, I made $700 creating sponsored content – just sponsored content. Not even the stuff I post on the regular. Around six hours a day with maybe one or two days off a week to do very minimal work and relax for $700 in the entire year.

This is what I and many other trying influencers are doing every single day to make this in to a livable wage for themselves. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of people grow quickly and make those bank rolls and kudos for them for finding that right secret sauce to cause massive success!! But the majority of people that will try will not be so successful. And that’s not because I think the worst of their content, it’s because I know realistically a lot of people don’t know what they are getting themselves into when they say that influencing is not a real job and that any one can do it.

So before you jump in to this job role, you will need to understand that:

  • A paycheck is not guaranteed. You will be working for free far more than you will be working for that pay day.
  • You get out what you put in to it, and what you put in to it in the beginning (and quite possibly for a few years) will most likely be a lot of time and money to curate your content.
  • People will grow faster than you and it’s going to sting. I haven’t figured everything out, but sometimes it can feel as though others figure it out from the get-go and land all the deals I wish I could have had! It’s just how this job goes.
  • You are not entitled to free stuff or paid campaigns because you have X amount of followers. Work hard to make connections and good content and the sponsorships will come eventually.

Please take this entire blog with a grain of salt because it is not my intention to scare any prospects away from coming in to the world of influencing or content creating. Instead accept this challenge, understand the obstacles that you may have to overcome, and make this job role your own. By having an insight like this, my hope is that you will be better prepared for what you may encounter and hopefully you can have a leg up in making sure that you aren’t getting discouraged when things aren’t working as quickly as you may have thought they would.

And my biggest piece of advice for anyone looking to become an influencer or content creator is to always keep pushing yourself. Keep learning something new, keep trying your very hardest, and always believe in yourself! I know that sounds extremely cheesy, but if you don’t believe in yourself, how do you expect others to?

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  1. Pingback: When to Stop Accepting Gifted or Non-Paid Campaigns | Donna Gail

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