Bloomberg — The youngest workers in the United States want to become entrepreneurs — but not in the way their parents might have imagined.
The drive to extract sustainable income from social media posts is strongest among the younger generation of workers, according to new research from Adobe (ADBE).
About 45% of Gen Z content creators surveyed said they aspire to own a business and make money from online content, according to the company’s May survey of more than 9,000 influencers and content creators from nine countries.
Adobe defines content creators as those who post content on social media with the aim of increasing their online presence or promoting their creative work – which can range from photography to music and even NFTs. Influencers interviewed reported having over 5k followers on their main social media platform and earning money by publishing content.
Gen Z content creators and influencers are part of the wave of entrepreneurship that has accompanied the hustle and bustle of the job market over the past couple of years. While many Americans started their own businesses during the lockdown out of necessity, the momentum remained, driven by a desire for flexibility and greater control over their financial future. A record 5.4 million new businesses opened in the US last year, according to census data. While the monthly rate was below its 2021 peak, it remained far above pre-pandemic levels.
Even with a lot of speculation about whether this increase in small business creation is an aberration or the beginning of a long-term reversal, “what we see is that this trend shows no signs of slowing down,” said Luke Pardue, economist at the data platform. Gusto payroll services.
The dynamics of change are, in part, generational, he says. “Specifically among younger workers, we see this trend that, even in the midst of a tight labor market, workers are not making wage gains that keep pace with inflation, so they are migrating to self-employment to determine their pay in a more consistent way. little more independent,” Pardue said. “Having a corporate job no longer allows the worker to achieve some of the goals available to previous generations.”
Generation Z vs. millennials
While millennials try to balance a formal job and a gig, Gen Z focuses on turning a project into a career, said Maria Yap, vice president of digital imaging applications at Adobe. “They think ‘my work could be something I love’”.
Some universities, such as Duke University, the University of Southern California, and the University of Virginia, responded to the shift in demand by offering classes on how to build successful businesses on social media.
Adobe’s research suggests that quitting a corporate career for Instagram can bring in a six-figure income if it’s a full-time job, although the reality is typically more complicated.
Creators who monetize content earn an average of $61 an hour, according to Adobe. Full-time (40 hours per week), Adobe estimates annual income could be $122,000. Influencers surveyed by Adobe earn $81 an hour, which would translate to about $162,000 if it were a full-time job.
However, the boundaries between hobby and part-time are not well defined, and most of the people interviewed by Adobe do not work full-time. Content creators spend an average of nine hours a week creating content; influencers spend an average of 15 hours. In the US, six out of 10 content creators work full-time, according to Adobe. If content creators left their formal jobs, there’s no way to know if they’d get enough work to fill 40 hours a week.
The public perception is often that content creators and influencers with more than 10,000 followers earn significant income, but that’s not the reality, said Qianna Smith Bruneteau, founder of the American Influencer Council, a trade association for content creation professionals for social networks.
Among those who create content full-time, only 12% earn more than $50,000 a year, according to a global survey of more than 9,500 creators published in April by Linktree, a very popular link-sharing platform among influencers. The living wage to live in Manhattan is nearly $53,000, according to the MIT salary calculator.
Is it real work?
While some creators and influencers are successful, others may have a lot of work and no payoff when it comes to accumulating followers, according to Bruneteau. “Producing content every day in a video-first environment is a lot of work,” she said. That could mean years of producing for free before receiving any return. “When you’re starting out, you can’t expect immediate gains. Like any small business, it takes about two years to get out of the red.”said Bruneteau.
Even with a large audience, monetizing content isn’t easy – it takes a lot of business acumen to pitch brands and build partnerships. And successful creators often need to work to generate as many cross-platform income streams as possible, from ad income to merchandise, workshops, and classes.
Tejas Hullur, 21, is an influencer from New York City. After starting to post about cryptocurrencies and finance in 2020, Hullur said he nailed it talking about the economics of content creation itself. “It’s ironically metalinguistic, in the sense of creating content for other creators,” she said.
Like many of his peers, Hullur had to quickly diversify his income stream after income from brand deals ended up becoming scarce. Even though, the unpredictability of income makes efficient planning difficult, especially with an economic downturn that threatens companies’ marketing budgets. Also, career longevity for influencers is an issue. Often, internet fame – and the money that comes with it – doesn’t last forever.
“We are in this world that revolves around the buzz. You can feel great,” Hullur said. “I see this all the time – I would say the amount of TikTokers that were at their peak in 2020 and still have a fully monetizable and successful business is less than 5%. Success comes, but it ends.”
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