Like Athena breaking through the head of Zeus, an icon was born in the blogosphere in the 2010s. She wore a camel hat with her long ombre hair tilted askew, skinny jeans, and Valentino Rockstud heels. Known simply as “The Influencer,” she is the latest evolution of the decades-old goal of becoming a tastemaker and socialite, and in the age of social media it’s never been easier. It looked like.
Even if her style wasn’t, her influence, or at least her income, was. Some, like Chiara Ferragni and Amy Song, have gone on to earn more than 20 million yen. 8 million dollars and 5 million dollars, each with millions of followers and their own retail brands. Such success not only puts the content creator on the map, but also puts him on the pedestal of the newly legendary American Dream, where anyone can succeed if they show their individuality. . More than a decade after the rise of Tumblr stardom, TikTok has a niche for everyone. share recipe or outfit ideas or even pretend that medieval bartender. even now, more than half Young members of Generation Z will become influencers if given the chance.No wonder Goldman Sachs analysts predict there’s value in the creator economy $480 billion By 2027.
If you can earn money, becoming a social media influencer can be a flexible, autonomous, and lucrative career. But the more people try, the more competition there becomes, and the harder it becomes to rise to the top of the high-paying ranks. 3 influencers luck Those we spoke with revealed what it really takes to get there. They create the illusion of costly wealth by taking on credit card debt, depleting their savings, and hiding behind the facade of financial support and freebies.
Lysette Calveiro, 30, travels to Austin, shops at influencers’ favorite stores, and tries to emulate the easygoing, fun, and hectic lifestyles of the influencers who were taking Instagram by storm at the time. , took on $10,000 in credit card debt in the mid-2010s. Dine at a trendy new restaurant. “I feel like I have to continue this interesting lifestyle, rather than a high-end lifestyle,” she says. luck. “It’s like, ‘Oh, I have something going on every day.'”
The price of entry is also high, with cameras and iPhones costing up to $5,000 on average, she says, which is almost impossible for an entry-level salary in the media advertising industry of $30,000 a year. “If you buy clothes every day just to have a different outfit on your feed, that’s not realistic,” she added.
Currently, Calbeiro is a lifestyle creator and business coach for creators with 80,000 users. instagram followers and 45,000 TikTok followers. luck examined documents showing Calveiro’s business raised more than $525,000 last year, $122,000 of which came from content production alone. Ironically, by being transparent about her financial failures, Calveiro was able to build a following, establish credibility, and win brand deals.
“When I opened up about my financial situation, I had 10,000 followers instead of 1 million,” Calveiro says. “But I was trying to emulate what the girls with a million were doing.”
Influencers “just keep investing in experiences and things that are out of reach for their lifestyle,” Calveiro says, adding that thinking of these purchases as a business expense may cause some to rationalize their actions. He added that there is. She added that while creators have become a little more transparent since she first burst onto the scene 10 years ago, many are still “definitely living some kind of back-end life.”
A foundation of intergenerational wealth or zero debt and savings.
Many of the top influencers come from pre-existing economic and social privileges, said Brooke Erin Duffy, an associate professor of communication at Cornell University who has studied social media influencers and the creator economy since their rise in the 2010s. says. “It takes more than courage and luck to succeed in such a saturated market,” she says. luck.
“The majority of people who were successful, especially on Instagram, had someone they could rely on more, such as a family member or significant other, who made more money,” the blogger and founder explains. bad bitch book club Mackenzie Newcombe. She says being debt-free was unusual in the 2010s, when Instagram influencers were at their peak. luck-Especially if you’re a single person who hasn’t been blessed with generational wealth. “You literally had to be rich to be an Instagram influencer,” says the book influencer, who has nearly 80,000 followers worldwide. Instagram and tick tock. “If you weren’t wealthy, you would have to go into debt.”
Or you may need to tap into your savings. This may not seem so bad to some influencers, but it’s a different kind of hit to their finances. Wary of accumulating debt again after spending more than a year and a half paying it off, Calveiro turned to an emergency fund as her income dropped to $0 shortly after becoming a full-time influencer in April 2020. Ta. Lifestyle and beauty influencer Emma Rose Leger says she would never have allowed herself to take on credit card debt, but she has “definitely maxed out her bank account many times.” I did.”
An early influencer, her 2018 Coachella Instagram post depicts a colorful world of palm trees, space buns, and friends frolicking in fringe jackets. However, reality was not a galactic paradise. She increased her credit card limit to buy tickets, but she said she ran out of money by the time she arrived. She couldn’t even afford to attend influencer dinners, instead relying on free fruit in hotel lobbies. Her sister had to wire cash for the weekend.
“Nobody knew from an outsider’s perspective or from social media,” Leger said. instagram followers and 236,000 TikTok subscribers,Tell you luck. “I literally had no money in my bank account that weekend.”
That’s despite doing “everything” to make money to become a full-time influencer, including walking dogs, working in restaurants and fashion boutiques, and helping coordinate social media content. Calbeiro had a similar strategy, juggling his 9-to-5 job in marketing with his pretensions as an influencer, which felt like a second job in itself. It was done. When she eventually became a full-time creator, she took on consulting jobs helping brands create content. “Most content creators have other sources of income,” she says. “And they’re not putting it out there because it’s not ‘sexy.'”
The dichotomy of being an ambitious but transparent influencer
By the mid-2010s, influencer transparency, or lack thereof, became a big issue. Influencers aren’t always transparent about the gifts they receive, like Celine bags or his $200 La Mer moisturizer. As digital culture journalist Taylor Lorenz details in his new book, Extremely Online, influencers and celebrities alike have been criticized for keeping their ads private.in 2017, The FTC has cracked down, sending letters to influencers reminding them to let their followers know about gift items and connections to companies. This backfired, Lorenz writes, and opened the floodgates for sponsored content to become a status symbol and people without brand deals to fake it.
There were also many other ways to disguise a lifestyle that didn’t 100% reflect your income. Leger sometimes borrowed fancy bags from friends or from different stores just to post photos. And while Newcombe became a member of Rent the Runway in 2016, she never revealed this to her followers. “Even if it was a rental, I always looked at the brands I was wearing as if I already owned them,” she says. She said, amusingly, “Everyone just assumed I had credit card debt.”
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However, she has since TikTok series Try on the Rent the Runway hole. It’s a sign of social media’s transformation during what Duffy calls the “pandemic-era rise of TikTok” in the 2020s. This further complicates the notion that “the most successful influencers come from the wealthy”, “a renewed emphasis on “relevance” and virality associated with algorithmic “for you pages.” Because of my gender,” she explains.
But that virality doesn’t always translate to longevity, she added. And the rise of new platforms like TikTok and continuously updated features like Reels and Stories is only creating a tougher environment for influencers to invest additional effort and money, she says. , cited the number of courses offered on algorithms and hashtag strategy as an example. .
Enforcing influencer transparency to be policed and regulated remains difficult, Duffy noted, and influencers deemed “fake” or duplicitous still risk being ridiculed or vilified by their audiences. He added that there is.all influencers luck Those we spoke with say they’ve seen a shift towards more authenticity, but this is a double-edged sword. It’s difficult for influencers to be honest about their struggles along the way because their followers expect a certain amount of escapism.
“It’s a balancing act because as an influencer you have to be ambitious,” Newcomb says. “But at the same time, you don’t want to seem privileged, because people are so quick to judge, especially in this economy.”
“The whole point of our work is to create this illusion and desire in the people who follow us,” Leger adds, noting that when she started, it was travel bloggers Photoshopping beautiful images. He explained that it was as much a fantasy as it was. “At that time, it was all about Fantasyland.”