UGC Creator 101: Is It the Creative Content Career for You?

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Karen Lin

Instagram Growth | May 29, 2024

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For some of us, whipping out our phones and taking photos of new purchases is second nature. We post on Instagram about the food we ordered, clothes we bought and even our thoughts on the latest Netflix show we watched. But did you know you could get paid for posting this type of content talking about brands? Yup, these are all things UGC creators earn money from every single day.

User-generated content is becoming one of the smartest, most effective content strategies for brands on Instagram. These posts feature their products and usually put them in a good light. The best part is that they don’t have to pay big bucks for influencers and celebrities to post them. Loyal customers do it on their own.

And as UGC culture gets bigger and bigger in social media marketing, a new career is born. Brands now hire UGC creators to make lifestyle photos and authentic content to promote brands.

But is creating UGC sustainable as a career? What does the job entail? How do you even become one? That’s what we’re talking about today. Keep reading to learn more about this gig, which could be your next sideline hustle or full-time job.

UGC Creator making a brand video with nothing but her phone camera.

First Thing’s First—What Is UGC?

Before discussing UGC creators, let’s have a little refresher on user-generated content. Many people confuse this type of Instagram content with influencer posts and branded ads. So, it’s time to get the story straight. What is UGC, and what makes it so popular on social media today?

User-generated content—or UGC—refers to content that features a brand’s products but the brand did not make itself. Instead, it’s real consumers that produce these photos, videos, podcasts and testimonials.

But why is UGC valuable to brands?

The answer is simple: people don’t trust ads anymore. Gen Z is especially known to have a strong dislike for ads and prefers more authentic content online. That’s why they respond better to lifestyle photos and influencer content than blatant, hard-sell ads.

User-generated content doesn’t emulate that polished, high-production vibe traditional ads do. People who create UGC don’t have fancy equipment to make posts like that. So, the content is raw and authentic yet still pleasing to look at.

One survey found that consumers are 2.4 times more likely to think that UGC is more authentic than content put out by brands. Real people who purchased the products post about them, not celebrities or marketing managers.

User-generated content makes a brand look more authentic and relatable. People will listen to a UGC creator more than a celebrity who got paid millions to post a marketing spiel. They know content creators don’t make money off the UGC they post, so why would they butter up the brand? The product review will be more trustworthy, making it a great way to reach potential customers.

Unboxing videos are just one type of user-generated content you’ll see from content creators.

What Is a UGC Creator? Is It the Same as an Influencer?

Now that you know what user-generated content is, let’s move on to the next question—exactly what is a UGC creator? What’s the difference between UGC and influencer content?

Anyone can make content about the brand, which would be considered UGC. Customers and brand loyalists can post about their purchases. Even employees of the brand can create authentic content talking about the company.

But today, more and more UGC is created by people who don’t exactly make the content organically and spontaneously. Instead, brands see their potential to create high-quality, authentic-looking content and hire them to make some for the label. These people are called UGC creators.

A UGC creator is a freelancer that produces what looks like user-generated content. Everything about it will be the same. The lifestyle photos and videos will look raw and aesthetically pleasing. The voiceover will be like a friend talking to you about a product. The only difference is that brands pay them to make this content.

The biggest difference between a UGC creator and an influencer is that the latter must have a huge following. However, the former doesn’t.

Real, genuine customers aren’t Instagram-famous. They’re just ordinary people with maybe a couple thousand followers. So, having a massive follower count isn’t a requirement to create content for money.

While these creators will sometimes post the UGC they made for a brand on their feed, it’s not always the case. Some brands will ask them to create UGC but own the content rights completely. They will then post it on their Instagram business page. Posting authentic-looking content made by real people is a great tactic to increase engagement in branded pages.

The Responsibilities of a UGC Content Creator

Although being a UGC content creator is a fun, flexible job where you can be as creative as you want, it’s still a job. You still have responsibilities and performance metrics to meet. Here are just some of the tasks you must do as a UGC creator:

UGC Creators Build a Content Library for Brands

The biggest responsibility of a UGC creator is, of course, to create user-generated content. You will draw a contract with your client regarding how many pieces of content they need you to make.

All these lifestyle photos, videos and other authentic content will go into a content library. The brands you collaborate with may not post your work right away. Instead, they’ll keep them in a little bank of content and save them for a rainy day. They’ll probably plan out a whole content calendar for when they will publish their UGC. Your job is to populate that calendar.

UGC Creators help brands build a content library with tons of UGC they can post, share and reuse over time.

UGC Creators Make Authentic-Looking Content

These brands are hiring UGC creators instead of professional photographers because they need authentic content. Part of the job is ensuring all the content you put out is beautiful and interesting but never high-brow.

Remember, people don’t trust ads anymore. They want lifestyle photos, fun Instagram Reels and people who talk about products like their friends would. When creating UGC, you must never make it look like an ad.

The point of creating UGC is to get people to trust you. Never make your content overly promotional. Drop the sales talk and do your voiceover for Reels in a chill, conversational way. This establishes rapport with the audience because they’ll see you as real and relatable.

Plus, the more authentic your content looks and feels, the more people want to share your posts. This helps in reeling in more views for your content, which your client will be more than happy about!

UGC Should Always Be Aesthetically Pleasing and Engaging

Brands hire UGC creators not only for their creative talent but also for their grasp of Instagram aesthetic styles. As a visual platform, content on Instagram must be beautiful to look at to drive engagement and views.

Many people who get paid to create UGC have a background in content creation, graphic design, editing and more. These creative professionals are perfect candidates for the job since they know a thing or two about creating aesthetically pleasing content.

And your user-generated content can’t just be pretty. It also has to be interesting and tell a compelling story so that people will read or watch it. If it’s flat, boring and hard-sell, people will scroll past it.

UGC Creators Showcase the Product to Influence Purchase

Lastly, it’s a UGC creator’s job to try and influence the purchase decision of a potential customer. Even if you’re not creating an ad per se, try to paint the brand in a good light to help drive sales.

Your authentic content and trustworthy voice as a non-celebrity are your ways in. Make sure to talk about the product’s features and benefits without sounding like you’re on the marketing team. Pretend you’re talking to your friends about it. That way, people will listen to what you have to say. Hopefully, this will get them interested in buying the product, too.

UGC Creator operating in the food niche preparing a meal on camera.

Jumpstart Your Career: How To Become a UGC Creator

As with any career path, you don’t just learn how to produce authentic-looking content for brands overnight. A lot of training, studying and preparing goes into becoming a successful content creator—especially one that works with brands.

Working your way up the content creation ladder can be intimidating. To help you out, we’ve condensed the entire process of launching a UGC creator career into five steps. Here’s how to become a UGC creator and build your new career from the ground up.

1. Find a Niche You Want To Create Content For

The first step is to decide what niche you want to operate in. Later in your career, you might be a jack of all trades that can make beautiful UGC for any industry. But while you’re starting out, it’s best to focus on one specific content niche. This allows you to focus your skills on one topic. It also gives you an edge when applying for jobs.

There are plenty of niches on Instagram you can play in. If you know how to make recipe videos and love doing mukbangs, consider being a UGC creator in the food niche. Love to work out and buy activewear and gym equipment? Being a fitness content creator might be the route for you. Other niches include fashion, travel, books and motivational content.

Once you know what niche you want to make authentic content for, scope out the competition. Look for projects in that niche for inspiration and think of ways to make yours better.

2. Practice Creating Quality Content

You know what they all say—practice makes perfect. If you’re serious about becoming a UGC creator, you need to practice making authentic content that is interesting, engaging and trustworthy.

Take lifestyle photos wherever you go, even on your morning walk to buy coffee. Brush up on editing videos on your laptop or creating Instagram Reels in the app.

Invest in some equipment to make your content even more high-quality. Upgrade your iPhone to the latest model. Buy a ring light and microphone to make your visuals and audio clearer. You can even go out of your way and create a backdrop for shooting photos. And don’t forget to practice using all these in your free time!

Content creator setting up her ring light and backdrop to shoot UGC.

3. Build Your UGC Creator Portfolio

Show your potential clients what you’re made of. Build a portfolio of all the UGC you’ve created, whether they’re just practice shots or authentic content you’ve posted on Instagram.

Not sure what kind of posts can go into your UGC creator portfolio? Here are some ideas to get the ball rolling:

·   Unboxing videos of products you just bought. Talk about the packaging and have tons of close-up shots of the product.

·   Try-on videos for clothes. This will show customers how the clothes fit on a regular person, not the models in the brand’s official catalog.

·   Product reviews. Be as honest as you want about products you’ve used in the past. Clients want to see how your personality shines through when you give testimonials.

There are plenty of places to host your portfolio. It can be on a website that you can link through your resumé. You can even create a new Instagram account dedicated exclusively to your UGC samples.

4. Take On Your First Freelance UGC Creator Job

You’re ready to apply to your first batch of UGC creator jobs. Luckily, finding openings for this kind of freelance job isn’t hard. While lurking on freelancing platforms like Upwork, Fiverr and even Twitter, you will come across UGC creation job posts.

If you want to work with specific brands, you can also reach out to them via email and give them your best pitch. Talk about what your authentic content can do for their brand, and don’t forget to send them your portfolio. In no time, you’ll be signing your very first contract with the brand of your dreams.

5. Maintain Your Skills by Honing Them Constantly

Lastly, you must always strive to improve your craft. You can’t be a successful creator if you don’t continue learning about trends and new ways to edit content.

Invest in content creation courses online and keep practicing how to film UGC. Be proactive in asking your clients for the performance metrics of your previous content and see how you can improve. Do whatever it takes to keep getting better and better at the job, and you’ll succeed with flying colors.

UGC creator shaking hands with a client after landing their first job.

How Much Can I Make as a UGC Creator?

Every job has a price. How much would one make as a UGC creator?

As with all jobs, it depends. There is no set pricing for this emerging career, the same way there’s no set pricing for influencers or freelancer video editors. Your rate for creating UGC will depend entirely on you. These creators usually charge brands hourly rates.

However, you can’t just make up a rate you want willy-nilly. A few factors go into what your rate should be. Your skill level, influence over your followers, portfolio and experience will all play a role in determining your rate.

That said, never sell yourself short. Demand what you deserve and how much your aesthetically pleasing user-generated content is worth.

To give you an idea of how much a UGC creator can make, check out this TikTok by CreativelyMadi. She explains that eight months into her career creating UGC from home, she makes about $7-10k. Not bad at all for an emerging career!

Final Thoughts: Is Being a UGC Creator Worth It?

Anyone with a knack for content creation and an authentic, trustworthy voice can be a UGC creator. It’s definitely worth a shot if you love taking photos and videos for brands and are passionate about creative content.

Whether you want to do it full-time or as a side gig, there are plenty of jobs that ask you to create user-generated content online. As long as you stick to your niche and commit to putting authentic content each time, you’ll find success in this emerging career option.If you want to launch a career as a UGC creator, you need to get your content out there. Path Social can help with that. Our targeting tool pushes out your content to people who will likely engage with it. This helps give you a bump in your follower count, growing your community organically. Get more followers with Path Social today!