The influencer epidemic: Gen-Z’s most sought-after job title

Illustration by Sasha White

The majority of young people today don’t aspire to be a teacher, doctor, chef or writer. Instead, being an influencer has become one of the most desired career paths for Gen-Z, a job title that didn’t even exist 15 years ago. As content creation becomes more and more popular, it is critical to consider whether this is truly a stable or realistic way to make a living.

A 2020 study conducted by Morning Consult in the United States indicated that 54% of 13-38-year-olds wanted to become an influencer. In the decades since the internet was popularized and people began making their living through content creation, the idea of becoming an influencer has increased drastically in popularity and seems very attainable for the average person. 

The concept of influencers began in the 2000s with the beginning of YouTube and the individuals who got their start on the platform. Content creators like PewDiePie, David Dobrik and Shane Dawson gained enormous followings and showed people it was possible to make a living on the internet, paving the way for the world of content creation today. 

As social media grew in popularity, influencers began to rise on other platforms like Instagram and eventually TikTok. The COVID-19 lockdown and the simultaneous rise in TikTok’s usage had an especially unique influence on the content creation industry. Forbes discusses how the pandemic not only forced people to work online, it drastically increased how much of their personal time they spent on the internet. 

It became clear to many people –  especially younger generations – that making money as a content creator was far more attainable than they had realized, and there are many deeply appealing factors of being an influencer. 

For people who dread working a 9–5 (or do currently), who don’t want to pay for 4+ years of school to earn a degree they may or may not use, or who simply want to profit off of the things they already enjoy doing, being an influencer may seem like the ideal career. Making videos, getting followers and being offered brand deals sounds much more appealing to many people than a typical corporate job. 

As attractive as this industry may appear, there are many difficult aspects of being a content creator that people don’t see at first glance. While social media users may see the “overnight success” of creators like Charli D’Amelio and Alix Earle and try to replicate that, the reality of becoming an influencer isn’t as simple as making a viral video and watching the money roll in. 

While becoming an influencer may seem like an “easy” way to make money, it’s often a difficult process to begin to make any kind of profit. A study from The Tilt reported that the average content creator doesn’t earn their first dollar for over six months, and it often takes around a year and a half to reach a steady income an individual can live off of. 

Making a living from being a content creator requires regular posting of engaging content, maintaining an active following and attaining a certain amount of luck to have your content initially boosted. With 35 million new posts every day on TikTok alone, it can be incredibly difficult for new creators to get their foot in the door and start getting consistent views.

Even once a content creator has built a following and eventually starts making money, they have joined an industry where income can fluctuate greatly. Unlike other jobs that are more stable, influencers’ income can vary greatly based on their relevance, what brands may or may not choose to work with them and whether or not their followers stay interested and active.

While social media is populated by people who seem to have made it as an influencer, it isn’t the “easy” career path that it might appear to be. Becoming a full-time content creator is a difficult process that requires intense dedication and time, not just a simple way to avoid a stereotypical office job.

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