We may receive a payment in connection with purchases of products or services featured in this article. Read our Ethics Policy to learn more.
If you’ve already dived into the world of content creation and have been reading up on the best strategies for making a living doing what you love, you’ve probably come across people discussing the benefits of becoming a UGC creator or a user-generated content creator.
This type of content creation might not be as well known to the public offhand, but it’s something we all regularly see when browsing the internet—and it’s a great way for people who don’t already have a massive following online to obtain a revenue stream through creating content.
What is UGC and why is it important?
User-generated content (UGC) refers to content created by regular people to help a company sell a product or service. UGC includes videos, images, reels, stories, text, reviews, testimonials, how-to guides, unboxing videos, blogs, livestreams, etc., and is generally published across a brand’s social media and other channels.
Although UGC frequently comes in the form of videos, it can also refer to photos or written content, as well. The major thing it all has in common is that it is created by a user of the product or service, and then utilized by the company to try to convince potential customers to buy what they are selling.
UGC is a powerful way for companies to boost brand awareness because they don’t have to create the content—they just get to share it. Not only does this humanize a brand, but serves to legitimize it as something real people actually use and enjoy. This means UGC has become a sort of digital modern-day ‘word of mouth’ marketing tactic.
That’s especially important considering that in 2022, 76% of consumers bought a product because of someone else’s recommendation. Relatedly, consumers are 2.4 times (!!!) more likely to see UGC content as authentic compared to content created by brands.
What is a UGC creator?
A UGC creator is someone who documents themselves using a product or service. User-generated content is sometimes spontaneous (meaning unpaid; a user’s TikTok hyping a skin lotion they genuinely happen to use and enjoy, for example), but brands for the most part seek out everyday people who can work with them to create authentic-looking videos, images, and other media they can then share on their social media pages or websites.
Paid UGC creators can be celebrities, influencers, or other well-known personalities relevant to a particular brand, but anyone capable of creating engaging and authentic-looking content on a consistent basis can become a UGC creator—and you can make good money along the way.
What are some examples of UGC?
UGC content is really everywhere now. If you need a visual to gain a better understanding of what types of videos we’re referring to, here is a video posted directly to Airbnb’s TikTok, followed by a sample UGC video shared by someone showing people how this works.
Another great example is Harvard Graduate School of Education’s (HGSE) Instagram account. What better way to attract more students to higher education than to showcase the experiences and stories of actual students?
Beauty company Glossier nailed it when they reposted a photo of an 89-year-old grandmother shared by her granddaughter; not only is it lovely and evocative, but more importantly, it showcases their product’s effectiveness.
Women’s clothing and lingerie company Aerie has long been in the UGC creator game, and for good reason: women are much more likely to buy undergarments when they see how they look and feel on folks the same size as them. This video featuring trans blogger Jamie Pandit reviewing a new pushup bra feels authentic, looks natural, and makes you want to buy their product.
What is the difference between UGC creators and content creators/influencers?
The major difference between UGC creators and content creators (or influencers) is channel distribution. UGC creators are paid or otherwise reimbursed to make specific content (TikToks, Instagram photos) about products or services for a company to distribute across its marketing channels. The creators do not post this content to their own social channels—they sell it to a company that then generally owns the redistribution rights.
Influencers or content creators, on the other hand, are paid to share this content across their own social and marketing channels because they have a dedicated audience. They’ll usually work out a contract with a brand promising to publish a certain number of TikToks, Instagram pics, etc., during specific times and days.
Unlike influencers, UGC creators are not always required to show their faces or identities.
Why do brands work with UGC creators?
Brands frequently have a number of campaigns running at any given time, and working with UGC creators might just be one of these threads. But more and more companies are making a point to pursue this avenue of advertising for several key reasons:
UGC videos can look like high-quality YouTube content or even just something you might record on your cell phone for fun. Either way, they are significantly cheaper and faster to produce than a standard commercial or even a collaboration with influencers, as paying for access to an influencer’s followers generally raises the cost incurred by the company. Yet 79% of customers say that UGC content has an impact on which products they choose to buy, creating a solid return value for these brands.
No matter how splashy a brand’s official advertising is, the vast majority of consumers are savvy enough to know they need to do their own research to figure out whether the product or service they’re buying actually lives up to the hype the company is selling. But user-generated content innately feels far more authentic, as it suggests other customers are satisfied with what they have bought and feels less like an advertisement.
While companies always have the option of pointing to existing positive reviews or videos about their products, working with UGC creators allows them to make specific requests tailored to their needs. It also allows them to share the media directly to their own socials or website or push it via paid advertising without jumping through additional licensing hoops.
What do you need to become a UGC creator?
Getting started as a UGC creator is fairly straightforward, but there are a few things you need to do before seeking out companies to work with.
The good news is that if all you have is a smartphone with a decent camera, that’s enough to get you started if you plan to make UGC videos. Some companies may actually prefer the phone look as opposed to something more polished, but you may want to upgrade your equipment sooner rather than later so that you have options.
In this scenario, you’ll want to consider these items:
Investing in a tripod and a ring light—and even specialty lenses to better highlight the product—may be a good idea even if you stick to your phone for recording, but if you want to look at higher quality cameras or microphones, check out the Canon PowerShot G7x Mark II and the Blue Yeti X.
You may also want to look into creating a simple backdrop to help give your videos a clean look and be aware of any additional props you might need to help demonstrate how the products you are choosing to feature work.
Generally, you won’t be able to just jump into getting work as a UGC creator right away. Brands will want to see what you bring to the table which means you need to put together a portfolio to show them you are capable, creative, and someone in touch with what their potential customer base needs to hear.
Create videos in line with the types of products you want to target, then upload them somewhere you can send them to companies to check out. This can be a social media page, YouTube, or Vimeo links—just anywhere that doesn’t require someone to download your work.
You can also do something similar with photos or blogs if that is the type of UGC you are opting to pursue, but videos are the most popular among brands right now.
3) What you DON’T need: followers
It’s worth pointing out that, unlike influencers, you do not need to show companies that you have a certain number of followers to secure work as a UGC creator. They are not paying for access to your audience. In fact, you can start an entirely new social media page just for samples of your UGC work if you would like. (And if you also plan to work towards becoming any other kind of content creator, this isn’t a bad idea.)
How do I become a UGC creator?
Now you understand what a UGC creator is, and what you need to get started, so how do you actually become paid to do this work?
1) Consider which industry you want to work in
Let’s backtrack a little bit first. While you may want to venture into making videos about a variety of products or services, narrowing your focus to a single industry at first can help reassure brands that you have the knowledge to connect with their customers.
Do you want to start off focusing on beauty products? Video games? Books? Kitchen gadgets? Pet products? It may help to make a list of things you have purchased in the past year that you found yourself recommending to friends or industries that already overlap with your areas of expertise or interests.
As more attention has been drawn to UGC, a plethora of information and examples have become available online. Spend time on TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube watching UGC on brand pages, and also dig into the tags (#ugc and #ugccreator are a great place to start) to see other people making it as UGC creators show off their portfolio samples to get a better idea of what companies are currently looking for.
3) Record your videos
You’ve done the research, you have your equipment, and now you’re ready to record your videos (or take your photographs, or write your blogs). Although you don’t need a lot of videos, it’s not a bad idea to vary the type of content—eg. an unboxing video, a review, and a product demonstration—so that companies know you can handle whatever it is they need.
And if you aren’t happy with how they turn out, try again. If you are new to content creation, it may take some time to get things like lighting and pacing down, but it’s far more important to have solid, well-curated samples than to have a page filled with unpaid work.
4) Create your portfolio
Your samples are the major part of your portfolio, but you’ll also want to write something up about who you are and why you can provide value to the brand.
If you plan on approaching companies that haven’t incorporated UGC into their advertising strategy, this is also the time when you’ll want to do some research and explain to them why UGC can be beneficial to them—starting with the reasons we pointed out above under “Why do brands work with UGC creators?”)
If you plan on approaching companies that already work with UGC creators, examine what they’ve already done and see if there’s anything you have to offer that you feel would meet a need, niche, or sector of the demographic that isn’t being addressed.
For the actual presentation, Canva may be a good option to combine all of the work you’ve done into a polished portfolio for brands to browse.
5) Reach out to brands
For smaller brands, you may have the most luck reaching out to them directly. You can also find advertisements from smaller companies or sellers looking for UGC creators on places like Fiverr and Upwork.
There are also a number of hubs specifically created for brands and UGC creators to connect, including:
How much success you have with any one of these platforms will depend on the specifics of your new journey as a UGC creator, but the resources are there.
What makes a good UGC creator?
- Being able to tell a good story: You don’t need to be Shakespeare here, but make sure you have a narrative arc that includes a beginning, middle, and an end—and tell that story in an informative and engaging way.
- Quality: Your content should always employ high-quality video, audio, and images. Brands also look for versatility; try to showcase a variety of different styles of good-looking, high-quality content.
- Having a niche: While this isn’t required (you don’t necessarily want to pigeonhole yourself), having a general area you’re passionate about and informative is helpful. Not only does it lend you authority, it’s more fun for you to make, too.
- A content strategy: This one is important for any and all content creators. Building even the most basic of outlines framing out the type of content you want to make, the tone you want it to have, and the frequency you want to post at is key. Then look for patterns—what audiences respond to and appreciate—and do more of that.
How much do UGC creators make?
UGC creators aren’t going to be topping any of our lists rounding up the wealthiest content creators on social media, but it can be a good side hustle or a portion of your larger content creation strategy. In some cases, you may even be able to turn it into a primary income source.
Some brands reportedly pay upwards of $250 for a 60-second video, and some creators say they make thousands of dollars per month. On the flip side, creators just starting out might end up doing jobs that only pay $10-20 to get experience and build out a portfolio.
As with everything related to content creation, the actual amount you make will vary tremendously based on the work you do, the relationships you establish, and how much time you are able to commit. But demand for UGC creators is high, and if it’s something you want to pursue, hopefully, now you have a solid understanding of how to dive in.
Tips for success
- Invest in equipment; it doesn’t need to be super nice or expensive, but a smartphone with a good camera and a tripod for stabilization can go far in helping your content look high-quality.
- Create a UGC-specific account and portfolio showcasing a variety of different video and content types to appeal to brands. If you’re just starting out, no problem! Make content using products you actually use and like for free; you don’t need a company’s permission so long as you don’t mark it as sponsored content or a brand deal. Some of the more common types of UGC content are how-to videos, unboxing videos, and review/testimonial videos.
- Once again, choose a niche and research that industry’s UGC landscape. What platform do you want to engage on? What are the UGC trends for that industry and platform, what are the guidelines of your chosen platform, and what sorts of posts do audiences respond to?
- Get good at video editing. Since videos are the most common format for UGC requests, knowing how to cut a short, compelling video is paramount to being a good UGC creator. TikTok and Instagram have pretty decent in-app editors and are good places to start before moving to or having to pay for any third-party services.