If you’re on social media, chances are you’ve been targeted by an advertisement or have seen a so-called “influencer” become a #partner for a #sponsored post. I’m on the other side of that content — the person putting these posts on your feed. And I, like the thousands of people who work in influencer marketing and partnership development, have struggled with my perception of reality.
Trust me — I love waking up and going to work. My coworkers motivate me and bring out my best qualities. And yet, sometimes the work I’m doing has left me feeling hopeless, broke, and concerned. This is my story about what it’s like to be on the other side of #sponsored.
When I entered into the world of influencer marketing, I was hooked. The work is exhilarating — imagine recruiting the influencers you follow to promote your company’s product. You’re talking with their talent representatives, and oftentimes the talent themselves. And if you’re lucky, you get to meet them in person. They enter your world for business, but you get just close enough to maybe, possibly, consider them an acquaintance. After all, you spend countless hours together developing content, approving all creative, and setting them up for campaign success. You coach each other on social media best practices and strong messaging.
And then you pay them the equivalent of your entire month’s paycheck for a 30-second video.
At first, the money side of influencer marketing didn’t bother me. I had the mentality that “this is my job, that is their job.” I’m quite passionate about the creative ideation and social strategy component of my job, but I would be lying if I didn’t say the industry has made me second-guess my personal value. If I could make $16,000 for one Instagram story, why am I working full-time?
My monthly paycheck, for now, is right around $3,000. I stick to a strict budget — 63% of my income goes towards the necessities, 16% goes towards a fun bucket, and the remaining 21% is allocated towards savings and investments. I work hard. And I love working hard, especially for my team and company. But should I actually consider leaving it all behind to “influence” other people? Absolutely not. Hear me out.
I’ve had to work on my own self-image and confidence, since it’s easy to feel envious of the men and women who get to work-from-home and focus on their “passions.” The impact this industry has had on my mental health has been significant — both good and bad. And there are strategies I’ve put in place to find the fulfillment in my own life, that I want you to practice as well. So, let’s start with the good stuff.
I’ve truly realized that if you believe strongly in a certain value or lifestyle, you can create a life around it. We are surrounded by incredibly tenacious individuals who have worked extremely hard to make a living for themselves. The life of an influencer is not all that glamorous — they’re constantly hustling and negotiating with brands for the best deals, and grappling with the decision to be authentic to their channel, but to also please their paying brands. Regardless of our own jobs, we’re all working towards bettering our lives (and paying our bills).
I’ve also been inspired to navigate my own passions and values. It’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day: hitting the snooze button exactly three times each morning, two cups of coffee before 11 AM, salad for lunch, you get what I’m saying. What influencer marketing has taught me is that you can break from the monotony, and craft a life that’s uniquely yours. I’ve started a part-time side hustle that supports entrepreneurs from website design to content strategy — because I love the work, and because I’ve seen that it’s possible to have both a full-time job and a passion project. I’ve discovered the art of balance, which has been largely inspired by the influencers I work with.
Now for the bad. It’s not easy to pretend that social media doesn’t exist. That body standards, acne-and-age-free skin, shredded physiques, and health trends aren’t fogging our view of what’s real. But paying someone the equivalent of my rent bill for one five-minute YouTube video is complex. On the one hand, I want to support these creators for the numerous hours they put into filming, editing, and taking feedback. But on the other, I realize how consumer-heavy and easy-swayed we are a society. I find myself constantly comparing myself to everyone else’s lifestyles — wanting what I don’t have or what I won’t have for several years.
Take buying a house, for example. Ideally, I will have saved $125,000 for a down payment in 10 years. I’m saving roughly $400 to $500 a month with my current, manageable budget. For an influencer who makes $10,000 a week in sponsorships (after taxes, in this example), it will take them 12.5 weeks to save that same down payment. Approximately three months. Queue that internal feeling that I’m insufficient.
But the biggest lesson I’ve learned from working in influencer marketing is that your life is beautiful, too. Work is work, money is money. It’s been a hard journey grappling with what my reality is compared to that of an influencer. To see the money they’re making and compare that to my income. But at the end of the day, we’re all human. And I will continue to feel inspired by these creators, and will continue to love my job. Just know that behind #sponsored and #ad is a group of people who can relate to how influencers make you feel. All we hope is that you learn about brands and companies that bring value to your life.
The next time you find yourself comparing your life to the life of an influencer, remember that they don’t have it easy, either. There are people like me who likely make their lives a bit more complicated (negotiations can go on for months — five weeks on average). Being a happy, self-aware individual requires that you can acknowledge the beauty in your life and are able to visualize the growth you’re capable of both personally and financially. I’m still envious of the money these influencers make, I can’t lie about that. But I’m also feeling empowered to take risks and grow financially on my own — a lesson that I learned behind the #sponsored curtain.
By day, Lily works in business development for an online marketplace. By night, Lily lives an entrepreneurial life. After working as a Career Consultant for two years at her alma mater, Scripps College, Lily developed a passion for helping women in their careers. She embodies the mantra, “If not me, who? If not now, when?” in her work as a career advisor to college students, and creative and business strategist for fellow entrepreneurs. Catch her running around Los Angeles or at lilycomba.com.
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