Have you ever dreamed about becoming an influencer and getting paid to create social media content without needing a big audience? Well, a new wave of people is doing just that: UGC creators.
If you’ve spent time on TikTok or Instagram in the last 6-12 months, chances are you’ve come across UGC creators. Even if you don’t recognize the term, you’ve probably seen content made by these creators on your favorite brands’ accounts.
By the end of this guide, you’ll know the exact steps needed to become a UGC content creator.
What is a UGC creator?
A UGC creator is someone who creates sponsored content that appears authentic but is designed to showcase a specific business or product.
The most common format for UGC creators is video, especially on platforms like Instagram and TikTok. Creators usually film and narrate the content from their perspective, which gives it an authentic feel.
The main difference between UGC creators and influencers is that UGC creators create and deliver to businesses without the obligation to post it on their channels (although some UGC deals may add this for an extra fee). With influencers, the company usually pays for both content and exposure to the influencer’s audiences.
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UGC content also tends to appear less polished and professional than influencer content, which helps to preserve the authenticity of UGC.
Why is UGC so valuable?
While being a UGC creator is a new concept, traditional user-generated content (UGC) is not. It’s become a proven tool in social media strategies for building communities, increasing brand awareness, and driving sales.
Despite the name, UGC creators are not creating traditional organic UGC. Normally, UGC is created organically by customers in the form of photos, videos, testimonials, product reviews, and blog posts and shared spontaneously. Businesses can choose to re-share a customer’s UGC, but no payment or contracts are involved.
UGC creators create content that emulates traditional UGC, using the same unpolished and authentic filming style that an everyday creator might use when sharing a review of their favorite product.
As driving awareness and sales are valuable results for any business, it’s no surprise that brands are willing to pay UGC creators. Understanding the reasons why can help you better pitch yourself for UGC jobs.
It feels authentic
Consumers are 2.4 times more likely to view UGC as authentic versus content created by brands. UGC is the social media equivalent of product reviews and word-of-mouth.
User-created content will always have an organic feel that can’t be matched by brands, no matter how “cool” they are. As such, UGC tends to be more eye-catching and engaging, which is invaluable to brands.
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It’s cheaper than influencer content
When working with influencers, brands need to pay for both the content and the posts on the influencer’s channels. The more reach and engagement an influencer has, the more a brand has to pay — which can be in the millions for celebrities!
With UGC content, brands only need to pay for the content itself, which often can be the same quality (or better) than the content from influencers. It also gives them complete control over the distribution and positioning of the content.
It can influence purchase decisions
Many brands pay to get UGC to use in social media ads because it influences purchase decisions. UGC acts as social proof, showing that real people are buying and using a product, which can drive more sales.
Moreover, UGC doesn’t look like a blatant ad, which can make it more engaging when used in ad campaigns.
It’s faster than producing content from scratch
By sourcing content from UGC creators, a brand can get way more pieces than if it created them in-house. Brands can distribute a UGC brief to multiple creators, who will produce and deliver the content back to the brand by the same deadline.
How to become a UGC creator
Anyone with a decent smartphone or camera can become a UGC creator. You don’t need a bunch of followers or professional video editing skills.
That’s the beauty of UGC — the more authentic and natural the content is, the better.
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We’ve put together five steps to get you started as a UGC creator.
Step 1: Figure out your filming setup
You can shoot UGC almost anywhere — at home, outside, or in a store (as long as there isn’t too much background noise). Many UGC creators create content in the comforts of their homes, where they can perfect their filming setup.
In terms of equipment, you only need a phone with a decent camera and a tripod to stabilize your phone for product shots.
Some optional upgrades:
- Ring light. Useful for closeups of your face and filming at night or in darker rooms.
- Lavalier mic. Plugs into your phone’s audio jack and improves the quality of your recorded audio. Alternatively, you can also use the mic on a pair of wired headphones.
- Backdrops. You can get creative here – paper, fabric, and construction materials all can serve as backdrops.
- Props. Varies depending on the product, but find props that match the lifestyle or use cases of the product you’re showcasing.
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Pro tip: Don’t let the quality of your equipment or filming setup hold you back. Many UGC creators produce great content with just a phone, the product, and themselves. Once you get more experienced and start receiving feedback from brands, you can upgrade your equipment and setup.
Step 2: Build your UGC portfolio
Ah, the old chicken-and-egg dilemma: To create UGC content, you need products. However, brands will only send you products once you have a portfolio. So, how do you get started?
The answer: Make content for free featuring your favorite products. You don’t need permission from brands as long as you don’t portray it as a paid deal/sponsored content if you choose to post it.
There are several common types of UGC content:
- Unboxing. Opening a new product’s packaging and revealing all the contents. You can narrate the functions of the included pieces and how to use them.
- Review/testimonial. Giving your honest opinion on a product and how it works. UGC testimonials are different from other product reviews in that they should be short and not as in-depth, perhaps only focusing on one aspect instead of the whole product.
- How to/use cases. Demonstrating how you use the product. These can be more lifestyle-focused videos, showing how you naturally use the product during your daily life, or more tutorial-style videos.
Pro tip: When you’re just starting your portfolio, we suggest focusing on videos, as this is the most common format for UGC requests. Aim to have at least one example from all UGC types above.
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Step 3: Practice your editing skills
Once you’ve recorded your clip(s), the next step is to edit them. The typical length for UGC videos is 15-60 seconds.
Editing videos can be tricky to learn, but luckily there are many apps to make it easier. Two of the most popular apps are CapCut and InShot. The in-app editors within TikTok and Instagram are also quite user-friendly and have many of the same features as third-party apps.
If you’re creating UGC for TikTok, here are 15 tips on how to edit your videos.
Pro tip: Practice, practice, practice! There is no shortcut to becoming good at video editing. The more you get used to the tools, the quicker you’ll get. We recommend incorporating TikTok trends into your UGC videos to make them more engaging.
Check out these clips for editing inspiration:
Step 4: Post your UGC (optional)
This step is optional, as posting your content isn’t generally required as part of UGC contracts. However, it is an excellent way to practice and get feedback on how to improve your content. Even with a small audience, you can learn what works and what doesn’t work by checking the analytics for your posts.
Posting your UGC on your account also allows brands to see your content, after which they may reach out to you to offer UGC gigs.
Pro tips: If you want to increase the chances of brands discovering your UGC, don’t use hashtags like #UGC or #UGCcreator — these will signal the algorithm to serve your content to other UGC creators. Instead, use industry- and product-related hashtags.
Secondly, add your email (or another way to contact you) to your bio to make it easy for brands to reach out to you.
Step 5: Get paid
Now you’re ready for the next stage: Getting paid for your UGC! Once you have a portfolio, you can start applying for UGC gigs. We know this is easier said than done, so we’ve expanded our tips into a whole section below.
4 tips for getting paid as a UGC creator
1. Use platforms to find brand deals
With UGC’s rise, there are new platforms dedicated to facilitating UGC brand deals. Some post opportunities for creators to apply, while others require you to create a listing for your content creation services.
Here are some platforms to search for UGC opportunities:
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2. Network with brands and business owners
If you want to be more proactive and work with specific brands, then your best bet is to network via platforms like Linkedin, Twitter, and TikTok.
You can use these platforms for networking in several ways:
- Personal branding. Post updates on your account sharing your journey as a UGC creator, and add a CTA for brands to contact you for UGC
- Cold outreach. Think about brands you genuinely like and for which you would enjoy creating content, and reach out to folks who work at those companies
Pro tip: Smaller companies like startups and small businesses just starting to build their social media presence are more likely to need UGC.
3. Perfect your pitch
Pitching yourself to a brand for a UGC opportunity is like applying for a job. As more and more people become UGC creators, it’ll become more competitive. That means you need to make your pitch stand out.
Keep your pitches focused on the brand (not yourself) and the value you’ll provide for them through your UGC.
Pro tip: Tailor your pitch for each opportunity you apply to. In your portfolio, curate examples that are relevant to each brand’s industry and will appeal to that brand’s target audience.
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4. Know your worth
As with influencer marketing, payment rates for UGC creation vary widely. The brand or platform usually sets the rate for brand deals. Nonetheless, staying up-to-date with market rates will empower you to choose deals that pay fairly. This benefits you and ensures equitable compensation for other UGC creators.
Pro tip: Follow UGC creators on TikTok and Instagram, as they often post content sharing behind-the-scenes details on how they negotiate brand deals and how much they get paid.
Frequently asked questions about UGC creators
How many followers do I need to get paid as a UGC creator?
You don’t need a certain number of followers to become a UGC creator. Many UGC brand deals are content-only, meaning you only have to create and deliver content, with no requirement to post it on your own channels.
How do I find brands to work with?
The easiest way to know if a brand is looking for UGC creators is to use platforms that curate UGC brand deals. Brands may also advertise call-outs for UGC creators in their feed posts or Stories. You can also DM brands with your pitch in case they’re open to working with UGC creators.
How do I create a UGC portfolio?
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