How to become a UGC Content Creator
A subtle, but noteworthy shift has been taking place at the intersection of social media and digital marketing. Conventional user-generated content (UGC) creators have been taking their rightful place alongside influencers, in terms of compensation.
Two trends are contributing to that evolution. More social media platforms have expanded their video-oriented features (e.g., Instagram Reels, Facebook Watch, YouTube), in part, to keep up with TikTok’s explosive success. And, marketers are shifting more resources toward user-generated content because consumers are 2.4x more likely to say user-generated content is more authentic compared to brand-created content.
There’s no better time than now to consider becoming a UGC content creator. In this article, we’ll explain everything you need to know about UGC, from who can become a content creator to what you need to do to land your first brand client.
What is User Generated Content?
If you thought user-generated content first came on the scene when YouTube and Facebook began taking up residence in our collective psyche in the early 2000s, you’d be mistaken. The concept of UGC dates to at least 1857 when one of the founders of the Oxford English Dictionary, Richard Chenevis Trench, used it as a method for collecting the meanings of words from libraries, schools, book shops and other users (i.e., readers).
Today, UGC is more commonly understood to be a term for videos, posts, texts, reviews and other forms of online material created and published by individuals rather than professional media companies or brands. Those three tenets – publication, creative effort and non-professional – typically, though not categorically, form the definition of user-generated content. It is content produced by one or more people, not affiliated with a brand or production company, who add their own creative twist, and then upload it (i.e., publish it) to the Internet or elsewhere.
Here an example of a UGC campaign Dally helped facilitate:
Types of UGC
We’ve just defined what constitutes user-generated content, but by far the four most popular types of UGC are:
You can’t scroll through a feed without seeing thousands of photos and videos from people all over the world interacting with brands. Lounging by hotel pools, eating at restaurants, wearing the latest styles, you name it – UGC posts have taken over virtually every platform. It’s no wonder that brands are increasingly looking to leverage everyday people to boost their visibility.
Video content is arguably the holy grail of UCG. Short-form content (i.e., videos of 30 seconds or less) lends itself to platforms like Instagram and tends to be promotional or entertaining. Long-form videos are apt to be uploaded to YouTube and lean toward instructional in nature. Both play an important role in the UGC universe!
Long seen as the “social proof” that a business was worthy of being patronized, testimonials, reviews and ratings are all original forms of UGC. Whether on third-party sites like Yelp or TripAdvisor, paired with a visual and posted on Instagram, or included on your website, customer testimonials continue to be powerful UGC.
A well-placed link to a product or service in a popular blog post is worth its weight in gold these days, if not for UGC purposes, then for SEO alone! How-to blogs, rounds-up blogs and product reviews all offer ripe opportunities for creative UGC.
Who Can Be a UGC Creator?
Just about anyone can create user-generated content, and that’s precisely what makes this type of content special. It’s seen as more authentic than what brands themselves produce.
Content creators can be anyone who’s comfortable being on camera and enjoys creating interesting content. Unlike other types of influencers, UGC creators don’t have to be models or celebrities or even start out with a huge following. In fact, one of the biggest appeals of UGC is that it’s created by regular people posting on topics with which they have some degree of experience, interest or expertise.
So, if you’re a single dad of three kids speaking to other fathers in a similar situation, you’ll have a lot more authority and believability than, say, a celebrity endorsement. Or, if you run an ecommerce site and can speak knowledgeably about the strengths and weaknesses of different shipping services, you’re likely to have more credibility than a branded advertisement.
Viewers relate most to people with whom they can identify, which is why there’s no right or wrong type of UGC creator. You must, however, have some fluency in front of a camera, including speaking on camera. That’s because the vast majority of UGC is visually oriented, meaning photos and both short-form and long-form videos. There may be some examples of UGC that don’t include the creator’s voice or image, such as a product unboxing, but those are the exceptions, not the rule.
What Makes for a Successful UGC Creator?
While it’s true that, in theory, any person can become a content creator, several factors position some UGC creators for success better than others.
A Defined Niche(s)
Keeping in mind that UGC is about authenticity and relating to viewers, your UGC should centre around issues, products or services about which you are passionate or experienced. Think about your day-to-day life to identify potential subject areas around which you might develop content.
Content Idea-Generating Questions
- What products do you use throughout the day? Which ones have you used for years?
- What stores do you frequent? Have you ever written positive reviews for any of them?
- What software tools do you use for your job? Are you a power user for any of them?
- What are your hobbies? Are you an “expert” in your area of interest?
- What sports do you or your family play?
- What books or podcasts interest you?
- What’s your favourite gardening tool? Bicycle? Artist?
- Do you have favourite recipes that you like to share with friends?
When you ponder these questions, try to suss out which topics stir genuine enthusiasm within you, and then you’ll know you’re on the right track.
That’s why it’s so important that whatever content you choose to create, you approach it with integrity. If you’re not really into makeup, don’t start reviewing beauty products. Instead, focus on products, services or issues about which you are knowledgeable and/or passionate. Your enthusiasm and comfort with the subject material will contribute to the authenticity of your content.
It’s okay to be yourself. That doesn’t mean rolling out of bed and switching on the camera, but it does mean you should let your natural personality shine through – quirks and all. Brands who sponsor UGC know that it may include some of the informality that comes with user-produced content, for instance, a cluttered kitchen counter, an occasional error in grammar, or a less-than-flawless hairdo.
You should, however, do your best to produce content as professionally as you are capable, whether that includes editing video takes, improving camera lighting or decluttering your backdrop.
A Strong Portfolio
Whether you’re brand new to UGC or you’ve been doing it for a while, you should have a portfolio that you can share with prospective brand sponsors. A portfolio is a showcase of the content you’ve created and some of your past results, if applicable. Depending on how much content you generate, you may have more than one portfolio. Each will be tailored to the brand(s) you are pitching.
Assuming you don’t yet have content for your portfolio, the best place to start is to go to the list of topics you generated earlier and begin developing some. Let’s say you are knowledgeable about gardening trends and techniques, and you plan to reach out to home and garden-oriented brands. You can start by doing some short, engaging videos in your garden. If you don’t yet have them, create accounts in TikTok and/or YouTube and upload the videos. Be sure to tag any brands you use or mention in the videos.
Although we’ve stated that having a defined niche and being authentic are both important, another way you can build your portfolio is to create user-generated content for a close friend or family member who owns a business. Ask if they would be open to UGC around their product or service, tag them and ask them to repost it. Be sure to track any results that stem from your efforts.
Once you’ve developed enough content to assemble a portfolio – anywhere from five to 10 examples – you can decide where and how to host your portfolio. A portfolio can be a presentation document, created in a tool like Canva, or a website. Any platform that allows the viewer to link to an area where they can see and hear your UGC in one place is fine. Include your most creative and engaging work and, when available, any data about the success of the content. For example, Post A received 150,000 impressions or Brand B said they received 2300 CTRs from this post.
One decision you’ll need to make is whether you want your portfolio to be public or private. If it’s public, obviously anyone can see it. If you’d like to keep it private, you can host it on a Google folder and create a shareable link. In certain scenarios, there is a downside to keeping your portfolio private as you may not be able to demonstrate the live data associated with a currently high-performing piece of content.
Do UGC Creators Need a Lot of Followers?
One distinction between social media influencers and UGC creators is their follower base. Influencers are compensated because they have a large following, whereas UGC creators are hired because they lend authenticity to the brand.
That’s great news for aspiring content creators because it opens the door to more people doing UGC for a living since platforms like TikTok give each piece of content the same opportunity to do well, regardless of the creator’s following.
Another reason follower size isn’t relevant is that UGC content is often delivered directly to the brand which posts it to their social channels. When brands post from their accounts, they are reaching their own followers.
There are times, of course, when UCG creators post branded content to their personal channels and tag the brand. In doing so, they’re exposing the brand’s products and services to potential new customers.
It’s no surprise, then, that being a UGC creator who also happens to have a strong following is a bonus. The good news is that there’s often a direct relationship between good content and the number of followers. So, as you start building your UGC portfolio, you will be building your audience.
How to Find Brands That Are Looking for UGC
Once you’ve developed a respectable portfolio, it’s time to start looking for potential clients. If you’re among the lucky few who have been tagging brands and their hashtags in your content all along, perhaps a brand has already reached out to you because they like your work. Use these opportunities to upsell additional content. For example, if they ask for a 30-second piece for YouTube, you can ask if they’d like some separate spots for TikTok.
If a brand contacts you to ask to repost something you’ve created, thank them for reaching out and mention that your reposts do come with a fee. This is a good opportunity to mention that you can create additional UGC for them.
To ensure you don’t lose out on these opportunities, include a link or email in your bio so brands have an easy way to contact you.
If you don’t have brands knocking at your door, it’s time to do some outbound marketing. There are several different ways to approach it, and you may do more than one.
If you’re just beginning and haven’t yet had any paid clients, you can go to job sites like Upwork to look for opportunities. Search for terms such as UGC, content creator, social media and other variations of these words. There will be a lot of competition, and you may need to start with lower compensation than you believe you’re worth, but the goal is to get some paying clients under your belt to build your portfolio.
Reach Out to Your Favorite Brands
Are there products you rave about regularly to others? Maybe that brand of vitamins you swear by or those leather boots you can’t live without? If so, then you are what they call in marketing, an evangelist! You love a product or brand so much that you probably talk positively about it to anyone who’ll listen. If you haven’t already, grab that camera and pull together some UGC for those brands!
Next, you’ll need to do a little detective work to determine who’s the best contact at the company to speak to about providing UGC. While you may be tempted to start with a direct message through their social media channels, it’s preferable to identify an actual person, likely someone in the marketing department. It might be a social media manager, a chief marketing officer or a vice president of marketing, depending on the size of the company. You can search the company’s LinkedIn profile to see who works there, review the team section of their website or search online. There are several tools available online to find an email address for specific individuals.
Once you’ve identified who you think is the right contact, craft an email introducing yourself and your purpose for writing. Your email should be brief, professional and complimentary of their brand. It should also include a link to your portfolio. You are creating UGC to enhance their brand, not to sell yourself, so be sure to keep the message focused on them.
Securing Brand Clients
Assuming you’ve had some interest in your portfolio, it’s time to schedule a conversation with the brand contact. This is often referred to as a discovery call, and it’s your opportunity to learn about what their vision for the engagement is. Who are they hoping to reach? What messaging is important to them? What social media platforms do they want to use? How many pieces of content do they need, in what format? Is there anything they want you to avoid? Etc.
There are countless online booking programs available to schedule the discovery call, or you can simply agree to a time via email. During the call itself, which usually lasts anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour, be sure to take good notes. You’ll use these notes to pull together a proposal that will form the basis of a client contract, which we touch on in the next section.
At the conclusion of the call, let the client know you’ll follow up with them soon with a summary of your discussion and a cost proposal.
Tools of the Trade
Before you have your first discovery call, you should have a few other systems in place to help the transaction with the brand run smoothly.
Boiler Plate Contract
A contract will protect both you and the client and will help the entire project run smoother by clearly defining the details of the agreement. A typical contract will include the budget, including when you will be paid. For example, you may request a 50% deposit at contract signing and 50% when the files are sent over.
It will also include key timelines, such as the dates by which pieces of content will be created and/or published.
The contract should cover other important details such as the number of revisions that are included with your work or whether there are any out-of-pocket costs. For example, you may state that you will do a maximum of two revisions to a 30-second video.
There are some downloadable contracts online that you can use as a starting point, but it’s worth investing in an attorney who works with social media influencers as your business grows.
Proposals & Invoices
Like contracts, you can find many examples of proposals and invoices online. Depending on what software tools you’re using, you may have multiple tools integrated into one system. The important point is that you have these tools ready and available, so when that first client shows interest in your UGC, you are prepared.
Depending on how large your files are, you can use email, Google Drive or Dropbox to transfer your completed work to the client. For larger, more complex video projects, there is a tool called Frame that makes it easier to communicate edits, for example.
How Much Do UGC Creators Make?
At the end of the day, the big question is, “How much money can I make as a UGC creator?” Not surprisingly, it varies greatly. Payouts for UGC videos can range from $30 to $300, so depending on how many brands you’re working with or how prolific you are with your existing brand clients, that can add up quickly.
Some creators who’ve been at it for a while can make from $3000 to $5000 a month. Others struggle to make their first $50. The key is producing good quality, authentic content and being diligent in reaching out to brands.
Brands + UGC Creators = Win/Win
User-generated content has done something almost unheard of in the world of digital marketing — brought the cost of branding and advertising down! At the same time, it’s levelled the playing field for UGC creators who have valuable, creative content to share.
At Dally, we bring together brands and UGC creators to produce authentic, cost-effective advertising creative. If you’re a brand thinking about tapping into our diverse set of UGC creators, please feel free to contact us. If you’re a UGC creator looking to book more work, please get in touch!