For content creators, user-generated content (UGC) can be a significant revenue stream. But standing out from the competition is hard - as is finding brands to work with on a consistent basis. So, we interviewed several UGC creators to get their insights into succeeding in this industry. Let's dive in.
What is UGC?
First, a quick explainer. UGC is an important part of social media marketing for many brands. After all, 80% of consumers claim that UGC massively influences their purchasing decisions.
But, what exactly is UGC? If you’re a UGC creator, you're paid to produce content that resembles organic content on behalf of a brand. You could also call yourself a freelance content creator for brands.
That said, if you want to know more about creating UGC for a living, acquiring more brand deals, and successfully growing your business, read on for some expert advice.
How to be a successful UGC creator in 2022
Getting consistent paid UGC deals from brands is one of the central parts of a successful career in UGC. Here are 9 tips to help you find more deals and make yourself irresistible to brands - with fresh insights from the experts.
1. Educate yourself
“Influencer marketing is on the rise as brands are starting to recognize that original content is a key element in advertising,” says Jay Quinn, UGC creator of four years in the travel and lifestyle niches @jvogue92. “To take your business as a UGC creator to the next level, you have to understand influencer marketing.”
You can learn a lot about the industry just by studying social media patterns.
- Is there more demand for content in a certain niche, such as fashion or fitness?
- Which types of content get the most engagement for a particular niche? For example, for the beauty niche, is it an Instagram carousel showing different makeup looks or a YouTube shopping haul video?
- What’s trending on a specific platform and can you incorporate the trend into your content to maximize your reach? For instance, this could be a trending sound for Instagram Reels or a special effect for a TikTok video.
Once you’ve mastered what goes into a high-impact post, you can produce similar UGC for brands that’s more likely to perform optimally.
2. Make different kinds of sample content
The truth is, practice makes perfect when it comes to creating effective UGC. If you don’t already have a portfolio or the brand partnerships are lacking, pick a product in your house and use it to create UGC.
Shoot and edit different kinds of sample content so you can showcase more variety in your portfolio. However, remember that brands prefer UGC that feels authentic, advises Jay @jvogue92.
“Your content should not come off as scripted or feel like an ad. Lighting is crucial to set the mood, establish the vibe and help the viewer focus.”
“Your content should not come off as scripted or feel like an ad. Lighting is crucial to set the mood, establish the vibe and help the viewer focus.” - @jvogue92
Shoot in natural daylight if you’re outside, avoiding direct sunlight that can cause shadows. If you’re inside, face a window or use a ring light for the highest quality footage.
3. Promote a portfolio
Before a new brand agrees to work with you, they may need to see the results that brands have gained previously from your UGC. That’s why building a strong portfolio is so important.
“Highlighting your previous work will help you pitch to other brands effectively,” explains Rodney Warner, brand expert and CEO of full-service marketing agency Connective. “Brands will get to know what you have done in the past, making it easier to build long-term collaborations.”
Have a place where you can display your portfolio online, whether it’s another social media account or a website. Many UGC creators are currently using Canva to build a free portfolio website.
Take advantage of their attractive yet functional templates to list:
- Who you are
- Why brands need UGC
- How you can help
- Previous work samples
- Your rates
- Your contact information
Stumped about what types of sample content to put in your UGC portfolio? UGC creator Krystina Cefaratti @itsugckrys shares the following ideas via #ugccommunity on Twitter:
- Product review
Jay @jvogue adds that another option is to create a media kit (which you can also do for free via Canva). “A media kit can be essential to sharing more about yourself as a creator, highlighting brands you’ve worked with, and sharing those case study analytics.”
The key difference between a Canva media kit and a portfolio is that the media kit is a multi-page PDF that you can attach to an email. The portfolio, however, is a website that you can link in an email without the risk of it going into the recipient’s junk folder.
4. Network via social media
Even if you make a website or Canva portfolio, it’s a good idea to have a primary social media platform where you post UGC. Whether you create a separate Twitter or LinkedIn account, this is another way to show off your UGC skills, as well as network with brands and similar creators in the UGC community.
We already mentioned Twitter’s popular hashtag #ugccommunity, but searching #ugc or #ugccreator across other platforms will also bring up useful results. Ultimately, being proactive on social media can lead to more brand opportunities and referrals, thus increasing your workload and income.
5. Market yourself via freelance marketplaces
Freelance marketplaces can be a great place to start as a UGC creator, especially when building your portfolio.
UGC creator Melissa De La Cruz @socialsbymel recently tweeted: “Fiverr is one of the most underrated platforms for UGC creators out there. […] Yes, it’s a slow start in the beginning but once you get a couple of good reviews, the deals will start rolling in!”
"Fiverr is one of the most underrated platforms for UGC creators out there" - @socialsbymel
Upwork is another freelance marketplace with a pool of clients you can access. In addition to creating and publishing your own projects, you can search and apply for relevant jobs.
Keep in mind these platforms charge fees per transaction so you may need to account for these in your rates. Alternatively, you may decide to only use them occasionally or in the beginning to boost your client roster.
6. Identify brands you may like to work with
Do your dream brand partners already post UGC? If so, does it align with your style? If not, can you educate them on the benefits of UGC?
Say you decide to approach a brand and propose a partnership. You need to understand the heart of the brand, their beliefs and values, and their target customer so you can demonstrate how you’re a good fit to work together.
Likewise, Rodney @ Connective recommends to “audit the content of the brands you want to work with.” This will help you to uncover which content already works for them and gets the most views and likes. “Then you can create similar content to get their attention” and link this in your portfolio or pitch.
Don’t forget that UGC has to look and feel authentic to perform optimally so only choose brands you have a genuine interest in. “Their products should align with your lifestyle and preferences,” clarifies Jay @jvogue92.
7. Create personalized pitches
Before you approach a brand via email or DM, “warm them up” by following CEOs and engaging with the brand’s content via your chosen social media platform. This is more effective than cold pitching because you’ve already interacted with them and established a relationship.
Then follow these tips for crafting the perfect pitch.
- Show why you’re a good fit (don’t just tell): Use your portfolio and past success as a UGC creator to back up any claims.
- Explain why you chose to approach them over other brands: Do you have a personal link to the brand? Are you already a customer? What do you like specifically about the brand?
- Explain why you’re the person to work with over other UGC creators: What’s your USP? What can you do for them? How can you meet their goals with your content?
“What has helped me land over 200+ brands for UGC is making sure my initial reach-out is personalized and my portfolio is optimized, including only the information that brands want to see,” explains Laura Gomez, UGC creator and YouTuber. “A huge paragraph about me isn't the most important thing, but rather what I can offer and how my content can be captivating for the brand's audience. Also, I include examples of past UGC videos I've made for brands similar to theirs.”
“What has helped me land over 200+ brands for UGC is making sure my initial reach-out is personalized and my portfolio is optimized" - @thelauragomez
What if you’re just starting out? Laura says, “Instead of adding other styles of videos that aren't UGC to your portfolio, it's best to grab random products around your house and make it into a UGC style.”
Either way, make it easy for brands to say yes!
8. Provide packages
When a brand replies to your pitch expressing their interest, they may ask you to disclose your rates. At this point, send options so the brand is more likely to choose one.
For instance, don’t just tell them that a video costs X amount. Offer tiers, such as:
- A 15-second edited video for $100
- Three 15-second edited videos for $250
- 30 seconds of raw footage for $300
Consider that brands may use your raw footage to make other videos so you should always price it higher.
But how do you set rates that are reflective of your skills and experience? Laura @thelauragomez advises not to “base your pricing off of what you see online.”
“When determining how much to charge per video, track your time! That means measuring the UGC process from start to finish—the reach-out, planning, scripting, filming and editing.” There’s a lot that goes into just one video and you deserve to be compensated fairly for your hard work.
Think about the value that UGC can bring a brand too. When a potential customer sees another “customer” with their demographics enjoying a brand’s product and raving about it, this can hold substantial power over whether they choose to engage with the brand further. It can be the difference between deciding to follow or not, or purchase or not, now or forever.
If the individual does become a customer and eventually a repeat customer, this helps the brand’s sales to flourish. In other words, you deserve a slice of the money pie so to speak.
9. Create goal-achieving content
The hard work doesn’t stop once you’ve secured a brand partnership. Jay @jvogue92 clarifies: “Make sure you achieve the brand’s goals to establish a lasting partnership, thus enhancing your credibility as a UGC creator.”
Go the extra mile to ensure you’ve delivered the best content possible. If a video you’ve created for them is struggling to get views, can you reshare it on your own social media account? Can you tag the brand? Can you add a paragraph expressing your personal opinion on the product and linking it in your bio?
It’s not just about the content either. Be timely with email responses. Act like nothing is too much trouble. Make suggestions for the creative direction of future content.
Basically, show the brand how much you care about working with them, and you may just find that they don’t ever want to stop.
How to get more UGC brand deals in 2023
Being a UGC creator can be a fun and fulfilling career. It’s a good time to grow a business in this field as it’s still considered a relatively new job that you can be an early adopter of.
The key to getting more brand deals is to put yourself out there on social media and freelance marketplaces, network, and target suitable brands, showing them what you can do and why they need an awesome UGC creator like you.
Follow these insights from UGC creators who've been there and done it will set you on your way to a successful path in UGC in 2023 and beyond.