February 12, 2023
Do you have a smartphone? Solid internet connection? A passion for being on camera?
Good news. If you answered yes to all three, you’re on your way to becoming a UGC creator.
User-generated content (aka UGC) is brand-specific content created by customers to be used across social media and other channels. It can take many forms, from written testimonials and social media posts to blog posts and YouTube reviews. But in the last twelve months, short-form video has become all the rage.
With TikTok and Instagram Reels, anyone can go viral at any time, regardless of the follower count. Quality content is the great equalizer. And now that every brand needs to be on TikTok, the demand for UGC is through the roof. Rather than develop this content in-house, brands are paying creators good money for the rights to create high-quality UGC for use across paid and organic social.
In this guide, we’ll teach you everything you need to know to get started as a UGC creator, from basic definitions to more actionable insights around building a portfolio, finding clients, and negotiating rates.
Let’s get to it.
A UGC creator is responsible for producing raw, authentic content that subtly showcases a specific business or product.
In the case of TikTok, these are often DIY, homemade-style videos that don’t feel like ads at all. And that’s exactly the point. The best UGC creators make content that makes viewers feel like they’re talking to them one-on-one. Like a Facetime with your best friend.
As you can see in the example above, Madi films and narrates the video by sharing a personal pain point that others will likely relate to. Bite Toothpaste just so happens to be the perfect solution to her problem.
You may be wondering…are UGC creators and influencers the same thing?
While both are important parts of a DTC brand's marketing mix, UGC tends to be more effective for two reasons, social proof, and brand value.
Get this. Consumers find UGC 9.8x more impactful than influencer content when making a purchasing decision. That’s likely because 88% of consumers trust user reviews as much as personal recommendations and 2 out of 3 people say they’d be more likely to (https://www.wyzowl.com/testimonials-statistics/)purchase a product after watching a testimonial video demonstrating how a business, product, or service had helped another person like them.
Whereas most brands previously opted for large-scale celebrity-driven influencer campaigns, marketers are now seeking micro and nano-creators (UGC creators with anywhere between 1,000 to 100,000 followers) to produce eye-catching, relatable content that grabs and connects with the brands’ target audience. Consumers want real content, from real people, and UGC is the perfect medium.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Happy days <a href="https://twitter.com/Allbirds?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Allbirds</a> one of my favorite projects to date! 🩴🕊 <a href="https://t.co/StHcW2ZarK">pic.twitter.com/StHcW2ZarK</a></p>— Sheridan Holland | Content Strategist (@ShevHolland) <a href="https://twitter.com/ShevHolland/status/1592706084644737025?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">November 16, 2022</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
Whereas most influencers are expected to post the content on their own personal channels, many UGC creators produce content for brands to use directly on the brands’ social media accounts. The exposure to an influencer’s audience, which can be millions of people, generally makes influencer marketing more expensive. Outsourcing content creation to UGC creators also allows brands to stretch their budgets to work with a larger number of creators. More videos, more perspectives, more shots on goal.
From there, brands often repurpose organic UGC content as paid ads on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. As a creator, you should always confirm, and charge a brand extra, if the brand plans to do this. From a brand perspective, even with this additional cost, it’s likely more resourceful to repurpose these assets than produce entirely new creative. And there’s no questioning its effectiveness. According to a study from RealEyes (https://blog.realeyesit.com/tiktok-ugc-and-brand-videos-outperform-other-ad-formats-in-driving-attention-in-mobile), user-generated TikTok videos outperform Facebook and conventional ads. TikTok UGC videos scored 22% higher than TikTok brand videos, 32% higher than Facebook ads, and 46% higher than conventional ads.
The below video from lifestyle, beauty, and motherhood UGC creator Charlene Izere delivered a 3.2 return on ad spend (ROAS) for the client, Adventures From Scratch.
The beauty of UGC is that anyone can become a UGC creator. UGC creators can shoot videos nearly anywhere, as long as background noise is kept in check.
All you need to get started is a smartphone with a solid camera, a tripod to stabilize your phone, and some good lighting (many people use ring lights for this!). Some creators choose to invest more in lavalier mics for improved audio quality, and backdrops and props for aesthetics, but these are far from a requirement.
Once you have your equipment set up, the real work begins. This means, studying what works, filming content, building a portfolio, setting rates, finding clients, doing the work, and getting paid.
According to Izere, the first month of her UGC career required her to do a little bit of everything.“I studied direct response marketing, recorded videos with products I had on hand, and built a portfolio,” she said. “I purchased a contract and set rates that were in alignment with my skill set and experience.” As soon as I had my portfolio, I positioned myself for inbounds by posting examples of my work and I pitched weekly.”
Yes, it’s a lot. But don’t fret. We’re about to walk through it all.
Like consumers, brands love social proof. Before working with a UGC creator, brands want to see examples of your content. Seeing a creator who has previously worked with other companies within an industry can be enough in itself to generate interest from a brand.
So, how do you get started? Easy.
Make content using your favorite products. You can use Bounty to help.
Experiment with different styles of content (unboxing, reviews, how-to’s, day-in-the-life’s).
Next, it’s time to hone your editing chops. Most UGC creators turn to apps like CapCut and InShot, along with TikTok and Instagram’s in-app editors. Like any skill, learning how to edit well takes time, so don’t get discouraged if you find it challenging at first. After that, it’s time to post your content on TikTok for the world to see. We recommend creating a new account, separate from your personal one, strictly for your UGC work. Add ‘UGC’ in your profile name for discoverability, along with your best email for any business inquiries.
The key to standing out as a UGC creator, says Izere, is to find your unique point of view.
“This could be that you’re in the 50+ demographic, or you have an SEO background, or in my case, I have video editing experience that I can leverage for higher-value projects. If you are just starting, find that angle and run with it.”
The beauty of having a small audience is the ability to constantly test new formats and edits. Treat each piece of content as a learning experience and pay close attention to the in-app analytics. Take note of what works and what doesn’t. Once you post each piece of content, add it to your portfolio. This can be as simple as a Google Slides deck or a Canva template that outlines who you are and the type of content you create. Sheridan Holland’s portfolio is a great example.
Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for this one. A lot of it boils down to hustle and persistence. Any UGC creator will tell you that landing the first few clients is the hardest and that it only gets easier.
That's because, like consumers, brands love social proof. Seeing a creator who has previously worked with other companies within an industry can be enough in itself to generate interest from a brand.
Inbound is when brands reach out to you, expressing interest in working together or reposting your content (for a fee). A great way to generate inbound when you’re first getting started is to create content around your favorite brands. To maximize your chances of getting on a brand's radar, always use brand tags and any relevant brand hashtags they may monitor.
Natasha Uszak, one-half of the UGC creator duo ReilsandTash, urges aspiring creators to leverage their personal brands and optimize their UGC accounts for inbound outreach.
“I always direct brands I work with to my personal social media to give them a better sense of my personality and show another side of my content creation abilities. I also include updates on my UGC progress to promote my own work. You never know who will see your content and have a potential opportunity for you.”
Outbound outreach, or the act of actively pitching clients, can be daunting, but it’s a necessary step in finding your first few clients. Whether you’re sending out personalized pitches on freelance sites like UpWork or Fiverr, or reaching out directly to people who work at your favorite brands, learning how to send a good cold email is a crucial skill for any UGC creator.
A few of our favorite tips:
Izere shared a similar sentiment, emphasizing the importance of building relationships with potential clients and finding a way to bring unique value.
“This has looked like sending an intro email with an attached media kit inviting the brand to hop on a quick call to get to know them and their goals. I always approach this by asking myself “What are their gaps and how can I fill them?” she said. “In my experience, this can be a 1-week to a 12-month process, but in the end, it’s always worth it to lead with value.”
Let’s talk money. UGC micro-creators can generally charge between $50 - $1,000 per video depending on a handful of factors including experience, engagement rate, partnership length, exclusivity, content performance, multi-channel use, and more. Industry, niche, and product type also play a role.
You may notice some brands will offer other forms of compensation such as free products (especially for more expensive products) or audience and brand exposure. Ultimately, the type of compensation you accept is a personal decision and may change depending on where you are in your UGC creator journey.
As for getting paid on time, it’s important to be firm and know your worth. To protect yourself from dishonest clients, either request upfront payment in full or half of the payment as a kickoff deposit and the remaining half once the work is delivered and approved.
Bounty Pro Tip: When first getting started, don’t worry too much about rates. In many cases, it’s helpful to get your footing with a few clients to build your portfolio. Stack up a few positive testimonials, refine your process, and build your momentum.
It may seem weird to consider scrolling TikTok as “market research,” but it is! Be mindful as you scroll. What are the key qualities of high-performing videos? What doesn’t seem to be working? When evaluating content performance for specific brands, the TikTok Creative Center is a great resource to see top ads that have performed well across various industries.
“First, I look at the brands’ existing content to see their best-performing videos. Were they product-based or more lifestyle focused? Voice over or talking head? Do they tend to use trending sounds?,” says Uszak. “This helps me understand what resonates with their audience.”
As for seeing how her own content performs, Izere makes sure that her contracts give her visibility to this information.
“When I create content for a brand I include verbiage in my contracts that requires content performance metrics beyond what I can see as the creator. This helps me to iterate on concepts and improve as a creator, which is a win-win for the brand and me.”
Speaking of win-wins, Bounty, helps UGC build their portfolios and get paid. All you need to do is shop with a Bounty merchant and sign up for their Bounty. After you receive your product, post a piece of TikTok UGC with the product, and earn cash based on the video’s performance. From there, brands can pay you for the rights to use this content as a paid social ad. It’s pretty sick.
Ready to get started? Sign up to be a creator on Bounty today.