Why Being a Social Media Influencer May Not be the Best Part-time Job

Ryan Ong

Ryan Ong

Last updated 13 September, 2017

Singaporeans looking for a side income would do well to consider gigs other than as a social media influencer.

With all the news about teen social media influencers making money like it ain’t no thing, you might be under the impression that talking into a camera is an easy way to earn some side income.

We’re here to tell you it’s quite the opposite. We’re not even talking about the taxes involved, just the initial investment versus the likely reward.

The Pareto Effect Among Social Media Influencers

The Pareto Effect explains how the minority of people hold the majority of wealth; but it can just as well describe the social media business.

For every famous social media influencer you can name (e.g. Xiaxue, Lady Iron Chef, Viola Tan), there are hundreds of thousands of aspiring influencers you’ve never heard of. It may very well be a fraction of a single per cent of all of them, that actually manage to claw their way to the top.

Therein lies the problem: with most of the cash raked in by the top tier, there’s no money in being an “average” blogger or Instagram user,. Until you’ve hit several hundred thousands views at least, you’re not getting so much as a free comb. And getting there takes a tremendous amount of time and effort.

You’ll find that:

  • It could be a long time before you’re making money, if ever
  • Being a social media star is labour intensive
  • The income is erratic
  • You need money to get to the top, but you need to be at the top to make money

man silhouette sunset

It Could be a Long Time Before You’re Making Money, if Ever

Unless you’re pulling in 10,000 views a month consistently (and this is a low standard), you’re just not likely to make a lot of money.

The typical conversion rate (people who buy things from you) can be as low as 0.5 per cent, so even with 10,000 views, that translates to around 50 buyers a month. If you’re selling, say, S$30 dresses, S$1,500 a month is not a lot of money.

As for advertising revenue, a typical rate is about S$10 per thousand views. That’s a measly S$100 for 10,000 views. Think back to your best Instagram pics or Youtube uploads: how many of them have even come close to reaching that number?

Success as an influencer probably isn’t going to happen overnight, and it could take years of work to get there. Until then, you’re not likely to see a single cent. So if you’re looking for immediate side income, you’re better off agreeing to paint someone’s house, or designing someone’s website, or even showing tourists around.

Being a Social Media Star is Labour Intensive

Becoming an influencer is seldom manageable on a part-time basis. Consider that you have to:

  • Actively look for people to share your content
  • Learn the basics of Search Engine Optimisation
  • Take the time to review products and services (most of which won’t be free to you at the start)
  • Pore through news feeds to understand current events, and post relevant material
  • Spend time researching new trends
  • Handle design issues such as photo shoots, illustrations, sorting through appropriate stock photos, etc.
  • Spend several hours monitoring your social media feeds, and responding to followers
  • Engage potential clients, whose products or services you sell
  • Handle inventory or payment, if you handle your own products and services
  • Review the response to different posts, and adapt according to what your audience likes

This is all just the tip of the iceberg. If you were to compare it to other side-income jobs, such as simply looking after someone’s pets or painting rooms, the latter is less time consuming.

young broke empty pocket

The Income is Erratic

Social media influencers have different ways of getting their income; however, almost all of them are less convenient, and less predictable, than a part-time pay cheque.

For example, if you monetise your website by helping a company sell its products, what will you do if the company pays you late? What if they decide to change the agreed upon fees later?

You also need to prepare for occasional dry spells, when none of your content is “catching”. This could lead to a loss of sales, and you’ll need to have cash to tide you over.

Getting to the Top Takes Money, And Failing Can be Costly

This is the biggest conundrum that faces would-be social media stars. It takes time and money to produce good content, such as a great YouTube video, good articles, awesome photographs, etc.

However, unless you happen to have a relevant skill set, you’ll probably need help. You may also need equipment, such as sound equipment or video editing software. All of this costs money - but you can’t get the money until you’re already popular and trending.

This means you actually need to save up a fair amount of capital, before you even start your attempt - and failing at it could be costly.

Success is Not Impossible, But it's Not Easy Either

We’re not saying it’s impossible to succeed as a social media star. However, all things considered, this isn't the easiest way to make a side income.

Forget what you may have heard on “make money from home” videos. It’s not going to be easy to become a social media influencer. On top of that, the money you make won’t come immediately. If you need urgent cash, you’re better off looking for another side income.

Read This Next:

3 Skills That Can Earn You An Extra S$1,000 Per Month

5 Ways NOT to Earn Money From Home in Singapore

Ryan has been writing about finance for the last 10 years. He also has his fingers in a lot of other pies, having written for publications such as Men’s Health, Her World, Esquire, and Yahoo! Finance.


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