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Half of All Influencers Peak at $15K Per Year

You can make money as a social media influencer. But maybe not enough to get by.

A report Monday (June 17) evening by The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) examines the hardships facing the people who try to earn a living by posting content on social media.

It’s a crowded field, the report said, citing data from Goldman Sachs showing that 50 million people are earning money as influencers, with the number of creators projected to increase at a yearly rate of 10% to 20% through 2028.

And very few creators are making it big, or even making enough to live on. In 2023, 48% of creator-earners made $15,000 or less, the report said, pointing to figures from NeoReach, an influencer marketing agency. Just 13% made north of $100,000.

Among the influencers featured in the report is Clint Brantley, who posts videos on TikTokTwitch and YouTube dealing with the online game Fortnite. He has more than 400,000 followers and posts that average 100,000 views, but made less than the U.S. median pay for full-time workers — $58,084 — in 2023.

At 29, he’s living at home, reluctant to sign an apartment lease because the money he gets from tips and sponsorships is sporadic and fleeting.

“I’m vulnerable,” said Brantley.

The report also notes that influencers are worried about a future without TikTok, which is facing a ban in the U.S. Yet as covered here this spring, other influencers are preparing for a TikTok-less landscape.

“I think it would present new challenges for us as a small business, once the TikTok ban comes into effect,” Fiona Co Chan, CEO and founder of Youthforia, a skincare brand with more than 190,000 followers on TikTok, said in an interview with PYMNTS.

However, she added that with or without TikTok, the platform’s impact on the social commerce world will remain.

“I think what won’t change is the style of content that Tiktok introduced to audiences around the world — quick, engaging, informative content that gets straight to the point,” she said.

Meanwhile, PYMNTS also recently examined another challenge facing creators: it’s much harder for them to tap into financial resources compared to other business owners.

“Access to business loans and lines of credit are virtually non-existent,” James Jones, founder and CEO of creator-focused wealthTech and financing platform Bump, told PYMNTS. “Most creators are denied access because they don’t have paystubs or W2s, or because their income is just too unpredictable for traditional institutions with very little appetite for risk.”