The Truth About Being a Social Media Artist
Scandalous title, right? The real truth is, it’s not all scandalous, but it definitely has it’s moments. Let’s start out with what it is I actually do to make a living as a social media artist. It seems to be the number one question on the minds of my friends and acquaintances when work talk comes up, but they can never manage to muster together the words to ask the one simple question, “What do you do and how do you make money doing it?”
First and foremost, I’m an artist, a creative. I make visuals. I work with fashion brands (mostly luxury) to create web-friendly marketing content. I get paid for my services, just as any photographer, videographer, graphic designer, etc. should. Just to give you an idea of my schedule and how many of these jobs I need to book in order to survive, I can tell you that this month alone I’ve been working on 8 projects with 8 different brands, totaling somewhere in the range of 40 images and animations created. Straight-forward enough, right?
There is however, a second dynamic to my job, “influencing”. I’ve never been a fan of the term or felt comfortable referring to myself as an “influencer” but the thing is, “influencing” is just a social media term for “advertising”. Really. That’s it. And although it only accounts for a part of my business model, advertising dollars can be a successful company’s whole source of revenue. Don’t forget, it’s how you’re favorite publications stay alive and well. So yes, I do publish sponsored content to my social feeds and even here in the zine. It really should go without saying, but the brands that I choose to promote must align with what my brand is all about. I reject advertising offers on a daily basis because I believe in strong partnerships over hard ads and don’t see the sense in promoting a hair-loss supplement or “skinny tea” to my followers who love fashion. The feeling of your audience falling in love with something that you exposed them to is a glorious one, but to shove something irrelevant down their throats in exchange for compensation feels so dirty.
In between client projects, I create a lot of work independently to share with my audience. It not only helps me to maintain - and develop - my own aesthetic and authenticity, but it’s also how I self-advertise and keep myself relevant to my followers and brands that would potentially work with me.
So, that’s it. That’s what I do and how I make money doing it. Now that that novel is out of the way, let’s explore what it’s really like to do this for a living. Relevant, bulleted pros and cons seem like the best way to tackle this.
- I get to be my own boss, something I’ve always wanted to be.
- I get to express myself through my work. Corny? Sure. But good for your mental health.
- There are many gift perks involved. Did someone say free shoes?
- I get to meet and work with unique people all over the world. That might sound generic, but I truly value those relationships and they’ve even helped me to overcome social anxieties.
- I receive constant support from random strangers on a daily basis. It’s actually quite reassuring and one of the reasons I continue to work hard. Love y’all.
- Many luxury brands have no problem attempting taking complete advantage of social artists. They use their highly regarded name to put you in a tight corner and leverage free work.
- I often find myself drained and creatively exhausted. How much conceptualizing is too much conceptualizing?
- Having ideas that you simply can’t achieve and/or discovering personal limitations is extremely frustrating.
- Plagiarism runs rampant. My art has been (poorly) ripped off by so many brands and colleagues. I won’t name names.
- I worry too much about business growth when really personal growth is so much more important.
To be honest, I think about these things all the time but having organized my thoughts into writing has allowed me to see that the the pro vs. con playing field is actually quite balanced. That’s great news because one bad week can easily confuse you into thinking you hate everything about what you do - whereas the opposite can happen too - and one great week can make you feel invincible.
At the end of the day though, this is a job and I work really hard at it. And just like any other job, the more you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it. If you think it’s easy, you must readjust the thought process that lead you to that conclusion because it’s not. But it is rewarding, and it does pay my bills, so after all the pros and cons cancel each other out what we’re left with is a lot of color, and fashion! And who in their right mind would complain about that?