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Life How Gen-Z influencers are recognizing their worth

Sep. 29, 2021
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A popular sentiment that’s been making the rounds on some of Gen Z’s favorite social media platforms (AKA Twitter, TikTok, and YouTube) goes a little something like this: “I don’t dream of labor.” Quippy, provocative, and hilarious, the phrase—originally coined by musician and Twitter influencer Chris French—entered the Gen-Z lexicon in winter 2020 when someone asked French to tell them his dream job. But nearly two years later, the response still resonates with today’s youth, who are notably interested in working to live, rather than living to work. So even though “I don’t dream of labor” might sound like a cynical joke, it’s actually a truth for many Gen Zers and young millennials who are subverting traditional work expectations. For instance, today’s young adults embrace job-hopping and love working remotely; they’re also notably interested in working for companies whose ethics and values align with their own. But perhaps the most unique thing about Gen Z and young millennials is that they’re invested in the idea of being their own bosses—whether that means starting their own business or fostering their own brand as an influencer or content creator online. In fact, over half of young Americans would become an influencer if given the opportunity, per Morning Consult. (Such findings are unsurprising, considering Gen Z specifically has been dubbed “the influencer generation.”)

Pay inequality in the influencer space.

However, ditching the conventional 9-5 world for self-made success doesn’t necessarily mean Gen Zers who become influencers or content creators are exempt from all of the trials and tribulations associated with conventional employment. Case in point: just as pay inequality continues to negatively affect women and BIPOC in the traditional workforce, it also impacts marginalized groups in the influencer space. And even beyond these “minority” groups, wage gaps amongst content creators persist, often because influencers (who work similarly to freelancers) usually set their own rates for work. The problem with that? Influencers don’t always know how to value their hard work. And, oftentimes, their clients don’t know, either—which leads to the undervaluing of a creators’ craft. But a new platform, called F*** You Pay Me, is setting out to change the way influencers do business…and at Adolescent, we’re here for it.

F*** You Pay Me is revolutionizing how influencers are paid.

Co-founded by a former freelance model and equity analyst, Lindsey Lee Lurgin, and a former Facebook data scientist, Isha Mehra, F*** You Pay Me (FYMP, for short), is simple in concept: it’s a Glassdoor for influencers, according to Lurgin. But such a simple idea is about to make big waves, because the platform and app allows influencers to see how much their fellow creators are getting paid for brand work, such as sponsored posts.

“Really, the purpose is to help creators evaluate the opportunity cost of partnering with a particular brand,” Lurgin told The Verge in September 2021. “Because you can always partner with a different brand, or another, better option is always to invest in your own personal brand. So, it’s just helping them answer the questions: ‘Is this $400 they’re offering me for this one Instagram post actually worth my time? Are they going to take forever to pay me? Is it going to be a good experience? Are they going to make me redo it a hundred times before it happens?’ Because that is absolutely something that happens all the time.”

Influencers want more accountability and transparency from brands.

Lurgin—who experienced first-hand the struggle of low-paying gigs during her time as a model—isn’t alone in her mindset. Influencers have been dealing with pay inequality and unfair compensation for as long as the word “influencer” has existed avant la lettre. But as the influencer community has grown, more creators have felt preyed on by clients (e.g. brands, organizations) who offer low pay—or, even worse, no money and questionable promise of “exposure” or free product in exchange for an exorbitant amount of work. As a response, anonymous influencers have founded and contributed to Instagram accounts like @influencerpaygap. In “safe spaces” like these, creators share relevant information about themselves—such as their race, follower count, gender, sexuality, and more—along with their stories of working with certain brands, detailing the work they did, how quickly they got paid, and, of course, how much money they made from it. The @influencerpaygap account, in particular, aims to introduce “more transparency, more accountability” in the creator sphere, but those concepts aren’t lost on Lurgin and Merha, either. The FYPM website encourages influencers to “join today to support transparency, fairness, and accountability” in their industry, and quite uniquely, the only folks allowed to access the FYPM database are those who can prove they’re influencers per FYPM’s definition. (The platform vets each applicant, too.)

It’s obvious a platform like FYPM is on track to empowering young creators everywhere—and as Statista reported in 2019, over 80% of influencers are, in fact, ages 18 to 34. But if you represent a brand or organization looking to connect with people through influencer marketing, you’re probably wondering what exactly this means for you. Will you have to expand your influencer budget? Will more influencers pass on working with your company? And will all influencers join the income-sharing movement?

How does this affect how brands connect with Gen-Z influencers?

These are all valid questions—and only time will reveal how an app like FYPM influences the influencer world (pun intended). But, at Adolescent, we’re constantly thinking about the way companies, including our own, can combat pay inequality and wage obscurity in the influencer world. Increasing transparency is part of the equation; if asked, brands should always try to offer a clear explanation for why they’re offering what they’re offering, consider how much time truly goes into content creation (a lot!), and respect influencers who choose to negotiate for a higher rate.

Moreover, as more and more influencers hold brands accountable, companies should recognize that there may very well be a surge of content creators raising their rates—and potentially turning down work if a brand can’t match their price. We may also notice that, over time, influencers will become more selective about what companies they work with, meaning that brands may have to find new ways to set themselves apart from their competition: whether that entails establishing better, more competitive rates or revitalizing their outreach strategy or overall mission statement. But, if anything, brands should see this growing, collective FYPM mentality amongst creators as a provocation, rather than a threat. Because Gen-Z influencers aren’t going anywhere—and you’ve gotta respect them for knowing what they’re worth.