Why online influencers need a union
The Creator Union is in the early stages of becoming the UK’s first collective body to represent digital content creators and influencers who earn money from the likes of YouTube, TikTok and Instagram.
Here, co-founder and influencer Nicole Ocran explains why the union can help support the likes of Joe Sugg, Molly-Mae Hague and others to advocate for change:
People have been creating content online for over 15 years and monetising it in some capacity – even before brand deals and influencer marketing campaigns were on the table.
The industry is estimated to be worth $5.5bn (£4.3bn) and forecast to grow to $22.3bn (£17.4bn) by 2024, according to Markets and Markets in 2019.
Now, in the time of coronavirus, when working from home has become even more commonplace with long, irregular hours, irregularity of pay and pay disparity, no pensions, no holiday pay – this is the time to negotiate for better terms for ourselves for the work that we do.
The Creator Union is here to represent content creators and influencers across the number of online publishing platforms and social media outlets that exist.
That includes bloggers, Instagram influencers, YouTubers, podcasters, TikTokers, Twitchers, everybody working in the space of digital content creation and influencer marketing.
The union is here to push back against the various issues that we come up against in this space, including: working for free, working for small amounts of product – or just for product in general, which content creators and influencers can’t use to pay our bills.
There is strong evidence of an ethnicity pay gap in which Black, Asian, Middle Eastern influencers are being paid significantly less than their white counterparts. Pay gaps also exist along and in between the intersections of age, disability, religion and sexual orientation. The pay for these groups is far less and the opportunities available are vastly disproportionate. It’s a huge problem.
Influencers and content creators also often work without contracts, having to produce content within tight turnaround times which leaves no time to negotiate, which has only become a bigger problem during the pandemic.
We often have our own copyrighted content used without permission or payment in a number of different ways in print and online, commercially and editorially.
Working within this industry has allowed me to find something that I love doing, allowed me the flexibility of working for myself and allowed me to find my community. This has been a joyful thing to me and something I hold dear, which is why I want to protect it.
I’ve had to have many difficult conversations around pay, around tight turnaround times, and battling over the ownership of my own content that I produce. It’s exhausting and demoralising.
The Creator Union will allow for influencers and content creators to have a central hub of information on everything they need, or have questions about, around working in this industry. It will be a community offering help and advice, a space to network and a sounding board.
We will offer legal support for advice on contracts, support chasing late payments – this will all be available to union members. We’ll provide template contracts, advice on pricing, and guidance on best practice so content creators don’t feel so lost when it comes to negotiations.
We want to work closely with industry leaders and professionals to push this business forward and ensure all of our collective needs are met. We want them to advocate with us for fair pay, inclusion and education/support.
We encourage open and transparent communication on both sides so more people are able to live, thrive and survive in this field of work.
Influencers and content creators are often portrayed as frivolous show-offs. It’s hard to ignore how a group of workers who are predominantly women are so quickly dismissed and silenced because our work looks different from that of other fields.
In reality, the power in our industry lies primarily in the hands of the brands, agencies and platforms that we work with.
This is a call for us to stand up for ourselves, band together and advocate for change.