Last summer, Lynette Adkins was a fresh college graduate starting her career at Amazon that she thought would be her ticket to financial freedom — the kind that seemed so far-fetched when she grew up in her middle-class family.
It only lasted one year.
Today, 23-year-old Adkins earns twice as much as a self-taught content creator which she made into Amazon Web Services marketing cloud products. In the crowded effects market, she’s carving out a niche by turning the camera on herself in a way few others have: detailing how to make good money and a sustainable career from getting followers online.
“I never see that kind of information about what people are making…what are the real possibilities as far as profits go when it comes to creating content,” Adkins said in a video posted in July on YouTube, her main money-making platform.
In June, when Adkins saw that she was making more money from her YouTube videos and brand sponsorship than her 9-to-5 business, she quit Amazon — and documented the whole process for all to see.
“I’m afraid I won’t make as much money as I make from this job,” Adkins said, crying in the video, “I quit my job (and filmed everything).” Her next YouTube post is now her first autograph video on the budget—perhaps the moment her college bustle turns into her new career.
In it, Adkins splits her earnings, down to the dollar, to explain why she works at Amazon It has lost its luster. Of her $14,023 income in June, only $5,300 came from the e-commerce giant. I got the rest through YouTube, Instagram and other online business.
Gone are the days of the occasional YouTube celebrity — a teen whose home videos became spontaneously viral, making her a moment in the spotlight. Many influencers have set out strategically to make a living sharing their lives or skills online. Content creators are the fastest growing type of small business in the US
Gone is also – for the most part – the misconception that this digital business is the exclusive domain of the rich, corrupt or lazy.
Adkins, who grew up in San Antonio and started working at age 15 to ease the financial burden on her father, a real estate agent, and her mother, who works in an insurance company, said.
Adkins content also talks about the topics of Gen-Z’s social media discontent. Two of her videos went viral denouncing the company’s culture earlier this year, one titled “I became the main character and changed my life,” and the other, “I don’t have a dream job.”
Adkins encourages viewers to separate their self-values from their careers. “These companies will try to make you feel at home in your business or your job,” she said in a later interview. It is just a source of income. For me, that’s all it ever will be.”
Her message reached home to her viewers. In four months, she gained 70,000 YouTube subscribers.
‘Point of view’
After communicating with viewers about unfulfilled white collar jobs, Adkins offers them a way out. Budgeting videos, a roadmap of sorts to becoming an influencer, quickly stimulated a rapidly growing audience.
“There has never been a better time, I don’t think, to be in content creation because the demand is still growing,” said Robert Kuznets, a professor who studies digital interaction at the USC Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism.
The influencer marketing industry will make about $12 billion this year in the United States and closer to $30 billion globally, according to research by Kuznets.
On LinkedIn, the share of job postings with the words “influencer” or “brand partnerships” through July of this year grew by 52% compared to the same period last year, according to an analysis by the company for The Times.
On YouTube, the number of US creator channels with at least six figures in revenue is up more than 35% year-over-year as of December 2020, according to the company.
YouTube Partner Program, which pays a set amount in ad revenue For every thousand views a video gets, more than $30 billion is allocated to content creators, artists, and media companies.
“The easiest part is monetizing, believe it or not,” said Seth Jacobs, talent manager at Brillstein Entertainment Partners. “The hard part is finding people with a point of view.”
Adkins supporters say they are particularly surprised by the amount of personal information you share.
In her June earnings video, she explains that of her $14,023 of home pay that month, $8,723 came from the creator’s work: about $4,700 from sponsorships, $3,599 from YouTube advertising revenue, $263 from affiliate marketing and $63 from TikTok.
“I just want to say, I’ve been inspired and we need people like you, with a voice of their own, and content about the things that people don’t talk about or don’t talk about enough about,” read one comment on the video, out of about 500.
Another: “I absolutely love transparency! Many people consider this information a “secret” but it inspires and helps me a lot because I have similar aspirations and I learn better by going through it.”
Others are drawn to her subtle conversations about work and self-esteem.
Katherine Berry, one of the many creators who made the Adkins-inspired video, described the videos as “kind of an extreme, because you don’t see many young professionals talking about this” – how work should not consume one’s life.
In addition to creating YouTube videos, Berry works in technology sales, a job she said required 12 hours a day until recently set stricter limits on working hours.
Adkins content also stands out because the creative economy remains relatively opaque in its inner workings, even for creators. Brand deals are subjective, and it can be difficult for beginners to navigate their early days of making money online.
“It’s basically like a black box,” said Lindsey Lee Logren, CEO of FYPM, a company whose platform allows creators to reveal their earnings from sponsored posts and review companies they’ve worked with.
Logreen, who has not seen Adkins’ content, said in a subsequent email that deconstructing the influence method is increasingly trending online, but it remains “a stigmatized/taboo topic (especially for women)”. “So anyone who uses their influence to advance other creators and help them negotiate higher rates is a hero in my book.”
Adkins with her financial savvy goes back to her teenage years, when she watched her parents struggle during the 2008 recession, and she began working to support herself.
Many classmates came from wealthy families – they got tickets to see movies and trips to the mall. “Keeping up with that means I have to work,” she said.
When she was in high school, Adkins began watching YouTube videos regularly, mostly by beauty personalities who taught makeup lessons. But the beauty space, in particular, seemed to be reserved for young white women.
A few years later, around 2016, you started noticing a shift on YouTube. Instead of videos on a specific topic, more “lifestyle content” was filling her feed.
Content creators are starting to show more of their everyday lives online: one can post a tutorial about smokey eye, a video on how she decorates the living room, and what she ate that week. Now, the multifaceted personality of a person can and should be reflected in its content.
This seemed more down her alley.
In January 2018, Adkins made her first video: a tutorial for black women growing their natural hair. YouTube was mostly considered a creative outlet while finishing its commercial major and as another source of income along with other careers.
She got her real estate license to rent apartments to fellow students and worked as a valet and a call center.
That year, Adkins filmed videos about college life, skin and hair care, and studying abroad. She was filming herself with her iPhone, often propped up on a window ledge. Later, her boyfriend was taking pictures of her for her Instagram account.
“I don’t dream of working”
After graduating from college, Adkins accepted the well-paid role at Amazon Web Services in Austin, which she signed up for through a Black College student networking event. She said that she did not enjoy the job, but that she needed it, and began to doubt the course of the company only a few months later.
Adkins said her questions about “hustle culture” began in the classroom. In her business courses, she felt that she was training to become an employee rather than an entrepreneur.
I started reading Eckhart Tolle. I learned more about black history and systemic inequalities in America.
“The reason there is so much inequality in this country is not because there are not enough resources,” she said. “This is because there are enough resources, but the people at the top, like the 1%, kept the majority of the world’s resources to themselves. That’s why I started realizing that we can have everything, but there has to be a change.”
The murder of George Floyd added a layer of moral questions to her work — she helped sell AWS’s cloud computing platforms to government agencies, including police departments. “That was a moment when I was really asking myself, What am I actually doing?” She said.
Channeling anxiety and uncertainty into her YouTube channel, she decided to focus on increasing followers until it was financially possible to leave her day job behind.
She bought herself a tripod, and filmed wherever she could, often in her garage. She made her first big camera purchase in March of this year, the $750 Sony ZV-1, marketed specifically to vloggers.
That month, her two clips about rejecting the live-to-work culture exploded. Adkins now has over 105,000 subscribers on YouTube, 22,000 followers on Instagram and 101,000 followers on TikTok – making her a small rising influencer, someone with a large following and engaged but not a big business personality or a household name.
These days, Adkins focuses their content less on fashion and beauty and more on spirituality and appearances, taking control of your life and recognizing the inequalities of capitalism.
The latter popularized a viral slogan, “I’m not dreaming of a job,” which dozens of other creators have used in similar videos with their own stories of leaving competitive jobs or changing their outlook on it. The origins of the movement can be traced back to Twitter Post by author, although use of the phrase went viral on YouTube after the Adkins video. (Adkins does not claim to have coined it.)
In the months she posts more videos, she notices her channel gets more attention everywhere (Adkins said the algorithms reward frequent posting). If sponsorship offers are about to run out in one month, you’ll create more videos to increase ad revenue, or search for more brand deals, in the next month.
“I know how I can control each source of income, like increasing one or the other,” she said.
The ironies of Adkins’ story were not lost on her. What enabled her to quit her job at the company was talking about her disdain for him online. And with her new career path, she will quickly admit that she is still fighting capitalism with capitalism.
However, she said she feels she has more control over what she puts in the world, and she feels good about it. “I’ve freed myself,” she said, “but there’s so much I want to do.”