Young people tend to think that becoming an influencer or a freelance content creator is a way to easy living. Former journalism student and freelance content creator Keili Sükijainen shares some facts about her professional life, several of which may come as a surprise to those who only see influencers’ glamorous celebrity lives.
“Let’s be honest, my grandparents still don’t understand exactly what I’m doing, and there are probably a lot of people who think that it’s ‘not a real job,’” states Keili, who for several years worked as a TV journalist in Estonia. Recently, she established her own content production company that enables her to mix paid partnership content creation and journalistic work as a TV presenter.
Though she enjoys the incredibly convenient life of a digital nomad due to Estonia’s e-solutions, she has decided to share the backstory of being an influencer and a content creator.
People think that influencers or content producers simply make money by posting photos and videos on social media. But there’s more to it – it is a mix of the profession and a lifestyle career. “And it’s not as easy as it seems,” Keili states.
Myth #1: You don’t have to know anything
Although Keili has her production team – Juhani @juhanisarglep and Katri @katrikats – to help, she also has to know everything about video production. She learned this during her journalism studies in Tartu and in the US. “How to get a high-quality picture, sound, how to perform, how to find customers, how to do marketing, etc. And, of course, you have to have something to say. It all requires a great deal of different knowledge and skills. A bit like being a jack of all trades,” Keili sums up.
Myth #2: It’s easy
The life of a digital nomad… It’s easy to be your own employer and work anywhere in the world, any time. It may look cool and fun, but, in fact, it requires a lot of self-discipline. You have to plan your time, and sometimes it is pretty difficult to force yourself to work. In a way, you are your own boss.
“Being your own employer also means that to get paid, you have to be an accountant, then a marketing specialist, secretary, assistant, office manager, and so on,” Keili affirms.
Myth #3: It’s enough just to be famous
People believe that being famous is all it takes. Like any other celebrities, influencers are the living forms of their personal brand, and a lot is based on the social capital you have poured into your brand.
But, of course, fame comes with a downside. “Wherever I go, people recognize me. This can be nice, but it also means that in some ways, you have to ‘take care of your brand’s reputation’ all the time. So you are literally at work 24/7,” Keili admits.
Myth #4: I do what I want
It’s all actually a pretty big responsibility. You have to know exactly who you’re working with, because people take you as an expert.
Imagine a situation when you do a paid partnership post highlighting certain vegan products. But afterwards, it turns out that the products are not vegan… This is how you lose your credibility, ruin your brand, and, yes, vegans will take the opportunity to bash you.
Therefore, background work is essential. “Anything I share has consequences, and it is my responsibility. My suggestions and thoughts affect the daily lives of a lot of people, so I always have to think a step ahead,” Keili says.
Myth #5: Influencers are a totally new phenomenon
No, they’re not. If you think about it, most famous people actually have a similar effect – your work and everything you say impacts people’s lives. Therefore, the job of an influencer or a content producer is no different from that of a journalist, actor, or other celebrity.
Keili offers fruit for thought: highly influential positions have always existed, and as it may be a ‘new thing’ in social media, celebrities have always influenced the public with their conduct and also made a living out of it.
Are influencers and content producers doing something wholly new and different, or did that kind of job exist already decades ago? Let us know what you think – share your thoughts!
Keili collaborated with the media researchers at the University of Tartu in the media literacy research project SMaRT-EU that aims to build information bridges between generations. The project develops a social media resilience toolkit for young and elderly media educators and parents.
Marju Himma-Kadakas is a Research Fellow of Journalism Research at the University of Tartu Institute of Social Studies.