One of the questions I get asked a lot when I tell people what my job is: “how do you make money?” I’m going to be honest with you, I understand the curiosity. When I meet people with jobs I’ve never heard of before it’s the first thing I want to know too. But being on the receiving end of it, I do find it quite annoying explaining over and over again.
However, within my professional circles, amongst people doing similar things I like this question. The thing about being a social media influencer is that everyone makes money differently. There are so many revenue streams available to us and everyone’s business model is slightly different. I always find it really interesting talking to other creators about what their income pie chart looks like.
But you see, I’ve always guessed what my income pie chart looks like. I know the majority of my money comes from working with brands on sponsored videos but I’ve never actually figured out the exact percentage… until now!
So I asked my accountant to send me my income from the most recent tax year 2017-2018. And then I did some spreadsheet magic I could remember from secondary school ICT classes and made a pie chart! With colours! So here it is…
My Income Pie Chart
For some reason the pink and dark red segments don’t have labels but they are “Merch” (0.9%) and “Radio/TV” (0.8%) respectively. So first of all let’s explain each category.
Brand deals – a company give me money to make a video/tweet/instagram about their product or campaign e.g. Embarrassing Period Stories, Sex & Overflow!
Adsense – you know those adverts you see on YouTube videos? This is my cut of what the advertisers are paying Google to put them there.
Writing – I wrote a book. I also occasionally get paid to write for other things.
Patreon – a membership site where fans can directly support me financially in return for different rewards and perks.
Affiliates – affiliate marketing is where I use trackable links from different companies (e.g. Amazon, ASOS, Lovehoney), sometimes with discount codes and I get a small cut of any purchases made through my links.
Events/Speaking – sometimes I do talks, panels, workshops.
Merch – I have merchandise!
Radio/TV – sometimes I’m on radio or TV, and some of those times I get paid for it.
BBClub – I am 1/3 of podcast Banging Book Club. We have ads run on our episodes and this % is my third of the total.
What does it all mean?!
Two things shocked me when I saw this: 1) brand deals are 80%! I knew it would be the biggest slice of the pie but didn’t think it would be that big. 2) the second biggest slice is Adsense. Even with all the crap with demonetisation and low CPMs it seems to still be a regular income for me.
The other thing I want to clarify is the “Writing” slice. I got paid an advance to write my book and the way that works is I got 1/3 on signing the contract, another 1/3 when I sent them my first draft and the final 1/3 on publication day. The dates of this pie chart only include the final 1/3 of that. So the pie chart from 2016-2017, in theory “Writing” would take up a bigger slice of the pie.
So what doing this has taught me is that I seriously need to diversify my income. Here’s why. Almost 90% of my income (brand deals and Adsense) relies on my popularity and the whims of advertisers. Who knows if there’ll be another “adpocolypse” and my Adsense drops again. Or what if my channel starts doing badly and I get less views? I may have to lower my rates for brand deals. How much advertisers pay for ads on YouTube I have zero control over. Whether or not I manage to keep my channel afloat in this fickle, oversaturated internet space I also have very little control over (or at least it feels like it).
I don’t want 90% of my income to be coming from things I have such little control over. Basically, right now I have all my eggs in one basket and if that basket breaks, I’m screwed.
Ideally, in a few years time I’d like “brand deals” to be at 50%. And that doesn’t mean I’ll do less brand deals. What it means is I need to find a way to increase my other areas so I can be more self-sufficient and future proof my career.
What I’m doing
So it’s baby steps but right now I’m trying to use Affiliate links more, reach out to brands that I already use and find out if they have affiliate programmes. I’ve created a spreadsheet where I keep all my most used links that I can easily access when people ask me “where did you get that dress?”.
The other area I’m building up is my Patreon. I recently re-launched it with new tiers and rewards such as a community Discord server where everyone can chat which I’m loving! Some people make their entire living from Patreon so there is a lot of potential there.
I’m planning on writing another book so there’ll be income from that and I’m launching new merchandise. It’s coming out at Summer in the City (which is next weekend) and will also be online. I want to take my merch more seriously, respond to the things that people want and make things I think are great!
So that’s what I’m doing right now and maybe as I go I’ll come up with some strategies to increase the other areas so I’m less reliant on brand deals and Adsense.
I hope this insight was interesting to you. I know I would love to see the pie charts of other social media influencers and share knowledge and advice.