• Salha Aziz made nearly $25,000 in ten months creating "user-generated content," she told Insider. 
  • She's turned making TikToks into a small business that helps her pay her mortgage and travel. 
  • She said it's a fun and profitable job that lets her be her own boss — and others can join the hustle. 

Salha Aziz, 31, has been teaching Zumba classes for ten years. When TikTok came around, she thought her dancing skills would help her build an audience on the app. 

But less than a year ago, the mom of three discovered an even better way to capitalized on a new trend emerging thanks to TikTok. User-generated content, or "UGC" are videos creators sell to brands for use on the company account or as paid advertisements. The main difference between UGC and sponsored content is that the former isn't posted by the user, but rather packaged and pitched for the brand to publish themselves.

Because of that difference, unlike influencers, UGC creators don't need a large following of their own to get started. Aziz had just 5,000 followers on her TikTok account @sociallyaziz when she spoke to Insider in August, three months into her UGC career. 

"I always wanted to make money without having a high amount of followers — it's pretty hard to build a community online," she recently told Insider in a new interview, adding "Nobody really wants to constantly sell to community." 

Now, she's earned roughly $25,000 in ten months of UGC, and recently scored her biggest payday yet: $1,950 for two TikTok videos about Flexcar, a car rental company. Insider viewed a copy of that contract, as well as roughly 50 payments from companies to verify her total UGC income.

For the companies, it's a much cheaper option as UGC creators are essentially writers, makeup artists, talent, and crew in one — a bargain compared to an ad agency. Plus, UGC video ads feel more organic, mimicking the amateur, unpolished, and conversational videos that you get on your TikTok feed and Instagram reels. It's become a running joke on social media that users don't always know they are ads right away.

"I feel like my trust is betrayed whenever this happens," one TikTok user joked last month. "Although I am very happy for them! Good to see normal people getting sponsorship deals." 

In addition to these deals, many UGC creators have begun charging for coaching calls and courses. Much of the online UGC community has built a sort-of mini industry together, Aziz described, sharing information on TikTok about how to pitch, how to create content, and how to negotiate contracts with companies. 

@sociallyaziz UGC journey 3 month earnings update (full transparency) #ugccreator #ugcjourney #ugccommunity ♬ original sound - Salha | UGC Creator


It looks like the type of business that's going to thrive — Eileen Canady, the head of global marketing at BST Global, a software company, told Forbes this month that user-generated content is the "biggest trend that marketers should consider in 2023." After all, it fulfills a need for many Americans as more and more workers rebel against traditional 9-to-5 work, and start more businesses than ever. Many desire a chance to be their own boss, instead of selling their time to enrich a company, and others want more flexibility and control over their personal time.

"I get to be at home. I'm home with my kids, I drop them off to school," she said. "It's a really, really fun job."

"This is a business, not a get-rich-quick scheme"

Aziz wants those interested in UGC to keep in mind that producing profitable work means that creators should be wary. She said she's gotten a lot smarter about her contracts in the last year. For example, she used to give away the raw footage from her videos to brands for free in addition to the edited video. But now she's learned that companies could repurpose her work into hundreds of additional ads that she wouldn't get paid for. 

"We have to value ourselves way more, because brands do not value creators," she said. 

Though UGC creators don't need a Charli D'Amelio-size following to sell a product, Aziz warns that building a brand takes work and doesn't promise riches overnight.  

"My advice is always, this is a business, not a get-rich-quick scheme," she said. 

In order to get where she is, Aziz said she honed her own style. She doesn't do "aesthetic" content like ASMR, for instance, but rather, focuses on the practicalities of why a consumer would want to buy something, tapping into their psychology, she explained. 

"I focus on storytelling," she said. "The whole thing with UGC and direct-to-consumer marketing is that they have to have a strong hook, a call to action, and present a problem and solution," she said, calling those three tenets her "framework." 

UGC is a flexible alternative to a 9-to-5, but requires a ton of work

Aziz said that she loves what UGC has done for her life. Her husband is the breadwinner of the family, but UGC supplements her income as a fitness instructor, meaning that she can contribute to her family's mortgage payments, she said.  

She's also pitching UGC content that would allow her to get paid to travel with her whole family. Last year, the hotel chain Crowne Plaza paid for her family to stay at their Oman location for three nights in exchange for content, such as a walkthrough video of the hotel. Her goal is to do collaborations with more hotels and AirBnbs this year so she can take her kids on trips. 

Having a job she enjoys is a big change, Aziz said. Before being a stay-at-home parent, she did recreation therapy, working with children who have autism, elderly people, and people with brain injuries. But her heart wasn't into the concept of a 9-to-5 job. 

UGC is different, she said. 

"I spend hours on my content — I'm a big time perfectionist," she said. "I will edit for hours, but I have a lot of fun doing it. I go to bed and I dream about my plans for videos." 

Additionally, she enjoys the independence and potential for growth she has as a UGC creator. 

"I didn't know I was going to be an entrepreneur, but once I started, I realized I didn't want to work for anyone else — and to be in control." 

Read the original article on Business Insider