With the boom of internet platforms such as YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram, there has been a new career category begotten: the social media influencer. In this article we’ll talk about a few financial tips for social media influencers, what an internet personality needs to know about their money, and the risks that usually people who make their living off the internet need to manage.
What is a social media influencer?
A social media influencer is defined as a person who earns money from work that they publish on the internet to a presumably large group of followers. Their earnings are usually derived from:
- Advertising revenues
- Sales of branded e-commerce products
- Affiliate marketing
- Membership subscription fees
- Paid endorsements
It’s very common for people to rise to internet stardom unintentionally. Many social media influencers start out making content as a hobby or a side gig. It became their “real job” after their following grew.
Social media influencer salary
Mega stars such as Kylie Jenner, who has over 200 million followers on Instagram, can make $1,000,000 per post. Cristiano Ronaldo is the highest paid social media influencer.
But most social media influencers will never get to that level. Nothing to cry about, though, because many with a sizable following are making enough to live a more than comfortable life.
Social media influencer salary derived from advertising depends on several factors, such as:
- The platform used
- The prices of the ads that are aired on their content
- The views you get on your videos. This influences how many ads can run during a particular video – more views, more ads.
- How many people click through on the ads placed in your content (if pay per click ads)
- The number of content pieces you produce
To quote an article in CNBC, “you need a minimum of 1,000 YouTube subscribers and about 24 million yearly views to generate $100,000.” To be very frank, there is no credible enumeration of the average social media influencer salary that we’ve seen published. However, we feel that this article by NFI does a good job sketching out what social media influencers make in various capacities.
It can be a lot, or a little – and that’s exactly our point. The money that influencers make is highly variable because it is dependent on so many different inputs. For this reason, it’s of critical importance for anyone who depends on the internet to make money, to support their living needs and their family, to be mindful of how to manage their earnings given the career is inherently unstable.
5 financial tips for social media influencers
Here are five aspects of financial planning for social media influencers that anyone who has reached internet stardom should consider.
#1 Know the risks
Every type of business has risks. Here are the pitfalls of being a social media influencer, from a financial standpoint.
- Internet stars can rise to fame quickly – but the flip side is that just as quickly as they came, the views can disappear. For that reason, the cash flow for someone who makes their living as a social media influencer can be unstable.
- The barriers to entry are low, as the only capital investment required is a camera and some type of digital device. Depending on your genre, the competition can be pretty stiff.
- You are at the mercy of the laws and policies governing the platform where you house your content. If the algorithm or the advertising rates make a move against you, you have to change your business model or face the consequences. You may or may not be able to do so.
- It can be a high pressure career. Being on camera all the time can sometimes make it easy to lose yourself in the demands of having to be “on” all the time. Managing your household finances, taxes, etc. is probably the last thing you want to do on your time off.
- Because you are publicly visible, you may be subject to stalking, hacking, and harassment, which can be legally, financially, and emotionally draining.
- You are the face of the brand. You may not be able to take time off without losing revenue from lost screen time.
- Due to the fact you are self-employed, there is no 401(k) plan given to you, and no company matching.
- You are responsible for paying estimated taxes on a quarterly basis, and none are withheld from your paycheck as they would be were you a W-2 employee.
Fortunately many of these risks are able to be addressed. Next, we’ll discuss some of the methods that social media influencers use to manage their finances.
#2 Put together a plan
We would suggest that social media influencer organize their finances into five major parts:
- Cash flow planning
- Retirement planning
- Managing risk
- Estate planning
As we mentioned above, you don’t have the benefit of having an employer automatically debit out your taxes each payroll period. You’ll have to pay your state, city, and Federal taxes each quarter on your own. The more you make, the more important it becomes that you have a solid process in place to ensure you have enough in the bank to pay. Later we’ll provide some tax planning tips.
Because internet traffic can be unstable, it’s critical for social media influencers to ensure you have an emergency fund of cash available to pay your bills if your income took a dive (or became non-existent) episodically.
And even if catastrophic events don’t occur, it can provide peace of mind when you 1) know your budget 2) understand your monthly expenses 3) have thought ahead and saved up cash to take care of both #1 and #2.
Unlike a W2 employee, you have no employer-sponsored retirement plan when you are a social media influencer. Depending upon whether your business grows large enough for you to hire employees (who you want to keep happy and retain), your choice of retirement plan may not be that straightforward.
- Being a social media influencer comes with some risks that are endemic to having your business revolve around the internet: cybersecurity risk, intellectual property risks, etc.
- There are the usual set of risks that accompany being a business owner: disability risk, professional liability risks, etc.
- And then there are the risks you assume just by virtue of the fact that you own assets: general liability risks, damage to your home or rental property, flooding, loss of life, etc.
It’s commonly believed that an estate plan is only useful for older people.
Estate planning establishes a legal structure for what were to happen to your valuable assets if you were to pass away, and to make sure they are transferred correctly. If you own property, digital assets, (or anything else of value) or have dependents, an estate plan is a good idea.
Example of a social media influencer financial plan
Here is an example of the typical components of a financial plan for social media influencers that we work with.
“Financial plan for Mr. and Mrs. Social Media Influencer”
- Comprehensive investment plan
- Started Roth Solo(k) & profit-sharing plans for them and their spouse. For 2022, we able to save $41,000 ($20,500 each) in Roth contributions and an additional $81,000 ($40,500 each) in employer profit-sharing contributions from their business.
- Opened Minor Roth IRAs for their children since their name, image and likenesses are being used for content. Able to save $6,000/year in Roth accounts for their newborn babies and toddlers.
- Estate Planning/Risk Mitigation
- With the help of an attorney, built a full estate plan from the ground up including trusts, Power of Attorneys, Healthcare Directives, etc.
- Made sure the trust is funded and all digital assets (YouTube Channel, Instagram account) are titled correctly.
- Help determine Life Insurance, Disability insurance, and Health insurance plans.
- Cash Flow Planning and Retirement Forecasting
- Determined how much they can spend at their current savings rate for the rest of their life, if they “retired” in 5 years or 10 years.
- Explored options for diversifying income streams to earn money in case digital career comes to an unexpected end.
This is just a sample; every social media influencer’s financial plan would have different components. The purpose is to illustrate the types of things a strategy should include for someone who makes their living from the internet.
#3 You have to set up your own retirement vehicle
One of the harder aspects of being on your own as an entrepreneur is the lack of employer-provided retirement savings vehicles. The good news, however, is that you get to choose how you save and the related costs.
Here are some popular options in terms of IRAs for business owners with one employee.
- An IRA is an Individual Retirement Account in which funds can grow either on a tax-free or tax-deferred basis. A Traditional IRA allows pre-tax contributions, and funds grow tax-deferred. A Roth IRA allows post-tax contributions, and funds grow tax-free.
- A SEP IRA is easy to set up and you can contribution 25% of your salary or up to $61,000, whichever is lower.
- A solo 401(k) is for single employee businesses. In this scenario, you are considered both the employer and employee. Elective deferrals can be made as the lesser of 100% of earned income or $20,500 in 2022. Contributions can be made on a pre-tax or after-tax basis, with total contributions not exceeding $61,000. If you have more than $250,000 in assets in the plan, you have to file Form 5500-EZ. A 401(k) can be set up as a Roth 401(k), which enables you to save on a post-tax basis, or a Traditional 401(k), which allows you to save on a pre-tax basis.
#4 Tax planning is critical
One of the advantages of being self-employed is that you can potentially write off many of your business assets as a tax deduction, if compliant with applicable tax laws.
Here are three tax tips for social media influencers. Please be advised that nothing in this article may serve as a recommendation specific to any one individual; all comments are general in nature. For specific suggestions applicable to your situation, consult with your financial or tax advisor.
You can possibly deduct certain qualifying home expenses
Many social media influencers work from home. To be able to claim it as a deduction, the space must sheerly be used for business (not personal) purposes. To determine the proper ratio, divide the size of your work space (in square feet) by the total size of your residence.
This IRS guide to business use of your home is useful to consult with. Accountants and CPAs are usually well-versed in the ins and outs of deducting home business expenses, and should be consulted for assistance if required.
You can deduct certain qualifying vehicle expenses
The next time you tank up, don’t lose that receipt!
And start tracking your mileage too, while you’re at it, because fuel, toll, and vehicle maintenance costs may be tax deductible. Here are the IRS mileage rates for 2022.
Know your estimate dates
You are required to pay taxes to the IRS and state on a quarterly basis. Here are the deadlines for 2022.
Paying taxes can sometimes be tricky for social media influencers with unstable cash flow. Work with your accountant or financial advisor to establish a plan for paying what is due on time. This may entail you putting away extra cash when you have it.
Have separate business bank account
The easiest way to reduce confusions when it comes to tax deductions is to make sure you have a separate business banking account. This way, your financial statement won’t be crowded with charges that require you to take time classifying as personal or business. To set up a business bank account the banker will ask for your business’s legal documents and possibly others – so make sure you ask before you go to your appointment.
Don’t forget about charitable giving!
Many social media influencers have a strong mission, and giving back may not only be an important part of your brand, but also something that brings a financial benefit as there are potential tax benefits associated with charitable giving. You may receive a tax deduction for donations to qualifying charitable organizations; this may potentially reduce your taxable income.
There are many other way you can make a charitable donation, ranging from making a Qualified Charitable Distribution from your IRA, establishing a Donor Advised Fund, or creating a charitable trust.
#5 Consider working with a financial advisor focused on social media influencers
It’s 3 AM.
You just uploaded your week’s video.
As you turn the computer off, you see an envelope on the edge of your desk. You open it – and it’s a letter from the Social Security Administration throwing some gibberish at you.
Do you really feel like meddling with this right now? You were hoping you could crash for a few hours before the sun comes up.
There is value in working with a financial advisor for social media influencers.
- An independent third party to help you keep a disciplined savings and investment strategy going
- Someone well-versed in how to turn short term, unstable earnings into a lifetime of stable cash flow that you may need to live off of
At Rock House Financial, we have specialized knowledge of finance for social media influencers. Contact us to set up a time to talk.
Zach Nelson CFP® is a financial advisor for solo entrepreneurs.
NFI. How Much Do Influencers Make? – Everything You Need To Know.
Scaffer, Neal. (7 March, 2022). How Do Influencers Make Money from Social Media?
Scipioni, Jade. (20 May, 2021). CNBC: Here’s how many social media followers you need to make $100,000
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