How to earn a living on social media, as told by two Utahns

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Coy Palfreyman, also known as HoopsandHiphop on YouTube, speaks to the camera on one of his videos. (Courtesy of Coy Palfreyman)

UTAH (ABC4) – When it comes to finding employment or income for millennials or those in Generation Z, several members of the rising age groups are finding non-traditional ways of paying the bills or even getting ahead.

For several Utahn youngsters, content creation online or on social media has become a viable way to rake in the dough.

“I’ve been doing it full time for like three years, and if it gives you an idea, last November, I bought a house, so I have enough money to buy a house,” Coy Palfreyman, a 27-year-old YouTuber specializing in Pokemon content who lives in Springville, tells ABC4.com.

Another Utahn from south of the point of the mountain, 19-year-old Rafael Serafini, explains that his side-hustle on TikTok can make him 3 cents per every 1,000 views on his short videos. With a following of 2.1 million on the platform, he has had several pieces catch a bit of viral fame, with views in the millions, sometimes tens of millions on his videos which are about a minute long at the most. Most of Serafini’s videos are much shorter than that.

Nearly all of the major social media and content sharing platforms have enabled some sort of monetization program to support its most well-liked and engaging creators. TikTok’s Creator Fund, in which Serafini is enrolled, can be a major moneymaker as well as YouTube’s Partner Program, which helps Palfreyman pay his mortgage.

Of course, the bigger the audience of the content creator, or influencer, the more the cash rolls in. Not only can a creator earn from the platform itself, but lucrative brand deals are also a major part of the game. One of the biggest names in content, 20-year-old Addison Easterling, who is better known as Addison Rae on TikTok, is estimated by Yahoo Finance to have a net worth of $5 million, which she built through brand deals and high engagement rates thanks to her viral dancing videos.

While neither Serafini nor Palfreyman have become millionaires thanks to content creation quite yet, both have also added to their income through brand partnerships. Serafini has made videos to promote What Do You Meme? — a popular party game — while Palfreyman has had multiple gaming brands reach out with partnership opportunities.

Of course, there are some drawbacks to working for yourself essentially as an independent content creator. Palfreyman, known online as HoopsandHipHop, had to teach himself to set a schedule and stick to it to get his videos out as promised to his subscribers three times a week.

“The thing that can become stressful sometimes is the fact that you’re sort of dependent on yourself,” he explains. “A regular job, you get your schedule, you go in, you do your time, and then you go home and when you’re home, you’re done, you don’t have to think about it anymore. With being a full-time independent creator and working for yourself, I’m never away from it because I work from home so it’s always around.”

Other challenges, such as finding health insurance and planning for future retirement, have also been tricky to navigate but not impossible, Palfreyman states. Still, he loves what he does for work, which is going down to his office and building videos focused on the fictional world of Pokemon. As someone who didn’t have access to the internet in his parent’s home until his senior year of high school, he considers himself to be an inspiration of sorts to anyone who wants to pursue this unconventional career.

“I always like to think of myself as like a great example of the fact that like anyone can do it because when I started doing it, it was I was basically right out of high school and I had no idea what I was doing. I had just barely discovered the world of YouTube and the fact that you could do it and make money. When I found that out I was like ‘Oh yes this is what I want to do,’ but I didn’t have any prior knowledge but I was passionate and excited about it so I just kind of jumped in,” he recalls.

It took a while to build his audience of over 200,000 subscribers from scratch, but after a few years of posting diligently, he was able to leave his job as an assistant manager at a GameStop location to pursue full-time content creation.

Things came together much quicker for Serafini, thanks largely to the rapid growth of TikTok. He tells ABC4.com that once he posted a video of himself declaring himself as Spider-Man before falling off a shelf, he gained about 700,000 followers in less than a week.

He’s even been stopped a couple of times on the street by strangers who have seen his videos on their phones.

“People just come up to me and say, ‘Oh, I’ve seen you on my Discover page,’” he says. “That’s crazy to think about that, but I love it when they recognize me because I love meeting new people and talking to my followers, and it’s a good weird.”

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