Content Creator Launches App to Address TikTok, Instagram Pay Gap

  • Christen Nino De Guzman recently launched an app to help content creators get paid fairly.
  • Given content creation is a newer industry, it often results in massive pay disparities.
  • Clara functions like a Glassdoor for content creators, featuring rates and reviews so they can negotiate better contracts.

Jonny Morales is a well-established TikTok content creator known for posting comedic videos about Latino culture, but before garnering more than 3 million followers on the platform, he was just like any other 20 year old trying to get by.

So when brands started approaching Morales to work with him, he wasn’t quite sure what to do or how much to charge them. He was concerned about making a wrong move and losing out on partnerships that could boost his career.

“Before TikTok, I was a busboy, making less than minimum wage at $7.25 an hour and already getting underpaid,” Morales told Insider. “When I started making videos and figured out I could make money doing something I enjoy, I didn’t want to lose the opportunities, so I was undervaluing myself.”

He recalled searching Google to try and decipher how much he should be charging brands, only to come up empty.

A group of content creators at Instagram smiling at the camera.

 

Christen Nino De Guzman pictured with content creators she worked with while at Instagram.

Courtesy of Christen Nino De Guzman

It wasn’t until he started working with Christen Nino De Guzman, who has launched content creator programs at some of the biggest tech companies, that he felt encouraged to “not be afraid to ask for more money” and “know my worth.”

The content creator industry is rife with pay disparities that disproportionately affect creators from marginalized groups 

One of the things that draws around 1 billion active monthly users to TikTok is the idea that anyone has the ability to have a voice and carve out their own space on the platform.

Whether you’re a student or skateboarder, there’s a community of users brought together by an algorithum that’s often described as “scarily accurate”  ready to engage with your content.

“It’s been interesting to see how the definition of a creator has changed so much from when I first started out in 2015,” Nino De Guzman, who recently launched  Clara — a content creator platform to address pay disparities in the industry — said. “It used to be a typical kind of person, usually a middle-to-high class woman blogger who had access to video equipment and was traveling, but now anyone can be a creator.”

But what happens when people who have never worked in content creation start getting approached by brands who want to use their videos to promote products among their followers?

Given content creation is a newer and unregulated industry, it often results in massive pay disparities that disproportionately affect creators of color and creators from other marginalized groups, said Nino De Guzman.

A recent study, which found that the pay gap between white content creators and creators of color was 29%, supports what Nino De Guzman has observed in her various roles at Pinterest, Instagram, and TikTok.

“I had a school teacher who falls into the category of a new creator and she was getting paid for this very big campaign around $3,000,” Nino De Guzman told Insider. “And a man also in the campaign was being paid close to $30,000.”

Nino De Guzman noted that the gap was particularly striking, given that the man was dueting the teacher’s content versus creating his own original videos as the teacher had done.

“This original person was creating the content and doing all this work, but she was getting paid ten times less,” Nino De Guzman said. “I got so upset because I knew the story of the school teacher and how she was using the money, which was for fertility treatments.”

Per Nino De Guzman, the pay disparity was rectified in the end because the man in the campaign instructed the teacher that he was earning a higher rate and encouraged her to ask for more money.

But fair rates shouldn’t be reliant on individuals stepping forward, she said.

In order for content creators to ensure they are being paid a fair amount proportionate to the business they are directing towards multi-billion dollar companies, they need greater access to accurate information about working with brands.

Unfortunately, no such resource existed, so content creators like Morales were forced to rely on information they had gathered through word-of-mouth, said Nino De Guzman.

Enter Clara: a new app that functions like a Glassdoor for content creators 

While Nino De Guzman was not able to provide content creators with specific numbers they should be charging as part of her work at prior companies, she provided resources to them about industry best practices so they would be in the best position to negotiate.

Yet, she would still observe some content creators getting paid significantly less than their peers.

“I would see a Hispanic creator getting paid half of what a white creator was being paid and the Hispanic creator would have more followers,” Nino De Guzman said. “It wasn’t necessarily any malicious intent from the brand … the process is that brands reach out to a creator and the creator provides a rate, but the creator doesn’t have the knowledge of what to price themselves and what rates are competitive.”

After witnessing several similar experiences whereby people from underrepresented communities were paid lower rates, she decided to create a platform that would serve as a Glassdoor-like resource for content creators. The platform provides content creators from all backgrounds with company reviews and rates from their peers that they can then reference when partnering with brands.

A man and woman sitting next to eachother on boxes with the TikTok logo.

 

Devon Rodriguez was one of the creators Nino De Guzman worked with at TokTok.

Courtesy of Christen Nino De Guzman

“Creators were truly becoming like my family and it was very hard to just watch them not be valued in that way,” Nino De Guzman said of her decision to create the platform. “These are people with millions of followers and they had no idea how to price themselves.”

Last year, she began the process of developing a pitch deck and reaching out to investors for funding. The process was difficult, made all the more so by the fact that women-led startups don’t often receive funding.

About 2% of women-led startups received venture capital funding in 2020, according to the Harvard Business Review,  and the number of women- and co-ed- led startups that receive VC-funding declined throughout the pandemic.

The numbers are even more dismal for Latino founders and other founders of color;  Latino-owned US companies earned 1.7% of venture capital in 2020, according to Crunchbase, a business-focused repository.

A woman looking into the camera after discovering she received VC funding.

 

Latino-owned US companies earned less than 2% of venture capital in 2020.

Courtesy of Christen Nino De Guzman

Despite these odds, Nino De Guzman, who is Peruvian, was able to secure initial funding after cold-messaging investors on LinkedIn and pitching Clara to them.

She left her job at TikTok to launch the beta desktop version of Clara earlier this month and released the iOS versions of the platform Tuesday. The Android version is due Feb. 1.

Content creators say an app like Clara could revolutionize the industry 

Within days of launching, thousands of creators signed up for Clara and have left reviews sharing their rates and experiences working with specific brands.

The homepage for the Clara desktop version with a rating system

 

Clara allows content creators to leave reviews of brands they’ve worked with.

Courtesy of Christen Nino De Guzman

“Christen has a heart for helping creators,” Jonny Morales, a content creator with more than 3 million TikTok followers who is known for making comedic videos, told Insider. “This app is going to be so helpful because it shows us there’s worth in the things we’re passionate about as creators.”

Devon Rodriguez, a content creator with 23 million followers on TikTok, said he was “didn’t know what a brand deal was” when he first got popular on the app for his art and had “no idea what to charge.”

When he was offering $7,000 per video from an initial brand partnership, he was “just so excited,” not realizing that with his massive following, he was being “lowballed.”

“I thought I had hit the lottery with the initial rate, but Christen showed me that I could just write a sentence to negotiate and that the worst that could happen would be that I’d get a no,” Rodriguez said.

Both Rodriguez and Morales say that an app like Clara has the power to revolutionize the content creator industry by empowering creators with the information they need to recognize the value of their work.

As for Nino De Guzman, she is working on managing signups for the app and continuing to create her own content on TikTok, where she provides resources about content creation and the tech industry.

“This isn’t just some business venture I wanted to do. This is something that is very close to my heart,” Nino De Guzman said. “And seeing the response so far, I feel very encouraged that people will potentially benefit from a platform like this.”

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