Let's be honest, we all love to hate on an Instagram travel influencer.

All that blue-ass water, the manicured hands touching floppy hats and images of legs dangling from a height really seem to grind some people's gears.

Be it jealousy, scepticism or a general distaste for a life that looks too good to be true, we're all human and humans have been hating on other humans since forever ago.

But a new survey on the world's most successful content creators suggests we might directing our loathing at the wrong type of person.


The 2019 Professional Content Creator Survey was undertaken by Once in a Lifetime Media, an influencer and social media marketing company, which aims to connect brands with content creators.

The goal was to find out about what the typical content creator - bloggers, writers, online publishers, Instagrammers, YouTubers - really look like.

Are they the tanned girls in the flowing dresses inspiring #solotravel or the chiselled blokes found hiking shirtless through the mountains with a drone in their backpack?

The survey results came out this month. Perhaps the most surprising revelation is that the average creator isn't some young 20-something-nomadic Gen Z traveller, but a 37-year-old married woman running a small business from a fixed abode.

Nearly a third of all respondents were over the age of 40.

The overwhelming majority of respondents were female (86 per cent), over two thirds worked full time as a content creator, most of them worked from home, and 76 per cent had a permanent address.

The average content creator is a 37 year old woman, in relationship, working from home. Photo / Radek Grybowski, Unsplash
The average content creator is a 37 year old woman, in relationship, working from home. Photo / Radek Grybowski, Unsplash

While there have been plenty of envy-evoking articles over the years on people who quit their jobs to travel à la Eat Pray Love, it seems becoming a blogger or social media star means ditching a regular paying office job, to work longer hours, within the confines of your own home.

Only 11 per cent of those surveyed worked less than 20 hours a week.


So let's cut to the next bit we're all dying to find out - what about money? How much do they make? How on earth does one get paid for all of this #wanderlust business?

The survey revealed 10 per cent of the respondents generated more than USD$10,000 a month consistently in the last six months. At that rate, even if you didn't earn anything for the remaining six months of the year, that's a salary of over NZ$90,000. For half a year's work.

Sixteen per cent of the sample said they made between NZ$3000 and $7600 per month.

So where did their income come from?

The overwhelming majority - 73 per cent - said they earned money through sponsored posts.

For a travel blogger, that means writing or publishing an article in collaboration with a brand, paid for by the brand/agency, and includes a link back to that company's website.


Consider it the new version of the print advertorials that have been around in newspapers long before the digital world arrived. Brands want links to their website from other online pages, as it helps grow their Domain Authority, a common measure of a website's power and ratings.

According to the survey, blogs with traffic higher than 100,000 monthly visitors typically charge a minimum of US$500 (approx NZ$760).

Then there are affiliate sales, where the creator promotes certain products, and receives a commission for any sales made using their unique referral code. Two thirds of respondents also cited advertisements - such as click-through ads on their blog - as ways they generated income.

About a third of creators said they were paid through brand promotion on social media.

"In the sample, only 35% of the Content Creators generated an income via social media promotion, indicating that there is a small proportion of Influencer-only respondents in our sample and that it is becoming harder to monetise this channel," the survey stated.

Press trips, photography, video creation, consulting and trip planning were among some of the other ways to get paid.


For the top earners who responded who were paid more than US$15000 per month, advertising, affiliate commissions and sponsored posts were the three key income streams.

What is clear is that most content creators have multiple income streams, rather than putting all their eggs into one basket. Just eight per cent of respondents used only one income stream to earn a living.

So while it might seem like a wonderful dream to ditch the 9-5 and travel the world by working as a blogger or Instagrammer, the reality could very well be working much longer hours, in front of a computer at home, and chasing multiple avenues to earn a living.