Written by Rosie Neill

Product Marketing Manager

Lots of us use our phones for pretty much everything these days – young people in particular. From getting in touch with someone or asking a question, through to the smallest of personal actions like checking a bus timetable or making a quick note, it all happens online. 

So why should making money be any different? 

In fact, 50+ million people around the world consider themselves to be a social media ‘content creator’. And thanks to a host of social media giants that are booming in popularity (social media usage grew at 13.5 new users every second in 2021!) and extremely easy to use, raking it in online has never been so achievable – or so it seems… 

But this isn’t always the case. Take YouTube for example – only the top 3% of YouTube’s creators earn more than $17,000 a year. And while there are benefits of creating content online for young people, there are some very real considerations and potential risks that students need to be aware of too.

Having an understanding of these will help support staff and others with a duty of care to: 

  • Be able to talk to students about the pros and cons of creating content online
  • Take a proactive approach by raising awareness of the considerations and potential risks
  • Be prepared to offer signposting and support if needed

What is online content?

Online content is a general term for any material that’s available on the internet. This can come in a range of formats, including:

  • Photos & images
  • Videos (short-form or long-form)
  • Podcasts
  • Newsletters
  • Streaming (especially gaming) 
  • Blogs & writing
  • Music
  • Graphic design

Why are students creating content online?

There are a number of reasons why students are creating content online, such as:

  • To enrich the lives of those around them
  • To define themselves to others 
  • To grow and nourish relationships
  • To achieve self-fulfilment
  • To support causes or issues they care about
  • To have more freedom
  • To become famous
  • To make money

Funding simply isn’t enough so I have had to switch to online surveys and YouTube to try and gather a decent amount of money.

Student response in Student Money & Wellbeing 2022

What platforms are students using to create and share content?


While it’s been around for a while now, Instagram’s popularity is not to be sniffed at. The platform has over 2 billion monthly active users and ‘Instagram influencers’ are still going strong – there are 500,000 creators whose preferred and only channel of influence is Instagram.

Ways to make money:

  • Affiliate marketing (promoting other people’s products in return for a small commission for each sale)
  • Sponsored brand posts (a company pays you to create a post featuring their product/service)
  • Instagram Shop (selling products directly on Instagram)
  • Live badges


Being the second-most popular website and search engine (after Google) in the world is no mean feat and YouTube is a platform that has a huge influence. With 14.3 billion visits per month, people use it to search for all types of video content in every niche.

Ways to make money:

  • YouTube Partner Program (have to first meet eligibility requirements)
  • Affiliate marketing
  • Brand deals (creating videos in collaboration with brands, or being paid to create a review video about their product/service)


TikTok is the fastest-growing social media platform. It exploded in popularity over the various lockdowns and it’s especially popular amongst young people – with 43% of its users aged between 18-24. 

Although the app is well-known for its dance trends, there are also content creators of every type here – people go to TikTok to learn about many things as well as to be entertained. 

Ways to make money:

I have a TikTok account where I upload videos and generate money from it.

Student response in Student Money & Wellbeing 2022


Although it’s not as much at the forefront of social media these days, Snapchat is still very popular. The platform boasts a sizable 319 million daily active users, with 20% of users aged between 18-24.

It’s famous for its short-lived, disappearing content – you can send pictures or videos to friends and family that they’ll only be able to see once. It also birthed ‘Stories’, which most other social media platforms have now copied.

Ways to make money:

  • Sponsored Stories (companies pay influencers to advertise their brand/product)
  • Snapchat Spotlight
  • Promoting own products or services
  • Affiliate marketing


Many creators bemoan that, when creating content on many platforms, they don’t get a fair share of the revenue and they also have to compete in a constantly-changing feed of other creators’ posts.

Patreon gives creators a different way to get by. It’s a membership and subscription service platform: fans pay a monthly membership fee to see content from a particular creator and in return, the creator gives them specific benefits such as exclusive content, early access to projects and merchandise.

Patreon doesn’t earn money if the creators don’t – the platform earns a percentage of everything the creator makes. 

There are also many alternatives to Patreon. Some work in a very similar way, but others differ in that they have the option for fans to make one-off payments to creators, meaning they can function more like ‘tip jars’ (as well as having membership options too).

Some of these alternatives are:

  • Buy Me a Coffee
  • Substack
  • Ko-Fi
  • Podia
  • Memberful


OnlyFans is similar to Patreon and its alternatives but is particularly known for adult and explicit content. The platform has 1 million+ content creators, the majority of whom are women, and many of its creators see it as a tool of empowerment. 

However, the top 1% of OnlyFans creators make 33% of all of the money and the average earnings are only £120 per month – equivalent to roughly 12.5 hours working at the National Living Wage. 

Read more about OnlyFans and how staff can support students who use it.


The popularity of podcasts has grown hugely over the last few years – 59% of the UK aged 16+ has listened to at least one podcast! The main draw is that they can be listened to on the go, whether you’re cooking, driving or walking the dog. 

Ways to make money:

  • Podcast sponsors/advertising during episodes
  • Crowdfunding/donations
  • Premium content through paid memberships
  • Selling a product/service related to the podcast content
  • Affiliate marketing


Blogs are one of the oldest forms of online content. They’ve been around for a long time, especially when compared to some of the newer social media platforms. But blogging is also one of the hardest ways for creators to make money.

Ways to make money:

  • Being paid by advertisers to appear on a popular blog
  • Affiliate marketing
  • Writing guest or ghostwriter blogs for others – bloggers can use marketplace websites like Fiverr, Upwork, Guru and PeoplePerHour to find writing jobs

Benefits of creating content online for students

Creating content online can be a great way for some young people to earn money – some of the benefits include:

  • Accessibility & ease of getting started
  • Flexible and can work great alongside studying/working (being ‘own boss’)
  • Low cost
  • Meet people where they already are
  • Make money doing something that’s enjoyed
  • Try out dream job before finishing studies
  • Allows a flexible way to make money

I upload videos on TikTok for their creator fund and complete surveys.

Student response in Student Money & Wellbeing 2022

What are the considerations and potential risks?

False expectations of earnings (financial insecurity)

There’s always a disparity between the biggest earners and the income of the average content creator. For example, a creator on YouTube needs to average 1.4 million views per month to be in the top 3% of creators (and only the top 3% yield more than $17,000 p.a.). Meanwhile, the average monthly earnings for OnlyFans is just £120. 

Often, it’s anecdotal stories of friends of friends who do earn quite a bit that can keep other aspiring creators persisting, but these stories can often be exaggerated or fail to take into account the volatility of earnings.

I deliver fast food locally and also make youtube videos about 40k.

Student response in Student Money & Wellbeing 2022


Not only can there be false expectations of what will be earned through creating content online, but the volatility of the work can also lead to financial insecurity. Even if students are able to make money through online content creation, income can be ad hoc and isn’t guaranteed in the same way it is from an employed position. This can lead to stress for students, leave them short of money and make it hard to budget. 

Content creators are also dependent on constantly changing platforms and algorithms – adding an extra layer of complication and pressure. 

Time and energy drain

It can require a lot of time and energy to get to a place of making money from creating content online. While some might hit the jackpot and create that one piece of golden content that goes viral, this is rare. For others, it could take years to grow their follower or subscriber number and get to a place where they’re able to start making money.

Distraction from studies

Perhaps the time and energy spent on creating content online could be better spent focusing on studying. This is of course, all about balance because if it’s not well managed, time and energy spent on content creation could distract from and negatively impact a students’ ability to study and succeed in their course. 

Loss of privacy

Once in the spotlight, it can be hard to get out of it. While it’s unlikely that everyone will become wildly famous, this should still be a consideration for anyone aspiring to become an influencer or make money through creating online content.

Safety considerations

It’s not just loss of privacy that public figures have to contend with. They can also be vulnerable to potential safety considerations such as harassment, stalking or violence, from an extremist fan or someone with a different viewpoint.

Tax implications

Students can sometimes be under the impression that they’re completely exempt from paying tax but this isn’t the case. Anyone who earns above the Personal Allowance (more than £1,042 a month on average) needs to pay Income Tax and National Insurance must be paid if a student earns more than £190 a week. Students making more than £1,000 through online content creation would need to register as self-employed with HMRC.

More info is available on the gov.uk website.

Blurred lines

Often, it’s the shocking or provocative content that ‘sells’. So while this won’t be the case for everyone, something else to be aware of is that some creators may perhaps end up creating and sharing content that they’re not entirely comfortable with or is against their better judgement in order to try and make money. The lines can become blurred over time. 

Longevity of online content

The internet has a long memory! Once something is online, it can be hard to get rid of it completely. This is fine, perhaps a positive even, if the content can help with a future career and be used as evidence of work or to contribute to a portfolio. 

When this isn’t so good though, is if there’s content out there that hasn’t aged well, that there may be future regrets about doing or that could put a future employer off.

I make extra money doing online cam work.

Student response in Student Money & Wellbeing 2022

Impact on mental health

The reality of online content creation for most is that it’s far from a stable career and as we know from Student Money & Wellbeing, there’s a strong link between money worries and students’ physical health, mental health and university attainment and experience. Not to mention the impact that loss of privacy, safety concerns and pressure can also have on students’ mental health and wellbeing.

How can staff support students to stay safe?

It’s important for staff to understand how and why students are making money online and be aware of all of the considerations. 

Equipped with this knowledge, staff can have open, honest, judgement-free conversations with students who are thinking about or already are creating content online and might not have thought through the potential risks.

Other things support staff can do are to:

  • Increase visibility of jobs on campus that will provide a predictable and stable income – so that students are aware of their other options for ways to make money.
  • Raise awareness of all available additional funding for students – both within your organisation and from external funding providers (through Blackbullion and The Scholarship Hub) to ensure students are accessing all the money out there that they’re eligible for.
  • Encourage positive relationships with online platforms and prioritisation of mental health – taking a preventative approach to raise awareness about the importance of having time offline. Perhaps running an on-campus workshop or an Instagram Live or Q&A on the topic of encouraging positive relationships with online platforms and prioritising mental health.
  • Provide and signpost to places to get help – in addition to the help available from your organisation’s support services (there are some suggestions below).
  • Promote financial education – to help students prioritise their wellbeing and hopefully reduce the need to make money quickly. Taking a whole-institution approach and linking with schools and teams like housing and social media/marketing is a great way to reach as many of your students with this info as possible. Also making use of your student mentors/ambassadors and our Playbook campaigns if you’re a Blackbullion partner.

Where students can get help

In addition to your organisation’s student support services, you can also signpost students to the following places:

Mental health support

Support with financial issues

  • Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) for help and guidance on any benefits or Universal Credit they could be entitled to, to get an incorrect assessment corrected or to access the CAB’s ‘debt and money’ resources 
  • Step Change if students are struggling with debt
  • To find additional funding sources that they may be eligible for: Blackbullion Funds Hub and The Scholarship Hub
  • SLC or the NHS (course dependant) for any additional student funding they could be entitled to
  • Blackbullion learning resources – students can create a free account and find financial learning on 80+ topics (a preventative approach to try and help them avoid reaching a crisis point)

Final note

In summary, many young people are trying their hand at creating content online, using many different platforms to do so (with new ones seeming to pop up all the time!).

It can be a great way for students to earn money, especially because it allows them flexibility and the ability to earn by doing what they love.

However, there are some very real considerations and potential risks that students need to be aware of.

Having an understanding of these, along with what students can do and where they can go if they do need help, will help support staff to take a proactive approach by raising early awareness among students and being prepared to support those who may experience complications from creating content online. 


Download the slides from Vivi’s presentation about creating content online.


Watch the recording of the session:

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