Being a UGC creator can be a lucrative business once you get going, but often, the first UGC video can be a stumbling block.
If you’re just starting out, rest assured that every single UGC creator has once been where you are, even those earning $$$$ per month.
At one point, we’ve all had to sit down and awkwardly fumble our way through our first ever piece of content. It can be awkward, tricky and downright confusing at first, but it’s the only way you can take the first step towards becoming a UGC pro.
This guide is for the girls (and guys) who have been seeing UGC everywhere and want to get started, but no-one is telling them how.
We’ll explore the essential steps to creating your first piece of content and starting your UGC portfolio, from finding your niche to choosing the right platform and creating engaging content.
It’s a three step process (and it’s a fairly easy one). Let’s dive in.
1. Study Up
Before all else — before making a portfolio, before trawling Twitter for paid jobs or joining community groups — you need to learn how to make UGC videos. Good ones.
And I can’t stress this enough.
If you’re setting out on a UGC journey, you need to understand the business behind it. Brands aren’t looking to pay for the unboxing videos done by regular Joe’s. Their paying for creators that understand the UGC hooks that will drive conversion.
The content they are willing to pay for has a science to it: it has hooks, angles, pain points and a solution. There’s a formula and it’s simple to follow when you understand.
Here are three ways to really get to grips with it:
TikTok Creative Center
This is TikTok’s bible of creative content. Head to the top performing TikTok ads — here, you have easy access to what is actually working for brands on social media.
You can sort them by category, so if you want to figure out how to make really great beauty videos, sort by beauty and personal care, tick cosmetics and bob’s your uncle.
You can now see a whole host of ads within your niche that brands are paying big bucks to push out. Scroll to find UGC style ads, these be the ones that look like natural TikTok’s.
Look at how these producers film things, look at how they edit, how they talk about the products.
And then, replicate.
And I mean, like for like, replicate.
Don’t worry about ripping off someone else’s content – this isn’t for paid work or to claim as your own. This is to simply understand how to film content and to practice doing it, you can add your own creative flair later down the line.
Have a go at filming and editing 20 or so of these videos and getting as close as possible to the original. Very quickly you’ll pick up the tricks of the trade (and realise just how long it takes to film content).
Studying Other Creators In The Market
Here’s the thing: UGC is a really unique business model whereby you can see creators portfolio’s. Not only do your fellow creators have their fees in the public domain, but they also have their content examples.
Explore the top UGC creators, look at their profiles and their social channels, and replicate what they are creating for brands.
I’ll be the first to tell you, your first UGC video won’t be anywhere near their standard at first, but it’ll be a big step in the right direction and you’ll learn more by deconstructing their content.
Invest In Guides/Master Courses
This is on the list as it is an option, but if you’re a beginner, PLEASE stay away from this one where possible.
Some masterclasses are fantastic, but many don’t offer much more value than what you can find for free online.
2. Niche Down
By all means, widen your niche when it comes to actually working for brands, but when you’re learning, I find it’s more important to actually really understand an industry and how to sell a product within it, rather than having a really wide ranging portfolio.
Pick 2-4 niches that fit nicely together, ie make-up, skincare, wellness and find products around your house that fit into these categories.
Follow the templated content that you’d seen in the TikTok Creative Center or from other top performing UGC creators and work on making those first UGC videos really engaging.
Brands to use in your first UGC content creator portfolio:
Top tip: If you can find products that you know have utilised UGC content creators in the past, go with these brands. This will add legitimacy to your profile, versus you whipping out your Apple air pods for your first ever portfolio video.
It also makes it really easy to see the kind of UGC content that they are willing to pay for.
For example Shein, Huel, Hair Burst, Sunny Dog Treats.
3. Get Creating Your First UGC Video
The next part is the easiest. You just need to start.
This time, you’ll have a go at creating your own scripts and storyboards, rather than replicating the TikTok creative center top performers like for like. Your first UGC video that you can actually use.
Before you even start to whip out your camera, have your script and shot list ready. Make a tick list, and get ready to work down it. Pay attention to things like angles and transitions.
Before recording, be conscious of the following:
Film in 1080HD & 60FPS
Adjust this in your phone’s settings > camera > record video. Set to 1080 HD & 60 FPS with HDR turned OFF.
HDR (High Dynamic Range) is a feature on many smartphones that can make your UGC look overexposed and washed out. Make sure to turn this feature off when creating your UGC to ensure that your video looks crisp and clear and maintains the true color of the footage.
Lighting is what differentiates a bad piece of content from a good one.
You should always try and use natural lighting, film near a large window, or even outdoors. Avoid filming in direct sunlight because it can overexpose the video and do not film at night – unless the content demands it.
The best time to film is during golden hour, 1 hour before and after sunrise and 1-2 hours before sunset.
Your filming location should align with the product you’re using and be mostly distraction-free. For example, if you’re filming a try-on haul for clothing, keep the background a plan wall or styled space free from any messes, dog toys, etc. This includes SOUND. Don’t record voiceovers during heavy rainstorms, in the car, near a washing machine, etc.
A clean, well-lit, and distraction-free environment is KEY to producing great videos.
Keep a steady or consistent frame for higher quality content that’s easier to view & follow.
You’ll likely need more than one hand to do unboxing experiences. A tripod allows you to keep a consistent frame throughout filming and helps with hands-free filming during try-on hauls, recipes, time-lapses, staging.
It goes without saying, at all times, keep your phone in the vertical position.
Using TikTok Effects
Our goal in all of this is to create content that is authentic and doesn’t look too much like an ad.
Using TikTok’s native effects within the app to achieve this look & feel. We suggest creating a ‘fake’ TikTok account solely for ad production.
Under this account you can create and publish the videos and download watermark-free videos. Important: Once the video is downloaded, switch the privacy setting on that video to ‘Only me’ so that it doesn’t circulate on public feeds.
3 Key Things To Remember When Editing Your First UGC Video
Learning how to edit UGC videos will take time, but for the most part, remember these three key principles:
1. TikTok safezone:
Make sure all of your text is in the safe zone. This is a very simple thing, but many go wrong with this.
If text is not in the safe zone, it will look sloppy and people will scroll past your videos, which will massively affect your watch time. TikTok has their bases covered when it comes to safety zone assets: they provide a complete list of TikTok safety zone dimensions. You can also use their preview tool as well to give your content a once over.
2. Keep your videos fast-paced:
The clips of your video should be between 1.5 – 3.5 seconds.
The reason for this is TikTok user’s attention span is extremely low, so if you are not introducing anything new in the video for more than 3.5 seconds (be it clips, positioning of the camera, etc), then you risk on losing many people along the way.
3. Cut out what is not important:
Cut out unnecessary pauses in your videos. People have a very low attention span on TikTok, so if there’s an awkward pause that doesn’t serve the video, it will decrease your watch time.
For example, during the first 1 second of each clip you record, you will typically take a breath and prepare for recording the video. Cut out that 1 second to keep your video shorter, more fast-paced and keep the viewer engaged. Get straight to the good stuff.
Then, you’re good to go on your portfolio.
There is no shortcut to becoming a top UGC creator, it’s just hard work and repetition. Like any skill, perfection comes with practice, so put in the hours and you’ll reap the rewards. Once you’ve got the first UGC video under your belt, rack them up. Once you’ve got 10-12 video examples, you can collate them in a scroll stopping UGC portfolio.
If you’re looking to create a portfolio quickly and at a really low cost, opt for Canva.
You can grab our free UGC content creator portfolio template to kick you off.
Eventually, consider moving to Wix or Squarespace and hosting your portfolio on a website. This just looks more legitimate to brands and can be easier to navigate for those trying to whittle down a LOT of potential UGC creators.