The reality of becoming an influencer
Nov 17, 2023
Season 2 | Episode 4

The reality of becoming an influencer

The not-so-glamorous truth about what it takes to get 4 million TikTok followers.

Being an influencer might sound like the best job there is. Who wouldn’t want to become a celebrity without ever having to leave home? But for Sid Raskind, who has over 4 million TikTok followers and over a million Instagram followers, it was a very long road before he could quit his day jobs.

This week, “Financially Inclined” host Yanely Espinal chats with Sid about what it took for him to become an influencer and the anxiety he still feels, even though he earns six figures now. 

Think you’re financially inclined? Learn more about the realities of influencer life:

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Financially Inclined November 17, 2023 Transcript

Note: Marketplace podcasts are meant to be heard, with emphasis, tone and audio elements a transcript can’t capture. Transcripts are generated using a combination of automated software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting it.

Yanely Espinal: What’s up, everybody? I’m Yanely Espinal and welcome to Financially Inclined From Marketplace. We’re sharing money lessons for living life your own way. Being a social media influencer might seem like the best job you could possibly have. Like, some people really make millions of dollars just by being themselves on an app. What could be better than that? It beats commuting to work every day and having a boss, right? Well, turns out it’s harder than it looks. We’re going to hear from Sid Raskind, who has over 4 million followers on TikTok and 1 million on Instagram. And he hosts a podcast called Explain Like I’m 30. His claim to fame is really his popular Tik Tok video series.

Sid  Raskind [TikTok]: Here’s something I wish I knew before I was in my thirties. You can stop a pot from boiling over by putting a wooden spoon on it.

Yanely Espinal: But Sid had to put in a lot of work to get to this point. At first he had a regular job with a regular boss while making a lot of content for free. Now he’s a successful influencer. But it’s not all about money and glamor. It still takes a lot of time and hard work. So let’s get started with Sid telling us about his day-to-day.

Sid Raskind: My day-to-day is basically answering emails, recording videos, delivering assets. I go live once a week. I have a podcast. I’m working on another project and I have a web series that I have to go and, like, produce for that.

Yanely: How much money did you make at the start making videos at the beginning versus now?

Sid: Well when I first started making money on YouTube, I made like $5 on AdSense, and I thought that was crazy.

Yanely: Hey, money.

Sid: Right? I might have been like 2010. And then I didn’t really make money on the Internet or from making content until maybe 2020. The jobs that I did and kept working at were jobs that would help me do those, do do the thing I wanted to do better. Even in like hobbies, like I would be performing sketch comedy or doing stand up comedy because I knew that there was something that I didn’t know how to do that could translate into content creation, that would make my content better. So like in my videos now, you’ll see that I don’t say that many things. I like, I let my facial expressions do a lot of the work, but I also let the moments breathe. And that comes from the years of performing live. Even in college, it was like, Oh, I want to be a YouTuber, so I’m going to be a social media manager for my college gym. So it was like, okay, cool. Like I’m getting paid to be a social media manager. That’s great. I still want to be a YouTuber, but at least I’m getting paid for it. I have my camera, I can make a video. And then I knew that if I continued to do that, I would still be in YouTube. So like when I moved to Los Angeles, I got an internship as a social media manager. I did do an internship. Two, two years later, I came back and I was like, I’ll be a social media manager for you. And then I did that at one of the biggest YouTube channels at the time. I don’t take that for granted the five years that I had in that professional lifestyle, because it I think it also helps me deliver assets in a more timely manner. I think it also helps me with my emails. I think that it helps me communicate to professionals a lot better. But yeah, I mean, I knew that that was the passion, but the passion didn’t pay the bills. In order to pay the bills, I had to still stay close to the passion in order to make that passion a reality later in life. That was why I was like, All right. Like, I need a job. Fine. There would be years that my main focus was not this, and that’s because I couldn’t do it. Like, I literally can’t do it because if I do it, then I don’t eat. That, to me, is sort of like where that sort of dream mentality, I think, crushes people.

Yanely: Yeah.

Sid: Because it makes you feel like the dream has to happen immediately, but it doesn’t have to happen immediately. Judge Judy once said, If you don’t make it in your twenties, make it in your thirties. If you don’t make it in your thirties, make it in your forties, and so on and so on. Dude, I wish I had heard that way earlier than in my thirties because that would to me would have been like, Oh thank God. Like you don’t have to make it in your twenties. You don’t have to make it in your thirties. Do just make it when you make it. And that, that I think is the most important thing. My first big brand deal was $1600 and I got a free subscription for a year to the service that I was plugging. And then I kept on posting the Here’s Something I wish I Knew. And then I made, uh, $4,000 for four video, like, for four videos 4000 each, which was $16,000. Influencers actually ask for a lot of money and you can say $100,000, and then they say $4,000. And you go, “Great!” Because that’s $4,000 more than I had yesterday. And I think that was something where I was like, I don’t know, I’ll say $4,000. And then they went, Sounds good. I went, “What? what?” [laughter] Right, like crazy.

Yanely: Can’t believe it.

Sid: But now the audience metrics that I have with the insights that I have, the engagement rates that I have, it is five times that which is like my ask, right? A million followers on Instagram is the floor is the base level like safety point, which is insane.

Yanely: You’re pretty successful. Like, I mean, if you don’t mind sharing, telling us like all of your income streams that you have, like you talked about going live, putting content on social, having your podcast where are you is your head when you talk about like your financial goals and where you are now?

Sid: Only places I make money right now are from brand deals on Instagram and TikTok, and last year was literally the best year I’ve ever had and that was $400,000.

Yanely: Ooo. That’s for 2022?

Sid: That was 2022.

Yanely: Amazing.

Sid: Which is just like, what does that number even mean? That sounds like a lot of money. At the same time, I had to join a union to get health care. I wouldn’t have health care. I wouldn’t have a pension plan, a retirement plan if I wasn’t in that union. I found out what a high-yield savings account was. I found out what a Roth IRA is. I found out what a traditional IRA is. All of this money is cool, but the reason you don’t see me driving a Lamborghini is because, like, I actually just, like, pay my retirement plan, right? Or I put, like, a lot of it into savings because, like, I have no idea this is going to last. And I think that comes with age, too. I know that I can’t spend foolishly because like if I did spend foolishly, then I would just be as broke as I was two years ago. So that’s a big part of it.

Yanely: Yeah. I mean, not to mention taxes. People don’t really talk about taxes.

Sid: Taxes is a huge thing. Huge. Oh my gosh. When you see that, like you owe the IRS $16,000 every three months, Whoa, that’s a lot of money. And you just you’re just supposed to hang on to that. That’s a big thing I save for.

Yanely: Yeah.

Sid: Right. Because I put so much of it away or I you know, I make sure that, like, my mortgage is paid. I make sure that my taxes are paid, all of that stuff. So if I pay $16,000 a quarter, 16,000 times four sort of like that, that is also what I have to pay, right? So really take home was half that. Maybe maybe more than half that. I see it more like, oh, I guess I made it this past year and I’m going to work three times as hard in order to keep that base level and then also turn up. If I be completely honest, my goal is $1,000,000, and once I reach that, unfortunately, I’m going to have to double it, right? So like.

Yanely: Oh my goodness.

Sid: Right now I’m serious. Like, that’s that’s like the craziness that is me. I’m very lucky. I’m very happy. And I’m I cannot believe that this is a reality that I live in, that that base level of success has now afforded me the opportunity to now go into YouTube, now go into these other ventures, knowing that I’m okay for right now, because now I need to sort of find those different revenue streams so that in case the $400,000 just drops, which they can tomorrow, then I have other projects that I have been working on for a while that are also revenue generators. That’s where the burnout comes from. I think it’s not necessarily making something every day, which is a lot. It isn’t necessarily working with brands every day for videos that people aren’t going to see for three months, which is also a lot. It’s taking on those extra projects so that, you know, you can live a less anxious life. But now that I’m saying it out loud, I still live that anxious life. So it’s hard to say.

Yanely: Yeah, it’s like you got to always have something cooking.

Sid: Always, always.

Yanely: I read online, the president of the United States makes about $400,000 a year. So.

Sid: Really?

Yanely: I mean, yeah, yeah.

Sid: I mean it’s like. You know what I mean? Like, thank you for your service. But, like, it’s… it is what it is.

Yanely: Yeah. It’s so clear to me how much work you have put in to get to where you are. And-

Sid: Oh, thank you.

Yanely: I know that a lot of people will look at you, Sis, and just be like, they just see an overnight success.

Sid: No, definitely not. One thing that I always say is like it’s easy to go viral once it’s hard to go viral every day. That’s what I have to do. I have to go viral every single day in order to sustain this job. When I realized that, I was like, “Oh, this is crazy.”

Yanely: Do you know when you’re creating videos that it’s going to go viral, or is it completely random?

Sid: I mean, I know that once I have a formula now that I can maybe like game it a little bit better, but at the beginning, no you don’t know what’s going to go viral. You don’t know what’s going to strike a chord. The reason I think I started to go viral was because I was a 30-something-year-old white dude admitting I didn’t know something. And I’m like, “Yo, y’all just ever think about can openers before?” And everyone’s like, “Dude, me too!” Right?

Yanely: It’s relatable. There’s relatability.

Sid: Yeah, it’s very relatable, right? It just breaks down that barrier wall of like, listen, I’m not I’m not going to make you feel bad. I’m in this with you.

Yanely: So a study actually recently asked 1,000 teens what they want to do. Do they want, like career wise? And 60% of them said they don’t want a quote unquote, regular job. They want to be entrepreneurs, and most of them said social media. It’s interesting because I think influencers don’t talk a lot about that. And so what happens is it ends up getting glamorized, like, oh, anybody can become an influencer and it happens overnight. You just go viral. So I’m just wondering what you think about that and you know your thoughts on that study.

Sid: I mean, listen, same, but I’m 34 and I’ve been doing it since I was… in high school. I will not stop you from saying you want to be an influencer or you want to be an entrepreneur. That’s great. But boy, howdy does it take a lot of learning. You know, you have to sort of just learn it by doing it. And I think that, in that comes with a lot and a lot, a lot of like facing self and facing failures and facing misunderstandings with other people that you love and care about. So if you do want to be an influencer, if you do want to be an entrepreneur, you have to know that it’s hard and society is not set up for you to actually succeed at that. People, people don’t tell you where to find this information, you just have to somehow find it. And thank God for, you know, the overall flattening of information that’s been happening, but even then, people ask you to pay for a course. Even then, you have to know the right keywords to find the information. Yeah, I mean, there’s no school for influencer. There just isn’t. Maybe I should open one actually.

Yanely: I mean, this is a brilliant idea with so many young people being so eager to become influencers like, hey.

Sid: [Laughter] Wow, All right, thank you, Financially Inclined.

Yanely: Okay, so then what would you say it would take for somebody who’s listening that is like, “I want to do this!” What would you say it would take for them to be successful at becoming an influencer or a content creator? Maybe top couple of bullet points.

Sid: The first bullet point is: just upload it. It doesn’t matter. That’s it. That’s it. Second one would be: make sure that you always have like another source of revenue and income so that you can feed that hobby and that love, right, while also still paying your bills. Bills might come first, and that’s okay. And then the third one is just: be okay with failures, I think. That consistency of failure leads to more people seeing it. And if two more people see it, then two more people see it and two more people see it, and that is where the real audience growth comes from. It’s okay if you’re not an overnight success, stay passionate. It’s just so important to do that.

Yanely: Okay, you heard Sid. If you think being an influencer or an entrepreneur is just about being an overnight success, getting easy money and never having to work for someone else, you got it all wrong. Influencers have to secure steady income, and it can feel like the grind never stops. Sid said that he spent years and years building the skills he needed to be successful and reach his goal. 

Whatever your goal is, take some time this week to make a list of the skills you need to develop. Maybe it’s the specific software you want to learn. You could search up YouTube tutorials or see if there’s classes available at your school or local library. Maybe even find a mentor to help you improve. Now, what we’ve learned from Sid’s interview today doesn’t just apply to social media. It applies to any hustle, too. Passion and perseverance are the key.



Yanely Espinal: Financially Inclined is brought to you by Marketplace from American Public Media in collaboration with Next Gen Personal Finance. I’m your host Yanely Espinal. Our senior producers are Hayley Hershman and Zoë Saunders. Our video editor is Francesca Manto and our graphics artist is Mallory Brangan. Our producers are Hannah Harris Green and Hayley Hershman. Gary O’Keefe is our sound engineer. Our intern is H Conley. Bridget Bodnar is the Director of Podcasts. Francesca Levy is the Executive Director. Neil Scarbrough is the VP and General Manager of Marketplace. Our theme music is by Wonderly.

Hannah Harris Green: Financially Inclined is funded in part by the Sy Syms Foundation, partnering with organizations and people working for a better and more just future since 1985. And special thanks to the Ranzetta Family Charitable Fund and Next Gen Personal Finance for continuing to support Marketplace in its work to make younger audiences smarter about the economy.


“Financially Inclined” is Marketplace’s first video podcast and our first show for teens! Each week we talk with some really smart people, like influencers, high school students and financial experts, to help make learning about money fun and simple. Consider us your one-stop-shop for financial confidence.

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