Want to make money online? It’s no secret that influencer marketing has become a massive industry, thanks to people like the Kardashians. But these days, glitzy digital influencers are out. Creators are in. Equipped with a lot more gravitas, this new generation of creators is working to create a more positive internet culture. The New Yorker explained it best in a recent essay on the topic: “’Creator’ is a term with a more wholesome air, conjuring an Internet in which we are all artisanal blacksmiths plying our digital craft.”
According to experts, there are more than 50 million content creators out there, working in the digital space and making money online—through photography, writing, video, podcasting and more—and all contributing to the new creator economy. One of the architects in the space is Gigi Robinson, a 23-year-old Gen Z digital nomad who is helping redefine this new digital world from the inside out. When Robinson was 11, she was diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, forcing her to give up her passion for competitive swimming and find a new hobby: photography.
Robinson has translated that passion into a bonafide online money-making business. She is the founder of It’s Gigi, a creative media company focused on making ethical and intentional content for brands like Best Buy and Spotify, where she hosts a GenZ live audio show on Spotify Greenroom called “Everything You Need Is Within.” In addition, she has grown a healthy social media audience on Tiktok and Instagram, where she shares tips on mental health, chronic illness, body image and more. She also regularly lectures on social media literacy and branding to global companies (Meta, Reuters Pharma, Yahoo, Her Campus) and universities (UCLA, USC, UMass, FIT, Baruch).
Most impressive of all, she does it all while traveling the world as a digital nomad. “I am able to find inspiration anywhere I go—all I need is my phone, my camera, my laptop, my hard drive and a microphone,” says Robinson.
Here, we caught up with Robinson to find out how she built her brand, how she has scaled in an ethical way, how she travels with a chronic illness, as well as her tips for how anyone can make money online in the new creator economy.
Origin Story: During high school in New York City, Robinson won award after award for her photographs, including Scholastic, the Dedalus Foundation and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. When she got to college, she needed to make extra money to help pay for rent and school loans, so she used her photography skills to start a side hustle as a content creator. “I had over 10 different brand ambassador roles, meaning I represented, created content, was an event planner and an overall face on campus for brands like Abercrombie & Fitch, Timberland and Smashbox,” says Robinson.
Creating a Business: “I got a BFA in graphic design and photography and am currently working towards my MS in integrated Design, Business and Technology from USC. I wanted to translate the learnings from my degrees into my career as a digital nomad and creator,” says Robinson. “I decided to combine my skills of critique and critical thinking and apply that to storytelling through digital mediums and social media platforms. Now, I teach others how to do the same.”
My Mission: One of the pillars of Robinson’s brand is to help other people feel less alone, whether it’s a struggle with mental health, chronic illness, body image or career. “My diagnosis inspired me to become the person I wished I had to look up to during the rise of social media,” says Robinson. “I’ve committed myself to making content that showcases positivity and confidence across platforms. I focus on how we do things and not what we do.”
Social Media Literacy: Robinson’s interest in social media literacy was sparked in 2020 when companies began posting their responses to social causes including Covid-19, the BLM movement, Asian hate crimes and antisemitism. To her surprise, many influencers were more focused on the paycheck from brands while brands were focused on engaging in conversations around ethical content creation. “This sparked a flame in me, so I started teaching others how to cultivate community across social platforms by creating meaningful content that creates impact,” she says.
Traveling with Chronic Illness: “As someone with a chronic illness, there are a lot of benefits to traveling and working remotely as a digital nomad. When I first embarked on my journey traveling with two suitcases (one with clothes and toiletries, the other with gear), I resisted acknowledging my chronic illness as a disability because I was ashamed of it. It took me a few years, but I eventually shifted my mindset from ‘What if someone judges me for being wheeled through TSA to the gate’ to ‘What if I don’t have any pain during my flight.’ And that was the moment where I realized that accommodations are only there to help me.”
The Benefits of Travel: “Changing my scenery significantly helps my mental health, but also my physical health,” says Robinson. “Putting my body through traveling allows me to experience places, cultures and climates where I feel best. When I feel my best, I am able to do my best work.”
Working and Traveling: “One of the best parts of being a digital nomad is that I am able to delegate tasks to my team while I am traveling. We are completely remote and spread out across the country,” says Robinson. “I send off my content once I have the raw footage and let my team do the heavy lifting for me when it comes to editing and posting. This lets me focus on another pillar of my brand—public speaking.”
Getting Started: “When you are brand new to social media, you have to test out what will work and what kind of audience are you trying to build,” says Robinson. “You should do research to calculate and predict who that might be and create content for that demographic based on your product or business. If you don’t know where to start, begin by making a list of the top 100 creators and 100 pieces of content that resonate with you and your niche. Write out why and then generate a list of things you can write about or make graphics, photos or videos about. This list will evolve as you grow, but that’s the whole point: You want to grow.”
Better Done Than Perfect: When Robinson is coaching people on social media strategy, her top piece of advice is: “Have a better-done-than-perfect attitude. If you spend too much time ideating, you may never actually execute. You just have to start posting.”
Goal Setting: “When it comes to goals, I try to accomplish them within a reasonable amount of time and remind myself that my journey is different than other creators,” says Robinson. “It’s easier said than done but you have to be patient.”
Success Check: “I like to write down or create a deck with everything that I’ve done in any given week or month if I feel like I’m not accomplished to remind myself how much I’m actually doing,” says Robinson.
Make Money Using Linkedin: Robinson uses Linkedin not only for networking, but also for content creation. “The best way to make money on Linkedin is to network with people in your industry that may post opportunities, and reach out to people you may be able to work for. As a creator, I have successfully landed several partnerships by being connected with campaign managers, influencer and PR managers of companies that I wanted to work with,” says Robinson. “After establishing a good rapport with these managers, I take a shot and ask if they have any partnership opportunities. This could be done for any industry or for any role that needs to be filled—not just the influencer industry. Linkedin also has a team of creator managers (expanding rapidly right now) that invite and guide people that are already somewhat established with content goals and ideas. The managers are there to support creators and help them achieve their goals in expanding their professional presence.”
Use Live Audio: “Live audio is a new form of communication that most of the big social companies are investing in. Think of it as the new form of Snapchat Stories. When that first came out nobody thought it would stick on other platforms, but now it’s the norm. Now live audio conversations are dominating social platforms modeled after Clubhouse, including Twitter Spaces, Facebook Audio, Spotify Greenroom, Linkedin Live Audio and more,” says Robinson. “Live audio rooms are where someone can host conversations on the previously mentioned platforms. The best part: You will often be in a room with thought leaders and have the opportunity to ask them questions.”
Podcasts: “To start a podcast you need to figure out what your competitive advantage is and how you are going to distribute your message,” says Robinson. “Anchor is a free platform that allows you to upload audio tracks, cut, edit, add music, make a cover photo and distribute your show across streaming platforms through an RSS feed.”
Recycle Content: “Take the omnichannel approach: Anything that you have written can be repurposed into content to post across all of your social channels (Tiktok, Instagram Reels, Snapchat Spotlight, Youtube Shorts). By doing this, you establish your personality or business across the internet,” says Robinson. “Everyone used to say that you should stay true to your niche on each platform and avoid reposting content. The truth is not many people are going to remember every post you make. Plus, if it was a best performing post, you never know who may have missed it the first time.”
The New Resume: “I personally believe that websites and social media accounts are the new resume, therefore you should have one singular place that displays your best work. I have found a website to be the most professional because it can showcase different content pillars in different mediums. For example, on my website I have a breakdown of the work I have done to talk about chronic illness on Instagram, body image on Tiktok, my podcast and an entire section where people can book me right on the spot.”
Making Money With Video: “You can find a way to monetize any niche of video content. For example, with food you can use tools to prep the food. For skincare/product/lifestyle it could be something as simple as unboxing or doing a voiceover. These are potential niches that a brand partner would sponsor through a paid promo. Stick with it, stay the course, build a niche and it will come.”
Keep Your Videos Short and Scrappy: “You don’t need a 4K camera, a set with gorgeous lighting or professional editing—you can shoot right on your phone, edit in a free app (Inshot, Videoleap or Splice),” says Robinson. “All you have to do is make something snappy in the beginning, keep the viewer’s attention and repeat it. Post everywhere. And keep the videos short: three- to seven-seconds. Crazy, right?”
Parting Words: “If you are starting out on social media, my number one tip is to have confidence in yourself,” says Robinson. “When you don’t speak about your business and your work, you won’t grow, people won’t recognize or see your work, and therefore you will not get opportunities to make money online. Even if the video gets zero views, stay the course and continue posting—you never know what is going to go viral and land you a partnership.”