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On a typical morning, Chrissy Chlapecka lets the dog outside, spends an hour on professional makeup and hair and carefully selects an outfit. Then Chlapecka, a 21-year-old Chicagoan, starts work as an internet creator.
Chlapecka posts at least one short video a day on Instagram and TikTok, where she has a combined 4.5 million followers. Nothing dramatic happens in the videos. But Chlapecka is who you might imagine if Lady Gaga were your favorite barista dishing out advice and zingers. (In fact, Chlapecka used to be a barista.)
In a few seconds of video recorded at home or in a mall, she seems at ease. Chlapecka invites viewers — particularly gay people and women — to feel good about themselves with an online personality that Chlapecka described as “an encouraging big sister type.” (Readers, please note that Chlapecka’s videos are not necessarily family-friendly.)
But this is also work. In addition to daily posts, Chlapecka records rough cuts of videos to save for the days when the creative juices might not be flowing. In line at the grocery store, she jots down concept ideas. Chlapecka weighs in on pitches for promotional videos to incorporate certain products or song clips that companies hope will take off. She also told me about hosting a gig at a comedy club and creating strategies to build a bigger fan base on YouTube and sell merchandise to fans.
For many people like Chlapecka, who try to make a living from entertaining or sharing information online, their job is part Hollywood producer, part small-business owner and all hustle.
“Some people really underestimate the work that creators do,” Chlapecka told me. “I wish they would understand more that this is a real career — and it’s a serious career — and a form of entertainment.”
Chlapecka knows that some people believe she’s just goofing around on the internet. But it takes skill and perseverance to come up with fresh ideas day after day, establish rapport with online followers and stay on top of the constantly changing algorithms and tastes of internet users.
This week, On Tech has focused on the economics of the internet creator economy. No one person is representative of the millions who try to earn a living from their online creations. But Chlapecka offers a glimpse at what this work is like and how creators earn money. This job may not look like yours or …….