How to do business in the creator economy

Content creation has quickly become a powerful draw for those looking to shed the burdens of a nine-to-five job. The influencers touting their six-figure salaries, lavish lifestyles, and all the free gifts they are receiving also create a tempting image of what a career in content creation would be like.

The challenge of content creation is that to be successful, you essentially have to market yourself, your personality, and your day-to-day life as you would a business. Despite the massive popularity of pursuing content creation as a career, a recent survey found that more than half of influencers currently don’t make any money from their social media accounts.

What’s more, among all those that do draw a salary, they average a moderate monthly income of less than $3,000. So what does it look like to market an individual? And what are the best practices to actually make content creation a profitable career?

Network and Communicate

Part of the reason influencers are so often being underpaid is because the information and resultant power all lie with the brands with whom they are partnering. New influencers looking to work with brands to promote their products don’t know what kind of money they should expect for their work and frequently get lowballed.

That power imbalance is starting to change. In much the same way as millennial co-workers broke the norm of talking about their salaries to start breaking down wage inequality, content creators need to communicate with one another to work toward a more fair and transparent compensation scheme. As the industry matures, so have the support structures to go along with it. Work with agencies and managers who are already in the influencer space and have the inside knowledge to keep you from being ripped off.

In addition to the business advantages of networking with other content creators, creative collaboration is also a great benefit of getting to know other influencers. Collaborate with other content creators that overlap with your brand in some way. Look for people who create the same type of content or people who create other different content but share something else in common with you. Creating collaborative content across each other's platforms will introduce you to new audiences and make them more likely to click over to your platform.     

Be Yourself

The natural instinct for those looking to monetize their content would be that more viewers mean more value. But if advertisers simply wanted to reach more eyeballs, traditional advertising still works very well. The value created by influencers is that they have a more intimate relationship with their audience.

Viewers trust the endorsements of influencers they feel they have a close relationship with. If you produce content that is strictly designed to rapidly grow viewership like click-bait heavy titles and copying current trends can come at the expense of the trust of your core audience. Outright ads that try to pass themselves off as regular content are also a great avenue for reducing credibility with your viewers.

Instead, focus on content that gives viewers a glimpse into who you are as a person. Unique to you content like day-in-the-life posts is a great way to do this and you know your viewers won’t have seen the content somewhere else. This is all about determining your unique selling point. Between some combination of the type of content you create, your personality, background, and audience you will find a niche that no one else is filling. This unique selling point is what sets your content apart and makes your audience keep coming back for more.

Pay Yourself

The traditional route for content monetization is through the use of ad-serving programs on platforms like YouTube and Twitch. This route however requires content creators to navigate and pander to the algorithms that determine which content is the most valuable, often to the detriment of that very content.

There are now alternatives that allow creators to monetize their audience directly. Instead of pandering to large companies and then connecting them to your audience for a commission, there are now options like subscription services and tipping platforms so your audience can support your work directly. This allows you to create the exact type of content you enjoy making and what your audience is looking for.

You should also work to turn your content into a brand. Rather than using your platform to sell others’ goods and services, use it to launch your own company: sell merch, offer professional services, and offer bonus content for a fee. If you have a loyal audience they will want ways to identify themselves. Branded merchandise is the simplest way to do that and if you’ve spent time cultivating your audience the demand will be there.

Data is Everything

As with most things, success in the creator economy is reliant on tracking which activities work and which don’t and then adjusting accordingly. You want to determine which platform your audience spends the most time on, what type of content they react to the most, and which times of the day/week are they most active online. Use this data to inform what, when, and where you post your content. In addition to digital analytics tools, you can also reach out directly to your audience for their feedback.

Engaged viewers will have strong opinions on what they like the most. Allow them to give feedback so you can provide more of what they like and less of what they don’t.

Social listening tools can also be used to stay aware of the trends that are just about to surface. It’s important when responding to trends to be on the front end of the wave. Knowing what’s coming next can mean the difference between introducing the next popular fad to the masses and looking like a pandering copycat.

Embrace New Technology

Brands value content creators because they bring relevance and authenticity that are difficult to replicate. Adopting new forms of technology and communication is key to remaining relevant and being a part of the most current conversation.

Web3.0, the concept of a decentralized blockchain-enabled internet ecosystem, is the next frontier for the creator economy. Decentralized currencies can allow audiences around the world to support their favourite creators without needing to partner with and rely on international brands and platforms.

By continually giving creators the ability to work and receive compensation entirely on their own without considering the wants and goals of a larger platform, decentralisation allows them to focus solely on the genuine content they wish to create.

The creator economy still feels like the wild west as a way to make a living but as more and more set out to make a living in this industry, those doing so should carefully consider what it takes to really create a profitable brand. By focusing on unique, personalized content you will foster a loyal audience.

By seeking out alternative, self-driven funding sources you won't be beholden to the financial incentives of outside influences. By working with others in the community you will strengthen your audience and stay up to date with industry trends. And by Always staying up to date with the most current technology you will always be relevant and have access to the most possible profit streams. Focus on those areas and get ready to work really hard and you just might find yourself making a living in this new creative frontier.