The creator economy is booming and providing new and exciting opportunities to earn money. Millions of independent content creators are sharing their creations and making an income in ways not possible a mere decade ago. Some creators are now even earning millions with massive brand deals and sponsorships.
This post will explain everything you need to know about the creator economy and what you need to do to make the most of it. I'll run through the top platforms and trends impacting the industry and share the best ways you can make money online as a creator.
What Is the Creator Economy and Why Is It Important?
The creator economy is an ecosystem of independent creators and businesses made possible by the internet – and platforms such as YouTube and Instagram, which enable anyone to share content and build a community.
While many still view the creator economy as informal or just a way for people to earn extra income on the side, its significance and applications extend far deeper.
The creator economy expands opportunities for entrepreneurs to start a low-cost digital business that doesn't require a loan or funding from investors. It has also removed the traditional gatekeepers that stand between businesses and their markets and customers. Creators can reach, communicate with, and sell directly to their followers.
Ultimately, the creator economy is creating new ways to earn money. It's democratizing entrepreneurship by lowering startup costs and providing direct access to an audience or customer base.
How Did the Creator Economy Start?
The creator economy was first introduced as a concept in 1997, but only gained traction in the late 2000s with the emergence of websites like YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. These social media platforms allowed creators to distribute content at scale to a worldwide audience and build a community of followers.
As the user base of these platforms grew, technology and new platforms emerged, more creators joined the ecosystem and more advanced monetization tools were gradually introduced. Today, it’s estimated that around 50 million creators are participating in the creator economy.
Top Trends and Platforms in the Creator Economy
The internet, and primarily its social media platforms, has opened up a world of opportunities for creators to reach and directly engage with a worldwide audience and monetize their creations. Today, creators use a wide range of platforms, but a few sites stand out for their outsized impact on the industry and creators.
- YouTube: More than 2 billion users with over one billion hours of videos watched every day.
- Instagram: Over 1 billion monthly active users with 1000 photos uploaded every second.
- Twitch: 90K+ channels with 9 million active streamers and billions of monthly watch hours.
- TikTok: 1 billion active users worldwide with an average of 1 million videos watched per day.
- Facebook: 1.5 billion daily active users with over 8 billion average daily video views.
- Patreon: 195,000 content creators with over 6 million active supporters every month.
- OnlyFans: 1.5 million creators with over $5 billion paid to content creators each year.
Now that we’ve run through the platforms powering the creator economy, here are a few key trends shaping the ecosystem’s future.
1. Micro-Influencers Are on the Rise
If you're unfamiliar with the term "micro-influencers," they're essentially influencers with a smaller following - usually between 1,000 and 100,000 followers. And they're becoming increasingly popular among brands as a marketing strategy.
The reason brands are turning to micro-influencers is that they offer better engagement than their mega-influencer counterparts. In other words, micro-influencers have a higher percentage of their followers engaged with their content – which is exactly what brands are looking for.
2. Live Streaming Will Continue to Gain Steam
Live streaming platforms like Twitch have been around for a while now, but they've really started to gain steam in recent years among creators. Live streaming offers creators a unique way to connect with their audience in real time, which has led to its increasing popularity among both audiences and creators alike.
For creators interested in taking advantage of this trend, YouTube has a variety of tools that help manage and monetize live streams and interact with viewers in real time. Twitch is another great platform, but there is no shortage of options. Most major social media platforms now enable high-quality live video broadcasts and new tools will likely emerge as the live streaming boom continues to take off.
3. More Creators Seek Control Over the Audience
Until recently, most creators built their audience on one of the major platforms like YouTube or Instagram. But as some platforms have become more restrictive and reduced revenue sharing, more creators are looking for ways to own their audience and increase their earnings.
A growing number of creators are building and monetizing email lists and creating their own websites. By owning their audience and using their own systems, creators gain more control over their creations and earnings and are less susceptible to algorithm changes or other platform issues.
4. Authenticity Is Becoming More Important
Authenticity has become a prized quality in the creator economy. It offers something unique and genuine to people who want more than just an artificial personality or performance-driven content on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube.
The importance of this trend will only continue to increase in the coming years, so it's important that if you join the creator economy you always be authentic in your content. This means being true to yourself and your values and not sacrificing your integrity for views or likes. When you're authentic, your audience will trust you and be more likely to support you.
5. New Financial Tools Transforming Creator Businesses
Full-time creators face several challenges when it comes to funding and managing their businesses. But there are now a growing number of fintech startups focused on helping creators with everything from banking to accounting and taxes.
Fintech companies are providing creators financing and lending services that they would otherwise not receive from traditional banks. In the coming years, we’ll see more providers and tools emerge that make it much easier for creators to run their businesses..
6. Gated Content & Communities Growing In Popularity
With a recession looming ahead and advertising budgets likely to decline, more creators will look to earn direct income from their followers rather than relying on brands or platforms to fund their businesses through ads or sponsorships.
In the coming year, creators that have only been sharing content for free will seek to stabilize and increase their income by setting up membership sites and charging for premium content. We'll see more content behind a paywall and more creators offering extra content in locked communities.
The Creator Economy vs. The Gig Economy
The gig economy and creator economy are often referred to interchangeably, but they are not the same.
The gig economy is a labor market where individuals and independent contractors enter agreements with companies and get paid for short-term jobs or gigs. These include things like freelancing and temp jobs across a wide variety of industries, from writing and administrative tasks to Uber and food delivery.
The creator economy is an online economy made up of millions of content creators, such as bloggers, podcasters, and social media influencers. Whereas the creator economy comprises individuals with various online offerings and income streams, the gig economy often involves physical services with standardized offerings and a defined payment structure.
What Do You Need to Make the Most of the Creator Economy?
One of the most essential things every creator needs is to find a niche and develop a unique style or voice. By doing so, there’s more chance you’ll create engaging content and build an audience you can monetize later.
Above and beyond your core creative abilities, expertise and communications, you’ll also need to develop core business skills. Basic business skills like planning, strategy, budgeting, and account management are all important to have if you want to grow into a real business that earns a steady income.
Business development and lead generation are also all critical to succeeding in the creator economy. Of course, digital marketing skills are a must too. Getting a handle on things like SEO and paid advertising (social media and Google) can help you extend your reach to new potential followers around the world.
7 Ways Creators Can Make Money Online
There are an ever-growing number of ways for creators to make money online these days. Whether you're interested in ads, affiliate marketing, subscriptions or selling merchandise, there's bound to be an option out there that's perfect for you.
One way that creators can make money online is through ads. This is particularly popular with YouTubers, but ads can generate income on websites, podcasts, and even social media platforms like Instagram.
If you're interested in making money through ads, be sure to do your research so that you understand how the process works and what platforms will work best for your specific content.
2. Affiliate Marketing
Affiliate marketing is another popular option for creators who want to make money online. It involves promoting other products or services in exchange for a commission on every sale you generate.
This is an excellent option if you have a large social media following or a blog or website with high traffic levels. Much like with advertising, be sure to research the different programs available. Promoting products or services you’ve tried that fit your brand and audience is always better.
3. Brand Sponsorships
A brand sponsorship is a paid partnership between a creator and a company. The company provides the creator with compensation or free products/services in exchange for exposure to the creator's audience. Brand sponsorships can take many different forms, but some of the most common include paid social media posts, product placement, and sponsored blog posts, newsletters or videos.
If you're interested in partnering with brands, the first step is to put together a media kit that outlines your audience demographics, viewership stats, and any other relevant information that would be of interest to potential sponsors. Once you have your media kit ready to go, start contacting brands you think would be a good fit for your channel or blog.
4. Selling Merchandise
Selling products and services to your fans and followers can be a great way to make money as a creator. This can include anything from physical products like t-shirts or printables to digital products like ebooks or workshops. Once you’ve built up a large following, you may even want to develop your own product line and sell to your audience across different channels.
If you’re interested in selling products or services, consider what type of product would appeal to your audience and what price point would be most feasible.
You’ll also need a simple and reliable way to accept payments that’s quick and easy to set up. For this, there’s no better option than Pay.com. Pay.com works with many of the leading providers to enable you to accept a wide variety of popular local payment methods and easily add new options as required. Click here to find out how you can get started.
5. Offer Subscriptions
There are many different ways that creators can make money from subscriptions. The most important thing is to find a method that works best for you and your followers. One way is to offer exclusive content your followers can’t get anywhere else. This could be anything from behind-the-scenes footage to early access to new videos or articles.
Another option is to use paywalls on your website or blog and get paid directly using Pay.com. This means that people can only access your content if they’re willing to pay for it. It’s an excellent option if you already have a large following and want to start generating some revenue from your work.
However, it’s essential to ensure that you’re not putting up too much of a barrier for people who might want to check out your content but aren’t yet willing to pay. If you don’t want to set up subscriptions on your own website, you can always use one of the many subscription platforms like Patreon and Substack, but you’ll need to pay a fee.
6. Host Virtual Events
Creators don't often leverage virtual events to earn money, but they can be a great way to generate income. All you need to do is decide what kind of event you want to host and then promote it across all your social channels to get people to sign up.
There are a few different options to monetize your event. You can charge an attendance fee and sell tickets in advance. You can also look into sponsorship opportunities if you can find businesses willing to support your event financially in exchange for some marketing exposure.
Tipping is a way for your people to show appreciation for someone else's work. Usually, this takes the form of giving money but it can also be done with cryptocurrency.
The most common way to earn tips is through platforms like Twitch and YouTube, which allow people to send direct tips to creators. These platforms have built-in tipping systems that take a small cut of each tip creators receive, usually around 10-15%.
The Benefits of Using Pay.com to Accept Payments
With more creators looking to own their audiences and become less dependent on major platforms, it’s more important than ever to have the right systems in place to accept payments from customers.
You can design your checkout using colors and logos that match the rest of your site and brand. You can also select which payment options you want to accept to ensure your followers can pay with their favorite methods.
Beyond letting followers pay through your website, Pay.com offers alternative solutions that make payments convenient for you and your followers. If you don’t have a website, Pay.com’s Pay Links let you create and send your followers a Pay Link via email or SMS. When your followers click the link, they’re directed to a customized checkout page where they can make a payment.
The Bottom Line: Does the Creator Economy Hold Opportunities for You?
The creator economy offers exciting opportunities for content creators to make money online. With an ever-increasing number of creator platforms coming online and new financial and monetization tools emerging that empower creators to run and manage their businesses, there has never been a better time to get involved in the creator economy.
When you sign up with Pay.com, you can also quickly and easily accept credit cards, debit cards, and a wide variety of other payment methods to ensure you get paid quickly.
If you’re passionate about something and think you can build an audience that shares your interests, there’s no reason to wait! Get involved in the creator economy and start earning a living from your creations.