What is a digital creator? And how to get started

By Rachel Kiley

Photo credit: Sutipond Somnam/Shutterstock

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Have you ever wondered what the difference between a digital creator and an influencer is? Did you even know that there is a difference? Not everybody does! Read on to learn about what it means to be a digital creator and how to get started.

Content creation has become a lucrative and fun way for people with all sorts of skill sets and interests to make money doing things they love, all while building their own businesses, setting their own hours, and engaging with audiences in meaningful ways.

But with so many opportunities to build a career in this way comes different definitions as to what, exactly, it is that you’re pursuing. If you’ve ever thought about becoming an influencer or a digital creator, it’s helpful to know the difference between the two so that you can carve a path for yourself with purpose and understand expectations that both your audiences and brands you may partner with might have.

What is an influencer?

The word “influencer” gets tossed around a lot when it comes to people with large followings on various social media platforms, but the actual definition is a little more narrow—and, fortunately, pretty self-explanatory.

An influencer is someone who sets out to influence others to buy products, in this case, via their social media posts. So the Instagram user whose content revolves around showcasing home decor filled with links and #ad disclosures is an influencer, as is the tech enthusiast promoting various products on their TikTok.

More often than not, an influencer is building a brand that revolves around the persona they put out into the world, rather than the content itself, so that people will come to trust them as trendsetters and tastemakers and buy the items they suggest.

Digital creator meaning:

A digital creator, by contrast, is focused on the content itself. Someone who builds their brand by doing video game walk-throughs, reviewing books, or even just making prank videos is a digital creator.

And this isn’t just limited to videos. A digital creator might also run a blog offering recipes, or create a fictional podcast that garners a loyal audience. Sometimes they will become an internet personality in their own right, but the purpose is to create content that engages viewers so that their platform becomes a go-to destination for that specific niche.

What is the difference between influencers and digital creators?

As you may have already realized, there is plenty of room for overlap when it comes to defining “influencer” vs. “digital creator.” Successful digital creators frequently run ads or include product placement in their content in order to monetize it and fund further creative pursuits, and influencers may very well dabble in more creative ventures that don’t revolve around selling products to their viewers.

But ultimately, the difference is in what you want to do. If your primary goal is to get brands to pay you to suggest their products to your audience and showcase your lifestyle in the process, then your goal is to be an influencer. If there’s specific content you want to create and put out into the world, and any brand deals or sponsorships are only a means to that end, then the digital creator is likely a better fit.

How do I get started?

Regardless of which path you take, the initial steps are fairly similar.

Decide what you want to make.

Social media is saturated with influencers and digital creators providing all sorts of content, which makes it increasingly difficult to cut through the noise and reach a new audience. The more specific your goals are, the better chance you have at building a following. For instance, if you want to create makeup tutorials, you might narrow that down and create a YouTube channel dedicated to showing off special effects makeup, how to do makeup for a certain skin tone, or looks that can be done in five minutes or less.

Research.

To help with this, you’ll want to research other creators or influencers in your specific niche. This can help you determine what areas are perhaps too saturated, as well as understand what audiences are looking for and what platform may be the best fit. If you know Gen Z is your target demo, then you’ll know you want to put your focus on TikTok rather than YouTube—although remixing what you create to thrive on various platforms is also fairly common, and a skill in and of itself.

You may even want to invest in courses that will help you become better at creating whatever content you choose to make. CreativeLive is a great resource for brushing up on your audio and visual skills and social media strategies, among other things that may prove invaluable in your new endeavor.

Set up your accounts.

After you’ve decided what platforms you want to use, you’ll want to create a unified branding strategy so that your audience can easily find you across various social media. Try to use the same name on each platform if you can, and if that isn’t possible, it will be even more important to set up recognizable logos and graphics to start building brand recognition. You may even want to set up one centralized website that contains links to everywhere your content lives on the internet. Whether you’re well-versed in graphic design and website building or just starting out, Canva can help you create professional-looking designs for any medium.

Gather the right equipment.

You don’t have to go all out when you’re new to the content creation game, but depending on what type of content you want to make, you may want to pick up some video, audio, and lighting gear to meet the standards that viewers are used to and make your videos stand out from the more amateur content.

Create your content.

Now comes the fun part—actually creating content! While it’s good to have a plan laid out in terms of what you want to create and the format you want to follow, this will probably be trial and error for some time as you figure out what connects best with your audience. But one important tip is to make sure you create content regularly, and potentially on a predetermined schedule, as algorithm-driven platforms tend to favor creators and influencers with strong output. 

If you need to edit photos or videos or pull stock images for your content, check out all Adobe has to offer for creators. Photoshop and Lightroom will do wonders for your photography, while Premiere Pro is one of the best video editing programs out there, used by many professional content creators. 

How do content creators make money?

The first step to making money as a content creator is generally to build up an audience. Sometimes digital creators can lend their skillset to existing brands or companies and build up an audience while making money that way, but if you want to be in control of your own content and your own brand, at some point, you will need to do dive in and create your own content—which may not be lucrative right away.

Once you have an audience, you can confidently approach brands for sponsorship deals, product placement, or advertising opportunities. If you really make waves, they may start approaching you. You can also make money at just about any level by looking into affiliate marketing or starting a Patreon if you are a digital creator. Selling products related to your niche (publishing a cookbook, starting a skincare line, or even creating merchandise just to promote your brand) can also be a good source of income.

It’s also worth reaching out to other creators or influencers whose audience would be interested in your content and seeing if they are interested in collaborating on something. This may not pay, but it could lead to more opportunities or an increase in your viewership.

How much do content creators make?

There’s no easy answer to this, as it can vary wildly based on where you are in your content creation journey, as well as what kind of appeal your niche has to advertisers, how much money those companies have to spend, and what other sources of income you decide to pursue.

Making a living through creating online content, whether as a digital creator or an influencer, takes time, dedication, and perhaps most of all, adaptability. Social media is constantly shifting, and having multiple revenue streams via multiple platforms can make all the difference when one dries up. You don’t have to chase trends, but you should be aware of them and pay attention to what other creators are doing to diversify their income. 

And when you do start to make money from your work, remember that it won’t necessarily be consistent—you could easily make $10,000 from a sponsorship deal one month and only a few hundred the next. 

But for now, focus on creating strong content and carving out your place in the market. Build your audience, and the rest will fall into place—just be knowledgeable and prepared to take advantage of the opportunity when it knocks.