By Rachel Kiley
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Many people have thought about creating content for the internet, but not everyone knows how to make money as a content creator. With so many available paths, it can be easy to get mired in the planning stages or to leap forward without a plan at all and miss out on opportunities. Approaching content creation—and making money from it—with a clear strategy in mind will help ease the anxiety and allow you to focus on what drew you to this idea in the first place.
So how do you make money as a content creator?
1. What is a content creator?
The definition of a content creator is as simple as it sounds: somebody who creates content. In the digital age, this generally refers to anything shared on the internet, from Instagram outfits of the day to blog posts about a recent vacation to Spain to a TikTok imitating the most recent dance trend.
Many of us are actively creating content for the internet on a regular basis as it is, but a content creator generally approaches it with purpose and a distinct plan to build an audience and monetize their creative work.
2. Why should you be a content creator?
One of the biggest draws of becoming a content creator is the ability to work on something you’re passionate about while connecting with others who have the same interests. That might be something as specific as knitting clothes for tiny animals on a YouTube channel, or as broad as writing satire posts for your blog.
In most scenarios, creating content also means being your own boss. This allows for greater flexibility in terms of when you work, where you work, and how you work. How many successful creators have you seen post selfies working poolside on yet another vacation? Make no mistake, being your own boss requires self-discipline and commitment, but not being beholden to the status quo of a normal job also allows you to reshape your priorities and make time for more things that matter on a regular basis.
Done right, content creation can also be a wonderful opportunity for passive income. Once you build a following and learn how to monetize your work, each piece you create and share on the internet should become a perpetual moneymaker. And even if that only amounts to a couple of dollars per month, the more content you have, the more those dollars add up, on top of all the other ways you can actively make money each month—but we’ll get to that later.
There is perpetually a need for new and exciting content online, particularly as new social media platforms pop up or expand. If you already have a special skill or hobby or interest that excites you, you already have something to contribute. So why not go for it?
3. What types of content are there?
Hopefully, you’re realizing by now just how vast the definition of “content creator” is, and how many different types of media fall under that umbrella. Here are just a few examples of content you can create, share, and monetize online:
From there, the categories break down even further. If you spend just ten minutes browsing on YouTube, you’ll find video creators sharing makeup tutorials, unboxing electronics, creating musical parodies, reviewing movies, vlogging about their lives, explaining how to repair computers, and so much more.
The same goes for everything else—you can livestream gameplay or ghost hunting, blog about DIY furniture repair or your grandmother’s best recipes, share photos to drum up a following for your pet cockatiel, or sell pictures of landmarks to a stock photography website.
What type of content you create and what niche you look to fill will depend on your particular skill set and interests, and may very well shift as you grow as a creator.
4. How do you choose a distribution channel?
A distribution channel refers to the platform you use to share your content—Instagram, Twitter, your own personal website, or something else entirely. Chances are you’ll ultimately be using multiple platforms, but don’t feel like you have to spread yourself too thin at the start. First, let’s ask some questions to determine the best place for your content to thrive.
What kind of content are you creating?
Where you share your content depends largely on what type of content it is. This one is usually pretty straightforward—video content works best on a video-oriented platform like TikTok or YouTube, while music can straddle the line between video and audio platforms (such as SoundCloud). If you’re creating word-based content, your distribution channel might be your own website for a blog or Amazon for e-books, although you’ll most likely want to decide on a social media platform right away to start building an audience through snippets and helpful tips. Twitter, Instagram, or even Facebook could be ideal for this.
What is your target demographic?
If you just balked at the mention of Facebook, chances are you’re planning to create content for an audience that doesn’t spend a lot of time on that platform. Knowing your target demographic can be as simple as knowing where you yourself like to spend time pursuing the interests that overlap with your content creation goals. If you plan on sharing 15-second money-saving hacks for broke college students, TikTok makes more sense than YouTube. Conversely, if you want to create 15-minute family-oriented vacation vlogs throughout Europe, YouTube is a much better choice as a primary home for your content.
What platforms do you enjoy?
Don’t force yourself to become primarily a TikTok content creator if you hate TikTok. Just because something makes the most sense right away doesn’t mean it’s the best option. If you already know what content you want to make and the platform you primarily want to make it for, strategize creatively for ways to reach your intended audience. Sometimes the best innovations come from unlikely pairings, and you may find yourself creating even more unique content than you initially intended in the process.
Look to new distribution channels.
You should absolutely take advantage of existing platforms that have a large user base when deciding how to distribute your content but don’t disregard up-and-coming social media platforms or other homes for content either. Being an early adopter for a website that ends up taking off can pay off dramatically—and you may even end up having a hand in shaping what type of platform it becomes.
5. How do you build an audience?
Reaching an audience is the most important part of taking your content creation game from something you do for fun to something that brings in money every month. You don’t necessarily have to reach tens of millions of people in order to make a living as a creator, as an engaged but smaller audience can often be more profitable—and more meaningful—than a massive but less engaged audience.
But once you’ve determined what your target demographic is, how do you go about building up a viewer base at all?
Leverage your social media.
If you want to become a YouTube vlogger but already have a lot of engagement on your Instagram or Twitter, use those platforms to start directing people toward your new content. This is also a good strategy even if you don’t already have a dedicated base on any platform, but feel comfortable using social media. Share easily digestible snippets of videos showcasing what you have to offer as a creator to Instagram (and don’t forget to tag so new viewers can find you), or share meditation tips to Twitter to drive people to your yoga instructional videos.
Ultimately, you will want to engage audiences on multiple platforms so you aren’t entirely reliant on the algorithms or whims of one over another. Don’t bite off more than you can chew at the start, but coming up with ways to use each platform to your benefit and direct your audience to your content in creative, non-repetitive ways is an important part of growing your brand.
Engage with your peers.
Don’t be that person who just spams a gardening subreddit with links to their ebook every other week. Identify places on the internet where people who may be interested in your content spend time, engage in the community, and build relationships. Make it easy for people to see who you are and follow links back to your content by always having the information readily available on your profile pages, but provide value to the community before asking for viewership—it will go a long way.
Collaborate with other content creators.
Collaboration is one of the greatest tools for building an audience, and when done right, it’s something that can be mutually beneficial to every party involved. Spend some time researching collaborations that work on the platform and in the arena of the type of content you want to make, and target creators who have an overlapping demographic with your audience. Make sure you have something to offer—if you’re new, this may be more difficult, but not impossible.
It can also help to go to conventions and other networking events both for content creators in general and your specific niche. It’s easier to ask to collaborate with people who have been doing this for a long time if you’ve already built up a relationship with them.
Create a home base.
Make it easy for your audience to find your content. If you go viral for a post on Twitter, but primarily make content for TikTok, you want to make sure all those new potential fans can click on your profile and immediately be directed to the right place.
The best way to do this is generally to have a website explaining who you are, what you do, and where to find your content. It can be simple, even just a single landing page, but make sure to include links to all of your relevant active social media profiles, any merchandise or books you might be selling, and any additional ways people can support you, such as Patreon, OnlyFans, or a digital tip jar. If you’ve had any content go viral, or made headlines for something related to your content, this might be a good place to showcase that as well.
Weebly can get you started building your website, especially if you don’t have a lot of experience and want something particularly user-friendly. For any logos or design work you may need for your site, try Canva if you’d like to stick to the budget-friendly option of doing it yourself, or even just hire somebody else to take the load off—Fiverr has many skilled professionals who will work with a range of budgets.
Create a mailing list.
A mailing list doesn’t make sense for every type of content creator, but for some, it’s practically imperative. If your business plan relies on people purchasing products like e-books or new music, or will occasionally involve crowdfunding for big projects, a mailing list is a great way to keep people in the loop about what you’re doing while also reminding them when you have something to sell. But don’t just engage when that time comes around—if your e-book is an instructional guide on self-publishing, offer tips and tricks for free regularly through your mailing list so people know they’ll be getting something of value when they spend actual money as well.
Creating content regularly is the only way to stay competitive in the vast landscape of the internet. You may not be able to post every day, but if you can stick to a regular schedule, your audience will know what to expect, and won’t lose interest and go somewhere else for content you could have provided. This becomes even more important if your content revolves around anything time-sensitive, such as if you want to become the go-to for reviewing new attractions at Disneyland or showing off the latest gaming gear. Don’t be afraid to adjust your schedule if you aren’t hitting your self-imposed deadlines, but try to find something that works for you and your content—your audience will appreciate it.
6. How do content creators make money?
There are more ways to make money as a content creator than ever before, allowing you to identify and try out different methods to see what works best for you, as well as diversify your income-earning potential. Most of these don’t kick in until after you’ve built up your audience, but once you start growing as a creator, you want to be ready to take advantage of the opportunities available to you as soon as possible. So let’s take a look at some of the options.
Many distribution channels have an easy way to turn on ads to monetize your content in the most simple, familiar way. This used to be a very lucrative way for creators to make money, but that isn’t always the case now unless you have a particularly large audience. Still, even smaller amounts of money here and there add up, especially when it comes to passive income.
Sponsorship deals and brand partnerships
Once you have a large enough following, brands that match your niche will likely reach out to you directly to discuss promoting their products. Generally, this is in exchange for a fixed rate, although you may be offered perks like free stuff or services instead. And if brands aren’t reaching out to you, put together a packet of information about you, your personal brand, and your audience, and reach out to them instead.
Many companies have programs set up where they will give you a percentage of the revenue they receive every time someone uses your specific link to buy their product. Have you ever listened to a podcast and been offered a deal if you sign up for Squarespace using a specific code? That’s affiliate marketing. The upside is that it’s easy to integrate into almost any content on any distribution channel, the downside is your income directly relies on people buying the products or services you discuss, so make sure you partner with affiliates that make sense for your audience.
Only creators who have built up a following can generally afford to put up a paywall, but having subscriber-only content for those particularly dedicated fans can be a great source of revenue. Look to Patreon or OnlyFans for an easy way to get that up and running, depending on what type of content you create.
Create a product
Did you have a comedy video go viral with a particularly memorable phrase? You should have had the t-shirts up and ready for sale the very same day. Creating merchandise related to your content can range from basic items like shirts and stickers promoting your actual brand (where you once again may benefit from the help of designers on Fiverr) to more creative scenarios. A beauty guru may launch a makeup line, while a YouTuber focused on puzzles might make one of their own. A cooking blog can offer a book of recipes, and an Instagram influencer can repurpose their content to sell to stock photography websites. Think inside the box AND outside the box, and figure out what makes sense for your particular audience.
Share your expertise
You can further monetize your knowledge about your specific niche, content creation, building a brand, or anything else that you’ve used to become a successful content creator in a variety of ways. Sell an e-book, teach an online course, or offer your services for speaking engagements or one-on-one consulting for an additional source of revenue.
Repurpose your content
A five-minute video that didn’t do so hot on YouTube one year may very well go viral as a 30-second clip on TikTok the next. You don’t want to overwhelm your audience by constantly posting the same thing on every platform at the same time, but if you strategize well and get creative, you can repurpose content initially intended for one distribution channel for another one, or two, or three, and create new sources of passive income for yourself—while hopefully bringing in new viewers in the process.
7. How much money can you make as a content creator?
According to Glassdoor, the average yearly income for a content creator in the United States is $48,981, with a larger range of $39K to $62K reported. However, as you might guess, there’s far more to the story than that.
Your income as a content creator depends on the type of content you create, the audience you manage to bring in, and how many streams of revenue you have at any given time. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, and how much you make can vary greatly from month to month and year to year. That’s part of why content creation isn’t for everyone, although those who have a knack for it can find it to be very lucrative.
The top YouTube creators, for example, report earnings of $55,000 per month just from YouTube’s Partner Program alone. The top Patreon creators are raking in even more than that, sometimes even six figures per month.
With a constantly shifting digital landscape, adapting to changes in platforms, algorithms, and audience needs will help you be ready to take advantage of whatever opportunities present themselves, as well as tackle any new challenges that arise. It may take time to get to the earning levels of top creators, but if you make quality content and stay savvy about your strategies, everyone stands a chance on the internet. Better yet, you’ll be doing something you love in the process.