How to get started in the creator economy

The internet has opened up a new world of economic possibilities for people around the globe.

In order to understand what the creator economy is, it’s useful to draw an analogy to an economic force most people are already familiar with: the car.

The introduction of the automobile changed the world.

It changed where people worked (towns grew into cities), where they lived (the invention of suburbs), and of course, how they traveled. The car also led to countless adjacent businesses: drive-thru restaurants, drive-in movie theatres, auto mechanics, gas stations, tire companies, and the list goes on and on.

In this new era, the internet is the car.

Because of this new technology, unprecedented industries have arisen. Once again, people have changed where (and how) they live, work, and play.

The creator economy represents the next phase in the internet’s possibilities.

What is a creator?

At the heart of the creator economy are its participants: creators.

Creators are individuals who use internet tools and platforms to make new types of digital content.

These content types include:

  • Videos that can be as short as a few seconds or as long as continuous live streams
  • Written text such as newsletters, blogs, and essays
  • Audio creations like podcasts and audiobooks
  • Digital art pieces such as graphics, gifs, and photography
  • And unique combinations of all the above.

As the world of social media and online creation developed, creators found ways to make money through their work (aka monetization), which led to the term creator economy.

What is the creator economy?

The creator economy is the blanket term used to describe the new career and business landscape made possible by the internet. 

The creator economy enables individuals to:

  • Turn passion projects into sustainable incomes
  • Reach narrowly defined niche audiences from around the globe
  • Gain a greater degree of control over their creative and financial futures.

Both the growing scale and quickening pace of the creator economy is astonishing. A summary article from Indie Hackers indicated that the biggest platforms supporting creators, such as Patreon and Twitch, now help millions of users earn money online.

indie hackers post on the creator economy
Popular creator platforms such as Patreon have experienced rapid growth in the last few years.

Furthermore, a 2020 report indicated that over two million creators make content full-time, with another estimated forty-six million monetizing their content to a lesser degree.

signalfire creator economy map
Some social media platforms are better suited for professional creators than others.

Creators are the "adjacent businesses" made possible by the internet, along with the tools and platforms that support their work, much like the industries that came about because of automobiles.

Creator economy terminology

Movements often come with their own unique language. The creator movement is no different. Here are a few keywords to keep in mind when navigating this new economy.

Passion economy – Regularly used as a synonym for the creator economy, it can also apply to non-digital native businesses (i.e., brick and mortar companies) that possess a more sustainable value system than incessant growth and profit.

Content – The thing being created, such as video, text, audio, or images.

Monetization – The method of making money from one’s creation. Different types of monetization include direct support, subscriptions, and product sales.

Community/Audience – The people who consume what you’ve made and support what you do (e.g., subscribers, readers, followers).

Ownership – The ability to communicate directly to your audience without needing to go through middlemen or submit to algorithms (i.e., owning your own platform and email list versus publishing a video to YouTube that your subscribers may or may not see).

New media – Digital communication technologies that replace or innovate upon traditional media solutions.

  • Television → YouTube
  • Radio → Podcasts
  • Newspapers → Newsletters
  • Books → Blogs

How to get started as a creator

The best strategy for getting started in the creator economy can be summarized in one sentence:

Create what you can with the skills you have for the people you know.

Starting something new can feel intimidating for novice creators, especially when new technologies are involved. What’s most important to remember is that starting small has its advantages. It allows you to experiment, change, and improve before too many eyeballs are paying attention.

With that, here are three steps (with guides) to help you start well and avoid the mistakes many creatives make at the beginning of their journeys.

  1. Find your niche. By answering questions such as What topics will I cover, Who is this for, and How should this be delivered, you'll sidestep the trap of making generalized content that no one wants.
  2. Apply a content strategy. Yes, throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks is part of the creator process. However, knowing what to try in the first place, and then what to do once something does stick, are essential to long-term success.
  3. Convert your audience into income. Attention, by itself, doesn’t pay the bills. That attention must be converted, using the proper strategy, if you want to build a real revenue stream.

Ghost was built for creators like you.

What began as a Kickstarter project in 2013 has since grown into a powerful open-source publishing platform serving thousands of creators just like you.

From newsletter writers like Nathan Tankus to YouTubers like Ali Abdaal, people are using Ghost to share their work, reach their audiences, and own their platforms.

Ghost can help you succeed in the creator economy with:

  • 0% platform fees.
  • An easy-to-use website builder with dozens of customizable templates (no code required).
  • Built-in membership and subscription tools to run your business.
  • Native email newsletters, SEO, member stats, and content management.
  • A library of integrations — so you can still use all of your favorite tools.

The creator economy is no fad. It's a fundamental shift making new careers, businesses, and opportunities possible every single day, with only one requirement: make something.

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Create your brand: Launching a publication Start publishing: Creating content that works Grow an audience: Finding your true fans Build a business: Earning revenue from your work