Understanding how the creator economy works can help you build your online empire

Photo: Paige Cody

I came across the creator economy early this year.

The creator economy, also known as the passion economy, is where people create jobs and businesses from doing what they love. When I started my online journey, I jumped straight into having an online business. While it’s not wrong to do it that way, I could’ve saved so much money and tears if I had known how the creator economy works.

For the record, the creator economy is booming. Influence Marketing Hub found that the creator economy’s current market size to be $104.2 Billion.

I hope to give you the foundation to guide you in your decision-making process when participating in this world.

There are three key stages you must know how successful online creators build online empires.

First, you create content that you love

In July 2020, I decided to open a travel Instagram account.

I always regretted not having to document my travel adventures, so I did that in my free time during the lockdown. But I found out I didn’t want to teach people about where I went or what I did during my travels.

I didn’t want to become a travel influencer despite loving posting my travel photos.

I had a hard time wrapping my head around what type of content you need to make online. One day, it finally clicked for me. It doesn’t matter what format you use. Whether it’s through blogging, video or podcasting.

The most important thing is that it helps others in whatever topic you choose.

You’ll often hear people say that your content needs to be valuable. But, I found that advice vague. I had to define what valuable is. What I find valuable might not be valuable for you.

The key to creating content is finding the intersection between what others find helpful and what you love sharing.

You learn that by experimenting with your topics.

Some questions to start with when it comes to creating valuable content:

  • What do people come for me for advice? Do I like talking about this advice?
  • How can I start sharing this advice if more people are asking about it?
  • Do I want to write, talk or make videos about this?
  • If I have too many interests, how do I cut the things I don’t want to talk about as fast as possible?

How long to spend in this stage:

It can take 6 months to a year. This is where you need to get your foundations when it comes to creating content. The hardest part of this is knowing what you like to talk about and what others will enjoy hearing from you.

Trying to monetize at this stage may be a waste of time and energy. Of course, if you already have some expertise, you might already what you love talking about. But I also found out that being good at something doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll love sharing about it.

Key takeaway:

Your focus at this stage is to find the topics you are interested in talking about. Spend time creating habits, routines and workflows that will get you to fall in love in the process of content creation.

If you don’t love creating content, you’ll hate participating in the creator economy.

Second, you build an audience and a community

I don’t like the term audience, but that’s the most common term you’ll hear in the creator economy.

Having an audience implies that you’re the main person on the stage, and you have fans waiting for you to produce your content. If they’re a true fan, they’ll happily pay you for it. I’m in the creator economy to help others. I’m not here to become a “star .”

But I also learned that having a following is beneficial so that people can learn to trust you.

It’ll be easier to find the people you do want to help, so I learned to put my ego aside.

I call them my community. On Twitter, I built online relationships with other people by observing their work and engaging in their work. If I wanted to know them more because of what they’re putting out there, I ask them to hop on a Zoom call.

I did about 15 zoom calls in the past month. I think that it’s essential to have face-to-face 1:1 conversations with the people you engage with.

How long to spend in this stage:

From 6 months and beyond. Once you’re comfortable creating content and become good at it, people will start to notice. They will come in your DMs complimenting your work. They might even ask you to hop on calls. Sometimes, you get invited to do a podcast.

This is where the fun is because this is where you start building relationships with others. Without genuine relationships, it’s tough to earn people’s trust.

Key takeaway:

Make real online friends, and you’re bound to find the community you want to be a part of. When like-minded people surround you, you become much more motivated in your journey.

Third, you monetize with the help of your audience

I jumped into the creator economy and started with monetization.

It was really hard because I didn’t know what I wanted to offer. Knowing what to offer comes from talking to people (i.e. in the stage of building an audience). If a course/online guru tells you that you can make money online even if you don’t have a following, they’re not lying.

But they also don’t tell you the whole truth.

You can make money, but it’s much harder and frankly less enjoyable.

When you have more than 1k of following (audience) or when people are engaged with your content, you can start thinking about monetizing. I thought this was the most challenging part, but I realized that it might be the easiest part.

In each stage of your journey, you will inevitably learn different skills. You’ll learn how to write, create videos, or edit images depending on the platform you’re using for content creation.

Once you start having skills, you can now start offering others services, whether through freelancing (i.e. doing it for others) or teaching others to the skills you’ve learned (i.e. teach you to write or film).

It can be daunting because you might think “who am I” to teach this.

But trust me, at this stage, you’ll know so much more than the person you’re aiming to help. In stage 2, you would’ve learned how to build an audience or a community. When you talk to people, you start to recognize patterns.

People will ask the same questions or even ask you for help.

When that happens, you start to become their source of information. That’s another signal that you can start offering services. Because you now know something that they don’t know.

It can be hard to ask them for money but remember that you’re shortening the learning curve for them, and that’s worth a lot.

You can also always offer it for free in exchange for testimonials to gain trust when you decide to offer your services.

How long to spend in this stage:

After about 6 months of your content creation journey, you can start thinking about what to monetize.

If you’re launching a program, the preparation usually takes 6 months because you’re building an audience while letting others know (i.e. build in public) that you’re about to launch something. You want to build relationships and try to convert them into customers.

Key takeaway:

Understand that you can monetize pretty much anything on the internet. Whatever skill or a problem you’re thinking of solving, someone has already figured it out. Your potential clients are the ones that you can help with your current skills and knowledge. Most of the time, it’s more than enough.

Final Words

The creator economy is a fun world on the internet.

I wish more people knew more about it because it is a satisfying feeling to get to create online content. Over time, you get to choose the people you want to help and create an income around it. It’s a booming world, and it’s only the beginning.

It’s easy to compare yourself with the successes of the other creators. But you have to remember that they started much earlier and that’s their biggest leverage.

It’s not too late for you and me. What matters is that you start, and you keep going. When you share your stories online, things become much clearer and you’ll enjoy the journey much more.