Today, more than 50 million people around the world call themselves content creators, and the creator economy is estimated to be worth over 104 billion USD.
Even if you don’t consider yourself a content creator, you’re routinely exposed to the digital material the economy puts forth: blogs, live-streaming or prerecorded videos, pictures, podcasts, articles, e-books, music, material goods, artwork, courses, and much more. And the forums where creators can market and sell their work or gain followers are growing in size, volume, and engagement, too.
YouTube, Instagram, Medium, TikTok, eBay, Twitch, Amazon Publishing, Etsy, WordPress, Tumblr, and Patreon are just some of the platforms creators use to share their work and monetize their craft. And new ones are emerging every day. Now, would-be entrepreneurs can embrace their art and earn a living without being employed by media, entertainment, and other outlets — they can do it all on their own.
In fact, the possibilities are so many that nearly a third of students in the U.S. said they wanted to become creators, according to 2021 research. Why is the creator economy so important in 2022? How can creators tap into it to live out their passions?
What Is the Creator Economy?
Web 2.0 gave rise to an entirely new way to manage our work and lives. With platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube providing a forum for sharing content came a broader interest in decentralizing and democratizing media and related industries. Ordinary people were now about to spread their messages and work, whether in the form of articles, photographs, videos, or other content.
Influencers are one subset of the creator economy, but the sphere extends far beyond this niche sector. People are essentially entrepreneurs looking to build and grow communities. It’s spurring a whole new economy and means of value. It’s also opening up the door for people to understand their own worth and share their skills without answering to a manager or employer.
How Does It Work?
Basically, the creator economy is about, well, creating. A team or individual builds their product and shares it on a content platform, such as one of the ones listed above. The goal, of course, is to earn money from distributing the product.
Some platforms are actually services that list and showcase physical products, like Etsy, a marketplace for art, crafts, and other goods. Others offer the product upfront, as is the case on YouTube and Instagram, where users can post images and videos. In some cases, the material is protected by a paywall, meaning consumers can’t access the content until they pay for it.
Many users also advertise via external platforms, including social media sites and Google Ads. While content platforms work in different ways, some of the most common payment models include:
- Click-through rates (CTR) or number of views
- Sponsorship deals
- Social media advertising
- Search-engine advertising
- Direct sales
Platforms earn money off of content-sharing, too. They may take a cut of creators’ profits, or, they might charge listing fees. YouTube, for example, keeps a fraction of advertising revenue.
How Does Technology Support the Creator Economy?
The creator economy depends on technology — it wouldn’t exist without the digital tools behind it. While the content creators themselves are the ones making the material, they do depend on online platforms, whether they’re marketplaces like Etsy, streaming services like YouTube, or publishers like WordPress.
Low-code and no-code platforms are especially useful in the creator economy. Built by software developers, they make it possible for individuals with no background or experience in software to make their work and showcase it.
Social media, too, has been instrumental in facilitating the flow of the creator economy. Not only does it provide a means of sharing your work, but it also serves as a platform for creating in and of itself, offering, for example, special effects and editing tools for photographs and videos.
Creator tools, such as Adobe Creative Cloud, are playing a fundamental role in the content world as well. And there are the very devices that you build and view your work with — smartphones, cameras, tablets, microphones, and the rest.
The Future of the Creator Economy
The gig economy is driving the future of work, and it has been laying the groundwork for content creation and related work to thrive. No longer are people tied down to nine-to-five jobs — instead, many are finding their niche in a short-term contract and freelance economy. People need not be beholden to employers or even the big tech giants to monetize their talent and thrive in the modern world.
Gen Z is already showing passion for content creation, so we can only imagine that the future of the creator economy is bright. Amateurs and professionals alike, across generations, are experimenting with new ways of innovating in the digital realm.
Will the so-called “traditional” economy, with people depending on corporate employees and tech giants to facilitate exchanges of money and services, fall by the wayside? Probably not entirely. But as more and more people find that the creator economy is better suited to their passions, talents, and professional goals, we will almost certainly see it reach new heights in the coming years.
This has been especially apparent during the pandemic, when people moved away from their homes in droves, finding that they could do this work from practically anywhere. And even when COVID-19 subsides, this way of work is unlikely to disappear. From flexibility to a more enjoyable way of earning a living, the creator economy offers plenty of benefits — and workers are certainly sitting up and taking notice.