What we now call members of the creator economy, we also call artists and entrepreneurs. Roman gladiators earned money for endorsing olive oils and wines that promised (presumably) that gladiator glow, and Leonardo da Vinci reportedly earned the contemporary equivalent of several million dollars a year for art sales and commissions.
The 21st-century creator economy operates on many of the same principles: Influencers and creators can earn money through paid brand partnerships or by selling products. The key difference is that today’s content creators don’t need to reach celebrity status to generate income. Anyone can use digital content distribution and monetization tools to earn money online.
What is a content creator?
A content creator is a person who makes and distributes content. It’s a broad category—journalists, musicians, poets, videographers, and painters are all technically content creators.
Digital content creators represent a subset of this group. Digital creators make and publish content online, and many earn money selling work to brands or agencies or through paid brand partnerships.
Common digital content types include the following:
- Audio content. Audio content can include podcasts, audio blogs, and audiobooks.
- Video content. Video content includes video blogs, TikTok and YouTube Videos, Instagram reels, and livestreams.
- Written content. Written content includes blogs, ebooks, whitepapers, and reviews.
- Visual content. Visual content can include stock photos, digital art, and custom-branded graphics.
- Hybrid content. Hybrid content includes social media posts and online courses. Both content types may contain visuals, audio, video, and written content.
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How much money do content creators make?
Content creator pay varies widely. Creators with celebrity status can earn millions of dollars per partnership, while a nano-influencer might earn less than $100 for a Facebook post. In general, brands expect to pay influencers around $100 per 10,000 followers, plus content creation costs—though some creators can command more.
Generally speaking, rates depend on content type, audience segment, and the value of the content creator’s personal brand. The major factors at play include:
- Content type. Content creators can often charge more for content types that are in high demand, require a specific skill set to produce, or entail a time-intensive content creation process.
- Platform. Creators also earn different amounts on different platforms. A sponsored YouTube video costs an average of $4,491, for example, while the average cost of a sponsored Twitter post is only $284.
- Follower count. Influencers with large audiences are typically able to charge more than those with fewer followers. In 2021, according to the State of Influencer Earnings, influencers with more than 500,000 followers earned an average of $6,786 per post across all platforms, while those with between 1,000 and 9,999 followers earned an average of $901.
- Engagement rate. Influencers with engaged followers can also command higher rates. Some influencers even charge based on engagements, using a formula such as cost per post = average recent engagements x .14 to calculate fees.
- Audience segment. Popularity with a niche target audience can also increase influencer pay. Costs tend to be lower in popular areas (like beauty and travel) and higher in niches with less influencer competition (like personal finance).
How to get paid to create content
Creating digital content can be a full-time job, a lucrative side hustle, or even a source of passive income. Here’s a list of eight ways content creators earn money online.
Become a social media influencer
Building your social media audience and personal brand can help you earn paid brand partnerships. Once your social media accounts reach a certain size, you can charge for sponsored social media posts. Typically, you’ll create content featuring a brand’s products or services and post it to your personal social media accounts in exchange for a fee.
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Become a blog or email influencer
Influential writers can also secure brand sponsorships. Once you’ve reached a certain level of notoriety and website traffic or a certain number of email newsletter subscriptions, brands might pay you for sponsored content in which you feature or review their products or services.
You can also generate money by accepting guest authors. Typically, brands write content and pay for the privilege of publishing on your blog or in your newsletter under a company byline.
Become a brand ambassador
Many top brands establish long-term partnerships with influencers, known, in this case, as brand ambassadors. Brand ambassadors may create and publish branded content on multiple channels, explicitly endorse a company’s products, and host or attend events on behalf of their sponsor.
Start an online store
Many influencers and creators use online stores to generate additional revenue streams. You can sell merchandise featuring your brand (like TikTok star Charli D’Amelio’s hoodies) or use your personal platform to launch an associated line of products—for example, a yoga influencer might develop and sell fitness apparel, and a child development expert might create a line of educational toys. If you sell digital art or stock photography, you can use an online store to display and sell your products.
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Earn money from platforms
Some platforms pay qualified content creators directly out of creator funds, which are resources set aside to support promising creators and encourage more production on the platform. To receive creator funds, you need to meet the platform’s eligibility standards, and, in most cases, submit an application. TikTok, for example, requires influencers to have at least 100,000 video views in the previous 30 days to apply.
Popular social media platforms with creator funds include TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, and YouTube. Platforms base compensation on metrics including follower activities, views, and ad proceeds—so the most lucrative platform for you will depend on your audience size, engagement rates, and specific activities on a platform.
Sell your own ad space
Some influencers with websites or newsletters earn money through direct advertising. Essentially, you’ll sell ad space directly to a brand (instead of to an ad network) and display ads on your website or read ads on your podcast, livestream, or video blog.
Become an affiliate marketer
Affiliate marketing programs are a specific type of commission-based brand partnership. You’ll request an affiliate link from a brand and distribute it to your audiences—for example, by posting it to your social media accounts, including it in a newsletter, or incorporating it in a blog. When a consumer uses your unique affiliate link to make a purchase, you’ll earn a percentage of the revenue.
Affiliate marketing programs can generate a passive income stream: Once an affiliate link is live, you won’t need to take any additional actions to continue earning money.
Create subscription content
Some influencers create both free and paid content—the free content elevates your personal brand and allows you to leverage influencer marketing revenue streams, and the premium content generates money through paid memberships. You might distribute a paid newsletter, release members-only podcast episodes, or use a membership site to run a subscription service.
Consider using your personal social media accounts or social media advertising to promote exclusive content to potential customers.
Create online courses
Creators with particular areas of subject matter expertise or knowledge of a craft can use online learning platforms like Udemy or Skillshare to create and distribute free or paid online courses. Free options can elevate your personal brand and help you build your following, and paid courses generate revenue by monetizing an existing audience or meeting a market need.
When it comes to content, the sky’s the limit—a business owner might design an intro to small-business finance, and the king or queen of cupcake decoration might offer a six-module course in cutting-edge techniques.
Get paid to create content FAQ
Can I make a full-time income as a content creator?
Yes. A 2022 survey found that 21% of all content creators make over $50,000 a year, and more than 35% of content creators with four or more years of experience make $50,000 a year or more.
How can I measure the success of my content?
Content creators define success based on content type and individual creator goals. Common digital content metrics include the following:
- Page views
What platform pays content creators the most?
TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, and YouTube all pay qualified content creators directly out of established creator funds. Platforms base compensation on metrics including follower activities, views, and ad proceeds—so the most lucrative platform for you will depend on your audience size, engagement rates, and specific activities on a platform. /p>
How do I determine my rates as a content creator?
Content creators set rates based on follower counts, engagement rates, content type, and audience segment. Consider using an influencer platform or conducting research to determine the going rate for content from similar creators. Once you’ve set your starting rates, experiment with what the market will bear, keeping in mind that you can always raise your rates over time.