In the new publishing economy young content creators appear to rule the world. The most successful are making astonishing sums – literally tens of millions of dollars a year on YouTube, Instagram and TikTok.
According to Forbes, the top 10 YouTubers together earned more than $200m in 2020. Stars like Ryan Kaji (aged 9, $29.5m earnings, content: DIY science experiments), MrBeast, real name Jimmy Donaldson (23, $24m, stunts and humour), and Nastya, real name Anastasia Radzinskaya (aged 6, $18.5m, playing and doing chores).
These creators (and, for the really young ones, their adult mentors) are riding a phenomenon of mass connectedness unique to our tech-enabled world. But they share something with content creators that goes back to storytelling around the fire in caves – connecting deeply with an audience. It’s just that their audience is much, much bigger.
Today’s young media rockstars get a lot of the attention, but actually they are outliers, one-offs. New research has indicated that a majority of those making money (although obviously not the most money) from online content are in their 40s and 50s, and that they are making a comfortable living serving growing niche audiences. Mass connectedness means niches are now bigger and capable of supporting substantial businesses.
Research by The Tilt, a website supporting content entrepreneurs, reveals how this demographic group experiences a start-up process that looks very similar to the experience of creating any pre-internet business.
As an online content creator, on average it takes 9 months to earn any money, and then 26 months to start making enough to support just one person. Full-time content entrepreneurs invest an average $10,000 in their business, mostly through personal savings. They spend 30% of their time creating content and the rest running their business.
Yet the money, by a very long chalk, is not what matters to most. They are actually pursuing the advantages of independence, being able to pursue a passion, to work flexibly and prove their self-worth. And there has never been a better time. The breadth and depth of opportunities for ambitious entrepreneurs to engage with their audiences have never been greater or more exciting.
As recently as 1995, when I founded my first publishing venture, the obvious route to engagement was a printed magazine. Now pretty much exactly the same content could be delivered in a podcast, a subscription email newsletter, a YouTube channel, live webinars, a blog, and the list goes on.
Like any commercial venture, creating a sustainable publishing business takes time, dedication and effort, even with all the technology. Those who enter the market with content creation as a hobby or side hustle and expectations of instant millions will find it is much harder than it looks.
So here are my top three tips for content entrepreneurs to grow a business they want and achieve lasting success.
- Master Your Niche. Be the go-to expert in your chosen content field. Be crystal clear about what you do, and how you provide value to your audience. If you offer a high quality product, momentum will build.
- Set Your Goal. Be clear on your personal goals and objectives. Success means different things for different people: yours may be a financial target, a work-life balance or an independence goal. Or you may want to just earn a living while fulfilling your passion. Each of these requires a different approach.
- Commit. Your commitment levels have to be right up there. Some say even 9 out of 10 isn’t enough. Building a business can be simple, but this isn’t the same as easy. Despite what the gurus will tell you, there aren’t really any short cuts. Determination and persistence are what you need.
The 1,400 content creators interviewed for the Tilt research already know there is no “cocktails on the beach” path to success. For every MrBeast, there are scores just about making it and hundreds more disappointed and about to quit.
Entrepreneurs sometimes just need to revisit their vision before moving on with purpose. Like any business success comes from trial and error, making opportunity selection, regular planning, task management, habit building and finally, consistent actions.
Content Coach, Mentor and Publisher
About: Andy Griffiths is a former journalist who founded and ran three content publishing ventures over 25 years, covering finance and investment, corporate communication and sports coaching. Now he coaches content entrepreneurs and publishers to streamline work processes to focus on growth and achieve success. His new course is The 6-Week Growth Accelerator for Content Entrepreneurs. https://tinyurl.com/6mzyp4j9. His website is andygriffiths.co.uk