“You’re an influencer, that’s so cool, but how do content creators make money?”
It’s a question everyone wants an answer to.
I’m talking the banks, my former boss, family and friends, aspiring content creators, and especially people I’m meeting for the very first time.
In this post, we are going to break down all the different income streams and monetization options available to creators. Allowing you to realize your earning potential as an aspiring or current creator.
And so that I have a post that sums it all up for the next overly inquisitive Taxi Driver…
How do Content Creators Make Money?
If you want the video version of this post, I’ve summed up a lot of the same sentiments below. Don’t forget to like and subscribe. 🙂
*Some of the links included in this post are affiliate links. This means if you click on them and make a purchase, I will make a small commission at no additional cost to you.*
1. Brand Partnerships
We are going to lead with brand deals. Not only are they the first thing that comes to mind when we think of content creators and influencers, but it is also what makes up the majority of my income.
A brand deal is when a brand pays you to create content that features or mentions its products or services.
This concept is usually what people are talking about when they refer to The Creator Economy.
Traditional marketing efforts are shifting towards influencer and digital content campaigns.
That is because hiring a single creator is cheaper than producing an entire TV commercial or doing a printed ad in a magazine or newspaper where they would need to compensate an entire production team complete with makeup and hair stylists.
Digital creators are all-in-one.
The brand deal has evolved over time and looks different depending on the campaign goals, your specific skill set, and the value added.
Generally, partnerships can be classified as one of the following:
a. Brands pay you for your influence
First, brands can pay you for your influence over your community.
That’s where the word influencer came from.
In this situation, your ability to reach and genuinely connect with your audience is more valuable than your content-creating skills.
Want brands to come to you? Read THIS next.
b. Brands pay you for your content
Another way creators can make money collaborating with brands is when they pay you for your content.
They might post this content organically on their own feed or use it to run digital ads.
This falls under the category of UGC, or, user-generated content, which is having its moment over on TikTok.
This is because to make money as an UGC Creator, your following count does not matter.
It’s the quality of your content that counts, as well as your ability to tell a story and sell something.
c. Brands pay you for a combination of both
This is most common in traditional brand deals.
You get paid to create content that lives on your page while granting brands permission to use it in their own additional promotion efforts.
When it comes to landing any of these types of deals, you can either pitch brands, which I strongly recommend you do, especially in the beginning, or, you can rely on inbound requests. These tend to happen with time as you begin to build your online presence.
Either way, make sure you think of your social media platforms as a digital portfolio.
A brand should be able to check your page and within a few seconds, see an example of what you could create for them.
2. Affiliate Programs
Next affiliate marketing is when you get compensated for driving sales through a unique link or discount code.
And don’t side-eye me on this one.
As creators our dm’s and email inboxes are full of “scammy” affiliate requests.
Don’t join those ones! Join programs that you have sought out.
To get started with affiliate marketing, I recommend you look at all of the products and services that you use all the time and you find yourself regularly recommending to people. Then see if they have an affiliate program.
I have literally Googled “brand name + affiliate program” and usually something will show up.
This is how I joined the program for Tubebuddy, Keysearch, and Artlist.
Do note, affiliate marketing is really only worth your time if you’re doing it intentionally and from personal experience, my links perform the best when on the blog backed by SEO.
That way I can tap into ongoing passive income as long as people are still reading my blog posts, clicking the links, and buying something.
3. Ad Revenue
Next, is ad revenue is a great form of passive income that all content creators should do to make consistent money.
When I say Ad Revenue, the YouTube Partner Program is probably what comes to mind first.
This is when YouTube shares a percentage of its revenue from the ads shown on your videos. (Which is why YouTube is still considered a top-tier platform to create on).
You can only apply to the program once you hit 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 watch hours over the course of the past 12 months.
Leveraging ad revenue through a blog is another way content creators can make money.
We’ve all seen it, ads on the sidebar, ads between the content pop-up, just lots of ads. I recognize it can get a little excessive and annoying but with the perfect balance, you can earn extra income while still respecting the user experience of your site’s visitors.
Your website can actually qualify for Google AdSense pretty early on in the game. There’s no minimum traffic requirement. And yes, I’m talking about the same Google AdSense that runs the ads on YouTube.
Then, as your website continues to build traffic, you can qualify for higher-paying publishers.
4. Subscription and Membership Services
Next, let’s talk about subscriptions and membership services.
This is where the concept of Kevin Kelly’s “1000 true fans“ comes into play.
It is the idea that you don’t need to have a million followers, or subscribers, to successfully make money as a content creator or entrepreneur.
You just need 1,000 true fans. 1000 people who truly believe in you and will support anything you do.
If 1000 people spend $100 a year on you and your business that’s $100,000.
This is where membership services and subscriptions come into play. You can offer exclusive content, merch, and/or access to you through a recurring fee.
This can be done through Patreon, Stan (which we’re going to talk about in a second), and even the social giants seem to want in with YouTube offering membership options, and Instagram offering subscriptions.
5. Sell Something
The next way to make money as a creator is to sell something, whether physical or digital.
This can come in the form of merch, where you’re putting your logo, a catchphrase, or something uniquely you, on clothing, accessories, mugs, or something that’s niche specific.
Or products can take the form of something completely unique. This goes above and beyond just slapping your branding on something that already exists.
Think of a problem that your audience might face and think of a product that could provide a solution. The first thing that comes to mind is Peter McKinnon’s recent camera tool, which sold out right away.
Digital Products and Downloads
This is where you can make something once and sell it overand over again, making passive income.
There are many types of digital products out there and what you can sell depends on your niche and your audience’s needs.
Here are some ideas to get you started…
There are ebooks, preset templates, and printables. In my case, I have had a lot of people come to me for Pinterest help. So I put together a Pinterest starter guide that includes a self-audit checklist then I uploaded it to my Stan store and put it up for sale.
Visit my Stan store for more inspo!
6. Provide a Service
Next, you can provide a service. This is where you can really leverage your skill set, knowledge, and expertise to make money as a creator.
What are people in your DM’s asking you for personalized feedback and help on? Consider setting up coaching or consultation calls, or doing audits of some sort on the topics.
We see a lot of people offering services in the social media marketing space but the idea is transferable to any niche.
Fitness creators can do one-on-one calls to provide fitness plans for people.
Fashionistas can offer the service of helping sort through your wardrobe or determine your sense of style.
If there’s something that people want your help with, there are people out there that will pay.
That being said, I don’t think people should be going out and trying to exploit everybody for money….But setting up services and calls is actually a great way to enact boundaries with people and protect your time and energy.
The last monetization option we’re going to cover is courses, which, similar to a lot of these coaching and consultation services, gets a lot of hate online.
While I do think there’s a very questionable aspiring influencer to social media coach pipeline, providing a course is a great way to help out your audience.
When it comes to choosing your course hosting platform, there are endless options.
Do your research and take your pick but do note that Stan just launched its own too and that’s actually a perfect segue into my Stan plug.
No, this is not sponsored, but I am a Stan Ambassador and a very passionate Stan user.
Stan is your all-in-one Creator store
I often describe it as my financial safety net as a creator. It allows you to host a lot of the above monetization options in one place. All with an easy interview face and checkout process for your audience.
It’s commonly mislabeled as a link in your bio, but while it is a link that can live in your bio, it is way more than that.
I use it to host my digital product, and book one-on-one calls (it syncs with Zoom and my Google Calendar), provide Pinterest audit services, link to my website to any affiliate links I have.
If you’re looking at giving it a try, I strongly recommend you come up with a monetization plan first.
Have your digital products and services ready to go and then click HERE for a 14-day free trial.
Final Thoughts On How Content Creators Make Money
No matter which monetization options you end up choosing, know that the best way to make money sustainably as a creator is to have multiple income streams, both active and passive.
Don’t be afraid to mix-and-match to find the perfect balance for you and your audience.
Let me know in the comments what you are already leveraging and what you’re going to pursue in the future.
Until Next Time!