It’s hard to believe that as recently as a decade ago, online content creation was a relatively new concept. Facebook and Instagram were on the rise, and the word “influencer” wasn’t a part of our everyday vocabulary.
While many people aspire for the picture-perfect content creator’s existence, the finished product we see is just the tip of the iceberg. The difference between creators who become successful and those who fail quickly is that professional creators treat their efforts like a business rather than a hobby. There are hours of communication, planning and networking that go into a content creation business.
If you want to turn your passion for content creation into a profitable business, here’s what you need to know to get started.
Start With Business Basics
To become a profitable content creator, you need to embrace the mindset of a business owner. You aren’t creating content; you’re building a brand. That means identifying your audience and finding that overlap between what you’re good at and what they want.
Identify Your Niche
The first step in starting a content creation business is identifying your niche. This is your target audience who will translate into a loyal following and ultimately contribute to your monetary success.
The biggest mistake new content creators make is casting too wide a net. Niching down and creating a specific target audience will help you hone your focus and create effective, engaging content that appeals to your customer base. For example, rather than creating a fashion blog that appeals to women, you could narrow your focus to appeal to middle-class women between the ages of 30 and 50 who have children and a limited budget to spend on themselves.
When you identify a niche, you aren’t discounting people outside of that net who find your content interesting. Instead, you’re nourishing those potentially profitable relationships and welcoming everyone else along for the ride.
Determine Your Subject Matter
Once you have a better idea of your audience, you can develop your subject matter. Sometimes this step comes first, with creators identifying their niche based on who interacts with the content they put into the world.
Ideally, your subject matter will be something you’re knowledgeable and passionate about. It should also resonate with your target audience on an emotional level.
Develop Your Brand
Developing a brand is the most vital aspect of becoming a content creator. You want people to recognize your content before they see your name or face attached to it. This is accomplished through the tone you use, graphics and other distinguishing elements.
Your brand is the point where you and your audience intersect. Ask yourself what your core values are and what impact you hope to have on the world. Consider your audience and your messaging. Then, bring it all together.
Your brand may evolve over time as you learn and grow as a content creator. However, it’s important to have a starting point so you can connect with others.
Set Long-Term Financial Goals
Whether you’re determining how to monetize a blog or get brand sponsors on Instagram, the goal remains the same: make money. It’s important to note that creating a profitable content creation business takes time and dedication. Setting a goal of becoming an internet millionaire by this time next year isn’t realistic.
Instead, set small, actionable financial goals. For example, you may want to replace your current employment income with your new venture over the next five years. Once you have the goal outlined, reverse-engineer it to create an action plan. Break it down into yearly, monthly, and daily goals.
You’ll also need to research local business rules and consider registering a business to protect yourself as you grow. Take the time to learn about taxation requirements, and don’t hesitate to consult with an accountant. You may not need this information for a while, but it’s better to start on the right foot.
Choose Your Platforms
Another integral aspect of developing a content creation business is choosing which platforms you want to use to connect. Keep in mind that while more platforms help expand your reach, they also increase the complexity of operating a business — that’s why so many creators start on one platform to get established.
To choose your platform, start by figuring out where your audience spends the most time and clarify your preferred method of delivery. For example, if you’re creating long-form tutorial videos, you’ll likely choose YouTube as your main platform. However, if your target audience is active on TikTok, you might use TikTok as your lead into YouTube.
Monetizing and the Customer Journey
When choosing platforms, it’s also helpful to consider how you’ll monetize your content and how you can repurpose content between platforms. For example, you might use Instagram to drive traffic to your Udemy courses.
To clarify your path forward, map out your customer journey. Where will they meet you and where do you want them to go? Once you have a starting point and ending point, you can fill in the rest.
Identify Your Tools and Skills
When an Instagram influencer posts a beautiful photo, there are a lot of steps that happened behind the scenes before that moment. Someone had to plan and take the photo, it likely went through an editing process, a caption was drafted, the post was scheduled and finally, it entered the world.
From a business perspective, that means having the right camera equipment, an editing program, editing skills, writing skills, an automated posting platform, as well as a shop or blog to link through to, which also needs to be maintained.
Many new content creators are shocked to discover how much work actually goes into every piece of content that eventually gets published. If you’re serious about developing a profitable business, you’ll need to identify potential barriers and strategize about how you can overcome them.
Assess Your Current Skill Set and Traits
Start with a realistic assessment of your existing skills and traits. It can be challenging to do this with an objective eye, but it’s an essential step in creating content that’s competitive and engaging.
If you’re trying to start a blog, for example, take a look at your writing skills. Ask for feedback and input from people in your ideal demographic. Are you too verbose? Do you need to refresh your grammar skills?
The same strategy applies whether you’re creating videos or taking photos. Conduct a SWOT analysis on yourself and clarify what you’re good at, what needs work, and what you have to do to compete with high-quality creators.
Choose the Right Tools
Choosing the right tools to run your content creation business can be overwhelming and costly. Keep in mind that you don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on top-of-the-line equipment to get started. The most successful businesses start small and scale up, making improvements over time. Having a $10,000 setup in the beginning is not going to make you successful any quicker.
As a content creator, you’ll likely need:
- A camera (video or otherwise)
- Photo editing software
- Social media graphic creation software
- A SEO tool (My recommendation is Semrush, read review or get 14 day Semrush PRO free trial).
- Automated scheduling software
- A website
Your tools ultimately depend on what type of content you’re creating. The good news is that many of the automation and creation programs you need to get started have free versions. Scheduling platforms like Buffer and Hootsuite allow for a limited free scheduling capacity. You can create free graphics online with Canva. Adobe Lightroom has a free mobile app with everything you need to get started.
If you’re spending, spend wisely. Do research on which materials are best and prioritize value and frugality.
Take Courses and Training
One of the best investments you can make as a content creator is in yourself – through skills development and continuing education. If your video editing skills are lacking, take a course. Is SEO a mystery to you? Do some research and learn from the experts.
The important thing to remember when investing in courses and education is that completion is what matters the most. Start with one course, and don’t spend more money on another until you finish it. Too many aspiring creators spend thousands on courses that they never complete.
Start the Creative Process
Once you’ve gotten through the nuances of establishing yourself as a business, you finally get to dive into the good stuff: creating.
If you have a passion for content creation, you’ll likely struggle with the usual issues creatives face, such as writer’s block, disillusionment, and the struggle of turning a passion into a job.
Remember that being creative isn’t a natural trait; it’s a honed skill. You’ll need to practice and develop that skill to stay consistent as a content creator.
Take Inspiration and Notes
As a content creator, you should always be on the lookout for inspiration. Keep a notebook or app on your phone to capture ideas on the go. Don’t hesitate to look at other creators to emulate. You don’t want to copy their work, but you can learn from their subject matter and use your voice to create a new perspective.
Keep Your Audience in Mind
As you move through the world as a creator, you should try to keep your audience in mind. When you are considering something new, put yourself in their shoes. How would they feel about this idea or issue? What emotions would it bring up?
Keeping your audience at the forefront of your mind will help you create content that resonates, even when inspiration is running low.
Set Aside Scheduled Ideation Time
As a content creator, your brain is the core of your business. It’s vital that you set aside ideation time to write out your ideas and keep the wheels turning.
Set aside time every day to unplug, find some quiet, and brainstorm. You can use a piece of paper or a plethora of sticky notes. Set a timer, disconnect from the world, and ideate. Don’t worry about ideas being stupid or irrelevant — you can sort through your ideas later to see what has merit.
Social media and Google algorithms are no joke. In many cases, consistency is more important than creativity. In addition to working with the algorithms on your platforms, training yourself to be consistent will also build smart business habits.
Create a Content Calendar
Develop a content calendar that outlines:
- What you’ll post
- Where you’ll post it
- When you’ll post
- How frequently you’ll post
For example, if you’re a blogger, you might post a new blog each Friday. Then, you’ll need to outline when you’ll share it on Facebook and Pinterest. From there, you’ll need to consider how you’ll fill the other days of the week to maintain your algorithm. This strategy could encompass sharing relevant quote graphics on some days, sharing content from other creators, or even repurposing older content.
Your content calendar will become the guiding light in your content creation business. You can always deviate from the scheduled programming as inspiration and trends arise, but you need that roadmap in place to succeed.
Block Out Your Time
In addition to scheduling your content, you’ll also need to schedule yourself. Block out your time to identify when you’ll handle administrative tasks, when you’ll create content, when you’ll edit, and so on. You’ll quickly discover the tremendous amount of work that goes into content creation as a business.
Learn From Analytics
You’ve clarified your business, honed your skills, created content, put systems in place, and started publishing — so, now what?
As a content creator, you’ll always be learning and adapting. Set aside time to regularly review the insights and analytics from your various platforms. Determine what content resonates with your audience and how their consumption changes over time. You might discover that certain subject matter performs better than others, or that they prefer photos of you rather than the scenery shots.
It’s important to note that your audience will change over time, and so will you. Learn to adapt and learn from your mistakes. Starting a content creation business is a journey with a lesson around every turn.
The key takeaway here is that turning content creation into a profitable business will take time, dedication and hard work. The overnight success stories are few and far between and usually exaggerated. Approach the process strategically with the long game in mind. Take a sustainable approach to growth, and learn as you go.