Creative ‘unconventionals’: How content entrepreneurs are reshaping the creator economy

by | Aug 16, 2021 | Public Relations

Content creators are, of course, professionals who generate a variety of creative content in hopes of earning income or revenue, but what would you call a content creator who builds a business around that concept? Content entrepreneurs differ from content creators because they are building a business rather than simply publishing content—and they are overwhelmingly inspired to pursue this career path because they want to achieve success on their own terms.

New research from The Tilt, a newssite specializing in information for content entrepreneurs launched by Content Marketing Institute founder and author Joe Pulizzi, surveyed over 1,400 content entrepreneurs to understand who they are, what they aspire to, and what it takes to build a successful content business.

The firm’s newly released report, The Unconventionals, in partnership with Ann Handley and Unemployable, debunks common stereotypes about content entrepreneurs. Many assume, for example, that content entrepreneurs are under-30 YouTubers or TikTok influencers. In the new study, the largest and most financially successful cohort was Gen X (40 percent), and many voiced their dislike of the term “influencer.”

Creative ‘unconventionals’: How content entrepreneurs are reshaping the creator economy

As one person explained, “People don’t consider it a real business because they think about Instagram influencers or YouTubers doing silly stuff. Content creation covers a lot more than what most people think, including business blogging and education.”

Creative ‘unconventionals’: How content entrepreneurs are reshaping the creator economy

Other key findings:

  • 86 percent named financial freedom as a reason they chose that career path.
  • 85 percent say a college degree isn’t a requirement for success as a content entrepreneur.
  • 95 percent are not tied to cities—they just need an internet connection to run their business.
  • 76 percent say now that they’ve experienced life as content entrepreneurs, it’s hard to imagine returning to traditional work.
  • On average, it takes nine months for a content entrepreneur to earn their first dollar, and 26 months until they generate enough income to support one person.
  • The overwhelming majority don’t require investors; three in four relied on their savings to get started.
  • More than half (57 percent) aim to grow a business that supports at least a few people; just 6 percent say they pursue content entrepreneurship as a hobby.
  • Those who are supporting at least a few people with their content business are monetizing content through four different channels on average—meaning revenue diversification is a key strategy for financially mature businesses.
  • 54 percent of those who launched their business in the last three years say the pandemic was a trigger.
  • 64 percent say burnout is a problem for content entrepreneurs.

Creative ‘unconventionals’: How content entrepreneurs are reshaping the creator economy

Content entrepreneurs say a successful content business requires discipline, entrepreneurial savvy, and persistence. They grow their audiences by providing valuable and interesting content that fills a specific need—and they make money from that content, often across multiple platforms or distribution channels.

Creative ‘unconventionals’: How content entrepreneurs are reshaping the creator economy

While some content entrepreneurs are making a comfortable income for themselves alone, others are powering high-growth content ventures with many employees. “These are not people with side gigs or who are out for the ‘hustle,’” said Pulizzi, in a news release. “These are serious business owners who’ve found a new way to grow a business—building niche audiences and then monetizing those audiences in multiple ways. I believe they are the backbone of the entire creator economy.”

Creative ‘unconventionals’: How content entrepreneurs are reshaping the creator economy

Download the full report here.

The survey was fielded from April to May 2021 by an independent research firm, with distribution help from partners, as well as Active Campaign, Libsyn, and Youpreneur.

Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 17 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richard.carufel@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter