The Ultimate Guide to Making Money as a Content Creator
Jessica Baldwin / Updated November 30, 2023
We've compiled our best resources on revenue-generating strategies for content creators. You know how to make great content for your audience. But how do you actually make money doing it? Whether you're a podcaster, YouTuber, newsletter author, blogger, or online publisher, you can use these strategies to make money in your business.
How To Make Money as a Content Creator
Ready to start making money as a content creator? Well, you've come to the right place. We've assembled our best in-depth resources on each of the key content creator monetization strategies.
What is a content creator?
First, let's define "content creator." A content creator is anyone or any business that creates and publishes content. In the age of the internet, when someone refers to a "content creator," they are likely talking about the practice of publishing online content. Bloggers, video creators, photographers, influencers, online publishers, email newsletter authors, and podcasters are considered content creators. You may also hear the industry referred to as the "creator economy" or "passion economy."
Regardless of your primary type of content (or medium), the methods for generating revenue are the same. One fundamental prerequisite that they share is that you must have an engaged audience for them to work.
How much money do content creators make?
Creators' revenue can range from pocket change to full-on business earnings. The landscape is diverse, with creators pursuing their craft for various reasons. Some treat it as a passion project, making a bit of affiliate cash on the side, while others turn it into a full-time career, running their own business. According to a study from NoReach, around 23% of creators generate a substantial $50k or more. On the flip side, a significant 48% find themselves making less than $15k. So, while the potential is vast, success isn't guaranteed for everyone. It boils down to the creator's approach, drive, niche, and, of course, a bit of luck in the ever-evolving world of content creation.
Keep in mind that most successful content creators combine strategies to diversify their income streams. Learn exactly how to get started with eight of the most popular content creator monetization strategies in the following guides.
9 Ways to Make Money as a Content Creator – An Overview
Advertising revenue is a cornerstone of the media industry. What started in print publications, including newspapers and magazines, instantly made its way onto the web. As a content creator, you have a few different options for using advertising within your business.
One option is to sign up with an ad network like Google Adsense or AdThrive and run auto-filled advertisements on your website. Ad networks also exist within the newsletter and podcast space. Auto-filled ads are nice because you don't have to do much. You add the ad code to your website or newsletter, and the network fills the slots. The main drawback is that you're getting a much smaller share of the pie when compared to selling ads directly. It can take a considerable amount of traffic to amount to a decent paycheck from ad networks alone.
You can also choose to sell ads directly, which means you keep 100% of the sale! With direct ad sales, you have more control over the advertisers featured alongside your work. The main drawback here is the work involved in direct sales. You (or someone you hire) will need to prospect advertisers, do outreach, submit proposals, and then fulfill the advertising orders.
Our advertising guide includes a list of ad networks and a process to follow for direct ad sales.
Brands and businesses are eager to work with influencers and content creators for their content marketing campaigns. You have a relationship with your fans and followers that makes a sponsored content attractive to them. You've undoubtedly come across posts with the #ad tag on Instagram or listened to a podcast that is "sponsored by [insert brand name]." Influencer marketing is growing, and you have the opportunity to take advantage of it!
You can create campaigns for sponsors in endless ways combining exposure on your website, social media channels, newsletter, podcast, and more. You don't have to have the largest audience or work with the most prominent brands to do so. Sometimes we think that we have to wait until we garner the attention of "FabFitFun" and other big names to launch sponsorships. That's simply not true. Plenty of smaller brands are eager to get in front of an audience that fits their product. You have an opportunity to provide that for them.
Our complete guide will walk you through all of the steps to implement a successful sponsorship monetization strategy.
Exclusive Content, Subscriptions, Membership Programs
Creators can offer their most loyal fans and followers exclusive content and experiences with memberships and subscriptions. In this model, creators develop a suite of benefits for those who subscribe. Subscribers may receive exclusive video content, podcast episodes, newsletter issues, or blog posts. They could also get access to an online community hosted by you or invites to online (or in-person) events.
You can develop your membership or subscriber program however you like. Consider what your most loyal fans want from you and design the membership around that.
Read the complete guide to get a step-by-step plan to implement a membership or subscriber program.
Courses and Info Products
Another way to make money as an online content creator is to package up and sell your knowledge and expertise. You can do this by developing an online course or information product.
With an online course, you create learning modules to help students master a specific topic or skill. Usually, completion of the first module is required learning to take on the next module, and so on. Courses can be sold as a one-time purchase or as a subscription with a specific duration.
Info products are typically sold as a "one-time purchase." People pay and get access to a PDF, video, audio file, article, report, guide, or other digital content (or combination of digital products.)
In our Courses and Info Products guide, you'll find examples of this strategy, a step-by-step guide to implementing these monetization methods. We've also included a list of online learning platforms and various options for selling and delivering info products.
Supporter and Fan Contributions
Sometimes fan and supporter contributions look similar to a membership or subscription program where premium content is part of the benefits. Other times, fans make a one-time contribution with a "buy me a coffee" button, for example. The key difference here is the framing of the offer for those who pay for the program. Often in a supporter or fan contribution program, the person who pays desires to support the creator's work. In contrast, memberships and subscriptions are more benefit-driven.
These two strategies overlap but often differ in how you market them to your audience.
For a more detailed distinction and plan for supporter and fan contributions, read the in-depth guide.
Merch and Physical Products
Many fans are eager to support their favorite content creators and publicly display that support by wearing their merch! You can add your logo, tagline, art, or famous sayings to t-shirts, bags, hats, home accessories, and more. There are various platforms to help you do this, some with drop shipping, so you don't even need to order a large inventory quantity.
Some creators even launch their own product lines. Coffee brands, makeup, home goods, apparel, and more have been born from influencers who got their start posting to Instagram, streaming on Twitch, or vlogging on their YouTube Channel.
Others sell other brand's products through their own online shops.
As a creator, you have a unique opportunity to connect with your fans over products you both love. You want to be sure you only put your name behind quality products that you are proud to endorse to maintain your audience's trust. Selling merchandise can be a productive revenue stream.
Visit the full guide to get all the details on how to make money with merch sales.
Creator Revenue Programs
After building a substantial and active following, you have the opportunity to generate income directly from the social media platforms where you share your content. Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, and YouTube all offer direct earnings for eligible creators. Your income is tied to the number of views and the duration people spend engaging with each piece of content. Typically, significant revenue requires accumulating millions of views. Experienced creators with an understanding of what captivates their target audience and encourages interaction stand the best chance of earning substantial income through this option.
Affiliate marketing is another popular option for making money as a content creator. With affiliate marketing, you promote other brand's products and earn a commission on the sales. Content creators can participate in several affiliate programs. You can sign up for an affiliate network and find brands and products that fit within your niche. Many brands operate their affiliate programs in-house. You can apply directly with the brand to become an affiliate partner. In both cases, you are given a specific affiliate link that tracks clicks from your website (or anywhere else you've promoted the link) and sales generated from those clicks. Each month, you receive payment for your revenue share.
Affiliate marketing is very popular in the blogging industry. It is growing with influencers and creators who create all different forms of content.
Read the complete guide for detailed information on the affiliate marketing strategy.
Often, content creators don't think of services as an option for monetization. But, services can be a great way to generate an income while you're working to grow your audience so you can eventually be a full-time content creator. The services that you offer will depend on your niche, your skills, and your expertise. Many creators offer writing, copy editing, video editing and production, photography, podcast production, graphic design, social media management, content production for other businesses, coaching, consulting, and more.
While the other strategies listed above require that you've cultivated an audience first, services allow you to connect with fewer prospects. You can offer higher-ticket service packages to just a few clients to make up decent monthly revenue.
Some of the best content creators also operate service-based businesses. So, services may be a part of your long-term strategy, or perhaps it's a temporary revenue stream while you grow your audience and other opportunities.
Read the guide to learn how to implement a services strategy.
Content creators dream of the day when they can generate passive income to work on their passion projects. While this dream is achievable for some, for most, it takes a lot of hard work, resilience, and time. What works for a while may change due to factors that are out of your control (evolving social media algorithms, for example). So, it's a good idea to use a combination of strategies to diversify your risk and rewards. Still, with a bit of patience and the willingness to test and refine, many creators can produce a stable income for themselves over time.