Media and attention tend to flow to extremes—overnight millionaires or the archetype of the starving artist.
Just because the creator economy middle class doesn’t get all the glory doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. And it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t strive for it.
If you want to turn your creator business into a multi-million dollar enterprise, we’ll be there to cheer you on. You don’t have to earn flashy amounts of money to be a success story, though! Nearly a quarter of all creators fall into the ‘middle class’ earning bracket, and we want to see more people rise to those ranks.
Whether creating is a hobby, part-time business, or your full-time gig, this guide outlines how to join the everyday creators who earn enough to support themselves and their families.
What is the creator economy middle class?
The term ‘liveable wage’ can vary greatly depending on your situation and location. For simplicity’s sake, though, we classify the creator middle class as the group of individuals with annual revenue between $50,000-$150,000. While these aren’t movie star income levels, they can be life-changing for creators who want to take control of their finances and work.
58% of full-time creators made at least $25,000 in 2021, and 22% fell into the ‘middle class’ category with earnings between $50,000-$150,000. We’re looking forward to that last number going up since Stripe reported that the number of creators earning a living wage increased 41% year over year.
The myth of overnight success.
Do you have a creator you look up to? Do you know how long they’ve been practicing their craft? Our 2022 State of the Creator Economy report revealed the myth of overnight success.
Instant success stories are interesting, but they aren’t representative. 67% of full-time creators started more than three years ago, and just over a quarter began growing an audience a decade or more ago. Being a creator takes patience, but it’s worth it.
Follow these steps to join the creator middle class
You don’t need to make tens of thousands of dollars a month to be a successful creator. Instead, you need to take calculated steps to bring value to your audience to grow your revenue. Every creator has a unique story, but these are the milestones on the journey to the creator middle class.
1 – Set goals for you
You don’t need to chase someone else’s dream.
We’re all individuals, and you shouldn’t use someone else’s income to guide your work. Look at your circumstances to decide how much you want to grow your income. Then, you can work backward to determine how large of an audience and what income streams you’ll need to hit that goal.
Goals are personal, and you owe it to yourself to work towards a milestone that resonates.
2 – Break up from the algorithm
Social media is a powerful tool for creators, but it isn't always a reliable way to get your content in front of your audience. We aren’t telling you to leave social media (though some creators are cutting back), but we suggest growing your email list.
An email newsletter gives you a way to consistently communicate with your audience without trying to please the mysterious social media algorithms. An email list also ensures you can take your audience wherever you go. For example, if you’re an Etsy seller without an email list, you’ll lose contact with past buyers if you decide to walk away from the platform.
On top of being reliable, email marketing also fosters deeper audience connections. Charli Prangley, a successful YouTuber and ConvertKit’s Creative Director, shared her experience with email subscribers:
The replies I get to email newsletters are very different to the replies you see on Twitter, Instagram, or YouTube. I feel like people are more honest and they share more of themselves. Maybe it's the longer form that they have more space to tell a bit of their story or maybe it's just because it feels more private and personal.
That's how I judge the success of a newsletter really – not by its open rate or clicks or things like that. It's like, “Okay, did something I say prompt someone to hit reply?” Even if it's nothing more than like, “I really enjoyed this.” It takes effort to reply to a newsletter more than giving a like on Instagram. So if someone wanted to do that, that means that it struck the right note. Keeps me going.
I also learn about what my audience is struggling with as well, which helps me think about what content to make in the future.
– Charli Prangley
On the whole, professional creators rank email as more important for their business than social media. More and more creators are also getting on board, with the number of creators using ConvertKit to send emails and sell digital products more than doubling from 2020 to 2021.
Setting up a newsletter is also one of the most common things creators want to create in 2022. If that’s you, check out our guide to creating a newsletter.
3 – Grow your list with lead magnets and landing pages
Once you have an email list, you’ll want to grow it. Lead magnets are free pieces of content you offer subscribers in exchange for joining your email list, and landing pages are the place people sign up for them.
For example, Brandice Daniel, the founder of Harlem’s Fashion Row, uses a lead magnet to start new audience members on their creative journey. Her free Dream Session exercise introduces the concepts and ideas leading to her Cliff Jump course.
The best thing about lead magnets is that you create them once, and they deliver value over and over. New subscribers get access to valuable content, and you grow your audience. It’s a win-win. If you want to learn more about creating successful landing pages, check out our guide here.
4 – Personalize content to build the relationship
The real fun begins after someone joins your email list. You get to experiment with audience segmentation to group people with similar interests and goals and personalize emails to make them feel custom. The right email tools empower you to deliver relevant content to subscribers that boost engagement and loyalty.
I love tagging people who click a link. If I launch something and they want to learn more about this product or this online course, it can tell me who's actually interested.
– Aileen Xu
The benefits of a strategy like this are twofold. Your audience only receives content they’re interested in, encouraging them to stay on your email list and open each new message. At the same time, you can increase sales by putting the right product in front of each audience segment.
Accelerate growth with the creator flywheel.
You know the old ‘an object in motion stays in motion’ phrase? That applies to your creator business, too. While getting your business up and running can be tough, consistency builds on itself to grow your audience. A marketing flywheel nurtures relationships with people who want to do business with you by repeatedly delighting and engaging with them, so they come back to you constantly.
5 – Sell assets to make passive income
When it comes to ways creators can make money, the sky's the limit. Full-time creators have an average of 2.7 income streams, which is more than part-timers or hobbyists. Product diversification helps creators expand and steady their income since they don’t rely on a single way to earn money. The top ways the creator middle class earns revenue include:
- Digital products
- Affiliate marketing
- Physical products
Since there are many options, you can customize your income streams to fit your audience and business. The two creator revenue breakdowns below illustrate how creators offer varying services and products. Being a creator is the ultimate choose-your-own-adventure business.
Our guide to selling online has a vital tip: know your audience. Surveying your audience can reveal lucrative product ideas you’ve never thought of. Just remember that you don’t need to create multiple income streams today; slow and steady wins the race.
Step right up for digital product inspiration!
6 – Scale growth with automations
Do you want to see a magic trick? Try email automations. Rather than manually sending content and promotions, you can set up an email automation one time and let it automatically send email sequences for you.
One way you can use automations to sell more are ‘abandoned cart’ sequences. If someone receives a product pitch or checks out a sales page but doesn’t make a purchase, your email automation can follow up in a few days to remind them of the offer.
Since automations act like digital virtual assistants, you can deepen subscriber relationships and sell more without recurring effort. Bonus: you can create your next masterpiece with all the time you’ll save on email marketing.
Skip to the good part with ConvertKit’s Visual Automations Template Library.
We have a library with 19 email automation templates you can start using in a few clicks. Pick one you want to use, add it to your account, and write the emails. Voila!
Grow your creator business with ConvertKit
The creator economy is growing, and there’s room for you. Making a living online isn’t just for the overnight sensations or massive influencers. It’s for parents who want to make money and spend time with their family. For the retirees who wish to follow their passion. For the side hustlers with a dream. It’s for you.
Ready to join the creator economy middle class? ConvertKit is a creator platform with the tools you need to grow an audience, connect with fans, and earn a living online. Learn how ConvertKit can help here.