What’s it like to be a full-time creator? Here are 9 facts about the pros

Business Models Take Yourself Pro
12 min read
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Being a creator can be an isolating experience.

Your friends and family might not understand the ins and outs of your business, and you often work alone. When you’re on an island of your creation, it’s easy to forget that thousands of people just like you are working day in and day out on their dreams.

Connecting with a creator community is a powerful way to get new ideas, try new processes, and create friendships. Seeing how other business owners structure their time and work is also helpful for comparing your workflow.

That’s why we’ve rounded up nine facts from our 2022 State of the Creator Economy report that give you a glimpse into the world of full-time creators.

What is the State of the Creator Economy report?

We surveyed over 2,700 people from all walks of life about their experiences as creators. The group has over 11,000 years of combined audience-building experience and generated over $66 million in 2021 earnings.

See everything we learned about being a creator here.

9 facts about full-time creators

If you’re a new creator who is curious about what it’s like to go pro, or a full-time creator who wants to know they’re not alone, we have some stats for you. Here’s what we learned about how full-time creators run their businesses.

1 – Most full-time creators have been building their audience for at least three years

More often than not, slow and steady wins the race in creator businesses. 67% of full-time creators started growing their audience more than three years ago, with some investing a decade or more on their business so far.

Maurizio Leo, the creator behind The Perfect Loaf, is in this camp. He started his blog nearly a decade ago, and his consistent hard work has paid off to the tune of 81,000+ email subscribers and an upcoming cookbook.

Maurizio will share new recipes in his upcoming book. Image via Maurizio Leo.

Some creators leap to full-time soon after starting their audience, like the approximately 10% of full-time creators who started less than a year ago. If you want to follow this path, you can find inspiration from the team behind Real Food Dietitians, who used strategic decisions to turn a profit quickly:

We started writing a food blog, and it just sort of snowballed. 11 months later, we started making a profit on our food blog alone, and we were able to pay ourselves our first paycheck of $126.

We started our email list from the beginning, with our first 20 people, and started sending out an email every single week. Even if we felt like we had nothing to say.

– Jessica Beacom

As inspiring as it is to look at creator stories, remember that your journey and timing are your own. Rather than chasing someone else’s dream, write your definition of success with relevant goals.

2 – The highest-earning creators use scalable audience growth strategies

Full-time creators use an average of 3.4 channels for audience engagement. Not all creators rely on the same channels, though.

Instagram is a tried and true engagement channel that’s the go-to way that audiences find creators. Using social media for promotion can be tricky since algorithms are always changing, and there’s pressure to publish constantly. (This pressure contributed to creator burnout, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves).

We noticed that as creator income increased, strategies changed.

Rather than putting more hands-on time into posting on Instagram, top earners use scalable growth channels. Full-time creators who earn more than $150,000 a year use channels with an exponential impact—word of mouth and SEO.

You don’t just hope for organic growth; you create it. Jay Clouse, the creator of the Creative Elements podcast, uses a strategic call to action to encourage word-of-mouth marketing from his podcast listeners. He asks listeners to take to social media to share their top takeaways and ask follow-up questions.

jay clouseThis gives people the option to share what they learned with other people, create more buzz, and then I can retweet or share it to show my appreciation that they’re talking about the show.

– Jay Clouse

What type of creator are you?

Different creators—like bloggers, writers, and coaches—prefer different social media platforms.

You can learn how different types of creators promote their work here.

3 – Email is more important to a full-time creative business than social media

Another essential channel for full-time creators is email. Full-time creators ranked email’s importance to their business as 8.3/10, which beat social media. They also consider email subscribers a higher priority metric than social media followers.

Similar to creating word-of-mouth buzz, it pays to have a strategy. 66% of professionals with an email list send messages on a schedule, and weekly is the most popular cadence. Marissa Lovell, the founder of the From Boise newsletter, sticks to biweekly sending no matter what.

Marissa LovellI pretty much work on it every day. The Thursday editions have a LOT of stuff in them, so I’m sourcing stuff all the time. I have other writers writing for me, so I’m editing their stuff and trying to find photos. Maybe I care a little TOO much about it, but I spend a lot of time on photos. They look good there!

– Marissa Lovell

Curious how your email marketing performance compares to your peers?

Here are a few professional creator email stats:

  • The average open rate is over 40%
  • A third of full-timers achieve a click rate between 2%-5%

You can read more about email marketing benchmarks here.

Own the relationship with your audience

ConvertKit helps you build a relationship with your followers and own that connection you make with them through your email list.

Start a free 14-day ConvertKit trial

4 – Revenue is (understandably) top of mind for full-time creators

Taking full accountability of your income into your own hands as a full-time creator is equally thrilling and terrifying. Khe Hy, the founder of Rad Reads, set aside two years of full-time income before leaving his Wall Street job to pursue his blog. Even with the safety net in place, there was an emotional burden to growing a business after the initial burst of confidence.

khe hyThat is an important fact that I think gets swept under the rug often when creators talk. I had a financial runway. But no matter how much money you have, when your bank account goes down constantly for months, years…no one's emotionally ready for that.

– Khe Hy

Since full-time creators often use their business as their primary source of income, it makes sense that finances are top of mind for them. 60% rank revenue as their top success metric, and growing their income is the number one goal.

5 – Full-time creators have a wide range of content and offers

Professional creators put out an average of 4.4 different types of content, with top formats including social posts, email, blog posts, and short-form videos. Oh, and all that content doesn’t even include their money-making ventures, with full-time creators having an average of 2.7 income streams. Services and digital products are nearly tied for the most popular money-makers, while affiliate marketing and physical products round out the top four.

Altogether, full-time creators juggle more than seven types of content and income streams at once.

Curious to see what all of this work likes in action? Here are just a few creators and what they create:

  • Dr. Shanté Cofield, the founder of The Movement Maestro, works on social media posts, coaching services, group programs, a paid community, digital resources, webinars, a podcast, merch, and an email list.
  • Chris Legaspi, the artist and coach behind Draw With Chris, has digital resources, blogs, courses, mentorships, a newsletter, a YouTube channel, and social media accounts.
  • Chris Howes, a musician and coach, creates content for his membership, offers coaching and consultation, and has a newsletter, courses, YouTube videos, digital resources, and a podcast.

6 – Most full-time creators work alone

Remember at the beginning when we mentioned that being a creator can be an isolating experience? Our survey data supports that. Most creators work alone.

In 2021, 79% of creators didn’t have a full-time employee, 69% didn’t have a part-time employee, and 45% didn’t work with contractors. While there are creators with budding teams (and nearly half plan to bring on some help this year), it’s common for creators to manage everything themselves.

If you are thinking of hiring your first employee this year, Sean McCabe, author of Overlap, has some advice:

It bears repeating: every single thing you do needs to have a written, step-by-step procedure that anyone can follow. The level of specificity you need in your processes should be such that any random person could follow the instructions and produce the desired result without any additional input.

– Sean McCabe

7 – Full-time creators usually don’t spend more than $500 a month on their tech stack

A powerful professional creator tech stack is essential for managing a full-time creator business (especially when it’s a party of one!). However, it’s worth noting that many creators get a lot done without a lot of overhead expenses.

39% of full-time creators spend between $101-$500 a month on their tech stack, which was the most popular response in our creator survey. An additional 33% spend under $100.

Monica Lent, the founder of Blogging for Devs, publishes a monthly revenue report for her various projects. Some of the tool expenses she racked up in October 2021 include:

  • $29 for community hosting
  • $216 for ConvertKit
  • $50 for Zoom
  • $155 for Ahrefs

Of course, creator expenses can vary a lot. 9% of the top-earning creators spend more than $5,000 a month on their tech stack.

Don’t freak out, but you need to do some accounting.

Managing business finances can be overwhelming when you’re unfamiliar with them. But, it’s pretty important. Megan Santos of FreshBooks shares tips for creator business accounting in this guide to demystify the process.

8 – Full-time creators want to work less this year

We’ve seen that professional creators get a lot done, but how much time are they investing in their business? A little too much, according to them.

When we asked full-time creators how many hours they worked on their business each week in 2021, more than 40 hours was the most popular choice, with nearly a third of the votes. Yet when we asked how many hours they plan to work in 2022, 30-40 hours took the top spot.

That may not be a drastic reduction in hours, but it does seem to point to creators wanting to cut back on their work time a bit this year.

Ashley Goode, Owner of Goode Marketing & Media Group, sets up her work to reduce any feelings of being rushed or overwhelmed. She shared,

ashley goodeAs a full-time creative and content creator running a marketing agency, I work about 20-25 hours a week. Sometimes depending on my client workload, it can also be as small as 10 hours a week (which is ideal for me). I structure my time by setting weekly goals and daily tasks based on priority. It ensures I give myself enough time to complete projects within a flow that feels comfortable for me and ensures they are completed by their deadlines.

– Ashley Goode

9 – Burnout is the hardest part of being a full-time creator

If seeing all of these facts stacked together makes you feel like full-time creators have a lot on their plate, it’s because they do. While being a creator is rewarding, it isn't without challenges. In 2021, dealing with creator burnout was the toughest part of being a creator for 32% of full-timers.

Spencer Carli, the founder of React Native School, shared,

Spencer CarliI started as a full-time creator in January 2017 and recognized that I was burnt out in September 2021. It was a combination of a few things (COVID catching up to me, overcommitment between business, consulting, and other projects).

Those were secondary to the big one, though: I had been doing the same thing in the same way for over four years. I found a formula that worked well but stopped being interesting to me. I stopped having fun in my business and was just showing up every day, hoping that the boss (me) would just tell me what to do. But the boss didn't want to be there either!

– Spencer Carli

Spencer’s experience echoes that of many others. Of the creators who experienced burnout, the most common effects were less creation and stunted creativity. If you’re feeling burnt out, know that you can work your way back to a better place. Professional creators shared that they’re working to combat burnout by getting outside, managing stress with movement, self-reflection, dedicated breaks, and more time with family.

ConvertKit is a tool for creators, by creators

ConvertKit is more than email marketing—it’s a place for creators to manage every aspect of their business. Promote your work and grow your audience through landing pages and forms on your website. Connect with your subscribers like never before with automations and email personalization. And earn a living online with Commerce tools and integrations.

All the while, you can discuss and learn in the ConvertKit creator community and be inspired by real creator stories.

Learn more about how ConvertKit can help you grow your business here.

Own the relationship with your audience

ConvertKit helps you build a relationship with your followers and own that connection you make with them through your email list.

Start a free 14-day ConvertKit trial

Steph Knapp

Steph Knapp is a freelance B2B + SaaS content marketer that loves educating and empowering curious humans. When she's not typing away, you'll find her volunteering at the animal shelter and obsessing over a new hobby every week. She shares marketing, freelance, and cat content on Twitter @ hellostephknapp.

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