6 ways for creators to monetize their content in 2021 (and beyond)

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The creator economy is booming.

More people indicate they want to be creators these days than ever before. As of 2021, there are around 50 million people working in a creator capacity—as musicians, artists, freelancers, podcasters, photographers, chefs, athletes… the list goes on and on. In fact, more young people want to be YouTubers than astronauts!

It’s profitable, too: The creator economy is estimated to drive $104.2 billion in revenue this year.

The only problem: Many creators struggle to know where to start. The creator economy might be worth billions, but data shows the average creator brings in just $12,000 per year—great for a side hustle, but not so much for a full-time gig.

So how is a creator supposed to do what they love and get paid? How can creators get in on the billions of dollars being made every year and transition from a side hustle to a full-time creator career?

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ConvertKit Commerce makes it easy for creators to get paid for their work and earn a living online without needing a complicated ecommerce website.

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It’s all about using multiple streams of income and diversifying your approach to monetizing content. That means getting users to pay for access to your content (think eBooks, affiliate marketing, digital products, and more).

Here are six of the most effective ways for creators to monetize their content in 2021.

how to monetize content

#1: Direct donations

Facebook. Instagram. Twitter. YouTube.

These four key sites are behind many creators' success. But how exactly do you go about turning that loyal fanbase into a healthy bank balance?

Every site has different thresholds for ad monetization:

  • Facebook requires 10,000 fans.
  • Instagram varies, but one study suggests that creators need at least 5,000 followers to earn around $350 per post.
  • YouTube requires 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 hours of watch time over the past year before you can start bringing in the bucks.

But ads aren’t the be-all-end-all of making money on social media.

Another route you might not have considered is accepting direct donations from your fans. It’s one of the biggest and newest streams of revenue for creators, and a great way to diversify your earnings.

There are lots of smaller platforms offering similar services (Patreon, Buy Me A Coffee, etc.)

Instagram’s Badges

Instagram introduced badges as a way for fans to support creators during live streams. They come in three different tiers and price points:

  • One heart – $0.99
  • Two hearts – $1.99
  • Three hearts – $4.99

Fans are limited to a $250 spend per live video. Using these hearts means their comments are highlighted. You can read them live, which builds a sense of connection between a creator and his or her audience.

how to monetize content
Instagram’s badges are a great way to connect with fans and generate revenue. Image via Instagram.

Instagram badges are a pretty square deal for creators, as beyond taxes, Instagram doesn’t charge a fee. It’s Apple and Google who’ll enjoy a 30% cut, as specified by their in-app purchase rules.

Facebook’s Stars

How do content creators make money on Facebook? Their Star system works similarly to Instagram’s: A single star costs one cent, and viewers can award them during live streams to show their support for creators.

how to monetize content
Paid live streaming on Facebook is done through the star system. Image via Facebook.

To make the most of this, schedule your live streams in advance and be sure to remind viewers to keep the stars coming your way. Facebook takes its cut from the viewers when they purchase stars, not the creators, making it another creator-friendly revenue option.

Keep in mind, however, that at $0.01 per star, you’ll need a lot of fans and a lot of stars to make good money with this tool.

YouTube’s Super Chats

YouTube is another way you can monetize your content.

Their direct donation program is called Super Chats. Viewers can donate anything from $1 to $500 during a live stream.

The only downside: YouTube takes a pretty steep cut (30%).

how to monetize content
ConvertKit star Serein Wu monetized her content by connecting with her audience on Youtube. Image via Serein Wu/Youtube.

One social media creator finding success on Youtube is Serein Wu, who makes a living creating videos with tips on health and beauty. She believes that success on YouTube is all about building a real connection with your audience.

What better way to do that than with livestreams?

Tip Jars

Tip Jars are the latest trend to watch when it comes to direct donations. That way, you can receive tips or donations directly from your audience.

With a tip jar, you set the tip amounts you want to offer and you’re ready to go. It can be integrated into your email marketing campaigns, your website…you name it.

You can create a Tip Jar directly in ConvertKit to receive tips or donations from your superfans. Build and customize your Tip Jar to fit your brand just like other ConvertKit products with preset tip amounts to make supporting you and your work quick and easy.

ConvertKit Tip Jar
Example of a ConvertKit Tip Jar

And with ConvertKit's Tip Jar you don't have to worry about the 30-50% commission fees you lose with similar third-party platforms. That means the tips go right to you, the creator your community actually wants to support.

Other platforms like Twitter are planning to launch similar tip jar style tools as well. Twitter doesn’t receive any portion of the fees from their Tip Jar feature, but the third-party payment service you link it to may charge a hefty fee.

#2: Affiliate marketing

Another popular approach to monetizing your content is affiliate marketing. The affiliate marketing economy is due to reach $8.2 billion in 2022, up from $5.4 billion in 2017. Translation: there’s plenty to go around.

So how does it work? Creators get a unique link that tracks conversions and sales made, which lets their partners know how effective they are and what percentage to pay out.

April Lewis is a creator who focuses on teaching affiliate marketing (and gets paid from affiliate marketing herself). Using ConvertKit’s email tools, she grew her affiliate marketing income from $0 to $1,000 in just six months.

She believes her success came from looking at this work as a long-term game. “You have to build mutually satisfying relationships with your customers and your affiliates. Then your income will compound and grow over time, and you’ll get a reputation for selling,” she said.

how to monetize content
April Lewis used ConvertKit’s email management tools to boost her online income. Image via April Lewis.

Affiliate marketing is versatile, too: It can be deployed on your blog, on social media, in video links…lots of options here.

#3: Coaching and mentoring

Coaching means leveraging your authority and expertise to help your community and bring in money. If you’ve built up a fanbase and a name for yourself as a writer, musician, etc. you can likely turn your insights into cash.

Keep in mind, however, that this often requires a significant time investment. If you suddenly realize you’re spending half your days onboarding clients, running coaching sessions, and generally feeling too busy to enjoy the money you’re earning, you might want to consider automating your coaching business.

There are a number of ways to go about this:

One creator who leverages the automated approach to coaching is Topsie VandenBosch, a business mindset coach. She provides education and one-to-one training for thought leaders and business executives, and her entire vetting and onboarding system is systemized to save time and energy (which she can then invest into her one-to-one time with clients.)

how to monetize content
Topsie VandenBosch used ConvertKit to onboard clients and automate her coaching business. Image via Topsie VandenBosch.

#4: Paid communities

Another way to coach and mentor people is through paid communities, which allows you to grant your students paid access to you and your time and helps you build intimacy at scale.

According to creator Sid Yadav, requiring paid access increases the quality of engagement and participation when it comes to communities, as students have more investment in the space than if it were just a free, open community. Your paid community doesn’t have to be huge, either. Start small and work your way up, building on lessons learned as you grow.

Within your paid community, creators can:

  • Start discussions and respond to questions
  • Offer exclusive tips, lessons, or early access to your latest content
  • Member-only group calls once a month

Wherever your expertise lies, building an exclusive space for your following is a great option for creators looking to monetize their content.

#5: Digital products

Launching a digital product is just one more way you can win when it comes to content monetization.

Not only are online courses, ebooks, and other digital products a great way to scale earnings, but it’s also a more passive form of income. Record or create something once, and it’s done. No more trading your time for money.

Paige Bunton is a Squarespace site designer who earned $54,000 in a single month selling courses on her website. Not bad, huh? The e-learning market is huge: It surpassed $250 billion in 2020 and is on track to hit $1 trillion by 2027 (so there’s plenty of room for more creators.)

how to monetize content
Paige Bunton is a website designer who also sells courses on her blog. ConvertKit comes with a wealth of tools to simplify this process. Image via Paige Bunton.

Promoting these assets is easy with ConvertKit, as users have access to great landing page templates and email newsletter tools. ConvertKit Commerce also comes with access to Stripe payment, which makes it easy to accept payment via various debit and credit cards.

#6: Sponsorships and collaborations

Sponsorships and collaborations (see also: creator marketing) mean creators can get paid to keep doing what they’re doing, but with a boost from an advertising partner.

Matching is important when it comes to this avenue: Creators should ensure their values align with that of the brand in order to diversify their income. Anything out of the blue would just look disingenuous, and lower your authority among your most important asset: your audience.

Creator marketing is a market worth $13.8 billion in 2021, and those who are eager to get a slice of the action can go about this in a number of ways:

  • Sponsored emails
  • Sponsored posts on your blog
  • Sponsored videos or photos on social networking sites

Remember, though: you must label sponsored posts as such. No one likes being misled about an ad.

One creator who did this to great effect is Barron Cuadro, who runs a blog that provides fashion advice and tips. When he first started back in 2009, his revenue was mainly digital products. But now? Brand partnerships have surpassed it.

how to monetize content
Barron Cuadro’s blog post featuring fashion brand Mack Weldon. When done well, sponsored posts can be a great source of additional income. Image via EffortlessGent.

Working together with a brand can be a real win if you are both the right fit for each other. If you’re a creator looking to connect with brands and collaborate, platforms like Hashtagpaid offer services that connect you with brands to co-create content and help you make money on social media.

Monetize your content, become a full-time creator

There are a lot of ways to monetize content these days. If you’re not quite sure how to get started or it all seems a bit much, ConvertKit is here to help!

Make a living selling your work

ConvertKit Commerce makes it easy for creators to get paid for their work and earn a living online without needing a complicated ecommerce website.

Sell digital products with ConvertKit

Kaleigh Moore

Kaleigh Moore is a freelance writer who works closely with SaaS companies and marketing teams for content creation.

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