The building blocks of professional creators

Business Models Take Yourself Pro
11 min read
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Ready to become a professional creator?

You’ve put the time into creating content that makes people value your brand and building an audience (even if it’s only a few hundred people!).

Now, it’s time to turn your side hustle or hobbyist creating into a full-time, profitable business.

If you have any doubts about becoming a professional creator, it might soothe your nerves to know that nearly half of the creators surveyed in our State of the Creator Economy Report are full-time, and 24% of those creators became creators during the pandemic. These creators have recently turned their passion into a full-time job, and we’re going to show you how they did it.

But first, let’s make something clear.

Who can become a professional creator?

Think again if you imagine you’ll need a few thousand more followers to become a full-time creator. Professional creators are people with millions of followers… but they’re also creators with a few hundred dedicated fans.

There isn’t a set amount of followers, likes, or views you need to take your creator brand seriously. You can become a professional creator with the audience you have now, regardless of how big or small it is.

Don’t believe us? Here’s the proof:

  • Corey Haines made $7,000 during a course launch to an email list with 300 subscribers
  • Samar Owais earned $15,000 from a course with a few hundred subscribers
  • Erin Flynn turned a waitlist of 40 people into $10,000 in revenue

These creators have leveraged their content and audience to build businesses that turned their passion into a full-time gig! They learned the foundations that every professional creator builds their creator brand on.

Keep reading to learn exactly what they are.

The building blocks of professional creators

When it comes to becoming a professional creator, there’s a roadmap you can use to avoid mistakes and reach your goals faster. Thanks to all the creators who have built successful brands before you, you can see exactly what you’ll need to build a successful creator brand that turns your hobby or side hustle into your full-time income.

Becoming a professional creator doesn’t involve luck. Instead, it involves knowing these four building blocks of a successful creator business.

#1: Professional creators structure their business strategically

When you were first creating content online, your strategy was probably to create more of whatever worked. If a Reel landed a few thousand views, you created another just like it to help grow your audience. You followed the path as it was being built. But, you didn’t sit down at a whiteboard to strategize how your brand could make you a full-time income. That was a great strategy to start with, but now it’s time to level up.

Professional creators strategize their business to be in control of where they’re heading. They realize that their creator brand is a real business. So what does every successful business have? A plan.

Travel blogger Gabby Beckford realized she needed a better business plan when algorithm changes decreased her reach.

gabby beckfordThe Instagram algorithm will change daily. TikTok came out of the blue, and suddenly you’ve got to learn that. Social media is so variable. It's hard to rely on it as a source of income. Once I started doing my weekly newsletter, I saw consistent traffic to my blog. That's when people began to respond to my emails, being like, ‘This is amazing.’

As a creator, your simplified business plan looks like this:

Create content → Make sales

Of course, a lot goes between those two steps. Like Gabby realized, if she wanted to make sales, she needed a platform for her audience that wasn’t constantly changing. So she strategized email content that gave her the consistent blog traffic she needed to feel confident in her brand. (Email is the most important channel amongst creators!).

Creators use ConvertKit to house their audience in a safe place where algorithms can’t randomly decrease their reach. By growing their email audience, creators build businesses that last long-term. They can also set up visual automations that help them grow their audience and make money while they sleep.

ConvertKit has visual automations, high-converting landing page templates, and commerce features to help professional creators.

Professional creators know that to create content that makes sales, this is an essential part of their business to control.

#2: Professional creators make multiple types of content

There are a lot of ways to scale as a creator. The top-performing creators making over $150,000 in revenue surveyed in our State of the Creator Economy report grow their audience through word of mouth (40%), search engine optimization (SEO) (30%), and YouTube (23%).

Professional creators consistently put out an average of 4.4 content types. This doesn’t mean they’re constantly creating new content for each platform. Professional creators know the importance of posting their content on multiple platforms to grow their audience and distribute their creations.

Out of all the possible types of content, we found that creators most commonly create:

  • Social media posts – 66%
  • Emails/newsletters – 59%
  • Articles – 55%
  • Short-form videos – 49%
  • Digital products – 32%

By posting several types of content, creators can grow their audience larger than if they stuck to one type of content (for example, Instagram posts). Professional creators strategically create content on several platforms to get the most bang for their hard work.

The best creators are always looking for minor tweaks they can make in their content to help them grow. Lena Sesardic, speaker and freelance writer, grew her LinkedIn following from 3k to 4k just by playing around with her headline.

Lena SesardicI experiment with my LinkedIn headline regularly to see what drives the most followers. I recently put “sharing (very) transparent thoughts re: PM, career growth & personal branding” in my LinkedIn headline, which took me from 3,000 to 4,000 followers in a month. I also create content about product management on LinkedIn, focusing on a crisp and transparent writing style to entice B2B brands in Tech to hire me to write paid guest posts for their blog.

To get more eyes on their content, 34% of creators use paid ads to help with distribution. In 2022, creators are planning to increase their spending on ads, with 11% of professionals planning on spending more than $2000 a month on paid ads (only 7% said they’d spend that much on paid ads in 2021!).

Professional creators are always looking for ways to turn one piece of long-form content into more content for other social media channels—increasing their reach, engagement, and following.

#3: Professional creators strategize lead generation

Creators have to run their businesses just like any other entrepreneur. You always want to look for ways to increase your following. More eyes on your brand mean more leads for your products or services. But, the key is making sure you’re getting the right type of attention. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a large audience that isn’t interested in what you’re selling.

Precious Oboidhe, Digital Marketer and Content Creator, approaches lead generation strategically.

Precious OboidheI use a simple approach I call the ST3E framework to attract more followers and clients.

S– Show results
T– Teach my audience how they should handle a challenge using a step by step breakdown
E– Educate my audience on a piece of new information that helps them
E– Empower my audience by creating content that agrees with their thoughts on an issue
E– Entertain my audience with memes or info they already know but will certainly crack their ribs.

Professional creators also lean on other creators, businesses, media, and their followers’ audiences to help with lead generation.

They know a huge part of lead generation is what they do after somebody decides they want to know more about their brand. Professional creators use email marketing to keep nurturing relationships with their audience. The end goal? Turn that lead into a customer! To nurture their followers, creators send newsletters and updates. They also build automated funnels that help their audience learn more about them and their products.

ConvertKit emails are designed to be simple to make and beautiful to send with easy email templates and a clutter-free writing experience.

Lead generation comes from your content—and it also comes from other channels that expose your brand to the right people.

#4: Professional creators have a product funnel

Your business plan for Creating Content → Making Sales requires knowing the product options you’re offering your fans. Professional creators have product funnels that turn their audience into subscribers and customers. As the Publish Press explains, “When you find the opportunities in your business for monetization—whether that be brand deals, sponsorships, etc.— you can communicate to the industry what you do, what brands can buy, and define the product that you offer.”

Your product funnel can point to more than one offer, which is often the case. Professional creators average 2.7 income streams that range from physical to digital products. They don’t put all of their eggs in one basket and hope everything works out. They strategize how to build out various income streams that turn into full-time income.

Here’s an idea of what those streams look like:

Depending on your audience’s interests, you can choose the best options. This is your creator business. Build it around your passions.

For example, YouTuber Emma Chamberlain started her coffee brand after raving about her passion for the beverage. For other creators, software as a service aligns better with their brand and interests. Gamer Ludwig Ahgren created a browser extension.

The most accessible revenue stream for creators is ad revenue, either from sponsors or affiliate marketing. This revenue stream doesn’t require building anything on your own—all you need is to continue to create the content you’re already making. But adding sponsors to the mix. Creators like Kat Wellington and Emily Proctor built out a new channel through their podcast. A new channel diversifies how many people they can reach and how much they can charge sponsors. It also helps when creators are ready to sell their products.

The professional creators earning the most revenue in 2021 sold education-related products. The second top-performing creators were coaches (29% of creators surveyed identified as coaches!). Coaches can offer service-based products (like one month of coaching). Or, take Blogging for Devs approach and sell paid content and newsletters that lead to monthly recurring revenue.

ConvertKit makes it easy for creators to sell digital products or services. Professional creators can earn a living online without needing to sit at their computers all day. Creators sell ebooks, paid newsletters, music, presets, coaching, and more through ConvertKit Commerce.

ConvertKit Commerce makes it easy for creators to monetize.

An essential building block of every creator brand is a strategy around monetization.

The professional creator roadmap starts here

Getting the foundations right is everything before growing a business. Without a solid base, creators will struggle to transition to pros. Luckily, ConvertKit has all the tools and resources you need to create the building blocks of a successful business.

From landing pages, funnels, and commerce, you can take your creator brand pro, too. All you need is to add the same building blocks professional creators use to build sustainable, predictable businesses. Better yet, you can do it while housing your audience on a platform where you won’t have to worry about your reach changing with the algorithms.

Get your free trial of ConvertKit here as you take action towards becoming a professional creator.

Take the next step on your creator journey

Enter your email to get the free I Am A Creator printable pack, featuring inspiring digital wallpapers for your desktop and phone and a printable journal sheet to help you get started or unstuck on your creative dreams. Your story could be next. And it’s what you do next that makes all the difference.

Eva Gutierrez

Eva Gutierrez is a freelance content writer specializing in writing for companies with marketing-related products, like education platforms and SaaS. She writes articles and newsletters that build and nurture relationships with her clients' leads while showcasing their expertise and leadership in their industry. You can find her tweeting about writing tips, marketing strategies, and the psychology behind buying at @TheEvaGutierrez.

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