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  • The Creator Economy : Turning Passion into Profit and Impact

    21 min read

    The Creator Economy : Turning Passion into Profit and Impact

     

    “Never have independent entrepreneurs been as empowered to create and build a business as we are right now.”

     

    The global creator economy market size is projected to reach $299.69 billion by 2027, registering a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12.8% from 2020 to 2027, according to Fast Company. The total revenue generated by creators across platforms is expected to increase from $104.8 billion in 2021 to $173.2 billion in 2025.

    In this post I explore the value and opportunities that I feel are emerging in the creator economy for independent entrepreneurs, as well as how and why I am embracing this opportunity for myself, my partners, and clients.  The full post is below and also available to listen on my podcast.

     

      

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    Embrace the Creator Economy

     

    The creator economy, generally speaking, is roughly based around the leverage of independent entrepreneurship, social media, and digital products. It can expand a lot, I think, beyond that. But the way I look at it is, leveraging the creation of content, of building community, building networks, audiences, offering digital products, offering physical products. But what this is, is this whole ecosystem of access - and direct access.

     

    Once upon a time, things really had to go through more kind of formal groups or central hubs, where access was controlled by these types of channels. So if you think about traditional music distribution run by studios and labels, they would have their distribution channels and that was really how you could get into the music business by being picked up by a label. And being kind of knighted, so to speak, and supported to push your material out, and your content out. And those types of resources still exist, and they still hold value because of their breadth and access, right?

     

    If a studio or a label invests in you, the resources they have to support you, and to amplify your brand are still significant, so not to be discounted. However, what's changed in the last however many years, let's say, this is not meant to be like the, you know, the definitive guide to the greater economy, but let's just kind of generalize, we're kind of 15 years, maybe we're like 10 years in. The last say 10 or so have really amplified this movement, and it continues to evolve and grow - community building independently and access to audiences independently.


    These platforms provide a place to start where we can connect with each other, and communicate with each other socially online, more efficiently and effectively than in the past, like building your own audiences and followers and all this sort of stuff. And then it evolved as we had these different sorts of tools emerge and build on top of that. Like how deep you can get into it, and what types of insights and data are available. An then these platforms, opening up for advertising, all kinds of different stuff.


    Then these platforms continue to innovate. And they find from their data, which they're collecting to see what people are actually interested in the most ways to refine their tools and product offerings to increase engagement, because these platforms are all about engagement. They're about users and their activity, right?

     

    You grow a platform, a social platform and you measure it. How many users are using it? How active and engaged are they? I mean, this is the fundamental assessment in determining valuation for these companies, a number of which obviously are public. So when we're talking about growth, and shareholder growth, which is their mandate, these are the drivers, right?

     

    So they look at their data, and they're like, okay, well, what are people actually engaging with? And then they fine tune their offering, right? Lots of evolution, of course, like in Facebook, lots of evolution in Instagram, then you have kind of upstarts, which is maybe not like the perfect term to use, but you have like the platforms that come out of the woodwork, you know, to compete. So like TikTok, as an example, that also reveals, you know, new preferences, and forms of engagement and interaction socially, which then others explore and begin to adopt.

     

    And so this is still flowing. But then within this ecosystem, you get all these different tools, you know, mobile apps, and SaaS platforms, and all this stuff that then support this stuff. So when it started, it was like, post your photo on Instagram, right? And you know, that was the thing. And everybody would roll on that and lots of people would engage, but it's changed.

     

    It's become much more industrial, I'll say, over the years, I feel like it's quite a thing to be organized to generally compete in this space. But it really depends on what you're doing. It depends what your niche is. And the opportunity still exists, you know, because as you're listening to this, you'll recognize, probably within yourself, but in others, like, most people are on Instagram. Most people, you know, are now on Facebook. And they post things. And I feel there's a journey of posting on any social platform. Which kind of starts with like, here's what I ate today, you know, and like, here's me in the park, kind of a level, which I'm also a participant in.


    But then there's the potential of what you post, and it depends on your channel depends on the platform. But there's the potential of what you post to become also more of a business. And for you to monetize those posts, also to drive those posts towards you know, certain products and services.


    So to use them as marketing, marketing channels, and a whole bunch more. But as you get into this realm, and to this mindset of it with these things, you can deepen your activity, you can deepen the value you offer others from it. And you can grow a business, you can grow your existing business, you can start a new business, you could market all kinds of different products and services and similar.


    So it's really, really interesting. And as a creator, which I am, I mean, I, I qualify myself as a venture capitalist, an entrepreneur, right? And creative artist, I've explored the creative arts, I do build brands and design and build websites and all kinds of different stuff, products, all of these things, content, as well. So it's in my sandbox, as much as also playing in film and music and stuff, this is like an important world for me, because these types of activities, really fill my bucket. They feed my soul in that participating, creating, expressing in the world, like it opens you up, it feels great.


    And it's interesting, I also consume a lot of this content, because I'm an explorer of life in our universe, and the people in it. And I'm curious about new ideas and thoughts and patterns and people and trends and all these things, right? So, you know, we start from this level of like, here's, here's my dog, or here's my lunch, I just kind of had or whatever. But then how does that relate to, or how can we connect that to the world we're in, the work we're doing, we don't have to. But the creator economy is about exploring that potential, I feel, that exists. And it exists on an independent, like solo level. So like, if you want to, you can.


    And for me, that's what I'm doing. I'm open to working with with others, right? I'm open to working with studios, I'm open to working with agencies, with larger clients or smaller clients, granted, but just more kind of formal creator companies with more resources and influence. Sure, why not? If that's you, while you're listening to this, hit me up. Let's chat, I'm always game. But what I love is that I can create without needing that. You know, like, here's a great example, right? As I've explored, like the film business, the film business, those close to me know, I've talked a lot about it.


    I talk a lot about this industry, because nobody invited me into it per se. Nobody's like, "oh Chad, we can't wait to have you perform as an actor." Like nobody really invited me in that way. I worked on a few things, and I did this when I was younger, like early in my 20s.


    And then my life took me on another kind of trajectory that was meant to flow. And I continued to perform as I was living away for a while, and then got into the more corporate startup world. And it's just the path that was meant to be on.


    But my creative affinities still existed, right? My draw to various forms of the arts still existed. And I began to explore those. While I was looking for more balance in my own life from the corporate side, solely, which was, at least as we're participating was pretty industrious, industrial.


    And with that relatively rigid structure in it, where even within that, I was looking for the creative opportunities to participate. But I began to explore more of the creative side of things. And there was an opportunity where these things blended.


    And I began to work with a media company that was public. And so these worlds were like colliding for me, which was very exciting, and a great opportunity. And the background of the people were music, but also film.


    And so I assisted them as a strategic advisor to help like craft a business, you know, plan and model that also kind of met the hopes, wishes, dreams, expectations of kind of capital market stakeholders. So we could create some things, build some things and have positive impacts, right? And in that, that spark emerged again, about exploring this world in this industry closer. And I still enjoy it.


    I really enjoy the people in it. I enjoy other artists that are also expressive people and explorers of themselves in the universe equally. And explorers of the craft and of storytelling.


    It's a fascinating world. And there's really a lot to it. It's quite a deep well, and it does offer many gifts in the participation of it.


    But to bring this whole kind of preface around to what I was first referring to here is it as an example in its formal structure versus the creator economy. And the creator economy as I define it, some may come and suggest you can include some of these aspects. But if you participate in the film industry on its terms the way it's structured, then you have yourself. Let's say you're, you're an actor, right? As I've been, and have some experience with.


    So you're an actor. So then you get yourself an agent, that agent has special access to the opportunities looking for actors. They then request for you to go and create something that emulates their intention generally, or is inspired by their intentions of the breakdown of the project they share.


    And if they like you, they'll bring you in to talk to them. And if they like you after that, they'll bring you in to possibly talk to others that are part of the decision making process. And depending on the type of project, I mean, if it's commercial, maybe a self tape or a first audition, a callback with the production team, and then you could be booked.


    On the more film TV side, that could be three, four steps, possibly, unless it's maybe like a day player role, which is like a kind of a one liner. You know, barista number two type roles in the show, stuff like that, right? And then they'll cast maybe off of a callback. But the bigger roles have to go up the ladder for deeper approvals, right? To the decision makers in the organization and all that, which I appreciate, I mean, it's normal.

     

    Look, these people are custodians of large enterprises with significant resources and much to gain or lose by way of their investments, including their own careers, at the very least their jobs, maybe not their career, because these professionals are measured on the success or failure of the projects that they advance and or are a part of, right? And whether those are hits or not, if they fail to create work that generates revenue, but not just revenue that is generative, like profitable outcomes from these projects at scale, then people are going to ask questions about their position in these roles. And they're going to be shifted, removed, whatever. So in these organizations, it's the way it works, but there's a lot of pressure there. And they're doing the same thing an independent creator's doing generally, just with deeper data, more resources, and bigger bets, still trial and error for sure.


    But the cost of the errors are magnitudes greater than an individual. That said, the impacts are all relative, right, on the participant, because what it could feel like for larger organization, depending on the project, could have that same feel for the individual on your project also, whether you succeed or not. But in the creator economy, in comparison, I cast myself.


    I don't need to go through five steps of approvals, or even a couple steps of approvals. In the film side, if I submit for a project and nobody likes it I'm under a bunch of kind of general confidentiality provisions, just to participate in the submission for the project. And if they don't like it, nobody sees this work, it just disappears into the void.


    Lots of talk about all these self tapes, right? And I've spoken about them before, which are pros and cons, but a self tape, lots of talk that, there's so many self tapes going in for these projects that they just see them once and it's gone. And if they watch it, they're flipping through hundreds of tapes. And there's not a clear indication that they watch every tape all the way through.

     

    You'd like to hope so, but depends on the quality of your work, right? And if what you're doing is of interest or not. So the other thing is too, I'll say before I kind of carry on where I was headed, is that with the film side, they have the audience. So the distribution goes through their channels when they're ready to reach their audience.


    And they have large audiences because these are engines of creation, right? That have large followings of people who are interested in their works and their art and they're creating stuff all the time, like at scale and obviously like at a significant, high level. But then again, as a creator, you can create your stuff independently and you've got it. You've cast yourself, you've got your concept, you've created.


    You can invest in better quality creative by working with better designers, better videographers, better editors, depends what you want to do. But you can also invest at a micro scale of that, right? Versus these budgets that they're running, like some of these shows, right?

     

    Shooting in Vancouver, for example, they run like $7 to $10 million rough an episode I understand, based on people that I know have been very active on these projects. And that's per episode, right? I feel I could create an episode of a show that could come in way under that number. Would it be the same caliber on all levels of a project like that? I would say no, but would it still be a professional quality product? I believe yes, right? So you can still invest in higher quality stuff, but also there's so many tools available, there's tools built in to these platforms.

     

    Like, let's talk about Instagram reels, which I'm big on at the moment, I'll talk a bit more about a sec, but like, it's got its own editor in there for you to pull your videos together and sync you with music and do all kinds of cool stuff. There's Canva, which is a super popular design platform, and rightfully so there's a lot you can do and more every day. There's CapCut for short form video editing, which has emerged as a popular tool.


    But there's so many different types of resources for creators and their cost is at the micro scale, right? We're talking like 10, 15, 20 bucks a month. These platforms add up. Pro tip - Keep track of your subscriptions and keep track of your charge dates and review them every so often, because when you first sign up for these, you get your trial, you sign up, you get your membership, but then do you keep using them? And which brings me to another point, the big thing with the creator economy that's required is discipline and contrast, right? Or with a big team, you'll have a bunch of people saying, hey, we need you here. And you just make sure you get out of bed and show up and be there.


    And way to go, that's a good start. But the creator economy, you know, this is your own baby. Nothing happens if you don't do anything.

     

    So it's like from your own desk to start, right? And it requires consistency and discipline, right? On top of the power of your ideas for success, I would suggest. But the tools are available. And the biggest thing about the creator economy that interests me and inspires me is that it's this permissionless business generally is what Naval refers to.

     

    It's the permissionless business that you can just create. Like today's the day, here you are, what are you doing? And start creating. And that's the opportunity, right? And amidst strikes and things and the other creative aspects of the industry in film, as an example, have just reminded me of that, where I put so much energy into creating for others and others' projects.


    And equally so, and often, without any consideration of equity in the creator economy. And that's just for film projects, right? Because when you do a film deal, you don't usually have a call on equity in the project, unless you're way up the food chain, I would suggest a tier of talent, more you could work those things in.


    But as a creator, you own everything, right? Depending on how you're structured. But generally speaking, it's your stuff. Let's say you're YOU Inc, right? This is your stuff.


    So what are you into? What are the things you're already doing? And how do you marry that with this world of the creator economy? How do you marry this potential with who you already are? I think a trap here is about what a lot of people talk about when you talk to people about creating, and they're all like pick your niche. And I've said this before, you already are a niche, there's a real high probability, at least the people that I'm generally connected to, and the people who are engaging with my content the most, I mean, you're not like fresh out of high school, you're not completely lacking life experience. But even if you were fresh out of high school, you're already probably into something, you play sports, or you do a thing, or there's a world of stuff that you're into.


    By the time you're you're graduating high school, but beyond that, much higher probability. And sure, you can take a totally fresh, fresh interest in a totally new niche and try something that's totally unrelated to like, what you're currently doing. But it's most likely that you're already in a thing, right? And then you already provide some kind of service.

     

    And you're active in it. And that's a great place to start. But again, if that isn't like lighting a fire in you, and inspiring you every day, then it's just meditate a bit on what is right.


    But then the world's your oyster. Then it's about diving in and exploring like systems and structure and like how you're going to manage to create a presence that is consistent, and how you're going to hold yourself to the level of discipline required to create regularly. And for who, right? Who are you creating for? And what problems are they experiencing that you're going to help solve? And the more you do that, then the greater the potential is for your creator business to grow.


    I do have my online episode, my online business episode as well. That if some of those ideas interest you a bit, a bit more, invite you to check out that explore a little bit of like, kind of the structure of some of those things. As I see them and suggest are reasonably appropriate for this type of business.

     

    And as a starting point, this is a pretty good starting point. Because it's a deep well. Also, there's lots of stuff and there's different strategies.


    And, you know, the puck is moving, as we say, like things are happening, it's evolving.  There's a moving target where what would work yesterday might not work tomorrow. You know, things shift.


    But generally speaking, this is the potential and with this, I can build my own community, I can build my own audience around me, around my thing. Around my own content.


    And I don't need everybody else to participate. However, as I do that, I would suggest that more would be interested in doing that. As you do that, I suggest more, we call you know, stakeholders of your world.

     

    Like friends, family, business colleagues, investors, potential partners, clients, collaborators, like all kinds of things, right? Collectively, like stakeholders in your business and success, depending on what it is, that'll tune a little bit to what exactly and who those people exactly are and what they look like. But I would suggest if we're doing that work and growing and developing our audience, growing our communities, that more people will find us and would be more interested in working with us on all levels. So maybe at that point, a major studio calls me and love to have me in their film or something.


    An agency calls and says, Hey Chad, we think you'd be perfect for this, for this commercial project. And I'm still wide open to that stuff. But what's really difficult, I feel in those traditional industries, is to break through by just going and knocking on the front door and hoping it opens.


    My world's never been like that. Everyone says, that's the way to go. That's the way it works. This is the path to follow. And people have tried to tell me that my whole life, about this is the way the system works. And you go knock on the door. And nobody answers. And you just sit there and you knock again, you're waiting, you're like, okay, I'm doing what everybody tells me you got to do by just doing it the way everyone else is doing it. Is this door going open? It doesn't really, in my experience, it's always been doing something different outside the box.

     

    A marriage sure, of best practices, but also with a different approach, and a different technique. And the goal for me isn't just, you know, like to be cast in a film project or something, that'd be fun. I think that'd be a great challenge.


    You know, I've worked in film. Before, I worked with some of the best people in the industry, I had the privilege of and have had the privilege of, you know, on multiple projects. Very cool. And it's just, it's an enriching experience, there's no doubt. But just trying to walk through that path there's so much competition, so many people, it's really disenfranchising I feel to rely upon that as a gateway to creative success and success which is for me to define, and which I define is that combination of contribution, participation, purpose, and value really. I do enjoy helping people, I do enjoy building business, I do enjoy creating, right.


    And the intersection of these things through the projects I'm involved in, whether it's like a moving story that's, you know, gripping on a bunch of levels that helps us, you know, learn more about ourselves and the human experience or, or consider a major issue or, you know, a tool that solves a major problem or so on and so forth. Working on these types of projects, you know, excite me, they inspire me, they fill my bucket. And I've done a bunch of this already though I explore the creative stuff.

     

    But I've also done a lot entrepreneurially, and worked with many different teams and many different types of projects, achieved a number of different things, made and helped make people a lot of money. Generally positive impacts for my work, which I feel continues to get better as I grow. And so the potential of the creator economy for me presents a great opportunity.


    And it's exciting. It's an exciting world. It's an exciting frontier. Not everybody gets that. Not everybody wants to be a creator. Not everybody wants their content all over social.


    It's fine. I think there's also kind of a tendency we've seen for things like cancel culture and trolling and other certain kind of like, darker energies, watching people kind of be villainized and attacked and similar in more public arenas.


    I feel we always have to kind of lead by our own example and hold space and I do my best to try and carry some empathy for people on their journey and patience and be positive and encouraging, no matter how people feel, really. And I try and embrace different viewpoints and explore them but enter the conversation without attacking people personally, just some kind of footnotes to how I try and operate. But this is life, and life is meant for living and growing.


    And there's a huge opportunity to grow and also in building of my audience, my community, the people that are interested in who I am and what I'm doing to learn from all of you, right? So it's very, very cool. And what I create will reach my audience, will reach anyone who's interested directly. And as I see what people are interested in, then I can create more of that, just like the big guys do, right? I'll see what people respond best to and adjust accordingly, where people find the most value out of what I'm providing.


    And there's some areas I always, not always, but already know that I provide great value for, for instance, CEOs of publicly listed companies. I have a great breadth of knowledge, experience, relationships, and similar that offer great, you know, insight and perspective and support for CEOs of publicly listed companies, right? But that's not my only audience. My audience is a combination of solo entrepreneurs, independent entrepreneurs, CEOs, you know, accredited and high net worth investors, retail traders, as I also like to trade. There's trading and investing, those are similar, but different, I would suggest. Other creatives, creative entrepreneurs, conscious entrepreneurs, people focused on, you know, personal growth and development, improving their lives, their lifestyle, and more. But this is a general basket of the types of people that I engage mostly with, and I look forward to engaging more with, right? And so the creator economy offers an opportunity to do that. It offers an opportunity for me to expand my world, I feel, and also share the things that I have learned, the strategies that I've found work on various things, both personally in my life and professionally, and more.


    So this is where I'm headed with the creator world and embracing it. And where I also encourage you to consider it, even if you do something else primary, considering this deeper like a side activity is doable. And you can pick one platform to focus on.


    I tend to have an omni channel presence, but it also requires a bit of like, omni organization, right at size at scale, because a lot of different parts and repurposing content and all kinds of stuff, it can be a bit dizzying. But I feel I've got a pretty good handle on it, and that'll continue to improve. So, it's the way and I feel otherwise, the big hurdle is the echo, right? The echo in the back of our minds about being a creator and independent creator, because you're sitting in your own room, and you're creating your stuff that you feel people are interested in, but you don't know for sure.


    And that includes, you know, family, friends, like non business associates, all kinds of stuff. And just remember, you know, depending on what you're doing and who you're speaking with connected with, you want to create content for the audience that you want, not the audience that you have. And I heard that once from Vanessa Lau, who's just a power house creator in her own right.


    And she's done amazing. I really respect what she's built. A former barista, I believe, who was then, I believe, doing some kind of corporate work, and then just embraced her creative side and her creator brand, and just rolled with it and built like a monster business out of it, and shares great value and tremendous insight in all the content that she's created. I believe she's taken a bit of a step back to, you know, at this point to be a little or find a little more balance as she describes it in her life. I believe that's where she's been at most recently, which I also know and respect. But she's created so much content that is still out there that is really, really great stuff. And that's where that comes from, was that insight.

     

    And it's bang on, I feel so. You know, some of your friends might like your content, some of your family might like your content. Some of your business associates might like your content. Some of them might not. But do you like your content? Does it add value to people? And are you attracting new people who actually do enjoy it? And that's how things will evolve from there. So one of the big leaps is just getting over that worrying about what people think and focus more on the data and, you know, the true insights about what people are engaging with, what they're commenting on, you know, what they're looking at, watching more, which content is generating a greater reach, all this kind of stuff.


    And so I keep going in all kinds of the strategies about it. But with me, you'll see me continue to do this through all the various channels that I have, because it is something that I can do. I can do without that permission, without that long approval process of someone saying, sure, Chad, go ahead.


    I've had companies I work with try and control my voice and my comments and what I say. But that's like, it's one of our deepest assets, right? Is our right to have a voice, our right to speak our minds, our right to, you know, hold our own views and, and be independent in our, you know, in our work or craft and our art and similar. So, you know, I hold that to a real high level, I hold that in high regard.


    And that's part of what I'll continue to, you know, grow my personal brand presence within this creator economy, and look to offer, increase and offer and continue to offer new resources for people who are interested in them, based on the things that I'm comfortable and confident in that I've figured out that I know that I've learned over the years, so on and so forth. And hopefully, as I do all this, that adds deep value for you in your own life as well. Now, as we do that, and as you, as you consider potentially embarking on a similar journey into this creator world, hit me up, follow me on my channels.


    Let me know, let me see what you're doing. Let's chat about it. I want to see it.


    I'm looking forward to you flowing on it as well. And with it as well, the only difference right between me, you or anyone else is, are we doing the work? You know, are we doing the creating? I feel for me to do a best try and find my best kind of patterns in the day. But I feel creating kind of a day in the evening, the day before and then publishing in the morning, the day, the day after is probably ultimately best. But I think it depends on where you're at and what you're what you're distributing, what you're publishing. But we got to do that work ourselves, right? So let me know. But this world is open, and it's totally accessible.


    And you can start today and you can build business around it. And there's tons of resources out there. And as long as you're doing things you love and talking about things you're passionate about, it can be a ton of fun and a great creative outlet outside and around everything else that you might be involved in or working on and with and similar.

     

    So that's the creator economy kind of in a nutshell, from my perspective, and the kind of the how and the why, you know, I'm participating in it. So let me know your thoughts.What do you love and want to learn about the creator economy?

    Chad McMillan
    Chad McMillan

    Chad McMillan is an independent venture capitalist and creative artist focused on personal growth and exponential entrepreneurship. Connect with Chad at chad@chadmc.com.

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