Dear Content Creators,
Content Creation is not a get-rich-quick scheme.
A very common question that I see online is “How do I monetize?” The issue with this question is that it never seems to come from someone who is ready to monetize their content. The reason for that is pretty simple: when you are ready, people typically come to you.
Don’t get me wrong. I get the feeling. Getting into content creation can cost a lot of money. Microphones, cameras, and every other piece of gear and accessory that you can think of all starts to add up pretty fast. The ability to recoup some or all of that cost, if not make a profit, is a tempting scenario for certain.
But what comes with patience is value. Reaching out to sponsors early presents them with a chance to take advantage of you. In the beginning (and yes, that can sometimes be years), your content has no value. It may be very good content, but until you reach a point where you have a high number of views/listens and engagement with your audience, to a sponsor, you are worth very little to them.
So why would they say yes? There are a lot of reasons. First off, you’ll be cheaper than someone who is established. A LOT cheaper. But also, they have you over a barrel. They can make demands of you that they wouldn’t dare make if you were bigger. The types of things they demand are things that would cost them even more to ask of bigger content creators.
So why would you say yes? If you would say yes to a deal that indentures you to a company, requiring you to heavily feature their products to a point where your content stops being your content and becomes a full length commercial for your sponsor, it is probably one of two reasons. You were seeking them out too early and may be a little desperate, or you are just so excited that you are officially a professional content creator, that you don’t think about what you are getting vs. what you are giving.
Always know your worth!
A part of knowing your worth is being truly self-aware. Know when you are being taken advantage of, know when your content is providing value and, most importantly, know when you aren’t ready.
Remember that your content needs to be of a quality which is of value to someone who would give you money. In terms of sponsors, that means content with a lot of eyes and ears on it. People who want to experience your content. If someone stumbles upon your content and an ad comes on, they might turn you off. People are fickle like that.
This is where your engagement comes in. Using YouTube as an example, sponsors need to know that the people watching your content are in it for the long haul. So, if your videos aren’t typically viewed beyond thirty seconds or if nobody is liking or commenting on them, then you aren’t typically what they are looking for.
This value also applies to content creators like streamers. To get someone to donate, drop bits, or subscribe to your channel, you have to be giving them something. You can get Peacock or Apple TV+ for the price of a Twitch Sub, or for an extra dollar or two, you could get Hulu, Disney+ or Paramount+. There is no argument that those services give you a lot of bang for that buck. What makes you worth that? Are you so good at a video game that they have to watch you? Are you so fun and compelling that you are better than every season of The Mandalorian? Maybe, but probably not.
“When you get to a certain point, as content creators, agents or business managers may be in order. If you are ready, they usually find you.”
The real answer is personal connection. People can like you enough to want to support you for a price that can give you access to every season of The Office, but you need to be giving them something back that is more than just saying their name in chat. You have to have a product that appeals to them and be the kind of person they want to come back and see, but more than that (because they can watch you for free), they have to believe you are worth the support.
Another place where value is everything is when it comes to representation. When you get to a certain point, as content creators, agents or business managers may be in order. If you are ready, they usually find you. If you are not ready, you probably have to go find them. The difference? Who is having to sell themselves to whom?
If an agent approaches you, they have to convince you to sign with them. They have to give you some incentive to sign with them over the next person who comes calling. That means more money in your pocket and less in theirs. If you seek out your agent, all they need to do is say yes. You’ll end up with the shorter end of the deal, guaranteed.
There are always exceptions to the rule for content creators. You might have the number one podcast after only a month. You might have gotten 50,000 YouTube subscribers after only a few videos. That might get you the sponsors that you want for a price that is worthy, but that is not the case for almost everyone, and it might not last. Fame is fleeting.
Let’s say we’ve conquered all these hurdles. Then you’re in the money, right? Not if you’re smart. You can take that money and buy yourself some toys or pay off some bills, but the money you make from creating content really needs to be in service of creating more and better content. Hire an editor. Buy equipment or software that will increase the quality of the content for your audience. This brings in more (and potentially bigger) sponsors and this cycle continues until the money is there to sustain both the channel and yourself.
Content creation as a career is not a sprint. It’s a marathon. Any attempt to get to the finish line too fast means you either took too many shortcuts or you may end up gassed and unable to make it for the long haul. If you want this to be your career, then you have time. Use it well.