Did you know that one of the most searched for professions right now on Google is “content creator?” A few years ago the term didn’t even exist. Sure, writers moved on to become bloggers. Some of them even became wealthy. However, as the profession grew, content creation required a whole heap of skill sets other than the ability to write, though it still remains an important skill.
WHAT IS CONTENT CREATION?
The truth is a majority of content creators are multi-passionate multitaskers. They write, film, tell stories on YouTube, roll out podcasts and bring visual stories to life. Content creators can also become influencers, working on their own businesses or for other brands.
By the end of this post you’ll learn:
- What skills you need to get started with content creation
- Exactly HOW, once you apply the right strategy, you can build a profitable content biz
- The DATA behind content creation and why you need to at least understand SEO, Keytail Words, Average Search Volumes etc.
With that, let’s dive into learning about content creation.
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CONTENT CREATOR OR CONTENT ENTREPRENEUR?
Before I jump into what it takes to work as a content creator, I want to make the distinction between the hobbyist and strategist. I like separating it out because let’s face it, we’re all living in a time where we know a 12-year-old who is crushing it on Tik Tok. So here’s the question: “Is that 12-year-old a content creator too?
She is but there’s a catch!
If that pre-teen is generating content and getting money for her work from any of the platforms she’s on, then for sure she’s a bona fide content creator. If she is also applying strategy (maybe her mom or an agent is) to build a business model or a digital ecosystem that’s sustainable or automated, then let’s call a spade a spade; she’s a content entrepreneur.
Is Producing Content A Hobby Or Strategy?
It can be both, but to get back to my early definitions, the hobbyist creates content for fun and yes she can make money doing it.
The strategist is focused on crafting her ability to influence others in a way that drives her followers to engage. She monetizes that and then her focus shifts to scalability and sustainability. Got it?
Most times, the content creator and the content entrepreneur differ in the quality and frequency of their work as well as their intent. Neither one is better than the other. Again, it all depends on what each wants or even figures out.
I want to clear up something else too. An employee can also be a content creator once she is producing digital assets for her employer.
How much she knows about the company and how well and engaging she (and/or her team) can be with interpreting the heavy corporate stuff while meeting the business goals will make her stand out in the profession.
RELATED: You can find out why I think knowledge is the most important asset you should have as a content creator HERE.
But let’s get back to the independents, the ones who are very much entrenched in the passion/creators’ economy. Let’s talk about the skills that allow them to apply strategy and as a by-product, grow a profitable online business and brand.
The First Skill: Write for Humans
Becoming a content entrepreneur does not begin and end with a piece of viral content. I can’t begin to tell you how many creators, influencers, small business owners have had one viral hit and were never seen or heard of again.
The work happens way before that point.
I’m going to use my own career as an example. I worked in PR at an executive level for almost two decades. I built a career in storytelling across print and broadcast media before starting my own public relations firm.
I honed my ability to understand that your tribe and your ability to communicate with them in a way that promotes understanding is EVERYTHING.
So my best advice is to first learn how to write like a human being for another human being. This is where many content creators at the start of their journey get it wrong, and where large brands really suck.
Mistakes The Big Brands Make
Most brands (the big ones are guilty as charged with this one) are used to using stuffy, lofty language. They forget that on the other side there is a human relaxing in front of the TV or sitting in front of the computer or eating while listening to a podcast.
That person wants to be informed but also be inspired, or laugh or find something out quickly without having to read/listen to it twice.
So if you intend to become an online content creator and later a content entrepreneur, I’d suggest you forget everything you were taught about writing (well, not everything). But really, you should think only about the person you’re writing for.
For instance, I love the way Marie Forleo writes. She is the ultimate content creator in my books. She churns out videos, blog posts, books, courses but her work never feels stuffy. Her content is useful, informative and wildly entertaining.
She swears at times, it works for her brand, and her followers love her for the daily value she brings to their businesses and lives.
All Online Content Creators Work Hard
For the outsider looking in, content creation looks like a hell of a lot of fun. After all, the work is creative. As a content creator, I am always working in front of and/or behind the camera, producing something, crafting images, words, visuals, workbooks, courses. The list is endless, and boy-o-boy does it look cool.
But that’s surface stuff.
What people don’t see are all the proposals that need to be written, the briefs that need to be read and signed off on. The long hours brainstorming and finessing how to tell a story and influence engagement while scaling a business.
Important questions to ask
There’s the practical stuff too: editing, learning full scripts, crafting captions, booking technical crews, meeting deadlines, marketing.
It’s exhausting and many times, lonely. For instance, an online content creator can easily spend 14 hours or more daily producing, sharing and marketing. It is a full-time job that consumes time, energy, and focus.
It’s all in the creative realm but don’t get it twisted; it’s still work and it takes a lot of time. Like all jobs managing your work/life balance boundaries will become important.
WHAT SKILLS SHOULD AN ONLINE CONTENT CREATOR HAVE?
Gosh, we can talk about the journalism, marketing, or writing degrees that some content creators have. We can also go down the route of chatting about the super creative geniuses who grew up on the Internet and have mastered the art and science of storytelling without stepping inside a university.
But guess what? I don’t want to discuss anything related to a degree. Why? It’s simple. Some content creators can come from a broad array of disciplines and some won’t even have had the chance to set foot on a campus ground.
Soft Skills Matter
For me, the soft skills matter in addition to your ability to write, communicate and have a strong appetite for social media and digital marketing. .
So in the realm of soft skills, the best online content creators are enthusiastic, multi-passionate, and inquisitive.
You’ve got to be able to hook up well with large creative teams but most times you’ll be going it alone. I always tell my students in Simplify that they have to get comfortable in their own skin.
I also think you can’t become good at the craft if you don’t know how to communicate well, meaning you’ve got to know how to tell a great story that moves hearts and minds.
You’ll need to evangelize your editorial calendar. Getting your brand out there on social media as well as gaining media mentions and even guest posting on big websites are things you’ll also have to do. Research will become an important part of your work. All of these skills become relevant once you move over to the content entrepreneurship side
HOW IMPORTANT ARE FOLLOWERS?
We all get fixated with vanity metrics, even Kim Kardashian, though it does not always work out in her favour. However, I think if you have a small number of followers with high engagement and have a lot of your fans talking back to you, then you can create an impact with the “small” numbers.
Look, all content creators start somewhere and if there was a magic number to build your engagement I’d say it was ONE.
Having one follower is a start. It means that someone likes what you’re saying. One follower represents a building block as an online content creator.
Here’s the crazy stuff, if that one follower is your desired person, then you can replicate the content model you used to get the attention of that one person and watch your audience grow!
As A Content Creator You Should Value Engagement
For some, it is easy to get a large number of followers fairly quickly and for others, it’s a slow go. I’d say start where you are and try (ideally) to head for 10K followers on the platform/s you think is important for your storytelling. However, I also know content creators with less than 10k who work with brands because they are excellent at pitching or offering specific services (such as styled photos or created content!).
If you intend to scale, my advice is to grow your audience first, get to know their interests or pain points, and produce products/services to solve them.
RELATED: I write about the step-by-step process to building AUDIENCE FIRST PRODUCTS HERE.
In any case, I want you to always choose a high engagement rate with your ideal audience over a bigger number of followers that have no real interest in your content. This is a big deal. Pick value over volume, every single time.
Understand Numbers If You Want To Succeed As A Content Creator
Being an online creator is such a blessing. You can work from home, live in sweats, churn out material and get paid to share the things that you love.
You can also influence people to become more knowledgeable about your subject matter or encourage them to lead better lives. But remember how I began this post by making a distinction between the hobbyist and the strategist, the content creator and the entrepreneur?
Well if you really want to make a name for yourself in the world of content creation you’ve got to become obsessed with numbers. You’ve got to go deep into the weeds of data. As you begin to think of strategy and scaling.
I want you to ask yourself: Do numbers and data interest you? Are you pumped looking and understanding metrics? Is business modeling something that excites you? Is writing something you enjoy? Is working alone fine (most of the time)?
I feel as if I’m giving you a quiz but this is the real meat and potatoes stuff. These are all questions that can help you determine if pursuing a career in content creation is worth it, which brings me to my third point
Stories Matter But So Do Your KPIs
Think of traffic you’re driving to your site but also consider how you’re generating leads from your platforms and your website and how you can set them up for conversion.
You’ve got to set up KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), know the numbers that determine what success looks like to you. You’ll also need to align your creative efforts with the outcomes you expect.
You can choose to look at a range of metrics ranging from organic and paid for visitors, email newsletter signups, sales, sign-ups, downloads etc.
It’s important to establish these to manage your expectations and measure your performance.
The power of doing SEO on your website right should never be underestimated. I want to encourage you to get into these weeds as well. Look at things like traffic volume, bounce rates, sessions, page visits, growth, speed, etc.
Data tells powerful stories. It allows you to review your growth as you work hard on building a sustainable revenue model. Now, I’d be the first to tell you that working with an SEO strategist is something you need to do. But you still need to be familiar with the basics so no one can pull the wool over your eyes. I hope you get what I’m saying.
Being an online content creator is a powerful thing, there is nothing like it and with that power comes a great deal of responsibility. You should use your power to cause ripples, change things, inspire people, share the things you love, share yourself with the world.
When you’re a content creator your tribe will hold on to you, tightly, and it’s quite a ride!