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12 ways your favorite creators are making money

To be a creator is to make something beautiful, something fun, something brilliant, something unexpected. Arguably, there's never been a better time to express your creativity. With endless digital avenues for expression and the means of production more accessible than ever.

But, of course, to monetize being a creator is also an exercise in running a business and paying bills. So let’s talk about getting that bread. The key to success is to leverage multiple revenue streams and to think, dare we say, creatively about how to monetize your audience. Here are a dozen ways content creators can make money.

The key to success is to leverage multiple revenue streams and to think, dare we say, creatively about how to monetize your audience.

1. Brand deals

Brand deals are one of the more traditional ways for a creator to earn revenue. Simply put, a company will pay the creator to feature their products in a social media post, video, or other format. Fees range widely, anywhere from getting the product for free to more popular influencers earning thousands of dollars. Generally speaking, creators don't need a massive audience to land some brand deals. Many companies are actually attracted to creators with smaller, passionate audiences because they know the creator brings a level of authenticity that can be difficult to match.

2. Advertising

Those pre-, mid-, and post-roll advertisements you see when you watch a video on social media? That's cash for the creator. One tip: Inserting too many ads can rub viewers the wrong way, but thoughtful placement and relevant ads won't scare away a devoted audience.

3. Creator funds

Many of the largest tech platforms we use today have pools of money set aside to pay creators who generate traffic. Some of these funds require an invite, while others can be accessed simply by signing up. Always make sure to read the fine print about whether the content you're posting needs to be exclusive to the platform in question. And don't get too satisfied with the amount of revenue, as payouts can change on the whims of the platform's executives.

4. Subscribers, exclusive content, and don't sleep on donations

You know what's better than one-off revenue? Recurring revenue. Smart creators with a loyal fanbase can launch a subscription program wherein they charge a monthly or annual fee in exchange for things like exclusive content, bonus episodes, early access to drops and more. It's also simple to set up multiple cost tiers so your biggest supporters can pay more for greater access. And don't forget to have a donation jar, too. Sometimes people simply want to give you money, and you shouldn't turn them down.

5. Partner with another creator

Two creators can be better than one. Some platforms allow multiple creators to team up on one post. You'll share the likes, the clout, and the revenue. Even if it's not a formal thing, maybe you hop into another creator's video where some of their fans might become some of your fans. Collaboration makes the creator world go round.

6. Sell what you make

Sell your creations! Maybe you're a quilter, an artist, a photographer, a musician or a designer of AR lenses. The point is that you can make stuff and people will want to buy it. Let them. Just because this is one of the most obvious ways to make money as a creator doesn't mean it's a bad one.

7. Launch a line 

Look, everyone loves merch. Buying a tee shirt, a hoodie, a tote bag, a sticker, or something else is a way for a fan to show their support and signal to others that they are in the club. We all want to be part of a club, don't we? Launching an apparel line is easier than ever with plenty of services that will handle inventory management, printing, shipping, and everything else. All you need is imagination.

8. Affiliate links

If building out a merch line feels like a little much, consider adding affiliate links to the URLs of products you know, love and use. If your fans click through and buy something, you'll receive a percentage of the sale. Those pennies and dimes and quarters add up, trust us.

9. Consulting and speaking engagements

You know what companies and brands want to know how to do? Create. And who better to explain how to do so than you, a successful creator? You can get paid big bucks to consult about creating or driving social media engagement. Or you could earn money for a speaking engagement where you share your story.

10. Teach a course (or build your own)

Take your expertise in creating, audience building, revenue driving, and let the masses in on the secret to your success. While there are plenty of online learning platforms looking for teachers, it may make sense to build your own course and sell it through your website and other platforms. You'll have more control, a greater share of the upside and a positive experience.

11. Write a book

Writing a book isn't an easy task, but it's one that can be worthwhile. Having a book creates a number of revenue streams on its own: an advance, passive royalty income as it sells, an opportunity for a sequel or another book down the line. Plus, your parents will be proud.

12. Parlay into a full-time job

Final thought: At some point, you might grow tired of being a full-time creator. That's okay. Everything runs its course eventually. Good news? You've built a business, had incredible experiences and met a ton of people on your journey. You have skills to succeed and an audience to support you on your next adventure.

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