3 Creator Economy Myths Debunked

Content creation is a viable career for anyone and at any age — as long as they're willing to put in the work.

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By Greg Smith

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

When you picture a creator, what comes to mind? A 92-year-old fashionista? A crackerjack crocheter? A hockey coach who hosts online Q&As?

If not, it's worth asking why. The reality is the $100 billion, fast-growing content-creation industry is much more varied and complex than people usually assume. But like many industries, preconceived notions of what it takes to "make it" may prevent aspiring entrepreneurs from achieving long-term success — or getting started at all.

Behind stereotypes of carefree, young and rich creators lies the truth: This career can be rewarding, sustainable and lucrative for people at any age and stage of life, as long as they go in with their eyes open. As a creator myself, and the leader of a company that supports over 50,000 creator entrepreneurs, I know anyone can build a thriving business in the creator economy based on their passions — but success hinges on knowing what you're getting into.

With that in mind, here are three creator myths I believe need to be set straight.

Related: How One Small Button Can Transform the Creator Economy from a Buzz Word to an Actual Economic Model

Myth: Content creation is not a real job

With countless images and videos of influencers unboxing beauty products, posting glamour shots of remote locales or sampling gourmet dinners, it's easy to get the idea that all creators are just (beautiful) people who spend a lot of time on social media and somehow strike it rich. A survey by Thinkific that polled more than 2,000 adults across the U.S. found that nearly half don't consider content creation a real job, but the reality is it takes a lot of work to produce engaging, resonant content day over day.

About one-third of the estimated 200 million content creators worldwide put in full-time hours, according to a recent report. And that's the first key to being a successful creator: treating it like a business. That means developing a strategy, cultivating an audience, learning from failures and trying again until you find your niche.

Even the most successful creators start out from the bottom with a huge learning curve. Conversely, many creators are already businesspeople who create content as an extension of their business or as a way to give back, like billionaire investor Ray Dalio, who shares nuggets of wisdom on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Successful creators understand that behind every strong content engine is an incredible amount of hard work. They persevere through loneliness, burnout and frustration, and they understand that passion is just the spark.

Related: Can The Creator Economy Help Democratize Entrepreneurship?

Myth: All creators are young

No question the creator community includes lots of talented young people. But contrary to what you might think, creators aren't all twentysomethings. In fact, the creator community includes exceptional people of all ages bringing life experiences and professional accomplishments to the game.

According to an Adobe survey, the average age for creators is 40. Forbes puts the average age of the 50 most high-profile creators at 31. Together, these top-tier creators have attracted a combined 1.9 billion followers across Instagram, TikTok and YouTube and earned $570 million in revenue last year.

There is no expiration date on the traits that make a successful creator: a growth mindset and a willingness to work hard, produce high-quality content and diversify their revenue streams. For example, 92-year-old Helen van Winkle parlayed her influence on Instagram to launch a line of beauty products sold at Sephora.

In fact, life experience can be a valuable asset for mid-career professionals looking to build an online community, launch a side hustle or reinvent their careers, like a board-certified nurse practitioner and health administrator who uses online courses to help thousands of new nurses pass their board exams.

Related: How to Break Into the Creator Economy in a Digital Age

Myth: You need millions of followers to make it as a creator

There is no magic number for making a living as a creator — I've seen many make a living with fewer than 1,000 followers. The key is in the value they provide.

Creators who diversify their income streams through strategic choices like offering physical products, coaching, communities, courses and memberships can sustain a career with far fewer followers than someone who relies solely on views.

I've seen this firsthand with my own YouTube channel, which started out earning a few dollars per 1,000 views — but now generates well over 100 times that amount. The difference is that I moved from a focus on audience counts and views to one focused on building a smaller community based on stronger relationships with more devoted groups of members.

Increasingly, creators are facilitating collaborative learning communities where members can interact with and learn from each other rather than acting as a passive audience. By maximizing the value for individual members, then multiplying that with every new customer, creators can quickly surpass the ad revenue earned from even millions of views.

It's little wonder that content creation is a sought-after career path that can afford the freedom and flexibility that so many people want. Creators can be any age, from anywhere, and be passionate about anything, but success is contingent on realistic expectations and a willingness to put in the work and learn from mistakes. The more they know about this unique industry going in, the higher their chances of reaping those rewards.

Greg Smith

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

CEO of Thinkific

Greg Smith is an entrepreneur, lawyer and kiteboarder. He is a co-founder at Thinkific and has a passion for building amazing e-learning applications.

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