In Defence Of Creators
Creator economists have it all. Just one look at their social channels shows a life of international travel, lucrative brand partnerships, and glossy content. They have some of the most coveted jobs of the modern age, so much so that, according to a recent Harris and Lego poll, kids in America and the United Kingdom are more likely to aspire to be vloggers when they grow up than astronauts.
There are many reasons why this career path seems attractive. Creators work on their own time, their briefs are varied and exciting, and it can be a well-paid profession. But there’s also a common misconception around the creator economy, a phrase often uttered by cynics of the industry:
“It must be so easy.”
It’s only when speaking directly to creators, that the nuts and bolts of a complex, often stressful profession come to light. The filter-tinted, viral posts we see online always take much more than ten minutes of work. They’re the tip of an iceberg of the same stresses faced by digital workers, entrepreneurs, and creatives in more traditional fields.
“People think it is an easy job, when it can actually be quite stressful and a lot of work goes into the content that I produce.” says UK-based TikTok Comedian, Kyron Hamilton. “For content creators, there definitely is a lot of pressure to constantly come up with fresh new content regularly, and sometimes I get creative block.”
Kyron turned to TikTok after his drama school experience was cut short by the pandemic. Over a million followers and close to 50 million likes later, he still worries about the threat of creative block. It would be a major problem for most artistic pursuits, but in the fast-paced, highly competitive world of TikTok, where followers expect new content most days, it poses an existential threat.
The time, effort, and creativity that goes into making content is hugely underestimated. In reality, making it look easy is the artform. Followers are crying out for authenticity, to feel like they’re in the room with the person they’re watching. This is why creators pour hours into making their posts seem as natural as possible.
Jade Fox, a comedian and content creator living in Portland, Oregon, tries to inject this kind of authenticity into all of her videos. “I felt like there was no one in the LGBT space on YouTube that was making entertaining content for the community,” she comments. “Many creators, at the time, were claiming the lifestyle and education verticals, but not many were doing comedy or relatable content. I saw an opportunity to occupy that space, and I’ve been doing so ever since.”
In Fox’s case, she didn’t accidentally fall into a blossoming digital career. She identified a lack of representation in a certain online field, and built her own community there, from scratch. It was a conscious, informed decision, and far from easy to do. On top of her digital following, she then launched a consulting business, the Hillfox Agency, “to create safer spaces for LGBT people” within companies, as well as a t-shirt shop making designs with inclusive messaging.
Suddenly it doesn’t all seem so easy, does it? In fact, it sounds more time-consuming than 99% of ‘conventional’ jobs.
Creating a digital following, especially one that is monetizable, is clearly full-time work. With multiple revenue streams available, the job requires good organizational skills, limitless energy, and buckets of entrepreneurial spirit. A high follower count alone doesn’t make you rich overnight.
Take the case of British TikTok Comedian, Grace Keeling. Her videos, mainly light-hearted commentaries on current trends and news, have amassed nearly 50 million likes to date. Keeling says that “at the start of this year I made a conscious decision to really grind and try and make it my career. I think I’m finally at that stage where people are acknowledging that I’m serious about doing this.” Keeling’s case shows how far you need to come before your following can underpin your entire lifestyle and career. And even once it does, taking the leap takes courage and conviction. Committing to full-time content creation as your career is just as brave as trying to become a full-time actor, musician, or writer.
The more we unpick what it means to be a creator in the digital economy, and the more we talk to the people actually doing it, the more real that kind of career seems. Though Instagram posts might be a window into someone’s life, you don’t see the hard work behind the scenes, the taxing hours spent on admin or video editing. This shouldn’t deter aspiring creators from pursuing their dreams, but it might provide a reality check to anyone thinking that social platforms are an easy, quick buck.
Hannah Lee Duggan, a nature-focussed vlogger who lives between her van and a cabin in the woods, echoes this advice. “It kills me to see people banking on wanting to be a creator. Put it second. Being famous and successful on the internet should not be your primary goal, it should come secondary to the thing you love doing. I think to be an authentically engaging creator you have to be invested and excited about something personal first, whether that be photography, or travel, or building, or fashion, or comedy, or cars, or what have you. Create content from your life, don’t live your life to create content.”
Those who do so will reap the rewards. But that doesn’t mean it’ll be easy along the way.
By Gustav Lundberg Toresson