“You must join the creator economy!”
“Build a business of one and enjoy a life of freedom!”
“Anyone can make a living creating content!”
The madness needs to stop.
I created this newsletter for one reason. I want to help people actually become content creators for a living instead of feeding them pipedreams that go nowhere.
Becoming a content creator is the “trendy” thing to do right now, but it’ll only work for you if you have the proper intentions.
99 percent of people who try will run right into a buzzsaw and quit because, as it turns out, it takes a lot of effort to make a full-time living as a content creator.
And, to be one hundred percent honest, some of you guys would be better off abandoning the idea altogether.
If that discourages you, you’re probably one of the people who should quit because people who get discouraged easily don’t make it in this game.
This post is to weed out people who just don’t have what it takes. If you read all these points and you’re still excited about the game, then you have what it takes.
Are a Few Winners and a Ton of Losers
A small handful of writers make pretty much all the money on Medium. It works the same on other platforms like YouTube and Substack. A handful of people on social media have the majority of the followers. All forms of content creation are asymmetrically distributed.
To make things even more difficult, reaching the top of the pyramid involves hard work, talent, and luck. The good news? You can make money creating content in other ways that don’t require you to be a mega-influencer, like freelancing (pretty much anyone can make a full-time living freelancing actually).
Also, you don’t need to be a top 1% creator to make it. You do need to be in the top 10–20%, though. Which is doable, but hard.
But if you want to be a front-facing brand under your own name with millions of followers and fans. Your chances are slim. The point? Don’t get these outlandish dreams and be upset when you’re not an overnight success.
You have to be okay with the odds and the work it takes to earn a ticket to the dance. I was. I looked at the people at the top of the game and thought to myself “I’ll just become one of them.” Either that or just lower your expectations for the size of your following for a little while.
You Have to Create a Ton of Content
I once saw a woman in a Facebook group lament about the lack of progress in her writing career after she’d only published…three articles. I don’t need to guess what she’s up to now because I know the answer — not a damn thing.
You have to put your head down and focus on your craft daily for a year before you’re even sniffing at being mediocre. You will be bad. The reason why you don’t have a bunch of money and followers yet isn’t because of the platforms. It’s because your content sucks.
But if you’re willing to suck and keep getting better, you’ll get decent. Then you’ll get good. Then you have a chance to be great. But, yeah, expect to have to create mountains of content to get this to work.
You Have to Create Content For Free
Most aspiring content creators fail because they think like employees. Employees expect to get paid upfront for their work. Content creators have to frontload the work.
You need to build a catalog. YouTube doesn’t allow you to monetize your content until you get 4,000 watch hours. You’re not going to make much money on Medium until you created a bunch of posts that barely make money.
Often, you’ll have to create and give away content on the front end to build a fanbase you can sell to on the back end. This is why I tell people who want to create content for a living that they need to really like it.
It’s not an efficient way to make money at all. There are a ton of business models that are simple and more predictable. So if you think writing is a quick way to riches and you don’t enjoy doing it, just stop now because you’ll fail.
You Need to Have Super Thick Skin
If you’re afraid to put your work out there because you’re scared of criticism and negative reactions, boy do I have a gigantic bubble to burst for you.
People are going to shit all over your work. They’ll call you names. They’ll insult your character, intelligence, and even your inherent quality as a human being. And it will feel bad. Some of the criticisms will hurt because, on some level, you agree with them.
Your insecurities will get reflected back at you. That’s the price to pay for putting your thoughts into the public sphere. The good news? Do it long enough and it’ll barely affect you. Negative comments don’t bother me at all anymore because I’m desensitized to them. You’ll get there. But there’s no avoiding it.
You Can’t Rely on Anyone Else to Believe in You
“Nobody believes in my dreams.” Why the hell would they? In a world where the vast majority of people have to work jobs they either tolerate or hate just to get by, why would they think you have the secret sauce to success?
“I’m afraid people will laugh at me if I tell them I want to create content for a living.” They will laugh because it’s a delusional dream. You get that, right? It’s a strange, abnormal to achieve, rare job. You have to be delusional to do this.
All content creators have to be narcissists on some level, else why would we put ourselves through all of this to get the job done? Nobody is going to believe in you because they probably shouldn’t. You’re probably full of shit.
Not because you’re a bad person. Most people are just full of shit. It’s the way of the world. If you want to be different, don’t announce your big plans to become the next great content creator. Just do it. Announce your projects when they’re done.
You Have to Make Sacrifices
I cratered my marriage by being so obsessed with my work. And if I had to do it all over again, I would crater it again. For me, my mission was more important than my relationship. I’m not ashamed to say that.
I spent a lot of time on my craft that could’ve been spent elsewhere — quality time with people I care about, cool experiences, and fun. I stopped drinking and going out on weekends for years.
I’d work during lunch breaks. Hell, I’d work on my writing when I was supposed to be working. I woke up at 5 a.m. to work on my writing before I went to work, every day, for years.
“Success is unhealthy.” Duh. Yeah, you don’t get to have work-life balance. Sorry. You don’t get to have your cake and eat it, too. But you do get to have your dream if that’s what you want. Are you willing to pay the price?
You Just Altogether Don’t Have What it Takes (Or It Isn’t Worth Your Time)
We need to normalize quitting.
Not quitting just because something is hard, but quitting when something is worth quitting. There’s nothing wrong with putting a bunch of effort into a venture, realizing the juice isn’t worth the squeeze, and cutting bait.
It’s tricky to figure out how and when to do that, though. Most people do it way too early. Usually, though, you want to see that you’re making some level of progress a year or two in. You should have more views on your content than in the beginning. You should be making some money. Something should pop.
I’ve seen so many writers come and go. I’ve seen some quit altogether and I’ve seen some pivot into different avenues when they realized the one they were in wasn’t working anymore. Some of them wanted to see what writing was like, tried it, and decided that it wasn’t the end all be all for their lives. Nothing wrong with that.
Don’t start creating content because it’s glorified. Do it because you want to do it. Put an honest effort in and also be honest with yourself.
Here’s How You Know You’re Cut Out to Create Content for a Living
If you made it through this piece and thought to yourself “Sure, he has some solid points, but he ain’t talkin’ about me” then you’re cut out for it.
I remember taking a blogging course when the introductory video was all about how the vast majority of people who took the course ended up quitting. I thought to myself “Wow that sucks for them. What’s on the next video?”
You could be one of the people who end up being the exception to the rule. You have to think of yourself as the exception to the rule to complete this journey. It doesn’t require you to be superhuman. You just have to believe in yourself.
There are a ton of people who have enough talent to make a full-time living creating content at some level. Maybe not millions, but enough to pay the bills and do something they love. I sincerely hope as many people get there as possible, but most don’t and that’s just the reality of the situation.
Despite everything I just said, I’m super bullish on writing. You can make a good living, even a great one, if you’re willing to actually put in the work and follow the blueprints laid out for you. I wrote this post in such a harsh tone because a lot of you need to toughen up.
You’re probably good enough to make a full-time living creating content at some level, but most people quit before they get to that level and as much as I love helping others become creators, I also have to keep it real.
Odds are you if you don’t have the success you want as a content creator you’re not working nearly as hard as you should be, or you’re bad at following directions, or both. Good thing you can fix those issues. So, fix them.
Get to work. I’ll see you at the top.
Stop struggling to get views, followers, and more. Start building an audience you love and get paid handsomely to do it.
I appreciate the honesty in this post. I subscribe to the 1,000 True Fans theory. If you can get 1000 True Fans who are willing to spend $100 a year on your products, services, etc, you can easily make a living. It's not easy to get to 1,000 though. I just started my newsletter on Substack at the end of last year and a family issue kept me from publishing for a few months but I'm back at it again. I know now that consistency is key and I realize I was trying to do too much right out of the gate.
Too right! People think writing is the "easy" career path. Work from home and write all day--what a dream! But they don't realize it's a dream that actually takes a lot of grit too. Nice post, Ayo.