The creator economy was full of viral moments in 2022: ChatGPT made its entrance, the Corn Kid and Chrissy Wake Up were on repeat (IYKYK), and, of course, creators graced our feeds daily with something to learn or laugh about. At the same time, the creator economy, and the companies fueling it, underwent many changes. The industry saw dozens of tech layoffs from players like Patreon, Thinkific, and Meta, and there was a 50% drop in funding for creator-related startups. This has left many people wondering, what’s next for the industry?
Among all of the viral moments and industry shifts, one thing remained true: creators all over the world were hard at work producing millions of pieces of content every day. However, the creator economy’s biggest problem still looms large—it doesn’t work for creators. Most creators are unable to make enough income from content creation to pursue it full-time. The TL;DR is that creator funds aren’t large enough to pay creators what they should be earning, and at least 69% of creators say they depend on brand deals to make money—both income avenues are unstable monetization methods evident in that fact that only 4.3% of creators make over $100k per year.
Going into 2023, companies in the creator economy will need to prioritize creator-first solutions that help solve the core issue around monetization. Before we dig into our key predictions and the essential creator starter pack for this year, let’s first take a look at creator trends we discovered in 2022.
Top creator trends from 2022
To get a pulse on creator life last year, we surveyed creators on income, monetization methods, and social media use. Three key trends emerged:
- The majority of creators aren’t making enough to pursue their creator business full-time.
- Video content and the platforms that support it reign supreme.
- Most creators depend on third-party monetization as a way to make money on their content.
In a digital world where you can go viral one minute and have multiple brand sponsorship offers the next, everyone wants to know how much creators are earning—especially amateur creators who are curious if it’s a feasible career path.
We asked creators how much they earned from online sources in the past 12 months. Unsurprisingly, 42% of creators made $10,000 or less while only 9% of creators made above $250,000. Around 22% of creators made less than $1,000 from their content.
For creators who earned money from their content, YouTube at 23% was the top platform where they made the majority of their income. TikTok came in second, and tied for third were Instagram and in-person events.
Historically, YouTube was one of the only social platforms to share ad revenue with creators through AdSense which easily explains its popularity among creators. Still, the payouts are minimal as 97.5% of YouTubers don’t make enough to reach the U.S. poverty line. On TikTok and Instagram, sponsored in-feed posts and videos for brand deals are typically more lucrative than creator fund payouts which are too small for the amount of creators on the platforms.
Furthermore, there are multiple ways creators can monetize their content including direct monetization (charging customers through their own tools/website or through a platform like Kajabi) and third-party monetization (brand sponsorships or ads for another company). We asked creators if and how they monetized the following forms of content: online courses, live webinars, coaching, newsletters, podcasts, in-person events, ebooks, social media posts, and blog posts. Creators could also select if they offered the content types for free or did not offer them.
At 40%, online courses proved to be the most popular offering to directly monetize. For third-party monetization, coaching at 35% was the most popular. Finally, newsletters and blog posts tied at 39% as the top content types creators offered for free.
Cumulatively, third-party monetization was the most popular method among creators—for example, taking sponsorships on a podcast or posting an #ad on social media. This relates back to the fact that 69% of creators say they depend on third-party monetization like brand deals to make money.
Social media trends
Creators live and breathe social media as it’s an essential audience-building and communication tool. When it came to social media platforms, YouTube had the largest percentage of creators on the platform at 77%. Facebook came in second at 72%, Instagram at 70%, and TikTok at 62%. The least popular social media platform was LinkedIn at 27%. YouTube’s popularity supports our previous findings that it’s the top platform where creators make the majority of their creator-related income.
Let’s talk about social media followers. There’s rhetoric in the creator economy that to be a successful creator, you need to amass hundreds of thousands and even millions of followers. However, in our survey findings, the majority of creators have less than 10,000 social media followers cumulatively across all platforms. Around 35% reported follower counts between 1,000-9,999 and 26% reported less than 1,000. Most creators are at the micro-influencer level (less than 50,000 followers) which can be more beneficial and attractive to brands as micro-influencers have an extremely loyal and niche audience with a higher engagement level.
We also asked creators which activities on social media they participated in. For example, did they work with a brand on a campaign or host a live video event on a social feed? At 48%, the most popular activity creators reported doing was responding to comments and questions on posts and stories. Coming in second, 36% of creators said they created digital products to complement their influencer marketing. Connecting with your audience online is a non-negotiable for creators; responding to comments and questions on posts is a great start to building an authentic brand and improving customer engagement.
Overall, these findings from 2022 reinforce that creators are actively making tons of content, especially on social media, but only the top few are reaping the most rewards.
Creator economy predictions for 2023
There have already been plenty of predictions about what’s going to happen to the creator economy in 2023—hot new AI tools popping up, YouTube and TikTok going head to head to win over audiences, amplified creator burnout, and even, TikTok replacing Google as the new search engine.
But, the most poignant elephant in the room is creators are increasingly finding that relying on social platforms to get paid doesn’t work. Even the most successful creators have started to call this out. Influencer Hank Green revealed his earnings amounted to only $0.02 to $0.03 for every 1,000 views on TikTok, and world-famous influencer MrBeast said he made less than $15,000 a year on TikTok even though his videos have garnered billions of views.
As we move into 2023, creators will lean into creator-first solutions and methods that allow them to earn what their content is worth. As a leading player in the direct-to-creator economy space, we have three key predictions for the new year:
1. More creators will start to own their online communities.
Owning your brand and audience outside of social media is critical for creators. The dilemmas social media platforms cause for creators are ongoing—algorithms, outages, high competition, and limited opportunity for direct monetization are just a few. Building a loyal and supportive community where members can connect with other like-minded individuals will enable creators to turn customers into brand advocates. Creators will now be able to monetize their audience without a middleman which can lead to more sustainable income.
2. Creators will rely on social media as a traffic source, instead of an income stream.
In our survey, around 77% of creators said algorithm changes had a moderate-to-significant impact on their audience engagement. Additionally, 25% of creators estimated they’ve lost $1,000-$9,999 in revenue due to algorithmic changes, and 24% estimated $10,000-$49,999 in losses. Creators need to stop putting their eggs in one basket and diversify their income streams through digital products they can directly monetize. Only then will they be able to build a successful business free of the limitations of social media. For example, creators who have an online community can easily utilize their engaged audience and launch an online course, coaching program, podcast, or membership site.
3. Connecting with audiences live will make a full comeback.
It’s been three years since the start of the pandemic, and 2023 will see in-person events return in full force. While events made a mini-comeback in 2022, event attendance was still down as people chose to stay home with hybrid options. Going into 2023, we expect more creators to host in-person events whether that means meetups, workshops, live classes, or retreats. We found in-person events were one of the top three methods creators made the majority of their income with—it’s inevitable they will continue to expand on this option.
4. Creators will increasingly use AI tools to help run their businesses.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that ChatGPT has overtaken the internet. It’s a model trained by OpenAI that can help with content creation—long story short, you provide a topic or a question and ChatGPT will generate the text for you. And, (spoiler alert) the text is usually pretty good. Creators will start to use tools like ChatGPT to help them increase and accelerate their content output. This will help prevent creator burnout.
The creator starter pack for 2023
Regardless of what happens in the coming year, creators need to fireproof their businesses with the right tools. If you’re a creator rearing to dive into this year, here’s your ultimate starter pack:
- AI tools for content creation - As we mentioned above, AI can help you produce more content at a faster rate. Kajabi’s online course generator can make a full course outline on any topic from start to finish. Consider using ChatGPT to help create your social or blog posts keeping in mind that you’ll still need to edit the copy to maintain your brand voice.
- Online community - We’ll say again and again, it is imperative for creators to own their audience outside of social media. One way to achieve this is with a dedicated online community platform. Not only will you be able to build deeper connections with your audience, but you’ll also be able to leverage them for product feedback and social proof. Perhaps the biggest benefit is that you can directly monetize your community with recurring subscription revenue. Cha-ching!
- Direct monetization tool - In order for creators to do what they love full-time, plus earn what their content is worth, direct monetization is key. We call this the direct-to-creator economy. Instead of relying on third-party sponsorships like ads or brand deals, creators should be at the forefront of their business deciding the price of their content. Creator-first tools like Kajabi empower creators to do just that through direct monetization of digital products including courses, coaching, memberships, podcasts, websites, and communities—plus, Kajabi helps streamline your business so everything is in one central location. Kajabi creators have generated over $4.3 billion in revenue—and they keep all of it.
As we head into 2023, one thing is clear: creators need to be in the driver’s seat when it comes to deciding what their content is worth. While social media will remain vital to building brand awareness and connecting with an audience, creators who rely entirely on social media for their business are playing a dangerous game.
Kajabi aims to be a key part of the creator economy discussion—through data-supported findings and anecdotes, we hope to make the path to monetization easier for all knowledge creators. We’ve found one in three creators on Kajabi who work full-time on their online business make over six figures.
Are you ready to start or scale your business? Kajabi can help—join our Creator Challenge and we’ll prepare you to launch your business in one month.
The insights in this survey are first-party data. We sent a survey to over 1,900 creators who are not using Kajabi. We received 1,046 responses with a 95% confidence interval. Please note we cannot access email data from customers using an alternative email marketing service, and we cannot capture revenue numbers for any transactions or revenue processed outside of the Kajabi platform. All data is for general analytical use only. Individual responses are confidential, and we do not share the identity publicly or with third parties. For access to data or to discuss a collaboration, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.