How to Become a Content Creator Today in 10 Steps

How to Become a Content Creator Starting Today in 10 Steps

These days, it seems like everyone wants to be or be called a content creator. Especially for the younger generations, being in the spotlight is well worth the time and effort of posting content on social media. At the same time, content can generate significant revenue for hobbyists and marketers alike. Some people even make their living by creating content full-time.

However, being a content creator isn’t always easy. Not only is there a lot of competition, but learning how to become a content creator requires plenty of effort. Careful planning, along with ongoing strategies, are the key to success.

Here, I share my best tips for success based on my own experiences.

And similar to my perspectives on marketing and business in general, I provide you with a holistic perspective on the topic.

Let’s dig in!

What is a Content Creator?

Simply put, a content creator is someone who produces different types of media for publication, primarily on the Internet. Most creators have a medium or platform of choice, such as video or photos. Then, they’ll post the material on a platform, like social media or a blog.

Originally, content creators worked mostly for fun, and many still do. There are lots of casual users on social media and even casual bloggers. However, the revenue generated from monetized content has become more important than ever.

Monetization began simply: An early example is when bloggers would sell ad space on their pages. This practice typically made enough cash to pay for site improvements, hosting fees, and other necessities. Later on, the creator economy emerged: Content became a decent source of passive income, then grew into a massive section of the economy. YouTube began to share ad revenue with members of their YouTube Partner Program and more recently TikTok launched a Creator Fund that was soon copied by most social networks.

The options for content creators to monetize their content have never been greater.

Nowadays, content creators can make a lot of money through advertising, memberships, merchandise, and even sponsored content. The creator economy has become part of the larger world of business and marketing.

What is the Difference between a Content Creator and an Influencer?

Part of the discussion about content creators over the past few years is the rise of influencers. And as someone who wrote a book on the topic, I have helped contribute to that rise – and taught people how to leverage the power of influence. When I wrote The Age of Influence back in 2019, we weren’t even using the term “content creator,” but I already hinted in the book about the power of influencers for the content they created even if it wasn’t amplified.

So let’s briefly discuss the differences between the two terms.

A content creator produces original content across various formats and platforms. For instance, I focus on my blog, which shares my insights into marketing. In addition, I have a podcast that lets me branch out into special topics. These items represent different types of content and different distribution methods.

All influencers are, on some level, content creators. They work on social media and other platforms and produce original content. However, many of them specialize in a particular forum, such as Instagram or TikTok. Using this platform, influencers use their personal brand and following to help promote products and services.

Have you ever seen me talk about cool products I like on my blog? As an industry voice who does this, I’m also an influencer. The difference is that my work is less on social media and more in the professional context of my blog.

In other words, influencers are content creators who have enough influence over their audiences that they can monetize that influence. Content creators, such as the trendy UGC creator, don’t necessarily have a big enough platform to yield much digital influencer, but they are excellent creators of content that engage social media users.

Types of Content Creators

Want to learn how to become a content creator? Your first step is deciding what kind of content you want to create. If you’re like me, you might start out with only one medium and then branch out. Or, you may be a specialist forever. To start, pick the format you’ll enjoy most and produce with reasonable quality.

Bloggers

Really, bloggers are the original content creators of the Internet age. We write articles and musings, then post them on a blog. Some of us own a freestanding website, while others use a platform.

Vloggers/YouTubers

The term “vlog” stands for “video blog.” Essentially, it’s a video version of the blog format. However, the content requires a lot of bandwidth to view. As a result, you’ll often host the videos on other sites like YouTube. Then, you can embed the videos into your personal or business website.

Podcasters

Podcasters

Podcasts are audio-only programs that are prerecorded and uploaded onto a hosting site. For instance, my podcast can be found on Apple Music. People download the episodes and listen to them on their phones or MP3 players. Remember the iPod? That’s where we got the term “podcast.” Think of these as a modern take on radio programs.

Social Media Content Creators (Instagram, TikTok, etc.)

Many people fit this category – to some extent. Most of us post on social media, and any original media we post makes us content creators in the strictest sense. On the other hand, people can make very intentional and planned content for their social media channels. These social media users are what we typically think of as content creators on social media.

My discussions about how to become a content creator will apply to this type of social media user rather than the casual poster.

Freelance Writers and Journalists

Freelance Writers and Journalists
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Arguably, this is the most traditional type of content creator since writing has been around for thousands of years. A freelance writer is someone who creates articles and other written content for money. Freelancers might be paid a flat fee or in other forms like royalties over time.

Similarly, journalists write for money. However, there’s often original research and footwork required to produce original content. Think newspapers, magazines, and similar formats. These often independent professionals can create other content to promote their core business.

Photographers and Videographers

These content creators also have a long history of success, primarily online. Photographers have sold photos for money for decades, and the online era makes this easier than ever by using paid photo sites and other forums. Similarly, a videographer can showcase some material online. Those might be wedding or other special event footage, short movies, or other formats.

10 Steps to Become a Successful Content Creator

Ultimately, how to become a content creator is about much more than making something cool and posting it on the Internet. Rather, careful attention to detail and strategic decision-making are vital to success. You’ll also wish to create a branded community around your work. Now, I’ll share my best tips.

Step 1: Figure out your creator personality

YouTube video

If you’re like me, you’re probably sick of cookie-cutter content that seems to waste your time. Fortunately, showing some personality in your work will make it much more attractive to potential viewers. Developing a personality is about much more than your Myers-Briggs type. It’s also about your personal style, your interests, and your voice.

Developing a personality takes time, but it’s not really complicated. First, ask yourself what topics interest you and which of these you are most passionate about. Because you will spend a lot of time researching and developing Content in these areas, be sure to choose something that’ll keep you engaged in the long term.

Similarly, think about your content style. Will you pursue the topic in a more humorous way? Become a subject matter expert who offers straightforward explanations. Or are creative stories much more your jam? Choose a style that suits you, your personality, and your topic while keeping your audience engaged.

Finally, content creators of all types think about voice. As a creator, your voice will be the overall way in which you present information. It should be something that people who follow your content can use to identify it in their content feed or homepage without seeing your username.

Step 2: Choose a niche

As a marketer, I must frequently answer the question, “What sort of marketing do you do?” Marketing itself is a very broad topic in business, especially in the age of internet-based content that competes with traditional media and old techniques. For me,  the new methods, such as content creation and influencer marketing, are the most engaging.

In other words, Internet marketing, especially the social media, is my niche. It doesn’t make sense for me to write frequently about more general marketing topics — They’re only relevant to my audience as part of the discussion on new methods. However, there are other marketers who frequently teach the basics or specialize in print marketing.

Having a niche is critical for the success of any aspiring content creator. Nowadays, there’s often too much competition for any content creator to become an expert on everything related to a topic. On the other hand, treating a specific area of your subject very well helps you stand out from the crowd — and give more relevant, original information to your audience.

Picking a niche is relatively easy, but it does require some research. Think about your interests and the most popular categories related to them. Using keyword research, gauge the search volume and competition for each potential niche. This allows you to select the most financially sustainable options down the road. At the same time, consider gaps in the literature — these are opportunities for you to shine.

Finally, look at where your interests, audience demand, and business viability meet. Ideally, you want something with relatively high demand and manageable competition. Otherwise, you can get sucked into a situation where your content is hard to discover, doesn’t make a lot of money, and gets copied frequently.

Need some ideas? Here are some common options that work well across many media and platform types.

  • Health/Fitness (e.g. yoga, weightlifting, nutrition). This one’s incredibly popular, and there’s a lot of variation. If you have a sport you’re passionate about, for instance, there’s lots of potential.
  • Personal Finance (e.g. budgeting, investing, debt payoff). Some of the biggest blogs on the Internet focus on this area. However, with the right emphasis, a good content creator can distinguish themselves.
  • Parenting/Family. Options here include advice, discussing family adventures, and even philosophical discussions.
  • Technology/Gaming. People get really serious about their games, and the profit potential from this type of niche reflects that.
  • Beauty/Fashion/Lifestyle. This one is highly competitive, but there’s still room for improvement.
  • Travel. You can pick any type of travel, from high-end to camping in the backwoods. Audiences love living vicariously through creator adventures or planning their own trip.

Further Reading: 33 Mind-Blowing Creator Economy Statistics for 2024

Step 3: Develop your style and personal brand

Branding is critical as you learn how to become a content creator. That’s because branding helps distinguish your content from a competitor’s offerings. It’s also one way in which you develop loyalty and community among your audience.

Luckily, branding for a content creator is relatively simple. Your first step is to standardize visuals. That includes your color schemes, logos, thumbnail styles, and other design elements as appropriate for your content type.

Next, set your voice or tone. This is how you communicate with your audience, such as through humor, quirky styling, or sarcasm. Just make sure your choice of tone is appropriate for your niche.

With your branding developed, be sure to use it consistently. This way, everyone can recognize your content.

Step 4: Determine Your Target Audience

Determine Your Target Audience
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No matter what you choose for a niche, target audiences typically vary. For instance, even within the outdoor adventure field, some people can afford to spend lots of money, and others prefer to camp on the cheap. In marketing, people like myself prefer social media and working with corporate clients, while others favor creating newspaper ads for the local car wash.

To be a successful content creator, you need a defined audience that you cater to. Do some research into the right type of audience, and create an ideal audience persona. In other words, choose between the big spender and the bargain hunter or the serious athlete vs. a reforming couch potato. Then, understand their pain points and interests. Armed with this knowledge, you can better create content that will be highly relevant to them and commercially successful.

Step 5: Choose your primary platform(s)

There’s an old saying, “jack of all trades and master of none.” Those of us in the older generations understand this saying to mean that you can’t be good at everything. Certainly, most of us have basic proficiency in many things, but there’s usually something we do especially well. As a content creator, you should decide on your primary platform for posting content. Anything else you do online essentially promotes your primary account.

Sometimes, your choice of platform is obvious. For instance, if you’re an especially good photographer, then Instagram has some of the best opportunities. Likewise, bloggers have relatively few options. However, if video is your forte, the choice can be more difficult.

Besides personal preferences, you should also consider your audience. Certain niche topics attract people primarily to certain formats or platforms. So do particular age groups or income levels. A Boomer is unlikely to hang out on TikTok very much, and Gamers love video. Your primary platform should be one where you are comfortable and also attractive to your core audience.

With that said, your primary platform need not be the only one where you operate. In fact, cross-promoting your content between platforms and formats helps to increase your audience and boost engagement. For example, advertising your blog post on Instagram encourages Instagram followers who are unfamiliar with your blog to check it out. Similarly, a YouTube Short can help promote the Facebook Live you did last week.

Further Reading: The 21 Top Influencer Marketing Platforms

Step 6: Develop a content calendar/strategy

YouTube video

Continuing to talk about a subject long-term takes planning, even if you’re passionate about it. After all, spontaneously developing new topics requires serious thought. For this reason, I always recommend that you develop a content calendar.

What’s a content calendar? Simply put, it’s a plan that outlines what you want to talk about, how you’ll do that, and when you’ll post it. For example, I might talk about Instagram Stories on April 15 and how to create a watermark for your photos on June 25. These calendars let you stay on track and post consistently throughout the year.

Of course, you don’t need a totally different topic every day. An effective strategy is to create killer pieces that discuss a given topic at a high level. Then, create further articles which break the information down into smaller pieces and provide more detail. Here, an example might be an entire blog post on content calendars.

Step 7: Get the right content creation tools

An important part of how to become a content creator is having the right tools. An important part of your reputation will depend on the quality of your content, including images, videography, and other elements. In other words, it’s not just what you say but also how you say it.

Here are some examples of what you need:

  • Cameras, lighting, microphones for audio/video. For some platforms like TikTok, good lighting and a smartphone may be all you need.
  • Photo/video editing software. While a livestream is obviously published as is, many other pieces of content should be polished to perfection.
  • Writing tools like Grammarly. Nothing screams amateur like a blog post full of typographical errors or streams of consciousness.
  • Productivity tools for planning/scheduling. There are plenty of options available, from simple calendars to post schedulers and other items. Pick something that works for you.

Further Reading: Your Guide to the 49 Best Influencer Marketing Tools to Empower Your 2024 Creator Economy Collaborations

Step 8: Invest in Tools to Improve Your Content

If you want your content to stand out above the crowd, you need it to be high-quality. For this reason, it’s important to edit and improve your content after it’s been produced. Editing software is critical for audio and video recordings since most of us make a lot of mistakes along the way. Without editing, these content types could seem like a never-ending blooper reel! You don’t want that.

Even photography can benefit from editing, however. Tools like Photoshop, Canva, and other graphic design applications can turn a nice photo into something spectacular. Similarly, the addition of filters, watermarks, and special effects add style and dimension which help engage your audience.

Remember, delivering quality content is critical for audience growth on any platform. Fortunately, with the right tools, you can deliver — often at a very reasonable cost.

Step 9: Build an Engaged Community

Build an Engaged Community
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Ultimately, quality content will only get you so far in the quest to grow your channel. That’s because audience engagement is critical. When people interact with your content, such as by liking or sharing, the activity tells the algorithm that users find the item interesting. Then, the content will perform better in relevant search results.

Similarly, as people engage with your content it shows up on their follower or friends feeds. If the item sounds interesting to those other users, they may also view it. This pattern of engagement and content discovery is what creates viral posts.

Community engagement requires some work from the content creator. One of the easiest strategies is to encourage people to interact with your content. For instance, most successful YouTubers will solicit subscriptions and likes. Bloggers frequently ask a question at the bottom of the post or invite discussion in the comments. As people oblige, acknowledge their participation and answer any questions as appropriate.

Finally, collaborate with other creators. While there’s a lot of competition in content creation these days, not everyone in your niche is a direct competitor. After all, we all have different strengths and expertise that we can share. By collaborating with people who complement our expertise, we can introduce each other to our audiences.

Further Reading: How to Reach Out to Influencers For Collaborations (with Sample Templates)

Step 10: Monetization Strategies

For many content creators, monetization is a major goal. After all, we work hard to bring our audience content that they enjoy every day. However, many types of monetization require a lot of patience before you’ll be eligible. You also need to carefully choose which options are best for you, your content, and your audience.

4 Main Monetization Options for Content Creators

Even before you think it’s time to monetize, you should think about the possibilities. Here are some of the more common options for content creators:

  • Advertising: One of the easiest ways to monetize your content is by selling ads. For certain platforms like YouTube it’s an option that you select in your dashboard. Bloggers and other site owners can sell ad space through Google.
  • Sponsorships: With a sponsorship, companies pay you to pitch their products within a video. Compensation may be a flat fee, commission, or a combination.
  • Affiliate marketing: This is a type of advertising for your brand’s will give content creators a special code or link. When someone makes a purchase, the creator gets a commission.
  • Merchandise: This one is really popular with YouTube personalities. Essentially, you design and sell custom items, usually through your channel or website. Those items are drop shipped, which means you don’t need any inventory — items are made as ordered.

When to start monetizing

Generally, platforms like YouTube and Instagram have minimum follower counts or watch hours before you can monetize your channel through them. Those thresholds vary by platform, but I suggest that you start making money as soon as you’re eligible. For a blog or personal website, you might also have minimums. But keep in mind that the larger your audience, the more earning potential you have.

5 Essential Skills for Content Creators

Even by following my instructions on how to become a content creator, your success will be limited without certain critical skills. While you don’t need to be the master of all the skills right away, there are areas where most of us should make continuous improvements.

  • Creativity and storytelling ability: Even the shortest videos benefit from a script and should follow a story. And no matter what you produce, creativity is key for making it successful.
  • Technical/editing skills: While creators with large channels sometimes hire help, this is not economical when you’re first starting out. Therefore, you should know how to do all the basics.
  • Time management and consistency: If you can’t stay on track, then it’s unlikely you’ll post regularly. This lack of consistency will prevent you from getting a lot of followers, and a loss of consistency later on may cause you to lose them.
  • Understanding SEO/discoverability: Without SEO, it will be very difficult for people to find your content, especially outside your existing social circles. Even social networks have an embedded search engine, and the algorithms are subject to change. Be sure to stay informed about any changes.
  • Communication and engaging your audience: You know how to have a casual chat, right? How about making a presentation? These skills are transferable to your content creation efforts.

5 Effective Habits of Successful Content Creators

Finally, I’d like to finish with a few habits that will help you become a more successful content creator. You should start cultivating these habits early on because they’ll become more important as you advance. Ultimately, staying on track requires discipline.

  • Batch creating content: instead of creating just one post per day, create a whole series at once. Then, use a social media scheduler to post each piece of content at the desired date and time.
  • Consistent posting schedule: depending on your content and audience, this could be several Instagram or X posts per day or one blog post per week. Whatever frequency you choose, make sure it’s consistent so your audience knows what to expect.
  • Analyzing data and feedback: Simply put, analytics are your friend. Using your creator dashboards, you can see basic statistics on how well your content is performing. As your channel grows, you may want to add some third-party apps, too. Combined with direct user feedback, this data can help you improve your content.
  • Collaborating with others: even though content creation has become very competitive, creators can add a lot of value through collaboration. This is true both for the Creators and their audiences.
  • Continuing to learn and improve: I can’t emphasize this one enough. Even the best content creators have room for improvement on some level. In addition, changing tastes and trends may require you to adapt.

Further Reading: 10 Steps to Creating a Successful Influencer Marketing Campaign

Conclusion

One reason that so many people want to be content creators is that it provides some passive income through ads and other methods. Plus, most of us find it is a lot of fun, or it rewards us for sharing our expertise. However, learning how to become a content creator requires plenty of patience and planning. You can’t just make a bunch of stuff, throw it on social media, and expect viral results overnight.

Fortunately, by following the steps and the tricks in this article, you can learn to create quality content that people will find compelling. Then, you’ll be on the road to monetization and mastery.

Hero Photo by AQVIEWS on Unsplash

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Neal Schaffer
Neal Schaffer

Neal Schaffer is a leading authority on helping businesses through their digital transformation of sales and marketing through consulting, training, and helping enterprises large and small develop and execute on social media marketing strategy, influencer marketing, and social selling initiatives. President of the social media agency PDCA Social, Neal also teaches digital media to executives at Rutgers University, the Irish Management Institute (Ireland), and the University of Jyvaskyla (Finland). Fluent in Japanese and Mandarin Chinese, Neal is a popular keynote speaker and has been invited to speak about digital media on four continents in a dozen countries. He is also the author of 3 books on social media, including Maximize Your Social (Wiley), and in late 2019 will publish his 4th book, The Business of Influence (HarperCollins), on educating the market on the why and how every business should leverage the potential of influencer marketing. Neal resides in Irvine, California but also frequently travels to Japan.

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