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How to run your creator business like a smart startup

Some learnings & observations

Hi, everyone! Got a special Smoothletter for you today—it’s a recap of a very informative, very fun event we threw in partnership with Notion in LA last week. Nothing gets us going like premium events with premium programming. Enjoy!

P.S. I hope you all said white rabbits when you woke up this morning (IYKYK).

—Kinsey, cofounder and head of editorial

And not the kind of startup that thinks exposed brick and a ping pong table is a benefit—a smart, savvy, strategic startup. We set out to show creators just that in an event we put on with our lovely friends at Notion last week—it’s a topic near and dear to both of our hearts as both 1) smart startups and 2) smart startups that work super intimately with creators.

So here’s the rundown on what our fabulous panel of experts (moderated by friend of Smooth Esteban Gast and featuring content creator/consultant Lloyd George, Notion head of influencer marketing Lexie Barnhorn, and Smooth’s very own COO Jenny Rothenberg) had to say on upleveling your creator business.

Creativity and process don’t have to butt heads.

Just like America runs on Dunkin, Smooth runs on Notion. We believe that strong processes, systems, and workflows are actually an unlock to creativity—not a barrier to it. The more structure around all the intricacies of running a business, the more bandwidth is left for creators to tap into what makes them and their content unique.

Lloyd’s POV: Organization has made him a more efficient creator…and made his relationship to creativity stronger and healthier. He said a tool like Notion that can help creators build a true operating system is one of the biggest ways we can solve for creator burnout—which is one of the most pervasive problems in the creator space.

Marketers on the other end of a creator deal have important perspective.

Lexie spilled the hot goss on what she looks for in partnering with creators as an influencer marketing manager:

  1. Engagement > Followers. She values likes and views much more than a creator’s follower count. She loves reading comments to get a feel for the creator’s community and how they're receiving that creator’s content to inform whether a creator might be a good fit for the brand.

  2. Having your act together makes you a more attractive partner. I wanted to say having your sh*t together, but I know my Dad reads this. Anyway! Creators with a down-pat process and workflow are more legitimate as business partners and make someone like Lexie’s job meaningfully easier. Super important for creators finding their groove with brand relationships!

Creators optimizing for the long-term have to consider themselves businesses.

And some of the things businesses do on the reg? Creators should be doing too. Some examples →

  • Adopt a workflow to direct frenetic energy. In a room full of creators at this event, we were struck by how awesome (like, dictionary definition of the word awesome) it was to feel so much excitement about creativity. That same vibe of energy can strike a creator at any given moment…but creators who know how to take a sparkling, enormous idea and turn it into a video or piece people actually see need focus and a willingness to operationalize.

  • Know there will always be a “next thing.” For both creators and startups, there will always be something else you can be doing. But to stick around for more than just the next trend cycle, creators have to let their love of the craft guide them. Just like a business’s mission guides it.

  • Recognize that discipline is a competitive advantage. Especially when it comes to the many tools creators have at their disposal to bring ideas off the page. Practicing discipline in learning a certain software or tool, sticking with it, and onboarding future team members to it early pays off, for example.

We loved hosting this event with Notion to bring so many creative, brilliant people together. We also shared our very own Notion templates, perfected over the years by a team that values process above all else, at the event. If you want a peek, hit reply and we’ll be happy to share!

  • We recently discovered The Trade Journal Cooperative, a “subscription service which delivers a lovingly curated niche trade journal to your door every quarter.” Including a pasta industry magazine called Pasta Professional?? Add to cart. 🍝

  • Semafor reflects on the “post-social media era in news” one year after its launch.

  • The latest trend in creator startups: fire sales, according to The Information.

  • Local newsletter company 6AM City is reportedly in talks with other media companies about a strategic minority investment, per Axios.

#digibuzzcodevoxious is a term we coined back in our Morning Brew days—a portmanteau of Digiday, BuzzFeed, Recode, Vox, and Axios. Obviously, the year was 2018 and the interest rates were zero. But still, the sentiment of “interesting media trends and news” remains. So the name stays.

How’d we celebrate Halloween as a distributed-ish team? I decided we should do a tournament-style ranking of the best Halloween candy.

Turns out that was like asking a former theater kid to do karaoke—we all took it way more seriously than expected. We learned our newsletter editor Jenna kinda likes old people candy. We decided creator partnerships lead Ben Smith would survive the longest in a slasher movie. We really pathologized the condition of preferring Reese’s to other candies.

Here’s the final bracket, and if you disagree…please take it up with the team, I had no voting power as the master of ceremonies.

Thanks for reading! Have a wonderful rest of your week. See you soon!