Unpacking creator business playbooks

Good news for the whole family!

Hi, everyone! Happy Friday from Boston, where I’m visiting my sister (a newly minted Masshole) for the weekend. Nothing gets me in #GrindMode like seeing a live reenactment of the Boston Tea Party. Q2 better look out.

—Kinsey, cofounder & head of editorial at Smooth Media

Creator Revenue Streams, Unpacked

Almost 30% of children ages 8–12 want to become YouTubers. Roughly half of teenagers ages 13–18 aspire to become social media influencers. And approximately 100% of parents ask “but can you make good money doing that?” when their children apprise them of said career dreams.

Well, good news for the whole family: Yes, you can make a respectable living as a creator. It’s not a promise (just like me telling my parents “maybe I’ll consider law school” wasn’t a promise), but it’s totally possible.

At Smooth, we work with knowledge creators who have found wildly imaginative (and lucrative) ways to expand into new revenue streams that both 1) empower them to scale their media businesses beyond just their likenesses and 2) serve their audiences.

But pursuing a new business strategy or content/product offering requires thoughtful reflection on the why. Why do you think this will work? Why might it not? Why are you the right creator to do this? Forgo that reflection, and you might end up chasing something that’s not meant for you.

Today, let’s run through a handful of strategies hot in the creator world right now…plus the questions you should ask yourself before going all in.

1) Launching a course

Ali Abdaal raked in $200,000 in sales in just the first 10 minutes his eighth Part-Time YouTuber Academy course enrollment was live last year. While that’s the exception and not the rule, it’s an impressive testament to the power of creator courses. Knowledge creators are especially well-suited for structured educational programming—after all, their core premise is teaching people something new about a specific niche.

The question to ask: Do I have the upfront investment—of both time and money—to do this right? Or will I be half-you-know-whatting it? There are tons of premium courses out there, and information is democratized more each day. Your course needs to be both original and value-add in order to engage (and please) a paying audience.

A creator who mastered it: Kat Norton, AKA Miss Excel. Kat has nailed repeatable, scalable tech skills taught in bite-sized pieces. Her courses span everything from using AI at work to teaching students workplace fundamentals.

And not for nothing…Kat has had her own six-figure days selling her impressive courses.

2) Writing a book

We love this route for a couple reasons, but the biggest? Books are a strong way for knowledge creators to physically cement their relationships with their audiences. So much of the connection creators have with their communities is siloed behind pretty high algorithmic walls. But a book—a physical product—allows audience members to show the world (on the subway, on their coffee table, etc.) what they've gained from following a knowledge creator. And it’s giftable!

The question to ask: Is your content well-suited for a book? If you’re making highly topical, timely, news-driven content, it might not be a perfect fit for going to press. On average, it takes anywhere from 9 months to 2 years to go from signed contract to book release. You want to make sure whatever you’re publishing is as relevant two years from now as it is today.

A creator who mastered it: Levy Rozman, AKA Gotham Chess. This book, aptly titled How to Win at Chess, is a stellar example of a creator product that transcends “fan” appeal to instead reach for universal appeal—it’s both a means of Gotham Chess superfans to show their devotion and a top-of-funnel tool to bring new or casual chess enthusiasts intrigued by the book’s title into the Gotham world.

3) Creating an exclusive community

We talk a lot about “community” in an intangible way in the creator industry. After all, it’s tough to measure the strength of a community based on subscriber counts and open rates alone. That’s why launching an exclusive community for paying members is a smart strategy for creators who want to do any and all of the following: learn more about their audience, connect their audience members with each other, create premium content…the list goes on and on.

The question to ask: Is your audience going to measurably benefit from interacting with each other? For the answer to be yes, your content should be hyper-focused. Communities are often at their strongest when paying members can ask each other highly specific questions and engage in conversations they’d be unable to have with their coworkers, baristas, or other people they see on the regular.

A creator who mastered it: Clinical psychologist Dr. Becky Kennedy, AKA Dr. Becky. Her community, Good Inside, leverages her very (very) popular parenting content to empower members to ask the questions and get the answers they need to be better parents. It offers support from both other parents and parenting experts, plus exclusive access to Dr. Becky content. This makes so much sense for her niche—parenting (from what I’m told) is pretty much an endless onslaught of confidence-shaking questions. A community with the answers is brilliant.

Seeing any other interesting business moves from savvy knowledge creators? Hit reply and let us know.

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Thanks for reading! Have a great weekend and we’ll see you next time.