How These 3 Content Creators Turned a Side Hustle Into a Full-Time Gig
Content creator is a job title that didn’t exist a decade ago. Now, 50 million people consider themselves creators, following their passion in a billion-dollar industry.
Thanks to social media, it’s easier than ever to create, share, and monetize content — flipping the “starving artist” trope on its head. And with massive demand for original and engaging content, there’s never been a better time to jump in.
Of course, turning a side hustle into a full-time gig is no easy feat. After all, creating content is just one small part of the equation. You also need to engage in community building, social media promotion, audience research, and networking.
And while the business of content creation seems simple enough — create content, build an audience, then make money — these things take a lot of time. In other words, the dream of recording a video, hitting “upload,” and making millions is exactly that — a dream.
Despite the challenges, there are people who’ve succeeded in becoming full-time content creators. Here, I spoke with three creators to learn their biggest tips for quitting your 9-to-5 and becoming a full-time creator. Let’s dive in.
1. Craft an exit strategy.
“Sometimes, it’s not about knowing exactly what you want. Instead, it’s about uncovering what it is you don’t want any longer,” says Jenna Kutcher, author and host of the Goal Digger Podcast.
Kutcher’s revelation drove her to entrepreneurship, but it didn’t happen overnight. She knew she had to be strategic to get there.
As she puts it, “One day my corporate boss handed me my five-year plan. It felt like my entire life was being planned out for me, without me. While I wanted to put in my two weeks’ notice right there on the spot, I had bills to pay, student loans to get rid of, and a wedding to fund. I had to figure out a way to plan my exit, even if it couldn’t be immediate.”
It’s never easy to leave the security of a steady paycheck, but Kutcher argues that you don’t have to. Instead, you can craft an exit strategy that provides enough security for the transition.
For Kutcher, her exit strategy started with a $300 camera from Craigslist and endless weekends spent building a clientele. In her own words: “Nights and weekends were devoted to starting my photography business, and my 9-to-5 was funding this new dream of mine.”
A year later, Kutcher had booked enough gigs to feel confident leaving her corporate job. “In hindsight, I’m glad I didn’t just abandon my job to go after what I wanted. Instead, I leveraged where I was at to get to where I wanted to go,” she told me.
Everyone’s exit strategy looks different. For instance, one person might keep their 9-to-5 and work on the weekends. Another person might freelance part-time and create content the rest of the week.
Remember that entrepreneurship is a journey, and it takes time and effort to build a successful business. With the right exit strategy, you can take calculated risks and leverage your current situation to reach the next step in the journey.
2. Make consistency your golden rule.
Are you more likely to follow a creator who posts once a year or once a week? Chances are, you’re following the creator who gives you more value on a regular basis.
Jay Clouse, founder of Creator Science, knows this all too well. When he started as a content creator in 2017, he wrote an email newsletter every day for a year. That’s hundreds of opportunities to connect with an audience and build their trust. No shortcuts, no quick schemes.
He told me, “Every day, you should be creating helpful content that attracts an audience. You’ll quickly find that you need to be disciplined with how you spend your time so that you can create consistently.”
Consistency is the golden rule for content creators, but it’s often the hardest part of the job. Life can get in the way, or you may run into a creative rut. As Clouse points out, “This is a long game. You need to be remarkably consistent while also being incredibly patient.”
To keep pace, many creators commit to a posting schedule. If you’re just starting out, be realistic about how much content you can pump out each week. This might be twice a week or every day. Then, leverage a content calendar to help you organize your ideas, plan content in advance, and avoid missing deadlines.
Above all, content creation is an exercise in determination. Try to challenge yourself here, but know your limits to avoid burnout.
3. Approach content creation as a science.
Content creation is both an art and a science. Most content creators enjoy the art-side of the equation. It’s exciting to brainstorm new ideas, create content, and share it with the world. But that alone isn’t enough.
Content creation is also a science, which requires experimentation, testing, and analysis — which isn’t always glamorous, but is just as necessary.
For instance, if you’re posting the same type of content but getting zero engagement, it’s time to experiment with different types of content, platforms, and topics.
Nicaila Matthews Okome, host of the podcast Side Hustle Pro, also recommends looking at your competitors.
“Perform competitive analysis of people who make similar content. Don’t do this to copy, but to assess what your audience resonates with and the best way to present the information so they’ll interact with your content,” she told me.
As you look at your competitors, pay close attention to what topics they’re covering, what formats they’re using, how frequently they post, and how they’re engaging with their audience.
For example, you may find that your competitor only posts on a specific day — or gets the most engagement from a specific topic. As Okome mentioned above, the goal isn’t to copy your competitors but to identify any tactics that can elevate your own strategy.
4. Diversify your revenue streams.
Remember the phrase, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”? This is especially true for content creators.
For instance, if you rely on revenue from a single platform — and that platform undergoes a major algorithm change — it could affect your entire income model.
For Okome, the key to income stability is diversifying your revenue streams. That way, your income doesn’t rely on a single platform, partnership, or season.
She says, “Write down what you want to do and how you plan to make money from it. Then research different ways to monetize your content, whether it’s with sponsored posts, affiliate marketing, or selling your own products or merchandise.”
As a content creator in 2023, you have more avenues to create and monetize content than ever before. However, not all revenue streams are created equal. Some require more work on the backend, while others are easy to get off the ground but need upkeep (i.e. an email newsletter).
This isn’t about choosing the most lucrative option, but the one you can realistically handle right now. For example, a YouTube vlogger might supplement their income with a membership program on Patreon where they offer bonus videos and exclusive content — rather than a merch store with high start-up costs.
When diversifying your revenue, Okome recommends aiming for two additional streams. “As a content creator, your revenue can be unpredictable due to factors out of your control. Make sure you have at least two revenue streams so if one isn’t reliable, you can still pay your bills.”
5. Invest in yourself and your skills.
At the beginning of her career, Kutcher had to learn how to code her own website from scratch. This is a familiar scene for new content creators — one that involves learning a new skill on the fly with little help.
However, this is a challenge for veteran content creators, too. After all, it’s impossible to “master” content creation when the landscape is always changing. Trends come and go, platforms evolve, and new tools and technologies emerge all the time.
To future-proof yourself, don’t run from learning — embrace it. Okome underlines this point, telling me, “Invest in yourself, take classes, attend conferences, and learn from people who are further ahead of you on this path.”
Whether you join a workshop to improve your video editing skills or attend a networking event, prioritize learning and treat it as another part of the job.
Back to You
Many people assume content creation is an easy job that can turn you into a millionaire overnight. The reality is much different. However, with enough patience, determination, and these tips, you’re well on your way to turning your creative side hustle into a full-time gig.