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Is the Shift to Full-Time Content Creator Sustainable?

If your favourite influencer turned into a full-time ‘content creator’ during the pandemic, you’re not alone.

To be fair, the label ‘creator’ has been around since 2011, but it took a decade and an entire pandemic for other industries to take them more seriously. The ‘Content Creator Economy’ that witnessed a huge boom during the pandemic and shows no sign of slowing down has encouraged many people to explore the ‘creator’ avenue. Many creators that started last year amid pandemic and saw a growth in their income are now looking to participate ‘full-time’ in the content creator economy.

Why is this phenomenon happening?

Most of the creators that shifted gears from full-time jobs during the pandemic cited the reasons for this phenomenon to be:

  1. Gain more creative freedom

  2. An opportunity to break the monotony

  3. Good pay

  4. Gaining clout

However, the current mass migration to the Creator Economy poses its own set of challenges. Personally, I mark 2021 to be the end of the Creator Economy that we grew up viewing and loving.

But are the reasons justifiable?

Let's break it down:

The Creator economy that once comprised of just a bunch of creative people has now become a commercial commodity. After the rise of TikTok, this potential of creators becoming a great distribution channel was realized by investors and high-profiled creators. This led to heavy investments in order to improve the infrastructure of the industry (many startups are working towards increasing the visibility of relevant creators to brands) So what once was an avenue for creators to just be themselves has now become a money-making model that restricts their abilities. On the other hand, what once was just a casual pastime for us (as audience) has become an ingrained consumption habit.

When that happens, authenticity is often at stake.

So though the creators left their day job to gain more creative freedom. What they’ve effectively done is lock themselves in an echo chamber. As they find a sizable audience that helps them with revenues, it becomes imperative for them to only voice out those opinions/ideas that would resonate with the audience. This way they tailor their image to ensure their audience engages with them. Once they snap out of this echo chamber and voice out their own opinions that might not be appreciated by the community they've created, the creators lose out on their hard-chased clout, their revenues, and their partnerships with brands. We can notice it happening all around us when creators want to rebrand or shift their priorities, they end up losing a large part of their followers and often are forced to start from scratch (figuratively, of course). Never before has there been more to lose by being yourself.

So, if once creators (like Viners) could use their creative freedom and engage with the audience on their own terms, right now creators (like TikTokers) are often restricted by the brands they engage with. Some of the brands (and social media platforms) are infamous for signing contracts that hamper the creator’s creativity in hopes of gaining maximum ROI.

On the other hand, though there isn’t abject monotony in a creator’s day to day life, within a span of few months, like any other job, a daily routine would be developed. There is a need to constantly deliver to the audience, the partners/investors, the brands, and be answerable to the ‘manager’ with the revenues. This wouldn’t be possible if there aren’t any systems in place that would help deliver with constant deadlines. Remember those days where creators would upload whenever they got a good idea and their friends were in town. Yeah, those days are long over. There is a jump from a 'side hobby' to a 'full-time job', which means they're still bounded by systems and routines.

Many in India are lured by how much creators earn on social media. But the reality paints a different picture. In India alone, only a select few creators actually earn via social media; over 95% of creators don’t make any money. They do it purely out of passion and in hopes of making it big someday. This is also why till 2019, most creators would treat this as a 'side-hustle' than going at it full-time. In fact, experts have coined an economic 'middle-class’ of content creators. They don’t make enough to sustain their livelihood but also make enough to be constantly lured into thinking of making the jump from a side-hustle to a full-time job.

If none of the reasons cited earlier to make that jump are viable, then why are so many people still doing it? And is it sustainable in long term?

This phenomenon of jumping from side hustle to full time didn’t start due to just one or two straightforward reasons. There are complex reasons for it, and since the industry is just starting out, it’s hard to predict if it’ll have a sustainable future or not. But we know for a fact that the creator economy is just getting started (the creator economy is as large as the population of the internet, so it’s not going to die down anytime soon)

There are also virtually no entry barriers in this industry as compared to other industries. And this lack of barriers will ensure more and more people keep coming to the social platforms, which will keep increasing the competition among the creators. This would only impact the lifetime of individual creators. We can already see this, as more and more top creators are facing ‘burnouts’ and are taking ‘breaks’ from posting regularly.

So, the safest bet would be that the creator economy might still exist but the creator lifetime will decrease.


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