The Creator Economy Burns People Out. But it Doesn’t Have to Be That Way.

(Photo by Darren Heath/Getty Images) Darren Heath/Getty Images

A recent study by the American Psychological Association confirms what many of us already know: burnout is at an all-time high. Whether they’re quitting their job or reducing their responsibilities, workers in almost every occupation are rethinking their careers in search of a better work-life balance.

This has led to a boom in the creator economy, with people drawn by the flexibility, autonomy and sense of easy money. By one estimate, more than 200 million people worldwide identify themselves as social media content creators, swamping a creator market economy that is expected to reach $104 billion by the end of the year.

But even creative people are not immune to burnout. In fact, the risk factors read almost like a creative’s job description: lack of control over outcomes, unclear expectations, social isolation, and blurred lines between work and free time. Add to that a sprinkling of negative trolling and unhelpful comparisons to the rare but unmissable creator who rakes in millions. The good news is, it doesn’t have to be that way.

As a creator with a long-standing online course and CEO of a company that helps thousands of creators monetize their content, I have firsthand experience of creator burnout and how to avoid it.

There are so many benefits of being a creator: the freedom to live off your passion, to travel, to positively influence others, to build a team and brand, and to express yourself creatively. However, long-term success requires a clear view of the business realities of content creation, finding intrinsic motivation, taking control of your platform, and finding unique ways to create value for your followers.

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Here are some ways YouTubers can avoid burnout and create careers that go the distance.

Live according to your means

A major cause of burnout in entrepreneurship is financial. Live within your means to avoid additional financial stress.

I recommend starting your creative endeavors as a side hustle while you have your day job to ensure your bills are covered until your business takes off. Control your costs as you step into full-time content creation. Even with significant income, spending more than you earn can create unnecessary financial stress.

Many creatives have amazing financial success, but living within your means while you build your business can make the journey easier and more enjoyable.

Focus on what you can control

In my experience, burnout isn’t caused by overwork alone, but by feeling like you’re trying too hard and not getting the results you want. This can be especially difficult for creators, as critical elements of success, like follower growth, view count, and engagement, are beyond their control.

Instead, to keep burnout at bay, focus on the input and redefine your benchmarks to find things in your power.

When I first went all-in on my online course, I stayed up late filming and editing content, setting unrealistic goals to grow my audience, and then feeling discouraged when they weren’t met .

So I shifted my focus. I regularly made time for activities like kite surfing which replenished my energy. I framed my goals around factors I could control. Rather than aiming to make a certain amount of money each month, I set goals around input — like creating a certain number of blog posts, instructional videos, guides, and lessons or quizzes in my course.

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I was still monitoring audience and engagement metrics to guide the creation of the next set of inputs. But instead of worrying about volume, I focused on making each piece of content valuable to my followers.

As a YouTuber, it’s important to find ways to relieve pressure. Instead of striving to hit 100,000 views, set a goal to improve your content – ask yourself how you can create something people will love.

Join a community of supportive like-minded people

A healthy, supportive community of colleagues will improve the way you think, help you avoid burnout, improve your results, and make work more fun. I specify healthy and supportive because there are peer groups that are more about comparing results than sharing successes and advice. That’s not what I mean. Comparison can really be the thief of joy.

Find a group that will support you when times are tough and celebrate with you when things are going well. Your state of mind will benefit as you lean into the community and help others. The best communities are much more focused on giving than taking – and that should include your involvement in the community.

Take control of your own community and content

When content creation is a fun side hustle, you can follow your whims and inclinations. But if you want to make a living, you need to add value to your followers and migrate content to platforms you can control.

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The details here depend on your unique online community. This can be a paid newsletter, membership program, online community, or course. The only thing that is non-negotiable is that it has to be in an area that frees you from the algorithms of other platforms and gives you direct access to your customers, data and control over your brand.

Instead of accumulating page views, use what you’ve learned about your community to create the content and services you want. A YouTube video with 1 million views can generate between $2,000 and $3,000 in ad revenue. But an online course based on the needs and interests of your dedicated followers could generate real and recurring income with just a few dozen students. Focus on the most significant potential return.

My own YouTube channel makes about a dollar per view because it sends a few thousand viewers to a quality product instead of thousands to an ad.

Unfortunately, with more people battling burnout than ever before, creators come first. But by being realistic, focusing on value, and diversifying revenues, creators can reap the freedom, autonomy, and sustainability that draws so many people into the industry and sustain it for the long haul. If you master this, you can prepare yourself for financial freedom in addition to the burnout freedom.

The creator economy is burning people out.  But it doesn't have to be that way.


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