Thank goodness summer is finally here! I just got back from a book-selling trip to Miami, plus wrote an article about fashion and the creator economy for Glossy. That term “creator economy” has a lot of baggage for me, so this month we’re digging a little deeper into how that concept applies to my own work and experiences.
I’m grappling with what it means to be a journalistic “creator” across platforms, especially as I make progress with the community-driven magazine Des Femmes. (Follow us on Twitter at @desfemmesmag for upcoming announcements.)
This month’s newsletter will include insights from the classmates I met (virtually) via the Atelier Angels educational course spearheaded by venture capitalist Li Jin. We’ll reflect on that experience and our perspective on what it means to grow a career in the personality-driven media industry.
(Buzz, one of the many handsome dogs who inspired a pet pictures Slack channel among my virtual classmates)
Many types of content creators across Youtube, TikTok, Substack, and a zillion other platforms, can already see the writing on the wall. Our growth has a shelf-life. We all risk burnout. Creatives need to diversify their revenue streams while the iron is hot, so to speak.
“I see it [investing] as a vital piece of my long term future as a creator and entrepreneur,” said Atelier Angel and sports media entrepreneur Navin Ramharak. “I'm really excited to start investing more with confidence and uplifting founders and creators of color.”
The uncomfortable truth is that most platforms, like many traditional employers, see content creators as expendable. We are a resource they burn through (while hopeful newbies wait in the wings), rather than nurture talent into maturity. So, we need to find ways to make money beyond finite labor.
“I see investing as leverage for me to do bigger things. Any investment in time is an opportunity cost trade-off. Better align with one's conviction and passion when grinding through tough times,” said Atelier Angel and NFT collector Manlo Ngai.
These days traditional media organizations are solidifying worker unions. Likewise, independent creators must find collective power through some type of network. As creators start investing, they’ll need to build collective power through investor networking and not only unions that rely on traditional employers.
Angel investor networks can be among those options for collective power, including (but not limited to) investment DAOs and clubs or collectives, even creator-hacker communes. The key here is evaluating people, not just the current state of a given fund or project.
Investors are really analyzing the founders and their passion, looking to join people with strong networks and adaptable teams, not strictly investing in the first version of an idea. Companies will inevitably pivot. Creators will need to learn this approach if they want flexible career trajectories that don’t rely on traditional employers.
On the other hand, it’s not just about making friends with wealthy investors (i.e. networking). Consistent brand-building is also one of the best ways to attract high-quality inbound offers. During her angel investing course, Jin taught the importance of specialized knowledge.
Creatives generally want to evolve and explore new topics or styles, to be recognizable without being pigeonholed. How can we bring readers along with us without diluting the media products, which are more sellable when content is standardized?
One way to do this, as multimedia producer Gil Kruger (a fellow Atelier Angel alum) knows, is to start angel investing across media niches. We don’t need to constantly pivot our own content if we can be involved, authentically and productively, in a variety of projects.
“Investing starts to become a kind of growth loop for opportunities,” Kruger said.
Looking for growth
Like angel investors, creators need to look at brand-building with a long-term perspective. Which sectors and markets will grow over the next decade?
We can see public trust in the traditional media industry is now shockingly low and readers are craving both more accountability and interaction. This relates to the most important trick to being an angel investor: Be helpful to others and provide value. That is a great way to get audiences to follow you throughout growth phases, rather than viewing the creator as a pigeon-holded product, like the “bitcoin girl,” etc.
Kruger (Buzz’s lucky owner!) told me he’s focusing on writing angel checks for media companies where he can add value, based on his years of production experience, rather than merely looking for startups that might become unicorn companies with wildly lucrative returns.
While working closely with diverse founders to build his professional network, Kruger plans to launch a podcast for his own personal brand-building and, hopefully, attract freelance job opportunities. Being both a creator and an investor are two sides of his holistic career growth strategy.
“One of the primary motivators for my entering into angel investing is that producers like me, who aren’t the face of the product, don’t capture the same value as the talent. I’ve produced content that has grossed seven figures, but because I was just an employee behind the scenes, I didn’t receive a bonus or other form of upside,” Kruger said. “Investing in itself can become a form of LinkedIn... Founders know other founders and investors... If ever I want to start my own company, I’ll already have more foundational knowledge and a network of founders.”
In addition to personal growth, through networking, creator-investors need to find niche audiences that are growing. We don’t want to be serving the lowest-common denominator to the widest audiences. We want to produce, and help others produce, increasingly specific content for a demographic with increased need for this information.
Creators are also community builders and the trick is finding workflows that help scale meaningful engagement, so that audiences become more invested in the outlet/producer, rather than attracting passive masses and needing to constantly fill the top of the funnel. Over the next few months, I’ll be exploring what that means for me in terms of crypto content.
Can I carve out an independent career path, through investing (I just joined my first investor collective, the Komorebi Collective!) and community-led projects like Des Femmes? Stay tuned and we’ll see!
(Illustration by Atelier Angel alum Yoko Li)
Well, that’s it for June. Let me know in the comments if you have any questions or thoughts about the creator economy. In the upcoming months, this newsletter will also cover topics like finding your niche, self-dense, fiction writing, and collaborative media experiments.
Until next time, take care everybody!