The Tilt content entrepreneur research creator economy research

Content entrepreneurs are the people driving the creator economy. Yet, few truly understand them. That’s why we created The Unconventionals, a benchmark study of content entrepreneurs turning valuable and interesting content into revenue streams. This content entrepreneur research told us what motivates them, what they’re doing to build a content business, how they earn revenue, what they aspire to achieve, and more.

Here is some of what they had to share.

Who are content entrepreneurs?

Don’t call them influencers; content entrepreneurs build businesses. They do that with a singular focus – growing and monetizing their audiences by filling a specific informational need. (Yes, they’re building something akin to a media company.)

Of those surveyed, 40% are Gen X, while 32% are millennials, with Baby Boomers (23%) and Gen Z (5%) creating content businesses too. Among all content entrepreneurs, it’s split between those who do it full time (52%) and those who do it as a side gig (48%).

content entrepreneur research -generations, who did we study?
Don't call them #influencers. Content entrepreneurs build businesses. Gen X makes up 40% followed by millennials (32%) in the first-ever survey of #ContentEntrepreneurs from @TheTiltNews. #creatoreconomy Click To Tweet

What motivates them to be content entrepreneurs?

Independence (78%) tops passion (73%) among the benefits of content entrepreneurship. Not surprisingly, many of the most popular benefits revolve around independence: flexible work hours (69%), enjoy my work hours (60%), choose where I live (43%).

A majority (59%) do it to challenge themselves, while 18% say they’re motivated to prove themselves to others. 

content entrepreneur research benefits of being a content entrepreneur
Independence tops passion among the benefits of content entrepreneurship, according to new research on #contentbusinesses. Click To Tweet

In a separate question, nearly nine in 10 agree they became content entrepreneurs “to achieve financial freedom on my own terms.”

How do they grow their audience?

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the only audience-growth tactic cited by more than half (56%) of the content entrepreneurs. Hashtags came in second, cited by 48%. Partnerships with creators or entrepreneurs came in third (44%), followed closely by social media advertising (43%).

content entrepreneur research - how do content entrepreneurs grow their audience?

Of the group of full-time content entrepreneurs, our content entrepreneur research showed the median amount invested in their business was $10K.

What about revenue?

Any business success comes down to revenue. Of those surveyed who operate their content business full time, the median annual revenue was $50K, with experience being a factor in higher revenue. The median revenue for content entrepreneurs in business four to seven years was $100K, while those in it for longer than seven years saw a median revenue of $125K.

Median annual revenue for full-time content entrepreneurs? $50,000. Climbs to $125,000 for those who've done it longer than 7 years. Click To Tweet

No single revenue stream dramatically outweighed others in terms of most profitable. Sixteen percent cited online courses and workshops hosted on their platform, while 13% cited advertising and sponsored content, followed by affiliate marketing and speaking at 9% each.

content entrepreneur research - most profitable revenue streams

We also found the number of revenue sources differed between full-time and part-time content entrepreneurs. Our content entrepreneur research showed full-timers had at least four, while part-timers relied on only one or two.

What’s next for their content businesses?

Content entrepreneurs see big potential in their businesses. Over half (57%) say they want to employ a few or many people, with 36% indicating they want to be solopreneurs. Only 6% intend to keep it as a hobby.

content entrepreneur research - long term ambitions for content business
57% of content entrepreneurs say they want to build businesses that employ at least a few people. @TheTiltNews research #creatoreconomy Click To Tweet

One of the challenges about content businesses is the entrepreneur acts as the personality of the business. That means they will have more difficulty stepping away from the business. Just 13% of those surveyed say they eventually plan to sell the business.

I’ve shared just a glimpse of The Tilt’s content entrepreneur research findings from The Unconventionals study. Special thanks to our research partners Ann Handley and Unemployable for making this possible, as well as Libsyn, Active Campaign, and Youpreneur with an assist. 

To find out how long, on average, it takes to make the first dollar to fully supporting themselves or others, how they feel about returning to traditional work, whether they think a college education is a necessary ingredient, and much more, read the full report on content entrepreneurs.

About the author

Joe Pulizzi is the Amazon bestselling author of Content Inc., Killing Marketing and Epic Content Marketing, which was named a “Must-Read Business Book” by Fortune Magazine. His novel, The Will to Die, was awarded "Best Suspense Book" of 2020 by the National Indie Excellence Awards. Joe's latest version of Content Inc. was released May, 2021.

He has founded four companies including digital content news site The Tilt as well as Content Marketing Institute. In 2014, he received the "Lifetime Achievement Award" by the Content Council. His podcast series, This Old Marketing with Robert Rose, has millions of downloads from over 150 countries. His Foundation, The Orange Effect, delivers speech therapy and technology services to children in over 35 states.