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How to Become a Content Creator in 7 Steps (Tested & Proven!)

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How to Become a Content Creator in 7 Steps (Tested & Proven!)

Content is everywhere! There seems to be a never-ending need for it. That’s one of the reasons I left a cushy sales job 10 years ago to become a full-time content creator.

But what do content creators actually do? (Hint: we don’t just post memes all day.)

Irony

Let me give you a behind-the-scenes look at what content creators do, what a content creator salary looks like, and how you can become a content creator.

This article is for anyone wanting to become a content creator, businesses who want to add more content to their marketing, and people looking to hire content creators.

Let’s get into it.

Table of contents

What is a content creator?

A content creator ideates and produces various forms of content that generate revenue for themselves or for an organization. The content can be published across any channel or medium from social media to websites to print publications.

content creator - screenshot of Wendy's post

The truth is, anyone who posts a cute puppy picture on Instagram is a content creator. And content can be things like feature films or fiction novels. But what we’re talking about in this article is digital content used specifically to help businesses get more leads and customers. In other words, it’s content used as part of a marketing strategy.

Where content creators work

Digital content creators work in one of three scenarios:

  • Freelance: Self-employed, does work for several organizations
  • In-house: A direct company employee (that’s me!)
  • Agency: A direct employee of a marketing agency

Freelancers tend to have more flexibility but less security as they have to source their own gigs. In-house content creators have consistent work and pay but have a stricter work environment. Agency creators usually get a wide variety of work but have less influence on strategy and workflows.

Types of content creators

A content creator’s to-do list varies wildly between types of creators. And the line between them gets blurry; an influencer creating TikToks is also a videographer.

I’ve kept it simple by listing the most common types of content creators so you can see how each one operates.

Influencers and brand ambassadors

Influencers and brand ambassadors grow their own following on social media channels and make money by recommending or selling things to their audience.

In many cases, brands pay influencers to show off their products.

content creator - screenshot of an influencer's post

You don’t need millions of people following your account to be an influencer. Some brands prefer to work with nano influencers with just a few thousand followers.

Some influencers also sell their own products. Khloe Kardashian with her Good American brand is a perfect example.

content creator - Khloe Kardashian post

If you’re interested in being an influencer, you’re getting in at a good time. The influencer marketing market is growing and is expected to reach $21 billion in 2023. That’s a big pie you could take a bite out of—you’re just going to be vying for attention with thousands of others.

Social media content creators and managers

This version of a content creator plans and produces social media content for a brand. They often manage the brand’s social media accounts, too.

Social media managers are jacks of many trades. They may capture images and videos, write captions, manage publishing calendars, and plan campaigns. There’s usually some component of social listening to understand what the brand’s reputation is online. On top of that, social media managers also track and report metrics.

Zaria Parvez is a great person to follow if you want to get into this type of work. She manages the social accounts for the language learning app Duolingo.

Content creator - duolingo post

Parvez regularly posts everything from product demos to dance challenges across several platforms for the brand.

Vloggers and streamers

Vloggers and streamers are similar to influencers in that they grow their own audience and leverage it for brand deals or to sell their own products online.

The big difference here is the mediums in which they work.

Vloggers record video blogs they then post on a platform like YouTube. They may cover topics like their daily life or how to build things.

Justine Nelson hosts a Vlog called The Debt Free Millenial.

Content creator - screenshot of debt free millennial landing page

What’s great about Nelson’s vlog is that she’s found a niche based on a real-life concern and made it relevant to a specific audience.

Steamers share videos live on platforms like Twitch. People watch streamers play video games or open product boxes.

Pokimane is one of the most popular live streamers around with over 9 million followers on Twitch alone.

Content creator - Pokimane Twitch screen

If you’re going to become a streamer or vlogger, find something you’re truly passionate about. You’ll be creating a lot of content and if you don’t love it, it’ll get boring fast.

Photographers and videographers

In this category, we find professionals who capture either static or video images (or both!).

These professionals find loads of outlets for their work. They can create their own social channels, sell content to stock image websites, or work directly with brands and social media managers.

One lucrative offshoot (pun intended) of this profession is product photography. Ecommerce brands especially need high-quality imagery and video to feed their ever-growing catalogs and social media ads.

Content creator - ad for sunglasses on Instagram

Writers

Writers are absolutely the best category of content creators 😉. We cover a lot of ground for many mediums.

For example, professionally written copy shows up in:

  • Blog posts
  • Web pages
  • Email marketing
  • Video scripts
  • Brochures
  • E-books and white papers
  • Social media posts

Like other content creators, writers can work in-house, at an agency, or as a freelancer. There are many content writers who even earn a living writing for their own channels.

Ann Handley, for example, is a well-known business writer with her own blog, website, and email newsletter.

Content creator - Newsletter from Ann Handly

Handley is her own content marketer, using her digital channels to sell her books.

Podcasters

Podcasting has absolutely exploded. The average person now listens to seven hours of podcasts every week. Brands are cashing in on the attention paid to this medium by either advertising on podcasts or creating podcasts of their own.

Podcasts range from two-minute motivational talks to multi-hour history lessons. There are episodic pods where actors play out a story. And there are many informational podcasts covering every topic imaginable.

Professionals involved in podcast creation can be the host, the producer, the writer, or all of the above.

SEO 101 is a podcast that teaches the basics of search engine optimization.

Content creator - screenshot of podcaster SEO 101

The hosts both run their own agencies, so the pod does double duty. It generates advertising revenue directly and creates brand awareness for the hosts’ marketing businesses.

What’s a typical content creator salary in 2023?

We’ve all heard about the big dollars influencers pull down. MrBeast reportedly earns upwards of $10 million from his YouTube videos alone.

Content creator - screenshot of a Mrbeast social post

Source

While I certainly hope you reach that level of success, it’ll be good to know what the average content creator earns. Just in case you don’t get quite there.

As for freelance content creators, Glassdoor says they make over $53,000 per year on average. Remember that some people in this pool freelance as a side hustle, so their part-time pay would bring this average down.

If you’re an experienced freelance writer or videographer, you can typically expect to bring in about $35 to $100 for every hour of your time spent creating. I know several full-time freelancer content creators making six figures.

Zip Recruiter says the average salary for an in-house content creator is $115,733 per year. Indeed data says content writers make $20/hour on average.

Content creator - Screenshot of a graph from Ziprecruiter

In my experience, in-house content creator positions pay between $40,000 to $130,000 per year. Jobs that require more experience and higher-level activities like strategy land on the higher end of that spectrum.

Influencers can get paid from several sources. Brands pay when influencers tout their products. They may get a share of ad revenue from the social media platform. And many influencers get “paid” in the form of freebies, which is hard to put a salary tag on.

In most cases, influencers’ income increases with their follower count. According to Petal’s research, this is how much influencers at various audience thresholds can earn:

  • Micro: Influencers with < 10,000 followers make around $88 per post.
  • Mid-level: Influencers with 10,000 to 100,000 followers make about $200 per post.
  • Macro: Influencers with 100,000 to one million followers get an average of $670 per post.

How to become a content creator in 7 steps

Being a content creator is a great gig. You get to exercise your creativity and logic muscles. Plus it’s just really cool to see things you create out in the wild being experienced by other people.

If you’re interested in how to make the full or part-time jump to paid content creation, here are the seven actions I’d take.

1. Watch other creators

The first advice I was given when I asked how to become a professional writer was “read a lot.” For visual creators like social media influencers, I’d expand that and say “watch a lot.”

Pick three creators you admire and consume everything they put out. Luckily, we’re talking about a profession that’s public by nature (it’s not like we’re learning the spy trade).

You can do the same for specific topics. If you want to break into fitness content, follow a few fitness hashtags and look for themes across the most successful content.

Content creator - screenshot of search results on YouTube

Notice the details like how often and when they post. What they use for thumbnails. And what topics they talk about.

Then try to guess their strategy. How do you think they’d define their audience? And can you tell how they repurpose content?

The more you learn, the more you’ll notice, then the more you’ll learn.

2. Join public creator groups

There are all sorts of public creator groups on networks like Facebook and Slack.

I could list a dozen such groups here, but the way I find them is to Google “groups for [creator type] on [channel].” So if I want to connect with other content marketers, I’d search “groups for content marketers on Slack” and see what comes up.

Content creator - screenshot of a Google search for groups

Once you’ve joined and are comfortable with the group’s rules, jump in and ask questions. Don’t be afraid to answer questions, too. Even if you’re new, you still have ideas.

3. Learn the skills

This is where you put in the—sometimes frustrating—work. The good news is that many companies offer free resources.

Go to the website of any tool you’d use (like Canva if you’re into design). Most of these companies want you to learn the trade so you use their products.

Content creator - screenshot of canva education page

If you’re leaning towards content marketing and marketing in general, we have tons of free resources about writing on our blog.

Social media platforms and search engines also have educational guides. Google, Meta (a.k.a. Facebook and Instagram), and TikTok all have creator resources.

4. Create, create, create

No one expects to land an NBA contract before they start playing basketball. The same holds true for content creators. You’ll need to practice and show what you can do before getting paid to do it.

The trick is getting over the fear of starting. Just grab your phone and take a picture of your puppy or current art project. Post it and copy the tone of your favorite influencer. Or rewrite a content marketer’s post you like.

Don’t worry if your first attempts aren’t great. In fact, try to embrace that phase of your growth.

If you want to get better, you have to put in the reps.

5. Hone your voice and style

In the early days of your creative process, you’re going to copy other creators a lot. That’s OK. The most creative people in the world have been influenced by other creators.

How do you find your own unique style?

Pay attention to the one or two things you like best about your favorite creators’ work. Then add them to yours. Eventually, you have a dozen (or dozens) of things that mesh together and become something unique.

6. Create a portfolio

As soon as you write, video, or photograph your first piece of content—for pay or practice—save it somewhere.

Content creator - screenshot of a photographer's portfolio

Image source

Start with Google Docs or another free tool. If things are stored in several files, keep a spreadsheet with links for easy reference.

Don’t be shy about what does in there. You can also restrict access to certain items when you start to share it.

Eventually, publish your portfolio on a public website. Here’s a list of free places to keep your portfolio online.

7. Network

The old saying that “it’s not what you know, but who you know” is half right. You have to know how to create content. But who you know will help a ton when it’s time to find paying gigs.

LinkedIn is your first friend here. Follow people in your profession. Share, like, and reply to their posts. Ask to connect after they’ve had a chance to see your name a few times.

Here’s a personal tip: Reach out to people after they’ve been a guest on a relevant podcast. Most people want to know that their episode sounded good. So I send them a note on LinkedIn telling them how much I enjoyed the episode.

You can do the same things in the industry groups you join and on places like Reddit.

All those connections start to pay off when people recommend you for new opportunities.

Start your content creator journey today

It only takes one step to start a journey. Maybe today you post more thoughtfully on social media. Or read a blog post about writing blog posts.

No matter where you start, remember these tips:

  • Learn from your favorite creators
  • To become a content creator, start creating content
  • Save all of your work in a portfolio
  • Never stop networking with other creators

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Advertisers: How Netflix is Coming for You

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Someone watching Netflix on a TV on their wall

If you haven’t yet looked at Netflix as an outlet for your advertising budgets, you soon will.

Even if you haven’t, that the video-on-demand streaming platform is venturing ever deeper into ads as a revenue source won’t be news. If you have an individual or household subscription, you may well have been alerted to a change in your service, with Netflix switching you from your current, ad-free plan to a cheaper tier that will include commercial breaks.

As a marketer, that should have screamed opportunity, or at the very least it will have got you asking questions.

Netflix answered many of those at Upfront 2024, the company’s second presentation to current and potential advertisers. The event left us with little doubt about how far they’ve come and how much further they intend to go.

Advertisers How Netflix is Coming for You

End-to-End is the New Black for Netflix

The company already creates the content and owns the infrastructure on which it appears. Next up is the ad tech and sales side. This will allow it to provide a bespoke offering to those in our business, including ad commissioning, formatting, and targeting, all under one roof.

Netflix is already a player. In the next year (or two, or less) they intend to become a serious one.

Netflix’s Numbers are Impressive

A reported 40 million subscribers are now on the ad-supported plan. In those markets where the tier has already been rolled out, 40% of new sign-ups are plumping for the ad-added option.

Apparently over 50% of advertised-to viewers watch more than 20 hours per month. That’s a handy little figure for those holding the purse strings to have in their pockets.

Netflix Going after Google?

Perhaps not yet. Or at least not directly

The media giant has committed to competing for a greater share of your brand’s marketing budget. At this, however, stage its sights seem set on legacy media, rather than the Mountain View behemoth.

The supplementary Upfront material mentions “linear TV” several times, pointing out how favorably its own audiences compare.

Netflix viewers are supposedly twice as likely to respond to advertising, have a higher attention span, and have a higher household income than those taking their TV via the traditional format.

And in the near-to-medium term Google is going to be more of an ally than an opponent. This was their announcement:

What that means is from this summer you will be able to purchase Netflix inventory via Google’s Display & Video 360 programmatic platforms. Other buying options will include The Trade Desk and Magnite, all of whom join Netflix’s primary programmatic partner, Microsoft.

Bigger Things on the Horizon

Less loudly trumpeted by Google is that Netflix does not intend to outsource its advertising tech for long. It will be launching its own platform by the end of next year.

“Bringing our ad tech in-house will allow us to power the ads plan with the same level of excellence that’s made Netflix the leader in streaming technology today,” said Amy Reinhard, Netflix President of Advertising.

“We’re being incredibly strategic about how we present ads,” she continued, “because we want our members to have a phenomenal experience. We conduct deep consumer research to make sure we stay ahead of the competition, bringing opportunities that are better for members and better for brands.”

Netflix might not be part of your plans, but you’re very much part of their theirs.



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Running Performance Max Against Brand is a Waste

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Brand Performance Max

If you’re like the majority of Google Ads advertisers, you’re running Performance Max campaigns. You’re also likely wasting a ton of money on it. Google makes it challenging to exclude branded keywords from Performance Max, while claiming the brand terms that do show up in these campaigns are incremental.

At our PPC agency, Taikun, where we manage tens of millions in Google ad spend per year, we have not seen this proposition supported by evidence. In fact we have found time and again that keeping branded terms live in PMax gives Google a license to waste your money.

Is Brand Search Incremental?

Before diving into the specifics of how including brand in PMax wastes money, it is important to discuss whether brand spend ever drives incremental revenue

Geo lift tests we have conducted on brand spend, within both shopping and search, with a number of brands, have found in each case that ad spend was found to be completely non incremental. That is, it generated no additional (net) revenue. This is supported by other companies which have seen similar results

Despite the lack of incrementality, there are situations where spending on brand makes sense. For example: To deter competitors or retail partners from bidding on your terms; product or service segmentation that meaningfully benefits from better control of landing pages; and when brand terms overlap with nonbrand searches.

Whether any of the above apply or not, it’s important to remember that when running brand there’s no guarantee it will drive incremental sales. If you have the volume to run a geo lift test, it’s recommended.

Understanding how the sausage is made

Regardless of whether running brand on search or shopping is incremental for your business, there’s one way to ensure it will negatively impact your incremental volume: running it in PMax. 

PMax gives you access to Google’s entire ad inventory. It promises to use machine learning to maximize your overall performance across Google’s entire ecosystem. This sounds great in theory. In reality, PMax is a way for Google to sell remnant inventory that you would not intentionally target because of its low quality. That poor performance can be hidden with spend against extremely high intent and high performing brand volume.

For example, if 10% of your spend goes to brand at a 20x ROAS and the other 90% goes to everything else at a 0.5x ROAS, your blend is a 2.45x. Performance looks good on the blend, but in reality you’re incinerating 90% of your ad budget.

This is not a theoretical example. We have seen this play out with varying degrees of severity in every PMax campaign we’ve looked at where brand was combined with nonbrand:

1716402362 272 Running Performance Max Against Brand is a Waste

You need to force PMax to work for its conversions. To do that you need to strip brand out completely.

How to Tell if Brand PMax is Wasting Your Budget

You can take a look at your own PMax campaigns and quickly determine if you’re wasting money on brand. If your PMax is performing at a better rate than other nonbrand volume in your account or your meta prospecting, you’re probably running a lot of brand. Likewise, if your campaign is consistently performing above the target, it is a dead giveaway there’s brand in there. Finally, if CPCs are lower than the rest of the account, brand is a likely culprit. 

You can also do a rough calculation of how much brand is generating witin the campaign. The insights report of PMax provides data on the search categories that are driving conversions. Add up all the conversions that are credited to search categories with brand terms and compare that to the overall campaign conversion volume. This will give you a rough idea of the percentage of conversions in the campaign being driven by brand. 

If it’s more than 30% of the overall conversions, you’re absolutely burning money and you should pull it out of PMax. 

Structuring Brand Outside PMax

Removing brand from PMax is annoying but not overly onerous. The first step is requesting Google adds a negative keyword list to your PMax campaign. Here is the form that includes a template to send in the name of your brand terms or dedicated PMax negative keyword list. This allows you to add negative keywords to your PMax campaign.

Note: The brand exclusions structure doesn’t do as good a job of excluding brand terms as a negative keyword list. 

Next, you need to set up a brand search campaign on either target impression share, or a manual bidding strategy. Smart bidding is a bad fit for brand search for the same reason we exclude it from PMax: it allows Google to waste money.

The goal with your brand search campaign should be to maximize the delta in real dollars between your spend and revenue generated.

If you’re managing an ecommerce brand, there’s one more campaign that needs to be set up (if you don’t already have one): A branded shopping campaign. A standard shopping campaign with a ROAS target that’s double your nonbrand target will ensure you’re capturing branded shopping inventory as well.

Adjust this target as necessary. Almost no nonbrand will make it into this campaign because PMax takes precedence over standard shopping.

With brand out of PMax, you’ll see volume on that campaign decline substantially as well as performance. Your overall account performance should increase substantially as well.

A Final Note on Google

The advertiser relationship with Google is currently broken. The Google antitrust trial has exposed what many of us in the PPC community have known for years: Google is squeezing advertisers to juice their own profits.

Whenever Google makes changes or encourages advertisers to do things, remember the relationship and ask yourself: “How would this benefit Google?”



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8 Fast Takeaways from Google Marketing Live 2024

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8 Fast Takeaways from Google Marketing Live 2024

Similar to last year, Google Marketing Live provided a torrent of AI-fueled advances for advertisers. In all, nine presenters announced 30 products and features over the 90-minute keynote event.

In the upcoming days and weeks, we’ll examine each of these new products and features in-depth and share what marketers and advertising experts think of them as they roll out.

But for now, here’s a quick recap of the most important announcements from Google Marketing Live 2024.

Contents

8 biggest takeaways from Google Marketing Live 2024

The GML keynote was a fast and furious hour and a half. Here are the biggest announcements from the event.

1. Automatic ad placements in AI overviews

Just last week at Google I/O, Google announced the wider release of AI overviews in search results (formerly known as SGE or search generative experience). Now, Google is testing automatically placed Search, PMax, and Shopping ads in AI Overview boxes.

Google Marketing Live - screenshot of AI overview ad

The ads will show up in a block labeled “Sponsored” to separate them from the organic and AI-derived content.

These ads will show up automatically when they match the intent of both the query and the AI Overview; advertisers don’t need to take any action to target those placements.

2. AI-powered, personalized recommendations and advice

In another experiment, Google is using AI to speed along shoppers’ decision-making process for large or complicated purchases by offering personalized product recommendations.

Google used the example of someone shopping for storage space.

The user would search for “short-term storage” and click on a relevant ad. They would then enter a guided shopping experience where they could answer questions and provide a photo of what they wanted to store.

Google Marketing Live - screenshot of AI guided ad.Google Marketing Live - screenshot of AI guided ad.

Google’s AI reviews the details and suggests the right-size storage unit and related items like packing materials. The user then clicks through to a product page on the business’s website to finalize their purchase.

This ad feature is currently in the testing phase. If it’s successful, it will soon be available to other verticals.

3. AI creative asset production for PMax campaigns

Google announced more features and tools to help advertisers create PMax campaign assets faster and at scale. These new features include:

  • The ability to add brand guidelines for colors, fonts, and imagery.
  • Image editing is used to add and extend backgrounds, add objects, and alter image sizes to fit multiple ad placements (think of adding a plant and expanding the wall for a furniture ad).
  • Auto-generation of ads from a product feed.
  • Asset-level conversion metrics.

Google Marketing Live - screenshot of PMax ad creation.Google Marketing Live - screenshot of PMax ad creation.

4. AI-enhanced Shopping Ads

    Shopping Ads got another layer of AI treatment with several upgrades to create a more immersive shopping experience.

    Virtual try-on for apparel

    Google is expanding its virtual try-on (VTO) experience to apparel ads. Beginning with men’s and women’s tops, users will be able to see how individual styles look on different body types.

    3D product images

    Using Adidas brand sneakers as an example, Google showed off new 360-degree shoe views that can be featured in ads. Google generates the 3D images using images provided by the seller.

    In-ad, short-form product videos

    Advertisers can now incorporate short product videos—created by the brand or by influencers—into ads. The videos will be clickable and interactive, letting shoppers view related products and get styling suggestions.

    The ads will include product details under each video.

    5. New visually immersive ad formats and features

    Google shared that it’s expanding its demand-gen video ad campaigns by adding new options for advertisers. These features include:

    • Clickable stickers created from existing image assets.
    • The ability for users to swipe left to a branded YouTube landing page.
    • AI-generated animations based on static images.

    6. Cohesive first-party data management

    In a move to improve the quality of data used to guide AI outputs, Google announced that its Ads Data Manager platform is coming out of beta testing and is now widely available.

    Google Marketing Live - screenshot of Google performance dashboard.Google Marketing Live - screenshot of Google performance dashboard.

    Ads Data Manager lets advertisers aggregate first-party data from sources like YouTube, Google Ads, HubSpot, and Shopify to make it more visible and actionable. The platform also acts as a “check engine light” to help make sure marketers are using data safely and responsibly.

    7. Visual brand profiles on search

    Sellers can now create a brand profile for Search, including branded imagery, product deals, videos, and more.

    Brand profiles will also include reviews pulled from Product Listing Ads. It remains to be seen how much control advertisers have over which reviews are shown.

    8. New profit optimization goals in PMax

    Advertisers will be able to optimize ads for profit goals in Performance Max campaigns.

    Google says advertisers using the new profit goals saw a 15% uplift in campaign profit compared to revenue-only goals.

    What we didn’t see at Google Marketing Live 2024

    There was a lot for advertisers to be excited about in this year’s GML keynote, but a couple of topics stood out by their absence.

    No B2B-specific products or features

    Once again, the 90-minute Google Marketing Live session focused on the rollout of products designed to help business-to-consumer brands generate more return from their Google Ads investments.

    There wasn’t a single mention of a B2B company, example, or use case. For obvious reasons, we’d have loved to see some.

    No (or too few) small-business case studies

    By number, the vast majority of advertisers on Google are small businesses. Yet just about every example, case study, and customer story featured big brands using Google’s newest features to attract new customers.

    Additionally, the majority of example use cases for the new features announced at Google Marketing Live 2024 were for travel and ecommerce–industries that typically thrive in the search ads environment. Meanwhile, the typical small business wouldn’t be able to reap the same benefits from these new features.

    “Google Ads and YouTube ads for well-established brands should work. If it didn’t, it would be alarming. Show me a local business with impressive stats,” tweeted Julie Bacchini, President of Neptune Moon and Managing Director of PPCChat.

    Google Marketing Live - screenshot of a Tweet about Google Marketing Live.Google Marketing Live - screenshot of a Tweet about Google Marketing Live.

    Source

    Our hope is that Google will use AI to make advertising easier for smaller businesses with smaller budgets.

    What it all means

    We’ll dig deeper into all these announcements and new AI features in an upcoming post, but for now, the takeaway is clear: Google is investing heavily in AI across the board. We get the feeling that not all users are quite as excited about AI as Google is, and regardless, there are bound to be some hiccups, as with any new technology. But we’ll be here to help you all navigate the changes.

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