6 Lessons from 6 Months as a 6-Figure Content CreatorDec 16, 2021
Everyone makes content creation sound so glamorous. I prefer to be honest.
I celebrate my six-month anniversary as my own boss today and gifted myself a moment to reflect. The truth is life looks nothing like what I expected at all.
There have been opportunities I wouldn’t have dared dream about. Incredible new connections from all over the world have blown my mind. I’ve grown more than I ever thought I could.
Yet there have been tough lessons too.
You’ve seen the title, you know financially I’ve done what most people would consider amazing on paper. Life isn’t two-dimensional though. Don’t create fantasies of what life would be like if you reach a certain level of minor internet fame.
This is the advice I’d give myself before quitting my job.
#1 You might lose yourself along the way
I was tempted to end this list at five lessons despite it ruining the title effect. Yet I kept this point despite how raw it is because I think more people need to talk about it.
When your livelihood depends on your online brand, a chicken and egg situation happens. You’re meant to show your authentic self through your content but sometimes who you are changes to fit your content.
With 60,000 followers, I’m terrified of saying the wrong thing. I don’t want to join the long list of people who’ve got canceled. I have a dry sense of humor which can be difficult for those who don’t know me well to work out if I’m being serious or not. I met one writer last week who was convinced I hated him because of a sassy reply I gave him over a year ago. The self-censoring I do online has bled into how I act in real life.
Has content creation stripped me of my sense of humor?
I know other creators who make their online brand controversial to get views. At the start, they didn’t believe what they were saying but now they drink their own kool-aid. It’s an occupational hazard.
I’d advise all people who want to become a full-time creator to understand it will change them and not always in the way they hoped for.
#2 “Six-figures” is overrated (at the start)
When I quit my job, I had significant savings. I told myself I could make my decisions based on meaning, not money. Yet dollars have a way of corrupting the best intentions.
I enjoy everything I do but there’s nuance. I like strawberry ice cream and chocolate ice cream but the second is my favorite. Imagine someone paid me to eat ice cream but the rate was twice as high for strawberry. I’d end up skipping my favorite more for the extra money.
This is exactly what’s happened in my short career as a full-time content creator. I sacrifice the most meaningful tasks more often than I’d like to but it happened by accident. It’s only when I review my month I realize how I’ve misspent my time.
The psychological importance of “six-figures” played an important role. In 2022, I want to decrease my income at the start of the year so I can focus more on what I want to do rather than follow the money.
My brand is built around the pieces I pour my heart and soul into not all the things I do in the shadow. In the long term, it’s the smarter investment.
#3 You can’t have your cake and eat it
Some people won’t like this but the forums around content creation are full of entitlement. People seem to demand absolute freedom to do what they want whilst earning healthily every month. They’re happy for wild positive swings but get their pitchforks out if it goes the other way.
To take the path I took and stay sane, you must understand you can’t have it both ways. You will be at the mercy of platforms, fans, and luck just like I am. You can’t expect the world to revolve around you. You need to serve the world so they come to you.
I can call myself my own boss but in reality, if I want to earn a sustainable income then everybody is my boss. I need to hope you enjoy reading my thoughts enough to follow me or sign up for my newsletter. I can’t demand that of you, I can only do my best to convince you to believe I’m worth your time.
To grow in this world you need the humility to help people whilst protecting your boundaries. It’s not easy but thinking you deserve more without showing it is a waste of your energy.
#4 Obsession is your greatest friend and worst enemy
I am where I am today because I get obsessed with new things.
In the past, I’d have called it “passion” but I’ve faced reality now. “Passion” implies an interest considered almost universally positive which I think would mislead you.
I devoured thousands of articles about how to become a better writer.
I inhaled a dozen courses on how to make a great podcast.
I’m now repeating the feasting cycle before I start on YouTube.
Many people aren’t as tenacious so don’t see similar results. Yet they can switch off much easier than I can. Within minutes of waking up, I’m thinking about my to-do list and my mind seems to never stop spinning. At times, it’s exhausting.
Most of the time I manage it well but now and then, one of my wellbeing watchmen takes a nap, and ambition storms into the peaceful fortress of my mind. It wreaks absolute havoc. It can take me weeks to beat it back to a healthy level. I lean heavily on the support of friends and family when this happens.
To make people care about your work over the long term, you need to breathe whatever you do. Yet don’t think you’re exempt from burnout or overdoing it. Have an emergency plan to restabilize.
#5 Resilience comes at a cost
I made a PowerPoint presentation to my family while deciding to quit my job because I craved validation for my decision so badly. I had an entire business plan with exactly where I thought my money would come from. Six months later, I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I was naive to think I could neatly forecast where life would lead me but spreading my risk was wise. When any individual income source dried up, it wasn’t catastrophic and I could pick up something new to fill the void. Several of my plans have failed and some of yours will too. It’s smart to not go all-in on one volatile path.
Yet it’s tiring too.
Today, I’ve interviewed two people for two different podcasts. I’ve replied to a dozen emails. I created a video for an online course. I designed some posts for Instagram. I met a collaborator for lunch. I edited some articles from other people. I’ve written this article. I’m still going to write four freelancing pieces after this.
A machine can swap between tabs instantly but we aren’t machines. Switching between my tasks feels like someone twisting my brain. Unpleasant. Studies show this can cost you 20–80% of your time. I feel like I’m on the higher end of the scale.
I’m ending some of my streams next year to give myself more energy for the tasks I keep. When designing your ideal creator lifestyle, don’t forget to include switching costs in the equation.
#6 You’ll need a new hobby
Despite being a full-time creator, I consume the least amount of content I ever had. I can’t enjoy reading as much because I analyze rather than consume. Going full-time means I can’t relax by reading or writing the same way I used to.
Too many people push a version of advice that originated from a fictional psychopath.
“If you’re good at something, never do it for free.” — The Joker
The greatest martial artist I ever trained with was a retired school teacher. He charged $20 for 15 days of intense training. It was only to cover the cleaning costs and he made no money from it himself. Karate was his hobby and he didn’t want to ruin it.
My number one piece of advice for anyone looking to become a full-time creator is to make sure you have an outlet. Something which fills your heart with joy unrelated to your content or business. Dancing or playing sport is the release I need at the end of the day to get those endorphins going.
Keep something pure and you’ll thank me later.