The creator economy has been a much discussed phenomenon of the modern interactive landscape, with the implication being that there are now more ways than ever for people to make money online, simply by following their passions, uploading their content, and building a community of fans, who’ll then pay them for their efforts.

Which sounds amazing in theory, but the reality is that the creator “economy” is actually far from being economic for the vast majority of people.

That’s been reinforced once again with the latest research report from creator monetization platform Kajabi, which surveyed 2,000 creators to get their insights into how they make money online, how much money they actually make, the rising use of AI tools, and more.

The topline finding?

96% of creators earn less than $100k/year.”

Which is not overly surprising. In 2022, Influencer marketing platform Aspire found that only 4.3% of creators make more than $100k per year, virtually the exact same result, while a recent survey conducted by Influencer Marketing Hub also found that over 48% of creators earn $15,000 or less p/a.

So while you can indeed make money from your passions, and there are more means than ever to get your work before an audience, the vast majority of creators are not making enough money to quit their full-time jobs, and only a tiny fraction are actually getting “rich” from their content.

For every MrBeast, there are thousands of creators earning only a fraction of fraction of his income.

And most are not earning money from their content directly.

As per the report:

In an industry estimated to reach $480 billion by 2027, more than 50 million creators are trying to make a living online. And yet, 66% of creators made most of their income from one revenue source in 2022 – brand deals. Surviving off of brand deals is easy for those with millions of followers, but for the majority of creators, they are unpredictable and competitive.”

In fact, Kajabi’s report found that the most successful creators leverage five income streams or more, with broader diversification now being a requirement of maximizing your income opportunities.

Kajabi State of Creators Report 2024

The top income streams for high-earning creators are digital products, with teaching and consulting also being high value elements.

Kajabi State of Creators Report 2024

That’s not overly surprising for this report specifically, given that Kajabi’s key product offering involves helping creators sell courses and education programs. But even so, it provides more perspective on just how creators are making their money.

Basically, if you want to be a creator, you need to start considering a range of income streams, as opposed to hoping your videos alone will take off.

Six-figure creators have figured out that instead of chasing followers and brand deals or waiting for creator fund payouts, they need to diversify and own their own revenue streams outside of social media. They use social platforms to build their audience, but they know the key to entrepreneurial success is through diversification.

In terms of platforms, YouTube is still the top earner for most creators, with 42% saying they would lose over $50k per year if they were cut off from the platform.

Kajabi State of Creators Report 2024

Which, again, underlines the challenge before creators, with research showing that 90% of YouTube clips never reach even 1,000 views.  

Essentially, the report reinforces what we already knew, that while it is possible to get your content in front of more people via social media connectivity, actually converting that into popularity, and then enough popularity to monetize your work, is really challenging.

That, of course, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try, but the truth is that the “creator economy” is a far more limited model than the platforms want to suggest.

Being a successful creator takes work, takes research, it takes years of effort to establish a base from which you can actually start to make any real money from your content. You can do it, but it’s not as simple as just posting videos and waiting for the dollars to roll in.

If you have the commitment, then sure, there are more opportunities than ever before to make money from your hobbies. But it’ll likely take a lot more work than many would think.

You can read Kajabi’s full “State of the Creators ’24 Report” here.