How the Creator Economy Boomed in 2021

Content creators have been around for over a decade now, whether you realize it or not. People started profiting and creating lucrative full-time careers off their content with YouTube and Instagram. It’s now expanded to TikTok, OnlyFans (for racier and exclusive adult content primarily), Patreon, Twitch, and so much more. There are endless options to create and profit off content today, but where to start?

The Biggest Earners

While there are many platforms to create and profit off of content creation, three stand above the rest in terms of the biggest demographics and paychecks. Those three are YouTube, TikTok and Instagram. The Influencer Marketing Factory’s Creator Economy report so far for 2021 shows the following:

Content creators prefer TikTok (30%), Instagram second at (22%) and YouTube tied for third at (22%)

The main source of income for creators are brand deals

The demographic for content creators is huge, from 18-24 on TikTok, 54+ for YouTube, and 18-44 for Instagram. Combined, this is almost all demographics.

According to TIMF's latest economy report, there are about 46.7 million amateur creators in the market. Of those, only about 2 million creators are professionals, as in, they make money or their entire lives off of their content creation. Let’s break it down by the big three.
Creator Economy Report
Creators’ main source of income is brand deals (31%). Followed in second place by their own brand/business (25%) and creator funds (15%)
Creator Economy Report - chart
Creator Economy Report - data


The way content creators can get paid from each of these platforms varies. For example, TikTok “doesn’t pay their creators from advertisements,” while YouTube does. TikTok is more about your audience. The larger your audience, the more you can charge to make videos and do brand deals, essentially creating commercials to your established following.

Creating content for TikTok is relatively easy. All you need is an account, a phone, and an internet connection. The best videos are typically under 60 seconds long and set to a trending sound. Creators can shoot, edit, add text, sound, effects and more all directly within the app and cross-post it to other platforms (like Instagram Reels) to maximize profitability.


YouTube is entirely different and far more time-consuming than TikTok. This is because videos need to be shot and edited on a camera or your phone and typically requires the purchase of external apps, software and more to complete (such as a tripod or ring light). YouTube content creators “must have at least 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 watch hours in the past year” in order to be eligible to start earning money on the platform. That process can take months, or in some cases even years to achieve. Once creators hit those marks, they can apply for YouTube’s Partner Program and start monetizing their channel through ads, subscriptions and memberships.

If that doesn’t sound like much, think again. Business Insider reported that finance YouTuber Nate O’Brien made over $444,000 “in revenue from YouTube ads in a year with about 1 million subscribers” . You don’t have to have a million subscribers to make money on YouTube. Even a few thousand can start to generate revenue. Once you create content for YouTube, it’s evergreen. It will live on the site forever (unless you take it down, which we advise against) and can be searched and earn you income for years.


Instagram is a bit tricker to profit off of, at first. While creators don’t get paid for their pictures, can’t profit off ads or subscriptions, it’s all about collaborations and brand deals. The bigger your audience, the better. Creators can earn a decent amount of money through affiliate links alone. Earlier this year, an article on CNBC reported that an influencer with 1 millions followers made “more than $250,000 per post from brands”.

The Next Generation of Entrepreneurs

The pandemic pushed nearly everyone the world over to either lose their job, work remotely, or in some cases both. TikTok exploded in the pandemic. It had only been around for a short time and was primarily used by Gen Z. Millennials and other generations flocked to the app when locked up and are here to stay. Instead of going to work and interacting with people in person, we took to social media to fill that gap. Many who were not already in the content creator game have officially tossed their hats into the ring in 2020 and even more in 2021.

“We are shifting from an initial idea that influencers and content creators were only able to sponsor brands’ products, to actually seeing them becoming solopreneurs or even creating companies with employees, creating their own product lines, promoting their own services, co-creating new features in collaboration with companies, brands and social media. This results in a greater diversification in revenue streams and new opportunities for content creators to come over the next few years. Lately, some influencers and content creators are even being hired by brands because of their creative mindset and their strong relationship with a target audience of potential buyers” stated Alessandro Bogliari, CEO & Co-Founder of The Influencer Marketing Factory.

“Creators are the next generation of small businesses. However, many creators lack access to capital and business tools to help them reach their full business potential,” said Creative Juice CEO and Co-Founder Sima Gandhi. “The entire creator economy is growing, with larger amounts of advertising and platform money each year.” Many creators have massive potential, but don’t know where to start or how to maximize their time in order to get to the profits. So it's time for them to start leveraging the data and more opportunities to make the most out of their influence. Take a look at below infographic for more insights: 

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