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November 19, 2021

The Creator Economy: How Its Growth Will Reshape Society

What did you want to be when you grew up? A firefighter, a pilot, maybe a doctor?

For a growing number of young people, the answer is YouTuber, podcaster, or app developer. Careers that the average baby boomer may not even view as a “legitimate profession.” However, once you realize just how massive the creator economy is getting, it becomes hard to view it these opportunities as a passing fad.

How Big is The Creator Economy Exactly?

Let’s compare the creator economy to a “real” profession to get a sense of its current scale (which isn’t very big). According to an NFPA report there are about 340,000 paid firefighters in the US with a median salary of about $48k per year.

Let’s compare that to YouTube channel with 100,000+ subscribers (because they’re almost assuredly earning over $50,000 per year). There were over 230k YouTube channels that large in 2020 (and growing, according to social blade).

Maybe that doesn’t impress you. Professional firefighters in the US likely outnumber professional YouTubers worldwide. That said, “YouTuber” is not the only profession that has sprung up in the creator economy. We also have to factor in the following opportunities.

  • Blogger
  • Influencer
  • Independent Developer (apps, games, VR, web, etc.)
  • Onlyfans Creators
  • TikTokers
  • Podcasters
  • Shopify, Etsy, Amazon Sellers
  • Artists selling online
  • Musicians selling online
  • YouTuber
  • Freelancers obtaining clients via the web
  • Kickstarters
  • Advertisers
  • etc.

I admit that as of 2021, the creator economy is still not as large as the regular economy. There are 3.2 million teachers and over 1 million physicians in the United States alone. That dwarfs the number of YouTubers, Podcasters, and bloggers earning six-figures.

However, those comparisons are incredibly misleading because they fail to account for growth.

How Fast is The Creator Economy Growing?

I know it feels like the creator economy has been around forever, but let’s go back 15 years to 2006 and check out what the creator economy looked like back then.

  • iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches, VR Headsets, etc. didn’t exist.
  • Facebook had 7 million users total (They have 2.91 billion now).
  • YouTube had 20 million users total (1.3 billion now)
  • The majority of households had NEVER purchased something from Amazon
  • Pinterest, Kickstarter, Instagram, TikTok, OnlyFans, Shopify, Uber, etc. didn’t exist.
  • Podcasts had just been invented the year prior.
  • Only 70% of US households owned a computer of any kind.
  • So much more.

That was the state of the world only 15 years ago! We may still view the Creator economy as a small quaint thing, but it’s absolutely gigantic compared to just 15 years ago.

For instance, the number of YouTube channels grew 23% in 2019. At that rate the number of channels in existence will double every 3-ish years. And while those rates can’t grow that fast forever, even 9 years of that type of growth would create a world where there are significantly more professional YouTubers than firefighters.

The creator economy has not even begun to peak just yet. Every platform is seeing large growth rates when compared to the traditional economy. The number of doctors or teachers is simply not growing at anywhere close to a 20% clip. Meanwhile virtually every sector of the creator economy is growing at least that fast.

The Creator Economy Creates Millions and Millions of Jobs

Most of the top 100,000-ish YouTube channels are multi-million dollar businesses. The same goes for the top 50,000 blogs in the world. And god knows how much the top app developers are making. If you’re a business this large you probably have several employees. So the number of people who have jobs as a result of the creator economy is much larger than the creator economy itself.

An easier to grasp example is Uber. Uber pays over two million part-time drivers. That’s a single app partially employing over two million people. And while I wouldn’t necessarily consider a part-time Uber driver part of the creator economy, the creator economy is why all those jobs exist.

New Platforms Are Still Being Added To The Creator Economy

15 years ago TikTok, Pinterest, Shopify, Kickstarter, Uber, OnlyFans, and so much more didn’t exist!!!

You’re a fool if you think all the major platforms that fuel the creator economy have already been invented. Or if you believe that the platforms to come will definitely be smaller than Google, YouTube, Facebook, etc.

For instance, take virtual reality. New premium headsets are coming out in Fall 2022 with resolutions so high it’ll be difficult to visually differentiate virtual reality from actual reality. This will exist in late 2022! And it will likely gain mass adoption over the next 5 years.

How many new platforms for creators will be generated with this technology? And that’s just one (very promising) emerging technology in the creator economy. There are many more in the pipeline.

The point being that in 15 years we’re bound to look back at the current state of affairs like we currently view 2006. A time when there were no smartphones, tablets, only 2 out 3 people own any type of computer, and you needed a .edu email address to use Facebook.

Within 15 years we very well may move into a society where the creator economy rivals or actually becomes larger than the “real economy.”

Shaun Poore worked as a professional software developer for 15 years before transitioning into content creation and digital product businesses. Shaun's currently focused on providing as many people as possible with actionable advice and tools they can use to succeed online, without the fluff or BS that too often plagues this industry.