The creator economy is one of those phrases you might already be sick of hearing. Yet, it describes the very real disruption that’s actively happening to the way we build business, create careers, and organize our life.
The maturation of the internet changes everything.
If you’re riding the wave that isn’t readily obvious to many, these are some solid fundamentals worth considering in the midst of making it work as a creative.
In physics, a lever is a simple machine that creates a mechanical advantage depending on the type of force you use on it. It changes how much force you need to apply to get a result. Translated to the internet, the same principles apply.
Leverage today comes in the form of a repeatable asset. Software is one. Creating courses is another that is more accessible. Writing online fits in here too, albeit with its own set of differentiators.
Today, leverage makes it so that you don’t have to invest a nearly insurmountable amount of high-risk capital or energy to build a vehicle that produces value indefinitely.
Distribution over ideas
There’s the question of distribution over ideas to grapple with. Romance is nice in novels, but waxing romantic over ideas — most of which never take off — only slows you down.
This is where the mental model of focusing on distribution rather than ideas is an alternative. Instead of asking what the best idea to go after is, ask what has the potential for maximal distribution — which can be boiled down to the solution that’s also the most needed.
Think about the commoditization of what was once only available to the rich. As humanity moves through decades that then turn to centuries, we continually see exclusivity become democratized.
This can only mean one thing as traditional ways of doing business and building careers keep being disrupted by this thing we call the internet: There’s a wealth of ideas waiting to be created and democratized.
And there’s massive upside for the creators who execute them.
I made a friend a few years ago that told me the things there would always be a demand for in this world were sex and booze.
In other words, solutions that solve a need will never go out of business. If you’re interested in “future proofing” your business, it has to be a painkiller, not just a daily vitamin. Painkillers are necessary, vitamins aren’t.
Think about the gold rush in the 1840s as the metaphor to model. While everyone else rushes to dig for gold, you take the opposite route. You ignore the gold and put together the resources to create the shovels. Chances are, most won’t find gold, but your shovels will be in demand by all.
I’ve been consuming content on mimetic theory — which is basically the idea that the things we want and think are “original to us” are actually a result of observing others. In other words, they’re your derivative wants.
Whether true or not, you can’t help but think that looking at things from this framework makes it easy to choose what you want to do, which is a choice point many creators get stuck in. Instead of obsessing over originality, it’s easier and less labor intensive to find a scenario or person that embodies what you “want” and model your own life after it.
Why is it necessary to know what your derivative wants are? because as a creator, there’s often the issue of lack of focus and burnout to grapple with.
If what you want isn’t aligned with what you’re doing, burnout ensues. One way to stave off burn out is to take the Ikigai framework seriously. It helps you make better choices when you’re deciding what to put your time and energy into.
Look, one thing’s clear: The internet exacerbates the need for creators to know themselves. It’s a non-negotiable. Otherwise you’ll fail through projects more than necessary. You’ll go through more false starts. You’ll grow frustrated.
It’s extremely difficult to stick to something that doesn’t at least make you curious constantly. You end up resenting it in the end.
The Ikigai framework asks a set of revealing questions when you’re trying to figure out “your thing”: What do you love? What are you good at? What does the world need? What can you be paid for?
The internet commoditizes everyone and their uncle except the ability to build community and clearly communicate ideas. It can’t be hacked. It seems easy, until you try it.
Pair community building with frameworks that give you leverage — like the build once sell forever model that software makes possible — and you have a sustainable creator vehicle that scales with minimal high-risk investment.
This isn’t to say that you can create leverage without value. Value is always the decision maker in markets. It decides what it wants and values at any moment in time. Our jobs are creators is to align what’s valued with what we’re good at, then go from there.
This is where community building — which is very much a skill — is paramount to building as a creator. Yet, if we’re to distill down building online community to its most basic components, it ultimately comes down to an unsexy yet true answer: consistency.
Serendipity + cumulative hours
As a creator, you’re essentially a business — and you’ll feel like you’re drowning more often than not. Why? Because there’s always something new to learn and catch up with.
At times, it feels like a game of whack-a-mole on steroids. Yet all those hours spent on building, failing, learning, and creating once again create more serendipity throughout your journey.
The cumulative hours you spend on learning a skill often leads to tangential paths you wouldn’t have been able to predict only two steps before if they paid you.
As a creator, “making it” it takes doing what you do best over a sustained period of time — so create by using these principles as frameworks.