TLDR: As creators grow, their workflow becomes more complex and taxing. The solution: build a team. However, today’s landscape is not so amenable to finding, hiring, and managing one. Where do we go from here?
Today’s creators have to manage many skillsets and a complicated workflow.
They ideate content, write scripts, film and edit shots, engage with their audience, monetize with brands, optimize with data, and everything in between… it’s exhausting.
Over the past several months, I have talked with over a hundred creators and there is a clear pattern that has emerged:
- Many creators manage multiple jobs.
- To create and publish content they manage multiple skillsets.
- With increasing pressure to diversify their social presence and revenue streams, they also manage a multiplicity of information streams.
As creators grow, their workflow becomes more complex and taxing.
For example, let's take Joseph.
Joseph, like most content creators, starts solo. He jots down ideas on paper, sits in front of his phone to film, hops in bed to edit the video, and pushes upload. Joseph does this for six months, consistently publishing a video a week, but sits at just a few hundred subscribers. He exudes confidence in-front of the camera, his editing is developed and engaging, and his thumbnails draw in views.
After some time, his devotion to consistency shows faint signs of rewards. His videos begin to get picked up by the algorithm and his views per video incrementally go up.
Before his growth, Joseph had a narrow set of defined tasks. Now he is asked to do much more. He spends time reading most comments and engaging in the DMs. He sits in Canva designing a media kit and in email negotiating with brands. With growth comes opportunities, but also demand on Joseph's time, skillset, and sanity. Not to mention, Joseph still juggles a part-time job to support his creative passions. And with these new demands come an increased likelihood of creator burnout.
The many tools being built for the creator economy may address some of these concerns. Although, these same tools may place increased pressures on creators to adopt them in hopes of competing, adding more to already complicated workflow and leaving less time for creators to create. Though heavily neglected, there is another option: building a team.
Why Creators Should Build a Team
To capitalize on their growth and revenue potential, and to avoid burnout, creators should seriously consider hiring earlier. Building a team is not only an investment in their growth but in the health and security of their channel and themselves. Team members lessen the probability of burnout, free up time to work on creative endeavors, and create systems of accountability and efficiency that can outlast fully independent creators.
Social growth is in part limited by the time and skills required to grow. This is an oversimplified but useful flywheel to consider:
As some of the roughly 50 million content creators explore hiring, it opens up the creator market to a whole new class of jobs.
Recently, MrBeast posted openings for content strategists. They were looking for expertise in video concepts, thumbnail & title strategy, video retention strategy & quality assurance, video production strategy & execution, research & analytics, and data-driven analytics & programming.
MKBHD has a team of five and is currently hiring 6 more people to help scale across multiple channels (source: Variety).
In 2021, we will see a 2–3x demand for these supporting roles and others. If someone is a budding videographer, community manager, Shopify seller, product designer, or software engineer — they could work with one of your favorite digital creators in the new year.
If they are just a high school student with a knack for photoshop, they could reach out to 20 creators and offer their services. There is a dearth of talent for these seemingly trivial, yet ridiculously important skills.
While Mr. Beast and MKBHD are sterling examples of macro-creators expanding their team, what about the middle class of content creators? In our earlier example with Joseph, he did not have millions of followers, but he still had work stacking up to the brims. Unfortunately, the present landscape is not amenable to creators like Joseph. And as a result, many budding creators are effectively locked out of hiring, and so too are the talented individuals that could support them.
I explore why below.
Challenges to Building a Team
Creators who have successfully monetized or those who have another primary revenue stream may have the funding to put towards hiring and outsourcing.
For example, Kayvon Asemani is a micro-creator and artist with just over 15k followers on Instagram. Right now, he doesn’t make enough from his fanbase to put towards hiring, but Kayvon is also a PM at Facebook. In 2021, Kayvon plans to take a chunk of his income from FB and put it towards hiring two new positions to support his musical endeavors:
“My biggest constraint is on my time, so a team will help tremendously.”
However, the bulk of creators don’t have the available capital to hire. To support an up-and-coming class of content creators, funding needs to avail itself. And yet, today, there are no intuitive pathways to funding. And even if there were, there aren’t the resources (unlike those available to startups) to inform and guide creators’ decisions.
For example, Cheyenne Hayden, a lifestyle and wellness creator on YouTube with just north of 40k subscribers, was recently looking for a video editor to join her team. She halted her search when she realized it would be prohibitively expensive and time-intensive to find and hire the right person.
There is the option to try and crowdsource funding from your community, as was recently the case with John Palmer, who raised more than 13k through a community-owned article, crowdfunded on Ethereum. In 2021, more creators will also turn to their community to raise capital and give them a stake in the operation. Fans want to invest and often, creators need the money.
Back in early December, MrBeast catalyzed a conversation around YC for creators. It's unclear where that idea currently stands and who, if anyone, is working on it (Jampad.tv is probably closest), but this is a promising prospect.
Sam Lessin’s article on equity financing for creators is also compelling, but there is still the problem of infrastructure and education. As more creators move in the direction of thinking of themselves as businesses and startups, rather than just content creators, equity financing will certainly be a viable fundraising option.
These examples, though potentially promising, are still in their inchoate stages. When funding does become widely available, in the same way it is to high-growth startups, hiring early will be standard practice.
Capital is necessary but not sufficient in enabling creators to hire. There is no hiring playbook and creators face very different needs and wants. MKBHD succinctly captured the difficulty in a recent conversation with Nilay Patel:
“We’re looking at it like hiring unicorns, where I could hire any editor, but you also want an editor that understand the tech world, understands YouTube, and understands what makes a YouTube edit versus something for the BBC or CNN.” — MKBHD
A beauty vlogger on YouTube, a meme account on Instagram, and an independent political commentator will all need to find their own unicorn, each wildly different from the next. Outsourcing common friction points (like title or thumbnail creation) to someone on Fiver or Upwork might work fine, but building a team is a whole different animal. Where would one even begin to find the right individuals? How do you figure out salary, payment, and legal? If you haven’t hired, onboarded, and managed team members before, doing so (on top of your current workflow) is incredibly difficult.
Indify helps artists build their teams, but who helps all the other digital creators? Stir and Stem help creators automate and manage payments to team members, but where is the infrastructure that helps creators arrive at the point where they have a team?
Growing Pains — Mental
What does it look like to offload a piece of your workflow when you’ve managed it since the inception of your creative career? Like Joseph, our imaginary friend at the beginning of the article, most creators start solo. They design, manage and execute the end-to-end process. They have spent months or years refining their editing style and thumbnails.
For many I have spoken with, they have a subtle aversion to hiring because they have a bias towards process ownership. They recognize their time is split between a host of skillsets and obligations, but they are also entrenched in a system of their own design. Giving someone else autonomy over a piece of the operation you’ve owned since the inception is no small order. Letting go and not over-managing is hard. Ultimately, moving from solo → team is scary and unknown.
These are just some of the problems in the realm of hiring, but there are many more I intend to elucidate in future articles.
In 2021, more creators will hire and more creators should hire. And it is a great thing. It lessens the chance for creator burnout, creates opportunities for further growth, and opens up thousands of jobs across a diversity of skills.
However, the presently available tools and services are insufficient. In Hugo Amsellem’s wide and varied exploration at the startups in the creator space, and in my own research and conversations, there seem to be few useful resources (other than the occasional article) that help creators hire and build teams. There are, however, a few organizations that are doing promising work.
Authentic Media Ascension (AMA) helps creators grow, manage teams, and build workflows. They are also soon exploring a cohort-based class, where micro or mid-level creators can benefit from their insights and experience on growth, hiring, and more. Am affordable cohort-based course with peer-to-peer learning is compelling.
The Creator Coach is the “first-ever life coach dedicated to creators.” Creators should seek guidance and support when they face major decisions like hiring or the impacts of burnout, and from what I’ve heard, the Creator Coach is a great option.
YouTube Creator Academy also has a small lesson on “Operating a business at scale.” It isn’t sufficient, but it is an okay start for those needing a foundation to work off of.
In companies, there are often mentorship programs or learning opportunities for new hires. Could there be a mentorship platform of this sort for up-and-coming creators to learn from macro-creators?
There is another route as well: build tools that productize the work done by macro-creators’ team members. For example, what would a tool look like that productizes and democratizes the work done by a data scientist, content strategist, or manager on Mr. Beast’s team? Imagine if the burgeoning middle class of digital creators could access the full bravado and power of a team without having to search for, find, hire, and on-board one. We’re working on something similar at Gensight.
If you are also building to empower creators and help them hire, I would love to hear from you and learn more.