They are dancers and videographers, writers and designers, gamers and comedians. Many terms have been flying around to group together these creative self-starters winning over audiences and monetizing their crafts online. Whatever you call them, they are a collective force.
An estimated 50 million people make up the creator economy today. If TikTok’s recent announcement of one billion active users is any indication, that number will only grow. And, more tools, platforms, and ideas are emerging every day to make it easier for creators to own their futures.
Understanding your value proposition is just the first step. Knowing where and how to reach the right audiences with the right content is crucial.
But the term digital creator has a lot of nuance. You don’t necessarily need to have a charming on-camera presence or even be creative. There are many ways to lean into your specific strengths or interests and build a personal brand around them. Understanding your value proposition is just the first step. Knowing where and how to reach the right audiences with the right content is crucial.
Here, we examine seven main creator archetypes, breaking down who they are, what makes them unique, and the best content ideas and channels for each. Use these as a tool to identify your own personality type and start your journey to becoming a financially independent creator.
💡 For brands: These archetypes can help you narrow down the best types of creators to approach for partnerships. We’ve already shared why influencer marketing can be a successful tool for your business. But finding the right creator to rep your brand will result in more authentic campaigns.
What is a digital creator?
Put simply, digital creators create online content and share it across social platforms like YouTube and TikTok or owned websites to reach a target audience. Content comes in multiple formats like video, images, and written content and the subject matter is even more broad.
The past few years have made it more possible for independent digital creators to monetize the audiences they have built around their content. Many do so with brand partnerships, gated/paid content (through platforms like Patreon), ads, and merch. This has created the opportunity for more folks—not just top-tier influencers—to pursue a viable paying career as a creator.
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Creator, content creator, digital creator, or influencer—what’s the difference?
In many ways, these terms are interchangeable. Digital creators or content creators generally refer to those creating digital content, while the more broad term creator emerged to encompass those who may fall outside the “digital” definition. Think sculptors, gardeners, or athletes whose primary “content” isn’t digitally created but who are reaching audiences through digital means and accompanying digital content.
The term Influencer preceded the web and its definition has evolved. It is still used most often today to refer more to those with larger followings who influence their audiences to engage with the content, make purchases, follow trends, or take another action. Creator was introduced as a modern umbrella term that includes influencers. Arguably, any online creator could be considered an influencer if they have a dedicated audience that is inspired to engage.
There is still some dispute over the preferred words to use to describe creators and the fast-growing creator economy. Expect that as language evolution lags behind technology and trends, we may see more terms emerge.
7 creator archetypes
Recently, we sliced digital creators by platform and medium to break down the most useful tools and software for each within the creator economy tech stack. Here, we’re dividing them in a different way, grouping them by skills, personality traits, and content subject matter to uncover seven main archetypes within the creator universe.
1. The Performer
The Performers are creators skilled in performance arts or on-camera personalities, including comedians, actors, singers, dancers, musicians, DJs, and spoken word poets. Many work in their respective industries, building personal brands in tandem. Others are hobbyists whose work resonates with a niche audience online.
- Most frequented channels: YouTube, Spotify, TikTok
- Skills required: skill in a particular performing art; in tune with trends in a chosen field or medium; production know-how, including sound recording and lighting; presentation skills
- Typical personality traits: performative, confident, on-camera ease, creative, outgoing
- Content ideas for The Performer: comedy sketches, jokes, short films, demos (e.g., acting or dancing techniques), new song drops, behind-the-scenes content (e.g., workshopping new sounds or scenes), outtakes, standup clips
Monetize your content as a Performer
Digital creators of this type can monetize content through Patreon subscriptions, ticketed online stand-up/concerts, or selling merch through social channels or via an owned website through Shopify. Examples of Performers in the wild:
- Actor Seth Rogen built his cannabis brand, Houseplant, using his existing celebrity and influencer status to sell to an engaged audience.
- Peyton List recently launched beauty brand Pley Beauty to her 1.6 million Twitter followers.
- Comedian and TV writer Ashley Ray diversifies her content across social channels, a Substack newsletter, and started a podcast.
- Matt O’Brien’s comedy appears in many formats, from podcasting to social content with monetization on Patreon.
2. The Virtuoso
This creator type is made up of professionals and experts in fields including medical, culinary arts, home renovations, sewing, math, wellness, gardening, finance, or fitness. Many of these creators have successful careers in their craft and found that their particular voice or on-camera persona resonated with a wider audience. Some have used their platforms to earn extra income through partnerships or products.
- Most frequented channels: YouTube, TikTok, Twitter, blog, podcast, or website
- Skills required: deep knowledge, education, or experience in specific field or subject; ability to present ideas clearly and to a 101 audience
- Typical personality traits: curious, perfectionist, data-oriented, focused, always learning
- Content ideas for The Virtuoso: subject matter 101, recipes, tutorials, myth-busting, tips, data (translated to audience: why it’s important), hacks, workouts, how tos, demos, live AMAs
Monetize your content as a Virtuoso
Many creators of this type do brand partnerships, host paid AMAs with a panel of experts, or even self-publish books to sell online to their audiences through owned channels. Examples of Virtuosos in the wild:
- Two real-life OBGYNs, Dr. Jen Gunter and Dr. Nicole, found success debunking wellness myths and creating no-BS health content. Dr. Nicole’s popular TikTok channel drives followers to her personal website and Dr. Jen creates content across social channels and her podcast, and has published two books.
- Many home reno, construction, and interior design experts are tapping into audiences hungry for tips to get pro results with a DIY approach and budget. Jessel and Andrew of The Martinez Casita exploded on TikTok and now monetize their creator work partly through affiliate links on their personal website.
3. The Bellwether
This category is the closest creator type to the classic definition of an influencer. These digital creators grow audiences around their unique taste or perspective, most often in fashion, beauty, or pop culture. They spot trends before they explode and, in some cases, launch trends themselves.
- Most frequented channels: Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Substack, Pinterest
- Skills required: keen interest in trends and fashion, strong personal style with a POV, ability to translate ideas to a 101 audience, ability to seek out emerging trends (or start them)
- Typical personality traits: curious, creative, adventurous, innovative, strong eye for detail and design
- Content ideas: OOTDs, outfit hacks, beauty demos, unboxings, reviews, style hacks, makeup hacks, celebrity news commentary, memes
Monetize your content as a Bellwether
This group can find success with brand partnerships. Brands are clamoring to get their products into the hands and feeds of creators who wield massive influence. To have more ownership over your income, start your own apparel or beauty line or sell merch to fans. Examples of Bellwethers in the wild:
- Influencer Katie Sturino made a name for herself with body positivity and fashion content, notably her #SuperSizeTheLook posts that recreate celebrity styles in plus sizes. She leveraged her audience to launch her beauty brand Megababe.
- TikToker MakeUpByTammi shares beauty product reviews and makeup tutorials with her audience of over 500,000. She also runs her own business selling cosmetics through her online store of the same name.
4. The Maker
The Makers are the expert crafters, DIYers, builders, and inventors in several mediums, including woodworking, ceramics, textile arts, jewelry, and tech. Many Makers have found ways to turn their hands-on craft into digital content, building an audience of potential customers.
- Most frequented channels: YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, TikTok, blog, or website
- Skills required: an existing business or hobby as a maker, ability to translate complex ideas into easy-to-follow tutorials, attention to detail, production skills (lighting, editing)
- Typical personality traits: experimental, attention to detail, entrepreneurial, creative, perfectionist, natural teacher
- Content ideas: process and behind-the-scenes videos or blog posts (“how it’s made”), DIY tutorials, time lapse, before and after, live demos
Monetize your content as a Maker
The most obvious monetization strategy for these creators is selling handmade goods through social selling or an owned channel. Other ideas include selling DIY kits that fans can build alongside your content, or selling DIY courses either live or on demand. Examples from Makers in the wild:
- Creator (or “inventor and evil genius”) Matty Benedetto produces humourous content under the banner Unnecessary Inventions, inventing and demoing completely useless products. While most of his comedic concoctions aren’t for sale, he does sell merch in his online store.
- Ronea sells polymer clay jewelry via timed website “drops” under her brand, Beaded Seed. She cultivated a community around her brand through her TikTok, where she lets fans see inside her process with behind-the-scenes content.
5. The Iconoclast
The Iconoclast is the artist group of creators making online and offline art across a range of mediums. This archetype describes photographers, videographers, sculptors, painters, street artists, graphic designers, animators, illustrators, filmmakers, art critics, curators, writers, and producers.
This group often works as freelancers or independent artists selling work through a personal website or commissioning work for clients. As content creators, they grow art communities around their unique aesthetic.
- Most frequented channels: TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, website
- Skills required: accomplished in your field or craft, prolific in content creation, production skills (photography, editing)
- Typical personality traits: curious; creative; introspective; innovative; tuned in to art, society, and culture
- Content ideas: process and behind-the-scenes videos, social trends and memes (“the palette/the painting”), how-to technique demos (think Bob Ross), time lapse photography of art in progress
Monetize your content as an Iconoclast
Like the Maker, this group generally has monetization opportunities in selling digital or physical products like prints, NFTs, or original art. You can also sell courses either live or on demand to teach techniques, host online or IRL art auctions, or run events bringing together multiple artists. Examples of Iconoclasts in the wild:
- New Orleans artist Morgan Gray sells originals and prints on her website while growing a massive following on her TikTok, morganpaintsstuff.
- Ceramicist Tatiana Cordona monetizes her 500,000+ TikTok audience through her accompanying online store, Female Alchemy.
6. The Technophile
These are the tech-obsessed, including gamers, tech trendsetters, fin tech writers, or crypto enthusiasts. They are tuned into the latest gadgets, apps, games and trends in the tech world at large.
- Most frequented channels: Twitch, YouTube, Twitter, Substack, or blog
- Skills required: technical knowledge, following tech trends closely, ability to pitch to companies (for partnerships), attention to detail, embedded in web/gaming/tech culture, ability to perform in live capacity
- Typical personality traits: technical, particular, open minded, curious, tech savvy, extremely online
- Content ideas: livestreaming, unboxings, reviews, game demos, top 10s, breaking tech news and commentary, memes
Monetize your content
Paid partnerships abound for this group. Successful creators in the tech space can dabble in sponsored content by reviewing or demoing games and products. Technophiles can also sell tickets to livestreaming events, sell merch to fans, or earn money from podcast ads. Example of a Technophile in the wild:
- Top gaming YouTuber and streamer Tyler Blevins is more commonly known online as Ninja. He supplements ad revenue and partnership deals with his owned merch store, Team Ninja.
7. The Enthusiast
The Enthusiast has crossover with many of the other archetypes and is the most broad. This category includes hobbyists and literally anyone with a strong interest in a single subject: books, travel, board games, plants, fitness, celebs, pets, art, fashion, etc. The Enthusiast may transition into the Virtuoso by virtue of experience and gaining clout through audience and influence.
- Most frequented channels: all
- Skills required: an interest in a subject paired with a unique POV and engaging persona
- Content ideas: product reviews, business reviews, unboxings, virtual tours, workout progress, tips, hacks, travel guides, recipes, demos, AMAs
- Typical personality traits: curious, open to learning, experimental, open to new ideas, inquisitive, humble
Monetize your content as an Enthusiast
Because this group is so broad, the monetization opportunities will vary. You can sell products relevant to your interests through an owned channel like a Shopify store, create a VIP tier offering premium content to subscribers, sell online courses, or self-publish books to sell direct to fans. Examples of Enthusiasts in the wild:
- Wil Yeung wasn’t a trained chef when he started his YouTube cooking channel. But that didn’t stop him from growing a huge following and monetizing his content with paid courses and a cookbook.
- Sonja Detrinidad dabbled in plants as a distraction from her stressful day job. When she found she had a knack for TikTok, she went all in with her business, Partly Sunny.
- Board game micro-influencer Ella of Ella Loves Board Games has built a small but mighty audience for her niche interest.
Which creator type are you?
Do you see yourself in any of these types? TikTok’s popularity has made production quality less important than authenticity. So while you don’t have to have a super-polished setup to get started, being authentic about your personal brand and content is key. The best way to project authenticity is to pick a subject and format that you are personally passionate about and comfortable with.
You can always branch out to different channels and multiple income sources later. Start with what comes naturally and test several content formats and types to see which resonate more with your target audience. It’s been said that you only need a thousand “true fans” to be successful as a creator. Focus less on quantity and more on building relationships with your most loyal fans.
The best way to project authenticity is to pick a subject and format that you are personally passionate about and comfortable with.
Don’t worry about high production value, either. TikToker Khaby Lame’s reaction humor content hasn’t changed much since the creator caught fire. Even still, just this month, Khaby signed a partnership with Hugo Boss. And influencer Chriselle Lim started by experimenting with Instagram eventually honing her polished style.
Looking back at the first posts of now-famous creators, it’s easy to see that we all start in the same place: with curiosity and a camera. Your first attempt at content creation doesn’t have to be perfect!
Influencer marketing: finding the right digital content creator for your brand
Just as authenticity is important for content, so too is the authenticity of brand partnerships. Ads that don’t feel like ads are those that seem genuine and unscripted. To achieve this, find influencers who are either already fans of your product, have familiarity or experience in the space, or align perfectly with your ideal customer persona.
When Dunkin’ Donuts wanted to reach a Gen Z audience, they looked no further than Charli D’Amelio who was TikTok’s top influencer at the time. In 2020, the brand launched a drink in the social celeb’s name as well as merch the following year. The campaign resulted in a surge in app downloads and cold brew sales.
Consider where your target audience is hanging out and conduct market research to identify the formats and channels that influence their purchasing most. Influencers who primarily play in those spaces will be a better match.
While some top content creators can draw upward of $1 million for a single post, small brands with small budgets can still participate in influencer marketing. Seek out emerging influencers with smaller but engaged audiences who likely have more compatible rates.
Create your future
If you’ve ever considered pursuing a career as an independent creator, the good news is that there are plenty of niches and untapped audiences. Even introverts and the camera-shy can find the right medium for content creation and the best channel for audience building. The Enthusiast archetype shows us that even the most obscure passion can be the springboard to your creator career.
Feature image by Dan Page