The creator economy has taken significant steps in recent years, both in terms of size and viability, with each year seeing more and more creators jumping into the field.
This significant momentum has resulted in an estimated 50 million people currently taking part in the multibillion-dollar creator economy market, according to a report from SignalFire.
Yet, a vast majority of those creators are only doing so part-time, and of the minority of creators who do make content full-time, many of them are unable to leverage this into an income stream that could replace their current full-time job.
Of the two million creators who make content on a full-time/professional basis, only 12% earn more than $50,000 according to research from Linktree.
This has left many questioning what is holding back those 48 million amateur content creators from attempting to transition this into a full-time career, and of the 2 million who already do so professionally, what are the major hurdles holding creators back from monetizing their brand into a livable income?
Let’s take a look at the three biggest challenges creators face when looking to monetize their brand – more specifically through the sales of merchandise, in this case – and how they can shortcut some of these hurdles with the technology available in the market today.
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1. Defining your brand and identity
Often the biggest hurdle for many creators looking to monetize their brand is to define exactly what their brand identity is, what it represents, and how it should be represented, both in terms of design as well as the choice of product.
This requires creators to take a deeper look into who they are, what they aim to create, and what their audience wants; with the goal of finding an intersection between these three main factors that will best represent their brand in the merchandise they sell.
But luckily, as the creator, nobody has a better sense of you, your content, and your audience than you do; making you the best person to define your brand and brand identity.
With a brand identity in mind, you can begin to look for the right designs for your brand. Here are a few key outcomes that you should be aiming for.
Your merchandise and the designs on it should connect you with your audience (and vice versa), foster a sense of community among you and your audience, and spark conversation about your brand and its content.
For example, if you are looking to design a t-shirt for your brand, you should ask yourself questions like:
- “What makes my content unique and should be represented on my merchandise?”
- “What would I, as the creator, be proud to wear or see others wear?”
- “What would my audience be proud to wear?”
- “What design would inspire the most conversation around my content?”
Let’s say, for example, you are a video game streamer with a good-sized audience that you want to monetize by selling t-shirts or mugs with a custom design on them. Honing in on images and phrases associated with the games you are most known for playing, or basing a design on an inside joke you have with your audience, can be great ideas to begin monetizing your brand with merchandise.
Along with choosing the right designs to connect your brand with your audience, it is vital that you also pick the right types of products to represent your brand and display your designs on.
While most commonly creators choose to sell apparel items like t-shirts or household items like coffee mugs, aligning your brand identity with your choice of merchandise items can set you aside from your competitors.
For example, if you produce content around travel, you should be looking to sell merchandise that would be useful to travelers like travel planners, travel mugs, or document pouches.
Or, for example, if you produce content about winter sports, you should be looking to sell merchandise that aligns with that, like toques or mittens.
For any creators who do not want to sell such specific merchandise types, there are more general, time-tested merchandise options for monetization, such as stickers, which can be quickly, easily, and cheaply produced through companies like StickerYou with the custom design of your choice.
2. Leveraging data and design
While the approach to defining your brand and its identity we have described above is an integral first step, relying solely on this strategy can be limiting, especially when there are countless streams of data that can help you to pinpoint the best designs for you, your brand, and your audience.
But how can creators who are limited on time and manpower be expected to harness the power of this data, especially without the technical or industry expertise needed to truly analyze market trends and other data trends?
This is where technology can play a huge role!
With data-driven design engines available to creators, you can leverage the oceans of data available in the market – such as global trends, search trends, consumer audience insights, and much more – as an essential step in ensuring any merchandise designs you use will resonate with the biggest trends of the day, but even more importantly, with you and your audience.
While there are numerous options, it is vital to find a data-driven design engine that is powered by the analysis of your target audience through various aspects like global trends, search trends, download transactions, and subscriber requests, with a prime example being the data-driven design engine from Vexels.
3. Finding the right tools and platforms
With your brand identity defined and the right data-driven design engine at your disposal, the time has come to turn all of that into physical merchandise to sell to your audience.
Now’s the time for you to find the right tools, platforms, or partners to manufacture your products, set up and manage an eCommerce shop, and finally, distribute your products to your consumers and handle any customer service requests.
Failing to make the right decisions in these vital areas can have serious consequences for your brand reputation and your ability to monetize your audience.
Without the right manufacturer for your products, you could be left with low-quality products that either don’t sell or leave your audience unsatisfied with the product they purchased, thus damaging your brand reputation and hindering any future attempts to monetize your business.
Without a functioning eCommerce platform, your audience will be limited in their options to purchase your products, and you will likely turn off potentially interested consumers from buying your products, with many choosing the convenience of eCommerce over any other options.
And finally, without a good distribution system in place, you will struggle to ensure all of those who bought your products have their orders fulfilled properly and in a timely fashion. Failure to deliver on purchases properly will seriously damage your brand reputation and turn off any future potential buyers.
Setting up all of this yourself, or finding the right tools, platforms, or partners to do so, can be a daunting task, especially for those who are not yet full-time creators and have limited time to dedicate to their content creation.
But these are essential steps to monetizing your brand successfully!
If you’re a creator and want to shortcut these processes with the support of industry experts and connections with the best manufacturing, eCommerce, and distribution platforms and partners, you should consider The Creator Program by Vexels as the end-to-end solution to take your brand to the next level and allow you to become the full-time, monetized creator you want to be.
Guest Author: Matias Colotuzzo is the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Vexels, a graphic design company focused on merch, print-on-demand, and unique designs. He is a born entrepreneur, launching his first web design company at 19. His business intelligence and interest in development propelled him to join the Uruguayan Chamber of Information Technologies (CUTI), a non-profit incubator that helps businesses and mentors entrepreneurs. He served as both a director and board member at CUTI.
Matias has overseen the considerable growth in Vexels, which started with seven teammates in 2016 to more than 100 employees today. He is constantly looking for new ways to combine technology with daily tasks while improving the web experience.