2023 Predictions for the Creator Economy

Get a glimpse into the future of the creator economy with our 2023 predictions. We cover AI, new tools, work life. Stay ahead of the curve and read on to find out what's in store for creators.

Graphic of the creator economy with logos from ChatGPT, Stable Diffusion, Midjourney, Grammarly, Jasper, Canva

Designed by Slam Media Lab

The creator economy is still on the rise, shaking up the traditional power dynamics in the content creation and distribution space. In 2023, this shift is expected to accelerate as new AI technologies empower creatives, existing creators, and large companies begin to tap into the benefits of a more flexible, creative workforce.

When we founded Worklife back in 2019, the creator economy looked vastly different from what we see today. It was all about turning creators into successful business owners. The emphasis was on turning their passions and skills into profitable ventures, but in doing so, the focus became too heavily centered on numbers and data. Creatives were expected to adopt a CEO-mindset, crunching numbers, analyzing data, and maximizing profits.

This shift in focus placed a significant amount of pressure on content creators to prioritize financial success over creative fulfillment. The drive to monetize their skills often came at the cost of their artistic expression and individuality. The result was a homogenization of the creator economy, with creators feeling the need to conform to certain standards and expectations in order to be successful.

But now, thanks to new technologies and platforms, we’re seeing a shift. 

According to Adobe’s “Future of Creativity” study, more than 165 million creators joined the global creator economy in the last two years, with over 34 million new creators in the United States alone. That means 34 million new faces are ready to share their knowledge and lifestyles with billions of consumers. 

Furthermore, the meteoric rise of Generative AI and ChatGPT has brought creativity back to the forefront of the creator economy. These technologies have the potential to revolutionize the creative process, offering new and innovative ways for people to generate and express their ideas.

With all of this upheaval, it's an exciting time to be part of the creator economy. As a creator or someone considering entering the creator space, you may be wondering, what's next? While change moves at lightning speed in this sector, and as a creator-friendly venture capital firm, here at Worklife, we want to give you the latest details.

There are a few things on the horizon we expect to see in 2023. So, get ready for a creative revolution. The future of creativity is now, and it's shaping up to be an exciting time for creators everywhere.

What is the Creator Economy?

First, it's important to have a deeper understanding of the creator economy before you can really understand how these changes will impact the industry. So, how do we define "creator economy"? 

In simple terms, the creator economy is the emergence of individuals and small groups producing and sharing content online and monetizing their efforts through various means. Thanks to the democratization of content creation and distribution through the internet, and the explosion of social media platforms, creators can now build a following and make a living doing what they love.

While it has become more prominent in recent years, the concept of creators making money from online content is not new. 

A Brief History of the Creator Economy 

The creator economy kicked off in the early 2000s and has evolved significantly over the past two decades. Here's a brief overview of its history and impact on culture and the economy:

  1. The early 2000s: The rise of blogging platforms and social media platforms. Platforms like LiveJournal, Xanga, and MySpace allowed individuals to share their thoughts and creations with a broader audience. Some early bloggers were able to monetize their content through advertising and sponsorships.
  2. The late 2000s: The rise of video. Video-sharing platforms like YouTube and Vimeo allow creators to share videos more easily and reach a wider audience. Some creators, such as those in the "Let's Play" and "unboxing" genres, could make a living from their content through advertising revenue and sponsorships.
  3. The 2010s: More monetization opportunities. The digital creator economy continued to grow and diversify as more platforms and tools became available for creators to share and monetize their content. Patreon, a platform that allows creators to receive recurring payments from their supporters, was founded in 2013. In the latter half of the decade, the rise of streaming platforms like Twitch and the emergence of influencer marketing also helped contribute to the growth of the creator economy.
  4. The 2020s: COVID-19 skyrockets the industry. The COVID-19 pandemic led to an increase in online content consumption, further driving the growth of the creator economy. Many creators turned to platforms like TikTok, which became popular during the pandemic, to share and monetize their content. 

Leaders in creative and corporate spaces have taken note of the power these creatives have to influence culture and consumers. At Worklife, we believe the creator economy is one of the next big things in business. That's why we invest in companies that provide tools for creators, designers, developers, and more.  

The Impact of COVID-19 on Content Creators

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the creator economy. 

At first, many creators faced challenges and setbacks due to the pandemic, such as canceled events and productions, loss of income from merchandise and product sales, and difficulties finding opportunities to create and share content. 

But with adversity comes opportunity, and the pandemic has also created a surge in online content consumption. As people were forced to spend more time at home, they turned to the internet for entertainment and information, creating a new frontier for creators to reach a wider audience. And, as the world has gone virtual, the demand for virtual events has skyrocketed, offering creators new opportunities to connect with fans and monetize their content.

The pandemic has been a test of resilience for creators, and it's clear that they are more adaptable than ever before. It also highlighted the importance of supporting creators and the creator economy, as they play a critical role in shaping our culture and driving innovation.

What's Next for the Creator Economy

As we enter 2023, the creator economy shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, we'd put money on it (and do!). With new platforms and tools constantly emerging, creators have more opportunities than ever to share and monetize their content. 

We expect to see the rise of innovative business models and an increasing focus on sustainability and diversity in the creator community. It's an exciting time to be a part of the creator economy, and we can't wait to see what the future holds.

Here's what we'll be keeping an eye on in 2023: 

  1. AI's impact on who can be a creator 
  2. New monetization streams 
  3. Diversification of creator types
  4. New creator tools and platforms
  5. The importance of work-life balance 

Let's take a closer look!

AI Will Revolutionize Who Can Create

At the top of our list is artificial intelligence (AI)! 

Artificial intelligence is changing the way content is created and who can be a content creator. For example, AI-powered freelancer tools make creating content more accessible than ever for people with limited time and resources. 

As musical artist, Will.i.Am put it, AI will make a great co-pilot for creators.

In August 2022, Stable Diffusion launched an AI art generator that took the internet by storm. AI art generators have the potential to significantly impact the creator community by offering a new tool for creating art and making it easier for people to create works that would otherwise be difficult or time-consuming to produce. For example, if a creator is working on a tight deadline to produce a volume of social media posts, they can use an AI art generator to quickly create a large number of assets for their feeds. We’re even seeing existing design platforms like Canva integrate thist technology to further empower their creative users. 

Source: Got Your AI Avatar? Here’s How AI Art Generators Work

One of the more extreme examples of its impact on the creator space can be found in the story of Lil Miquela, an AI-generated influencer created by the storytelling platform, Brud. She is a 19-year-old, socially conscious character who actively interacts with millions of fans worldwide. She was named in Time Magazine's Most Influential People on the internet in 2018, and you can even follow her on Instagram. Wild! 

Art and design isn't the only space that has been impacted by the rise of AI. Open.AI released ChatGPT for beta testing and feedback in November of last year. The tool uses AI and machine learning to generate human-like text and we’re seeing all kinds of businesses and creators use it for a wide variety of creative applications. Jasper.AI is just one of many content generating platforms utilizing this technology to take copywriting to the next level. 

Need a lawyer? AI has a solution for that. DoNotPay is the world’s first AI-powered robot lawyer. You can take your robot lawyer with you anywhere through a phone app to help you fight your traffic ticket, demand your car warranty terms, or even sue someone. 

While some educators are worried about the technology giving students an opportunities to cut corners, others are embracing the tool for teaching purposes. With Historical Figures Chats, students and history nerds can pick a historical figure to strike up a conversation about their life, their work, and their impact on the world in a live, interactive chat.  

In 2023, we expect to see these tools and others in the AI space become more widely adopted in the creator economy. Whether creators are using AI to generate ad copy and social captions or partnering with brands to create an AI-powered personal shopping assistant, the sky’s the limit. In the AI age, everyone can be a creative! 

As AI continues to reshape the creative landscape, it's important to remember that these tools are still in their infancy. The use of AI in the creator economy is a dynamic and evolving space, and it's crucial to keep a close eye on its development. And as creators and businesses navigate this new frontier, we're excited to see how they'll harness the power of AI to push the boundaries of creativity and bring new innovation to the forefront.

If you want to follow along with these developments, make sure you keep a look out for news from the following AI leaders: 

  • Open.AI 
  • Stable Diffusion
  • Midjourney 

Single Streams of Income Won't Cut It

As the digital landscape continues to evolve, content creators seek new and innovative ways to monetize their craft. While traditional methods such as sponsored advertising and merchandise sales remain popular, many creators are now exploring alternative revenue streams that align with their brand and audience. 

As the content creator market becomes increasingly competitive, creators need to stay ahead of the curve and capitalize on monetization opportunities tailored to their specific niche.

At our 2022 Next Summit, we spoke with leaders of the top creator economy startups about what they see in the industry landscape. Joe Albanese, CEO and co-founder of Stir, emphasized the need for creators to develop multiple streams of income to build a sustainable business. 

"There needs to be more sustainable monetization models. Right now, 80% of every dollar that moves through the creator space is just through brand deals. Creator businesses are not marketing companies. They need to create their own products and have more ways to do that." 

By diversifying income streams, creators can safeguard themselves against the risks that come with relying on a single source of income, such as the loss of a contract from getting "canceled" or a drop in demand for their products or services. Additionally, diversifying income streams can help creators weather economic downturns or other unexpected events–like the pandemic–that may impact their primary source of income.

There are many ways that creators can monetize their content and creations, and the best strategy will depend on the type of content and audience. Creators can experiment with different monetization strategies and see what works best for them. 

Here’s a quick list of some of the top types of income streams for creators: 

  • Advertising revenue
  • Affiliate marketing
  • Subscriptions and memberships
  • Merchandise sales
  • Crowdfunding
  • Sponsorships and brand deals
  • Services and digital products
  • Live streaming and virtual events 

One of the latest developments in content creator monetization has been the rise of subscription services. Originally, platforms like Patreon and OnlyFans enabled content creators to receive ongoing financial support from their fans. This provided a more stable source of income and an opportunity to build closer relationships with their audiences.

Now, we’re seeing the next generation of subscription models on the rise. Instead of working with a 3rd party tool to manage and post subscriptions, there’s a new set of tools that help creators build their own community platform. Community-friendly tools like Mighty Networks and Circle are helping creators build their own branded platforms to sell their courses, host live events, and distribute exclusive content for their fans. Meanwhile, companies like Pietra and CashDrop give creators the opportunity to build and manage their own e-Commerce business. 

We’re excited to see how these platforms help creators cut out the middle-man, build their audiences, and diversify their income streams in the coming years. 

Creators Will Also Diversify

The term "content creator" has come to encompass a wide range of professions and activities as internet and social media use has expanded. Initially, the term referred to people who created written or visual content for websites or other online platforms. However, as the number of platforms and ways to share content has increased, so has the range of activities that can be considered content creation. These days, anyone can be a creator of anything and everything! 

Let’s take a look at the different types of traditional creators: 

  • YouTubers
  • Podcasters
  • Bloggers
  • Streamers
  • Instagrammers
  • Musicians
  • Artists
  • Photographers
  • Animated content creators
  • Virtual influencers 

Lately, we're seeing many of these creators transform into full-fledged creative entrepreneurs using their creative skills to develop and sell products, services, and content. For example, some creators offer consulting or coaching services, while others create physical or digital products such as books, courses, or merchandise. 

Let's take entrepreneur-influencer Emma Chamberlain, for example. Emma posted her first video on YouTube in fifth grade and started posting regularly in 2017.

As she became increasingly popular on other platforms like Instagram, she left YouTube behind in 2021. Today, Emma leverages her fashion following to book brand partnerships with designers like Louis Vuitton, and runs a wildly successful business based on her other passion–coffee. The company, Chamberlain Coffee, closed $7 million in Series A funding in 2022! 

In addition to the creator-to-entrepreneur pipeline, the corporate world is taking note of the power of leveraging content creators to support their businesses beyond marketing and advertising. If you end up on Tech Tiktok, you’ll find designers, developers, and other technical creators giving new tools and platforms a social awareness boost. 

For example, tech startups are using content creators to help them onboard new users by breaking down features and providing hacks. Other technical content creators are being asked to provide authentic reviews and recommendations, ultimately becoming a brand ambassador to the product. 

This is just one of many industries seeing its workforce branch out beyond their day jobs. In the future, we expect to see a lot of professionals from industries that aren’t traditionally creators.

Realtors are beginning to provide quick tip videos and courses about navigating the housing market. Auto manufacturers are working with YouTubers to review and showcase new car models. All of this diversification gives content creators even more power to control what’s trending in the economy. 

We'll See More And More Creator Tools 

In 2023, tech is taking creativity to the next level with an influx of innovative tools designed to supercharge the content creation process. From workflow automation to design and content creation, creators now have a plethora of options to streamline their operations and take their craft to new heights.

As a venture capital firm focused on empowering creatives with tools for success, we have a pulse on what's up and coming in this space. Here are a few of our favorite companies empowering anyone and everyone to make money as a creator: 

  1. Cameo - Creators can sell personalized video messages to the masses. 
  2. Pietra - Pietra empowers creators in starting and scaling their own e-Commerce brand by connecting them with source manufacturers and assisting in order fulfillment and online sales. 
  3. Stir - Stir is a financial platform designed to allow creators to collaborate and easily split the revenue. 
  4. Webflow - Every creator needs a website to generate leads and showcase their work. Webflow is the no-code solution! 
  5. Polywork - This platform connects creators looking to collaborate with other creatives, partner on projects, speak on podcasts, and more. 

And, of course – we can’t forget to mention AI in this section. One major player in the game, Canva, has already integrated AI technology from Stable Diffusion to help creators generate custom stock photos and design elements. This is just the tip of the iceberg, and we expect to see more and more AI integration in the creator tool space. 

My best advice: don’t be intimidated by these tools. This is your opportunity to up your game and take content creation to the next level. Who knows–one of these tools might just inspire your next business idea! 

Work-Life Balance Will Become a Hot Topic

It’s no secret that creators value flexible working hours – it’s one of the reasons why so many jump into becoming a creator in the first place. But sometimes, the hustle can become all-consuming. 

We know it can be challenging for creatives to separate work from personal time when they’re running a business and on-the-go. The lines get blurred between work and pleasure when your job involves social media, and “always on” culture can make it hard to disconnect. 

But we all know that working yourself into creative burnout isn’t worth it! The key is finding that sweet spot between working and taking care of yourself. When you’re in balance, ideas flow, and motivation stays high. When you’re not, your work and creativity will suffer. 

With all this impending burnout, the topic of work-life balance is likely to become even hotter in the creator economy, as creators seek to find ways to manage their time and energy effectively and maintain a healthy balance between work and personal life. This may include finding ways to set boundaries and manage distractions, as well as finding ways to prioritize self-care and emotional wellness.

Keep an Eye on the Worklife Blog for More 2023 Creator Economy Updates

The creator economy in 2023 is an exciting space with a multitude of trends to keep an eye on. The increasing use of AI in the creation process is changing how content is produced, and new creator tools are making it easier for creators to diversify their content and reach new audiences. 

If you believe that everyone will be a creator in the future, then it’s important to encourage kids to find a passion or become an expert on a topic they can share with others on the internet. Luckily, there are also a ton of companies that can help! For example, companies like Primer (Worklife portfolio company) are helping kids pursue their own interests – like photography, game design, and animation, all through personalized 1:1 learning.

At Worklife, we’re excited to continue investing in tools that allow anyone to be a creative.

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