Newsletter: If Content Is Free, How Do The Content Creators Make Money?

In today’s newsletter, I explain the 3 main methods for making money while sharing free content as a Content Creator or Influencer, I discuss how those methods are changing, and ponder on why we assume online content should be free, but don’t expect free work from other types of creators. Here’s an excerpt:

Hey there. I still suspect this topic is only going to be interesting to me. But when I brought it up in my most recent newsletter, it got lots of interest from readers. So I’m going to (nervously) share. This newsletter started as a revenue explainer and then drifted into a philosophical discussion about consuming free content. I hope you enjoy!

I always cheer for an “exposure doesn’t pay the rent” tweet and retweeted this thread thread instantly. Click through to read all the examples of people who expected Jamie Mathias, a songwriter, to write songs for them for free.

Shortly after I retweeted the thread, I saw a note from a reader, it was a blog comment, casually asking me to create a post about a topic they are interested in. And of course, we can assume that if I create that post, that reader expects they will get to read that post for free. To be clear, just like this blog reader, I too have consumed free content online for many years. We all have.

The reader didn’t mean any harm by the request, and I wasn’t offended even a little bit. It was a positive comment and very supportive. Yet, if I fulfill their request, and create the requested blog post, it will take 25+ hours of work, and considerable out-of-pocket expense. It will require research, errands, writing, photography, editing (both words and images), up-to-date software knowledge, marketing expertise, social media expertise, and more.

It’s clear from their request that the reader will benefit by my work in creating the blog post. But something we rarely consider: What will the content creator get out of it? Why would I spend that time creating content that is consumed for free? Should I expect to be compensated for that work? If yes, how should I be compensated for that work?

I’ve been a Content Creator or Influencer since 2006, before the terms “content creator” and “influencer” existed. Heck, before the term “mommy blogger” existed. Which means, I’ve been making 100% FREE content for 16 years. Over 6000 blog posts. over 15,000 Instagram Story segments. Over 2400 Instagram Posts. Innumerable Tweets. Over 40 short films. Etc. ALL free for people who want to read or watch or consume what I create.

Starting around 2010, for about 8 years, I was able to make a good living from creating this free content. I’m nothing but grateful that I was able to make a career of this work for so many years. For those of you who wonder how the people you follow make money, here’s a 101 course. If you are offering free content, there are 3 main options to earn money: 

Click here to read the full newsletter or to comment on this topic.

Scroll to Top