Earning your first dollar as a creator might feel exhilarating. Knowing that something you created is finally bringing in income — no matter how small — must be a thrill. But after the first month, reality sets in.
Making and managing money can be tricky to navigate, and as an online creator, your life is your business. Like many self-employed people, you must plan accordingly with budgets for the year, revenue goals, and income projections. It gets even more complicated when you add a team into the mix. In this article, we’ll cover key tips to help you handle income generation, budgeting, investing, and taxes as a content creator.
Four things creators need to know about managing money
According to ConvertKit’s State of the Creator Economy report, almost 30 percent of full-time creators earn less than $10,000 per year. With stats like that, you might wonder why you need to know about managing money as a creator if your income isn’t significant. However, it’s important to know what plans to put in place before you start raking in the big bucks. Because the last thing you want to do is get caught out at the end of the tax year, thousands of dollars in debt.
Set up a system for income generation
One of the biggest advantages of being an internet creator is that you have multiple avenues to make money. Advertising, sponsorships, merchandise sales, and tips are just a few examples of how you can monetize your content. Here’s an overview of how you can monetize your content creation.
- Content-based: Affiliate links in your writing or videos, sponsors or brand collaborations, and gated content are just some examples of ways to make money directly off the content you create. You can also create user-generated content for brands to use for their own marketing for a fee.
- Platform-specific: Many platforms have made monetizing content a more seamless experience for both creators and their audiences. Some examples include Patreon, Ko-fi, and Buy Me a Coffee. You can also check out the offerings from social media platforms for monetization, like the TikTok Creator Fund, YouTube Creator payouts, and Twitter Tips and Subscriptions.
- Product-based: Creators can also make their own products to sell. The most popular versions of these products are merchandise, digital products and courses. However, depending on their industry, some creators may choose to sell access to a paid community or jobs board.
- Service-based: You can extend your knowledge and skills to other people as part of monetizing your creativity. The skills you build up in the process of creating content like editing, writing, or speaking, are very transferable.
- Business-based: Some creators gather enough social and financial capital to start companies of their own. Examples include Rella by Natalie Barbu, Chamberlain Coffee by Emma Chamberlain, and Shaan Puri’s rolling fund.
By diversifying your income streams, you can ensure that you're not relying too heavily on one source of revenue, and you can build a sustainable business that can weather any changes in the economy.
Set income and savings goals
Treating your content creation like a business ensures that it will last for a long time – and budgeting and expense management is crucial for any business. Setting financial goals and tracking expenses can help you stay on top of your spending and ensure that you're saving enough to reach your long-term goals.
Some common expenses for internet creators include equipment costs, website hosting fees, and marketing expenses. You might also be able to expense items and experiences that support your content creation, even if they’re not traditional business expenses. Here are five important tips to help you manage your finances:
- Set financial goals: Whether your goal is to save for a new piece of equipment or plan for retirement, having specific financial goals in mind can help you stay focused on what's important.
- Track expenses: Keep track of all your expenses, big and small, to get a clear picture of where your money is going. This will help you identify areas where you can cut back and make adjustments to your budget. Make sure to separate business expenses from personal so that when you’re filing your taxes, you can easily identify which is which.
- Minimize costs: Look for ways to cut costs and save money. For example, invest in high-quality equipment that will last for a long time, and avoid lifestyle creep.
- Focus on organic growth: Instead of paying for expensive ads, focus on building an audience organically through social media and engaging content. This can be more cost-effective and can lead to a more engaged audience in the long run.
Remember that budgeting and expense management are ongoing processes, so be prepared to make adjustments as your content creation business evolves and your financial needs change.
Pay your taxes!
Taxes can be a complicated subject for content creators, as there are unique laws and regulations to navigate. There are also multiple rules for different regions, so not all creators are in the same boat. However, it’s vital that you understand what your obligations are as a creator, self-employed individual, or small business owner.
Here are a few steps to help you manage your taxes correctly:
- Understand your tax obligations: As a self-employed individual, you are responsible for paying the employee and employer portion of Social Security and Medicare taxes, also known as self-employment taxes.
- Keep accurate records: Keeping accurate records of all income and expenses throughout the year will make the tax filing process much easier.
- Consult a tax professional: If you're unsure about how to file your taxes, consider consulting a tax professional or using tax preparation software to ensure that you are compliant with all tax laws and regulations.
- File and pay your taxes on time: Self-employed individuals are required to file and pay taxes quarterly, in addition to the annual tax filing. Make sure to file and pay your taxes on time to avoid penalties or interest.
Here are three tips to help you manage your taxes:
- Take advantage of deductions: Look for deductions and credits that are available to self-employed individuals, such as the home office deduction or the self-employed health insurance deduction.
- Plan for estimated taxes: Since self-employed individuals are responsible for paying taxes on a quarterly basis, it's important to plan for estimated taxes and set aside money throughout the year.
- Keep up-to-date with tax laws: Tax laws and regulations change frequently, so it's essential to stay informed about any changes that might affect your business.
By following these steps and tips, you can ensure that you are managing your taxes correctly and maximizing the deductions and credits available to you as a self-employed internet creator. Remember that taxes are an ongoing process, so be prepared to make adjustments as your business evolves and tax laws change.
Save and invest a portion of your income
Investing and saving for the future is crucial for internet creators, just as it is for anyone else. As an internet creator, it's important to keep in mind that you are self-employed and may not have access to certain benefits that employees have, such as employer-sponsored retirement plans. However, there are still ways for self-employed creators to invest and save for their future. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Consider setting up a retirement plan: Look into planning for the future with a retirement plan. For creators based in the US, the IRS website offers resources that break down which plans are best for different business types. Research what is available to you in your country or region and set it up to protect your future.
- Invest in tax-advantaged accounts: In the US, there are several tax-advantaged accounts, such as Health Savings Account (HSA) and Flexible Spending Account (FSA), which you can consider to save money on taxes and invest in your health or other needs.
- Take advantage of tax laws: Consider deductions and credits available to self-employed individuals, such as the self-employed health insurance deduction or the home office deduction.
- Research investment options: As a self-employed individual, you have various investment options to choose from, such as stocks, real estate, and mutual funds. It's essential to research your options and set investment goals to ensure that you make the best choices for your situation.
- Separate your accounts: You should consider setting up different accounts for your different financial needs. Set up accounts that can hold you daily expenses, savings, business expenses, taxes, just to name a few. This way, you know which accounts are for what use and you won't spend money meant for equipment on new shoes.
- Seek professional advice: It's always a good idea to seek the advice of a financial advisor or accountant before making any investment decisions. They can help you understand the pros and cons of different investment options and help you create a plan that aligns with your goals.
Investing and saving for the future may seem daunting. Still, with a bit of planning and research, self-employed internet creators can take advantage of the financial laws and opportunities to secure their future.
Treat your content creation like a business
Managing your finances may seem overwhelming, but it's essential for the long-term success of your online business. By focusing on income generation, budgeting, investing, and taxes, you can take control of your finances and ensure that your content creation is sustainable in the long run.
Remember to keep your goals in mind, and seek out professional advice if you need it. With the right mindset and a solid plan, you can build a secure financial future as a creator.