3 Reasons Why Creators Leave Money on the Table in Their Business

In the era of the creator economy, there is a pervasive notion that the life of a digital creator is glamorous and lucrative. From the outside, it looks like all you have to do is post content online and presto – you can be rich and famous. Experienced creators know how far from the truth this often-hyped illusion really is. While a select few are able to command large contracts and generous influencer deals, the reality for many creators is quite the opposite. Instead of growing wealth and increasing their impact, they end up leaving money on the table.

There are three key obstacles that often prevent creators from being able to leverage their audience into the kind of business they dream about. Let’s take a look at the root causes of this pressing problem for digital creators.

#1: Feeling Overwhelmed

Everyone has a different threshold for feeling overwhelmed. You know you’ve reached the tipping point when you can’t organize your thoughts, think rationally, make decisions, or feel like you simply can’t get a break.

It’s like living in perpetual quicksand – no matter how hard you try to dig out, the sand keeps coming up to your neck, threatening to swallow you whole.

For digital creators trying to do it all alone, this feeling of being overwhelmed is inevitable, no matter how organized they are. There is simply too much to do in a 24 hour day and 7 day week.

Consistently creating content, posting and engaging with followers consumes a significant amount of time. Beyond the time factor, content creation and social engagement require a huge investment of creative and emotional energy. This all adds up over time. The feeling of overwhelm is multiplied even further for creators with a family or other significant responsibilities. A 2022 study of the creator economy cited 58% of creators as having a full time job.

This problem leads to a terrible irony for digital creators: they’re unable to fully maximize the opportunity of the platform they’ve put so much work into building. They have an audience and fan base that loves them and their work, yet they find themselves on a hamster wheel that doesn’t allow them to stop, look up and see a bigger picture.

Overwhelm causes creators to leave money on the table in two major ways:

1. It reduces the ability to see great opportunities and assess options effectively. When you’re just trying to keep your head above water, your decision-making tends to keep you in survival mode. It’s harder to make strategic calls or act quickly to leverage opportunities.

2. It limits the capacity to participate in bigger opportunities. Often, they simply can’t take on anything new like partnerships or brand deals, simply because they lack the bandwidth.

#2. Limited Business Knowledge

Another key roadblock many creators face is their limited business knowledge. In the creator economy, the line between creativity and entrepreneurship can be blurry, and not all creators have a strong grasp of business concepts. Creators are often expected to be experts in content creation – and all things business-related as well.  

“Life is too short to spend time pretending to know or be something you’re not” says Level Up Creator’s CEO, Amanda Northcutt. “Once you’re old enough to be an expert in your field, you’ve likely realized that you don’t need to also master marketing, sales, accounting, finance, strategy, product development, people management, tech, and more.” She has over 20 years of experience as a consultant, coach, and 6-time executive, launching, growing, and scaling online businesses for D2C, B2C, and B2Bs.

“Trying to know and do it all is exhausting, and never asking for help is not something to be celebrated. I speak from personal experience. I used to believe I had to know and do it all in order to be respected and successful… I found more success focusing on what I’m passionate about (building successful businesses) and getting help with the rest.”

Amanda Northcutt, CEO, Level Up Creators

Limited business knowledge leads creators to leave money on the table in a few ways. It can cause underconfidence that prevents them from stepping in to larger opportunities. It can also leave creators underrepresenting their value and negotiating relatively small contracts compared with industry peers.

Many creators enter the space based on their passion for their subject matter. They choose to share what they know, inspire, educate or entertain. Many have no business background and often no interest in developing business skills.Yet in order to avoid burnout and fully maximize the opportunity of their online audience, they need to find strategic ways to continue generating content – and income.  A well run digital business is a smart option provide stability and profitability long term.

#3: Lacking a “North Star”

A North Star is the ultimate goal or purpose of your business. It acts as a compass guiding your decision-making. Without it, you don’t know where you’re going. And if you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never get there.

How is a North Star different from the more commonly known vision statement? A vision statement paints a big picture of the world your business helps to create, or at least operates in, ideally. A North Star establishes a clear, tangible set of goals (usually no more than 5) that the company actively works towards achieving. The North Star goals support the vision but are more closely tied to practical business activities.

Developing a documented North Star is a key business building activity that many creators overlook. For digital creators, defining a North Star is based on why you create, who your audience is, the value you provide, and the transformation you create for your audience. 

Without a North Star, creators often end up directionless, making content yet not growing their incomes or achieving the lifestyle they dream of. The lack of clear direction and focus can lead to misaligned business partnerships or deals that are not a good fit. This in turn leads to frustration and self-doubt when other digital creators appear to “make it”. 

Having a North Star enables strategic decision-making on business actions. It fosters alignment and creates a clear focus that can be highly motivating for creators. It allows you to take a long view of your business, while consistently taking smart action steps that ultimately move the needle…North.

Once a North Star is defined, a mission, vision, strategy, goals, and product roadmap can be developed to help bring it all to life. Daily actions aligned with a thoughtful long term plan, have been shown to yield significant success for digital creators.

The list of roadblocks here is not exhaustive but it highlights the most common reasons why digital creators leave money on the table. If you’re a creator dealing with any one or more of these challenges, reach out. Level Up Creators provides coaching, consulting and business support services designed to help digital creators scale their business, without the burnout.

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