The Creator: Cynthia Ruff
Don't tell my audience, but I really love the business of creating more than the creating itself.
Cynthia Ruff left her job pricing CEO's salaries in 2018 to become the Darling Down South, a lifestyle blogger who brings you “Southern panache for your life”.
Over the next few years, she built out her strategy, processes, and infrastructure - three terms that don’t sound native to the Creator Economy, but can work magic on a Creator’s business - to the point where now, much of her revenue is passive and automatic.
She’s shared a bunch of those tactics below, so you can use them yourself!
Along the way, though, she realized that the way the Creator Economy prices work sucks. The process of Creators coming together with brands to create great work and generate meaningful value on both sides felt overly difficult - so she decided to do something about it.
After finishing her MBA at Georgia Tech in 2021, she launched Hashtag Pay Me - “the first unbiased pricing calculator for creator campaigns”.
I just want to help as many creators as possible. I want to make sure that everyone feels good about the rate they have, you know? I want to make sure they have the confidence to negotiate a brand deal with solid data. That was really the reason behind starting Hashtag Pay Me.
I signed up for Hashtag Pay Me recently (this is NOT a sponsored post) and while it’s still early, it’s quite handy! For just $10/mo, Creators can:
Identify a base rate per post for Instagram and TikTok posts based on follower count, engagement, rate, vertical, and production quality. They’re in the process of adding other platforms over the coming months, including my platform of choice, LinkedIn.
Calculate an ideal asking price for a sponsored post based on the above variables, plus the brand partner’s size, campaign requirements, and proposed deal terms. For individual Creators who are negotiating their own deals, this sort of price-setting assistance could be priceless, as many Creators leave money on the table by undercharging for their work.
Browse lists of brands in a rolodex that includes information like a brand’s size, category, whether they gift or pay, and the influencer marketing contact to pitch (including email address). While this rolodex has a ways to go, I found the contacts for a few B2B brands I’ve been wanting to reach out to, including Airtable and Hubspot.
Hashtag Pay Me has already generated over $3M in pricing, leading to over $1M in actual work for Creators - and they’re just getting started.
And even while running this business, Cynthia generates half her annual income as a Creator - much of it, passively.
She’s going to walk us through how.
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Eight years ago, I started this thing just for fun and was able to keep it, nurture it, and watch it grow into a really passive and nice salary!
My husband always jokes, saying, "Your ideal demographic is a 55-year-old woman named Penny who is about to have all the kids out of the house." And I say, "Yeah, that's probably true, but she's got money to spend, so I don't mind.”
SEO + Automation Lead to Passive Income
Cynthia attributes much of her audience acquisition over the years to her skill at Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
For certain blog posts, I rank number 1 and number 2 on Google search for those topics, so that really helps drive traffic.
For most Creators, SEO is a meaningless buzzword; social Creators are more concerned about optimizing for discovery algorithms. For Creators who run blogs and monetize content through websites, however, it can be a hugely valuable strategy for driving audience.
As she progressed in her Creator journey, and she started to get burnt out, Cynthia realized three things:
Much of the lifestyle content she’d create was evergreen, and would apply to specific holidays or times of year that would recur year after year
During those times of year, those topics would spike in Google Search
During those times of yea,brands would want to sponsor content on those topics.
In 2018, Cynthia combined these three trends, to produce a content flywheel that produces truly passive revenue for her year after year. Here’s how:
I had a photographer and a videographer on staff, and an assistant who would help me produce these big shoots, and we would do big client shoots and build this evergreen content wheel that would help the website self-promote throughout the entire year.
It’s like - try to create evergreen content so you don't burn yourself out. This was a really easy way to shoot one concept and then repurpose it into 10 different stories.
You can also have roundups in future years as you revisit these concepts. It's all holiday-based, so we were shooting Easter campaigns in late February, and in the first year, building up the content repository was the most challenging since we always had to be one season or holiday ahead of the rest of the world. However, once we had everything prepared and ready, the following year we could post it on schedule and capitalize on the Google trend traffic, maximizing your efforts with the previously produced content.
I was doing larger scale shoots and starting to monitor Google Trends to understand when people are searching for these topics and when we could really highlight and maximize our reach when we go to republish stories around each topic.
Did you catch that? Here’s the step-by-step strategy:
Throughout a year, invest in producing a boatload of high-quality content that’s related to specific holidays, seasons, and annual events - e.g. Easter, Memorial Day, 4th of July, Back to School, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Holiday Season, etc. If you can get brands to pay for it, even better. Example content she’s produced include “How to Host Thanksgiving for the First Time” and “How to Host a Holiday Fondue Party”.
Use SEO tactics like identifying times of year when searches spike for specific seasonal topics, using links to high-traffic websites, and writing titles that are likely also search phrases (“How to host Thanksgiving” is a great example). If you’re curious about SEO tactics, ask ChatGPT 😀
Make a bunch of the above mentioned links affiliate links to sites like Amazon, Nordstrom, etc. so that when someone clicks and buys, even if it’s not the specific product you recommend, you still get paid.
Set up an automated ad-serving platform (more on this in The Stack).
Schedule posts for the best search times for each topic based on Google Trends.
Rewrite, repackage, and reuse content in future years, scheduling it to be reposted during future seasons.
I can always tell when articles gain traction, especially during seasonal periods when people start searching for them more, because I see the attribution in my affiliate dashboard for things I don't usually link to.
Voila! While nothing is truly passive, this strategy lets a lot of upfront work yield ongoing rewards with minimal ongoing effort.
Last year, I actually kept things pretty part-time as a Creator, but because I've set up my channel for long-term traffic and have ads in place on my blog and strong affiliate backlinks, it still made over $40,000 passively.
It was great because, you know, eight years ago, I started this thing just for fun and was able to keep it, nurture it, and watch it grow into a really passive and nice salary!
HACK: Brand Agency Relationships
Cynthia received a package while I was chatting with her, and mentioned that she gets a ton of product - and some sponsorships - from local agencies based in Atlanta.
I’d never though about taking a local approach to building brand relationships. For nano- and microinfluencers, this can be a great way to build relationships, get free product, and even drum up early sponsorship dollars!
A lot of creators ask, "Well, how do I get on a mailing list for an agency to send things?"
You just introduce yourself! I mean, the best way to do that is as a creator. When I started out, the first thing I did was Google 'marketing agencies in Atlanta,' 'PR agencies in Atlanta.'
I would introduce myself to them, tell them what topics I talked about, and share my roadmap for the year, kind of the things that I would be covering as well. That way, when they have new clients come onto their roster, they can keep me in mind for what they need promoted, and then they'll reach out to me to send me things, or they'll just send me stuff.
But, that introductory email, I think, is the most beneficial for just saying, "Here's who I am, here's how I could work with you if you're interested."
That introductory email, without asking for anything, I think, is the best way to get on that roster, especially as they have paid opportunities come up, which is pretty rare for a local agency. But, when it does happen, they'll tap you first.
One of the big challenges with Cynthia’s business - and many Creators who make most of their revenue from brands - is the seasonality and unpredictability of brand deals.
The swings in compensation, which were a surprise to me coming from the corporate world and then transitioning to a freelance creator life, aren't consistent throughout the year. That was a hard lesson to learn. When the summertime slump hits and you realize, "Oh, there are no deals coming in this month," it essentially means I won't get paid for sixty days. So, what do I do now?
I asked how she deals with it.
Yeah, I've gotten better at managing cash flow. So, when the good times are good, I know there's probably still going to be a bit of a slump later on. Now, I know when my really slow months are and when my really active months are. Normally, my slow months are January and February, which means when I pick up work in March, that won't get paid out until early May. Anything in June and July is basically a dead zone, and then August picks up for back-to-school, Labor Day, and other end-of-summer sales promotions.
Cynthia has the biggest Pinterest audience of any Creator I’ve spoken with so far, and I was curious what the value is. I assumed it would drive a bunch of brand business, but the primary values seem to be 1) discovery, and 2) affiliate revenue.
Pinterest is just another driver to the blog. From there, once people land on the blog, it also drives a lot of newsletter signups. Almost daily, just from Pinterest, I get about twenty new newsletter signups.
I've never had anyone ask me for Pinterest for a sponsored post. So, every response, every monetary aspect has been primarily driven by affiliates.
Sharing across social media is important too. I will sometimes share that and I consider Pinterest part of social media. So, affiliate drivers come from Pinterest, Instagram, and "Like To Know It," if you're familiar with them, the LTK platform.
How to Succeed with Brand Partners
Make them feel good that we've checked all the boxes and achieved as much reach as possible.
Underpromise and overdeliver!
If I promise to use two channels, I'll think, "I'm going to send this out on all of my channels."
I mean, there's no harm in it. Everything that I produce for a sponsored post is as good as, if not better than, the other content that I produce. So, I want to get as many eyeballs on it as possible.
I can’t emphasize enough how important underpromising and overdelivering is. Creators as a whole have a bad reputation, left over from the early days of the Creator Economy when emerging creators weren’t yet comfortable working with brands.
It’s important to remember that any brand that gives you money as a Creator is trusting you to generate some equal or greater value for them.
Yeah, no one's ever going to be upset that, you know, you reshared your blog post in a newsletter. If anything, I can then take it back and say, "Oh look, this one newsletter subscriber wrote back this nice qualitative thing about the product," and share that with the brand.
The brand's like, "Oh my God, this is the greatest partnership we've ever had. Thank you for sharing all this information with us," because they just want to look good to their bosses and everyone else.
It’s also important to remember that the brand isn’t just a faceless entity - it’s one or more humans who are doing a job, trying to look good to their bosses, get promoted, provide for their families, buy a house, whatever. You, as a Creator they choose to work with, are part of that. Deliver for them, you’ll help them achieve their goals, and they’ll remember you for future campaigns - in this job, or future ones.
HACK - Upsell Brands for Future Seasonal Activations
Don’t assume you’re done with a brand once you wrap up a campaign. Cynthia has a great tactic for getting more business from her seasonal clients.
I also have a formula - when I'm wrapping up one project, I will send over some FOMO opportunities for the rest of the year that kind of align with what they've done in the past.
Brands aren't reinventing the wheel every year. They're basically taking the same themes from the previous year and then repurposing them with new influencers.
I tell them, "We didn't work together last year, so I can be your new influencer to work with this year. How we can take this topic and make it work for this year?"
For example - if you do an Easter campaign and it goes well, take a look at their 4th of July or Back to School content from a previous year, and send them past content of yours that aligns. Let them know you could be part of whatever they do this year. Odds are, they’ll want to save energy and reduce risk.
If they trust you, if you delivered previously, and if your content aligns with their brand, there’s a good chance you’ll get even more business!
HACK - Use Hashtags to Get Brand Deals
Here’s a brilliant hack Cynthia uses to get brand deals when brands allocate budget to activate in local markets:
For me, it's very important that I use relevant hashtags.
When people start reallocating their marketing budgets all over the United States, especially to big cities like Atlanta, they'll start typing in terms like 'Atlanta bloggers'. This is especially true if they're not using a tool.
I've been in this space for such a long time that I am more of an authoritative voice here. So, I always keep relevant hashtags on every single one of my posts: “#Atlantablogger”, “#ATLblogger”, etc. That way, when people find me, it's probably based on one of those, and I would probably align with what they're looking for.
At this point, I can't actually use hashtags to grow anymore on Instagram because it's kind of dead. How else am I going to use hashtags to stay relevant? This is one way to keep doing that.
Cynthia is one of a handful of Creator Economy founders with a long Creator career. I was curious what her experience was like, going from Creator to Founder.
It's probably one of the hardest jobs I've ever done, raising funds and fundraising, because you have to go up to these people and tell them why they should pay you for your crazy idea. This isn't unlike being a Creator and cold pitching to brands.
Once I had that realization, it was like, "Why am I so apprehensive about reaching out to investors about this when I do it all the time to brands?" So, I immediately changed my perspective on how I was reaching out.
We were also really fortunate to have our advisors, who were my co-founder's former bosses at CreatorIQ. They came in and introduced us to all of their friends who became our first investors. They're all in the Creator space, so they know the Creator world. The fact that I was able to speak about using the tool myself as a creator, and why we had this crazy idea and why we're going down this trajectory – I think being a creator really helped to solidify and close our fundraising.
There are very few Creator economy Founders who are also Creators.
This is such an incredible perspective! As a former founder myself, I remember how painful the fundraising process was. Honestly, it’s a big part of why I haven’t launched another investor-backed business - because the idea of pitching 50-100 investors and getting told no by 95 of them (if I’m extremely lucky) makes my back hurt 😅
Ironically, I pitch potential sponsors, consulting clients, and other Creators every day. I’m asking them for their money or their audience attention in exchange for my delivering some sort of value - my knowledge, my writing, or my audience.
Honestly, the success rate is about the same, but I don’t think twice about continuing. Why be scared of fundraising, then? It’s basically the same thing.
Whether you’re a Creator, founder, consultant, freelancer, or trying to land a job - you’re going to be putting yourself out there to make something happen. You’ve probably had success doing it before, one way or another.
It’s all about perspective.
Website - Wordpress, but moving to Webflow
Cynthia is currently on Wordpress because she’s been a blogger so long that she only had a few options!
At the time when I built it you you had 2 options you had um blogger and At the time when I built it, you had two options: Blogger and WordPress. Because Blogger was weird about the way that you could run ad revenue on the website, I went to WordPress. I wanted to have ad revenue turned on as soon as possible. I fully went into being a creator, knowing it was going to be a hobby, but one that I could also make money from, so I set it up like a business almost from the beginning.
Since then, her strategy evolved and so did the landscape.
She recently discovered a website builder - Webflow - that seems to be a perfect fit for her SEO-driven passive revenue strategy.
I don't know what it is, but I can get much better SEO ranking on Webflow than I have ever gotten on WordPress starting out.
The drag and drop feature is beneficial because everyone's moving to this builder block kind of portfolio. Webflow seems a little intimidating because there are so many customization options, but it's actually quite intuitive, and it has block features as well. If you have two weeks and the ability to read a bunch of forums, you can figure out how to build a really well-performing SEO blog on Webflow. It's about the same complication you'll go through with WordPress unless you just want to buy a template. Webflow would give me more customization options versus WordPress, where I could have a template and it could be all done for me. That would be great, but if you're ready to move up as a Creator and you've already explored having a blog...
I use Webflow for our content site for Hashtag Pay Me and just by following all the directions and prompts to make sure all of our images are updated and everything, we've gotten ranked much higher, much faster on Webflow without having any backlinks…I'm not really certain about the magic behind it. I've just seen us rank much better for already highly saturated terms.
Given that SEO is both a major source of her traffic and enables much of her business to be passive in nature, increasing her Search rankings by switching web providers could potentially have a huge impact on her business.
Domains and Analytics - Google
I try to keep everything, I guess, pretty bucketed within one ecosystem. So, the majority of all my domains are managed through Google Analytics. I know there are better analytics platforms out there, but I don't really feel like getting into the weeds on which one I really need for the business.
I really do think it's worth a lot to have a good blog host, because I’ve been hacked before, when I was on Bluehost, so I moved everything over to WP Engine, which is much more expensive but way more secure.
I use Flodesk right now. It was so easy I didn't need a newsletter designer, too. I used to use Mailchimp, but I left Mailchimp for ConvertKit, and then I left ConvertKit for Flodesk.
The transition from Mailchimp to ConvertKit was because I wanted those automation flows which were much better and easier to set up on ConvertKit than they were with Mailchimp. However, there's still such a level of intricacy in terms of setting up tags with ConvertKit. If you don't do that before you start your automation flow, it's kind of a nightmare to get started at that point. And also, it started to get expensive once my newsletter subscribers started to increase.
So, I moved over to Flodesk which was much more affordable and they had so many prebuilt templates, I thought “This is good enough for now.” I don't need to worry about the design and the flow, and I can just write it out and get it scheduled. That's it. So, it was much simpler for me on Flodesk because I didn't need that extra layer of complication.
Ecommerce - Etsy + Instagram
Cynthia used to sell digital prints, but stopped doing so. This isn’t really relevant to her business now, but is an interesting anecdote and illustrative of how many Creators think.
You can't really regulate where your digital prints go. I saw one of the digital prints, someone had tagged me on it, and I thought, “I don't know that I really want this image licensed in perpetuity for $9 for people to use wherever they want.” So, I decided to take that down.
I think someone was using it on their business website, and it was not really the purpose of that image. It was supposed to be a photo for your home. So, I started thinking about the potential for abuse and how to mitigate that. I realized I don't really know if I can.
Digital Product Sales - The Leap (Thinkific)
The Leap, which is owned by Thinkific, just launched these mini-course creation opportunities. It's all done through the phone. I used The Leap, and it's so easy. I did the entire course in an hour and a half, and then edited it, which took about three hours. It's driven almost $300 from a class that I used to host. I used to host in-person workshops for flower arranging, and this is just an easy passive way to keep that knowledge going for anyone who wants to take that class.
A long time ago, I was going to make this flower workshop a proper course on Thinkific or one of the other platforms. But with how much it costs per month to host, and how much it was going to cost to put together the video from a videographer perspective, it was going to be too much that I wasn't sure was going to pay off. So when the team at The Leap told me about their mini-course option, I thought, 'Sign me up. This is the perfect way to get this out there as quickly as possible.’
It’s so simple. Essentially, it helps you as a Creator transition from digital products to very easy courses - speedy things that you can learn in under 30 minutes. It can be used as a teaser for, if you want to do something longer, a course in the future. And it's all cell-phone-based; you film everything 9 by 16.
I'm a part of Mediavine, which has a better ad payout than Google Ads. They have stipulations of how many page views you have to have per month to get into their program. I don't know if they've raised it since when I joined, but I know I was working my butt off to get into their ad program because it's one of the best payouts. I mean, all of my traffic is basically on autopublish, and all my posts are on autopublish throughout the year for Pinterest. The ad revenue is still almost $8000 a year, which is just great.
Content Distribution - Tailwind + Planoly
Topics don't change every single year. Everyone's looking for 4th of July recipes, Labor Day stuff, beach things, and so on. So, I've built this content well with all of these different themes that typically peak for lifestyle channels, and I just republish that on the right cadence according to Google Trends and Pinterest trends. This way, I capture that traffic at the right time. The tool I use is great because it allows me to have everything auto-published every year at the same time. So, I don't ever have to touch it again. It's like $39 a month and I don’t think they charge enough if you have it set up in the right way.
Content Generation - ChatGPT
Everyone’s talking about Generative AI and the value for Creators; Cynthia loves the tool, and has a very smart way of putting it to use.
Given she has so much content, and much of it has similar themes, she can use ChatGPT to create “original” content that is actually repackaged from her old content.
This “new” content takes minutes to produce and helps boost her SEO strategy to drive additional audience and revenue.
There are all these SEO hacks, you know, where you can take content you've already done and then republish it on your blog, so it seems a bit more new and relevant. Sometimes I'll do this to keep new posts on the blog because actively posting on your website is a good signal for SEO. I'll just take different photos from things and then reaggregate them into something like 'Top 5 Tables for Summer Tablescapes' and I don't really have to redo anything. Now that ChatGPT exists, I don't really even have to rewrite anything. I can just say, "Hey, take this blog post and this blog post, move this blog post, give me a summary of each," and then I'll change it to my tone of voice before I put it into the blog post.
Essentially, you're creating backlinks within your own channel. You're taking five posts all about tablescapes or something, and then you create a post that's called '5 Tablescapes to Recreate for Summer.'
Now, this is a new post that links back to other old posts on your blog. Google likes that you're publishing new content, but as a creator, you're not really publishing new content because you made this content years ago. And then I can post that new post all about the tablescapes to Pinterest. That gets flagged as new content because now it's a new URL, and that helps drive Pinterest interest because they want you to create new content for them as well.
Backlinking is the trick here. It obviously works best for Creators who have a repository of content, but if you do, creating a network of links from article to article will increase your page’s visibility in Google Search.
I wonder if this works the same for YouTube….
Brand Partnership - Hashtag Pay Me / Self-Sourced
I find my own brand deals, or they find me through Instagram hashtag search.
I’m always super interested when I meet Creators who source their own brand deals. Cynthia clearly isn’t just waiting around for brands to come to her, and I wanted to know her thoughts on the process of finding and pitching brand partners.
Fortunately, she’s so passionate about it that she started an entire venture-backed startup to help other Creators get better at it.
Definitely, everyone has a different pitch, depending on the reach they're operating in, and how I can best serve their audience or sales needs. For a large enterprise, I'm probably more of a cog in the machine. They're going to be working with an agency, so I would have to reach out and find the right agency contact. Or you could use Hashtag Pay Me to do that because we've aggregated all that for you.
As a Creator, you don't realize when you start how much of your time is actually going to be spent on cold outreach. When things are good and people are coming to you all the time, you can quickly turn their requests into a sponsored post. However, when you have to do all the cold outreach yourself, there's no tool to help you do that. This is why my co-founder and I wanted to start Hashtag Pay Me because the outreach part consumes most of a working creator's time when they don't have a talent agent. Regardless of how great my blog traffic was, my Instagram traffic was too small. I could never get represented.
I asked if she uses marketplaces - there are many, and I know some Creators who are too small for representation benefit from them.
I was heavily involved with marketplaces in the past. When you engage in a one-off brand partnership with an agency or a brand, that's typically how you earn the majority of your income, as those tend to hold higher value. Marketplaces serve as good interims. I previously worked with a marketplace called MuseFind. During slow periods, I monitor all the marketplaces for potential work.
Affiliates - RewardStyle aka LTK
I started off on Skimlinks, which I think has been bought. It was UK-based. Also ShopStyle, now known as Collective Bias. Those two platforms had no parameters on creator influence size to join their platform, whereas RewardStyle dropped around 2015 or 2016. It was invite-only and it was very exclusive. You had to apply and have a the right number of followers.
Once you got in, it was much easier to use from a Creator's perspective. They have so many tools available, like 'Shop the Post', and you can create big shoppable web pages. So, it was much easier to use from a Creator’s perspective at the time, and it's just kind of been what I’ve been using ever since.
Oh yea, that’s LikeToKnowIt…I think they only just changed to 'LTK'
I’ve been hearing a lot about LTK recently. I firmly believe that affiliate is the silent juggernaut of the Creator Economy, both in terms of Creator revenue and value generated for brands. I could see platforms like LTK and Howl becoming real juggernauts.
I edit all in Splice. It was the first tool I picked up and I've been using it ever since.
Asset Management - Amazon Web Service
I didn’t realize AWS had an offering that Creators would find useful; I thought you had to be an engineer to use it, and I’d have guessed DropBox or Google Drive would be the go-to for a Creator like her backing up files.
Given how big photo and video files can get, it makes sense that after 9 years of producing content that she’s still using and reusing today, she’d need a huge amount of storage to save her backups.
And the price she pays is significantly less than DropBox!
For business storage, you can put stuff up there. My AWS fee per month is like $2.80, and if anything ever happened to my external hard drive….Worth it.
Project Management - Google Drive
Photo Editing - Photoshop and Lightroom
I do use Photoshop and Lightroom for photo editing, but that's it.
Otherwise, Canva. I can create like GIFs,any sort of graphic I need….
It's just one of the best tools out there for creators.
Finances - Personal financial tracking model + Chase & American Express
My background is Finance, so I just built a really nice Excel sheet. I was talking with Sima of Creative Juice, and she's like “Why don't you use a tool?” and I was like “Because I think my Excel model is probably better than anything out there. No offense.” But it's also very tuned to my business, so it's not something I can share.
Despite her using her own model for tracking her business, she does see value in Creator-focused financial tools.
My number one advice is like - I really think it's way too risky for a Creator to put a lot of their future creation stuff on a credit card, and I would always advise against it. I mean I've seen so many Creators…it's easy to get caught up in “Oh well, next month I'll make $5000 and pay this off,” but sometimes that doesn't happen and now you're left with these huge high interest balances.
The creator credit cards are great, because they're low interest, but a regular credit card…on't put your creation on a credit card. Too risky.
What’s your #1 tool to save time and money?.
ChatGPT-4. The best tool ever for content creators.
With free money, who would you hire?
I need a real personal assistant who will literally follow me around the house and do absolutely everything I ask them to. That would be great.
What’s contributing most to your growth?
Having an SEO-first strategy for an owned media channel is the number one.
What strategies or habits do you swear by?
Every day of the week, I bucket what I work on. I'm doing the same thing on specific days week over week. Monday is admin, Tuesday might be product development, Wednesday is marketing, Thursday is partnerships, Friday is a tie up of all the loose ends. It keeps me sane.
Every morning I am much more creatively inclined. If I have to do something creative, I always carve out my mornings for creative endeavors then move on to the other stuff.
How’d you get good at all the many things you do?
I don't know that I'm good at all of the things. But I try my best and stay curious.
What do you wish you knew when you started?
How long it was going to take to make that first affiliate sale, or the first dollar, or the first cent. Being a creator is not winning the lottery.
How do you think of yourself - creator, influencer, artist, solopreneur, entrepreneur, or something else?
Who influences YOU as a Creator?
Oh so many people right now. I feel like I'm obsessed with all of the Charleston Lifestyle bloggers, my friends who live over there, really good media channels like Cooks Illustrated…and just going out and about, exploring my own city, finding new things to do. That's a huge inspiration driver.
What’s your biggest regret as a Creator?
Not selling my media channel when I could have because I had a really nice opportunity to sell it for more than 6 figures. I wish I had gotten over the pride of letting go of all of my content….
What’s the biggest risk to your business?
Well, cookie tracking is already being turned off on Google, so that’s a risk. The biggest risk, I mean, the internet going out I guess. That seems like the biggest risk if there are no creators and no people to read stories online.
How do you stay relevant in a changing Creator Economy?
The themes people talk about never change, so it doesn't matter. You just have to evolve with the storytelling, stay curious about what's happening. You don't have to be great to be good enough to keep your audience interested, and also leading with an audience led creation perspective. My audience doesn't care for video content, so I haven't invested a lot of time into it. I have a very strong small audience. If I were to chase new people who aren't as loyal to me with video content, I would lose my loyalists.
How do you stay motivated when things get tough?
That's hard. You just have to swallow the worm at the end of the day. I have asked ChatGPT-4 to write for me because it's so much better than the free version. It's scarily so much better, and I'm like, “You're a motivational coach. You help me get through these last 2 things that I have to do, give me some inspiration.”
One time it was so good it made me cry and I was like, wow, I really can do this.
Using ChatGPT as a motivational coach is probably the most original use case for the platform that I’ve heard so far!!!
Where are you investing your effort for the next few years?
Brand and creating those loyal connections. So, brand and community.
What comes after all this?
Well, once I'm done with Hashtag Pay Me, I fully intend on being a creator again. I wanted to create Hashtag Pay Me so that I could be a better creator in the future, so, another channel in the future.
My mission is to enable millions of people to benefit from the emergence of the Creator Economy. I believe that the more successful both Creators and the companies that serve Creators are, the better off humankind will be.
If you have questions, comments, or would like to work with me directly, reach out to me at [email protected].
Thanks again for being part of this community. See you next week!