The Creator Economy Burns People Out. But it Doesn’t Have to Be That Way.

From feeding algorithms to facing trolls, creators are uniquely susceptible to burnout. But there are proven paths to a sustainable career.

(Photo by Darren Heath/Getty Images) Darren Heath/Getty Images

A recent study from the American Psychological Association confirms what many of us already know: Burnout is at an all-time high. Whether leaving their jobs or scaling back responsibilities, workers across nearly every profession are rethinking careers in search of better work-life balance.

This has led to a boom in the creator economy, with people lured by the flexibility, autonomy, and the impression of easy money. More than 200 million people worldwide now call themselves social media content creators, according to one estimate, flooding a creator market economy expected to reach $104 billion by year’s end.

But creators are not immune to burnout. In fact, the risk factors almost read like a creator’s job description: lack of control over outcomes, unclear expectations, social isolation, and blurred boundaries between work and personal time. Add to that a dash of negative trolling and unhelpful comparisons with the rare but highly visible creator who is raking in millions. The good news is, it doesn’t have to be that way.

As a creator with a long-running online course and the CEO of a company that helps thousands of creators earn revenue from their content, I have first-hand experience with creator burnout and how to avoid it.

There are so many upsides to being a creator: the freedom to make a living from your passion, to travel, positively impact others, build a team and brand, and express yourself creatively. Still, long-term success requires a clear-eyed look at the business realities of content creation, finding intrinsic motivation, taking control of your platform, and finding unique ways to add value for your followers.

Here are some ways creators can avoid burnout and create careers that go the distance.

Live within your means

One primary source of burnout in entrepreneurship is financial. Live within your means to avoid added financial stress.

I recommend starting your creator endeavors as a side hustle while working your day job, ensuring your bills are covered until your business takes hold. Control your costs as you move into full-time content creation. Even with significant revenues, you can create unnecessary financial stress if you spend more than you make.

Many creators have amazing financial success, but living with your means as you build your business can make the journey easier and more enjoyable.

Focus on what you can control

In my experience, burnout isn’t caused by overwork alone but by feeling you’re putting in extraordinary effort and not seeing the desired results. That can be particularly tricky for creators since crucial elements for success, like follower growth, view counts, and engagement, are out of their control.

Instead, to keep burnout at bay, focus on inputs and redefine your benchmarks to things within your power.

When I first went all-in on my online course, I would stay up until all hours filming and editing content, setting unrealistic goals for growing my audience and then feeling discouraged when they went unmet.

So I shifted my focus. I carved out regular time for activities, like kiteboarding, that replenished my energy. I reframed my goals around factors I could control. Instead of aiming to make a certain amount of money each month, I set goals around inputs — such as creating a certain number of blog posts, educational videos, guides, and lessons or quizzes in my course.

I still monitored audience and engagement metrics to guide the creation of the next set of inputs. But rather than obsessing over volume, I focused on making each piece of content valuable to my followers.

As a creator, it’s crucial to find ways to relieve pressure. Instead of striving to hit 100,000 views, set a goal of up-leveling your content — ask yourself how you can make something that people will love.

Join a community of supportive peers

A healthy, supportive community of peers will improve your mindset, help you avoid burnout, improve your results, and make the work more fun. I specify healthy and supportive because you can find peer groups that are more about comparing results than sharing wins and advice. That’s not what I mean. Comparison really can be the thief of joy.

Look for a group that supports you when things are tough and celebrates with you when things are going well. Your state of mind will benefit from leaning into community and helping others. The best communities focus far more on giving than receiving — and that should include your involvement in the community too.

Take control of your own community and your content

If content creation is a fun side hustle, feel free to follow your whims and inclinations. But if you want to make a living, you must provide value for your followers and migrate content to platforms you can control.

The specifics here will depend on your unique online community. It could be a paid newsletter, membership program, online community, or course. The only non-negotiable is that it must be a space that frees you from other platforms’ algorithms and gives you direct access to your customers, data, and control over your brand.

Instead of collecting page views, use what you’ve learned about your community to build out content and services they want. A YouTube video with 1 million views may earn between $2,000 and $3,000 in ad revenues. But an online course based on the needs and interests of your dedicated followers could generate real and recurring income with just a few dozen students. Concentrate effort on the most significant potential return.

My own YouTube channel earns about a dollar a view because it sends a few viewers in every thousand to a high-value product, rather than thousands to advertisements.

As more people fight burnout than ever, creators are, unfortunately, foremost among them. But by being realistic, focusing on value, and diversifying revenue, creators can reap the freedom, autonomy, and sustainability that draw so many people to the industry and sustain it over the long haul. If you master this you may just set yourself up for financial freedom alongside freedom from burnout. The Creator Economy Burns People Out. But it Doesn’t Have to Be That Way.