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7 Types of Digital Creators Who Power the Creator Economy (2023)

They are gamers and dancers, writers and designers, craftspeople and comedians. Digital creators have diverse skills and post on different platforms, but they all share one characteristic: they know how to win over audiences.

An estimated 50 million people make up today’s creator economy. And with new tools and online platforms emerging all the time, that number looks set to rise.

The term digital creator has a lot of nuances. You don’t necessarily need to be a charming on-camera presence, or even be creative, to be a successful online entrepreneur. There are many types of digital content and different ways to build a personal brand.

Let’s look at examples of seven types of digital creators, the content they create, and the channels they use to reach audiences.

💡 For individuals, think about which type of content creation fits your personality. If you manage a brand, you can partner with a relevant creator on an influencer marketing campaign.

What is a digital creator?

Portrait of a person wearing a hijab taking a selfie with a mobile phone

Digital creators produce online content and share it across social platforms like YouTube and TikTok, or personal websites to reach a target audience. The content they create comes in multiple formats like video, images, and audio, on a limitless range of subjects.

The rise of production tools, streaming platforms, and funding apps have made it easier for independent digital creators to consistently publish content and monetize their audiences. Creators enter into brand partnerships, run ads, sell merch, or paywall their content through platforms like Patreon.

This has created the opportunity for folks of all kinds—not just top-tier influencers—to pursue a viable paying career as a creator.

Digital creators vs influencers: what’s the difference?

In many ways, “digital creator” and “influencer” are interchangeable terms, referring to people who are (usually) self-employed and create digital content for an online audience. Both terms are industry-ambivalent: sculptors, gardeners, athletes, or vets can all become digital creators and influencers if they reach an audience through online content.

However, the term influencer often has a more specific meaning. It’s used to refer to individuals with larger followings who persuade their audiences to make purchases, follow trends, or take another action, usually on behalf of a third-party.

There is some dispute over the preferred words to describe digital creators. Over time, more terms may emerge for different types of content production—and the partnerships between creators and businesses.

7 types of digital creators

Digital creators can be organized by their skills, personalities, and the tech stack they use to create content.

Here are seven common types of digital creators, with examples of successful entrepreneurs in each category.

1. The Performer

Person sits at a desk making music on a keyboard

Examples of Performer digital creators

  • Actor Seth Rogen built his cannabis brand, Houseplant, using his existing celebrity and influencer status to sell to an engaged audience.
  • Peyton List launched beauty brand Pley Beauty to her 1.6 million Twitter followers.
  • Comedian and TV writer Ashley Ray diversifies her content across social channels, a Substack newsletter, and started a podcast.
  • Matt O’Brien’s comedy appears in many formats, from podcasting to social content with monetization on Patreon.

Performers are creators skilled in performance arts or on-camera personalities, including comedians, actors, singers, dancers, musicians, DJs, and spoken word poets. Many work in their respective industries, building personal brands in tandem. Others are hobbyists whose work resonates with a niche audience online.

Digital creators of this type can monetize content through Patreon subscriptions, ticketed online stand-up/concerts, or selling merch through social channels or via an owned website through Shopify.

Performer digital creator profile

  • Most frequented channels: YouTube, Spotify, TikTok
  • Skills required: skill in a particular performing art; in tune with trends in a chosen field or medium; production know-how, including sound recording and lighting; presentation skills 
  • Typical personality traits: performative, confident, on-camera ease, creative, outgoing
  • Content ideas for The Performer: comedy sketches, jokes, short films, demos (e.g., acting or dancing techniques), new song drops, behind-the-scenes content (e.g., workshopping new sounds or scenes), outtakes, standup clips 

2. The Virtuoso

A person stands at a kitchen island preparing food

Examples of Virtuoso digital creators

  • Two real-life OBGYNs, Dr. Jen Gunter and Dr. Nicole, found success debunking wellness myths and creating no-BS health content. Dr. Nicole’s popular TikTok channel drives followers to her personal website and Dr. Jen creates content across social channels and her podcast, and has published two books.
  • Many home reno, construction, and interior design experts are tapping into audiences hungry for tips to get pro results with a DIY approach and budget. Jessel and Andrew of The Martinez Casita exploded on TikTok and now monetize their creator work partly through affiliate links on their personal website.

This creator type is made up of professionals and experts in fields including medical, culinary arts, home renovations, sewing, math, wellness, gardening, finance, or fitness. Many of these creators have successful careers in their craft and found that their particular voice or on-camera persona resonated with a wider audience. Some have used their platforms to earn extra income through partnerships or products.

Many creators of this type do brand partnerships, host paid AMAs with a panel of experts, or even self-publish books to sell online to their audiences through owned channels.

Virtuoso digital creator profile

  • Most frequented channels: YouTube, TikTok, Twitter, blog, podcast, or website
  • Skills required: deep knowledge, education, or experience in specific field or subject; ability to present ideas clearly and to a 101 audience
  • Typical personality traits: curious, perfectionist, data-oriented, focused, always learning
  • Content ideas for The Virtuoso: subject matter 101, recipes, tutorials, myth-busting, tips, data (translated to audience: why it’s important), hacks, workouts, how tos, demos, live AMAs

3. The Bellwether

A person stands in front of a ring light posing for a camera

Examples of Bellwether digital creators

  • Influencer Katie Sturino made a name for herself with body positivity and fashion content, notably her #SuperSizeTheLook posts that recreate celebrity styles in plus sizes. She leveraged her audience to launch her beauty brand Megababe.
  • TikToker MakeUpByTammi shares beauty product reviews and makeup tutorials with her audience of over 500,000. She also runs her own business selling cosmetics through her online store of the same name.

This category is the closest creator type to the classic definition of an influencer. These digital creators grow audiences around their unique taste or perspective, most often in fashion, beauty, or pop culture. They spot trends before they explode and, in some cases, launch trends themselves.

This group can find success with brand partnerships. Brands are clamoring to get their products into the hands and feeds of creators who wield massive influence. To have more ownership over your income, start your own apparel or beauty line or sell merch to fans.

Bellwether digital creator profile

  • Most frequented channels: Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Substack, Pinterest
  • Skills required: keen interest in trends and fashion, strong personal style with a POV, ability to translate ideas to a 101 audience, ability to seek out emerging trends (or start them)
  • Typical personality traits: curious, creative, adventurous, innovative, strong eye for detail and design 
  • Content ideas for The Bellwether: OOTDs, outfit hacks, beauty demos, unboxings, reviews, style hacks, makeup hacks, celebrity news commentary, memes

4. The Maker

Close up of hands working on textile crafts in an embroidery hoop

Examples of Maker digital creators

  • Creator (or “inventor and evil genius”) Matty Benedetto produces humorous content under the banner Unnecessary Inventions, inventing and demoing completely useless products. While most of his comedic concoctions aren’t for sale, he does sell merch in his online store.
  • Ronea sells polymer clay jewelry via timed website “drops” under her brand, Beaded Seed. She cultivated a community around her brand through her TikTok, where she lets fans see inside her process with behind-the-scenes content.

The Makers are the expert crafters, DIYers, builders, and inventors in several mediums, including woodworking, ceramics, textile arts, jewelry, and tech. Many Makers have found ways to turn their hands-on craft into digital content, building an audience of potential customers. 

The most obvious monetization strategy for these creators is selling handmade goods through social selling or an owned channel. Other ideas include selling DIY kits that fans can build alongside your content, or selling DIY courses either live or on demand.

Maker digital creator profile

  • Most frequented channels: YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, TikTok, blog, or website
  • Skills required: an existing business or hobby as a maker, ability to translate complex ideas into easy-to-follow tutorials, attention to detail, production skills (lighting, editing)
  • Typical personality traits: experimental, attention to detail, entrepreneurial, creative, perfectionist, natural teacher
  • Content ideas for The Maker: process and behind-the-scenes videos or blog posts (“how it’s made”), DIY tutorials, time lapse, before and after, live demos

5. The Iconoclast

Person sits in front of a backdrop and many hands holding camera enter the screen

Examples of Iconoclast digital creators

The Iconoclast is the artist group of creators making online and offline art across a range of mediums. This archetype describes photographers, videographers, sculptors, painters, street artists, graphic designers, animators, illustrators, filmmakers, art critics, curators, writers, and producers. 

Iconoclasts often work as freelancers or independent artists selling work through a personal website or commissioning work for clients. As content creators, they grow art communities around their unique aesthetic.

Like the Maker, this group generally has monetization opportunities in selling digital or physical products like prints, NFTs, or original art. You can also sell courses either live or on demand to teach techniques, host online or IRL art auctions, or run events bringing together multiple artists.

Iconoclast digital creator profile

  • Most frequented channels: TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, website
  • Skills required: accomplished in your field or craft, prolific in content creation, production skills (photography, editing)
  • Typical personality traits: curious; creative; introspective; innovative; tuned in to art, society, and culture
  • Content ideas for The Iconoclast: process and behind-the-scenes videos, social trends and memes (“the palette/the painting”), how-to technique demos (think Bob Ross), time lapse photography of art in progress

6. The Technophile

A backlie person uses virtual reality headgear in front of a window

Examples of Technophile digital creators

  • Top gaming YouTuber and streamer Tyler Blevins is more commonly known online as Ninja. He supplements ad revenue and partnership deals with his owned merch store, Team Ninja.

These are the tech-obsessed, including gamers, tech trendsetters, fintech writers, or crypto enthusiasts. They are tuned into the latest gadgets, apps, games, and trends in the tech world at large.

Paid partnerships abound for this group. Successful creators in the tech space can dabble in sponsored content by reviewing or demoing games and products. Technophiles can also sell tickets to livestreaming events, sell merch to fans, or earn money from podcast ads.

Technophile digital creator profile

  • Most frequented channels: Twitch, YouTube, Twitter, Substack, or blog
  • Skills required: technical knowledge, following tech trends closely, ability to pitch to companies (for partnerships), attention to detail, embedded in web/gaming/tech culture, ability to perform in live capacity
  • Typical personality traits: technical, particular, open-minded, curious, tech-savvy, extremely online
  • Content ideas for The Technophile: livestreaming, unboxings, reviews, game demos, top 10s, breaking tech news and commentary, memes

7. The Enthusiast

Person shot from the waist down watering plants

Examples of Enthusiast digital creators

  • Wil Yeung wasn’t a trained chef when he started his YouTube cooking channel. But that didn’t stop him from growing a huge following and monetizing his content with paid courses and a cookbook.
  • Sonja Detrinidad dabbled in plants as a distraction from her stressful day job. When she found she had a knack for TikTok, she went all in with her business, Partly Sunny.
  • Board game micro-influencer Ella of Ella Loves Board Games has built a small but mighty audience for her niche interest. 

The Enthusiast has crossover with many of the other archetypes and is the broadest. This category includes hobbyists and literally anyone with a strong interest in a single subject: books, travel, board games, plants, fitness, celebs, pets, art, fashion, etc. The Enthusiast may transition into the Virtuoso by virtue of experience and gaining clout through audience and influence. 

Because this group is so broad, the monetization opportunities will vary. You can sell products relevant to your interests through an owned channel like a Shopify store, create a VIP tier offering premium content to subscribers, sell online courses, or self-publish books to sell direct to fans. 

Enthusiast digital creator profile

  • Most frequented channels: all 
  • Skills required: an interest in a subject paired with a unique POV and engaging persona
  • Typical personality traits: curious, open to learning, experimental, open to new ideas, inquisitive, humble
  • Content ideas for The Enthusiast: product reviews, business reviews, unboxings, virtual tours, workout progress, tips, hacks, travel guides, recipes, demos, AMAs

Which digital creator type are you?

Do you see yourself in any of these types? TikTok’s popularity has made production quality less important than authenticity. So while you don’t have to have a super-polished setup to get started, being authentic about your personal brand and content is key. The best way to project authenticity is to pick a subject and format that you are personally passionate about and comfortable with. 

You can always branch out to different channels and multiple income sources later. Start with what comes naturally and test several content formats and types to see which resonate more with your target audience. It’s been said that you only need a thousand “true fans” to be successful as a creator. Focus less on quantity and more on building relationships with your most loyal fans.

The best way to project authenticity is to pick a subject and format that you are personally passionate about and comfortable with.

Don’t worry about high production value, either. TikToker Khaby Lame’s reaction humor content hasn’t changed much since the creator caught fire. Even still, just this month, Khaby signed a partnership with Hugo Boss. And influencer Chriselle Lim started by experimenting with Instagram eventually honing her polished style.

Side by side panel of influencer Chriselle Lim's Instagram posts from then and now
Now and then: fashion and lifestyle influencer turned entrepreneur Chriselle Lim started her Instagram in 2011 with the photo on the left. On the right, is a polished post from November, 2021. Chriselle Lim/Instagram

Looking back at the first posts of now-famous creators, it’s easy to see that we all start in the same place: with curiosity and a camera. Your first attempt at content creation doesn’t have to be perfect!

Finding an influencer for your brand

Just as authenticity is important for content, so too is the authenticity of brand partnerships. Ads that don’t feel like ads are those that seem genuine and unscripted. To achieve this, find influencers who are either already fans of your product, have familiarity or experience in the space, or align perfectly with your ideal customer persona. 

TikTok influencer Charli D'Amelio holds a Dunkin' Donuts iced coffee
Dunkin’ Donuts

When Dunkin’ Donuts wanted to reach a Gen Z audience, they looked no further than Charli D’Amelio who was TikTok’s top influencer at the time. In 2020, the brand launched a drink in the social celeb’s name as well as merch the following year. The campaign resulted in a surge in app downloads and cold brew sales.

Consider where your target audience is hanging out and conduct market research to identify the formats and channels that influence their purchasing most. Influencers who primarily play in those spaces will be a better match.

While some top content creators can draw upward of $1 million for a single post, small brands with small budgets can still participate in influencer marketing. Seek out emerging influencers with smaller but engaged audiences who likely have more compatible rates.

Digital creators are the future

If you’ve ever considered pursuing a career as an independent creator, the good news is that there are plenty of niches and untapped audiences. Even introverts and the camera-shy can find the right medium for content creation and the best channel for audience building. The Enthusiast archetype shows us that even the most obscure passion can be the springboard to your creator career.

Feature image by Dan Page

Digital creator FAQ

How does a digital creator make money?

Digital creators can make money in a variety of ways, such as through advertising, sponsorship deals, affiliate marketing, creating digital products (such as ebooks or online courses), digital services, and crowdfunding campaigns.

What does a digital content creator do?

A digital content creator is responsible for creating and managing digital content for websites, social media, and other online platforms. This can include creating images, writing text, and editing videos. They must have a good understanding of online trends, be familiar with different content formats, and have a keen eye for detail. Digital content creators must be able to think creatively and come up with new ideas that will engage audiences. They also need to be able to manage multiple projects at once and stay organized.

How can I become a digital creator?

To become a digital creator, you will need to have a good understanding of the different types of digital media, including video, audio, photography, and graphic design. You should also have a strong grasp of the different types of software and hardware used to create digital content. Depending on the type of digital content you want to create, you may need to learn specific skills such as coding, web design, video editing, audio production, or animation. Once you have the necessary skills, you can start creating content for websites, social media, or other digital platforms.

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