The Rise of the Independent Content Creator and How to Succeed As One

Algorithms will kill your business eventually, unless you go indie

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The New Creator Manifesto recently released a white paper called: “From Dependence to Independence: the Rise of the Independent Creator.” First, you may ask yourself: what is a dependent creator?

“Creators believe they are building a real asset on social media platforms — an audience that can be monetized by sponsorships, revenue splits, and direct payments on Patreon or OnlyFans.

But that audience they’re building? They don’t own it.”

From Dependence to Independence: the Rise of the Independent Creator.

Unless you are part of the small but growing flock of indie creators, you might very well be a dependent one. For example, writing on Medium makes you dependent.

Actually, using any platform you don’t own makes you dependent.

Creating content on Instagram? Dependent.

Creating content on TikTok? Dependent.

Creating content on Twitter? Dependent, dependent, dependent.

Running a newsletter or your own blog? INDEPENDENT!

The algorithm might kill your business

A shift in the algorithm, although subtle, could be the death of your business. For example, Medium recently made a few changes to their algorithm, which had a severe impact on earnings and views for thousands of writers. On her blog, famous Medium writer Zulie Rane states:

“It’s no secret that Medium habitually changes its all-mysterious algorithm. They tweak how they recommend stories to your followers, how they decide to curate stories, and where your views come from. It’s hard to guess what they’ll change next, and it means it’s hard to predict how successful (or unsuccessful) you’ll be.

But by examining their homepage, you can get some hints for what’s happening. For example, for the last few days, I noticed my recent stories weren’t getting hardly any traction. Seriously: all curated, and all under 150 views, despite the curation and alleged 5.7k followers I have.”

The same is true for social media platforms: you can’t control the algorithm. It might very well cut your earning by 50% tomorrow without you being able to do anything but watch your hard work go to waste.

Consistency might kill your passion

We hear it all the time: consistency is key. But consistency becomes toxic when you must create and publish every single day, sometimes several times a day, in order to “feed” the algorithm and keep it happy. Writer TommyTalksEverything recently published a piece saying that he stopped writing on Medium for a week and lost everything. He wrote:

“Consistency got me 600 followers and 400 views per day. Stopping this routine quickly saw my views plummet and decrease. I am urging you to keep writing and try to write 5 times per week.”

But is this sustainable? The pressure to publish at all costs can prevent you from doing work that really matters to you. It’s completely normal to not feel like writing for a week and decide to focus on generating ideas or a side project instead. It’s human. The algorithm, however, isn’t human.

“It’s tough because you are literally at the mercy of an algorithm. It wants consistency and product. And it wants it on the regular. It’s not sustainable for a human being. In fact, it’s not human.”

From Dependence to Independence: the Rise of the Independent Creator

The fastest way to burnout

Reading the white paper, I was surprised to learn that so many content creators (more than 90% of the 1,300+ interviewees) admitted being dangerously close to burnout. The content creation journey is sold like the answer to all problems in life, and I’m not exaggerating that much.

Wanna make more money than you currently do with your 9–5 while being free to do whatever you want and travel the world? Become a content creator. Well, it sounds more like: “Wanna work twelve hours a day for nothing and burn yourself out? Become a content creator.”

The principles to “go indie”

Independent creators who don’t rely on algorithms to make a living explain that they work according to three key principles:

Principle #1: They own a direct relationship with their audience, rather than renting it from social media platforms.

Principle #2: They earn money from cultivating communities, not just building audiences.

Principle #3: They seek to build a network effect, rather than stay on the content conveyor belt demanded by big social platforms to succeed.

According to Investopedia, “the network effect is a phenomenon whereby increased numbers of people or participants improve the value of a good or service.” It’s exactly what happened with Facebook, Instagram, and the Internet: because everyone uses them, they are valuable. If only 5 people in the world had an Instagram account, would you be pressed to join?

Independent content creators seek to create their own network effect by building communities, app, and products that belong to them — and that they have complete control over. For instance, as a writer, you could decide to create a Discord community for fellow writers to help each other find jobs. And your product would become more valuable the more people join.

What can YOU do?

For The New Creator Manifesto, the “new creator” (aka the independent creator) works based on a set of four golden rules:

  1. They own, they don’t rent.

  2. They go niche, not broad.

  3. They cultivate communities, not audiences.

  4. They build network effects, not content conveyor belts.

“One community platform recently found that across 100,000+ monthly subscriptions, 70% of their creators who offered paid subscriptions were generating a median of $1,000 per month from just 26 members paying $39.55/month.”

From Dependence to Independence: the Rise of the Independent Creator

My takeaways:

  1. Aim to create a small community of superfans rather than trying to reach a large audience.

  2. OWN a platform — it can be a newsletter, an app, a blog. Anything that is truly yours.

  3. Charge premium fees. It’s best to have 26 superfans paying $40/month to be part of your community, and making the most out of their investment by engaging consistently, rather than 100 not-so-fan folks paying $5/month and soon forgetting that they even subscribed.

Conclusion

I still very much believe that the “content creation dream” can become true, if one doesn’t follow the crowd. Remember that you chose this path because you wanted to make a living from your passion — so listen to your instinct. Has this passion become a burden? Are you overly worried because despite your relentlessness, you can’t make ends meet? It might be time to rethink your business model.

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