How to get build your career as a digital creator

digital creator in studio

In its just-released report, Jobs on the Rise, LinkedIn highlights the growing number of digital creators, noting that these tech-savvy podcasters, YouTubers and bloggers “reflect our increasingly virtual lives.” So how can you get started if you’re interested in a career as a digital creator? And are there full-time job opportunities, or are most options in the freelance realm?

It certainly is a good time to be a digital creator, industry data show.

“From TikTok and YouTube to blogs and podcasts, the demand for digital content creators grew 49% over the past year, and the demand for content and creators will likely continue,” says Andrew Seaman, Senior Editor for Job Search & Careers at LinkedIn News.

Laura Gariepy, a freelance writer and owner of Every Day by the Lake, agrees that the demand for digital creators will remain high.

“While it seems like everyone has a blog, podcast or YouTube channel these days, there is absolutely still room in the market for more,” Gariepy says. “That’s because few content creators actually create compelling, engaging content. Even fewer stick with it long enough to see results. If someone is skilled at creating content that truly connects with others, and they’re committed to doing so for the long haul, their probability for success goes way up.”

So how can you launch a career in the field?

According to Seaman, the first step is to immerse yourself in content across digital platforms. “This will give you a good feel for what the industry is up to, and where the white space might be for your unique content.”

Thinking through skills you’ll need to be successful — video editing, creative writing and public speaking, for example — also is key, he adds.

Hedy Zhou, a graduate student and owner of Happily Hedy, is someone who knows all about the world of digital content. At age 16, she launched a blog, expanded into graphic and web design, and now runs the blog, a design studio and the Pursuing the Happy Podcast, one of the “Top 15 Personal Development & Self Improvement Podcasts in 2020” as ranked by Feedspot. Her advice?

“If you’re looking to get started as a digital creator, it’s really all about taking action and putting out content as much as you can,” Zhou says. “Your first pieces you put out won’t and shouldn’t [necessarily] be the highest quality because it’s more about getting experience and finding your voice. You don’t need fancy tech and cameras — invest in that later once you start making some money.”

Zhou also recommends finding a niche to focus on. “The narrower your niche is, the easier it is to attract a consistent audience and monetize it,” Zhou explains. “If you speak about a whole bunch of random/general topics, it’s hard to find someone who will stick around and be willing to listen to everything since you haven’t established your authority yet. Choose one or two topics first to focus on and be known for, and you can expand later down the road.”

And are there full-time job opportunities for digital creators, or are most options in the freelance realm?

Seaman says full-time job opportunities do exist, noting that roles like podcaster and blogger are currently open on LinkedIn, with median salaries between $46,000 and $62,400. At the time of this writing, “open roles range from Podcast Producer for The HISTORY Channel (A+E Networks) and Digital Content Creator Associate for a vegan Korean skincare brand to Video Content Editor for the PYMNTS B2B financial services platform and Learning Content Editor for The Coca-Cola Company,” he reports.

The top U.S. cities hiring for digital creators, Seaman adds, are New York City, Chicago and Atlanta. “But you can practically create content from anywhere in the world, and this job is very conducive to remote work, or even freelancing if you’re thinking about a side hustle.”

Gariepy and Zhou agree that freelancing is a good way to go if you’re looking to break into the industry.

“Companies are hiring freelancers in droves, and the perks of self-employment are undeniable. To get started as a digital content creator, you should focus on three things: producing content, growing your network and finding a mentor,” Gariepy advises. “The only way to get good at blogging, podcasting or creating videos is to do it repetitively. Over time, the quality will improve, and you’ll develop tricks to be more efficient.”

“Making a career as a digital creator takes a lot of time investment, and trial and error,” echoes Zhou. “I’ve seen several accounts that have been around for a really long time but haven’t grown as fast as others. So, when you start off with smaller numbers, while you can still certainly monetize, it usually won’t be enough for a full-time income.”

Gariepy stresses the importance of networking with other content creators as well as companies that could benefit from your services when building an initial portfolio. “Business is about people. The faster you build relationships with others, the faster you’ll find success,” she says. “Finally, seek mentorship or coaching from a freelancer that’s further along in their journey. They’ll provide invaluable advice and may even connect you with freelance gig opportunities.”

Brushing up on skills that you lack, or that you haven’t used recently, also can help.

One option: LinkedIn Learning courses like Marketing Tools: Digital Marketing, which Seaman says “offers industry-leading solutions for social media marketing, email marketing, digital advertising, content creation, search engine optimization (SEO) and affiliate marketing — and it’s currently free.”