The content creator economy has grown by leaps and bounds since the world heard of it 5 years ago. From channel monetization, and brand dealerships, to building an empire, the sky’s the limit for every creator who wants to venture out onto “the next leap.”
On today’s episode of Startups On Demand, I am joined by Tom Ward, Forbes Contributor and Host of The Tom Ward Show, where he interviews the biggest entrepreneurs in the world.
Today, we talk about optimizing content creation, what you can and can’t outsource, monetizing content, and the “next leap” for influencers and content creators.
Omri: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your career beginnings.
Tom: I’m about as regular as a guy. If you can’t see me or if you’re just listening to my podcast, I’m a 44-year-old bald dad. I didn’t go to an Ivy League school, I didn’t start a million-dollar startup like someone who’s listening to this or reading this might have. I was messed up when I was a kid, and I got myself together in my late 20s – and I just needed a job. So there was a car dealership near my house, so I just started selling cars. And I was really good at it – I just kept getting promoted and made money, and it was fine. Then I got into retail and got a corporate job selling kitchen equipment to grocery stores. Now, I don’t know if you could imagine a more boring job, but it was a pretty boring job that I toughened up for about 10 years.
After that, I started reading career books and started a pivot to change careers, and I read this book about how you can change your narrative at any time. So at any time in your life, if you’re listening, reading, or watching this – if you’re 50 years old and you’re stuck in a job you hate, it’s not too late. You can all of a sudden decide “I wanna be a hip-hop writer.” But everyone’s gonna say “what do you know about it?” But if you write about it, it’s the cheapest way to get evidence. You need evidence that you’re an expert in this area that you wanna go to. So to make the long story short, I just started blogging and writing, and Jessica Alba somehow found my little blog, shared an article I wrote on LinkedIn, went viral, and an editor of Forbes saw it and said “hey, do you wanna write for us?” and I said yes. So I started writing at Forbes. After that, I got PR pitches, and people started reaching out to me.
I also started getting these cool interviews, and I was like “It’s kind of a waste of an hour if I’m sitting down with Kate Hudson and I just get an 800-word article out of it because there’s a lot of cool stuff in there that doesn’t fit in an article. So I decided to just film it myself. And I lost $20,000 of real money my first year, and I lost another $20,000 the next year. I just did that with no business strategy, no plan of income coming in, or no endgame whatsoever. So at the end of the day, I started earning money from it, and here we are.
Omri: What was your target niche when you did the career pivot?
Tom: Every book I’ve read said “niche down — find your niche, and the smaller the better.” I didn’t know what that was. I’m interested in a lot of things. I’m interested in health and fitness, I love music, and I love a lot of things. So I would just write whatever I wanted to write about. And then, my Forbes editor found my niche for me and assigned me to write about social media and marketing.
Omri: How and when did you start to monetize after investing your own money?
Tom: In the third year, I finally started making my own money. I got my views to a good, consistent point, I had good content, and I figured out how to really interview people. It needed a lot of finesse and directing. It took me 2 years to get my style down, get my views up, and get professional. And it’s all about having the right team. And after that, brands started reaching out to me, and that’s how I started to monetize.
Omri: Tell me more about interviewing influencers. I read an article that you interviewed Jake Paul, right?
Tom: That was the first one. I don’t focus on influencers anymore, only because I did it for a while and covered everybody, and I was always more interested in the business side of things, so now I’m more focused on entrepreneurship and entrepreneurs from all walks of life. But I did influencers hard for 4 years back when no one was covering them. It was just me and Taylor Lorenz, that’s it. No one was taking these kids seriously, and a PR guy pitched me Jake Paul, and back then, I had no idea who he was, no idea what a YouTuber was, how the business works, etc., and it went from there.
Omri: What is the next leap for content creators after sponsorships, advertising, and monetization?
Tom: Well, you don’t have to look far, it’s happening now. Starting from Jake Paul’s years go to looking at where the influencer world is at right now, it’s night and day. Now, if you look at the big guys like Charli D’Amelio and Josh Richards, they don’t have venture capital. They went from doing brand deals to making their own empire. So they started coming up with their own products, and some would just slap their name on anything, while some took it seriously like the D’Amelios, who came up with a real full fashion line that’s a standalone business. From there, VCs started to take notice. So content creators have to come up with their own product, and they need to use their audience to tell them what product that is – build a community and use that community to build and sell products.