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10 Takeaways From Adobe’s Creator Economy Study

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You’re probably aware that the creator economy is booming, but did you know that it has grown by over 165 million content creators since 2020?

That’s just one of the fascinating takeaways from Adobe’s “Future of Creativity” study. For the report, Adobe surveyed about 9,000 online creators across nine global markets: the U.S., U.K., France, Japan, Brazil, Spain, Australia, South Korea, and Germany. The 15-minute survey included questions about what motivates content creators, their mental health, social causes, their income, and more. You’ll be surprised by just how many creators make a full-time income from their content.

The study also differentiated between content creators, influencers (content creators with at least 5,000 followers on their main platform), and social cause creators who create content to advance a specific social cause.

Read on for the key insights from Adobe’s creator economy report.

There’s an army of creators out there

How many content creators are there around the world? Probably way more than you think. In most of the markets surveyed, at least one in five people is a content creator. Here’s the full breakdown:

  • United States: 86 million creators, or 26% of the population.
  • Germany: 19 million creators, or 23% of the population.
  • Japan: 18.5 million creators, or 15% of the population.
  • France: 16.5 million creators, or 25% of the population.
  • United Kingdom: 16.6 million creators, or 25% of the population.
  • South Korea: 17.5 million creators, or 34% of the population.
  • Spain: 17 million creators, or 36% of the population.
  • Australia: 6 million creators, or 23% of the population.
  • Brazil: 106 million creators, or 50% of the population.

So the next time you’re out at Starbucks and see people with their phones out, do a quick head count and you’ll know how many TikToks are getting filmed then and there.

But the fastest growth is outside the U.S.

One of the most impressive statistics from Adobe’s report is just how many creators started posting social content between 2020 and 2022 — more than 165 million people, to be exact. These new creators make up more than half of all content creators in surveyed countries.

And while you might be right to think that the U.S. has seen much of this growth, it’s not even among the top three countries. The top three fastest-growing content creation markets are actually Brazil with a market that grew by 69%, South Korea with a growth of 62%, and Spain at 57%.

It’s not all (or even a little) about the money

There’s no shortage of memes out there about Gen Zers wanting to make millions like the D’Amelios by posting dance videos on TikTok. Despite what the memes say, Gen Z — and older content creators — aren’t necessarily doing this for the money. When asked why they create content, 48% of all creators said they wanted to express themselves, 43% of them said it looked like fun, and 40% of them were looking to explore an interest or a passion.

When you think about how many new creators started their content creation journey during the pandemic, these stats make a bit more sense. During lockdown, many people turned to their Instagram or TikTok feeds and found new hobbies, from painting to baking to DIY-ing home decor.

But money helps

While content creators are mostly motivated by creativity, it’s not lost on them that there’s money to be made. According to Adobe’s report, creators earn an average of $61 an hour, while influencers (creators with 5,000 followers or more) earn $81 an hour. If we were to assume that they created content full-time, that would mean they made an average annual income of $122,000 and $162,000 respectively.

So while most content creators have noble intentions, there’s certainly a lure of a big payday.

Most creators still work full-time

Do you dream of making content creation your full-time gig? Maybe you see yourself in front of a camera, filming YouTube videos for a living? While it’s a wonderful (and totally achievable) dream, it’s not necessarily the reality for most creators. Six in 10 content creators have full-time jobs, meaning their content isn’t quite enough to pay the bills yet. Only two in 10 creators have their own content-related business, and fewer than one in five creators qualify as influencers.

While you may have read news stories about content creators making millions of dollars a year, that isn’t the norm. According to Adobe’s study, even just making a full-time income from content creation isn’t that common.

But a good chunk of them want to change that

Just because money isn’t the ultimate goal doesn’t mean content creators aren’t hungry for it. Nearly a quarter of content creators said they wanted to become an influencer, which makes sense when you consider that influencers generally make more money. But get this: about 40% creators aspire to become a business owner one day than to become an influencer.

Content creation is good for the soul

There’s been so much talk about how millennials and Gen Zs are always their phones, and how their minds are hopelessly affected by the social content they consume. But is there any truth in that? Not according to Adobe’s research. In fact, nearly a third of content creators — and nearly half of the influencers — said that using social media and creating social content was important for achieving a positive mood or good mental health. Interestingly, more influencers use social media to maintain their mental health than exercise or nature walks.

It also seems like the more content they create, the better creators feel. 71% of content creators who post daily described their overall mood as positive, compared to 66% of creators who post weekly, and 54% who post monthly or less. That’s not too surprising when you consider that more than two in three creators say creating and sharing their content allows them to be creative in ways they can’t find anywhere else.

But it can be stressful

Even if creators get a mental health boost from what they do, it’s not like there aren’t any consequences. Despite the benefits, social media causes anxiety for 37% of creators, 52% of influencers, and 57% of business owners. It seems like the more you have to gain from content creation, the greater the chance it’ll induce anxiety in you.

It can also be challenging to stay constantly creative, especially if content creation is your business. 60% of business owners said that creating content as part of their work negatively impacted their creativity, compared to 58% of influencers, and 38% of creators. So while social media and content creation can be uplifting for content creators, they’re a lot like other things: best in moderation.

Content creation is a force for change

We’ve talked about money, mental health, and creativity, but what about doing some good? In the rollercoaster that the past few years have been, we’ve seen how content creators can make big waves when posting about social issues they care about.

Social cause creators — content creators who use their skills to advocate a social cause — are more likely to feel positive about their work (71% of them vs. 62% of creators), and are more likely to ramp up content creation in the future (58% of them vs. 43% of creators). That’s because they feel like they’re making a difference.

But does creating for a cause affect your bottom line as a creator? Not so much, it seems. Nearly half of social cause creators earn money from their content, and 24% of them also qualify as influencers. Even better, almost half of influencers surveyed in Adobe’s report also create social cause content.

But not enough creators do it

While the vast majority of content creators (95% of them) care enough about social causes to take some kind of action, from expressing their stance on a subject online to raising money for charity, less than a third of them created original content advocating for causes important to them. This is despite the fact that the majority of them (61%) believe that creating content can have a big impact on advancing these causes.

So why aren’t more creators making the shift towards becoming social cause creators? It’s hard to say, and Adobe’s report doesn’t go into detail about this. Maybe there are fears that social cause content won’t generate as much income as other types of content. Or maybe more creators prefer to stick to exploring their interests. 

The future looks…

The results of Adobe’s “Future of Creativity” study fly in the face of what was thought to be conventional wisdom, or at least solid hearsay, like how damaging social media is for mental health and how many content creators are actually influencers. Perhaps these data have inspired you to start your own content creation journey. Or, if you’re a content creator already, maybe it’ll be the push you need to start fighting for causes you care about. Either way, it’s nice to know that content creation can be such a powerful force for good.

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Nicholas Bouchard
About the author

Nicholas Bouchard

Nick is a content writer and marketer with a passion for creation. His hobbies range from writing fiction to slamming folks around the wrestling ring. He can only be photographed in national parks and on mountains, and pictures of him usually come out blurry. Some wonder if he even exists at all.
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