Telling the truth about SME life today

“Creators aren’t aspirational dreamers, they’re a critical part of the economy,” says Lotanna Ezeike, Founder and CEO, XPO

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The financial impact of the last 24 months is hard to quantify. Incomes have been pressured and stretched to breaking point with distortion in the workplace. Unfortunately, the macroeconomic situation is going to get worse before it gets better. This is going to be hard for those in mainstream employment, so consider the challenges faced by the creator economy.

This group tends to consist of a younger demographic – so lacks the historical earning capacity – and is also designed for the gig economy with individuals operating as freelancers. Despite progress made to date on the understanding and appreciation of this collective, they are still faced with inflexible banking protocols and outdated structures so access to finance like loans and mortgages are hard to come by. The perception that this is an aspirational career for the work-shy is also more common than it should be. This has to change.

A massive economic contributor

The fact is that the creator economy is a massive economic contributor and the figures back this up. With more than 50 million independent content creators, curators, and community builders fueling globally, this generation of micro-entrepreneurs is currently valued at over $104 billion and increasing daily. There are estimations that it could grow to a $104.2 billion market this year – Business analytics company CB Insights reported €1.1 billion raised by creator-focused companies in 2021 alone. 

Indeed, only last month it was announced that Newsflare, one of the world’s leading licensing platforms and marketplaces for user-generated video (UGV), closed a £5m Series B accelerator funding round to fuel faster growth. This is just one example of many that underlines that the creator economy is becoming increasingly invaluable to the UK. When you also consider its projected rate of growth, the fact that the sector is maturing day by day and the UK’s wider objective of ‘Leveling Up’, maximising the impact of the creator economy should be a no-brainer.

Stepping out of the shadow economy

But those individuals in it – creating the value – are being under-served, under-appreciated, and under-valued. With solid monthly earnings, many creators are out-earning PAYE employees with an income that could make a significant contribution to the economy. However, as a creator’s earnings can fluctuate month to month, their access to the financial solutions many of us take for granted eludes them – effectively leaving them out in the cold without a credit score – certainly an accurate one. 

Sadly, this sees many creators resign themselves – or be driven into – to a parallel economy, or what some call the ‘shadow economy’ which is supposed to account for around one tenth of economic activity in the UK. We’re in a situation where legacy thinking and process is hamstringing our future and for a segment of the economy that is only in its infancy, change is required now so that we can ensure that we’re creating a future playing field that’s fair for everyone.

Massive sector advancement

Creators need the financial credibility that reflects the massive advancements this sector has seen within the last few years. While it’s fair to say that it is an economy that started for many in spare rooms and in spare time, the reality today is far more advanced. Creators now have the necessary tools at their disposal required to produce top-class content and they’re empowered by the proliferation of platforms for design, video, streaming, music, podcasts, and writing tools that have helped them grow their businesses from a creative hobby to a full-grown money-making venture.

When you add in the ubiquitous use of smartphones, which is allowing creators to connect directly to audiences anytime and anywhere, and the realistion that content creators spend a lot of time studying the language, humor, and overall culture of their target audiences, you create a veritable goldmine. Not just for brands that are looking to invest in everything from targeted advertising spend to production values just to reach defined and engaged audiences but for everyone in the ecosystem.

The next Great British workforce

We’re on the cusp of seeing this virtuous circle be realised. More creators, equipped with best-in-class tools and services, funded by brands and investors that understand their value and are prepared to put their money where their influencers’ mouth is. And it’s time they were recognised – and financially supported – as such.

If you think the creator economy is big now, this is just a drop in the ocean to what we’re likely to see in the next few years. It has the potential to be the poster boy for the next generation of the Great British workforce – creativity and hard work combined with entrepreneurial spirit and flexibility to suit evolving geographies and lifestyles. The sooner the established financial systems wake up to this, the better it will be for everyone.

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