A 10 Step Framework For Making Money Online As A Creative In 2022

This is how you can make money online as a creative in 2022

Creation
Written: August 22, 2022
Reading Time: 12 mins

I’ve been creating online for over 2 years and my biggest regret is not starting sooner.

It took a global pandemic and widespread lockdowns for me to re-evaluate how I spent my time online. I switched from consumer to creator and haven’t looked back since.

If I was to start from scratch today, here’s the framework I’d use to start making money online as a creative.

It won’t make you money overnight or turn you into the next viral sensation, but it will give you the mindset, the tools, and the structure to set up a sustainable side-hustle, career path, or however you want to approach being an online creative.

Step 1 - Identify Your Skills

It’s important to think about the skills you currently have and the things you currently enjoy doing.

Ask yourself:

The sweet spot is something that fits all three of these criteria. Think of it like a Venn diagram of ability, demand, and enjoyment.

Venn Diagram of ability, demand, enjoyment

If you already have a good level of knowledge of web design, for example, you don’t need to learn something new to start creating.

Don’t worry if you’re not an expert in the area you’ve chosen either. Impostor syndrome or the fear that you’ll be found out as a fraud is everywhere so you’re not alone. Everyone has to start somewhere.

You need to step outside of your comfort zone to improve. You need to try different things, see what works, and adapt based on what you’ve learned.

If you’re still not sure, consider this:

“The work you do while you procrastinate is probably the work you should be doing for the rest of your life” - Jessica Hische

Step 2 - Create A Portfolio

With your chosen skillset selected, it’s time to build a body of work that showcases those skills.

The best way to promote yourself and your skills is to showcase your work with an online portfolio.

I wrote more about promoting yourself as a web designer here but the information applies to most any creative practice: 4 Tactics You Should Be Using To Promote Yourself As A Web Designer.

For designers, set up a portfolio on Behance or Dribble.

For developers, use GitHub to collect your best project work.

For creatives, it’s a little less tangible but still possible. It boils down to this: showcase the best examples of your work on a web page:

I like to think of it like this: your chosen skillset should act like a filter for your portfolio of work.

If you want to become a web designer, there’s no reason to include video game concept art in your portfolio.

Try to be as focused as possible and only include the best examples of your work in that area.

Let your niche be your filter

Don’t have any work to include in your portfolio?

Spoiler alert: Keep reading and following along with these steps and you’ll end up building projects you can add to your portfolio.

Tools for building a portfolio:

Step 3 - Get Serious About Social Media

Pick 1 social media platform and learn how it works.

I recommend Twitter to start off with as it’s easy to use, you can schedule tweets, and it’s a great place to build your online presence.

Follow me on Twitter if you’re looking for some feedback on your design work :) @heymichellemac

Start posting regularly and interacting with others on the platform.

Here are the main types of content you can share if you’re looking for somewhere to start:

The most important thing here is to make connections with others. Send DMs, ask questions, reply underneath tweets and threads, and get to know the people in your circle.

Growing on social media deserves an article in itself but here are 2 main tactics to grow:

  1. You don’t have to be an expert to share on social media. Create and share stuff for yourself 1-2 years ago. Think of the things you would like to have known when you began your journey.
  2. Create a consistent publishing habit. Whether it’s once a day or 5 times a day, you want to get into the habit of regularly sharing your knowledge with your audience. This is how you stay top of mind.

Here are some free resources I made to help you grow on Social Media:

Step 4 - Start A Newsletter

A newsletter is how you move your social media audience to a direct line of contact with you via an email list.

Ask any creative online and they’ll tell you they wished they had started a newsletter sooner.

It’s a great way to build a dedicated audience. Plus the people on your list are fans of what you have to share which means you can communicate with them directly without worrying about the dreaded social media algorithm.

Not sure what to make your newsletter about?

Curate instead of creating. Find interesting things you think your audience would like relevant to your skills and interests and share 3 things with them each week.

Here’s how I create my newsletter each week: This Is How I Publish My Newsletter Every Week Without Fail

Your goal is to create a consistent publishing routine (at least 1 a week) and send out something to your audience they’ll enjoy.

You can start a newsletter for free using Substack, Revue, or ConvertKit (up to 1000 subscribers for free).

Ali Abdaal recently published this excellent video on getting started with newsletters:

Step 5 - Build Projects

Here is where you continue to build out your portfolio from step 2. You want to create projects that showcase your skills.

For the web design example, build websites. They don’t have to be comprehensive or perfect but they should be able to showcase your skills.

👀 Neal.fun is the best example of this I’ve ever seen.

As you build your projects, share everything on social media. This is what’s known as building in public. It gives your audience a chance to see behind the scenes how you work.

There will always be someone interested in what you have to share.

If you’re not sure what to build, here are some ideas:

Don’t worry about these projects being perfect, the idea here is to learn, have fun, and showcase your skills to others.

I have a dedicated Projects page on my website for fun things I work on. Feel free to check it out for some inspiration: My Projects

Step 6 - Reach Out

By this point, you’ve made some connections on social media and have proven you know your stuff by sharing helpful info.

Now it’s time to reach out and offer your services to your audience.

Send DMs to the people in your community. Ask them what problems they struggle with that you could solve.

If you’re a web designer, can you offer some help with a color palette or build a simple landing page for a product? Try and get creative here to offer something helpful and useful to your audience.

If you feel uncomfortable charging for this initially, do the work for free in exchange for testimonials. You can use these first couple of projects as experiments and you’ll have some testimonials which will boost your credibility.

Step 7 - Start Selling

Once you’ve worked on a few projects and started to get some positive testimonials it’s time to double down and start charging for your work.

For most, including me, this can be the hardest hurdle to overcome.

But realize by this point you’ve established your skills and ability, built an audience of people interested in your work, and demonstrated your ability to deliver value.

Keep reaching out to people and helping them with their problems.

Over time this will give you valuable experience, powerful testimonials, and excellent examples for your portfolio.

Step 8 - Listen For Recurring Problems & Questions

As you continue to help people, you’ll hear the same questions and problems arise again and again.

Pay close attention to these signals and write them down. This is absolute gold dust for online creatives.

Why?

Because these problems and questions will form the basis for your digital products, courses, books, etc. which we’ll look at next.

Step 9 - Create & Sell Digital Products

This is the ultimate way to scale your income and generate “passive income”: Create digital assets that solve your audience’s problem.

I put quotes around passive income because it’s not really passive. In my mind, passive income requires an initial investment in time upfront but you can make money from it for weeks, months, or years to come.

The digital products you create can be: courses (self-paced or cohort based), eBooks, videos, Notion templates, podcasts, anything that provides value.

You can sell these digital products on sites like Gumroad, LemonSqueezy, or through your own website.

Here are some free resources I made to help you create and sell digital products:

Step 10 - Be Patient, Continue to Learn, Grow, And Adapt

Enjoying what you do is the ultimate way to stay motivated and keep going even when times get tough.

As an online creative things will get tough.

There will be times when you feel like you’re talking into a void and no one sees or appreciates your work.

You’ll feel like giving up and trying something else.

But most if not all the successful creatives you see online stick it out for the long-term.

As the saying goes, it can take 10 years of hard work to be an overnight success.

I’ll leave you with some things to improve upon as you grow:

Conclusion

I hope you found this in-depth article valuable and worth reading all the way to the end!

It’s basically a summary of everything I’ve learned about being a creative over the last few years so I’m glad to be able to share it with others who may find it helpful.

If you have any tips or advice you think I should add to this article, leave a comment or let me know over on Twitter.

Design Insight

A weekly newsletter for creatives with a focus on design. Learn to think like a designer in less than 5 mins a week with curated articles, resources, tools, and insights. Released every Friday to over 180 creators.

I'm Interested!