4 Types of Creator Growth
An old boss sent me this super cryptic email once. All it said was: “growth relieves all sins.” Despite being a little bit hyperbolic and maximum terrifying, that email was right. In almost any early stage business, growth is (and should be) the singular focus.
This is no different with early-stage creators. Though when we talk about growth, we typically take a short-term perspective. It devolves into focusing on how to inflate vanity metrics — like subscribers and views — instead of asking: what areas of growth really matter?
When you really take a step back, you realize there are at least four:
Vertical — this is about your “true fans” or “core.”
You want to create content, experiences, and merchandise for the people that really f*ck with you. We can approximate this based on how many people turn their YouTube notifications on or buy your merchandise.
Horizontal — this is about wider, top-of-funnel audience.
You want to create content (or execute stunts) that make more people aware of you. This can also include new developments in the medium or format you’re distributing through as well. This is often measured in top-line numbers like views, PR, subscribers, etc.
Financial — this is about building a real business.
You need to make money and allocate it appropriately, so that you can build a team, take care of your family, and do cool sh*t. This is measured in dollars and equity, where they’re coming from, and where they’re flowing to.
Personal — this is about you.
You need to grow as a creative and as a human being in order for your channel to grow, but also so you don’t feel stuck. There’s nothing but an internal metric for this one.
Focusing on all four types of growth is the key to longevity, success, and sanity.
Your goal isn’t to balance them perfectly in this moment, but instead to seek alignment over the long-term. For example, you might optimize for subscriber growth in the early days to get your name on the map, but you’ll eventually need to shift towards growing revenue and “true fans” to have a sustainable business.
All growth is not created equal. If you’re lucky enough to create for long enough, you’ll eventually realize that subscribers aren’t the same thing as fans or money, and fans and money aren’t the same thing as fulfillment. And that it’s all about what you’re optimizing for.
It’s as if vertical, horizontal, financial, and personal are dials that you can turn up and down based on what’s needed in the moment, what you really want.