Michelle Phan, one of the earliest YouTube creators, built her beauty empire one makeup tutorial at a time. But before she found fame and fortune, she got her start on the platform developing video content and growing an audience without making a dime. She had a hunch that though she couldn’t yet make money on the platform, it would become “the future of TV.”
Over a decade later, Michelle’s prediction has held true: YouTube is an entertainment juggernaut with over two billion monthly active users watching one billion hours of content each day. Newer platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok have only generated more opportunities for online creators to showcase their creativity, find an audience, and build a business. A career as an online content creator is now highly desired—according to a 2019 survey, 54% of young Americans, given the opportunity, would become an influencer.
Perhaps most importantly, online influencing has been legitimized as “real work.” Creators now earn money for their efforts—sharing plant tips on TikTok, writing newsletters on Substack, and livestreaming on YouTube—compensating for the time and effort it takes to develop compelling content, plus the impact it has on audiences.
Platforms are waking up the idea that with creators comes eyeballs and engagement.
But this wasn’t always the case.
From Facebook to Pinterest, online platforms previously relied on creators developing content for free. Creators were largely uncompensated for their creativity and didn’t share in the upside captured by companies. Eventually, creators struck out on their own, partnering with brands to make money. Today, brand deals still remain the primary way online creators earn money.
However, the rise of the creator economy is changing everything.
From Snapchat to Spotify, platforms are courting influencers with creator funds and financing options to fuel their growth online. Platforms are waking up the idea that with creators comes eyeballs and engagement. They’re betting that funding upcoming and established creators—paying them to livestream, host audio shows, and develop short videos—means incentivizing them to create content on their platforms and keep viewers coming back.
Creator funds are a way of cutting influencers a slice of the profit pie and acknowledging the symbiotic relationship between the two forces: platforms need creators just as much as creators need platforms.
Whether you’re a budding creator or an established influencer, this article will help you navigate the creator fund landscape—diving into the cash options available for creators and how to gain access to funds to support your journey as a content creator. Plus, we’ll dive into alternative financing options, such as Shopify Capital, to help you develop online merchandise or sell artisanal goods.
Table of Contents
1. TikTok Creator Fund
From Addison Rae to Khaby Lame, TikTok has helped mint stars with tens of millions of followers. The TikTok Creator Fund, $200 million for creators announced in July 2020, plans to help more influencers create content on the platform—anything from choreography to cooking videos. In July 2021, TikTok shared an update on growing the fund to over $1 billion in the United States over the next three years to help creators earn money from their creative efforts.
TikTok creators who are eligible to join the Creator Fund will make money off each of their videos, based on a variety of factors, including video views and engagement.
Eligibility for the TikTok Creator Fund:
- Have at least 100,000 authentic video views in the last 30 days.
- Be at least 18 years old, meet a baseline for followers, and consistently post original content in line with TikTok’s community guidelines.
- Be a legal resident of one of the 50 states, District of Columbia, or the territories and possessions of the United States. The TikTok Creator Fund is also open to creators in the UK, Germany, Italy, France, and Spain.
Apply to the TikTok Creator Fund:
- In the mobile app, open your account settings, click “Creator tools,” and then “TikTok Creator Fund.”
2. YouTube Shorts Fund
As one the earliest creator platforms, YouTube helped launch the careers of celebrities like PewDiePie and Lilly Singh. YouTube paved a path for creator monetization early through AdSense and has gone on to add features like tipping and channel memberships to help creators earn cash for their content.
Now YouTube is courting short-form video creators with its newly minted YouTube Shorts Fund. Announced in May 2021, the $100 million fund is for creators generating content on YouTube Shorts—a TikTok competitor billed as the “shorter side of YouTube.”
Creators who successfully join the YouTube Shorts Fund are paid out bonuses between $100 and $10,000 each month, depending on the performance of their YouTube Shorts videos. Eligibility refreshes each month, and performance-based pay is determined by factors like views and audience location.
Eligibility for the YouTube Shorts Fund:
- Meet YouTube’s YouTube Shorts performance criteria in the preceding month.
- Be at least 13 years old, or the age of majority in your country.
- Be a resident of an eligible country.
- Abide by YouTube’s community guidelines and monetization policies.
- Upload an original YouTube Short in the last 180 days.
- Create original content: channels uploading content with watermarks or logos from third-party social media platforms are not eligible. Reuploaded, non-original content also won’t be counted toward Shorts performance.
Apply to the YouTube Shorts Fund:
- Creators cannot apply directly to the YouTube Shorts Fund. YouTube reaches out to thousands of creators each month who are developing YouTube Shorts on the platform who meet the performance criteria.
3. Snapchat Spotlight Challenge
In November 2020, Snapchat launched Spotlight, an in-app TikTok competitor. To incentivize creators to develop viral short-form content, it created a daily pool of a million dollars to award content through the end of 2020. In January 2021, it was reported that one of Snapchat’s top video creators, Cam Casey, had earned $3 million from viral content created for Spotlight.
As of October 2021, Snapchat’s Spotlight Challenge was still awarding creators with millions of dollars per month. Snapchatters can win cash for creating Spotlight Snaps using specific Lenses, Sounds, or #Topics.
Each Spotlight Challenge has a total prize ranging from $1,000 to $25,000, shared by multiple creators. The minimum prize a Spotlight Challenge winner can receive is $250.
Eligibility for Snapchat Spotlight Challenge:
Apply to Snapchat Spotlight Challenge:
- Creators on Snapchat can enter the Snapchat Spotlight Challenge by submitting their Spotlight Snaps to open Challenges for a chance to win a prize. Challenges can be found on the Trending page; each one has Challenge-specific details (e.g., available prizes and submission deadline).
4. Facebook and Instagram Creator Program
Seventy-two percent of creators prefer Instagram and identify it as their primary content platform. Facebook recently announced $1 billion in funding to reward creators for using the creative and monetization tools on Facebook and Instagram. The funding will support a range of creators including artists and style experts.
Creators can earn cash through a range of seasonal bonuses. Facebook plans to roll out more bonuses before the end of 2021. Additionally, creators will receive seed funding.
Eligibility for Facebook and Instagram’s Billion Dollar Creator Program:
Creators in all bonus programs must comply with Facebook and Instagram’s Partner Monetization Policies.
- On Facebook, video creators can currently earn the in-stream bonus while select gaming creators can earn the stars bonus.
- On Instagram, creators using IGTV ads can currently earn the IGTV ads bonus, creators using Live can earn the badges in Live bonus, while creators using Reels can earn the Reels Summer bonus.
Country eligibility has not been specified for Facebook bonuses. The IGTV ads bonus and Reels Summer bonus are available to creators in the US. The badges in Live bonus are available to creators in 11 countries.
Apply to Facebook and Instagram’s Billion Dollar Creator Program
- Creators cannot apply directly to Facebook and Instagram’s Billion Dollar Creator Program. Currently, bonus programs are available to select creators by invitation only.
5. Pinterest Creator Rewards
Creators on Pinterest—such as travel photographers, recipe creators, fashionistas—now have a new way to monetize their content on the inspiration-based platform. Announced in May 2021, the Pinterest Creator Fund is a $500,000 initiative providing upcoming Pinterest creators with the opportunity to participate in a four-week expert training program and receive a financial grant of $25,000 in cash and ad credits.
The fund specifically focuses on underrepresented creators, including people of color, people with disabilities, and members of the LGBTQ+ community. The Pinterest Creator Fund has had two cohorts and is currently closed for applications, but the platform is continuously finding new ways to reward creators.
Announced on October 20, 2021, and coming in 2022, Pinterest revealed another creator initiative: Creators Reward—a $20 million fund for in-app monetization programs for creators developing inspiring content on the platform. Creator Rewards will also provide creators with microgrants for passion projects.
Eligibility for Pinterest Creator Rewards:
- Eligibility for the Pinterest Creator Rewards has yet to be announced.
Apply to Pinterest Creator Rewards:
- Applications for Pinterest Creator Rewards will begin in 2022 and will be available in the US through the Creator Hub.
6. LinkedIn Creator Accelerator Program
The web’s largest professional network is stepping into the competition to court creators. In September 2021, LinkedIn announced creator funding of its own: the LinkedIn Creator Accelerator Program, a $25 million initiative to bring 100 US-based creators through a 10-week incubatory program. Participants in the program—creators who spark professional conversations and build community on the platform—will receive access to a network of creators, opportunities to be featured on LinkedIn channels, and a $15,000 grant.
While applications for the accelerator program closed on October 12, 2021, we’re keeping an eye on additional LinkedIn for Creators initiatives.
7. Clubhouse’s Creator First Accelerator Program
Clubhouse, the buzzy audio social app launched in March 2020, has prioritized creators from the start, promising early ways to help audio influencers grow and recognize the sparking conversations on the platform.
The audio platform announced its inaugural Creator First Accelerator program in March 2021, with the goal of supporting emerging creators and equipping them with the resources they need to bring their audio show concepts to life. They later welcomed 40 creators to the program to help turn their audio ideas into full-fledged shows on Clubhouse.
In July 2021, the program launched in India, promising India-based audio creators help with production, creative development, promotion, and financial support through assistance with brand deals or monthly stipends.
While both programs are closed for 2021, we’re keeping an eye on how Clubhouse continues to support creators into 2022 and beyond.
8. Spotify Greenroom Creator Fund
In June 2021, Spotify announced its Greenroom Creator Fund—an undisclosed amount of funding for creators developing audio content for Greenroom, the platform’s social audio app for hosting and participating in live discussions. The fund will reward audio creators for building community and reaching audiences through the platform.
Eligibility for the Spotify Greenroom Creator Fund:
- Have an existing Greenroom user account and register to participate in the program. The fund is open only to US residents. Both individuals and organizations can apply, with some exceptions.
Apply to Spotify Greenroom Creator Fund:
- Download and create an account on the Greenroom app, register for the fund, and begin developing audio content.
9. Substack writer programs
Substack has fuelled a newsletter renaissance and launched programs to support writers and help them find an audience. The newsletter platform previously launched a mentorship program, legal support for writers, an Independent Writer Grant for creators affected by the pandemic, a $1 million Substack Local fund awarded to 12 journalists, and a fellowship for independent writers awarding one $100,000 grant and four $25,000 grants. The platform plans to continue helping writers grow their publications by further investing in them in the months and years ahead.
In October 2021, Substack revealed it will be offering a new two-month fellowship, available to writers who participated in Substack Grow, a previous writing program. The program will select 10 writers to each receive a $7,000 grant and additional perks, including health care stipends and mentorship. Applications for the new fellowship open in November.
Substack also supports writers through Substack Pro, a program that provides new publications with an upfront sum to cover their first year on the newsletter platform. In exchange, a Pro writer gives Substack 85% of the subscription revenue they receive in their first year. Presently, there is no formal process to apply to be a Substack Pro writer. Instead, Pro deals arise from proactive outreach from writers, referrals, and scouting efforts from Substack.
Eligibility for Substack Pro:
While there are no formal requirements for Substack Pro, the platform has outlined its thinking about the program and what it looks for when investing in a writer, including the writer’s likelihood of success, audience size, social following engagement, and more.
How to apply to Substack Pro:
There is no formal application process for Substack Pro. If you feel your existing or planned publication would be a good fit, reach out to the team Substack directly for consideration.
10. Ripple Creator Fund
For digital artists interested in innovating in the crypto space, new opportunities for funding are cropping up. In September 2021, Ripple, a payment protocol and the company behind the XRP token, announced its $250 million Creator Fund, with an aim to foster innovation in tokenization, particularly non-fungible tokens (NFTs). The fund intends to attract more creators to participate in and benefit from NFTs.
The fund promises financial and co-marketing support, technical support, and creative support to craft premium NFT projects on the XRP Ledger.
Eligibility for Ripple’s Creator Fund:
- Creators and brands, agencies, and marketplaces interested in experimenting with NFTs or building NFT experiences can all apply to the fund.
How to apply to Ripple’s Creator Fund:
11. Shopify Capital
If you’re a creator venturing into entrepreneurship—creating merchandise for followers, crafting a limited release of mementos, or launching a commerce passion project—there’s financing available to help you kickstart your business. Shopify Capital helps Shopify merchants gain access to funds quickly, with minimal paperwork, and then repay the funds as a percentage of sales through flexible payments. Shopify Capital offers funding amounts between $200 and $2 million (in both US and Canadian funds).
$2.7 billion. That’s how much capital @Shopify has made available to businesses since 2016.
Where banks put up barriers, we remove them and empower entrepreneurs to invest and grow their businesses.
— Harley Finkelstein (@harleyf) October 28, 2021
Shops with Shopify Capital funding average 36% higher sales. Shopify Capital aims to help Shopify merchants grow by breaking down business barriers and making funding fast and simple.
Eligibility for Shopify Capital:
- Have a store located in the US, Canada, or the United Kingdom.
- Have a business with a low risk profile.
- Have Shopify Payments or another third-party payment provider enabled.
- Process a certain amount of sales.
Apply to Shopify Capital:
- Shopify Capital is available to eligible merchants. If eligible, you’ll receive an email and a message in your Shopify admin inviting you to view your pre-qualified amounts. You cannot request funding directly.
Ready to begin your own creator journey? Start your free 14-day trial on Shopify.
12. Stripe Capital
Stripe Capital offers select US-based merchants flexible financing to grow their businesses. The program aims to provide online businesses with capital to grow, helping them side step banks that have reduced their small business lending. Recipients repay automatically with a percentage of sales.
Here’s what you need to be eligible for Stripe Capital:
- Have a business located or incorporated in the US.
- Have processed payments on Stripe for one year or more.
- Have a processing volume of $10,000 minimum per year.
- Be in good standing with Stripe Capital. If your business previously applied for a Capital loan and was rejected, you would be ineligible to receive a new loan offer for 30 days.
Stripe Capital also considered a variety of growth factors to determine eligibility, including growth, a steady processing record, a large customer base, and a low dispute rate.
How to apply to Stripe Capital:
- Eligible US businesses with at least six months of processing history on Stripe will receive an email and Dashboard notification if they have an offer available.
13. Patreon Capital
In February 2020, it was reported that Patreon was launching Patreon Capital, a financing option for creators that provides cash advances in exchange for a percentage of future income generated on Patreon.
In a February 2020 AMA, Patreon co-founder and CEO Jack Conte described the program as “not in a ‘software’ stage yet.” Instead, he mentioned that the team at Patreon was getting in touch with creators about the program directly. Multitude, a Brooklyn-based podcast collective, is a known recipient of a Patreon Capital loan.
As of November 2021, there is no official application process for creators to apply to Patreon Capital. We’ll be watching for more announcements from Patreon.
Kickstart your creator journey with funds and financing
Companies are paying attention to the rise of the creator economy and betting on the success of influencers and entrepreneurs—from vloggers filming their lives on YouTube to entrepreneurs starting their own streetwear brands.
There are now more options than ever before for creatives to gain access to capital and bring their ideas to life, whether that’s through writing, design, art, video, or voice. There’s never been a better time to build an audience and earn a living online.
Illustration by Woody Harrington.