What's New: This e-book hit $130K in 8 months

(from the latest issue of the Indie Hackers newsletter)

Stripe released a report detailing its role in ushering in the creator economy:

  • The report found that education is the fastest growing sector in the space, and the Czech Republic reported the fastest growth of new creators. Read on for a full breakdown of Stripe's findings.
  • Top podcasts have more listeners than radio shows, and top YouTube channels have more viewers than TV shows. Dru Riley illustrates how the democratization of tools and platforms helps founders add value.
  • Founder Steph Smith has launched 10 projects in 2 years, including an e-book that raked in over $130,000. Here's how she learned to code in 8 months, wrote a book in 7 weeks, and created a course in 20 days.

Want to share something with nearly 85,000 indie hackers? Submit a section for us to include in a future newsletter. —Channing

💻 Stripe's Creator Economy Report


from the Indie Economy newsletter by Bobby Burch

Last week, Stripe released a ton of data showing how its financial tools have fueled platforms that serve the creator economy. This information is helpful for founders looking for new opportunities to build or create in this space.

Stripe hype

The news: Stripe’s report details how the company has helped usher in the creator economy as we know it by enabling people to earn cash on platforms like Twitter, Clubhouse, Substack, Buy Me A Coffee, and others.

Stripe impact: The San Francisco-based firm looked at monetization data across 50 platforms, and learned that creators will soon surpass $10B in aggregate earnings.

Keep ‘em coming: While the pandemic supercharged the creator economy, which currently encompasses ~50M people worldwide, creators are still flocking to platforms where they can monetize their content, crafts, and skills. The number of creators has increased by 48% YoY. The 50 platforms that Stripe analyzed for this report have collectively welcomed 668K creators.

Smart is sexy: Stripe found that education is the fastest growing sector within the creator economy. That makes sense, considering that online courses sold on platforms such as Kajabi, Gumroad, and Teachable, were some of the first avenues through which creators could earn money for their content.

Creator locales: US creators may devour the lion’s share of attention, but the report found that the creator economy is growing faster in other regions. The Czech Republic reported the fastest growth of new creators, surging 270% YoY. Romania (215%) came in second, with Brazil (171%) being third.

The numbers game

Not-starving artist: In the US, the number of creators earning more than $69K ARR has increased 41% YoY. Stripe didn’t provide specific figures on how many people that includes, but it’s an encouraging trend.

Spread the love? There's a widening income gap between the top earners and most people in the creator economy:

  • Twitch’s top 1% of streamers earn more than 50% of revenue, and most streamers earn less than $120.
  • Substack’s top 10 publications earn more than $20M a year collectively, while the bulk of publishers make five figures or less.
  • Axios reports that the top 1% of podcasts receive 99% of downloads and earn the vast majority of ad revenue.

Fintech loves creators: Stripe may be the most successful payment processor when it comes to fueling creators, but it’s not the only one.

  • PayPal partnered with the popular link-sharing platform Linktree to enable payments.

  • Square announced a new partnership with TikTok that enables merchants to set up online stores.

  • Karat Financial raised $26M to build a banking system that serves the creator economy.
    Revolut, Starling, and Klarna have hired influencers to promote their financial services on Instagram and TikTok.

What stood out to you in Stripe's report? Let's chat in the comments!

Discuss this story, or subscribe to Indie Economy for more.

📰 In the News

Photo: In the News

from the Volv newsletter by Priyanka Vazirani

📈 US stocks closed at record highs ahead of tech earnings reports.

💖 This NFT collectible girlfriend earned over $1M.

🌟 The metaverse will have its own virtual economy.

😷 The US reports a record number of STDs amid the pandemic.

👽 The head of NASA says that recent UFO sightings could be alien technology.

Check out Volv for more 9-second news digests.

🛠 Trend Alert: The Creator Economy


from the Trends.vc newsletter by Dru Riley

Top podcasts have more listeners than radio shows, and top YouTube channels have more viewers than TV shows. Creators are capturing more value due to the democratization of channels and tools.

Why it matters

The ability to create and distribute work is being democratized. Teams are shrinking. Creators are capturing more value.


Barriers to create and share lead to homogeneous content, products, and experiences.


Democratized code and distribution lets creators focus on what they're best at.


Creators and niches:



  • There will be more options to monetize. NFTs make digital scarcity possible. Recurring revenue stems from royalties on secondary sales. You can also get tips on Twitch, chat with fans on Subtext, offer memberships on Patreon, give shoutouts videos on Cameo, sell books via Kindle Direct Publishing, become an affiliate with Amazon Associates, and more.
  • The reach of new mediums will leapfrog the reach of old mediums. Top podcasts have more listeners than radio shows. Top newsletters have more readers than newspapers. Top YouTube channels have more viewers than TV shows.
  • The ability to create and share work will become more accessible. Merch is designed in Figma and fulfilled by Printful. Songs are made on laptops, sent to DistroKid, and heard on Spotify.
  • There will be more virtual influencers. Personal brands are being built around characters like Miquela6529, and Jenkins The Valet.


  • Build a product ladder. A series of offers ranging from less to more expensive options. Flavio has a blog (free), books ($), courses ($$), and bootcamps ($$$). Higher tier offers are easier to sell once you deliver on promises in lower tiers.
  • Stick to a schedule. Build habits for yourself while building anticipation for your audience. Ira Glass shares his thoughts on this. Your talent can catch up with your taste. Great newsletters, YouTube channels, and podcasts often run on schedules.
  • Repurpose content. Turn your newsletter into tweets like Trends.vc. Turn your blog posts into books like Derek Sivers. Turn your videos into podcasts like Nomad Capitalist.
  • Make content more accessible. Two Minute Papers popularizes ideas from cutting-edge research papers. Founders podcast shares stories from business biographies. Nat Eliason summarizes books.
  • Build flywheels. These are self-reinforcing revenue streams. See Issa Rae's flywheel. Bilal and I discussed the risk of stakeholder conflict in our podcast episode.


  • Platform risk: Being at the whim of "trusted" third parties. You can be deplatformed, suffer from outages, have terms arbitrarily changed, and have unheard complaints.
  • Burnout: Chronic exhaustion is the flipside of creative schedules. Unsustainable commitments can lead to burn out.
  • Switching costs: Losing productivity due to a lack of focus. This is the risk with a portfolio of small bets. Multiple projects come with opportunity costs and switching costs. Explore and exploit. Concentrate to build wealth. Diversify to protect wealth.

Key lessons

  • Pick what you can stick with. You'll need to iterate to find what works.
  • Be a non-fungible person. The more unique you are, the more value you can capture. The less unique you are, the more competition drives prices.


"The 'creator economy' is a buzzword."

It's a meme that persists because it's descriptive and effective.

"Decentralization has downsides."

There's no free lunch. One downside may be slow decision-making, hence the push for progressive decentralization. Representative models may emerge in decentralized networks.


Related reports

More reports

Go here to get the Trends Pro report. It contains 200% more insights. You also get access to the entire back catalog and the next 52 Pro Reports.

Discuss this story, or subscribe to Trends.vc for more.

🛠 Building in Public: Show Your Toolbox


by Ivan Romanovich

Thor has a hammer and Captain America has a shield. Show us what you have!


Discuss this story.

🦁 Steph Smith on Working Like a Lion


from the Indie Hackers Stories newsletter by Teela Fleischmann

Founder: Steph Smith.

Creator of: Doing Content Right, Doing Time Right, and Sh*t You Don't Learn in School.

2021 Revenue: $150K.

Zone of Genius: Content creation, trend forecasting, all things side-hustle, and remote working.

Steph Smith gets things done. She’s launched 10 projects in the last two years, including an e-book that brought in over $130K.

In early 2019, Indie Hackers interviewed Steph about how she learned to code in eight months. This time, we're cover her latest success and breaking down how she makes it all happen!

Shipping her first project

It took me eight months of learning to code before I shipped my first project. I was terrified. I remember staying up all night, obsessing over the copy, and trying to perfect the launch. Two months later, I’d somehow won an award at Product Hunt's Maker's Fest. I think that shows that anyone can do this. I took a $20 online course, started creating, and put myself out there.

That was in 2018. Between 2018 and early 2020, I shipped four different projects, none of which made any money. But I learned so much along the way.

On founder resistance

My e-book, Doing Content Right, was my first project that made any real money. I hadn’t charged for the other things I created. They were mostly for fun, but this one was different. With this project, I was actually filling a gap in the market.

It’s funny, I was really resistant to seeing myself as a content creator, even though it was clearly a big part of what I was doing. Identity is so powerful, but I identified more with being a product manager or growth marketer.

I noticed that there was so much junk out there in the content world. It made me want to create something better, but I still struggled with that identity. The term “e-book” had a negative connotation. Even with the success of the product today, I often don’t even feel excited to say that I’ve written an e-book for that reason.

But with time, people naturally started to associate me with writing and content creation. I’d get tagged in tweets where I was referred to as a writer. I realized that the thing people asked me for help with most was content creation. And finally, I just leaned into that request. That’s really when I decided to write the book.

None of the other projects I launched really met that criteria of being something that people asked me for. But the book did. It filled in a gap.

On writing a book in seven weeks

Parkinson’s Law is the idea that work expands to the time allocated to it. So, if you give yourself a year to complete a project, it’s probably going to take a year.

Some very, very disciplined folks might manage to complete it in a shorter time period. But I am not one of those people, so I like to set ambitious timelines for myself.

For the book, I gave myself 50 days to write it. And, because I was sharing my progress in public and had done a presale, I really had to stick to it. Even then, I ended up going a week over!

Parkinson’s Law can work for you or it can work against you. What I’ve learned over the past couple of years is that, ultimately, most successful people aren’t necessarily smarter or more disciplined. They just understand how to use their psychology better.

On creating a course in 20 days

Once I commit to a timeline, I go all in. It’s almost like I’m cramming for a test. Essentially, all of my free time is focused on that one singular goal. When I go for a run, I’m brainstorming examples for one chapter. When I’m brushing my teeth, I’m thinking about how I can reframe another chapter. The ambitious timeline meant several super late nights, but it significantly compressed my timeline. I knew that after the goal was reached, I could completely relax.

I also gave myself 20 days to finish my most recent project, a course called Doing Time Right.

Due to the success of my book, I had this list of 3K people. They were really happy with the book, and they ended up being a lot of the customers for the course. So far, 750 people have taken the course, and we’ve made around $45K. It’s on a similar track as the book was.

I’ve worked like this since I can remember, but I found this analogy by Naval Ravikant to be a wonderful way of framing this: Work like a lion instead of like a cow. Lions rest for most of the day, then sprint when they need to chase after nutrient-dense meat. Cows constantly graze, and require several stomachs to process their low-quality food.

On $130K in eight months with an e-book

The first step was just creating something that people love and want to talk about. I even had people talking about why the book was doing so well. This step sounds incredibly obvious, but it’s something that I see people skip all the time.

Assuming that you're already there, here are some things that I did:

  • Build in the open.
  • Narrow your path to feedback: This book started as a tweet where I asked people if they would pay for it.
  • Pre-sales.
  • Delayed Product Hunt launch: Many people launch right when a product is ready, but if you approach it that way, you're relying on the success of a launch, instead of creating the success of your launch.

I created this deck to outline everything that I did.

Check out the full interview here!

Discuss this story, or subscribe to Indie Hackers Stories for more.

🐦 The Tweetmaster's Pick

Cover image for Tweetmaster's Pick

by Tweetmaster Flex

I post the tweets indie hackers share the most. Here's today's pick:

🏁 Enjoy This Newsletter?

Forward it to a friend, and let them know they can subscribe here.

Also, you can submit a section for us to include in a future newsletter.

Special thanks to Jay Avery for editing this issue, to Nathalie Zwimpfer for the illustrations, and to Bobby Burch, Priyanka Vazirani, Dru Riley, Ivan Romanovich, and Teela Fleischmann for contributing posts. —Channing

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