Jay Clouse (Creator Science): How to Make $500K Online as a Knowledge Creator
Jay's advice for new creators and the pros and cons of creator monetization channels
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In my last post, I wrote about how you can build a thriving business by turning your knowledge into income online. Today, I want to share an interview with Jay Clouse, a creator who’s on track to make $500K this year from his online business.
Jay is the founder of Creator Science, a newsletter, podcast, and community dedicated to helping creators succeed. In our interview below, we cover:
How Jay got started
His PARTS model for new creators
The pros and cons of creator monetization channels
How Jay got started as a creator
Welcome Jay! Can you describe how you got started?
I was a PM at a healthcare company before becoming a creator. In 2017, that company changed its strategy and canceled my product. So I decided that it was time as any to try something new.
I didn’t know what I wanted to do, and for awhile I made a living doing freelance web design and copywriting. I also started a newsletter that I wrote everyday and a community for other founders and creators.
Those efforts eventually led me to start my company, Creator Science.
What’s the best and worst thing about being a creator?
It’s the same answer for both - I have full control of my time.
The best part of being a creator is that I get to decide what I spend my time on. The worst part is that I have full responsibility for the outcome.
Over the years, I expanded from a newsletter to multiple creator products:
Email: I started this to have a direct channel to my audience.
Podcast: I started this because I enjoyed learning from other creators.
Social: Email and podcasts are inherently hard to grow without a social presence.
YouTube: I started this to publish all the video recordings from my podcast.
Community: I wanted to build a community for creators to learn from each other.
As you can imagine, building all these things at once can be exhausting. It’s challenging to make a decision on which part of the business to spend time on everyday.
How to start from scratch
If you had to start from scratch again - what steps would you take?
Great question. Here’s my PARTS model for becoming a professional creator:
Purpose: Understand your target customer and what outcome you’ll help them achieve. The more clarity you have on this, the easier everything else becomes.
Attention: Build a system for capturing attention from your target customer. Focus on one medium (writing or video) first and do it exceptionally well.
Revenue: Start layering on revenue streams like digital products, sponsorships, and paid memberships one step at a time.
Trust: Build trust with your audience by sharing valuable, free content consistently.
Systems: Implement systems to automate and outsource non-creative tasks so that you can focus on creative work and building relationships.
How do you identify what your purpose is?
To develop a strong purpose, ask yourself these questions:
Who do you help (and what do you help them do)? e.g., I help creators turn pro.
Why does your content need to exist? e.g., I bring warmth and depth to the creator journey.
Why you? e.g., I've spent 6 years as a creator and have interviewed hundreds.
What is your spiky point of view? e.g., Being a creator is more science than art.
I notice that many creators help others become creators. Is that a valuable niche?
I think it’s a small market that can be profitable if you position yourself well. Professional creators are a subset of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs themselves are rare. But it can be profitable because there's a clear outcome that people desire – making money online.
The pros and cons of different creator revenue streams
Last year, you made over $350K as a creator. What were your top revenue streams?
95% of my revenue came from just four sources. I’ll explain the pros and cons below:
Paid community memberships (48%)
Pros: Steady income while nurturing strong relationships.
Cons: Demands daily engagement and ongoing value.
Pros: Generate income without limiting content reach.
Cons: Earnings can be inconsistent depending on the economy.
Pros: Build relationships and gain valuable insights into customer needs.
Cons: Cannot scale easily - you’re trading time for money.
Digital products (9%)
Pros: Build once and sell everywhere.
Cons: Hard to refine value prop without direct customer feedback.
Digital products sound like a great way to scale a creator business. Do you have an example of a creator succeeding with that revenue stream?
Yes, Justin Welsh has built a great digital product business. If I could summarize his business in one word, it’s focus.
Focus on a single platform. Justin picked LinkedIn to start.
Focus on a few products. Justin has two short on-demand paid courses.
Focus on the consistency. Justin shares tips on solopreneurship daily.
He’s built a very simple funnel that drives the majority of his $3M / year business:
Yes, I love the simplicity of it.
The more experienced I get as a creator, the more I realize that keeping your growth loop simple is the way to go:
Offer valuable free content to get discovered and build trust.
Get people to buy your paid products.
Get testimonials from your customers.
Commit to this loop for a few years and you’ll be surprised by how far it takes you.
Could you summarize your advice for aspiring creators?
Use the PARTS framework. Start part-time and invest time in understanding your purpose to avoid aimless action.
Publish consistently and be patient. It takes time and repeat reps to make your content truly differentiated and valuable.
Treat your free content with the same importance as paid. Your tweets and LinkedIn posts are just as important, if not more so, than your paid products. High-quality free content reflects the value of your paid offerings.
Thank you so much Jay! If you enjoyed this conversation, follow Jay on Twitter and check out his creator newsletter.
Good stuff! I agree it is more science than art. How do I know? I have a slew of failures, one close, but in the end no cigar. My approach in the earlier days was a focus on the bottom-line and a key part of it in my opinion is getting comfortable with shipping your art on a consistent basis. It’s hard to ship consistently, if what you’re doing doesn’t move you internally. I think this also helps on the purpose front, developing your voice, and figuring out your niche. Enjoy the process!