Top Tools for Content Creators: Buying Guide 2021
As of Jan 2021, there are over 37 million content creators on YouTube, with that number increasing fast. The full-time influencer has entered the cultural zeitgeist to the point that most kids want to be a YouTuber when they grow up.
Content creators live on a tight schedule to produce content, track engagement, and optimize the type of content they produce to best increase their channel’s future performance.
As a disclaimer, I would like to note that none of the links in this article are spammy affiliate links where I’m just hawking crap that others are trying to paying me to sell. These are legitimate opinions that I hope you find helpful.
Most YouTubers report that they spend between 2x to 10x the duration of the final video in editing time. That is to produce a 10 minute video, they spend between 20 minutes to an hour and 40 minutes editing. Although I found one extreme case where they spend about 40 hours to edit a 30 minute video multiple!).
Content creators should be spending time being creative, not bogged down with cumbersome edits. To avoid loads of wasted time and frustration, check out the tools below that make editing way easier.
Free Editing Software
DaVinci Resolve: Up to 8k video editing, visual effects, color correction and more all available together in one package. While incredibly powerful, Resolve is quite complex. The learning curve is a little steeper here than the other options, but theoretically have more control once you’ve learned the ropes.
- Available for: Windows, Mac, and Linux
- Free and paid version available
- Blender is wonderful software with a truly shocking number of features. In Blender you can video editing and compositing, but also 3D modeling, 2D animation, Smoke and fire simulations, and more visual effects. It’s an absolute powerhouse and completely free and always).
- Available for: Windows, Mac, and Linux
- Free and open-sourced. Community developed.
- Free version available
Paid Editing Software
- Premier is powerful, fully-featured, but you must pay a pretty hefty monthly subscription to use it through Creative Cloud.
Video production fidelity is one of those things that most new content creators don’t focus on at all. While creating a Hollywood-level lighting set-up is extremely expensive and time-consuming, it’s relatively cheap to massively upgrade your lighting setup.
- Ben Johnson has a fantastic video about lighting
Considering that videos are the bread and butter of YouTube channels, choosing a camera is important. There are so many options to choose from, so it can be difficult to know how to select something that works for your channel.
Unlike the other recommendation categories, I’m going to break this one down into price brackets
Of course, your cellphone isn’t free, but most people have one with rather technically impressive cameras. Many content creators on mobile-first platforms like Instagram and TikTok film their content on their cellphone, maybe do some light mobile editing and then push it out to their followers.
However, as these channels grow bigger, they tend to switch to stand-alone cameras because they have a lot more power for capturing higher-fidelity content. Furthermore, these days filming on a cellphone camera is usually a non-starter for a standalone video platform like YouTube. Keep scrolling.
Under $500: Nikon D3500
Can’t shoot 4k, but can do 1080p at 60fps, which for the present moment is approaching the limits of what many viewers will be able to display. Better displays are getting more commonplace, but you will still notice a substantial improvement over a point-and-shoot or your iPhone.
Under $1k: Sony a6500 Mirrorless
Captures 4k video at up to 30fps with a relatively low 20 minute thermal limit). This is a great camera to upgrade the visual fidelity of your content and is the recommended starter camera for someone getting serious about growing their channel.
Under $2k: Canon EOS R6
Captures video at up to 4k at 60fps. Lots of juicy features like Dual Pixel autofocus. Although note this one had a 40 minute thermal limit, so be wary if you are planning on filming for an extended period of time!
Social Media Automation
If you know anything about social media presence, you know that engagement is the most important metric when building your audience. The best levers for building social media engagement are posting frequently and consistently. While it’s certainly possible to log-in to your instagram account and publish an image as it happens, but it’s easy to forget and fail to publish for weeks at a time.
Social Media automation tools are super useful for building a process around managing your social media presence. You can queue up posts for an entire month all in a single day and have the posts published automatically at the perfect time to maximize engagement with your die-hard fans.
- Allows you to schedule posts on a huge variety of social media platforms, unified analytics, tools for advertising and more.
- Price: Has a free tier and paid tier for $12.5 / month
- Helps with everything from ideating about post content, to scheduling when to publish the post on a variety of platforms.
- Price: Starts at $25 / month
- Manage multiple social media accounts all in one place, schedule posts, engage with your audience, promote posts and more.
- Price: Starts at $50 / month
Many large YouTube channels have ridiculous call-outs to their merch stores sprinkled through-out every video. While it’s of course up to you to decide if you think you will alienate your audience by attempting to sell merch, the benefits are huge. Because you are a content creator, the way that you support yourself is generally from ads, sponsorships, and direct support Merch is great bonus revenue stream with much higher margins. You will have very few monthly sales compared with eyeballs viewing your content, but these sales will earn you much more than your average viewer.
To get a better idea of how this plays out on a bigger YouTube channel, I highly recommend Linus Tech Tips video:does Linus make money”. At time of writing they have 13M subscribers and well over 30 employees supporting half a dozen channels.
Merch Shelf by Teespring: Teespring is a great option to get up and running with because they make it dead simple to get setup. They deal with all of the process of manufacturing and shipping and give you a cut of the sales you make. Merch Shelf is an integration that lets you feature your merch directly below your videos.
Bonfire: another great product with limited work required to create your merch store. Bonfire has a couple of options when it comes to selling your merch: through a campaign or a permanent store.
Two of the most obvious recommendations that I can make to any content creator is to create a Discord Server for their community, appoint some mods, and provide a way for your die-hard fans to pay you money every month. People love to support their favorite channels directly and not doing this is just leaving a lot on the table.
You can develop more personal relationships with the committed members of your community in Discord and give extra perks to paying subscribers badge, access to VIP channels etc). While the most popular product in this space is definitely Patreon, there are a huge number of competitors in the space.
Patreon: Set-up subscription tiers with benefit packages that you select.
Floatplane: Release your content early for paid subscribers, engage with them directly.
Special: Paid subscription service that charges 10% of earnings on the platform. Allows access to subscriber only content, ad-free. Has a private community and tons of great analytics for you to monitor engagement.
One of the challenges that content creators face is the reporting from their campaigns. Most marketers and social media managers have to use a number of different programs to follow up on campaigns. They may use Google Analytics, Facebook Insights, Outbrain Analytics, and many other tools to track their work. This can be a huge pain because you are forced to use separate interfaces.
Analytics products bring you a unified interface for tracking the numbers that matter to your audience, your partnerships, and to you. You can quickly get a snapshot of your revenue, when you’re getting paid and by whom.
- Stir: is a great tool for content creators to view their business at a glance. Has great tools for collaborations and joint ventures with brands, other content creators and more. Furthermore, Stir is built with privacy and trust as central to their business will never sell your data or run ads).
- Apply for early access to see pricing information~
More Great Tools
While this list is a great start for covering the most important tools you will need to start and grow your audience, it’s a small slice of a much bigger pond. There are thousands of brilliant people spending their time building tools to make the process of creating content even easier.
Side Hustle Stack: A fantastic collection of tools that people use for running their own passive income, content creation, and side-hustle businesses. It’s broken down by category, so it’s a great place to start whenever you run into a new problem that you don’t know how to solve.
One of the most powerful features of running your own business generating your own income), is that you can make your own decisions about how to spend your time and money. Time and money are usually directly linked and you can exchange one for the other. You could spend more time editing all your videos yourself to save money, or you could spend money to hire an editor to save you time.
Of course the point in time that a decision like this makes sense is really up to how much income your channel is generating. The real decision point is whenever you realize that the only thing stopping you from growing your channel more is the number of hours in the day. If you simply don’t have enough time to respond to emails, post on your social accounts, edit, film etc. hiring extra help is the move to unlock that next chapter of growth.
Upwork: This is by far the clear leader for finding high-quality professionals for video-editing, graphic design, logo design, ad design, copywriting and more. The prices are slightly higher here, but the average experience you have is much, much better. The quality of the work is higher, and most of the people listed are working full-time and so are generally much more responsive.
Fiverr: If you are more price sensitive, then I definitely recommend that you try out Fiverr. Personally, I’ve had several bad experiences with some freelancers producing low-quality work or difficulty getting in touch with them, but I’ve also gotten a handful of logos designed for $40 delivered in less than two days.
I’ve hired over 40 freelancers on sites like Upwork, Freelancer, and Fiverr and there are a lot of lessons I learned the hard way.
- Prefer quality over price: The headache of micro-managing a poorly performing freelancer is something I wouldn’t wish on anyone. You are already on the hook for paying them and they really aren’t doing a great job, or are missing huge parts of your guidance. It’s really frustrating and time-consuming. So after a couple of bad experiences, I realized that I would much rather pay a little more for a professional with sparkling reviews, than take a chance on a amateur.
- Steer clear of new accounts: I’ve noticed that a lot of relatively new accounts engage in scammy behavior. Don’t feel an obligation to give someone a chance to build their portfolio, because you risk a lot of wasted time and money. Always prefer a freelancer with many positive reviews, a large portfolio, and tons of details about their former projects.
While it's not everyday that you may discuss money, it is at the heart of much of human activity. It motivates people to do some of the greatest and most horrific things that humanity has ever seen. It is distilled power and the lack of it has an unfortunately negative effect on much of the world's population.
So inevitably, when you do find yourself in a situation where you need some B-roll footage of a back-alley deal, Wall-street fat cat taking a bath in money, or just want to illustrate the paroxysms government corruption, prop money is a great tool for just that.
Our company, Evermont Bills is devoted to making the best prop money for creative people. Our products have been designed with feedback from prop masters at film studios, social media influencers, YouTubers, and other industry professionals. The end result is our products - perfectly made props that look stunningly real on camera.