Sometimes you need to take a break from content. But if you're the type of creator who relies on your content to pay bills, the idea of "taking a break" might send you into an anxiety spiral.
We see the entertainment industry seemingly shut down for long periods of time around the end of the year. It's pretty common knowledge that nobody in the music industry is going to return your email from about mid-December to mid-January. Major studios drastically reduce production schedules. Most people on the "business" side of things go into a period of hibernation (or long vacations).
But the independent creators who make money stream to stream, song to song, and video to video usually feel like they can't afford to do that. Even if it might be the best possible thing for them mentally and emotionally.
The Money Trickle
Content creation is a tricky space. While you can create "assets" that earn long-term, recurring income, those pieces of content normally take a while to pay out and a long time to build up. If you write a hit song that gets a million streams in one month, you won't see the full revenue from that song for likely nine months (usually two to three months for the master income from your distributor and anywhere from six to nine months for the publishing income).
And while music streaming revenue or YouTube ad revenue can become relatively predictable and reliable, for a substantial majority of creators this revenue builds up over a long time and from a larger catalog of content. So it's less likely you had one hit piece of content, and more likely you've created a steady cycle of releases and performances that all add up to a meaningful chunk of money over time.
In theory, knowing this should make it easier for a creator to sit back and take a few weeks off from posting, writing, filming, or performing. But as we've increasingly seen over the past several years, platforms will change how they serve content to people with no notice. And more and more creators are earning money from things like "going live" than simply spending a lot of time crafting good, consistent content.
Why Creators Are Hesitant To Take A Break
There's a real fear that if you don't consistently put out content, you'll never break through and make money from it. And even when you're a full-time creator, you still feel you need to keep putting out content to stay relevant and keep that catalog churning.
This is usually chalked up to a rather colloquial, if not mythical understanding of platform "algorithms" that have become increasingly responsible for determining whether a creator's content reaches their audience. It's not uncommon to see creators actually say things like, "I'm sick but I have to stream because I'm afraid I'll lose viewers if I take time off."
Because platforms tend to change, remove, and add features more than ever, there's a real sense of FOMO around unplugging from your work. It's different than, say, working at a Starbucks. If you go on vacation for two weeks, that Starbucks will almost certainly still be there when you get back, as will your expected typical income. Oh, and people will still be getting their coffee in the meantime.
If you decide to take two weeks off from posting any content or doing any streams, however, you might genuinely believe you'll have a smaller audience when you get back. There are plenty of stories of creators and accounts who seemingly have plummeted in terms of engagement.
In reality, there could be plenty of different reasons for a decline in reach on your content. Yes, including an extended period of time without posting. But you shouldn't let these concerns dictate your overall willingness to do what's best for you.
Break From Content Before You Burnout
Burnout is real. You hear about from your friends. You see big YouTubers and streamers make videos about it. And you've probably experienced it yourself.
The problem with feeling burnt out on content is that it's not just a simple emotion. It's not just about feeling tired. Or overworked. Or stressed about money. It's about feeling all of those things at once, often coupled with a severe case of existential dread derived from doubting whether you're really "cut out" for a career in content in the first place.
When you feel burnt out on the thing that used to bring you joy it can lead to multiple layers of unhappiness. And it doesn't just go away when you're making a full time living. Suddenly you feel the weight of obligation to not just your fans, but your partners, content team, brands you have relationships with etc.
True burnout is a genuinely awful feeling. And nobody around you wants you to feel that way. So how about you cut yourself some slack and take a break — the right way.
Communication Is Key
We've probably all been fans of a creator or artist or channel that seemingly dropped off the face of the earth. And while nobody "owes" their fanbase and explanation as to why they're leaving or how long they'll be gone for, just a few simple sentences can make a world of differences.
The most important part of taking a break is communicating to your fans that you're actually taking one and why. In most cases, that's enough to keep people hanging around when you come back, even after radio silence.
This is admittedly easiest if you make video content or stream live. When you let people know ahead of time over multiple broadcasts or videos that you'll be "OOO" (out of office) to get some much-needed hibernation, you can typically answer any questions head on. In many cases, your fans might even help you with a little "going on break" support, whether that's spreading the word, buying merch/tipping, or just sharing some kind words.
Plan Your Return
If you're comfortable giving people a hard return date for your content, do it. You can even make an event around coming back, whether you're gone for 2 weeks or 2 months.
If you're not willing to commit to a hard and fast return date, at least give people a general idea of a time they may see new content from you. Saying something like, "I'll see you in February 2022" is still pretty noncommittal while giving people some reassurance that you're not gone forever.
Whatever you decide to do, just make sure it's communicated in places people may look. Make a note of it in your social media bios and change your banner images or offline screens. With just a little bit of preparation, you can make taking a break from content lead to a lot of anticipation about your return from content.
This is also a great time to reflect on what you've loved about what you've made recently — and what you don't. If there's something you want to try more or less of after your break, planning your return with these tweaks in mind can make them feel a lot more natural to your audience.
For a lot of creators, a break isn't really a "break" unless you're able to completely disconnect. That includes from the social media and the daily scroll. So if you want to take a vacation without thinking about getting pictures to share or go see a movie without thinking about tweeting all your opinions on it, it's best to spend a day planning some scheduled social content.
There are some great platforms out there that let you do this affordably (or even free in a limited capacity). Apps like Later.com are very intuitive and easy to use. Even just scheduling a post or two for the week can help alleviate some concerns that people will "forget" about you.
But if you want to spend a whole preparatory day to schedule out pieces of content for every platform every day, you can go there, too. Taking clips from things you put out earlier in the year and re-sharing them as a sort of "introspective" can help repurpose content while reminding people of all the things they love about what you do.
At the very least, a weekly reminder post letting people know you're taking a much-needed break and will be back (whatever time frame you give) goes a long way.
Reach People On A Deeper Level
This may not be helpful for you if you're looking to take a break in the next few weeks and haven't already set these platforms up, but you should really consider making sure you can reach your fans through more than just social media.
All of these messages and tips should ideally be shared with things like an email list, Discord community, or via text messages to fans who opted in. Social media followings and on-platform followings (like YouTube subscribers or Spotify followers) are notoriously flippant. Just because somebody loves you and consumes everything you put out, it doesn't mean these platforms will show your content to them. But if you can reach them somewhere you control, like email, Discord, or text, the odds of them getting your messages and staying engaged throughout your break go way up.
Basically, if you're taking any time to share a message with people on social media, that same message can go out to people who have chosen to engage with you further.
If you don't have these systems set up yet, don't fret. Take a break from content and enjoy it to its full extent. But when you come back, consider prioritizing these kinds of platforms for your content. They will go a long way in alleviating some of the fear that your audience will somehow "leave" you because you went away for a bit.
Take A Break From Content. Like, Seriously Take A Break.
You probably don't half-ass your music or videos or articles or streams. Don't half-ass your break from them, either. Do things you love that have nothing to do with anything else in your content career. Or get back to just being a fan.
We get that it's easier said than done. We struggle to completely unplug and turn off, too. And for some of us on the team, the most "relaxing" thing to do is to make a big ol' to-do list of lingering items and just start hacking away at it. Nobody can tell you what your version of "taking a break" means better than you.
But stick to it. Allow yourself to just do the things that make you happy and bring you peace. Set an "away for now" note on the places people try to reach you, if that's your thing. Dedicate the week before you plan to take a break to actually preparing for it.
With just a little bit of intention, you'll find yourself both enjoying your break from content and loving your return more than ever.