Creatives have always struggled to balance doing what they love with earning enough money to survive. That’s why many of us still have day jobs. There is a lot that goes into being a successful entrepreneur and creator. Today, we’re going to focus on ways you can take the content you’re already creating and monetize it (or monetize it in a new way).
What Is Content Monetization?
Content monetization is a strategy for turning the content you create into a product or service your audience can buy. If you’re a creator and you want a steady revenue stream, eventually you’ll need to employ monetization strategies.
If you don’t know how to make money creating content, read on to learn more about the types of content you can create and how to monetize that content.
What Kind Of Content Can I Monetize?
But that’s too broad. Here’s a short list of content that creators and entrepreneurs lean on today, along with some ways to monetize that content:
- Online Courses – Using platforms like Podia or Teachable, you can create and offer courses to share your expertise.
- Subscription Content – A subscription model can include paid digital newsletters using a platform like Substack or physical subscriptions like a magazine or journal.
- Books – This is the Lulu blog… seriously though, books are a well-established way to monetize content for your audience.
- Premium Content – This could include writing for sites with premium access (such as Medium) or selling online content through your own site.
- Sponsored Content – Work with existing brands to review or promote their products.
- Advertising – If you have enough traffic, displaying ads on your website and blog is a great way to monetize your content without a lot of work on your end.
- Affiliate Marketing – Share products you love with your customers and, with affiliate links, you’ll earn a small commission when they buy.
Using Content To Build Your Brand
It’s not enough just to create high-quality content. You need to find the right way to monetize that content if you want to have long-term success as a content entrepreneur. Going the wrong route with your content can be disastrous.
For example, if you create YouTube video content that focuses on healthy eating and fitness, a brand partnership with a fast food chain is probably not going to resonate with your audience. Likewise, if you publish romantic serial fiction, your audience might find a detailed, nonfiction historical account of ancient Egyptian burial rites a little… off.
How Do You Monetize Content?
The first step is to identify the right products for you, your content, and your audience. That means you need to devote some time to market research, getting to know your audience, what they value, and what they want.
Above all else, you must create great content.
That might seem obvious, but if you don’t start with content creation, you won’t have anything to share with your target audience. Good news; this is the part of being a content entrepreneur that is the most fun. You’ll be doing what you love to do: creating original content.
Keep your goals in mind while you do the creating though. Think about how large your audience needs to be to sustain your content business. Without a steady stream of income, you’ll struggle to be a full-time content creator.
Building A Content Monetization Platform
Before you can sell anything, you need a platform. Historically, that meant using a retailer (either online or brick-and-mortar). You would work with a publisher or distributor to get your products to the retailers, who then sell your products for you. Along the way, everyone takes a cut of the profits.
Your own platform will empower you to control ALL of your content and sell it directly to your audience. You’ll own the user experience and design of your site. Your content website will be 100% your online platform.
Here’s what you’ll need to build a content platform:
- A Website – This could be a popular platform like WordPress or a simplified Carrd site. Your site will be where you publish digital content, give some information about yourself, provide ways to connect with you on social media and sell your products.
- An Ecommerce Service – Most website platforms will include or partner with an ecommerce platform like Shopify or WooCommerce. Your ecommerce platform introduces the monetization options you need to securely sell your products and collect payment from your customers.
- Your Content – This is what will build your audience. If you create content people are excited about, they’ll happily come to your site to find more content. You can even offer exclusive content only on your site to further entice them.
Don’t Set Up Shop On Rented Land
What does that heading mean? Basically, anything you create and publish on someone else’s platform is on rented land.
These third-party sites will often present as content monetization platforms, but like working with a retailer, the business model means sharing your revenue and your customers.
For example, you don’t own your Instagram posts and you most certainly don’t own your audience on Instagram. If you have 5,000 followers and Instagram just shut down tomorrow, how many of those followers would you be able to recapture?
Definitely not all of them.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t publish posts on Facebook or sell your book on Amazon. It just means you should think of those platforms as marketing with a side of revenue and not as your primary means of selling products or building an audience.
Making money from sales on retail or social platforms is nice, but the true benefit is the opportunity to build a fanbase and drive them to your own site.
Finding And Building Your Audience
Okay, so you’ve got your platform. And you’ve got high-quality content—whether that’s books, blog posts, videos on YouTube or TikTok, stories on a digital platform, or educational services.
Now you need an audience. And more than that, you need loyal fans.
Social media is usually the best place to start. Look for groups within different platforms that focus on the kinds of content you create. You can do this by following other successful creators in your niche or genre to see where they are building an audience.
You should also look for platforms that will complement the content you create. If you’re a writer, you could be on Medium. Video creators flock to YouTube and musicians might use Bandcamp. This gives you a way to share your content and entice new fans to check out your website.
From there, you can employ content marketing strategies to share your own content and build a following.
Content Monetization With Books
One of the best ways to monetize your content is with a book. This is especially true for content publishers who already create written content—like authors, journalists, reviewers, and subject matter experts. But the same is true for just about any type of content creator.
Imagine you’re a video content creator teaching DIY bicycle repair to your TikTok following. Take those small pieces of content and compile them into a DIY bicycle repair book!
This is a common content monetization strategy: repackage work you’ve already done in a new form. Then sell it.
The bottom line is that books are effective at building your brand and authority while adding to your revenue stream. That authority you build around your brand will open you to other opportunities, like coaching or speaking events.
You’ll always need to diversify your sources of income, but adding a book into the mix is one potent monetization option you don’t want to skip.
Building Your Brand, Income, And Audience
Content monetization works when you follow this (overly simplified) formula:
Content + Platform + Audience = Success
Getting it all to work is much more, well, work. The key is to focus on finding an audience who loves the content you love to create. Then give them exactly what they want! When you do, you’ll find your audience growing and your opportunity to earn income by monetizing that content will expand.
Paul is the Content Marketing Manager at Lulu. When he's not entrenched in the publishing and print-on-demand world, he likes to hike the scenic North Carolina landscape, read, sample the fanciest micro-brewed beer, and collect fountain pens. Paul is a dog person but considers himself cat tolerant.