Online Content Monetization 101: How to Make Money From Content
Read about all the ways you can make money from your content - and how to get started.
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Online content has gotten incredibly popular for a handful of motivating reasons. First, it's easier than ever to publish your own content: Anyone (even those with no money) can start blog, upload recorded videos or even live stream. Second, demand for online content is skyrocketing; more people are reading blogs, watching videos and engaging with social media influencers than ever before. Third, online content is a potentially lucrative hustle...but only if you know what you're doing.
Millions of people have seen marginal success in their online content development. They've been able to attract tens of thousands of social media followers or equal numbers of regular readers, and they've carved out a niche for themselves. But they haven't yet closed the gap to figure out how to make money from that success.
In this guide, I'll cover some of the best monetization strategies to make money from developing online content.
Potential monetization strategies
For our purposes, I'll remain agnostic to the medium or channel you're using to produce your content. Regardless of whether you're writing blog posts, syndicating a podcast or live streaming on a regular basis, you can use most (or all) of these strategies to make money:
- Direct advertising: One of the first options people turn to is advertising. If you're on YouTube or a similar platform, you might be able to make money directly based on the ads your platform chooses to display. Otherwise, you can choose to host your own ads. This is a simple strategy that offers a return proportional to your total audience, but be careful. Some of your fans won't appreciate your advertising, and there's always the risk of advertising a sketchy product that compromises your reputation.
- Sponsorships/affiliate links: You could also work with sponsorships or affiliate links. With an affiliate link in your content, you'll generate revenue as a percentage of the number of sales you influence (usually dependent on how many people click the link). With sponsorships, you'll have even more flexibility; you may make money from talking about a specific product, or you may even feature someone else's content for a fee.
- Donations: Platforms like Patreon make it easy for content creators to accept donations for their continued work, and with platforms like Twitch, donations are a built-in option for viewers. Asking for donations can feel awkward, but your most loyal fans will be happy to donate.
- Premium content: You can also make money with optional "premium" content that's more in-depth or more exclusive than your typical work. Bloggers often provide premium content in the form of an ebook or collection.
- Subscriptions: Depending on the nature of your content, you might also be able to sell subscriptions. On some platforms, viewers might get an ad-free experience with a paid subscription; on others, a subscription could grant them alternative special benefits, like access to an entirely different content feed.
- Merchandise: With a big enough fan base, you might be able to make money with merchandise. Selling interesting products, like shirts, hats or mugs with your branding can both generate revenue and give you a platform for free advertising in the future.
- Consulting or special services: If you're an expert in your chosen field, you could offer consulting services on the side for an hourly fee. Otherwise, you might be able to offer special services, such as pre-recorded messages for fans or one-on-one coaching sessions. This requires some extra effort but can be highly profitable.
- Exclusive rights: If your content channel gets big enough, you might be able to score an exclusive rights deal. A content platform might pay you to use their platform exclusively, preventing their competition from capitalizing on you. These deals are rare but are often lucrative.
The starting point? Amazing content
All these monetization strategies come with a massive caveat; you have to create exceptionally high-quality content if you want them to work. There are currently more than 500 million blogs and more than 2 million blog posts published on a daily basis. If you want a chance of building an audience big enough to support your desired revenue stream, you need some way to stand out and you need to do it well.
I think of "amazing" content as excelling in two main categories:
- Uniqueness: First, your content needs to be different than everything else available to your audience. Sometimes, that means covering an entirely new topic, but more often, it means offering a new tone, a fresh perspective or a different kind of medium. Get creative here!
- Quality. Second, and more subjectively, there's the quality factor. Your work should be well-researched and in-depth (where appropriate). If it's video or audio content, it should be recorded with professional equipment and professionally edited. If it's written, it better be error-free and eloquent.
On top of that, you'll need to be consistent in your publication, and you'll need to regularly engage with your audience. If you manage to do this, you should be able to build a loyal audience of followers — and from there, you'll have your choice of monetization strategies to make money from them.