The desire to become a content creator has never been higher.
If you are reading this then it's likely you share a similar desire but aren't sure how to start or aren't confident that you will succeed.
This post will remedy both of those concerns and set you on a path to success without breaking the bank.
Yes, it is still very possible to become a content creator in 2018 despite the amount of people jumping into the content and media business.
So why even become a content creator in the first place?
Let me give 2 obvious reasons and 1 philosophical reason.
1. It's the cost of entry to start an online business or become influential online.
Whether you want to sell goods on Amazon, become a social media influencer, start a vlog; creating content is your key currency that you will trade on.
Making money online or earning advertising revenue requires traffic.
And there are only 5 ways to get traffic: Organic Search Traffic, Direct Traffic, Social Traffic, Referral Traffic and Paid Traffic.
Let's break them down so we are clear.
You can buy traffic or used Paid Search.
I'm referring to Google Adwords, Facebook Ads, Instagram Ads, Programmatic banner ads.
Many people have paid for traffic, but the costs add up and it really isn't the way you want to start unless you are very experienced.
You can get traffic from other websites. This is called referral traffic.
This is good, but ask yourself who's going to link to you without any content on your website or chosen platform?
You can get Direct traffic.
In this case people have to type your URL into the browser. They are looking for you. You will have had to bring awareness to them at some other point.
And finally Social Media traffic and Organic Search traffic.
These are the two channels we are really concerned about here in this article because they generate the most targeted traffic for the lowest cost.
The only way to obtain organic search traffic or social traffic is buy publishing content on your website or social platform.
We can start to build and acquire real traffic for free by focusing on these two channels alone.
The truth is that obtaining traffic is the major obstacle for most online businesses. Anyone can start a Shopify eCommerce store or a YouTube channel…but getting people to notice it is a different beast.
So having an actual method in which we can drive traffic without massive ad spend is critical.
Of course once you get that traffic, the goal is to convert users into customers and generate sales and revenue. That's why this is important.
If you aren't creating content to generate traffic then you are going to have to spend the money to attract potential customers.
Does this all make sense? If not don't worry…
This post is going to cover every aspect of content creation.
By the end you'll understand the WHY and the HOW of content creation, content marketing and effective monetization.
2. The second reason you want to become a content creator is to develop your brand and reputation.
Content is the new currency that people are trading on. It becomes your calling card and your resume.
People can consume a slice of your content and very quickly get a sense of what you care about and the quality of your work.
Whether you write, take photos, produce podcasts or make videos, content is the best way to tell the world who you are and what you have to offer.
Creating content around what you care about is the fastest way to attract the people that are going to affect your business results. Of course I'm talking about customers, providing them value so they can consider buying your products and services. Giving them context about the origins and intentions of your business.
But I'm also talking about using content to create deal flow. By producing great articles or videos the right people will find out about you. They might reach out to try and collaborate with you or find a cross-promotion.
But without content, other influencers will not be aware of you.
But if you do it right, when they do find out about you, you are going to want your content to be on point such that they see you as a quality creator and potential collaborator.
Content creation is so critical to business development in 2018. Don't forget this.
3. Creating Content is very liberating to our soul and potentially our livelihood.
When you start expressing yourself to the world through content creation you will start to attract readers, watchers, listeners, fans and subscribers. People love to find creators who are passionate and giving to their community.
When people start thanking you for your work (which they will because putting our content for free is critical) you will feel very good about yourself.
Let's get straight to the big picture.
Who doesn't want to become a creator for a living, publishing media around the things they love. Most content creators are not bound to their environment which means they can travel (digital nomads) or have a lot of flexibility in their life.
As time goes on, monetization is becoming easier and faster for content creators whether its via Patreon, Sponsored posts, Digital courses or advertising revenue.
Never before have we been able to make so much money online just by producing content for niche communities.
We really have to understand our ‘why' if we are going to succeed as content creators. Because content creation has a cumulative exponential effect, things can start off very slow but blast off if you can play the long game. You need to have the patience are wherewithal to sustain the marathon you are running.
Here's the good news though.
If you want to become a content creator as your career then you have lots of time.
Let me tell you that my life is 10x better as a content creator than it ever was. I passed up on the BAR exam after law school because the lifestyle of a content creator was to appealing to me. Money doesn't bring you happiness.
But living on your own terms, working when you want, where you want and with who you want can bring enormous amounts of satisfaction.
Now I run multiple online businesses and essentially write and make movies for a living. I haven't felt like I've worked a single day in the last ten years of being in the online media industry.
So now that you have some sense of the ‘why', lets move on to the ‘how'.
Become a Content Creator and Make Money doing it in 5 Simple Steps:
- Figure out what you know, what you are good at, what you care about and who you are.
- Determine where you fit in the world of content. Find the white space, the opportunity and a niche where you can be the best in category.
- Decide what platforms and content types suit you.
- Create content in your niche with the purpose of helping others and bringing value to their lives.
- Monetize appropriately based on your niche, skill and goals.
Lets unpack each on of these steps and begin formulating your content creation strategy.
1. If you want to become a content creator then you need to know who you are.
While this may seem a bit strange it is absolutely the most important step. Get this one wrong and everything else will be difficult.
I've seen many content creators have existential crises' because they tried to emulate someone else's success rather than seeking their own unique path.
While it's fine to reverse engineer the tactics and processes of other content creators you need to find your own unique voice, or in business terms: your Unique Selling Proposition.
When it comes to the production of media, the market has little need for replicas and copycats. The original is always the best and can never be beaten. Trying to live someone else's truth is beyond challenging – it's straight exhausting.
Knowing who you are will allow you to live your own truth and sustain this process for many years to come.
Because a content creator has to put themselves out there, they are susceptible to criticism and trolls. Not everyone will like you. But if you know who you are then it should faze you much less. How can you change who you are?
Not everyone is going to like you and accepting that fact is critical to the content creation game.
Millions of creators have come and gone because someone called them out on being fake or phoney. You can't deny your own life truths. And if you can't accept yourself then how can you expect others to?
When you know who you are then you know what you are good at. And when you stick to what you are good at creating content is very easy. Trying to produce something of quality outside of your expertise is painstaking. I don't recommend it to beginners.
When you know who you are then you know what you love. You'll be drawn to the niche that is meant for you.
But will you be able to listen to your intuition? Will you have the self-awareness to know which path to follow?
When you know who you are you aren't easily distracted from your mission. When you know who you are then it will be easy to run the marathon. When you know who you are money won't be to sole focus.
When people get into content purely to make money they try and take shortcuts and they never have the patience to see it through. Do you see how it all adds up?
Self-awareness provides you with your own truth.
What are you actually good it? What matters to you? What can you create content about for the next 20 years? Only you know this answer.
Do not just do what seems popular or effective in the moment. Because in 2-3 years everything will shift and be different and if you are going to be able to sustain that shift you will have to know yourself in the context we live in. It will be too confusing otherwise. While others adapt you will be left wondering.
Just because you become a content creator doesn't mean you'll make money. That's why there are 5 steps to this process. But knowing who you are at the beginning of all this will make it so the other 4 steps are very clear.
If you haven't started yet, or you have started and stopped, make sure you get a good grasp on this self-awareness stuff so that going forward things make sense are are sustainable long-term.
2. Finding Opportunity in the Noisy World of Content Creation
This is the step that you need to put a lot of thought into if you don't want to get lost in the sea of content out there. So many people are jumping into the world of content creation that it is getting pretty noisy out there.
Every minute of every day:
- Youtube creators are uploading 400 hours of new video content.
- Half a million tweets go out.
- 3 million+ Facebook posts are published.
- 45000+ photos are uploaded to Instagram.
Most of those stats are from 2016. Read more here.
That is why it is so critical to find your own niche and dominate it. If you can't be the best in your niche then you need to create a NEW niche.
Which may sound weird but that is how every niche was ever created.
It's also one of the 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing (a great book).
The law of division says that all categories eventually split into multiple sub-categories as the market develops an appetite for variety and alternatives.
- Computers became desktop and laptop.
- Automobiles became cars, trucks, RVs and minivans.
- Beer became light, draft, craft and non-alcoholic.
This will happen forever and always.
And in the content creation world it is critical you understand this. Because content creation is often just content marketing…90 %of the immutable laws will apply.
This is great news. Because if you have a passion for a subject all you need to do is niche down slightly and define your own genre.
There's more great news. Every month 30% of all Google searches have never been seen before. There is endless opportunity as the world turns and opens new content paths.
The tough part is having the belief in yourself to forge a new category. A lot of people will be nervous to define a new genre or niche. They will feel that no one will get them or understand the point of the newly formed niche. And yet this is essential to being the best in category.
By being first you have a huge head start.
By manifesting your own lane, there will be no competition. This is what so many popular content creators have done to be succesful.
Remind yourself now that it's a marathon, not a sprint.
The sprinter looks at what currently exists and tries to arbitrage it in a way to make a quick buck. Oh fidget spinners are popular lets sell those. Oh meme pages are so hot, lets make one.
But it's almost always too late.
Yes you can have some success in fast-following, but if you want to sustain this as a life long career then fast-following is not the answer. You'll constantly be switching what you do instead of honing a craft. You'll always be chasing and pandering rather than staying patient and building something huge.
In my experience the average amount of time it takes to establish a career in content creation is 3-5 years depending on your talent and skill. Can it be done in 12 months? Yes, but it is not the norm.
I find it interesting that people want to become a content creator because its one of the best jobs in the world and yet they hear it takes 3-5 years are are completely shocked and put off.
And then they go to university for 4 years and spend $50000 without blinking? It's mind-blowing actually.
This is the problem with living by convention rather than by principles.
If you are letting other people tell you what works and what path to follow, before you know it you can be in a job you hate and under a pile of debt.
If you took step 1 seriously, then this shouldn't be a problem. If you know you are meant to be a content creator of some sort then you won't be distracted by the external voices in your life. You will know that one day your destiny will be to create content for a living and you will happily grind for 3-5 years and then live then next 20-60 years without working a day in your life.
Once you have an idea of your niche, the one you think you can dominate – you begin to consider the platforms and the type of content you want to create.
3. Determine the right content types and platforms best suited for you.
Creating content that is aligned with who you are is always the right thing to do. The hard part is determining where to distribute that content.
If you are an artist your work is your truth. Never let a platform or your audience dictate your truth or the work that is meaningful to you.
But if you desire to make money or grow your audience then finding the context in which to place your work is absolutely critical. It is here that you go from artist or creator to business person.
You are not just creating, you are distributing.
In the past the movie director would make the movie and then Fox or Disney would take care of the distribution (and most of the profits).
Now we have the power to do both. Platforms like Facebook, Youtube, Pinterest, Twitter, Snapchat, Musical.ly and many others provide us with unlimited distribution for no cost at all.
This is the incredible turning point you have to understand. Before you were at the mercy of gatekeepers who decided what was distribution worthy. This is no longer the case.
The classic 3 types of content you can produce are: Text, Audio and Video.
In the past we had newspapers and magazines, radio shows, television and movies.
Now we have blog posts, podcasts, videos and vlogs.
The former used to cost millions of dollars to produce. The latter is essentially free.
Times have changed drastically and now we have unlimited opportunity to fulfill our lives as content creators and the ability to choose freedom from jobs we aren't completely aligned with.
If you feel that you are only capable of producing the written word and blog posts, then you can form your strategy based from there. You will have less options, but that won't matter because you need to focus on your strengths.
There is no point looking into Youtube if you don't think you have any interest in producing videos. You'll simply focus on generating organic search traffic via articles on your website or Medium.com blog.
However, if you feel that you could potentially try all three: written words, audio and video – then you have a lot of options to choose from as to where and how you want to distribute your work.
Even if you are a painter, you will want to create content around your work in the form of a blog post (categorizing your work, setting a title, writing a description) so that people can find your work through relevant search queries.
Even if you are a filmmaker, you should create podcasts discussing the nature of your work, why you do it, how you do it. You should Interview people who care about films also and bring more context to the value and relevancy of your work.
Even if you are a music DJ, you should create videos of yourself in the process and write articles that share your favorite beat makers.
Because distribution is not the same as the creative content itself. There is essentially two forms of content being created here.
The primary work (which may or may not be free) and the contextual media surrounding the primary work which helps attract more interested eyeballs.
When a blockbuster movie is created, there is an enormous amount of contextual media that is created around it to generate buzz and ultimately movie ticket revenue. They create posters, newspaper articles, magazine ads, TV reviews – it goes on and on.
Are you getting a sense of how this all works?
Your work is your work. But the where and the how you distribute that work is absolutely essential to growth and success. Master both and you will live in abundance forever.
My advice is to try everything and see what sticks. You really won't know if you enjoy vlogging unless you do it for a few months. You won't know how good you are at interviews and podcasts unless you record 10 episodes. These things all take time and certainly a heavy dose of trial and error.
Let's break down a few of the major platforms.
Facebook Fan Pages
Facebook is still the biggest social platform in the world with nearly 2 billion users. They have the best ad platform. They do not restrict the type of content you produce. You can write as much as you want, you can upload native video, you can run live streams, you can post pictures and stories.
There is absolutely no reason to not have a Facebook fan page. In fact its a great place to post and share everything you've ever done and worked on.
Facebook is still one of the best platforms to go viral with its powerful share features.
Yes the algorithm has changed. Yes organic reach has dwindled. But there is still a thriving community on Facebook in nearly every niche.
If anything, you should have a slick fan page so that when you enter Facebook groups you have a bit more credibility when people look you up.
YouTube is the second biggest search engine in the world after Google (who happens to own Youtube).
Enormous amounts of potential despite the number of creators who have flocked to this platform. If you can find the white space and opportunity then you will absolutely love YouTube. People binge watch here. Communities are powerful. A great place to siphon attention and drive traffic back to your website.
Many businesses have been built out of a thriving Youtube channel. Just start uploading. You never know what will stick. Don't tell anyone. Try different types of videos.
You aren't going to see much results immediately but if you stick with it I guarantee you'll continue to see growth.
There is a lot to YouTube in terms of algorithms and search engine optimization.
Picking a keyword that people are searching for and then using it in the title of the video and the description is critical. If you aren't putting out content that people are searching for then it will be hard to be found. But if you can hone in on some pain points and optimize your videos to show up for those search queries you will grow.
The secondary keys are having a great thumbnail for your video. So key.
You also need to use tags so you show up in related videos. That is one thing people don't really realize. Even if someone isn't searching for what you put out, but your content is relevant to a similar search, you will often show up on the sidebar for the user to watch next. Most views come from related videos.
A common strategy is to make a reaction video or a reply video to an already popular video. Those videos are very likely to show up in the related search sidebar. There is no limit to what you can do with reaction and reply videos.
There is endless amounts of information on how to grow a youtube channel out there. But starting is the real key. If you find your passion on Youtube then you will naturally seek out every answer you need to grow your channel.
There is no particular platform for a podcast. You can upload your audio file (Mp3) to a lot of different places. Of course its common to upload to iTunes, but people also use Soundcloud and even YouTube to host their podcasts.
The power of podcasting is that it can be consumed passively.
You can listen to a podcast while you clean, while you work out, while you drive.
There is a lot more space in people's lives to add a podcast to. There isn't nearly as much room for articles and videos – which require a lot more attention resources.
Podcasts also don't go viral due to their long form and in-depth nature. However, podcasts provide your audience with a lot more depth and value if they are truly interested in your content.
I highly recommend you start a podcast, but make sure you don't let what already exists dictate how you produce it. There are no rules. There are certainly opportunities to produce 2-minute podcasts just as there are opportunities for 4-hour podcasts.
A podcast doesn't even have to be an interview or have any real structure. You can combine music and voice. You can get really creative as long as you understand your audience's desires. Maybe its a podcast to help people fall asleep. Maybe its a podcast that read's old books or literature. Do a podcast about podcasts if you can't think of anything. Endless possibilities to fill people's ears.
I didn't mention it above but these platforms can ultimately become your core product as well. I said before that you are trying to create content to bring context to your primary work. But for many people the contextual stuff becomes the primary work. People love the detailed documentation of content in and of itself.
You can monetize this content so easily that you may find you just want to create episodic material for your audience on an on-going basis. You start a Patreon account where people can support you for $5 a month or more. You can get a show sponsor or two as well.
So even though I said there are two forms of content: primary and contextual, they can ultimately merge and become the same.
Many people have started blogs and been discouraged because no one reads them. They spend hours commenting on other blogs hoping to get noticed. Maybe they do a little SEO to improve search traffic but their work just isn't well suited for SEO due to their niche and writing style (probably not true).
So the great thing about Medium is that there is already a huge community of people who like to read articles. You can get found on Medium.com much easier than on your own domain.
The power play however, is to post on your own blog and then upload the same content to Medium a week later. You wan't google to index your website first to avoid confusion about duplicated content and which came first. But there is no real harm to simply reposting your work on Medium and include links in your post that siphon people back into your blog. If they like what they see on Medium they may browse your other work on your website.
This is simple stuff. Go on medium and search your primary keywords you target for your business or content and see what seems to be popular there. Its also easier to share a medium.com post on other platforms rather than your own personal domain as it has more credibility for whatever reason.
The be-all-end-all of current-day social media and Influencer marketing. Instagram is the place to be in 2018. But who knows how long that will last. Instagram has grown at an incredible pace especially since they ‘stole' the Snapchat stories idea and actually improved upon it.
Instagram has the perfect combination of curation and creation. It has long-term content saved in the feed and short-term disappearing content in the stories (which can also now be saved in highlighted stories – awesome feature).
Not going to lie, its hard to grow an Instagram account these days as people have adopted their favorite creators already and have less room for new people to follow. But it is still possible IF your content is on point.
Quality content is always key. You can't get away with spamming images anymore.
Do some research on other accounts and how they build their following, how they engage and how they tell their story.
One thing you won't be able to see is how they market. Perhaps they buy or trade for shout outs. Perhaps they hustle traditional media outlets for some PR and articles about them. Their may be more to their growth than you can see..
I would be very cautious about doing anything shady on Instagram. Reddit is filled with stories about shadow banning from over usage of hashtags. Do not repeat the same 30 hashtags image after image. You may get shadow banned.
Don't buy followers. Ever.
That will end in disaster. Smart people can tell from a mile away because you have all these “followers” but no one likes or comments on your posts.
Don't use tools that automate engagement – they don't work anymore like they used to and people hate getting spammed. Automation marketing always works in the beginning but then there is a price to be paid if you get caught or your engagement is low that the algorithm punishes you.
The way Instagram works now is that if people aren't liking your post in the first hour, then it doesn't get shown to the rest of your followers. There is a demand for “feed space”.
Because people follow 100-1000 people now, there is only so much room in the feed. Combine that with the growing amount of paid ads (one in every 4-5 photos), if your content isn't legit you simply won't get the reach you want or think you deserve. It's rarely the algorithm at fault its the quality of your content that needs to be audited.
And since this is another free platform, you really don't have much recourse if you aren't pleased with the algo.
There are always new and emerging platforms
One thing to be considered is the saturation of these platforms. It's all about supply and demand. A lot of people want to be famous Youtubers and Instagram influencers now, but each day that passes means more creators are signing up and competing for the attention of the consumer.
You may want to consider the emerging platforms in alternative. It's like buying beach front property. There is a first-mover advantage.
A lot of people will scoff at this idea because they don't see the opportunity. They want what others have. They want to make $5000 from a sponsored post. They want to collaborate with the biggest Youtube stars – but so does everyone else.
You are a media company, this is a business.
You need to understand the cost of the attention you are seeking. Yes there are more users on Instagram than Snapchat, but there are also 10x more creators to compete with.
Designing your content marketing strategy around the price of attention is critical. Part of seeking new opportunity is taking risks on things other people have yet to do.
Wouldn't it have been great to start your Youtube channel in 2007?
The same thing is going to happen in many other places but you have to be willing to risk the time (and money?) on emerging opportunities rather than flocking with the rest of the wannabes. Don't be a wannabe. Have a clear strategy in mind as to how you plan to get people's attention and that means knowing where you can and can't make an impact.
And I'll just end this section by saying the opposite. If you are destined to be on Youtube or a famous Snapchatter – then put in the work and be patient. It takes an average of 4-6 years to truly accomplish anything online. And it is always an exponential experience. Once you hit 10000 followers which may take 3 years, the next 10000 will come in 3 months.
That's the networking effect in action. All of the platforms have ways to recommend you to other users and as you grow so will your viral quotient (the increase in rate of growth).
There's no right answer. That's why you have to know who you are to know where you belong. And that's why you have to seek white space and own your niche so you don't succumb to the massive saturation effects of social media.
4. Create content in your niche with the purpose of helping others and bringing value to their lives
Every year millions of blogs, vlogs and podcasts are created. And every year millions of blog, vlogs and podcasts are abandoned and given up on.
Most people get started and realize that it is quite difficult to attract an audience. It takes time and skill. Most people don't have the patience.
Some people think they are great writers and producers and get frustrated that no one reads or watches their stuff – “but lots of other garbage gets tons of views”.
The insight here is that although the internet has become the great equalizer it is not an automatic win for everyone who enters the online arena.
Why did Google.com become the number one most visited website in the world and a billion dollar business? Because it helps people save immense time like no other company.
Search Engine technology like the Google PageRank Algorithm has changed the world. Why? Because people have a lot of problems in their lives and they want to solve them – enter Search.
Search allows us to quickly and easily find answers to our problems and pains. Google changed the face of the industry with PageRank – an algorithm designed to show the most relevant webpages for the users query first.
Remember Altavista? That was one the very first search engines to have any prominence, same with Yahoo, AOL, AskJeeves and many others you probably don't even recall today. Google has dominated. When you used to use Altavista you'd have to click through multiple pages of listings to find something relevant.
With Google that is no longer the case.
Google has been able to verify the relevancy of webpages shown for a user query using hundreds of different algorithmic factors.
Typically the #1 ranked webpage is the best. And because of the the top 3 ranked webpages get almost half the click-through traffic after a keyword query has been searched.
SEO or search engine optimization came to be because people realized that they could create webpages in a certain way that would rank you higher in the search engine ranking pages. Essentially “gaming” the system. But over time Google has been able to reduce the effectiveness of SEO such that you also need quality alongside of optimization.
SEO is still alive and will always be as long as we use algorithms.
Because an algorithm is just a set of rules run by a computer. But now those rules have ways to determine quality for the reader. Social shares are now a ranking factor. People don't share hyper-optimized articles – they share quality.
So what does this all really mean?
People search Instagram for inspiration. Will you be there?
People search Youtube for instruction. Will you be there?
People search Amazon for products. Will you be there?
People search Google for answers. Will you be there?
It means that if you want to have success in the online world you need to appear at the top of search engines when people are looking to solve their problems.
You have to become keyword oriented without sacrificing readability or content quality. I'm going to mostly refer to articles in this section but it applies just as much to Youtube and videos as well.
If you want to grow a business online or become a content creator you need to root your strategy in search, but in a more macro sense – problem solving.
BTW, If you haven't noticed the keyword for this article is “how to become a content creator”. You might note that the keyword shows up a fair amount, but it really is small potatoes compared to the quality and value this post offers.
What problems can You help people solve? How can you translate Your knowledge and experience into content that serves to help people.
If you can grasp this concept you are guaranteed to win.
Look at this recipe for success:
A passionate person figures out who they are, what they love and what they know.
They look for places where they can apply them self in white space with lower competition by creating their own category or dominating one that already exists because it has low supply and high demand.
They choose the most relevant and contextual platforms that suit their skill set and contain the audience which is interested in their niche.
They they orient their content and optimize it such that people in the niche can find it easily while searching on Google, Youtube or other search engines.
If you are the best at solving a problem out of all other people on the internet you can do extremely well. This is a simple freedom formula.
Self-Awareness + White space + Search Minded + Quality Content = A ton of traffic, a growing audience and thriving online business that helps people.
Just take a step back. If you want to make money online then you need to help people.
Whether you are solving their immediate problems or providing them the escapism they desire — you need to give.
And if you give enough you'll be able to ask for something in return. A subscription, a product purchase, a Patreon pledge, a Kickstarter funding – endless possibilities.
Every great business has brought value to its customers. There is no other way around it. So when you begin to create on content creation strategy make sure your purpose is to help others in some way before you help yourself otherwise you'll be just another one of the millions who give up expecting success to be handed to them.
5. Monetize appropriately based on your niche, skill and goals.
The reason you are reading this is because you desire the freedom and lifestyle the content creation world has to offer.
If only you can find a way to make $1-5000 a month simply from creating content – you'll be set. And you are right. That is the whole point of all this.
You want to make a living doing what you love.
Whether its writing blog posts about camera gear, making Instagram photos of cupcakes or talking about baseball on a sports podcast – the internet has given us all an opportunity to make a living from the comfort of our own home doing what we love.
It is so damn exciting!
So lets finish off this monster post with some thoughts about monetization.
When you create content you create a magnetic pull towards you. If you are good enough and distributing your content in the right channels you will attract an audience as well as other creators who respect you and want to work with you.
The internet has a unique way of bringing like-minds together. Because when you are search oriented you will typically focus on a small set of keywords and topics.
As you produce more content and better content, the magnet gets stronger and stronger. More people are attracted to your website because of one word – VALUE. They find that it is worth their time to consume your content and give you their attention.
Once your magnetism gets to a certain point (ie. traffic if growing) you'll want to leverage that traffic and monetize your platforms. This is a natural progression for all content creators.
You don't want to monetize too early or else you'll be telling people you are only in it for the money. And that is contrary to step 4, which is to create content as a service for others.
Let's start off really simple. Once you have traffic then you have awareness. Once you have awareness you may pose an offer. Then there will be consideration and a certain percentage of users will take action (or convert as we say in digital marketing).
The name of the game is traffic and conversions. There is nothing else to it. You drive traffic with high-quality free content and then you attempt to convert the traffic with a well-positioned offer.
If you followed all the steps the conversion rate will be much higher. Why?
Because you will be more authentic with your offer via self-awareness.
You will stand out in your category and hopefully be the best at what you do because you sought the white space or blue ocean (as opposed to the bloody red waters filled with competition).
You will be relevant and contextual to the platforms you reside in.
And you will be providing a real service and real value to those you make the offer to.
It isn't rocket science. It is simply reverse engineering the nature of the internet and how people solve their problems.
If you are unique, provide real value and have low competition – you are destined for online success as a content creator and ultimately business owner. Content creation is a business. Your media is the product.
Quick lesson on business building:
There are 3 ways to make money – Sell Products. Sell Services. Sell Advertising.
There are 3 ways to grow your business revenues – Add new customers. Sell new products to existing customers. Raise prices.
Let's keep those in mind as we talk further about monetization.
Tactical Monetization Methods
So now that you have a better understanding of the philosophy of monetization lets review some methods that have worked for others in the recent past.
I say recent past, because 7-10 years ago Adsense was the number one way to make money online. Pump articles and slap Google Ads on your website. This is basically a dead industry for most content creators except for a few special cases. People just don't click ads like they used to. Users have become ad blind especially to Google Ads and banners ads.
So what is popular now?
Without a doubt for content creators of many forms – Patreon is the first place to investigate. In short, Patreon provides multi-tier payments for creators to offer their fans something small in return for a monthly subscription.
I like Patreon because there are no real requirements to make use of it. How much you ask from people is simply relative to what you offer and the value of that content. It's great because it is a monthly subscription as well. Patreon allows you to sell digital (or real) products to fans who want to support you on a monthly basis. Of course they can leave anytime but if you are providing value why would they? Patreon is a great way to get new customers in the door for a low price point. It acts as a great tripwire (a low cost product designed to convert a lead into a paying customer). And Patreon allows you to offer high-priced and exclusive items as well. And let's not forget some people want to support you without anything in return!
For video creators, YouTube has Adsense built into the platform. You can earn simply up uploading videos. You'll get about $2 for every 1000 views (average CPM, cost per mille). But to be honest it has become a lot harder to earn a living off pure Adsense. You need so many views in such a competitive platform. And recently, due to shifts in YouTube's policy, many videos no longer qualify for monetization.
This is a great time to mention one of my favorite blog posts of all time – 1000 True Fans by Kevin Kelly (Click the link now for a new tab and read it directly after this post).
It essentially tells you that in the modern age you only need 1000 True Fans for massive success.
Forget about one million subscribers or followers, thinking that big at the start will only frustrate you. Instead spend the next 3-5 years slowly acquiring your true fans – who will buy everything you create – and success is only a matter of time.
So given that, how should a Youtuber monetize their channel?
Again start with Patreon as a simple solution. But from there you are probably going to go down the path of either sponsorship (selling advertising), offering a relevant service based on your content or my personal favorite – selling a digital product.
Digital products are amazing. Typically they are educational, but infotainment is also in the mix. Digital products have changed my life. Digital product have 100% profit margins, require no inventory or holding space and can be discounted when necessary as a part of the powerful online sales funnel.
Let's jump into some Online Sales Funnel concepts.
This post has mostly been about traffic acquisition. Getting attention from other platforms by putting out content.
But once you have the attention, you want to push people into your sales funnel or ecosystem.
There are four key components to a sales funnel which correspond to the purchase path I mentioned earlier: awareness, interest, consideration and action.
They four components are: Lead magnets, Tripwires, Core Products and Profit Maximizers.
I won't go into too much detail in this post about sales funnels but will quickly outline these product types.
A lead magnet is just what it sounds like – it is a simple digital product that is designed to attract your ideal customer or “lead”, someone who will potentially buy your other products and services.
A lead magnet is typically given away for free in exchange for an email address. It has been this way for years and is still that way today. It works. A micro transaction many people have come to accept as fair.
When you get someone's email address you no longer have to communicate to them through other platforms like Facebook, Youtube or Instagram.
This is mission critical because you own your email list.
No one can take your email list from you. No one can ban you, hack you or delete your account. Social platforms are known to die or shut down (Vine, MySpace, Socialcam, Flickr, and countless others have lost user interest or gone broke).
You don't ever want to rely on a single platform for your business – that is absolute suicide. That is why getting the email address is mission critical.
But that's not all. Even though email open rates have declined steadily, they are still the best way to sell to warm leads and interested parties.
Email is cheap and provides a consistent experience for your customer through the use of autoresponders.
An autoresponder software such as Mailchimp allows you to add email addresses to lists and then send out emails based on when they were added. So every user gets the same emails sent to them in a consistent manner. You can then analyze your email reports to see which emails are the most effective in achieving your goal whether that be sales or traffic.
Not every email sells something, in fact only 10-20% of your emails should sell anything. Why? Because you want to increase your open rate and if you only sell through email people will stop caring and unsubscribe. But if you keep them interested by sending them more high-quality content based on their interests then they will be happy and grateful.
That is why the lead magnet is so important. It defines the beginning of the relationship. You know what they want.
They downloaded your lead magnet which should get straight to the point of what you offer (products or services). The lead magnet should be a bite-sized value exchange, a taste of what you really have to offer.
A great lead magnet works seamlessly with your content creation by being hyper-valuable, easy to digest and relevant to your overall value proposition.
Let's say you sell craft beer. You have a podcast and a vlog about the craft beer industry. Then don't make your lead magnet about wine. It would be something like “10 Things Every Craft Beer Enthusiast Needs to Know to Impress their Friends” – bite-sized, relevant, valuable (questionable in this simple example).
Don't rush your lead magnet as it is a very important conversion point in the funnel. Get it right and you can change the outcome of your business.
Trips Wires Turn Leads into Customers
The next is the Trip Wire which I mentioned earlier. The trip wire simply is a low-cost offer to get people used to spending money with you. Once they open their wallet once, they are much more likely to do it again for higher-priced items. They have more trust built. Trust and confidence is huge in the online marketing world.
About 6000 words ago I told you that creating content builds reputation. If you have great content you are much more likely to have built that trust with your audience.
Trip wires should be seen as extraordinary valuable. Because the sole goal is to get the first purchase, you often want to give a lot more than you are asking for. Prices range from $1-$30.
Core products are the bread and butter of your business.
The most common core product in an online sales funnel is a digital course teaching you how to achieve a specific outcome which is related to the niche you are in and problems you claim to solve.
There is no price range here. Value is value. But I will say you should always begin your strategic thinking as a luxury product. Why start low-cost when you are (or should be) in a white space with little competition. If you are the best your price should reflect that.
Don't offer too many discounts. In fact I prefer my clients to never offer a discount because users get used to it and are adept at waiting for these occasions. Don't give them chance, if anything create more exclusivity by closing your offers and making them for a limited time only. Don't give them a single reason to wait.
Finally I'll mention the profit maximizer. If you want a six or sever figure business you need to figure out your profit maximzer. This product type has massive margins, high-perceived value and requires little to no cost (time or resources) to produce.
Digital products are often also profit maximizers. But profit maximizers are also often seen as “up-sells”.
When are user makes a purchase they are very interested and already taking action in your funnel – what a great time to offer them something even better.
You won't see a lot of profit maximizers because they aren't offered publicly. They are offered to a very specific customer in your funnel. Many businesses make the most of their money from 20% of their clients. The pareto 80/20 principle. 80% of your revenue comes from 20% of your client base. Profit maximizers need to be timely and in order to be effective must truly understand the pain of the customer.
Example Sales Funnel for an Content Marketing Agency:
- The Blog talks about tips and tricks for traffic acquisition
- The Lead Magnet about the “10 best ways to drive traffic in 2018” (Email Optin)
- The Trip Wire is a Time Saving Writing Template ($19)
- The Core Product is Digital Course on Mastering the 5 types of Web Traffic ($247)
- The Profit Maximizer is a do it for you SEO and Content Marketing Service ($5000). Which you outsource to your highly trained team for 30 cents on the dollar.
The customer may just want traffic to their website and not have time to learn or execute the plan themselves, in pops the profit maximizer.
Now that was just an example I came up with in 5 minutes. It may not be even effective. But if you are really tuned into your audience you will get feedback and comments as your produce content that serves them and you will figure out what they really want – from these you can design a great product set and sales funnel.
Every successful content creator has also become adept at creating their own sales funnel. They know what products to create. They know how to generate more traffic. Having a sales funnel is simply the best way to build a scale-able and sustainable business.
I could go on about getting people to sponsor your content but it just isn't as predictable or easy to acquire as it is to build a simple sales funnel. Not everyone will be able to create content that attracts millions of readers or viewers.
If you are self-aware you might realize you want to create content around your passion for espresso or vintage cars. These markets are small but if you want to do this for life you better pick something you really are passionate for. We don't always get to choose what we are passionate about – sometimes it chooses us.
Remember this isn't about making a fortune, it's about finding freedom.
You won't necessarily be able to create a top 100 tech and business podcast like Tim Ferriss or Gary Vaynerchuk.
You won't necessarily be able to create a multi-million subscriber makeup Youtube channel like Michelle Phan.
You won't necessarily be able to grow that big based on who you are and where you are at.
But who cares?! You have to do You.
That is why step one is so important. We don't need another Tim Ferriss or Michelle Phan, in fact, trying to emulate them will result in failure 99% of the time.
Let them inspire you, but don't copy – find your own magic. That is the secret to all of this. It's not the strategy or tactics, its knowing who you are so that you can confidently go forward in the face of all adversity.
When people don't believe in you or your idea, you know you have to forge ahead anyways – because that's just who you are.
And let me tell you, if you just want to live a happy life doing what you love – $75000 a year is a ton of money. Forget 10 million a year, arbitrary numbers like that will kill your motivation when you aren't even close after two years.
But if you are chasing freedom, happiness and passion – you'll have endless energy and a life that you love.
Let's Summarize how to become a content creator AND make money in 2018.
- Get clear that the time is now to become a content creator. You aren't the only one who wants it so you need a strategy and you need to start now.
- Dive deep into who you really are, stop pretending or living outside of reality. You can't fake it til you make it anymore. You will be exposed.
- Find the white space. Don't jump into saturated markets just because other people are making it look easy, they have first-mover advantage.
- Pick the right platforms and content types based on your skill-set.
- Become search oriented so you can help people who are seeking answers to their problems. Show up and you'll be kept up.
- Listen to your audience and build a sales funnel, start a Patreon and monetize wholesomely – don't just slap up ads and expect anything. Bring value!
That's it. That's my entire philosophy on successful content creation and the business dynamics around it. I hope this brought you a lot of value and insight.
May your content creator journey be sustainable, scale-able and successful! This is your life and it's short, so don't miss out on the greatest opportunity to be happy and free.