How to make money online

getting started monetization May 08, 2024

Each evening I have a habit that I indulge in.  Before the end of the night, I make a point to check my email to see how much income my online platforms earned that day.  My payment processor sends me emails each evening with that information.  Sometimes it’s a little.  Sometimes it’s a lot.  But whatever the amount happens to be, I’m grateful because I know how it feels to be tight on funds.  I’m sure that’s a feeling we’ve all become acquainted with at some point in our lives.  Maybe that’s how you’re feeling right now.

Monetization is a popular subject with those who create digital content and various forms of media.  When I attend various conferences related to podcasting and other forms of media, the monetization workshops are typically the sessions with the best attendance.  This is an area of intense curiosity, and at times it’s also an area of frustration particularly if you haven’t yet figured out how to monetize your online platform.

I still remember my early days of creating online content.  Frequently I would say to my wife, “I feel like there’s a piece to this puzzle that I’m still missing.”  I was interested in earning an income from the content I was creating, but I wasn’t sure how to go about it, and the thought of my online income replacing the income I earned from traditional forms of employment felt quite elusive, but now that I understand how it can be done, I’ll be happy to share an overview of what I’ve learned.

When I speak of the 5 D’s of online platform development, I often discuss the process of deriving your income last because it’s nearly impossible to earn a steady online income if you don’t have a healthy foundation in place.  You need to discover your message, deliver your content, develop your tribe, and deploy your team before you’ll be able to derive substantial income and consistent revenue streams.  It literally pays to do the foundational work correctly if you plan on earning a lasting income from your creative work.

And if you’re still wrestling with whether or not you should attempt to earn an income from your creative content at all, let me remind you why I think it’s a good idea in most cases to do so.  First of all, if you earn an income from the work you’re doing online, you’ll most likely be able to devote more time to creating the kind of content you’re creating because you’ll be able to reduce the hours you devote to other forms of employment.  Secondly, I think you’ll find it easier to develop new forms of content if your mind isn’t worried about where your next paycheck is going to come from.

With that said, let me take a few moments to offer you a monetization framework that can help you get started if you’re ready to monetize your online platform.  There is a lot more that can be said about each of the suggestions I’m about to offer, but this framework is a healthy starting point.

There are several primary ways to earn an income online through a message-based platform.  Each of the options I’m about to suggest will become more accessible to you as you build your online authority.

1.  Crowdfunding:  Crowdfunding is an excellent place to begin, particularly if you’re serving a faith-based or non-profit audience.  You don’t need a product to sell or a complicated infrastructure to manage.  All you need is a way to message your audience regularly and a tool that allows people to express their appreciation for your content by supporting it financially.

I presently use, Patreon, PayPal, and Stripe to process various forms of crowdfunding.  In the early days of my online platform, this was one of the primary ways I funded my expenses.  I still remember encouraging my podcast audience to chip in just $1.00 per month to help me cover my costs.  To their credit, that’s exactly what some of them did, and many continue to do so.

2.  Self-publishing:  Self-publishing is another great means of monetization.  When you self-publish short (or long) books on your preferred topic (usually through Amazon’s KDP program), you’re creating content that gives you the opportunity to earn ongoing royalties for the rest of your life.  This was one of the first things I learned to do, and because Amazon was generous in its pay structure, I started earning a decent amount pretty early in the process.  That encouraged me to continue writing and releasing new content.  They key was to produce books on subjects that my audience was genuinely interested in (not just something I felt like writing about).  

3.  Coaching:  Coaching can be a very lucrative way to earn a steady income online.  Please keep in mind, however, that your ability to gain clients will be directly tied to your authority and visibility in your field of expertise.  If no one knows about you and they can’t find a body of work or a series of interviews that highlights what you do, don’t expect to earn income through coaching right away.  If you want to gain authority and visibility rather quickly, I would encourage you to create a YouTube channel and release a 5 to 10-minute video every single day.

4.  Other services:  Additionally, you can offer other services via your platform that can be digitally delivered.  I know people who offer editing services, book formatting services, and design services online.  For some, this has become their primary source of income.

5.  Affiliate relationships:  Affiliate relationships are also a great way to earn revenue from your online platform.  Affiliates are people or companies that pay you a commission to recommend their products to your audience.  Amazon Associates is a popular affiliate option, but there are many companies who offer affiliate opportunities.  People you know personally can also be a great source of affiliate revenue.  For example, several of the courses I offer on my website are courses that were created by others who pay me a commission whenever their courses sell through my website.

6.  Courses:  Creating your own courses can be another excellent source of income, particularly because this is work that you do once that can become an ongoing source of revenue.  Courses have value.  You can charge a decent amount for an online course.  It isn’t unheard of to charge hundreds or even thousands for courses that can be digitally delivered.

7.  Memberships:  Online memberships are also a fantastic way to serve your audience and earn a steady, predictable income at the same time.  The keys to making them involve solving real problems, creating a positive culture, and working together as a team.  Hosting a membership is a delightful experience as long as you’re willing to be a leader and you’re eager to both help other people succeed AND celebrate their success along the way.

8.  Advertising:  I’m mentioning advertising last because it’s typically the first thing people think about when it comes to monetizing your platform, but as I just demonstrated, there are many other ways to monetize.  Just the same, advertising can be a fantastic revenue generator.  I receive advertising revenue from multiple sources and I’m always happy to get it.  Just the other day, I received a check for several thousand dollars in monthly advertising revenue from my primary advertisers.  They were very happy with the exposure they received via my platform, and I was certainly happy to be compensated for my efforts.

I’m very selective about who I allow to advertise on my platforms, and I would encourage you to be selective as well.  You never want to compromise the integrity of your message no matter how much advertising revenue gets dangled in front of your face.

These are some of the main ways online platforms can be monetized, and each one of these options is worth considering.  I have had great success using crowdfunding, self-publishing, coaching, affiliates, courses, memberships, and advertising to earn regular streams of recurring online income, and I believe you can do the same provided that you have all 5 D’s of your platform in place, you’re consistently creating helpful content on a weekly basis, and you’re building authority and visibility by showing up on your platform and the platforms of others.

© John Stange, 2024

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