Making a Living as a Content Creator in 2021?
Making a living as a creator requires time, good planning, strategy, knowing your audience, and crafting great pieces of content. Dos and Don'ts of Content Monetization
If you are struggling with that question, the short answer would be that you need to start thinking like a small business and start creating content with intention; monetization comes after. Anyone can make a living out of creating content in less than one year.
Spoiler alert! I will not be writing about magical formulas or how to achieve overnight success. Instead, I will share what I consider best practices and a good content monetization strategy.
Making a living as a creator requires time, good planning, strategy, knowing your audience, and crafting great pieces of content.
If you are interested in the long answer, then keep reading.
Ad-Rev share is overrated but much appreciated.
The most usual way to monetize content is through ads being displayed in front of your content. YouTube is a good example of it. The platform actually thrives by sharing revenue. It is, in my opinion, the reason why the platform is still alive today and holds the undefeated champion title when it comes to video content distribution.
There’s also AdSense from Google, which is also used by YouTube creators. Through AdSense, you can easily monetize your blog or website if it fits your content, and you are not easily bothered by disruptive ads on your site.
But when it comes to YouTube, there seems to be a misconception around how much money can be made by creating content on the platform. There were days in the past where you were able to solely make a living out of YouTube ads, but not anymore. The amount of money you can make on the platform will depend on a few key factors.
Your Demographics: depending on your views, some countries will pay a higher CPM (cost per mile) than other countries for the right reasons. So if you live in the US and your audience is in Latin America, your ad-rev share revenue will be extremely low due to exchange rates. But works the other way around if you live in Latin America and most of your viewers are in the US, Canada, and Europe.
Your Content Vertical: it’s well known that some content performs better than others. For example, finance-related content has a higher CPM and RPM than any other content. Especially now and during the past year or so. Art, photography, or video content is also good, but RPM might be lower when it goes to technology or lifestyle. This has to do with the fact of the viewer profile and the advertisement by interests.
Your community: it’s obvious, but the viewership will be crucial to the revenue you can generate every month with your content. So it’s key that you pay attention to your metrics and insights.
All of the above makes it extremely difficult for a creator to make a living out of YouTube ads only. Even when you see big creators making good money from ad-share revenue, you need to think that they have a full team producing content. That team is under a salary, and I’m betting that YouTube ads revenue does not even cover the rent in most cases.
If you want to check how much creators make on YouTube, you can use SocialBlade to look. I would say that it’s quite accurate. But if you want to do it yourself, a “good” RPM (revenue per mil) can go from is 3 EUR to even 12 EUR. So if you have 100K views a month, you can easily be making 300 EUR to 1.200 a month. But getting to 100K views a month is not an easy task for most, and what’s most important is the potential those 100K views have beyond YouTube as a platform.
What I mean is, there are additional ways you can monetize those views. Following the example mentioned before, our aim with paak.io, the platform I co-founded, is to empower creators to add another monetization layer to increase the RPM. Paak will definitely shine when it comes to lifestyle and travel content. If you are a content creator, be sure to join our public beta.
Boosting Your Earnings with Affiliate Links
An extremely underrated way to monetize your content is through affiliate programs. The most famous one out there is Amazon affiliates. The misconception about affiliates is that it’s only for photographers or tech people. But the reality cannot be further away from the truth.
If we take the example I shared before about a 100K YouTube channel, the potential achievable revenue via an affiliate program at least doubles the amount of earning coming from YouTube ads. Hundreds, if not thousands of channels with 30K subscribers, are making more money than channels with 100K+ subscribers. And this is because of the opportunities arising from what joining an affiliate program brings.
Amazon is just one example, but most of the companies nowadays have some sort of affiliate program. You can join any affiliate program related to the products or services you use and share them with your audience.
Take every opportunity to use all the (“real estate”) text fields alongside your content or website to share those products or services you want to recommend to your audience. There’s nothing wrong if you get a cut on the sale, as you are adding value to others and at no additional cost to them.
Talk to Brands through your content.
Another way to increase your earnings is through brand deals. The downside of this option is that brands will approach you when they see that your content is getting traction, but mostly when they see that you produced content with a story that matches theirs.
When it comes to working with brands, having good data is super important to prove your value. It’s not only about the subscriber or followers you have, but it’s also about engagement and how your community resonates with you. This can be easily shown via your metrics.
Suppose you want to know more about this topic. In that case, I highly recommend you to read Brian’s post on “The importance of analytics and insights for the content creator — why it matters.” Brian is the co-founder of paak.io, and in the post, he shares some excellent reasons why content creators should pay more attention to their data.
The Power of Community — Paywalls and Tipping
Patreon opened the way for many to create a space where only those willing to pay a few bucks a month can go and enjoy extra content from their favorite creators. Anyone today can build up a community offering extra perks in exchange for a monthly subscription.
The idea is great, but it will not work for everyone. The problem with this kind of monetization alternative is that you need a huge following to translate it into a sustainable community. This is because platforms like Patreon are not easy to maintain; you need to create content constantly. So if you have 1K followers on YouTube and just created your Patreon, it won’t be a surprise that your only patrons are friends, family, or true fans. It kind of works the same with 10K or more. You have to put a lot of effort into attracting people to join the community and keep them subscribed with content once they are inside. Not an easy task, I assure you.
So if you are thinking of creating a Patreon page, plan it well. It needs to make sense for the viewer, not for you. What’s adding value to them, not to you. It’s not about you.
Alternatives as “Ko-Fi” are getting more popular these days; before, creators asked for tips via PayPal. Another similar platform is “Buy Me a Coffee.” They started a bit differently and incorporated some elements from Patreon into their model. I think it is a good tool if you don’t have the critical mass to build up a Patreon or can’t constantly produce content, mostly if you are already creating content for YouTube, Podcast, TikTok, etc.
Any of these platforms should make sense within an overarching strategy.
Suppose you are a YouTuber producing lifestyle content. In that case, you can offer extended behind-the-scenes, advice, some tips, or training behind the Patreon paywall. If you are into gaming, Patreon will give them access to Discord and some community gaming sessions. Or you can simply create a support tier for anyone to chip in if they enjoy your content somewhere else. But when it comes to training, courses, online classes, or “how to’s,” I wouldn’t recommend using Patreon.
The Student Becomes the Master.
If you have some teaching or knowledge you want to share with your community, the best way to do so is via a course. As I said before, Patreon is great when you have a huge community built. If you offer content inside that, it’s not available for your audience anywhere else. But suppose the content you create for Patreon is meant to teach people about something. In that case, you will soon realize that someone will join your Patreon, pay 10 EUR, and leave the next month after consuming all knowledge.
A better strategy is to pack your knowledge into themes, give those themes chapters and create a course, but distribute it outside Patreon at a higher price tag.
Most of you might be thinking, Skillshare. No, I’m not, as I don’t honestly believe that Skillshare fairly rewards the creators on the platform for their work and the effort behind the courses.
I would recommend building up a paywall on your own website; it’s super easy to do, as most website builders offer a community subscription function. Alternatively, you can create your course on Udemy. If you are ready for the big leagues, then apply to Domestika.
If you price your courses fairly, the revenue produced will be at least 3 times higher than offering the same content through Patreon or even YouTube for free. The downside is that you might need to have the full course ready all at once instead of slowly building it up through weeks or months. Except for Domestika, as they manage the full production.
Selling your stuff — products & services.
This is the most obvious way to go, and everyone can do it. If you are creating content, promote products or services, be sure that you have a clear message and don’t overdo it. The worst you can do is be selling all the time to your community.
When it comes to the best approach, depending on your product, there are many alternatives, but I always give the same advice. Build up your own website; instead of using those big marketplaces like Etsy, BigCartel, or Amazon, for that matter.
The reason is simple. Those sites are expensive in every sense of the word, commercially and from a branding perspective. They do not promote your work as you might think. For example, one might think that Etsy will make your product discoverable, and you’ll get more sales. The truth can not be further away from that. Etsy has enforced geofencing around all products. To push creators to either offer free shipping or pay for product positioning in search if you want them to showcase your product further rather than those surrounding yours.
Big marketplaces are also quite expensive, sometimes close to 15% between all the costs you pay, sale fees, payment fees, transfer fees, etc. Build up your own website; you can cover the cost with only a few sales. There are many extremely accessible solutions: Squarespace, Shopify, Wix, WordPress.org, WooCommerce, etc. But most importantly, every person you drive to your own site will remain in your ecosystem as a creator. They will not surf around buying someone else’s product. This is key
When it comes to digital products, my recommendation remains, build your own website. However, platforms for selling digital products normally allow integrations with most of the website solutions I mentioned above via API or some quick script. Gumroad is the perfect example; it’s a great site to sell digital goods. You can actually get discovered within their search results and have great support and extremely low cost per transaction. You can also use Shopify or Sellfy.
Content monetization is not a one-way street; it’s a coherent network of opportunities if planned well. Just be sure that you design that network to serve your content and audience, not the other way around.