Content creation has become a cash cow for many individuals, many of whom we know and follow. Think Jimmy Donaldson, aka MrBeast and his massive YouTube channel – or Charli D’Amelio, the highest-earning TikToker of 2022.
Now, while the big numbers may seem out of reach for many people, there are many ways to monetize your content, even without a large audience. In this article, we will explore how creators can monetize their content online and the steps they can take to be successful.
What is content monetization?
Content monetization is the process of earning income from content that you have created. This can include video/audio streaming, podcasting, blogging, and more. Content monetization allows you to create what you want and do what you love while also earning money. And because content creation allows you to reach a global audience, monetization means you can make money from people and brands worldwide.
Who can monetize their content?
Basically, anyone – but that’s not much of an answer.
Jay Clouse breaks the creator types we encounter nowadays into three buckets – creator-educators, creator-entertainers, and creator-edutainers.
Creator-educators (like James Clear) focus on content that teaches, creator-entertainers (like Emma Chamberlain) help people pass the time without necessarily teaching anything, and creator-edutainers strike a balance by teaching with an easy-to-consume format.
A great example of the latter is Tanner Leatherstein, who takes luxury items (often bags) apart on social media to show consumers what they’re getting for the amount they pay. While his content does educate viewers, most people tend to highlight in his comments that they couldn’t afford the bags anyway but watch because they’re curious. And they wouldn’t keep watching if the content wasn’t entertaining.
I would like to add one more bucket that’s been mentioned in my conversations with creators: creator-entrepreneurs. As defined by The Tilt, these are people who “create content to build a long-term, successful business (not as a hobby) with plans to build a loyal audience and then monetize that audience over time.”
5 ways to monetize your content
There are many ways in which creators can monetize their content online. Let’s explore some of the most popular methods.
Platforms and services
This category covers every platform you don’t own that can generate revenue for you as a creator. The most popular is YouTube, which gives creators a portion of the income generated from ads. Creators use their videos to gain views and subscribers and monetize them with advertisements and sponsorships. Ads are a great way for creators to make money, as they are paid per video view or per click on an ad. Platforms like TikTok and Instagram are harder to monetize because its harder to place ads on short videos, and all other forms of advertisement are more complex to navigate.
YouTube also offers sponsorship and crowdfunding options, providing creators with additional ways to monetize their content.
Twitch is another popular platform for creators to monetize their content. With Twitch, creators stream live videos of themselves and then monetize them through subscription-based ads and donations. Additionally, creators can use Twitch’s affiliate marketing program to promote products and services.
Patreon is a crowdfunding platform that allows creators to monetize their content. Creators can create a page on Patreon and allow their fans to support them financially through donations and recurring payments. In addition, Patreon allows creators to offer exclusive content to creators, such as video tutorials or even custom content for the Sims 4.
Last but not least, a popular option for writers is Substack, a newsletter-based platform that allows creators to monetize their content. By publishing their newsletters on Substack, creators can earn money from subscriptions and sponsorships. Additionally, Substack offers a “Pro” subscription option, which gives creators access to additional features such as customizable templates and advanced analytics.
You should also think big when it comes to the platforms where you publish your content. You'd be surprised at where you can get paid. For example, audio platforms like Spotify and its podcasting arm Anchor pay creators for their original content. So if you create original music, put it up on Spotify and earn money from streams. If you have a podcast and you publish through Anchor, you can make money from ads published within your podcast. The possibilities are endless.
In addition to the platforms and services mentioned above, creators can monetize their content by selling their own products. This can include physical items, such as t-shirts or mugs, or digital products, such as e-books or tutorials. With platforms like Shopify, creators can easily set up an online store and sell their products to a global audience.
This option is one of the most secure as it doesn’t require a large audience – but an engaged one. Following the idea of 1,000 True fans popularized by Kevin Kelly, if 1,000 people are willing to give you $100 for a product, you can make more money than most people make in their 9-5 within a month or even less. Even better is that if you put out a quality product, they will refer you to others, buy future products.
Steph Smith, who we interviewed for our series on personal branding Social Proof, is an example of this in practice. While she doesn’t have the largest audience as a creator, she has a highly engaged audience. Her book, Doing Content Right, which costs $150 has sold 4,519 times since its release in 2020.
The book isn’t for everyone, as it's focused on a specific niche of content marketers and creators, but its 5-star rating and great reception have equaled consistent sales well after its launch.
Affiliate marketing is another popular way for creators to monetize their content. Creators partner with companies to promote and sell their products. In return, they receive a commission for each sale made through affiliate links. This is a great way to monetize their content without creating any product. Popular sites for finding affiliate links include:
For more potential affiliate websites and a detailed breakdown of each one, check out this article.
Licensing your content
Creators can also make money by licensing their content. Through licensing, creators can sell the rights to their content to businesses and organizations who want to use it for their own purposes.
For example, a creator can license the rights to a TikTok to an advertising agency, which will then use the video in their campaign for a given period and price until the rights revert to the creator. This is a great way to make money from your content while still retaining the rights to it so that you can keep benefiting from your great work.
Brand deals and sponsorships
Brand deals are one of the more well-known methods of content monetization. Creators make money by partnering with brands to promote their products and services. These partnerships happen in different ways, such as sponsored posts, giveaways, or paid endorsements. By partnering with brands, creators can profit from their content without creating their own products.
It can be difficult to navigate getting brand deals and sponsorships, especially if you don’t have much experience. Thankfully, websites like FYPM and Clara for Creators exist to keep partnerships transparent by letting creators publish their rates and experiences with brands anonymously. Sharing this information helps newer creators who may not know how to price their content.
Best practices for monetizing content
Now that we have explored some ways in which creators can monetize their content, let’s discuss some best practices to help creators succeed.
- Know Your Audience: The first step to successfully monetizing your content is understanding your audience. What do they come to you for? What would they be willing to pay for? These are just some of the questions vital to understanding what you will do that will resonate with them. Of course, the last thing you want to do is damage the trust you’ve built through your content by partnering with the wrong brand or releasing the wrong product. An example is Emma Chamberlain’s 2018 attempt to launch a clothing line. The line was criticized for being overpriced (which wasn’t a good fit for her teenage audience) and lacking size inclusivity. Emma’s strategy has since improved – her company Chamberlain Coffee resonates much better with her audience.
- Know Your Metrics: Develop a deep understanding of your industry – what other creators are doing, what brands want from partnerships, and what unique proposition you have to offer. This relies heavily on being able to communicate your metrics. Your ability to dig into your YouTube analytics or the latest numbers behind your ebook launch will go a long way to helping you prove why people should give you their money. Understanding your metrics can also help you refine your content strategy and create content that resonates with your audience.
- Know Your Worth: Most importantly, no matter how big or small you are, when you start exploring content monetization, you need to know your worth. Once you’ve figured out how to deliver consistent, quality, and engaging content, you have to determine what price makes investing the time and effort it takes to create worth it. And you also need to decide what you’ll turn down in terms of partnerships and sponsorships if the economics don’t make sense to you.
Tess Barclay, a TikTok creator, is an excellent example of these best practices in action. This creator understands the metrics behind their content and has diversified their income streams, implementing everything from brand deals to podcasts to consulting.
Set up a system for generating quality content in Buffer
Consistency is vital when it comes to monetizing your content. Try to post content regularly and stick to a schedule that works for you. This will ensure that you stay top-of-mind with your audience. Set up a system for generating quality content by putting your ideas, drafts, and publishable content in one place – Buffer. Get started today!