Two decades ago, online entrepreneurship surged in popularity. Regular people with regular jobs found that they could create websites focused around a real topic of interest, and make money from it!
All you had to do was write about your topic and place some Google AdSense ads on your site and collect that monthly check.
In short, it’s a different story today.
Online solopreneurs are finding it increasingly difficult to make a living off site ads and other passive revenue streams.
Fortunately, there are higher-earning, do-able alternatives that are well worth the slightly extra bit of time that you’ll need to invest. First, let’s quickly review…
The lure and attraction of a passive income is obvious. Ranging from a nice second-income to full-blown life of luxury, making money from a website continues to be the goal and dream of many would-be entrepreneurs.
Such endeavors allow us to take control over our futures, immerse ourselves into topics and discussions we’re truly interested in, and create the kind of independent income that fuels dreams.
(This is in contrast to Active Monetization, which is fueled by trading time for money in the form of services, and can only be scaled by adding more staff with more hours to sell.)
And to be clear, all of that is still possible today. Bloggers and solopreneurs continue to create new websites wrapped around their passions and leverage those sites to create income.
What has changed is the how.
Instead of relying on display ads and affiliate links, these passion projects are increasingly leveraging a different monetization model – one that still has whispers and elements of passivity.
High-traffic solopreneurs can either be satisfied with sub-optimal, but still decent (thanks to the sheer volume), income levels. Or they can go slightly more active and create high-paying situations while putting themselves in control of their business.
There’s real value in controlling your own business, and especially your monetization models. Remember, there’s risk to depending on the business platform of others. Just ask prominent Vine influencers!
So what is the monetization model that every successful solopreneur should consider?
Influence is the ability to impact someone’s behavior. It is not new to the business world.
Full page ads in prominent newspapers. Celebrity endorsements. Product placement. These are all ways that businesses have used influence for the purposes of marketing.
What is new? Individuals can now develop sufficiently strong personal brands to influence potential consumers on behalf of specific brands.
We are not talking about the old monetization model of ads and affiliate links. This model has been losing credibility and viability, although it’s still a useful model for the average solopreneur.
Influence Marketing is the domain of the successful, those who have built a broad reach and who are liked and trusted by their audiences.
These savvy solopreneurs have a strong mix of search traffic, social media followers and a growing email list. They have developed a faithful following of readers who are genuinely interested in the author’s writings and opinions – and who are eager to read more.
It’s not just the high numbers. These solopreneurs have spent time creating real relationships with real people, which means that those people are engaged.
Michael Hyatt talks extensively about this in his blog, book and online course. He says, “When you have a platform, you can reach more people with your message, products, or hard-won expertise. You multiply both your income and your impact. Everybody wins.”
And that cuts right to the issue with traditional passive monetization methods.
Years ago, you could spend more time creating more content which would lead to more traffic and more earning. That content, once created, kept earning through search. A strong business model if you can master it.
Nowadays, solopreneurs can leverage that traffic through the multiplier effect that Hyatt talks about.
Monetization of influence
Search traffic is good traffic because it’s targeted. But what if it takes 3 months to find you again? Blend in social media and email marketing to reach them repeatedly. The power to grow increasing numbers of strong relationships is under your control, more now than ever.
That kind of multiplier effect brings in even more traffic and prospects. You can see the power as this positive feedback loop grows.
Important takeaway: The successful solopreneur does more than “publish-and-pray.” A well-rounded mix of search, social and mobile grows targeted and engaged traffic, real humans who like you.
But if you’re still relying on antiquated monetization methods, you’re subject to their reducing returns. Visitors to your site don’t need to trust you to click on a low-paying Google ad!
That’s where the monetization of influence comes in.
More than just using that influence to drive traffic and prospects into display ads and affiliate links, solopreneurs are finding brands to work with directly.
Examples include sponsored or native content, site sponsorship, brand ambassadors and even evangelists.
A site that I tend to use every day, IMDb, is routinely sponsored by an upcoming film that takes over the entire site. And recently, a non-film brand, Samsung, took a turn trying to leverage IMDB’s influence and entertainment-hungry audience:
The background and corresponding embedded video catches fans of Stranger Things and the suggestion of enjoying the show on the brilliant screen of a Galaxy Tab S2.
Or take Guy Kawasaki, the acclaimed author and entrepreneur who famously worked with Steve Jobs, and is now the “Chief Evangelist” for Canva.
Guy has been incredibly successful leveraging his influence over millions and millions of consumers.
But here’s the most important point: You don’t have to be IMDB or Guy Kawasaki to monetize your influence. For example:
Anguilla Beaches (anguilla-beaches.com) is the type of multi-faceted solopreneur business discussed above… high search traffic, three dominating social channels and 2 e-zines.
She is a celebrity among tourists on the island. And here’s the best part…
Even large companies with an internationally known brand of their own want to:
- partner with her on her Anguilla Card
- sponsor her website (a strong and simple influencer technique)
- get exposure on her social accounts.
Important takeaway: Her “brand of one” earns her substantial income in her niche. You too can leverage your influence over the audience you reach – whether it’s in the thousands or millions.
How to monetize influence
I’ve mentioned some methods and examples of how you can monetize your influence and audience, but how does that work in practice?
First, like any service you offer, you’re going to want to talk about it on your site. You need to make it clear that you’re open to talking about these kinds of brand partnerships and give some indication of cost/expectations.
It’s not uncommon for content sites to have an Advertiser’s page that discusses rates and ad space – this is along the same lines.
Second, be prepared to demonstrate your expertise for little to no reimbursement at first.
Sure, you might get lucky enough to pull in a great paying brand from the start. That is particularly true if you sign up on a network like Trafeze where they find you. Unless your reputation dominates its niche, you have to find and sell them.
Start by identifying specific brands that you’d be interested in working with. Get their attention.
- Share some of their posts and content on your best social networks, and be sure to mention them.
- Recommend them to your audience via blog posts, emails and social media.
This really is do-able. You are not trying to get the attention of the whole company, just the employee who’ll find those posts. Building a connection with them gets you in the door.
The trick is to give each brand a taste of what it’s like to have an influencer like yourself behind them. But stop short – do not promote them so much that they are satisfied with what they’re getting from you for free.
Over time, you’ll create that personal connection. Once you’re talking, you’re on your way towards your first influencer deal. Don’t try to max your rates immediately. Prove yourself and increase them as you deliver results.
Here’s the beauty of landing that first deal…
Expect to have new brands reach out to you due to FOMO. Fear of missing out is powerful. When they see you working with Brand A, Brand B is going to want to check you out.
The monetization potential is extremely high. As you continue to grow your audience and develop your ability to represent brands, you can choose to pursue more and more lucrative deals.
It’s time to leave dead or dying passive monetization models behind. Exercise and leverage your influence instead.
Guest Author: Mike Allton is the CMO of SiteSell. Content Marketing Practitioner and Author, he has spent years learning and testing blogging and social media tools and techniques. He has leveraged that experience as an award-winning blogger at The Social Media Hat. Catch him online at @Mike_Allton.