I’m not a fan of using clickbait titles and making people scroll forever to get to the point. So if you don’t read anything else in this article, read this:
TLDR: The keys to making money on the internet are working really hard, choosing marketing channels that play to your strengths, and finding ways to monetize your content and time.
In this article, I’m going to break down each of these steps to building a presence online that can give you supplemental income. In addition to tips I’ve gathered studying other creators and experience from my career in corporate marketing, I’ll share what I learned last year in my first attempts to monetize my writing and digital content creation.
People say that the first dollar you make on the internet will be one of the hardest dollars you ever earn.
Whether or not that’s literally true about your first internet dollar, the underlying point is true. It takes effort and dedication to make money online.
I’m just getting started compared to many creators and entrepreneurs, but what I’ve learned from the money I have made on the internet is that you have to work your tail off.
I’m not telling you about these facts to point to them as failures, or put myself or anyone else down. It’s quite the opposite. I feel I’ve made great progress and laid a foundation to start making meaningful supplemental income on the internet.
The reason I’m sharing is because I want to point out how much work it takes to make real money online, and that you have to be willing to play the long game.
Eve Arnold, a writer and entrepreneur I have a ton of respect for, nailed this concept when she said:
“You are paying for future you to get paid.” — Eve Arnold
What she meant by that is all of the activities I just listed are groundwork for making money later. This money will be made thanks to the online following and reputation you build by investing time in personal branding and content creation on the internet.
Writing social media posts no one comments on, creating YouTube videos five people watch, sending newsletters for months to a hand full of subscribers— these are the early steps toward building a following and revenue stream that compounds later.
Every creator who makes money online started out doing it for free while they built an audience and reputation. I am early on in that same journey, and using the knowledge that it is a long game to stay motivated and manage my expectations.
Before you can start putting in the work we just talked about to create content and build an audience, you need to pick what channels you will build a presence on.
This could be a social media platform like TikTok or LinkedIn, a website, newsletter, Medium, or another channel.
When I think about this decision from a marketing perspective, I like to consider two key factors:
For example, I like writing and believe that is my strength. I also target an audience of people interested in professional and personal development that I can share business and career advice with. Medium and LinkedIn are good channels for me because they are great for writers, and my target audience uses them frequently.
Choose a marketing channel aligned to these two key factors and start creating content there. This can be the start of your internet money-making journey.
Bonus tip: When you first start out, pick one channel and double down on that. You will get further faster because your audience growth will compound. You can then take that established audience with you when you branch out to new channels.
Once you have a marketing channel selected and you start creating content, the next key to making money on the internet is setting up mechanisms for monetization.
Once you are putting in the work and consistently creating content online, there are tools and strategies you can deploy to turn your content and marketing channels into revenue streams.
For example, I have these side hustles:
These are all ways I turned my existing channels and content publishing activities into supplemental income.
Check out the monetization ideas below for more options to leverage your personal brand channels to earn revenue.
Offering services that align with your area of expertise and thought leadership platform is one of the most straightforward ways to monetize your personal brand.
Offering to help people with the areas of expertise you are already creating content about is a natural extension of your brand. It will likely be well received by your audience because they are used to you providing value in these areas through the tips you share in your personal brand content.
For example, if I wanted to start offering a service, I could start offering consulting sessions for business brands, or coach people on their personal brands. This services offering would be a natural extension of the content I create on those topics.
Selling physical and digital products is another monetization strategy for personal brands.
Similar to the services concept, think of common needs people in your industry have and products you can create to meet those needs.
The main point here is to consider what you could sell, and to find tools like ecommerce platforms and marketplaces to sell them with.
The book I mentioned is an example. I sell it on Amazon, which is a marketplace that handles the transactions for me and gives me links I can share in my content to promote it like this one.
Affiliate marketing is another viable side hustle you can use to generate income with your personal brand.
Affiliate marketing involves signing up for an affiliate program with a company that gives you tools like tracking links and advertisements you can use to promote their products. For every sale you generate for the company’s products, you receive a commission on the sale.
An example of a popular affiliate program is Amazon’s affiliate program, which allows you to create affiliate links to products Amazon sells. This program is popular because the wide variety of products Amazon offers means there is likely something related to everyone’s niche.
In terms of the channels you can use to promote your affiliate links, you can promote them anywhere that you can share a URL.
For example, I use Amazon’s affiliate program to promote and review marketing and personal brand strategy books that I like. I feature these books in blog posts and other content.
However, I am careful to choose books to share with my audience that I would buy myself. With this approach, I am earning a profit margin for the time I spend finding and reviewing these books. My audience is gaining value by receiving a curated list of helpful resources.
When done correctly, affiliate marketing can be a win for you, and a win for your audience.
Another avenue for monetizing your personal brand channels is advertising and sponsorship.
Turning your social channels, website, newsletters, videos, and other channels into advertising inventory allows you to trade access to your audience for compensation.
As your social channels grow, don’t be surprised if you start receiving messages from brands interested in promoting their products on your channels.
You can also take the initiative and approach brands offering to promote their products. A good strategy for this is to offer to do a product review video or write-up.
A good rule when it comes to advertising and sponsorship is to avoid looking overly promotional, and to only promote products you would use yourself. This will make your usage of this strategy come off as genuine and avoid losing trust from your audience.
Personal branding today is built on a content marketing foundation. This makes creating premium content as a revenue stream a natural progression.
Giving people more of the content they already value to consume in a paid format is a minimally disruptive strategy for making money with your personal brand. That’s why many digital creators and entrepreneurs create premium content in some format as a way to monetize their personal brands.
So far, we’ve covered how you can create a funnel for making money on the internet. This included setting up marketing channels and building an audience, creating content, and putting in place strategies and tools for monetizing that content.
Generative artificial intelligence (AI) tools can accelerate that entire funnel by helping you save time and produce content more efficiently.
The first point I made about working hard holds true. Making money on the internet will take a ton of effort. However, the concept of working smarter and not harder also holds true.
If you combine a willingness to work hard consistently with AI tools that help you work smarter and more effectively, you will be setup for success.
Find AI tools that help you write faster, plan content, make images, build websites, etc. Regardless of your profession or preferred content type, there is likely an AI tool out there that can help you save time. And when it comes to creating content on the internet, the adage “time is money” is true.
For example, my current AI tools tech stack that helps me create content is:
This is by no means a comprehensive list of the AI tools I use, let alone all of the AI tools that are now available on the market.
The key takeaway here is generative AI software can help you create content faster and in a higher quality. In a content marketing-dominated internet landscape, that’s a huge asset that can help you make money.
The steps to making money that I listed in this article are the same they’ve been since the advent of marketing for businesses—you need to build marketing channels with an audience and monetize them.
However, when it comes to making money online yourself, the differentiator will be how hard you are willing to work on executing that simple formula. We live in an exciting time where AI tools can help us optimize that work and get more out of our efforts.
I hope the tips in this article that I’ve learned in the early stages of my internet content creation journey are helpful on your own journey.
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