Monetising Online Content
There are many different options available to home creatives when it comes to monetising their content, some of which can be limited to—or by—the type of content you make or the platforms you choose to publish on. Despite this fact, there is a rough template that can be applied to just about any content you create in order to begin making money from it.
This is not a one-size-fits-all solution to earning an income from your creative content, you’ll have to fill in the details to suit your project, but it should get you well on your way.
Focus on the Content
Ultimately it's about WHAT you write, so write it well.
This should be of the utmost importance to anyone creating content online these days, whether it be creative or not. The battle between search engines and those looking to “game” the system to get more traffic is a constantly evolving one, and making your content to suit some hypothetical model of what Google or Bing is looking for can easily come back to bite you if and when they change their algorithms.
The only sure fire way to ensure consistent and lasting traffic to your content is to make it good for your audience. Make it something that people want to read, watch, or listen to. Something they’ll want to share with their friends, family, and social media circles. A change in Google’s search algorithm’s could potentially wipe out most of the traffic going to a blog that’s been written largely to appeal to that algorithm, but a blog full of well written posts that are interesting and/or entertaining will still grab viewers socially.
Of course, you shouldn’t be concentrating on making your content high quality purely as a tactic for getting more traffic. You should want your content to be the best that it can be regardless of how many people see it or how much money you make from it, but it should be a nice added incentive; knowing that the better your content is, the more likely it is to have a lasting draw and greater earning potential.
Don't Let Monetisation Interfere With Your Content
Income is great, but it's not the be all and end all of your content.
Over a decade of online ads has more or less desensitised us to their existence. The average Internet user can easily look over a site with a couple of unobtrusive ads and not even notice them because we’ve gotten so good at passively recognising and ignoring them. Because of this, it can be very tempting to load a website or video with as many ads or product placements as you can, but there’s a thin line to walk in this respect.
If you’ve ever been to a website that’s loaded with ads, has inline videos that shove the content to the side while you’re reading it, and pop up subscription requests seemingly at random, you’ll understand the frustrating experience that overdoing it with ads can create.
If your content is a one-shot deal that will be in high demand for a very short period of time (such as breaking news), or something that people really want to watch and definitely can't get anywhere else, then you can get away with this kind of behaviour, but as this post is geared towards home creatives I’m going to assume that’s not the kind of content you’re hoping to monetise.
Unfortunately for creative types, you’ll be faced with the harsh reality that you can’t simply plaster ads all over your work without damaging its credibility as art. People will brave the multitude of autoplaying videos and twenty six ad banners for breaking gossip news, but they probably won’t for your web comic, or online story... at least, not when you're starting out. You simply don’t have the same earning potential with creative content as you do with something like news if you limit yourself to ads.
Fortunately, you don’t have to limit yourself to ads…
Diversify Your Income Streams
The more opportunities you have to earn, the more potential you have to earn.
Anyone who’s ever looked into monetising their content online will probably have heard the word “diversify” thrown around, and with good reason. While the above section is true, there are other less direct ways you can monetise your content without annoying your audience or degrading your art. The key is giving your audience the option to give you money.
One great way to do this for those of you who have already established a core audience with regular content is through voluntary donations. This can be achieved a number of ways, such as regular PayPal donations or by setting up a Patreon account. The prerequisite is that you already have an audience (not necessarily a large one) who are invested enough in your content that they would be willing to throw you a dollar or two (or more) a month. You would ideally produce your content regardless of donations while offering added incentives to those who donate. This method is great for creatives (who tend to build loyal audiences) because it allows them to earn more from a smaller, more dedicated audience. A gossip news site that gets 1,000,000 views a month with a CPM of $1 will make $1,000 every month, but a smaller creative content producer with a dedicated audience can make the same amount from 10,000 views per month if just ten percent of those viewers are willing to donate a dollar.
The Importance of Multiple Income Streams
You could also consider selling your creative content in various forms. Again, this works better when you have an established audience. If you’ve built up a respectable collection of short stories online, consider putting them into an anthology and selling it. This could give you the opportunity to reach a new audience, and your existing audience may well purchase the book just to support. Or even better, because they want to own your work. Similarly, if your creative content is artistic, consider selling prints or t-shirts… or books, for that matter.
You shouldn’t limit the earning potential of your creative work to just one source. This has been true of creative works since long before the Internet. Musicians may expend a great deal of energy chasing that elusive record deal, but the majority of musicians make more money from touring and merchandise than they do from record sales.
High expectations are not a bad thing, but unrealistic expectations can be damaging.
Above all else, have a realistic notion of what can happen. If you want to be “an artist”, where what you create is of the utmost importance and to hell with everything else, that’s great. The Internet provides you with a great platform to do just that and you should absolutely pursue your dreams. You should also accept that, with the exception of a few rare cases, you probably aren’t going to make a whole lot of money from your art without compromise.
On the other hand, if making money is more important to you than creative integrity, that’s also fine. Everybody has to earn a living somehow, and if you can do it while being creative then more power to you. You should, however, come to terms with the fact that your art may suffer if you make things with revenue at the forefront of your mind.
Obviously, the reality for most of us lies somewhere in the middle. It’s not so much a question of whether you want artistic integrity or financial security, it’s what balance you’re prepared to strike.
Creative Ways to Make Money Online
Always be wary of doing things you don’t need to. If you can afford to keep your creative projects as a hobby, it might be worth doing just that. Turning a passion into a job may have detrimental effects on the aforementioned passion. Similarly, if you’re young and without dependants, there will never be a better time to chase your passions.
So be creative, make money… or do both.
© 2017 John Bullock