You don’t need a huge audience to make big money online.
There’s a gold rush happening right now in the world.
And it doesn’t take the form of collecting precious metals.
Currently in the world, there are millions of people rushing to the internet to claim their stake of riches in content creation. We can take a look at the data to conclude this. Statista notes the blogging industry grew from 27.4 million users who uploaded at least once per month in 2014 and that grew to 31.7 by 2020.
Furthermore, we can see how the elearning (creation and sale of digital products that educate the user online as opposed to traditional means of education) industry is exploding as well. Experts met the prediction that the global elearning industry would reach $105 billion in 2015 and now experts predict that the industry will reach $325 billion by 2025.
Lastly, you have platforms like Quora and Medium who keep increasing their monthly unique user counts year after year.
People know there is a ripe opportunity.
The disconnect comes with many of those people thinking they are “late to the party” and perhaps need a following of tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of followers in order to achieve a sustainable monthly income.
This article will aim to debunk the idea that you need a substantial following in order to create a viable full-time income through your own online content creation.
Let’s take a look…
Why you don’t need a massive following
The idea that you need to be an internet sensation in order to “make it” with online content is hogwash.
Well for one, because I am living proof that it can be done. As of the writing of this article (which will be time stamped):
- I don’t have hundreds or even tens of thousands of followers.
- I don’t have a widely recognized name
- I don’t have decades of experience in this space
And yet, I find myself producing in the range of $5,000 a month of income with the syndication of my content, the sale of my digital products and the performing of freelance work for paying clients.
Now I’m not saying I am able to earn all of this out of dumb luck.
I have researched, studied, experimented and failed with a lot of different strategies in order to get this.
The first thing that helped me understand how to achieve this, has to do with the idea of the 1,000 True Fans.
The 1,000 True Fans idea was first noted by Kevin Kelly in the article of the same name. The idea notes that in order to have a viable and sustainable business ($100,000 a year), all you need are 1,000 dedicated fans to buy your $100 product or service.
The math is malleable as well. You could have 500 True Fans and sell a $200 product or service. Or you could have 100 True Fans and sell a $1000 product.
When we think about a viable business, it not only becomes clearer to reverse-engineer, but it also becomes more realistic in achieving.
You don’t need a huge audience, however, you do need a product to sell to those true fans.
Whats more, you need a way of driving traffic for those fans to find the product that you’re going to sell.
Next, we’re going to go over how to drive traffic for your audience as well as what products to sell and how to sell them.
Let’s go over how to drive traffic for your audience.
How to drive traffic and create your audience
In order to be able to sell a product, you need an audience that is looking for it and you need to let them know this product exists.
That’s where your content comes into play.
Now the focus of this article is going to be written content, however, you can also consider the same thing with video content. Your platform is primarily going to be with YouTube.
Now when it comes to written content, many people working towards the gold rush think that the proper way of going about achieving their riches is through creating a WordPress site and hoping the audience finds them.
For lack of a better phrase, I call it the “Build it and they will come” fallacy. Individuals in this pursuit believe that they can just put up a site, write some content and the universe will reward them with salivating zombie-fans hungry for their ideas.
Of course, if you’ve tried this, you know it’s a bit harder to actually achieve.
I tried this in the beginning and alas, I fell flat — no gold for me.
Instead, you need to produce content on a platform that already has a bunch of people using it and looking for that content.
The two platforms we will put under the microscope in this article are Medium and Quora. Why? Because these two platforms together see almost half a billion unique monthly users .
If you don’t think you can find your 1,000 True Fans out of a sea of 500 million — you don’t have a grasp of basic arithmetic.
These two platforms allow you to find topics and drive that traffic to your content. Say your niche is coding. You have the ability to find questions within Quora and tag your content in Medium with programming, coding, technology and more.
This helps you go to the audience looking for your content, rather than you create the content and hope your audience finds it.
Plus, you can already start generating income through Medium’s Partner Program. It’s noted in Medium’s most recent newsletter (July, 2020) that almost two-thirds of their creators that wrote at least one story in July earned money.
Again — I’ll take those odds.
The beauty of these two platforms is you don’t have to have 100k followers in order to start generating money. Sure, when you see in the newsletter that the top earner earned over $30,000, he or she probably has tens if not hundreds of thousands of followers. But, this article isn’t about making $30k a month. It’s about making $5,000 a month.
It isn’t out of the realm of possibility to make a $1,000 from the partner program and then when you can leverage that driven traffic from your audience you can start making more from the sale of your digital product.
And that’s what we’ll get into next.
How to leverage the traffic into sales of a digital product
Have you ever wondered why certain “elite” writers on Medium include CTAs (Calls to Action) at the end of their stories?
I can tell you it isn’t a coincidence.
They do it because it earns them cold. Hard. Cash.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard somewhere from someone that, “the money is in the email list” and this is true.
The reason those CTAs are there is so the content creator can continue to provide his or her reader valuable content even after the experience of reading the article is over.
A lot of people give CTAs a lot of flack. I understand it. The criticism exists because there is a lot of trickery and valueless exchange of content for a subscriber’s email.
I know I’ve joined hundreds of email lists (many from major multinational corporations) and I cannot tell you how many times I’ve gotten a bad taste in my mouth because I was promised a guide or checklist or training brochure and all I got was an unformatted, undesigned PDF of basic content written in Times New Roman.
No one wants that.
It’s important to always be providing value. That starts with the content you post on the mentioned platforms and it never ends. Everything you do has to hold value for the reader, the subscriber and the customer. Without it, you’re just hobbyist content creating.
If you want to make good money with your content by selling digital products, it starts with an optimized CTA.
How to make an optimized CTA
In order to get someone to take action, first you need to let them know what they are getting.
While there are content creators out there that get results from,
“Join my newsletter of 40,000 other subscribers and stay up to date with my latest work”
That doesn’t convert as well as,
“Want to learn how to code your own app in 6 months? Get my guide now.”
With of course the guide being the PDF giveaway that helps solve that problem. You then link to a landing page where you can provide the reader with the PDF in exchange for their email.
The second instance allows you to completely target your audience. Only the people who are looking for their problems to be solved will opt in. Sure, you may be losing out on a bigger population because you’re targeting a smaller subset, however, it’s foolish to believe to sell to everyone.
“When you speak to everyone, you speak to no one.”
— Meredith Hill
Once you’re generating an email list, you can sell higher-level and bigger problem solving digital products.
How to make digital products
There are probably scores of different ways to make digital products.
In this article, we’re going to cover just one.
Because this article isn’t meant to overwhelm you with over information stimuli as noted by Malcolm Gladwell in his Bestseller, “Blink”.
I don’t want you to have paralysis by analysis because you were thrown too much information in this piece. Manageable steps tackled overtime is the surest way to get closer to the destination.
The digital product in question is an ebook. This is because there are low barriers to get it created and sell it.
Thinking about the CTA and the guide that was provided there — what’s a higher level that you can solve?
Using the coding example still,
“How to learn C++ in under 6 Months, Build Your First Android App, and Make Passive Income Through Selling It”
(Please help me with feedback if this is even feasible — I’m not a programmer).
If this is something that you have expertise in and can articulate and illustrate through a PDF, go ahead and create this.
You can design it yourself or hire someone on Fiverr or Upwork in order to make it clean and presentable.
From there, you attach a price-point and upload it to with a product host (WooCommerce, SendOwl etc).
How to sell digital products
There’s probably hundreds of you rolling your eyes right now.
“Yeah but Jon, this is all nice in theory — how can I actually do this?”
And I thought you would might need to see proof.
Below you will see a screenshot from my SendOwl (payment processor) account. Mind you it’s only from 2 weeks just to prove a point. Furthermore, the product is only sold for a few dollars. If you want to make 5 times that — you have the opportunity to make a product 5X the value and then list it for 5X the price.
I used only one product in the filtering of this graph as well as a snippet of two weeks to again make the point that you don’t need 100k followers and you don’t need super expensive products. If you can generate traffic consistently from you stories overtime and have the right automated structures in place, you’ll be able to mirror similar results.
Now there are a few ways one can do this:
- You can do drip campaigns when someone signs up to your list (a welcome series that makes the pitch at the end)
- You can do monthly promotions (where you create sales on holidays or specific days of the month)
- You can randomly pitch the product through broadcasts (not advised)
- You can do page redirects where the pitch happens almost instantly
All of the different tactics have their own benefits (maybe except the 3rd tactic). It’s advised that you experiment and try out the different tactics to see which one works best for your schedule and time contingencies.
Now these digital products can be uploaded on a payment processor (SendOwl, WooCommerce, ThriveCart) and sold through your email service provider or a WordPress site.
From here, you will be building an email list and selling your first product.
Closing it all out
It is possible to make a living online without needing a huge audience.
All it really requires is the right strategy.
What is that strategy?
Well, first you need to produce guided content. You also need to gear that content towards a base that will culminate into your 1,000 True Fans base. Your 1,000 True Fans is going to be your dedicated audience that will buy your product.
How do you find your 1,000 True Fans?
You need to direct your content on a platform that already contains a sea of people looking for your content:
Those two platforms see almost 500 million unique monthly users and those users are looking for your content.
From there — you need to convert those readers into subscribers. You do this by leveraging the traffic from your stories with the help of CTAs. CTAs inform the audience of valuable content that will come their way if they were to opt into you list.
After you build a subscriber base (email list) you can develop your digital products.
It’s advised that you start with something simple like an ebook that you can get to market.
After you create your product, you can sell it your your email list through various tactics:
It may start off slower than you’d like.
But don’t be discouraged.
There is a lot of messing up, going down wrong paths and making mistakes when you’re hunting for your lot of gold.
But the most important thing is to not stop.
We’ve all see that picture of the contrasting diggers:
- One digger is just a few more hacks at the tunnel before he reaches the pot of gold and he’s turned back
- And the other kept his head down, committed to the work and found his fortune
Don’t be the first digger.
Keep moving forward.