If you’re a freelancer or solopreneur, the idea of having other sources of income beyond what you earn in fees from clients no doubt appeals to you. One way to do this is by monetizing your knowledge and expertise.
If you’ve been in business for a while, you’ve no doubt learned a lot, and the world is full of people who could benefit from your professional knowledge if only they had some easy way of accessing it – preferably in a way that would earn you supplemental income.
If you want to pursue the possibility of supplementing your income through monetizing your expertise, then begin by setting time aside to consider these two questions:
First, what expertise do you have – business or otherwise – that could be used by other people beyond the clients you reach now with your services?
For example, if you’re a public relations consultant like me, you have a wide range of knowledge that can help businesses or nonprofits spread the word about their work. Some of these organizations probably can’t afford to pay your normal hourly fee. However, they could afford to access your knowledge if you made what you know available through more affordable means.
But it isn’t only freelancers and consultants who have the expertise to offer. For example, have you been running a small retail business for decades? If so, no doubt you have expertise on any number of retail management topics that would greatly benefit those who are just starting out in your field.
The expertise you identify doesn’t have to be restricted to business topics either. For example, if you run a garden center, you have expertise in the plants that do best in your region; this is information that could be monetized. No matter what your field, the possibilities are endless if you just take time to think about it.
Second, what methods can you use that will enable you to reach a wider audience while adding to your income?
Here there is good news. Today we all have more options than ever before when it comes to monetizing our expertise. Here are some obvious and a couple of not-to-obvious ideas to get you started on thinking about what steps you could take that would bring in additional income:
Thanks to the advent of e-books and affordable print-on-demand publishing, everyone can now put their expertise in book form and make it easily available to people around the world. In essence, everyone can now become their own publisher.
Self-publishing, whether in e-book form or via print-on-demand, has major advantages over traditional publishing. Not least of these benefits is that your self-published book can be any length you want it to be. Traditional publishers demand manuscripts of at least 60,000 words. But if you self-publish, you can make your book any length you want.
For example, you might choose to publish a series of 50-page booklets on your field of expertise that you publish online in pdf format. And remember, having such materials available through your website adds to your professional credibility.
I have a client in Denmark who is an expert on open innovation. He’s had books published by traditional publishers and has also done e-books through Kindle Direct Publishing. Ask him which process and outcome he’s happier with and he’ll say the Kindle books.
The process is speedier and you have full control. Plus, given how little traditional publishers spend on marketing books that don’t have name-brand authors and how small an advance you’re likely to receive, you gain very little these days going with a traditional publisher.
Be sure to thoroughly research any print-on-demand service before signing up with them. Some are definitely more professional than others. Don’t let price be your first criteria. Talk with other authors who have used a service before jumping in.
And another word of advice I would offer if you are going to publish an ebook through Kindle or any similar service is to work with a graphic designer who is experienced with creating e-books.
You want your finished product to look its best, so rely on someone who has been through the process before. Also, hire a good copy editor because the last thing you want is to publish a book that has typos or grammatical errors that will erode the trust of your audience.
There is something about having a book with your name on the cover that quickly convinces people you know what you’re talking about. A book can support other efforts to diversify your income streams.
For example, being a published author can help you get keynote speaking engagements more easily. And while I’m all in favor of self-publishing, you should know that having a traditional publisher put out your book gives you more credibility than if you self-publish it. So keep that in mind when you’re making the choice of whether to self-publish or to try to sell your book to a publisher.
2. Workshops or Seminars
Offering your expertise before a group is another way to monetize your knowledge. The possible venues for doing this are unlimited, although, of course, not all venues pay. To get started, you may have to give free workshops so you can add this skill to your resume.
Once you’ve got some experience in making such public presentations and you’ve found that you actually enjoy it, you can work to find venues that will pay. Public speaking is not for everyone, of course.
But if you’re talking about a topic that you really know well, I think you’ll often find that your enthusiasm and love of the topic will carry you through. Also in this vein, don’t forget the possibility of doing webinars, either through your own website or for another organization.
If you have absolutely no experience with public speaking, you might want to sign up for a course, like those offered by Dale Carnegie Training, or join a Toastmasters group near you. I took a Dale Carnegie public speaking years ago, and it made a huge difference in my confidence when I’m speaking to a crowd.
Even for those venues that aren’t paying you to speak, you can often figure out ways to make your appearance pay off. For example, if you have self-published a book, ask if you can sell these after your appearance, or at the very least, hand out information that will let attendees know how to purchase your book after the event.
Be thorough in researching possible venues for workshops or seminars. For several years, I delivered workshops on public relations and writing for websites for a local community development organization that was trying to help small businesses in Western Massachusetts build up their businesses.
Such opportunities are not always obvious, so it can take some networking to identify them and to make the necessary contacts.
3. Webinars and Video Courses
If you’ve built up a good audience for a blog, you can venture into offering paid webinars to your subscribers or to a list of contacts you have that you can use email marketing to attract.
I’ve done a number of webinars since my book on self-employment was published, including several for Boston University, one of my alma maters. The Zoom platform seems to be most popular for webinars these days; I’m not a techie, and so I have been pleased with how easy this platform has been to use.
Also, platforms such as Udemy or Teachable give you the opportunity to earn money by offering video courses. Each time a student signs up for your course, you earn a part of their payment. Such platforms cover a wide range of subjects, so you can probably find a home for your area of expertise.
4. Public Speaking or Keynote Addresses
Once you’ve polished your presentation skills via workshops and seminars for small groups, you can step up your public speaking ambitions by seeking to become a featured or keynote speaker at conferences or conventions in your field.
These opportunities can pay well but they take some work to land. Signing up with a speakers bureau may be the best way to go.
If you’ve been doing what you do for more than a few years, you are in an excellent position to coach folks who are just entering your field or who have much less experience than you do and are struggling with some aspect of running their businesses.
You can choose to coach people individually or put together a group of students. The coaching can be done virtually or face-to-face. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination.
Here’s just one example of how this can work. I know a woman who has worked as a virtual assistant for decades and then decided that she could coach people who want to become VAs. So she put together an eight-week program that she sells to would-be VAs.
Her service includes weekly group phone calls where people talk about the concerns and challenges they’re having. The training covers skills that are in high demand from virtual assistants (such as updating website content) and also the challenges you’re likely to face when you’re new to this field.
Here’s an exciting new possibility that you might be able to take advantage of: creating an app that relates to your field of expertise.
For example, let’s go back and think of that garden center owner I mentioned previously. That person could produce a gardening app – perhaps one that would remind people of when it’s time to plant various plants or remind them of other gardening chores that should be done in a particular month.
A shop that offers products for bird lovers could create an app that would help birdwatchers identify birds in the wild. I have a lot of experience in event planning and management, so perhaps I could create an app that would help nonprofits create and track the to-do list for their fundraising events.
Not sure how to create an app? On this website, you can purchase app templates that will radically shorten both the development time and costs associated with creating an app.
7. Use More Than One Strategy
One additional thing to note about all of these methods and any others you might come up with to monetize your expertise: It’s possible that none of them will directly bring in a huge amount of money. However, they can often lead to income from other sources merely by putting your name in front of new audiences.
For example, while the sums I’ve earned from giving workshops is relatively low, I have subsequently been hired to do public relations work by people who have heard me speak.
So think of these new products – whether it be an e-book, a workshop or an app – in terms of not just what they may pull in by themselves but also in terms of how they may raise your value and your visibility as an expert.
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