By Dan Kieran, co-founder and CEO of Unbound
Many young people today aspire to make a living as an online content creator, looking to YouTube or Instagram, and there is no doubt it can be a viable career option. As much as 75% of Generation Z, the first generation to not know life without the Internet, are considering a career in online video production as a result.
The Financial Times reported that an Instagrammer with a following of 100,000 could charge up to $2,000 for a post. So, you can see why becoming an influencer seems like a lucrative career option. However, the fee influencers charge depends on the quality of their content and the relevance of their audience. So, while you might be able to charge $2,000 for a highly-relevant post, they may be few and far between, making it hard to earn a decent living. Promoting companies or products that are ‘off-brand’ could also cause a drop off in your following. So influencers need to spend a lot of time defining and protecting their brand to grow their following while attracting the best sponsorship deals.
So, despite the popularity of this as a career choice, there are surprisingly few ways for influencers and creators to monetise their audiences outside of professional endorsement and ad revenues.
In this guide, I’ll present my five top tips for monetising your followers, while maintaining control over your personal brand.
When you’ve developed a personal brand, using Instagram or YouTube to build an audience, you’ll already know how important a design aesthetic is for your content. And how important authenticity is to your fans. You can create merchandise in creative ways that enables your online fans to reflect their online interests in the real world.
There are obvious things like T-shirts, mugs, hats, posters, tote bags you can put your branding on but your fans will want something unique. Something other fans of yours will recognise in the real world. When our authors crowdfund their books on Unbound, they offer a range of different merch and other rewards that readers can buy to support the publication of their book. This stuff – particularly exclusive merch – is incredibly popular. The more absurd it seems the better as long as it’s authentic and meaningful to your work.
Never has this been so aptly demonstrated than with popular YouTube comedian, Stuart Ashen, when he offered a ‘box of mystery tat’ as part of his Unbound crowdfunding campaign for his book Attack of the Flickering Skeletons. He sold three boxes of junk at £250 a piece. Of course what he put in those boxes was not ‘junk’ or ‘tat’. It was carefully curated and put together with huge care and attention to give his super fans something hilarious and unique.
Become an Amazon influencer
The retail giant has recently embraced the power of influencers, launching an influencer program for content creators on all the major social platforms to earn money by recommending products on Amazon. Influencers can make their own Amazon page and recommend products of their choice. They then get a personalised link to share with their followers and earn a commission from the sale of qualifying products sold via the link.
YouTube and Twitter influencers will get a real time denial or approval, while those on Instagram and Facebook will be manually vetted by Amazon and get a response within five days. This is a good option for those who don’t want to endorse any product or company. So, providing you don’t have an issue with Amazon itself, you’ll have control over which products you endorse.
The downside is that you have to shift a huge amount of product to make relatively small amounts of money.
According to Business Insider, one influencer claimed that some users “make $100 a day”. However, any money you make will depend on what you’re willing to endorse and what your followers will buy. Business Insider found that Amazon’s fashion line pays influencers the most commission at 10%, followed by furniture at 8%. “Non-Amazon apparel, jewelry, and shoes” as well as Amazon’s digital services like Echo and Fire are also at the upper end, with 7% commission. At the lower end are Amazon Fresh groceries and toys, at 3%, while video games and consoles earn influencers just 1%.
Collate your content into a book
Every successful content creator has a plentiful supply of great content and supportive followers. Whether you’re a popular podcaster, a YouTube sensation or a respected blogger, years of activity will mean that you’ll have gathered an impressive arsenal of media assets and access to the people who love to consume it.
Publishing a book can be an excellent way to collate the best of your work to-date into a physical form, offer it to your fans, and make some well-deserved income from countless hours of unpaid content creation.
Publishing a book gives you the opportunity to control the narrative so you can keep your work true to your online image. But you’ll need to find a publisher who shares your vision, or publish the book yourself.
Finding a publisher is much easier said than done, with many looking solely at which titles have sold well en-masse in the past. And chances are you’re not offering an alluring crime thriller or a celebrity biography. The likelihood is that you’ve built your following by offering your audience something that mainstream popular culture has missed. Therefore, it’s most likely that publishing the book yourself will be the best route to go. The time it takes to tout your book around the publishers could be better spent getting on with it yourself.
However, publishing a book costs money, so you’ll either have to find or make the initial money required first, or go directly to your fans.
The obvious solution to funding your book without having the initial capital to do so, and without losing creative control, is to crowdfund your book. This way, you’ll be able to produce something you truly care about, follows your vision, and appeal to your followers.
Traditional publishing is also limited by the public expectation of what a book should cost – typically up to £10 for a paperback and £20 for a hardback. However, by crowdfunding your book, you can set your own price range, and also offer merch.
For example, video games social media influencer, Dan Hardcastle, raised over £300k for his book, Fuck Yeah, Video Games, on Unbound.
We’ve even developed a machine learning algorithm, using social media engagement as a key variable, that helps us to tell, with a high degree of accuracy, how much a book is likely to raise before an author crowdfunds it.
Offer exclusive content
When people start to follow your content avidly, they’ll want as much of it as they can get. So if, for instance, you write a popular blog, you’ll be able to put some articles behind a paywall, just as many newspapers and new media organisations do. This means that only paid subscribers will be able to view certain content. YouTubers and podcasters might also offer exclusive, early access, or bonus content on their website that only paid backers can access.
You can also offer exclusive content via your own personalised app, which you can build for free using templates from a range of creators. If you have a certain expertise and your content is educational, you could even run your own paid course. Naturally, this will require a significant amount of time, effort, and extra time, cost and resources.
Another way to offer exclusive content is through live events. You could hold a physical event, although this will require a lot of logistical planning and extra cost. It would also rely on your fan’s dedication and, of course, their geographical location. The most logical way to run a live event is to hold it where all of your fans can access it: online. By holding some form of online event, such as a live Q&A, demonstration, performance, or other event, fans will be able to buy their own access link, and join you.
Whichever method you choose, it’s inevitable that if you put in the hard work, are offering a unique brand, and are building a big audience because of it, then you’re bound to get paid, eventually.
Chances are, you’re making and sharing content because you love the creation process and the connection you’ve built with your online community, rather than the prospect of financial gain. However, everyone deserves to make a living when they’re offering something of value to the world, and I hope you manage to do so.
About the author
Dan Kieran is the Co-Founder and CEO of Unbound, a crowdfunding publisher that combines data science and an award-winning publishing brand with an online marketplace. Readers pre-order books through pledging, Unbound publishes and sells them, giving authors a 50/50 profit split and access to an engaged community.
The publisher’s 200k users from 195 countries have pledged £7m+ to fund 436 books to-date, including bestsellers like Letters of Note and The Good Immigrant.
By predicting future trends, Unbound funds books more quickly and reaches instant, data-driven acquisition decisions. The best example involves a video games influencer, who raised £300k on Unbound, £100k of which in a single day.
Generation Z, 75% career in online videos: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4532266/75-cent-children-want-YouTubers-vloggers.html
Instagramer with 100,000 following could charge up to $2,000 for a post: https://www.ft.com/content/fc964254-155f-11e7-b0c1-37e417ee6c76
Video Games influencer, Dan Hardcastle, raised over £300k for his book on Unbound: https://unbound.com/books/nerdcubed/
Stuart Ashen sold three boxes of ‘mystery tat’ at £250 a piece during his book’s crowdfunding campaign: https://unbound.com/books/moreashens/
Business Insider Amazon Influencer Program: https://www.businessinsider.com/amazon-is-ramping-up-its-influencer-business-2019-1?r=US&IR=T