The dynamics of the pandemic have wielded enormous influence on how we interact with digital media and how we look at work. Today, it’s more clear than ever before that independent content creation is a viable career. There’s strong demand from audiences, platforms and brands, and the options for monetisation are growing more diverse by the week.
Many people who started publishing content for fun with the extra time they had on their hands are now thriving in the creator economy.
Yet as a beginner, it can be tough to know where to start. We always see the people who’ve made it big, because they have the largest reach and their advice isn’t always best for those at the start of their journey. Relatively few creators earn enough to earn a living, and this is partly because of a lack of knowledge about how to monetise effectively.
Millionaire creators can spend thousands of dollars each month on their tools alone, which is understandably more than most aspiring semi-pro creators can budget for a hobby or side hustle. The fortunate truth is you don’t need to spend so much to have a chance of success.
In this article, we will talk through five tools which all involve low or even no upfront investment – but have the potential to make you significant money. If you later decide that content creation isn’t for you, then you are free from sunk costs and think with a clear head. But if you start to see some cash rolling in, then you’ll know where to double down. Let’s dive right in.
Substack has shaken up the newsletter industry significantly, because it allows creators to manage their email lists for free. This forced competitors to offer free models too, so they could avoid losing their customers.
Of course, it also helped to build buzz that the platform started aggressively recruiting media personalities and convincing them to quit their day jobs and go full Substack.
Today the lure of onboarding here is even more attractive, as they let you host a paid newsletter with no upfront costs. They make their money by taking a share of your subscription fees, and this is perfect for beginners. If you find it difficult to gain subscribers and find it isn’t worth your time, then it’s easy to shut down, and you haven’t lost anything.
The best way to use a paid newsletter is to offer exclusive content that only subscribers can see. Traditionally, this is written content, but Substack supports member-only podcast episodes. You can decide to send exclusive downloadable content to subscribers too, as another way to differentiate yourself.
2. Link in Bio
A classic cause for procrastination for people wishing to enter the content creation space is that they think they need a fully-featured website before they get started. This comes with a range of costs such as buying a domain, hosting, design and privacy. Yet you don’t need this at all to start making money.
It’s smarter for beginners to make a microsite through a platform like Link in Bio, a service created by Lightricks, makers of Facetune, Videoleap, Motionleap and other go-to solutions in the creator’s toolbox. This Link in Bio tool is completely free and allows you to create a beautiful site where you can host all the links to your content.
You can be up and running in less than an hour, rather than a traditional website which can drag on for months to get looking and operating well enough to launch. And besides, when all of your audience interactions are taking place on third-party platforms, the need to drive traffic to an owned media property becomes far less pressing.
Link in Bio has a killer feature, too, with its in-built tip jar. This means your superfans can send you money straight away painlessly. When the choice is between a traditional website that is expensive and takes time, or a Link in Bio, which is fast and makes you money, Link in Bio seems like a no-brainer.
If you want to create and sell digital products like ebooks, courses or even bundles of consulting hours but are unsure how to sell them, SamCart could be the answer.
There is a little bit of a learning curve here, but you can essentially upload your digital products to the platform and others can pay to download them. As SamCart is focused on selling products, there is a monthly subscription cost, but you can use the free trial for the first 14 days as a proof of concept.
This allows you to create landing pages easily, where you can display all your products. It integrates easily with most websites and handles all of the complex financial technicalities for you.
Another useful feature is that it automatically generates affiliate links for you so you can use your partners to promote your products for you and give them an incentive to do so.
Despite the one-dimensional public opinion, all types of creators thrive on OnlyFans. If you look at their Instagram account, you can see a huge array of people who make significant money by selling fitness tips, music creation advice and kitchen hacks.
What’s great is that you don’t pay to sign up and simply give part of the subscription fee paid by members to OnlyFans. This makes it a low risk to anyone wanting to try it out.
This platform is a great place to give people more of an insight into who you are as a person behind the scenes, with a focus on photo and video content. You can also use it as a way to give people direct access to talk with you behind a paywall.
Loyal fans could be willing to pay extra for live content and Q&A sessions.
If you want to monetise through selling merch, then Printify is a great option. It allows you to add your logo and creative to existing clothing and sell online easily, and the physical goods are printed and drop shipped on demand. This can work especially well if you are a visual artist or are skilled at writing memorable one-liners. If you have a loyal fanbase, they’ll want your merch just to show the world they are a part of your tribe.
The great secondary effect is that you effectively turn your customers into billboards. This means you don’t just bring in direct profit from selling the items, but you also increase brand awareness at the same time.
You can even buy a few of the products for yourself and a few of your friends. The cost is relatively low, but it helps draw attention to your brand which can be worth it if it triggers more sales.
You don’t need a lot of money or commitment to get started in making money online. These five tools will allow you to dip your toes into the creator economy without exposing yourself to high sunk costs.
This makes them perfect if you aren’t sure whether you will be able to keep your enthusiasm high. It means there’s no reason to be afraid about getting started, and you should be able to make at least a little bit of money relatively quickly.