Monetize Your Expertise

Dorie Clark is a marketing strategy consultant and professional speaker who teaches at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. In her book, Entrepreneurial You she shares the stories of entrepreneurs of all kinds—from consultants and coaches to podcasters, bloggers and online marketers—who have generated six- and seven-figure incomes. It shows you how you can liberate yourself financially and shape your own career destiny.

 

Some professionals may hesitate to monetize because they fear the audience reaction. Indeed, people who are used to getting something for free may well rebel once you ask them to start paying. That’s what happened to Andrew Warner. A successful entrepreneur, Warner and his brother built a multimillion-dollar online greeting card business. “I felt like I was invincible,” he recalls, and assumed his next venture, a foray into online invitations, would be an even bigger hit. But it didn’t work out that way. “I ended up spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on this idea that really didn’t turn into gold. It turned into mud,” he says.

Looking for answers, he decided to reach out to other business owners: “I said, ‘I want to learn from as many entrepreneurs as I can how to build a business and never make this mistake again.’” He recorded the interviews on Skype and, in 2008, launched Mixergy, a website and video podcast where he compiled them. For a couple of years, he offered them all for free. But eventually, Warner was devoting so much time to the enterprise—including hiring a staff to help him with editing and doing pre-interviews of his guests—that he decided to start charging $25 per month for access.

As soon as he did, he heard about it. “People were posting publicly that I shouldn’t be charging, and people were emailing me and saying ‘What are you doing?’” he recalls. The feedback stung. “I felt hurt that my audience didn’t like me as much.” But charging an access fee enabled him to keep investing the time in creating the site, which now contains more than twelve hundred interviews. “If you do something that matters, some people are going to dislike you,” he says. “Some people are going to disagree with you. It’s not an indication that you’re on the wrong track.”

Try This:

As you start psyching yourself up to monetize, it’s worth considering the following:

  • Get clear on what it costs you to share your work with others. Are there recording or editing expenses? Website hosting fees? The cost of your time? The first step is to understand what you’re already putting in, so you can determine what break even (and beyond) would look like.
  • Think about various pricing models. Can you continue to offer some material for free, for those who genuinely can’t pay, while offering exclusive paid content to your super-fans?
  • Brace for criticism. You’ll inevitably face some blowback, but don’t take the outliers too seriously. If 90 percent of your audience is upset, you may want to reconsider. But if three people send you churlish emails, try to put it out of your head.

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