Tag Archives: media

Monetize Yourself Media – Sell Your Expertise Directly

This post is part a series on specific media for monetizing yourself. Today I’m going to talk about another category of potential media: selling your expertise directly through books or information products.

Sell your expertise in products

Write a book

Yes, you can write a book. It used to be that writing a book involved a huge mess. You had to get an agent, who had to convince a publisher that you could sell 1000 copies, so as to find a book deal, then negotiate an advance, and so on. Big deal, big mess, and contingent on the approval of people you don’t know and probably don’t like.

Not any more. It’s now easy to

  • write a book (word processing! No more white-out!),
  • publish a book (you can publish an ebook for free, or get someone to publish it for you for less than $100. Paper books can be printed in lots as small as a dozen, so publishing houses are far less concerned with selling 1000 copies), and

  • market a book (it’s hard to get on the shelves of Barnes And Noble or Borders, but almost trivial to get on the “shelves” of Amazon.com).

Now all you have to do is figure out what to write a book on. What have you found yourself wishing you could find a book about? What have you had to experiment and develop mostly through trial and error, because there are no books on it? What do your family and friends call you to get help with? Don’t tell me that there isn’t anything; see the story below.

Create Information Products

A book is actually a subset of information products, but I gave it its own category because it’s by far the best-known information product.

An information product is just what it sounds like: a product that provides information. A book is one example. Other examples include (but are not limited to):

  • a DVD on how to use your new exercise equipment, or
  • a 1-page checklist of things to pack on your vacation, or
  • a spreadsheet that sorts your expenses into budget categories, or
  • a deck of flash cards, or
  • a comic book on how to play this board game, or….

Information products are great because they’re so flexible, and it’s entirely possible that your expertise doesn’t fit well into a book. Someone whose gift is in designing and assembling awesome carpentry projects would be far better off selling how-to videos. If your gift is organizing things, you may be better off selling mini e-books like “101 Things To Take on Vacation” or “Everything to Do To Get Your House Clean Enough For Your Mother-In-Law”.

But I Don’t Have Expertise

Judy Murdoch tells a story of a teacher who said she couldn’t make an information product, because she wasn’t an expert on anything. Judy challenged this statement, said she was sure the teacher knew something worth $50. Intrigued, they started discussing.

Turns out…
this teacher, having years of experience with 7-year-olds, knew how to get first graders to pick up after themselves.
Wouldn’t you pay to know that?

The lesson?
Everyone undervalues what they know. You undervalue what you know how to do, just because you know how to do it.

We’re all experts at something. You just have to find your market.

Resources For Further Reading
Information Product Development from Highly Contagious Marketing
Buy The Book Marketing: Internet Marketing for Authors

Monetize Yourself Media – Sell Your Time and Expertise

I’ve talked a lot about the theory behind monetizing yourself: what it means, how to provide value, how to identify value you could provide, and so on.

But I haven’t discussed how to actually deliver that value. What do you do in the day-to-day to monetize yourself? How do you get started?

Steve Pavlina distinguishes between the medium with which you present your message, and the message itself. The crux of the article is that the message is the most important thing, because it’s what people care about. So if you’re new to this blog, and thinking about monetizing yourself, I strongly recommend going back and thinking about your talents and skills, what value you can provide, and what you wan to accomplish.

But if you’ve been with me for a while (thank you!) you’re thinking, “Enough with this theory already! Tell me what to do!”


Part of the reason I’ve been avoiding this is because it’s such a huge project. There’s so much to talk about: not just the individual media you can use, but for each medium there’s how to use it, what to do with it, what your options are, and so on. Not to mention keeping up with changes in each area.

So this is, by necessity, a really broad, high-level picture. I’ll try to at least keep it coherent, but I certainly can’t cover everything. Help me out by leaving a comment or sending me an email, telling me what questions you still have.

Ways You Can Monetize Yourself

There are a bunch of different routes for monetizing the value you provide, at a bunch of different levels. I’ve broken it up into three broad categories, to avoid overload and really long blog posts. So today I’m going to discuss monetizing yourself and your expertise with your time.

Sell your time and expertise


If there’s something you can do that others can’t, you can charge people to do it for them. You can do this on evenings and weekends, in your free time, to get a little extra spending money.

Start your own business

This is kind of an ambiguous term, and the line between this and freelancing is pretty blurry. Generally people call it “freelancing” if you do it in your spare time, and “running a business” if it’s your primary income source.

There’s also an important distinction between “owning a business” and “owning a job”. Details are here, but Michael Gerber defines it this way:

    Go out to the lobby and call your secretary. Tell them you’re not coming back for a year. If they panic, you own a job. If they’re cool with it, you own a business.

(If they celebrate, you need to rethink how you treat your staff.)
Owning a business is more fun and more lucrative (I think). But owning a job is faster to set up and easier to get started on, so if you’re new to the monetizing yourself thing, I recommend starting there.

There’s also a terminology ambiguity about what’s involved in “starting a business”. Usually this term means that you’re starting what’s called a “small business”, which is actually owning your own job. But as I said in Annual Planning, I recommend you treat it as a business regardless of your monetization selection. Freelancing? I recommend you set up a business and handle the money separately. Selling a book? I recommend you think of it as a business with one product. You don’t necessarily have to legally set it up as a business, but the attitudes of a business person (What’s my ROI? Who’s the target market? How is my product perceived?) will help you monetize yourself more effectively.

On Monday I’ll discuss monetizing yourself by selling your expertise, writing a book or selling information products.

Your Monetization Is Not Your Business

What is a “business”? Google defines it as “the activity of providing goods and services involving financial and commercial and industrial aspects.”

That’s still accurate, but the underlying methods for accomplishing financial goals have changed significantly in the past 10 years. It used to be that the “providing goods and services” and the “financial and commercial aspects” were closely related. The value you provided was to (for example) sell cars. People gave you money in return for cars.

But today, just about every product in the world is a commodity. There are more than a million websites where you can buy a Mercedes Benz. So providing me a Mercedes no longer counts as “providing value”. You have to give me extra value, to entice me to buy it from you.

What Business is Amazon In?

Amazon.com makes money selling books, everyone knows that. But that’s really not their value. I can get most of those same books from my friendly local bookstore, or from Barnes&Noble.com, or from Better World Books. And yet Amazon is far and away the #1 bookseller on the web. Why?

Because Amazon provides information. If I need a new book, I don’t have to browse randomly through a genre hoping to find something I like. Amazon will pull out and show me books it thinks I might like. If I’m interested enough to take a look, it will give me ratings of the book, ratings of the author, reviews from readers, and “people who bought this book also bought”. All of that allows me to more quickly find books that I like, including some new stuff I might never have found in my random-genre-browsing method. And, despite the excellent service at my friendly local bookstore, I can’t get all that information from anywhere except Amazon.

If Amazon.com decided to stop selling books, they could still monetize their information: they could sell ads to related products & services, they could join an affiliate program with other booksellers, they could charge a membership fee for anyone who wanted access to the information, or a per-book lookup of $.25 per review, or $1 to get a personalized recommendation list. They could forget about dead-tree books and push hard for the use of their Kindle. There are lots of ways to make money on the information, because it’s valuable information.

If Amazon.com decided to eliminate the information part of their site, they would quickly lose their book sales as well. There would be no reasons to choose them over BarnesAndNoble.com or my local Barnes & Noble. And most people, given the option, would rather support their friendly local bookseller and get their book immediately.

Amazon is not in the book-selling business. They are in the book-information business.

Your Monetization Is Not Your Business

Let’s look at the top 25 websites (according to Alexa.com):

Assorted Googles
Value: make it easy for you to find content on the web
Make money by: selling ads to people who want to sell to you

Value: make it easy for you to keep in touch with friends and family, yet also easy to ignore Uncle Arnie’s repeated invitations to Farmville.
Make money by: selling ads to people who want to sell to you

Value: entertainment (some education)
Make money by: selling out to Google

Value: make it easy for you to find content on the web
Make money by: selling ads to people who want to sell to you

Windows Live
Value: make it easy for you to find content on the web
Make money by: selling ads to people who want to sell to you

Value: easy-to-find information that’s as reliable as the Britannica on basic academic topics, and far more reliable on pop culture topics.
Make money by: asking for donations

That’s the first one on the list — at #6 — that even comes close to asking you to pay for the value they provide. And they’re still not using the traditional business model of selling you the information. You can have the information whether you pay or not.

The next one that even comes close to making you pay is #25 — ebay.com. And ebay doesn’t charge you for its major value: helping buyers & sellers find each other. It doesn’t charge you for browsing auctions to determine the fair market value of an item you may have. It only charges you a tiny fee to actually sell the product.

This is the new model of business: provide value, but don’t charge for it. Figure out who your audience is, and what they would pay money for. Find a way to get a piece of that action. Repeat.

Your Value Is Your Business

Provide value for people. It’s not an afterthought to your business, it is your business. If you provide value, I can help you monetize it. But if all you have is a monetization method, I can’t help you create value.

Tactics vs Strategy

The Belisarius series (one of my favorite sci-fi series, available in the Baen Free Library), makes a big deal about the fact that Belisarius focuses on the strategic, not the tactical. Crucial plot points,

    “So. Let’s put it all together. We have one of history’s most cunning generals – who always subordinates tactics to strategy – engaged in a campaign which, for all its tactical acumen, makes no sense at all strategically. In the course of this campaign, he drags along a bunch of mercenaries he has no use for, and which have no business being there on their own account. What does that add up to?”

depended on me knowing the difference between strategy and tactics… which I didn’t. And subsequently missed the no-doubt brilliantly-crafted hints that the author dropped.

But I’ve learned the difference, and I’m here to explain it to you.

Before Strategy OR Tactics

Neither strategy nor tactics makes sense without a goal. This is often ignored, because in military endeavors it’s usually pretty obvious what the goal is. But it all starts with what you want to accomplish. Once you’ve got that….

Strategy is the concept of how you’re going to accomplish it.
Tactics are the details of how you’re going to accomplish your strategy.

It’s easier to understand with a few examples, so let me offer a few:

Objective: Checkmate
Strategy: Control center of board
Tactics: Move bishop to D5

Objective: Lose weight
Strategy: Eat less, exercise more
Tactics: Join Weight Watchers & get a gym membership

Objective: Make money from my hobby
Strategy: Sell stuff in online store
Tactics: Decide whether to use Ebay or Shopify

Objective: Quit losing important papers
Strategy: Make sure everything has a designated home
Tactics: Buy a filing cabinet and alphabetical folders

On this website, I’m assuming that your objective is to make money off your skills, talents, and passions.

There are a bunch of different strategies available to you: build a home-based business, work freelance, start a website, start a blog, start an online store, write a book, make an info product….. I’ve mentioned these, and will talk about them in greater detail in the future.

And each of those has their own tactics… buy business cards, go to networking functions, pick wordpress vs blogger, pick ebay vs Shopify, self-publish vs finding an agent…

I won’t talk about these as much, because
(a) I’m not an expert on all of them
(b) There are other people who are experts on them
(c) The correct tactics vary significantly from situation to situation
(d) Your options change constantly

So you’re better off running a Google search yourself to see what you can find. But I’ll try, in the near future, to get you a resources page for your further research on tactics.

Resources For Further Reading (Thanks to my cousin Megan for finding these.)
First Things First: Strategy Before Tactics
Marketing Strategy Vs Tactics
When Tactics Drown Out Strategy
Identifying Strategic Problems

So, Should I Quit My Job?

In my last post I discussed broad monetization definitions based on where your money comes from, and hopefully made a convincing argument that a job is not necessarily the best option for getting money. But that’s where a lot of self-help books stop, leaving you with the impression that if you go to work tomorrow you must be a loser, that quitting your job now and striking out on your own is the best option.

And if that sounds good to you, by all means go for it! Maybe you have 12 months’ worth of income saved up in your emergency fund and are totally comfortable starting your own business. Maybe you know that your parents/spouse/trust fund can and will support you while you build up your investment portfolio. In which case, awesome, and can I have some of your trust fund?

But to many of you that doesn’t sound good. That sounds terrifying and/or stupid. It takes time to start getting income from your business, whether it’s a S, a B, or an I. What are you supposed to do in the meantime?

But it doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing. Here are some things you can do to diversify your income stream without quitting your job.


Most electricians and auto mechanics (at least the ones I know) install wiring and fix cars on their off days. I don’t know why they do this, but I’m grateful, and it can be a good source of income for you if you’re willing to do the same. Keep your day job, and do the same job for other customers in your spare time. Base your prices on industry standard, and you can pick up a little extra cash.

Note: If your freelance job is doing basically the same stuff as your day job, make sure you build your customer base within your own network and NOT by stealing customers from your employer. Customer poaching may be perfectly legal, but it’s highly immoral.

Write a book

Know a lot about something? Help teach others. This option is less often related to your current day job (although it certainly can), and more likely to come out of one of your hobbies. If you’ve spent time tinkering with something, odds are good that you know something about it that no one else does, whether it’s a technique for painting miniatures, a nifty purse pattern, a quick way to replace a carburetor, or the best seed varieties to grow in northern Montana. Ever wished that you could find a book on this so you wouldn’t have to figure it out by trial and error? Probably other people feel the same.

Make a Website

Don’t think you can get your writing published? You’re probably wrong, but I totally understand. Writing a website can feel a lot less intimidating. But it still provides a lot of value to people looking for information, and can provide you with income from people you’ve helped. How? Well, it depends on your topic, but the following are common:

  • Refer interested readers to a local business that can help them (your own or someone else’s) and get paid by the business for the referral
  • Sell related goods on ebay or from an online store
  • Charge for a membership that gives access to your content
  • Ask for donations from anyone who found the information helpful
  • Go in joint with a company that wants a website on your topic
  • Sell ads to businesses that relate to your topic
  • Send interested readers to someone else’s online store to get what they want; get a percentage of the sale.
  • Sell related information products

Write Information Products

Don’t feel up to writing a full website either? How about a 10-page booklet? Or a 1-page How-To? Could you record a few minutes of video or audio where you explain why you do this thing differently from the rest of the industry? All of these fall under the category of information products — things that provide information for their consumer, usually small, usually delivered digitally. ¬†An ebook or podcast or video can be sold on someone else’s website to help out their customer base, and net you a few dollars per sale.

The conclusion? Employment may be lame, but there are ways to be less lame without turning in your two-weeks’ notice.

Resources for Further Reading

Making money from your passion

35+ Information Products

How to Make Money From Your Blog

10 Mistakes Made By Newly Self-Employed