In 2020 I was a full-time wedding photographer. After running my business for nearly a decade, the events industry fell under pandemic restrictions, and I was forced to temporarily shut down my business, canceling two years of pre-booked income and issuing refunds. My husband and I found ourselves unemployed, with no savings, a mountain of debt and two children to support. Like many others who also experienced the pandemic shut down their businesses, I wasn’t sure how she could support my family.
Several weeks later, news broke that Pandemic Unemployment Assistance had become available for the self-employed. Ecstatic that this lifeline was being offered, I quickly applied. Colleagues asked me for help navigating the incredibly confusing and critical application. To save time, I decided to make a quick video and load it into YouTube, with the plan of sharing it with the wedding community to help my colleagues through the confusing application process. I uploaded the tutorial onto my dead YouTube channel — it had 37 subscribers at the time from an old side project.
To my surprise, within the first 24 hours, the video had nearly 1500 views which snowballed to almost 5000 views the next day. The video’s comments section makes it extremely clear that Californians needed help accessing these benefits. Viewers were confused with the process, frustrated with the broken system and frightened at the consequences of making a mistake would mean. I replied to every single comment.
I spent hours researching and making additional videos explaining questions I didn’t know. My skills in research, experience as a former educator, and desire to help as many people succeed in getting the help they needed resulted in a surprising amount of positive feedback in the comments section – because someone was willing to help them solve an important problem.
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Find a content gap
I had identified what is known as a content gap — an essential piece in building a successful online business. This is an area where there is demand for a niched topic to solve a problem, but there is limited content about that topic. I listened to people’s problems, questions and frustrations and worked to present them with information, resources and solutions.
I quickly monetized the Youtube platform, reaching the required number of views and subscribers to have ads placed in your videos. I incorporated trusted affiliate marketing and sponsors that directly helped solve viewer needs.
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Soon, I was able to go off unemployment, and I could create several jobs – hiring directly from my unemployed follower pool of viewers. I conducted financial giveaways to my viewers – giving away thousands of dollars to my viewers experiencing financial hardship as a way of expressing my gratitude to her viewers.
Eventually, I earned six figures due to careful planning and the hard work of building multiple income streams. I was able to pay off our family’s debt completely. I revealed this information and earnings reports to my viewers — wanting to be transparent about earnings while hoping to inspire others to start a channel and grow a business — but also fearing backlash about profiting from a channel that helped people to get unemployment.
The response was not what I expected. Thousands of comments expressed how helpful my viewers had found my channel — viewers expressed how my videos helped them to keep their families fed, housed and safe during the pandemic. My videos allowed them to access business grants, housing grants and other aid. The support was overwhelming, unexpected and meant a great deal to me.
As soon as the pandemic unemployment programs started to wind down, I began focusing on the next phase for this group that had been with me through so much – and this is where I wanted to teach them how to build their own income and start and grow a business through simple, actionable steps that take the confusion and overwhelm out of the process.
Too often, we see people with great ideas that never get off the ground because of too many hurdles, too little help, and too few resources available. However, success in your online business is attainable, and I want to encourage you to take a simple series of steps to unlock success for your online business. It all can seem overwhelming, so I have simplified the process to 6 key steps that allow anyone to monetize their knowledge, skills or talent.
Related: I Made $10,495 in One Month of Freelancing and Worked Less Than 16 Hours a Week. Here’s What I Did That Made All the Difference.
Six steps to monetizing anything
What I was able to do encompasses some incredibly important aspects that any business should follow to reach success. I refer to this as the “Monetize Anything Blueprint,” and it is an important and repeatable series of steps to build a successful business:
Step 1 — Identify a problem you have solved for yourself. You don’t need to be the best, the most knowledgeable or the most experienced. You simply need to know how to solve a problem that others have and break the solution down into a simple, transformative series of repeatable actions, tools, or services offered to help your audience solve the same problem.
Related: Digging For Gold: Identifying Your Ideal Customer
Step 2 — Identify the target person who is experiencing that problem. Find where you can reach those people and where they spend their time online. Think about where your message will be able to reach them, how they prefer to receive information, and what their precise needs are. Get specific — speak directly to this target audience, and don’t try to appeal to everyone.
Step 3 – Help them solve the problem in a transformative, clear and actionable way. Listen to their needs, questions and hear what your audience needs. Many get overwhelmed with multi-step processes — curating and simplifying are key. Provide tools, resources and a way to solve their problem.
Step 4 – Provide a LOT of value, appreciate their support and stories and continue to provide as much value as possible. Don’t try to sell to them — try to help them. Build trust, establish yourself as the go-to and create a helpful and supportive community.
Step 5 – Figure out more ways to help on a higher level and offer paid products. You provided high-quality free content, but your time and hard work do deserve compensation. What in-depth product can you create for your audience to get them to the next level and provide help on a more personal level? How can you solve their problems in a more targeted, curated and results-based way? We want the viewer to see your content and, when presented with an offer or product, say, “Wow – if their free content is THIS good, imagine what their paid product can do for me.”
Step 6 — Diversify your income streams. Ensuring you are not putting all of your eggs into one basket and instead creating multiple income streams is key. For example — instead of just trading your time for money and offering 1:1 coaching services, instead, diversify your income streams by growing a YouTube channel that brings in ad revenue, earns affiliate income through sharing links for useful products to your viewers, getting sponsorship deals, offering online courses and selling an ebook.
Related: Why Diversifying Business Revenue Streams Is Crucial To Your Success (And How To Do It)
I want to encourage you to apply these steps to your business. Think through how you can bring your business online and create multiple income streams with no income ceiling.
Imagine if you could break free from the trading time for money hamster wheel, where your income-earning potential is limited by the number of hours you have in a day. Imagine if you could develop multiple streams of income that are up and running, earning for you even when you aren’t directly working.
What I have learned from my experience as a shutdown, broke, and uncertain entrepreneur is this: it is entirely possible to take control, create a business you love and skyrocket your earning potential, all while helping others like you to solve a problem.
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