In this column, I spend a lot of space talking about ways to attract attention and build a following. What often gets lost in the shuffle, however, is the reason so many of us are trying to do so in the first place--namely, to make more money. In her latest book Entrepreneurial You, author Dorie Clark picks up where so many other business writers leave off.
Fortunately, I had the opportunity to interview her on this subject (and quite a few others).
What made you decide to write this book at this point in your career?
My most recent book, Stand Out, was about how to become a recognized expert in your field. In a crowded and competitive marketplace, that's essential - but, in touring around the country talking to people about it, I realized it's not enough. Even if you're amazing at what you do, and even if you're recognized by your peers and clients as excellent, you can't have a sustainable business unless you learn to monetize effectively - and that's a very different skill set, and one we don't talk about very much in our culture. I wrote Entrepreneurial You to unmask some of the mystery, and the baggage, about how entrepreneurs actually earn their money. What, exactly, are their business models? What works and what doesn't? How much are people really earning? These are things that have always been talked about behind closed doors, but have often been opaque to outsiders. I wanted to level the playing field for regular professionals by bringing that conversation out into the open and sharing a transparent road map so they can begin to think about new ways to monetize their own expertise.
Why are there more people than ever before who are becoming well known but still not making any money?
Thanks to the Internet, regular people have the opportunity to build a following and reach an audience. But many of those activities, even if glamorous, aren't that lucrative. YouTube stars often generate millions of views and receive a pittance, because advertising sponsorship rates are so low. So these days, there's often a disconnect between being well known and making money from your expertise. One doesn't necessarily lead inexorably to the other. You have to consciously learn how to do both things.
Why are some "thought leaders" better than others at making money from their expertise?
Professionals miss out on fully monetizing their business for a few different reasons. 1) Some experience self-doubt, and worry that if they're charging for their expertise, it will open them up to criticism or being 'found out.' 2) They typically have one revenue stream, such as consulting or offering some other professional service, and it hasn't occurred to them that there are opportunities to expand into other, related areas. 3) They may be interested in exploring a new revenue stream, such as podcasting, but aren't sure where or how to start. 4) They've seen the visible outliers - the hucksters and charlatans - in the online marketing space, and worry that if they start marketing online, they'll be viewed in the same negative light, and want to protect their brand.
I once heard you say, "People used to make money from something. Now they make money because of something." Can you talk to me about what you meant by that?
This is a point first made to me by the Internet theorist Doc Searls. What he's talking about is an important change that professionals today have to deal with - the demonetization of certain activities that you used to get paid for in the past, and how we can start to cope with that reality. For instance, I started my career as a journalist, and got paid to write articles: pretty simple. I made money from the articles. Today, I still spend a lot of time writing - performing, in many ways, the functions of a journalist. But I don't get paid for any of it. If that were the end of the story, it would be a pretty sad story! And unfortunately, many professionals do stop there. But the trick is, you need to learn to make the transition to making money because of something - i.e., monetizing around it. For instance, I now use the articles as marketing for other services I provide, such as executive coaching and professional speaking, and make far more money than I did back when I was a journalist.
What is one practical takeaway that every solopreneur or small business owner should know about monetizing their expertise (preferably one they won't typically find in other sources)?
Here's something critical for solopreneurs or small business owners to realize. Even though you're diversified in some ways - having multiple clients, rather than just "one client," as you'd have with a day job - you're not really diversified unless you also have multiple revenue streams. Market conditions can change, and if a competitor enters the market, or starts underpricing you, or whatever you offer is no longer relevant (hello, Flash programmers!), you can be crippled overnight.
Instead, strive to develop at least 3-4 different revenue streams. (I have eight: marketing strategy consulting, executive coaching, business school teaching, writing books, keynote speaking, online courses, affiliate income, and live workshops.) Pick 1-2 new ones per year to focus on, so you don't get pulled in too many directions. The key is to focus on different ways to leverage your existing strengths. If you're trying to be a gardening consultant and a yoga instructor and a patent attorney and a guitar teacher, those are wildly different activities that will pull you in too many different directions.
But if you're a web designer and you've been building sites for companies, maybe you could start to create an online course to teach people web design, or provide a short-term coaching package to help small business owners learn to create their own sites. Those are related services, but ones that capitalize on your expertise and enable you to reach audiences you might have had to turn away before (for instance, someone just starting her business might not be able to afford you to design her entire site for her, but she could pay $100 to buy your online course and learn how to do it herself).