Influencer Tips to Diversify & Monetize Your Business Beyond Brand Deals – Episode 15

James Nord
May 4, 2022
Updated Feb 09, 2024

Welcome to Negronis with Nord. Today’s episode offers influencer tips to diversify your content, new ways to monetize your brand, and expand your business beyond brand deals. You can submit your questions for future episodes here.

This episode includes:

  • Expanding your business beyond brand campaigns
  • Why focus is important in business
  • Welcome DonYe behind the desk!
  • All your eggs in the IG basket
  • How DonYe built a newsletter
  • Advice for diversifying & monetizing content

Happy almost birthday, James

James Nord: Ready. Ready? Ready? Alright. Welcome. I was gonna say Drink with James again. Jesus. I still can't get it outta my head. Alright. Welcome. Negronis with Nord.

Episode, number 15, we're drinking water. Why? Well, because I'm a responsible businessman and it is three o'clock. So even I have my limits, you know, five years ago, I probably would've been drinking a whiskey, but five years ago I had like 15 employees and you know, f*cking around for an afternoon wasn't that big of a deal, you know, water before 5:00 PM because I'm an adult. I actually, speaking of being an adult, this episode comes out May 4th. My birthday is May 6th. Took me a minute to remember that I have ascertained I'm gonna be 38 years old. Wait. Yes. Okay. Like you get to a point where you do, uh, you do start forgetting. If you're watching this video, I am here taking time out of my incredibly busy packed schedule to give you free advice gleaned from my nearly 10 years of running this business, it's my birthday.

And I could use some booze. You know, people used to send me booze all the time. If you look over on my booze cart over here, maybe Haley can spin us around. It's it's looking, it's looking a little anemic and I have to say, I bought most of that shit, which is disappointing. So look, the address is 72 Allen street, 3rd floor attention, James Nord, send me a bottle. Wouldn't kill ya. You know, we're doing something a little different today as well. You know, we've had DonYe on the show three times now today, twice. Today is the third time I'm gonna talk a little bit and then we're gonna put DonYe in the hot seat. And DonYe's gonna talk a little bit and we are answering a question today.

Expanding your business beyond brand campaigns

James: The question, "Loved the episode." Thank you. Anonymous question asker. "I'd love to hear more about influencers starting their own podcasts, merch lines, and tips for expanding a creator business beyond brand campaigns."

Let me first state that there are absolutely downsides and difficulties to running an advertising-supported business. If you're creator making money, that is what you are. Being supported by advertising is in some ways a really great thing. In some ways it's difficult. It's great because you can make a lot of money with relatively little effort, right? Think of it like a toll. What the brand actually wants is to reach your audience and you are kind of making them pay a toll to do that. And obviously that toll the price of that toll increases as your following increases. So in that way, it's a great business because once you have the following, you know, you can sell, not as many ads as you want, but you can do it kind of over and over and over again, it doesn't take that much longer than creating regular content. You can make a lot of money.

The downside is advertisers are fickle, as we've talked about and their tastes change. And it is incredibly difficult to stay, you know, in the forefront of culture, to a point where you are a kind of target for advertisers wanting to work with you. So while a lucrative business, it is almost by design and nature, one that is shorter-lived. I think most influencers will have a hard time having multi-decade careers just being supported by advertising. And many of you watching this might be, you know, 23, 24, 25 years old or something, God bless you. Life is long. You know? So you are going to have to think of ways to, you know, diversify your income or think about ways to, you know, create some longevity in what you do.

We saw, go back to 2019, it felt like everybody was starting podcasts most people that did that have probably shut those podcasts down by now. Not to say it's not worth trying, but if you're thinking about starting a podcast, it shouldn't be as, I think many podcasts are, because you feel like you should have a podcast because everybody else has a podcast. But because you feel like there is a type of content that you want to create that is not possible for you to do currently on the platforms that you use. You know, you need to be able to talk it out and it's not something that works on Instagram, so you're gonna start a podcast.

Focus is one of the most important aspects of business

James: Focus is really important in business. It's something I think as a business owner, which y'all are, probably one of the more important aspects of leading a business is being able to have focus. It probably makes more sense to focus on a few things that you can do really well, rather than trying to do a lot of different things. I think a lot of people look at alternative streams of revenue or different things that they might be able to do with their following. And they think it's gonna be like this silver bullet. There's this great business book called 'The hard thing about hard things.' And he talks about silver bullets in business that as a business owner, you often are looking for those silver bullets. What does that, that feature or that thing, or that partnership that is going to like really change things for me, but there are no, realistically there are no silver bullets, you know, and he says, all there are thousands of lead bullets. It's just a slog. You know, you feel like you have a passion for doing something else or you have a point of view that is really specific or an idea for a product line that you think can be really successful. I think it is worth going after that.

It's just understanding your motivations and making sure that you're in it for the long haul. My friend Cass DiMicco is an influencer. She started that jewelry line Arium two or three years ago. She had always loved jewelry and saw this gap in the market for these kind of chunky chains and kind of nineties-inspired jewelry that she loved to wear. She went out and started it, you know, and that business had done great, but it is also an enormous amount of work. Again, the money, if you're starting a business like that is never going to be as easy as if you're able to sell sponsored posts.

So think of that motivation to make sure that if you're gonna do it, it's something that you're really passionate about. And also something that makes sense for you. If you feel like you really have something to teach someone and people already look at you as a thought leader, or as somebody who has a lot of expertise, then yeah. It might make sense for you to sell a course or classes or do something around education. But if people don't already see you as that thought leader, as somebody that, you know, has that expertise, it's going to be really hard for you to be successful in that. If like my friend, Joe Greer, you are an incredible photographer who has this amazing body of work that people are really passionate about, then selling a book of that work is a pretty good idea. It's probably gonna do quite well. If you are an emerging photographer and people aren't massively passionate about your work, that's probably not going to work.

Right. And so you have to just make sure that you're or skills are matching up with the way that you want to monetize that following. Yeah. I just think too many people when they think about diversifying their platforms or their revenue streams do it because they have seen other people do it and it works or because they feel like they should be doing it. They don't actually have a clear reason beyond that, why they're doing it. And if that is the case, unfortunately it's probably just destined to fail. And it's a complete waste of your time. If it's something that's like, feels really exciting and like an idea that you feel like I just have to do this because I feel like I can do something really special and different here. Then you, you should absolutely do that. But understanding those motivations are really important. Now I'm gonna get out of the chair here.

DonYe takes a turn at the desk

DonYe Taylor: Alright. I am gonna try to not act nervous cause I'm in James' seat right now. Um, but James, thank you so much for passing over with the podcast baton to me, I'm so happy to be here, to talk about stuff that I'm really passionate about and stuff that I actually do. So today we're gonna be talking about diversifying your content output as a creator I'm on here because I have managed to do that. I think pretty well to say the least. I started realizing that I needed to not put all of my eggs in one basket, AKA post, all of my content on one platform.

Deciding how to diversify content

DonYe: I remember there was this time where Instagram went down and I was like, oh my God, I wanna post. And I wanna talk to my audience, but I can't do it right now because Instagram is down. It's just not working.

And it really made me think, wow, I am putting all of my eggs into this one basket as it relates to Instagram. And my career is based on my audience. And if I can't reach them, then I don't have a career. That's when the light bulb kind of went off that I need to own my audience. So I started doing some research thinking how I can do it. At the time doing a newsletter for me was the lowest hanging fruit. I feel like I'm really good at writing and expressing myself. So that was the first thing, figuring out what the avenue was. So for me, it was a newsletter for other people, maybe a podcast, mind you again, I picked a newsletter cause I'm like, what can I do that's gonna create the most value, but it's not gonna take that much energy for me.

I could have done anything. I could've done merchandise. I could have done a podcast, but I was like, okay, a newsletter. That's something that I could knock out in an hour. I can set my own pace.

How DonYe built a newsletter

DonYe: Okay, how am I gonna get people to subscribe to my newsletter? So I started doing some like social inventory thinking about why people followed me. So I started going through my DMS, going through my comments and it was so many people that were just reaching out to me saying DonYe, oh my gosh, I love following you. I love your insight on marketing. How you educate people, things like that. So I'm like, okay, boom, this is it.

I started a series on my Instagram prior where I was just giving unsolicited advice to creators and I'm like, wow, this is gonna be the format for my newsletter. So sometimes you may have to take what it is that you're already doing and just reformat it to fit something else. So I took a content series I was doing on Instagram and turned it into a newsletter called To Whom It May Concern.

So I remember it was Art Basel and everybody was in Miami and it was this restaurant. You guys are probably familiar with this called Nobu. And they were charging like $700 for like chicken wings and fries, like crazy, insane prices. And that post was going around. It went pretty viral during the time because people like, oh my gosh, how can Nobu charge this much money for this food? And for me working and marketing and branding, I was like, oh, that's easy. It's because you're not paying just for the food you're paying for the lifestyle that is attached to Nobu.

People go to Nobu because it makes them look cool. It makes them feel good. It makes them seem like they're above, like upper echelon. And that is what you're paying for. And because Nobu has built that brand, they're able to charge a premium tax. And then once I broke that down on my Instagram, there was like, oh my God. And then the light bulb went off. I'm like, okay, this is what's gonna, this is gonna be my first newsletter. I created a "how to build a lifestyle brand" similar to Nobu in a Google docs. I made like an outline of it. And I told my followers, "Hey, I'm going live to talk about this topic, tune in. This is what I'll be covering." And my tactic to get people to subscribe to the newsletter was like, if you want to get the notes from my live so that you can take this information and apply it at your own pace, then click the link in my bio, type in your email and I'll send you my notes.

So that was my way of getting my audience that really cared about education as far as marketing and branding was concerned. So that live generated 900 subscribers within a day. Two or three weeks comes around. I'm like, f*ck what am I gonna talk about next? I quit my full-time job at the time. Cause I'm like, this is not what I need to do. I was just in a place where I was just not valued creatively. I feel like I was, my brain was just shrinking. I made the newsletter about titles and why people shouldn't really care about titles. I put so much emphasis on this full-time job that I had and the title that I had. I wanted my title to change so bad at this job. But even if my title changed, I would still be in the same sh*tty position. And it made me realize, wow, there's probably a lot of other creators that are working full-time jobs that are creative, but also have a side gig, whether that's photography, videography, whatever, they don't feel valued. And they hate the title that they're given. So I made a newsletter around that. Boom.

So I kept using that formula of taking what was going on in my life and applying it to my newsletter to educate my audience. And at this point this is like newsletter, like number four or five. So I'm in a groove, I'm in a constant upward curve. So now I'm at the point where I'm like, wow, okay. 79% engagement rate, 4,200 subscribers. I think I can start charging for this. So now I'm in the phase of my newsletter career where I'm thinking about leveraging my audience on my newsletter to generate other income. So I'm definitely gonna be starting to think about different brands and if they wanna sponsor a newsletter, cause now I have that data to be able to pitch.

Advice for diversifying & monetizing your content

DonYe: I probably couldn't pitch, you know, to a brand when I first had my newsletter, cause I only had 900 subscribers, but now I have a track record of success that I can use. And I think that's what a lot of creators need to understand when it comes to diversifying or stepping out and doing something new, you're not gonna get success instantly. It takes consistency. It takes trying new things. And it also takes, you know, doing your own research. If I would have never listened to my audience or never thought about what it is that they would've wanted to hear. I would've never made my newsletter that I made last month, but I was realistic with myself. I know that I'm not gonna have time to develop a product, sit down and record courses right now. I made that decision to do a newsletter based on how much energy I wanted to exert. And I also am in a different position financially, where I'm not pressed to make money instantly. If you are in a position where it's like, 'oh my gosh, I need money,' your idea or your path to monetize your creativity may be a little different.

So where I'm at right now with 4,200 subscribers, you know, I'm not charging for it right now, but I would definitely think about adding that as an option to my influencer gig. So if a brand like Adobe reaches out to me and says, 'Hey DonYe, like here's $2,000 or whatever to make this post,' I can then go back to, to Adobe and say, 'okay, well look, I know you wanna pay me for this Instagram post, but I have 4,000 something subscribers over here with almost an 80% engagement rate for an extra five, $600, you can promote your product into this newsletter,' which is really smart because the newsletter I'm gonna write anyway, you know what I mean? So it's like, I might as well just leverage that in order to generate more revenue, but would I be able to do something like that five or six months ago when I started my newsletter? No, because I didn't have the data to represent that.

So I think that's something that creators should definitely factor in the longevity it takes to garner success. That is leverage is leveragable a word? Oh, okay. Think about the time it takes to garner success that is leveragable. And think about, you know, if you wanna put that type of time in.

So if you're a creator right now, and you're thinking about all the different ways that you can diversify and monetize your, write down all of the different things that you think you would wanna do. So whether it's podcast merchandise, what are some other ones? I guess those are like the two main ones. Or if you wanna do speaking, if you're in the educational world, speaking is a really good one. I didn't even talk about that. Think about all of the different ways that you wanna diversify your income as a creator, and then try to write down all the different things that will go into making that successful: production costs, operating costs, expenses, everything that it would need to take for you to get that second income off the ground and really assess whether or not that is realistic to you also know that you can change your mind whenever you want. That's the beauty of life, just because you do one thing that does not mean that you have to be buried with it. You can change your mind. And I think that's, what's so great about being a creator and being in this space is the amount of flexibility that you have and the power that you have over your creative life.

If you're reading this, I mean, no, not reading this. If you're listening to this, watching this, thank you so much for watching, make sure you like and subscribe. And if you have any more topics, please drop them in the comments below because that would help me and Haley during our brainstorm sessions and we're thinking, oh my God wish should the next podcast be whoever left this comment, thank you. This saved us like 15 minutes during our brainstorm session. And it was a great topic, cause look, it got me behind James' desk. So more questions, more comments about influencer marketing, the creative industry. And we will see you guys soon. Bye!

Cheers, and thanks for watching.

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