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There are different business models out there for content creators and professionals to monetize, but I want to suggest one in this article that I’m a huge fan of.

Let me explain:

When you’re a content creator on the internet with an audience, you could monetize with a course, membership products that send people audio or video content, ebooks, or other types of information. 

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with those things, and I think there are plenty of people that have built incredibly valuable courses and information based on their expertise. I think it’s amazing if you built a business you love that you’re passionate about that’s built on the back of that. 

But a business model that I really love – that I think is incredibly valuable – is the concept of putting out free content and monetizing with paid “access.”

“Getting an hour of your time is less scalable, therefore more valuable.”    

I think ebooks and online courses are stunningly commoditized, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate from people that are putting out more and more of that information for free. There’s a value in curation for sure – there’s value packaging information and advice so that people don’t have to spend time searching on Google or YouTube. But at the end of the day, what others can’t replicate is you the human. 

You could sell a $19 ebook or a $19 / month membership on – say – How to train your sales reps, and that could bring people a lot of value. But getting an hour of your time once a week or once a month is less scalable, less replicable, and thus far more valuable. 

When you’re talking to a closed group of people doing Q&A, somebody might ask you a question that leads to you telling a funny story about a sales team you once led, or a crazy sales call that one guy had. And that story and unique experience could lead to a breakthrough for a lot of people that otherwise wouldn’t have had that same breakthrough reading the story in an ebook. 

For example, I’m doing Q&A every morning now on Tea With GaryVee. A lot of what I’m saying on the show and a lot of the answers I’m giving are the same as what I’ve given in the past, but because I’m giving so much access to the person on the other end, it’s hitting them differently than before. 

The more contextual the advice, the more valuable it is. 

“You’re able to react to something in the moment, and that creates even more value.” 

The serendipity that comes with access is also incredibly valuable. For example, somebody might ask you a random question about how to deal with conflicts with your father, or they might ask you about your favorite wine on the way out. In this environment you’re “living and breathing”, which gives you the ability to react to something, 

If you think about it, most professions today are based on this model already. It’s the business of being a doctor. It’s the business of being a lawyer. A lawyer could put out free law content all day long, but the real value comes from sitting down and consulting you in your specific situation. 

As a therapist, you could put out content about parenting, insecurity, and other things but the real value comes from sitting down with a client for an hour and really digging. 

Being contextual is about reacting to the moment – which creates more value for the end user. 

How access puts your brand in a much better position 

All of this is to say that while it’s still possible to monetize through a course, or a membership product where you’re putting out content, access can put your brand in a far better position. 

For a couple of reasons: 

One, the sheer value of it. 

And two, when you sell “paid information”, in some cases it means that all your free content ends up driving to your paid content. It can sometimes change the intent of the free content you’re putting out – everything becomes part of a “funnel” to set up a sale instead of truly providing value to the other person. 

Again, this isn’t always the case – I think platforms like Medium (full disclosure, I was an investor) do a really good job of leveraging a “pay for content” strategy. 

When you sell access, you tend to put out your best content for free because that’s not where you’re monetizing. That then makes your content much more valuable because people can feel the intent. 

I’ve watched so many people do such a great job of building an audience, and then all of a sudden when they started creating a $100 / month product with more content, their behavior changed to only wanting to sell that product. They think they haven’t changed, but subconsciously in the back of their mind, they’re thinking “hmm, how do I get 14 more people to sign up for my membership” when they’re putting out their free content. 

People can feel that intent switch, and it makes a big difference.

The reason I believe my content is successful is because I’m pouring my heart out trying to answer people’s questions, not leave them with a “cliffhanger” that makes them want to pay $99.99 / month to be part of the GaryVee world or something.  

Something to consider – curious to hear your thoughts in the comments.