Why Be A Beast When You Can Be A Boutique?
When it comes to finding success on the internet, there are an endless amount of strategies and tactics that can be applied to your art or content. In my experience, many independent creators struggle with growing their audience or even finding a good strategy to do so. In my opinion, much of this frustration is due to a mindset that is misaligned with the creator’s expectation.
As a culture, we are often regaled with stories of overnight successes, viral content, and other forms of the ‘rags to riches’ mythos. However, the world is changing and has been for quite some time. We no longer have to wait to be picked up by a record label, publisher, or news source. Instead of trying to be the big fish, we can be our own pond.
Played out idioms aside, today I wanted to talk to you about having a ’boutique’ strategy for audience growth and monetization. While this may not be the preferred strategy for everyone, I think it is something that independent creators need to hear and consider.
For a long time, ad revenue and affiliate programs have been the go-to income sources for online creators and artists. The strategy is simple. You make great content, load it up with ads and affiliate links, and grow your audience. The bigger your audience gets, the more those pennies roll in. Once you get to a few hundred thousand visitors a month, your ad revenue will be able to pay some of your bills.
To be honest, this technique worked very well in the early days of the internet. Back in the day, running a website was a time and skill-intensive experience that was not feasible for most people. With less competition on the web, website owners were free to stake out their own little corner of the internet. Imagine being the first person to run a website about funny gifts to give your parents or unicorn collectibles. We could have made some serious bank back then.
However, the internet works a bit differently now, especially for independent creators and artists. For every conceivable topic, there are millions of web pages all vying for the top spots in the Google search results. Many of these top spots are firmly held by large corporations. There’s a reason why Forbes, traditionally a business magazine, writes about video games and comic books. These large-scale companies have both the social and fiscal currencies to nudge out the competition, to nudge out you and me.
How are we supposed to rake in six figures worth of ad revenue when we don’t have the capital or popularity to roll with the big dogs?
The answer is: We aren’t supposed to, at least not right away.
Many creators are opting for a more ’boutique’ style of running their websites and online business. Instead of mimicking the bigger sites until they grow big enough, they are focusing their efforts on curating a small, yet powerful, audience.
Let’s take a look at a hypothetical example of this strategy:
Website A is a blog about gardening. Their main method of monetization is affiliate links through Amazon. They advertise a variety of gardening tools that net them a commission of roughly $0.35 per sale.
Website B also blogs about gardening. Their main method of monetization is a membership platform where they run a private podcast and Facebook group for their members to get more help with their gardening. They also do monthly 1:1 calls with their clients to talk them through their gardening issues. Website B charges $100 per year of their membership group.
For every one sale that Website B makes, Website A would need to make about 286 affiliate sales. In order to make $100 a month, at the average affiliate conversion rate of 1%, Website A would need to have an average audience of 28,600 viewers.
Website B could probably get one person to join their private membership group with just a few hundred or thousand viewers a month. As their website grows, their private membership will also increase. This will most likely scale faster than an ad/affiliate-based website. They also are using their services to build their community further, which helps differentiate them from their faceless corporate counterparts.
RELATED: How To Make Money As A Gamer
One of the greatest gifts the internet has given us is a decentralized way to consume media and products. We no longer have to rely on cable television or our local grocery store. We can watch, read, listen and purchase from whomever we want, whenever we want. If I want cargo shorts with dragons on them, there’s a person on Etsy who would love to take my business. If my local news station is being dishonest in their reporting, there is an endless amount of news to be read.
My favorite example of this is when I meet people who still listen to the radio or primarily pop music. Their all-time favorite band is out there waiting for them to find them. Sure, they may be recording in their garage and uploading it to YouTube. The only price of admission is that you have to go searching on the internet to find them. In my opinion, that is a small price to pay to find a deep connection to a piece of art.
These same concepts can be applied to our own passions, art, and content. We can strive to be the little piece of the world that others love. Instead of trying to entertain the masses, we find our own tribe to love and support. The world is a big place, and your biggest fans are out there waiting for you.
Though the world has changed so much, many of us still equate success with being famous. It makes sense, it is the model that most of us grew up hearing. Success doesn’t happen until we become the beast. How many times have you heard “that store is like the Walmart of (blank)”, or “that website is like the Buzzfeed of (blank)”. Comparing ourselves to big companies is a part of our language.
Growth can’t happen until we redefine our definition of success. In my opinion, success on the internet shouldn’t be based solely on massive popularity. It should be defined by many factors, including personal fulfillment, audience engagement, and the quality of our work.
Where Do We Go From Here?
If you are a creator or artist struggling to make it into the big leagues, I would suggest that you stop immediately. Instead, reposition your brand in a way that will allow you to build a small, tight-knit community.
Start interacting with your audience and learning everything you can about them. Learn about what their wants and needs are, and what they want from you. See if you can teach them, help them, or find a way to make their lives a little more fulfilling.
If you are an artist or musician, you can make limited-edition merchandise for your biggest fans. If you run a website or are a content creator, you can offer services that will replace your ads with something more substantial. My best advice here is to find something that is creative, unique, and meets your audience’s needs.