Start A Student Business Online Easily In Knowledge Commerce. Just Convert What You Are Studying, Or Your Passion, Into An “Earn-While-You-Learn” Idea.
There are two strong trends in your favor if you are a student these days wanting to start a business online even while your studying.
One, millennials everywhere are gravitating towards solo-online-businesses that they can start with little money, and many are earning in millions. Two, there is a growing field of Knowledge Commerce where you just teach people what you know or love and earn handsomely for it.
There’s a huge demand now from students online for all kinds of smart knowledge. Not only would other millennials love to know what you know, but they also love to follow “thought-leaders” on the Internet. If your words can sway your loyal fans and followers, you can also easily become a micro-influencer earning from big brands who want your services.
At Solohacks Academy, we think there’s huge earning potential for student millennials entering the online business arena right now. You know everything about the crowds of other millennials you hang out with, right? Millennials are the highest spenders on the Internet, as you know. So why not turn both your knowledge and influence into helping the millennials around you to earn piles of cash?
1. Getting Your Understanding Of Knowledge Commerce Right
Knowledge Commerce is ecommerce of products that monetize your unique knowledge. As a student millennial, maybe you are in a course of study you love. Or perhaps, aside from the subjects you’re studying at college, there are other interests, passions, talents or hobbies you have that you want to convert into an online business.
If you understand the whole Knowledge Commerce concept correctly, in its entirety, you will realize that there are lots of ways a Knowledge Commerce marketer can earn than by just selling his or her knowledge as books or courses.
a. Why Knowledge Commerce Works Like No Other Business Can
Most people in Knowledge Commerce think success arrives where you convert your knowledge into saleable products and they all earn handsomely thereafter. Actually, that’s where the success merely begins. When your knowledge products become flag-bearers of your unique brand, your brand value grows exponentially.
The rates you can command for becoming a topnotch influencer, an authority or thought-leader, in your niche, are enormous. You’ll be sought after more than your products will be. While your knowledge products will still earn endlessly, your brand will zoom forth and earn more than you ever dreamed of.
What kind of knowledge do you have that can make you a go-to expert among your student fraternities? Think about this deeply.
This doesn’t always have to be a serious subject you are phenomenally good at. It could even be a knack you have that many others don’t. Or, it could be a nuance to the way you handle things. It’s your “tacit knowledge”. Someone somewhere will want to have that knack or nuance, and even be ready to pay for it – if not having that knowledge is ruining their life.
For example, you may be good – or even great – with things like this:
- How to get along with roommates you can’t abide
- How to do smart student shopping and get discounts for everything you buy
- How to help friends through homesickness or depression
- How to raise funds for causes you love to support by rallying your friends
- How to make your subject of study more interesting for yourself
- How to get through study assignments at 3X, 5X and 10X speed
- How to get your exercise on a campus that has no decent gym
People these days don’t always come online for serious, studious knowledge. They like lifestyle tips, ways to do things smarter, beating the crowds, or learning something they never thought they’d be interested in. Any kind of whacky, clever, resourceful knowledge you have can become the basis of your Knowledge Commerce online business.
b. The Ladder Of Success You Should Aim At In Knowledge Commerce
Student entrepreneurs in Knowledge Commerce would be smart to follow the diagram below as their ladder of success towards earning. Here’s the diagram, and an explanation of each stage follows.
Step 1: Build an audience in your chosen area of business
Your chosen knowledge or interest area is also known as your niche. Your first task here is to set up a simple but smart website and blog and start writing regular, daily blog posts on topics related to your niche. Here’s what happens when you start by blogging regularly.
As you increase the number of posts on your blog, Google waits for the first six months before starting to give your blog posts some rankings. When you have around, say, 100-150 posts, and have crossed the Google six-month wait (also called the sandbox), your posts start appearing on Google listings to get you click-throughs and traffic.
As people visit your site are drawn to read some articles, see if you can capture them onto your mailing list with a free downloadable ebook bribe for subscribing. Build up your mailing list and each time you blog anew, let your subscribers know you have done this and give them the links to read your new articles. Convert them into loyal regular readers, who like your writing style and ideas so much that they become fans and followers.
Of course, meanwhile, you can also get traffic from social media if you’re active on the right social channels where your target audience hangs out. Let them see your blog post excerpts, images, and site news and grow into your social fans and followers.
Why should you do this “audience-building” before creating any of your knowledge products to sell? Because the real money is in your mailing list and social fans and followers. It because of them that you’ll sell products. And it’s also because of them, you’ll get recruited by brands to be an influencer.
Step 2: Create your own ebooks or short courses to sell – and add affiliate products too
Here’s where you begin flexing your selling muscles. Start with a few affiliate products in your niche that would make good sense (and money) to advocate via your blog posts. Affiliate products are products of other people you can sell if they are related to your blog topic. You’ll earn commissions when people follow the links on your site to the other people’s sites and buy those products.
Once you got the hang on recommending things to people to buy, you can then create some ebooks or courses of your own (simple but intriguing ones) and sell these, to see how much force there is your recommendation. When people put their money down on your say-so you know you are building some serious power in your advocacy.
Step 3: Become an influencer for big brands that covet the tightly knit follower community you’ve built up
When you have about, say, 10,000 subscribers, fans and followers (altogether), who are a loyal audience and deeply interested in what you have to say, enroll yourself with one of the “influencer agencies” (there’s a great list of them here). They’ll match you up with great brands that covet your audiences. They’ll also tell you what you can charge and teach you the ropes of the influencer business.
c. Blogging Is The Place To Begin As You Start Out In Knowledge Commerce
The success ladder described above begins with power-packed blogging. Here’s why …
People online don’t come to buy things, they come to get information before they buy. They like to educate themselves before buying. They like to hear the reviews of their friends and peers about any brands they are considering. They don’t want advertising from products and services brands. They want “information” and “knowledge”. They want to know a lot so they can make smart buying decisions.
Given this climate of “information-seek” that happens online all the time, sales of products are a result of that information-gathering. Sales becomes a by-product of the quality of information a brand puts out. After reading many of your articles and posts around a topic of interest, your readers should grow to trust your word – and then when you make a purchase recommendation, they become predisposed to accepting your word as an authority on that topic. They do as you say.
This method of marketing – called “content marketing” – is a direct antithesis to pushy hard-sell advertising. Content marketing is in fact THE ONLY WAY anything can be sold online, because that is the nature of the online marketing beast. There is no other way people online will buy anything.
That’s why blogging is so important. Repeated and regular publishing of blog posts from you on your niche topic, gradually builds market trust in you as a subject authority – and then you can sell what you want to, when sufficient trust is built. In fact, as more and more trust builds, you can sell products of higher and higher prices. It all begins and grows with your blogging.
2. Your Own Knowledge Products You Could Easily Create And Sell
I’ve tried many types of knowledge products I could sell in my niche, but the easiest ones were ebooks, short online courses, and mentoring webinar sessions. I’ll tell you what these are and how to strategize to create products like these that can earn you well. Read on …
a. Create Your Own Ebooks Using Some Excellent Resources And Tools
Remember, ebooks are amongst the most popular knowledge products. Most marketers like to begin with these. Ebooks allow Knowledge Commerce entrepreneurs to cut their teeth in the business without much risk. (We’re talking here of books to sell through your own site. We’re not including books for Amazon Kindle which are a whole different ball game.)
Planning and writing your ebook
What you should be aiming for first is to pick a topic for your first ebook. It should make it easy for a prospective customer to become a purchasing one. Your ebook must help generate more sales of other knowledge products. So, keep that one goal in mind.
- Choosing the right topic: Choose a topic that aligns with your target audience’s needs or pain-points. Your ebook should be a “deeper dive” into some subject of your niche that calls for a depth of understanding.
- Creating your ebook outline: Amazon allows you to look inside books at the Table of Contents, right? See the flow of chapters and the sequence that other writers have followed. That should start shaping your own thoughts into some structure.
- Writing to a pattern: The human mind likes order and arrangement. Writing to a pattern thus helps the reader’s mind. His mind doesn’t have to try and create order and arrangement out of your information.
Designing your ebook
Although many people say “Don’t judge a book by its cover”, unfortunately, that’s how things usually work. How your ebook looks is a big part of its potential for delivering its objective. So, let’s see what goes into great ebook design.
- Designing your ebook cover: The Internet is choc-a-bloc with ebook design templates. Each of these ready-to-use solutions comes with examples and detailed DIY instructions.
- Using the best colors: Recent studies show that psychology of color can instigate very specific user behaviors. They can even push people to click on the “Buy Now” button. Choose colors wisely.
- Inclusions and CTAs: Intersperse your writing with source-attributed statistics and quotes. Do not forget to add Calls-To-Action (CTAs). They are critical to leading people from the ebook to take some next action on your site – like buying other products.
Pricing your ebook
Ebook pricing can be a tricky decision. Some pundits say that lower-priced ebooks are the way to the knowledge products game. Others claim that higher prices have helped them earn millions. Yet some others say you have to discover your own price incrementally.
- Considerations in favor of low ebook pricing: Smashwords, an online ebook publishing and marketing business, states that lower-priced books almost always sell more copies than higher-priced books. For instance, if priced at $2.99 the ebooks will sell up to four times more copies than ebooks priced over $9.99.
- An example of a higher-priced successful ebook: Mike Geary, author of “The Truth About 6-Pack Abs”, states he has been selling his ebook for $47 and he sells a lot. He has earned nearly $1,000,000 per month via his ebook. He tested different price points, from $29.95 to $97.00. For his particular product, a fitness info ebook, the $47 price point worked best.
- A third way to discover the best pricing for your ebook: To discover what the price vs. value balance for your particular book is, try to “increment” the product contents and price. Keep the price and contents small, to begin with. Then add more content as you gradually increase price. Soon, you’ll get to discover the optimal price for the value your readers want.
b. Create Your Own Short Online Courses – They’re Easier Than You Think
The demand for good courses is only climbing. Get your share of this golden pie. According to GM Insights, the e-learning market size was at around $190 billion in 2018. It’s expected to grow at a CAGR (compounded annual growth rate) of 7% from 2019 to 2025.
Selecting what to teach through your course
Your challenge is in finding out where you can have the biggest impact. Ask yourself. Which pain-points most trouble your audiences’? How can you best help solve these for them? Begin there.
- Choosing the right topic: As we noted earlier, the way to pick a great topic is to look at your target audiences’ problem areas. Don’t be general. Be as specific as you can get. For example, see this very specific title: “How To Lose Weight For An Event That’s 4 Weeks Away”.
- Making sure there’s good demand: See if there’s a lot of social chatter around a topic where a lot of people seem vexed. You can thus find nuances within your chosen topic area that have more demand than others.
- State how your course can help your target audience: Always state the benefits of your course using “verbs” and measurable results. People then understand exactly how they will gain from the course. For example, you can say: “You can reduce mobile and laptop insurance costs by 15% by adopting these safety measures”.
Putting together your course content
You would think picking a course to create is the biggest problem you can have. But I can bet. Knowing how much content to put in a course is the really hard part.
- Plan your content by a problem-solution method: There are always some clear stages to solving a problem. Follow the same step-by-step sequence for your course.
- The best course content has clear topics and modules: Don’t aim for a mammoth curriculum for your first course. You will exhaust yourself. Instead, keep it simple to create, and simple to follow.
- Plan the delivery mode of your course: Experts believe people react best to video-based personal instruction. But if you are really camera-shy, you can opt to record your voice, reading out a script to match what’s on the screen. Add a photo of your face on a corner of the screen.
Pricing your course
The price of your course affects everything. It affects your revenue, type of students, and the attention you can provide. Charging too little downgrades the course’s value-perception. Charging too high makes you have to discount the course later if you can’t get enough students. Here are three pricing strategies.
- Work backward to derive your best course price: See if you can calculate the value a customer may get from learning your course. Then based on their gains, see if you can price your cost 5X or 10X less than the value they gain.
- Provide options that make your original price look worth it: A Knowledge Commerce professional I know always has two variants of his course. One variant has no extra mentoring inputs. The other variant includes 2 hours of phone mentoring with added cost. When the two options are placed side by side, customers invariably choose the course without mentoring.
- Improve your packaging and you can improve your price: A slick-looking course does wonders for your brand. It helps you premium-price the product. People like enrolling in something that makes them feel they’ve chosen from the best-of-breed. It’s human to crave the best products for yourself.
c. Create Smart Mentoring Sessions Using “Evergreen Webinars”
As a student knowledge-entrepreneur, you cannot spend a lot of time personally mentoring or tutoring your “customers” who may need help in your niche area. But it could be smart to offer monthly or occasional group mentoring sessions that you can earn with. A good 45-60 minute session on an interesting webinar – a “mastermind” or “workshop” – on a hot topic related to your niche, would sell well with your audiences. Millennials would enjoy the group energy of such events.
But how do you find time to create and run such webinars, you ask? It’s easy if you create “evergreen webinars”.
Evergreen webinars are webinars that you can record once, and replay again and again
Evergreen webinars are also known as automated or on-demand webinars. How do they work? You can record webinars once, and can replay them again and again thereafter. They look and feel like live webinars. You have a speaker teaching something – or a marketer selling something. But you also have a simulated side-panel to the main teaching screen. It acts as if live discussions are taking place among attendees. The speaker can even answer some of these questions from these “attendees”. People would then feel even more like they are attending a live webinar.
Why do customers seem to love webinars, evergreen or otherwise?
It could be because webinars give them a break from whatever they are “doing”. They get time off “doing” to relax without guilt, and get some “learning”.
Some marketers say that customers may not like the idea of a pre-recorded webinar. They say customers prefer the interactivity possible with a live webinar. Attendees can ask questions and get doubts cleared – and that seems like a huge plus-point. But on the flip side, live events may have inconvenient timings for some global time-zones. And the scheduled event timings may not suit people’s work/life balance.
Four marketing situations best suited to automated evergreen webinars
You could consider these four aspects when deciding on the topics and schedules for your mentoring sessions or webinars:
- Webinars help you market products or services that need more consumer education: Some products need a lot of consumer coaching and leveling-up, before people buy them.
- Webinar tutorials help get easier buy-in for complex or specialist products: You may need to explain certain product features or usage practices with details and explanations.
- Webinars can help describe case studies to showcase your strategy, processes, and results: Who doesn’t love a good case study? They are a combination of storytelling – mixed in with strategy, tactics, and results.
- Webinars can stamp your brand uniqueness to reveal a few of your exclusive tips and tricks: You could use evergreen webinars to show people that you are a different kind of thinker. You can showcase a few hacks you have discovered that work wonders.
Pricing a webinar
Webinar prices depend on four things: the price your audience can pay, your content and its uniqueness, your own personality and its sway, and the length of the webinar. But most of all, you have to know what value you bring to your audience. If your topic is truly one-of-a-kind, you will find your paying audience, even with a price a bit higher than on the market.
Do a fair bit of market research online to review current webinar prices, and then check out purchasing power and interest with a few potential audiences. Always see that you offer more value than what the audience feels they are paying for the webinar. Give away something free (a downloadable resource), or offer a discount on one of your other popular products.
3. The Highly Lucrative Step Of Becoming And Remaining A Micro-Influencer
Many student or millennial knowledge-entrepreneurs dream of becoming big influencers – but you’d be surprised to know that the real ones making tons of money are the micro-influencers, not the top-tier influencers. The demand for large influencers is fast waning. Brands want smaller, more sincere, more believed micro-influencers, with tightly knit communities of fans, followers, and subscribers. They see far better results from working micro-influencers – and there are reasons for this.
a. Why Would Big Brands Gravitate Towards Micro-Influencers?
There is very interesting research that suggests why big brands are pursuing micro-influencers. It’s to do with this. When an influencer reaches a “critical mass of followers”, his audience engagement decreases.
This may be why big brands see diminishing returns as they chase after big influencers. Influencers’ grip on audiences wane as they grow larger with their followings.
Yuyu Chen has an article “The rise of ‘micro-influencers’ on Instagram”. He explains this saturation-point. He quotes Markerly research of 2 million social media influencers:
- Influencers with fewer than 1,000 followers have a like rate of about 8 percent.
- Influencers with 1,000 to 10,000 followers have a like rate of 4 percent.
- Influencers with 10,000 to 100,000 followers have a like rate of 2.4 percent.
- Influencers with 1 million to 10 million followers have a like rate of 1.7 percent.
The market is in favor of micro-influencers. But to enter this arena and sustain yourself, you have to understand how big brands see micro-influencers in their equation.
What do brands see as positives in working with micro-influencers? This is their thinking …
- Micro-influencers allow big brands to reach more target audiences with less money.
- Micro-influencers have small niches markets not usually accessible to big brands.
- Micro-influencers can add unique and fresh voices to a big brand’s online conversation.
- Micro-influencers can stay more in engagement with their small groups of followers.
- Micro-influencers, compared to A-List influencers, are accessible, and easier to work with.
b. How Do Brands Expect Micro-Influencers To Sway Their Audiences?
To see how a micro-influencer sways his audiences towards brands, see this Instagram Micro-Influencer Campaign by Audible, Amazon’s audiobook and podcast division. Audible partners with celebrities and influencers of all sizes, including micro-influencers.
One was amateur photographer Jesse Driftwood (@jessedriftwood), a micro-influencer, who posted a photo of himself using Audible. In the caption, he explains how he uses Audible to learn more about business management and productivity while involved in his other activities.
c. What Can A Micro-Influencer Charge For Services To A Big Brand?
Experts believe micro-influencers are earning far less than they should. A lot of micro-influencers are charging based on threat of “lurking competition”. Instead they should be charging on calibration of their “effort to results ratio”.
In their 2016 Global Influencer Survey Report, Bloglovin’ reports some interesting facts.
- 84% of micro-influencers on Instagram charge less than $250 per branded post.
- 97% of micro-influencers on Instagram charge less than $500 per branded post.
By contrast, according to the New York Times, a top influencer with 3-7M followers charges about $187,500 per YouTube video. For a post on Instagram or Snapchat, they charge an average of $75,000. For a Twitter post, they charge approximately $30,000.
An influencer who has somewhere between 50,000 and 500,000 followers, would charge a lot less than mega-influencers. For one sponsored YouTube video, they would charge about $2,500. The cost of a sponsored post on Instagram or Snapchat would be around $1,000. And for one Twitter post, they would charge around $400.
Here are some charts from the Bloglovin’ 2016 Report on micro-influencer charges:
What arguments can micro-influencers give brands to hike charges?
Kevin Joey Chen has done an article “Micro-Influencers Cost Less Than You Think”. He explains how he thinks a micro-influencer could justify his charges to a brand:
A brand spending $5,000 wouldn’t even get noticed if they used a top influencer. But if they spent the same money on micro-influencers here’s what they may get:
- 35 to 100 branded Instagram posts reaching 200,000 followers (Cost per impression (CPM) of $10 to $30).
- 60 to 200 branded Twitter posts reaching 315,000 followers (CPM of $8 to $20).
- 35 to 100 branded Facebook posts reaching 125,000 followers (CPM of $15 to $40).
- 10 to 35 branded blog posts reaching 315,000 followers (CPM of $20 to $50).
The bigger the ad spend, the more micro-influencers a brand should partner with. This would multiply their reach with hyper-targeted audiences. Further, micro-influencer content receives high engagement. So the brand will receive even more organic reach (like re-posts and shares).
Micro-influencers need tell big brands all this. When promoting through influencers, the right strategy isn’t to spend more. It’s about spending the same amount through many micro-influencers with distinct, engaged audiences.
In Summary …
- Any student can start a Knowledge Commerce business online. Just convert what you are studying or a passion into an “earn-while-you-learn” idea.
- Student millennials everywhere are gravitating towards solo-online-businesses that they can start with little money, and many are earning in millions.
- There is a growing field of Knowledge Commerce where you just teach people what you know or love and earn handsomely for it.
- There’s a huge demand now from millennial audiences online for all kinds of smart knowledge. They also love to follow “thought-leaders” on the Internet.
- As a student entrepreneur in Knowledge Commerce, you need to build an audience online first. Then sell knowledge products to them – or aim to become a sought-after micro-influencer for big-paying brands.
- Millennials are the highest spenders on the Internet, as you know. So why not turn both your knowledge and influence into helping the other millennials around you to earn piles of cash?
So What Are Your Thoughts? Do Share!
This post is incomplete without your input. The community of Knowledge Commerce solopreneurs would feel galvanized to hear from you … so do share your thoughts on this topic with us, in the comments field below this post.
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