Solopreneur business ideas? Forget those hackneyed lists you find online and get into THE BIG IDEA of teaching what you know. Find your area of expertise or passion or something whacky you’re just too good at … like knowing how to duck conflict, collect dues from clients, de-addict from your mobile. People want to learn “interesting expertise”. Teaching what you know is now called “Knowledge Commerce”. Get a website and spend nothing to create hundreds of info products in your “niche”. Rake in 90% profit or more, just selling your knowledge in various formats. Here are just some ideas.
- Blog away like there’s no tomorrow – blogs create trust, build your authority
- Convert your knowledge into ebooks – small-priced ebooks trigger bigger sales
- Create online courses in the nuances of your niche – it’s easier than you think
- Got lots of content as ebooks and courses? Build a subscription-based membership
- Become a coach, mentor, consultant – trade knowledge one-to-one or one-to-many
- Become an affiliate marketer for products in your niche that pay good money
- Sell tickets to hosted events – webinars, masterminds, workshops, Q&A sessions
- Create a lively podcast series interviewing successful people in your niche
- Create a YouTube channel for “how-to videos” generated with just your mobile
- Got a healthy list of subscribers and fans? Sell yourself as a micro-influencer
- Carve out bits of your knowledge into saleable templates, checklists, workbooks
- Write on your topic for big-name online blogs for brand visibility, money
- Offer “done-for-you” services in your niche for people too tired or timid to try
- Teach others to build a business like yours with their own knowledge or passion
- Offer group training services to larger corporates if your niche permits
- Do a joint venture with another solopreneur teaching complementary knowledge
- Accept speaking engagements at online or offline conferences in your niche
- Create branded merchandise that teaches what you know and sell via eCommerce
VIDEO: Diana Gladney’s simple but immensely inspiring video on why you must “Teach What You Know” (Must watch: 5:10 minutes)
Hear Diana describe the idea that everyone is unique because they know something others would pay to learn. No matter what your knowledge is, there’s something you can do with it. You can monetize it by making it a business idea and unbundling it into many saleable products and services. Don’t discard anything you know as too trivial or too unworthy of notice. People want to learn tactics and techniques from others who know how to get things done that they don’t know.
1. Blog away like there’s no tomorrow – blogs create trust, build your authority
Blogging in your area of knowledge not only helps you teach what you know. It builds people’s trust in you as they read more and more of your blog posts. They begin viewing you as a topic authority with thought-leadership in your area of expertise. All this further builds you up as a force to reckon with in the online world.
How does all this add up to money? The answer is that blogs are eminently monetizable. When you get lots of traffic to your blog, several brands will covet your traffic and want to advertise on your site. They may even pay you to write reviews on their products or give them space on your blog for “sponsored posts”.
Blogs also help you sell the other information products you create with your knowledge and expertise in your topic. In the online world, people buy products from people they have come to trust and know. Blogging helps you to reinforce yourself as a trustworthy marketer. Your solid and worthwhile opinions get showcased via the host of blog posts you write around your topic of excellence.
Remember to blog prolifically and vigorously, to teach and share what you know with others who are your target audience. Then post excerpts of your blog posts on social media, so you attract more traffic to your site, other than those who search Google and find your blog posts. The more traffic you attract over time, the more potential for income from several different streams.
2. Convert your knowledge into ebooks – small-priced ebooks trigger bigger sales
A lot of people balk at the idea of writing ebooks. But think about this. An ebook can have 10-12 chapters which are just like a dozen of your blog posts collated together, right? Some ebooks authors are known to churn them out at a rate of knots – one ebook every couple of hours.
If you can write quickly to teach people what you know, ebooks are among the best things to create as your first set of saleable products. Indeed, the prices of ebooks are not very high, but then people these days are not expecting the great epics. They are happy with about 12 chapters or so, concisely written, for that price. Further, when you can write good ebooks, they act as “tripwire products”.
What are “tripwire products”? They are small-priced ice-breaker products that people may buy as the first purchase from you. They then act as triggers to make people ready to buy your bigger-priced products. A small-ticket investment is less risky for a new customer to buy from you. But once a person buys from you and has a great experience through the purchase process online, he becomes ready to buy higher-priced products progressively.
Some marketers are happy even if they are writing just ebooks to impart their knowledge without offering other products at higher prices. They reckon if they create ebooks as a series or a box-set, they can sell volumes even if the costs of ebooks are low per copy. Box-sets or ebooks series attract people to make repeat purchases as they gradually buy the whole set – or they may find your bundle discount very tempting when they spend more to buy the entire set in one purchase.
3. Create online courses in the nuances of your niche – it’s easier than you think
Those who fear writing ebooks based on teaching topics they know fear creating online courses even more. That’s because they plan elaborate lessons from the start without learning the simple rules of the game.
A quick suggestion from me: put your first course on Udemy, the world’s biggest platform for online courses. They have a beautiful instruction section on their site for new course authors where they teach you all the ins and outs of making great courses. All you need is one course on Udemy and their outstanding training to get you completely familiar with the construction and delivery of your courses. The only problem is that Udemy controls the pricing of your course if you are on their platform.
After a stint with Udemy, you can host your courses on other more liberal platforms like Teachable, Thinkific, Podia, or your website. Remember, the videos on your course can be as simple as PowerPoint slides with your voiceover. You can speak into your mobile camera and record the video (make sure you have a slightly better mic than the one on your camera).
Some great course experts still speak into their mobiles and sell courses with audacity at $197 or even $1997. So go for it.
4. Got lots of content as ebooks and courses? Build a subscription-based membership
If, at some point, you find you have a lot of ebooks and courses that can form a sizeable library of content, consider setting up a subscription-based membership site. Get people to enroll as members, and pay you monthly for access to your library.
Membership sites work best when the bait you throw in is access to yourself. So, build a community forum on your site with a free plugin – or get a Facebook closed group for your members to join when they enroll.
In this forum, make sure your members can ask each other questions, but they also get to interact with you because they have paid to learn from you.
Memberships are great as revenue earners because you’ll get reliable monthly revenue from their subscriptions if you get enough members. Some churn of members will be there. That’s inevitable. But if you continue to promote your site, you’ll get new members to replace ones that leave. With memberships, remember that people join for the content library but stay for the community forum’s attractions.
5. Become a coach, mentor, consultant – trade knowledge one-to-one or one-to-many
By far, the easiest thing to offer customers who want to learn your expertise from you is to provide your coaching, mentoring, or consulting services. It can be as simple as charging for a phone, Skype, or Zoom call of 60 minutes or a more elaborate set of sessions over several weeks.
People who opt for a coach or mentor are usually those in some dire situation. Like a therapist, you have to talk less, listen more to their problem areas, and give them some intelligent, innovative, and actionable solutions to their problems. Help them understand why they are in such a difficult situation or facing a problem and how they can disentangle from it. Show them what you know about not getting into such a situation again by being proactive instead of reactive.
Most solopreneurs who want to become such mentors or coaches to others find it to be an extremely lucrative idea, limited only by how many clients they can handle at a time. There is no cost you incur and no time either for the creation of products. All you need is time and attention allocation for which you can charge. Some mentors offer one-to-one coaching and make it sound like an exclusive service. Some others provide one-to-many group coaching sessions, which multiply the money they can earn per session by the students’ numbers for each group.
To know how to set your pricing, ask your clients for their budgets. Then charge a bit over that. Later you’ll get to know what your market worth is when you get more clients to coach.
6. Become an affiliate marketer for products in your niche that pay good money
One of the many ways to earn from teaching what you know is by helping sell related products as an affiliate marketer. For example, let’s say your area of expertise is setting up home gyms. Think of all the products you can recommend for home gyms that people can get from Amazon or other fitness stores online.
Maybe, you teach people how to fit the big pieces of equipment in tiny homes, or you show people some types of gym equipment that can help them do many kinds of workouts with just one machine. You can earn by teaching what you know and also earn affiliate commissions from the products you help advocate.
There is no subject you can teach without some adjunct products helping your students or clients in the process. Even if you were teaching people how to write, you have apps and software that can help their grammar or writing style that you can additionally sell to them.
The secret is never to miss an opportunity to make even more money from teaching people. There are always those who want ease, convenience, speed, or better results – and they are all candidates for buying those extra products that earn you affiliate income.
7. Sell tickets to hosted events – webinars, masterminds, workshops, Q&A sessions
There are some clever ways to make high-buzz events out of teaching what you know. You can charge high ticket prices if you choose topics of interest and begin a countdown to the date of your event. I am talking about events like webinars, masterminds, workshops, and Q&A sessions.
How are these different from each other? Let’s see:
- Webinars are like online seminars. You may have one or more speakers teaching attendees a topic in a bit of detail, enumerating all the salient points. People are encouraged to chat alongside or raise questions that the speaker will answer. These days we have simulated “evergreen” webinars that are pre-recorded and can play out as if they were real-time webinars. They even have simulated chats that run on a side panel as if attendees were asking queries or adding comments.
- Masterminds are usually brainstorming sessions. Tell attendees beforehand what the brainstorming topic will be and ask them to bring their best ideas to the sessions. The sessions can be lively because they are generally free-form, and you may end up having good debates on various angles of a topic.
- Workshops are usually events when you demonstrate a process to your students. They could be recorded screen captures as you show people how to use a piece of software. Or, if your niche is “baking,” you could be showing people how to improve their icing handwriting on birthday cakes.
- Q&A Sessions are events where you despatch emails to potential attendees to send their questions around a topic. Your entire session is then devoted to just answering those received questions, maybe with suitable examples.
People who work alone (i.e., solopreneurs like you) love these group sessions as breakouts from routine. They are usually happy to pay a pretty penny to attend. Make sure you have sessions scheduled for the convenience of people in different time zones.
8. Create a lively podcast series interviewing successful people in your niche
Podcasts are a great way to teach what you know. If you are a person who feels more comfortable talking than writing, then podcasts should become your forte.
Podcasts, though, get boring if you are the lone speaker, rambling on for half an hour in a lecturing mode. On the other hand, you could teach your subject by interviewing other people good at the same issue, or even those who are not good at it, by recording the podcast as an interchange of ideas.
These days, it’s common to find people touting various expensive “podcast gear” to try and sound like they are highly professional. But in truth, all a significant podcast needs is a stunning signature tune to open proceedings, a clear mic to record your voice (and that of the other person you are interviewing), and some good editing to make it all sound crisp before you go on air.
One way to make money via podcasts is to offer premium content. Another way is to allow sponsor advertising once your podcast gets popular and shows sizeable listeners. Some marketers even slip in their recommendations of affiliate products to earn commissions from these. (You’ll have to provide textual affiliate links in the description box of your podcast because you can’t give audio links.)
9. Create a YouTube channel for “how-to videos” generated with just your mobile
Everybody in business online has a YouTube channel these days. Every solopreneur could use one because YouTube videos go viral with speed.
The secret to getting many subscribers to your YouYube channel (which in turn gets you lots of advertisers and their money) is to answer your target audience’s typical questions. The other type of Youtube content that gets eyeballs are how-to videos. For example, people want quick answers to queries like “How can I stop stammering?” or “How to block people from calling me on my iPhone Whatsapp?”
Snappy answers to queries like these with the answer explained in two or three key points is all it takes to make a memorable video. To get lots of subscribers to your channel, you naturally have to create a spate of videos. The minute your channel gets popular, you’ll get requests for advertising in your email inbox, without you even having to start looking for advertisers.
Snappy answers explained in two or three key points is all it takes to make a fantastic video. To get lots of subscribers to your channel, you naturally have to create a spate of videos. When your channel gets popular, you will start getting requests for advertising in your email inbox without you even having to start looking for advertisers.
YouTube videos are not rocket science, and neither do you need expensive production equipment. What do you need?
- A good mobile phone camera (preferably an iPhone)
- A good background behind you
- Lighting that is soft and pleasing around you
- Your face and makeup in order
- A computer screen with your reading text in large font at the camera level, so it looks like you’re speaking into the camera. (If you have a wireless mouse in hand, you could quickly scroll the text on your computer as you read on.)
- No ambient noises of your family chattering in the background, your dog barking, or the baby crying.
Like all things that earn money, it takes a bit of practice to get the knack of the whole game. Thereon you’re a pro.
10. Got a healthy list of subscribers and fans? Sell yourself as a micro-influencer
These days there is a class of people replacing celebrities and big-ticket influencers as the preferred choice of big brands with big wallets. It’s the class of micro-influencers who are finding the most lucrative assignments. If you have both authority and influence with a small but highly targeted community of followers, you are king. Can your content sway your closely-knit loyal group of your followers? You’re in the game for big bucks.
Why do big brands want micro-influencers? The quality of your reading audience and their loyalty matters. So does their seamless match to your subject of expertise. Your quantity of readers is not what brands are looking to pay you for. It’s the tight, enduring bond between you, your teaching niche, and the area of interest of your audience.
High-paying brands want you to be a highly visible, trusted, tall expert. You have to engage your audience by blogging with reliable consistency. Your content quality must have ever-renewed freshness. Your audience must gravitate towards your blog and hang on to your every word as gospel.
Here are some going rates for micro-influencers that may make your eyes pop out. Let’s say you are a micro-influencer who has somewhere between 50,000 and 500,000 followers. For one sponsored YouTube video, you could charge about $2,500. Your fee for a sponsored post on Instagram could be around $1,000. And for one Twitter post, you could charge around $400. I’m not kidding. These are rates shown to me by a well-known “influencer agency” that matches big brands to micro-influencers.
11. Carve out bits of your knowledge into saleable templates, checklists, workbooks
Have you noticed how helpful checklists, cheat sheets, workbooks, templates, and planners are? Anyone trying to get a task done could use these simple aids to make work easier and more organized.
That’s why it’s such a great idea to create bundled sets of “tools and aids” to help those you teach apply those teachings in an instant. You could, of course, charge people for these extra workflow aids. But you could also give them away free to make something else you are selling look greater in value.
The beauty of these small knowledge products is that you can use bits of time you have on hand to crank these out and make them saleable products. It doesn’t take much planning or thinking for someone like you who knows your niche inside out.
Don’t disdain small things you can sell along with your teaching. It’s the small things that usually create the most considerable profits because they cost next to nothing to produce, not even time. Besides, you come across as a mighty thoughtful person to have imagined and created such aids that can genuinely help people apply your teachings without breaking a sweat.
12. Write on your topic for big-name online blogs for brand visibility, money
Frankly, I always thought of guest posting as a tedious affair, getting my ideas vetted by other blog owners, and then writing to their preferred style. That was until I came across this paid guest-post exchange site called Accessily. The beauty of its business model is that it is a brilliant matchmaking site. It has collated blog owners who want guest posts and writers who want to publish guest posts – and it makes these marriages happen.
All you need to do is register with the site, explaining what you teach and what your niche is. Accessily then shortlists the kind of blogs that may want your guest posts and allows you to chat with potential buyers, agree on rates and topics, and write to their content satisfaction and your price satisfaction.
Once you form relationships, chances are these buying blogs will like to do bulk deals with you.
Not only do you get paid in money, but you could also get those valuable backlinks that are worth their weight in gold in the online blogging space.
Apart from everything else, guest posting is a great way to network online with other bloggers. You make friends with a community of marketers, and you get access to their subscribers and fans, who may be a more considerable lot than yours. As the wise men say, count your wealth not in money but contacts.
13. Offer “done-for-you” services in your niche for people too tired or timid to try
As a solopreneur yourself, you know that there are more solopreneurs around these days, and all of them have hefty workloads running their online businesses. It’s no surprise that there will be many takers if someone offered them a “done-for-you” service.
If what you teach others falls into a choc-a-bloc niche with very tired entrepreneurs and solopreneurs, you’ll find incredible sales opportunities if you can offer to do their work for them. For example, I know of a solopreneur who teaches “keyword research” as his specialization. We all know how tiresome this chore can be to find loads of keywords, group them, and then build them into blog posts.
Even if you offer help in just a couple of areas of keyword research (like, say, keyword lists pruning, removal of duplicates, and grouping) as a done-for-you service, think how you could tempt marketers to buy your services. They know you are not a freelancer, just mindlessly doing the tasks. You are an expert in keyword research, so they can trust you to do a better job than they would themselves.
Most people who venture to teach others what they know don’t realize that if you go beyond just instruction to do the tasks for people, you will offer demonstrated training. Learning from you by seeing how you perform tasks is an invaluable study method.
14. Teach others to build a business like yours with their own knowledge or passion
I have to tell you a story here – it’s a story that repeats itself time after time. One of my solopreneur friends was an absolute expert in handling sibling quarrels in families. So she decided to build a business out of teaching siblings to manage each other better even when they couldn’t stand the sight of each other. All went swimmingly with this business, and soon she was a “success”.
But there was just one problem. After this solopreneur got her first few clients with sibling quarrels to sort out, most of the clients she got came to her saying, “You know what? Thanks for helping us sort our issues, but we’re more inspired to follow your model and start an online solopreneur business ourselves. So instead of helping us further with our sibling rivalry, can you teach us how to start and run an online business?”
As I told you, this is not a one-off case. Every time I see a solopreneur who is successful in a rare niche, I find the same solopreneur after six months also teaching people how to run an online business. “Success with online business” is, perhaps, more attractive to people than anything else you can teach. But, who’s complaining?
No doubt your experience is going to be similar. You’ll likely begin teaching what you know, and it may not be about running a business. But soon, “how to start and run a successful business” will become something additional to teach. So be warned – it’s going to happen. You may even earn more teaching what you know about business than the original thing you called your expertise.
15. Offer group training services to larger corporates if your niche permits
Human Resource Development (or HRD) is a significant preoccupation for CEOs of mid-to-large companies. Now and again, their staff needs retraining or upskilling to catch up with trends and technologies emerging on the horizon. See if you can extend the subject you teach to corporates as a training program. You will go places very soon.
Have you ever thought about your unique talent in this way before? Do retake a look at it. It may have the potential for corporate training. A gardening hobbyist wanted to convert what he knew about the “hydroponics” technique to grow vegetables into a business. He identified his target audience as other home-gardening enthusiasts. But one day, he was pleasantly surprised to receive a staff training inquiry from a huge multinational. They were planning to open supermarkets to sell their own fresh vegetables, for which they had set up farming communes working with the hydroponics technique.
Want another great story? In India, spiced tea is a hot favorite available mostly from roadside tea vendors with unique spice-mix secrets for making their tea distinctive. A large restaurant chain approached one such street tea-seller to teach them how he made his famous spice-mix. Did the tea seller part with his secrets which were so precious to his name and fame? He sure did and received a lot of money for the deal.
But the story has a twist in the tail. The tea-seller then invented another kind of rare spice-mix and got longer queues of customers than he had ever had before. The restaurant chain was left making his old spiced tea while he raced ahead with his exquisite new flavor. The moral? You lose nothing by teaching what you know. By tomorrow you will learn more than you know today. Knowledge evolves, and your distinctiveness and earning potential grows too.
16. Do a joint venture with another solopreneur teaching complementary knowledge
Joint Ventures (JVs) are very popular with online business people. The idea here is to see if any other solopreneur business deals with some knowledge complementary to your own. If yes, the two of you can combine to offer ebooks or courses or webinars where you can teach a hybrid version of knowledge that blends both your expertise areas.
Let’s take an example. Let’s say you are good at training people to showcase their domain knowledge at job interviews. That’s your forte. You meet another solopreneur who is an image consultant who can teach people how to dress well and improve their looks and deportment. The two of you together could offer a high-priced webinar for job candidates who want to apply for senior management jobs where both image and domain knowledge matter.
You have to be careful of three things when you go in for joint ventures:
- When you plan to fuse two types of knowledge, you should aim to have a more fantastic product than the sum of its parts.
- Your new hybrid product offering should be very carefully planned and aimed at a target audience bracket that neither partner would have been able to tap alone.
- And finally, the terms of the joint venture must be signed, sealed, and respected in letter and spirit by both parties – so that discord between the partners doesn’t creep into the whole initiative.
17. Accept speaking engagements at online or offline conferences in your niche
If you browse through the websites of the solopreneurs who have made it big as experts, you’ll invariably find a menu item titled “Speaking”. The page this menu item leads to is where the experts usually put an event booking calendar. Conference organizers who want the experts to join the elite speakers’ panels have to sign up.
Nowadays, I have seen the same thing even on the websites of smaller solopreneurs (people who are on their way up but not quite there yet). Obviously, there are many opportunities to become a panelist at small-to-mid-sized meets and events too. These may be online or offline events.
Speakers who have built up their brand value can charge a lot to make an appearance and enthrall the conference audiences. The other significant advantage is that the speaker panels are usually full of distinguished or upwardly mobile people. So the rub-off on your brand is terrific when you find a place amongst them.
If someone invites you to participate as a speaker at an event, do make sure your act is classy because there’s nothing worse than an ill-prepared speaker with a PowerPoint presentation that’s full of glitches. Check everything many times over – your speech, teaching materials, handouts, your diction, and demeanor. You have to teach what you know in a way that seems worth the listeners’ time and the money paid by the conference organizers.
18. Create branded merchandise that teaches what you know and sell via eCommerce
Can you articulate what you teach as pithy sentences or quotes? Can these little sentences or thoughts be printed on mugs, T-shirts, or other merchandise? Can they be converted into digital wallpapers for laptop screens or mobile and tablet screens?
Don’t ever pooh-pooh merchandising as “meaningless marketing”. As your brand gets visible, it can get amplified a lot quicker if you have some innovative ideas for merchandise you can sell through eCommerce.
Some people have the knack of teaching profound ideas in such pithy ways that they become unforgettable. My all-time favorite lesson on marketing comes from a T-shirt I saw carrying a quote by Harry Selfridge (the inimitable owner of the great Selfridges Store on Oxford Street in London). It read: “People will sit up and take notice of you if you will sit up and take notice of what makes them sit up and take notice.”
Teaching what you know needn’t be boring. Why not convert your teaching into memorable nuggets of thought that people would love to buy and preserve?
So What Are Your Thoughts? Do Share!
This post is incomplete without your input. The community of 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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