14 Proven Ways to Make Money From an Online Community9 minute read
So you managed to build and grow a thriving online community with lots of members and engagement. What now?
An online community is a great asset for both your business and your audience. It is a place where people can connect, share ideas, get to know each other and learn from one another. But it is also a fantastic way to grow your business, get in the eyes of potential customers and build an additional revenue stream.
A lot of creators struggle with the idea of monetizing their online community, as they fear it will impact the engagement or level of trust that members have toward the community.
Monetizing your online community will not make you a bad person: on the contrary, the additional revenue will allow you to provide better resources to your members, offer timely assistance and help you further promote and grow the community.
So if you are wondering what the best way to monetize your online community is, we will share with you 14 ways you can do so, without lowering the level of engagement and participation of your members.
Keep reading below to learn all the ways you can implement today to create an additional revenue stream from your online community!
Are You Ready to Monetize Your Community?
Hold on. Before you go ahead and start monetizing your online community, you need to make sure you are ready to do so, and you are at a level of growth that will allow you to make money from the community - without damaging your engagement or reputation.
If you have just started out in your brand new community, this might not be the best time to ask for money.
Especially if you decide to monetize your community by asking for an entrance fee - you need to make sure to gather a big enough user base first.
If potential new members head over to your site and see that there’s no activity and no one has joined the community yet, they won’t be inclined to pay for community access if they are the only ones there!
Our advice is to grow your free community first to around 50 (engaged) members before you try to monetize it in any way.
Aside from gathering a decent number of members before monetizing, you also need to make sure that your members are actually engaging in the community and participating in the discussions.
There are many ways to do so, and we cover them in more detail in this article from our blog: 7 Steps to Revive Your Online Community and Increase Engagement
You could prompt members to engage, ask questions in the discussion area, share valuable information and resources on a schedule, vet your new members to prevent spam, reward your members' achievements and community milestones and so on...
If you want your members to give you their time, attention and eventually their money, you need to make it worth their while and craft an amazing community experience. You should strive to offer valuable, exclusive content and deliver it consistently.
It is a good idea to plan and schedule your community content beforehand: for instance, you could try to organize your content ideas with a calendar. This will help you create a structured timeline for your posts and visually understand how your content is organized.
14 Ideas to Monetize Your Community
Once you are sure that you have reached a level where you can confidently say that your community is populated by enough members, has a great level of engagement and participation and members trust you, it is time to figure out how you can monetize your community in a way that benefits both you and your members.
So let's see some ideas on how you can start making money from your online community:
#1: Charge a Membership Fee
The most straightforward way to make money from an online community is to charge for access and create a paid online community.
Paid online communities are private virtual spaces that members can access only once they pay an entrance or membership fee (usually a monthly subscription).
Most paid online communities charge monthly or annual fees for members to access the content, typically $20–$100 per month.
If you decide to charge a membership fee for members to access your community, you should know that paid communities are better when hosted through designated community platforms (such as Heights Platform) that allow hosts to charge an entrance fee and provide members with login information.
Heights Platform also lets you create and sell online courses, digital products and coaching programs while building a thriving online community, so your members can browse through your product offering, and you can further monetize your content this way. This brings us to our next idea for monetizing an online community:
#2: Sell Online Courses
A way to monetize your online community in a more indirect way than charging for an entrance fee is to offer extra products and services to your members.
Such products can be online courses.
Online courses are a great fit for members of a community (especially if you are running a learning community) since they are a way for members to deepen their knowledge about your topic of interest, further connect with you and gain value from the community.
On top of this, you can price an online course much higher than what you would normally charge for community access.
The best way to monetize your community with online courses is to choose an online course platform that lets you both create a community and sell digital products and courses in the same space. Check out this article from our blog to find the best community platform for your needs: How to Choose the Right Online Community Platform For Your Knowledge Business
#3: Sell Digital Products
In addition or in alternative to online courses, you can also sell digital products.
Digital products are assets that exist in a digital form, not necessarily with a physical component. The internet makes it extremely easy to access and trade digital products of all sorts. Examples of digital products are PDFs, eBooks, podcasts, videos, webinars, guides, worksheets etc... both free and paid.
As in the case of online courses, to sell digital products to your community members, you need a piece of software like Heights Platform that lets you do all of these things and create an ecosystem for your business with community, courses, digital products and more.
#4: Divide Your Community
A different way to monetize your community is to create exclusive channels within the community that members pay an extra fee to access.
This approach can be an alternative to charging a membership fee for all members to access your community, or you could have multiple pricing tiers for different channels in your community.
For example, you could decide to offer free access to your community, and then create one VIP channel for more exclusive content dedicated to a certain group of members who pay you a special fee to access this channel.
This is possible if you use Heights Platform to build your community: on Heights, you can create multiple channels within a community, and you can decide to sell one or more channels separately and even hide them from your general community space.
#5: Offer One-on-One Coaching
Another great way to offer extra value to your community members and generate an additional revenue stream is to offer individual (or group) coaching sessions to your members.
For example, you could say to your members that you are available for a 1-hour session where you virtually meet a person from your community, and offer them assistance on a specific problem in exchange for a flat fee.
This is a great way to deepen your connection with your members, offer great value and monetize your community. Coaching sessions are typically very expensive: prices for a coaching session of 1-on-1 coaching can vary, but generally are over $100, sometimes up to $1000+.
#6: Organize an Event
Organizing a live virtual or in-person event is a way to monetize your online community, while at the same time bringing your members closer together and incentivizing connections.
There are a lot of ways to make an event profitable: you could change a fee to your community members for attending the event, or use the event as a way to promote your paid products, such as an online course launch or coaching tickets. Another way to monetize this is by partnering with other brands or businesses and asking them to sponsor your online event.
#7: Sell Merchandise Products
Selling branded merchandise or promotional merchandise products means offering products branded with a company’s logo, a company name, or a motto. T-shirts, mugs, hats, keychains, tote bags, pens (etc...) displaying a logo are all examples of merchandise.
You could create branded products and sell them to your community members as a way to generate an additional revenue stream from the community. There are many print-on-demand companies out there that allow you to easily create your own personalized products and sell them online.
#8: Ask For Donations
If you are not comfortable with the idea of selling products to your community or setting a monthly fee, you could simply ask your members if they are willing to send you a donation.
Usually, when you ask for a donation, your customers can decide which amount to give at their own discretion.
Donations work well with communities where there is a strong connection and level of trust between the creator and the members.
#9: Run Ads on Your Community Site
A way to capture additional revenue from your community is to display other people's ads on your website.
If you have enough traffic, you can turn on ads using Adsense.
While this is an easy way to create an additional revenue stream from the online traffic in your community space, make sure not to overdo it and limit the number of ads displayed to only a few, to make sure you are not impacting the user experience on your site.
#10: Charge for Sponsored Content
Another way to make money with third-party ads is to create partnerships with other businesses or brands and charge them a fee to share the ad with your community members.
If your community is big enough, this practice can be quite profitable and less intrusive compared to ads from Adsense.
This way you get to pick and choose which company you are willing to promote with your audience, and you get to decide your own rates.
#11: Promote Affiliate Links
With affiliate marketing, you can make money by promoting another business and getting a commission for every sale you bring to them.
In affiliate marketing, sales are tracked through a unique affiliate link: once someone clicks on the link and purchases the promoted product, the affiliate receives a commission from the sale.
To monetize your online community, you could sign up for affiliate programs or brands you trust and want to share with your community and simply promote them with your members.
#12: Create a Marketplace in Your Community
Your community can also be a place for your members to promote their own businesses.
You could dedicate a space within your community for members to self-promote, trade with others and get great deals on other members' products, sort of like your own marketplace.
To make sure that your members are not joining your community just to access this space and self-promote, you could even charge a fee for members who want to enter the marketplace channel and vet new members.
Another way to monetize this is by keeping a percentage or a small fee for each sale made in the marketplace.
#13: Sell Market Data
If you have a large community with hundreds of people, you could use the community to conduct market research and sell your finding to data companies.
This only works if you have an extensive database to take information such as user behavior, demographics, preferences, and more. This kind of information might be helpful to market research companies or brands looking to target that specific type of audience.
You can collect data by carrying out surveys or using tools to track APIs. You can then approach market research companies and ask if they are interested in your findings. Whatever method you choose, it is important to let your members know that you are collecting their data and survey answers!
#14: Create a Job Board
This also applies mainly to large communities with an extensive and targeted member amount. If your community revolves around a specific industry, you could monetize it by adding a job board that members can browse through.
The roles posted on this board or channel should be industry-specific and relevant to the topics covered in your online community. For example, if you are running a community for aspiring web developers, you could have a channel dedicated to posting new jobs in web development.
How can you make money from the job board? Hiring managers or companies looking to fill a new role can pay you to post their vacancies and reach a large number of targeted candidates through your community.
Building an online community is a great asset for your business and a fantastic way to give value to your audience and members.
Before you try to monetize your community, make sure you are ready for it by growing the number of members and level of engagement. Once you are ready, you can start earning money from an online community by charging an entrance fee, selling digital products and online courses, creating exclusive channels, organizing an event, offering coaching sessions and selling merchandise.
Other more indirect ways to monetize your online community include asking for donations, showing third-party ads on your site, promoting sponsored content and creating a marketplace. For large communities with thousands of members, there is also the option of selling market data or creating a job board.
To sum up, there are so many ways to create an additional income stream with online communities. But in order to do this, you need an online community platform that enables you to build a thriving online community and lay the ground for when you are ready to monetize it.
If you are looking for a dedicated platform that lets you build an online community and sell online courses, membership sites, coaching products and more, start your free Heights Platform account.
Heights Platform is the all-in-one solution for creators who want to start monetizing their knowledge and grow an online business.Create Your Online Community