I spend a lot of time talking about how to use online tools to grow your fanbase and your comedy career, but today I want to talk about how you can actually make money online from your comedic skills.
Before I get into the details, I want to remind you that when I talk about making money from comedy, I’m not just referring to stand up. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s important to think of yourself in broader terms as a person who is professionally funny and finds multiple ways and formats to monetize your ability to make people laugh. That’s what this post is really about.
So, as you consider the many ways you can monetize your comedic talents, here’s a few questions to ask yourself that will help you formulate an effective monetization strategy.
1. Do You Want To Be An Entrepreneur Or An Employee?
One of the first things to think about when it comes to monetization is whether you want to monetize your comedy directly – by creating products or services and selling them to fans – or whether you want to concentrate on finding somebody to hire you to provide your skills to their business. Both methods can be successful, but putting some thought into which better fits your situation will help guide your entire monetization strategy.
If you go the entrepreneur route, you’ll need to create your own products or services, figure out how to market them, determine their pricing, oversee/manage the distribution of your products and services, and deal with all the logistics that go along with owning your own business (and yes, your comedy is a business whether you like it or not).
It’s a lot of work, but the upside of the entrepreneur route can be tremendous – you’ll maintain control of your creations and reap the bigger financial rewards that come with success.
If you choose to go the employee route, then you’ll need to identify other business owners who will pay you to bring your comedy skills to their business.
This could mean getting hired to write for a popular website or to make videos for a company. It could mean generating funny t-shirt ideas for a company that sells shirts. It could mean teaching improv classes.
It may be simpler to go the employee route because it’s essentially just looking for a job, but the financial rewards will likely be significantly less than if you go the entrepreneur route. But on the brightside, it’s less risky and you know pretty much what you’ll get paid for the work you do. As an entrepreneur, there’s no guarantee of success.
2. Why Do People Like Your Comedy?
Most comedians think people like their comedy “because I’m funny.” But that’s only partially true.
Try to understand what exactly it is about your comedy that resonates with people. Is it your writing? Your videos? Your performing? Your viewpoint?
The more you can figure out why people like what you create, the easier it will be for you to monetize your talent. For example, if people like your writing more than your performing then maybe your monetization strategy should be built around writing a book as opposed to trying to go on tour.
3. How Can You Give People More Of What They Want?
Once you’ve figured out what makes your comedy click with fans, the next thing to consider is how you can give them more of that. The best chance you have to get people to pay for something is to give them something they want, so once you identify that your next step is to figure out creative ways to give them more of it.
A great example of this is the way many podcasts are monetizing – through bonus episodes, live shows, and other special member-only features like forums. Successful podcasters have identified that people loved their podcast and then created “products” to sell that give those fans more of what they love. It’s fine to sell merchandise related to the podcast, but there’s a lot more money to be made in paid episodes and live shows because that’s closer to what people love about the show. They love the podcast, so it’s going to be easier to sell them more podcasts than it is a t-shirt.
4. Are You Selling To Fans Or Non-Fans?
When you create a product or service that you’re going to attempt to sell, you should take a moment to figure out who you need to sell it to in order to be successful.
Is it a product that only appeals to your existing fans or is it something that may interest the general public, even if they’ve never heard of you before?
For example, if you’re trying to monetize by selling an album of your stand up comedy, it’s not likely that many people will buy it initially who have never heard of you before. Sure, you hope that word will spread and some people will “discover” your album, but for the most part that album is designed for your existing fans.
But if you create a funny t-shirt targeted to Father’s Day, the market for that shirt is just about anybody that buys Father’s Day gifts – regardless of whether or not they know who you are.
Again, either of these methods can work, but it’s a question you should consider because it will impact what you create, how you market, and the overall economics of what you’re doing.
5. How Much Is Your Time Worth?
As important as monetization is, it’s also important to consider how much time it takes you to make that money. If you have to put in 50 hours to sell 10 albums, is that really worth it?
I’m all about putting in the work and don’t believe you can succeed without being willing to work hard, but that doesn’t mean you should lose sight of how you’re spending your time and what value you’re getting out of it.
For example, if you produce a video series and try to monetize it by offering to create personalized videos for your fans for a fee, you need to make sure that you charge enough to make it worth the time it takes you to produce the videos.
It’s very easy for a monetization effort to turn into something that actually distracts you from other work that may be more important to your career. Your time is valuable, so make sure that you take it into account with everything you do.