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Why Relying On Advertising Income Is A Trap (Do This Instead)

Like most creators I started out publishing content on my blog hoping to grow some kind of audience, then figure out how to make money later.

I thought the same when I created a podcast and YouTube channel.

I was well aware that other creators made money from advertising. Some did sponsored content, getting paid to talk about a product or service from another company. Others were doing well with affiliate promotions, recommending products they used and earning a commission from sales they referred.

Not much has really changed…

Today creators on YouTube, Instagram, podcasters and other social media platforms generally earn from advertising as a starting point, then maybe land a few brand deals once they get big enough. That may be your strategy too.

Unfortunately, there is a big problem with this plan. You need a big audience.

Advertising and brand deals return money based on how many views your content gets (in the case of ads) and how many sales you generate for your sponsor (for brand deals).

If you want to become a full-time content creator and earn enough to survive, let alone grow a real business, you need BIG traffic.

To make matters worse, you have to keep getting big traffic. If you stop creating, your income is going to drop because your traffic will drop.

With no new videos or posts or podcasts, there are no new brand deals or ad inventory. There’s only so long you can live off ad income from traffic on your old content.

Let’s not even think about what happens if you burn out, get sick, or just don’t like your topic anymore.

The content-treadmill is real, and it’s a trap you can easily fall into.

The Platform Dependency Problem

YouTube and their ad sharing program, in many ways, is wonderful.

All you have to do is publish videos and get views. Turn on monetization and let YouTube find the advertisers for you, sharing some of the revenue.

Instagram doesn’t have a built in advertising system (as I type this), but it does have a massive audience (2 Billion users).

This means if you create content and the algorithm likes you, you can reach a lot of people.

Unfortunately, as many creators have learned the hard way, if you are platform dependent, relying on YouTube for both audience and ad income, or Instagram is your only source of traffic, you are vulnerable.

One banned account, changes to the algorithm, adjusting the ad revenue share, fluctuations in the economy leading to advertisers spending less — all these things can tank your income overnight.

Worst of all, you have zero control. The platform makes the decisions. You can lose your income or watch your audience size drop significantly with little recourse.

The Income Stability Dream

I don’t want to sound overly negative. It’s clearly an amazing time to be alive as an independent content creator.

Never has it been easier to reach a global audience. Never has it been possible that your niche interest can turn into a real business because there are enough people on the planet who share your interest — and you can reach them!

Before the internet, gatekeepers controlled content creators. You had to fight your way on to radio or television, or get a book deal or become a journalist at the few top publications.

There were so few opportunities and other people decided who got to even try.

Today you can write books, blogs and email newsletters, share images on social media, produce your own podcast, and edit, broadcast and publish video in short and long form.

You’re in creative control. You can ‘take your shot’ on your terms, and do so again and again until you make your dreams come true.

Here at Candid, our goal is to help creators become more independent. Not just independent in what they choose to create, but also independent in how you earn a living.

You should have control over your income and your most important audience — your customers.

The problem today is that creators don’t really have customers. It’s rare for a creator to get big enough to transition to selling merch, products or services. Many don’t because they see it as too hard, too risky, or too costly — or are too afraid to try.

If you’re only making money from ads and brand deals, you don’t have customers. In fact, you’re sending the customers in your audience away to other companies to buy from.

We want to help you change this.

Candid exists to help you make money from actual customers and do so with zero upfront cost, offering for sale something you already have — you!

Candid is a platform where you can create a simple video sales page to sell conversations with your fans and followers, or coaching with people who want your advice.

These conversations happen on whichever app you already use – WhatsApp, Telegram, Slack, Messenger – you decide. There is no new software to learn or convince your audience to adapt, and over two billion people already use these apps.

Candid handles payments, it takes 5 minutes to set up your product page, and it’s 100% free for creators.

Get started with Candid today.

It is possible to earn a stable recurring income, which you can rely on to build a real business, even when you don’t publish a new video or a new podcast or a new social media post.

This is especially true for creators who don’t have millions of views on every piece of content you create (basically 99% of creators!).

You do need some audience. If you can find 100 paying customers within your 10,000 person audience, that could lead to $10,000 a month income stream

100 people paying $100 a month for access via a WhatsApp group = $10,000/month

The Customer-First Creator

The media loves to focus on superstars.

We hear about the biggest social media creators, with their millions and millions of followers, making millions of millions of dollars.

There’s nothing wrong with having big ambitions, but the truth is these superstars are the 1% of the 1%.

It’s a truly difficult level to reach (and incredibly hard to sustain!). Most people never will.

While this might be an oversimplification, we see the rest of the 99.9% of creators sitting in two buckets…

  1. Casual Creators: Doing it for fun, will likely never have much of an audience and they are fine with that.
  2. Professional Creators: Those who are serious, consistent, and see their content creation as tied to business or income goals.

Here at Candid we exist to help professional creators make a transition to become customer-first creators (rather than advertiser-first).

We love to support people who have put in the effort to grow an audience and are focused on building income streams and a business, but perhaps are struggling to make much money because they don’t have millions of subscribers.

A loyal but comparatively small audience of 10,000 followers (be that readers, watchers, listeners — people who consume your content), is a realistic target that far more creators today have already achieved.

10,000 subscribers might only deliver a few hundred dollars in YouTube ad revenue per month, or 10,000 views on TikTok or Instagram might get you a small brand deal.

You can generate some income, but it will not be consistent or significant enough that you can start doing things like hiring a team to support you and help you grow, let alone pay yourself a six-figure salary.

Getting to 10,000 followers is a worthy achievement, one that should be enough to at least pay your bills. By going customer-first, you can earn a much higher return on smaller audiences.

It’s not just about ads or brand deals anymore — you can still earn from these methods of course — but we know from experience that a reliable and stable income will come from growing your customer base.

This doesn’t mean you don’t care about growing your audience with your free content. However, it does mean you stop surviving only on views or downloads as your top metric, and focus on customers (buyers of what you sell).

Candid gives you a simple way to test this theory for yourself.

You can create Candid products, one-on-one and/or group conversations, powering fan-clubs, or coaching, consulting, or behind-the-scenes/premium content memberships.

You decide the format of your product, the rules, the number of people you want to support, and the price.

It’s all delivered on your favorite app you probably already have on your phone, so nothing new to learn and you have complete privacy and control when it comes to blocking people.

You can use Candid + App to sell:

  • One-on-one private coaching/consulting using text, audio, video and/or live calls
  • Fan conversations using text, audio, video and/or live calls
  • Small group clubs or masterminds using text, audio, video and/or live calls
  • Membership sites or subscription programs using text, audio, video and/or live calls
  • Behind the scenes or premium content you deliver using text, audio, video and/or live calls

There’s no need to waste time and money on other platforms to create membership areas, communities or host conversations — Apps like WhatsApp, Telegram and Slack can do all of this for free. Candid makes it easy to create a page to sell you offers and collect payment.

You can charge anywhere from $10 to $1,000 per person, and you keep 100% of that money. If you need help deciding how much to charge, we have a pricing guide you can follow.

We charge a 12% platform fee to support Candid as a company and a 3% transaction fee from Stripe our payments partner, but you do not pay, your customers pay these fees.

As a creator it’s 100% free – Click here to create your Candid account.

The Reliability Of Subscription Products

Another key benefit of going customer-first as a creator and selling your own products, is you can sell subscriptions.

I’m stating the obvious here; a recurring income stream is more sustainable.

Candid products are all monthly subscriptions. Whether you are selling one-on-one access to you for conversations or coaching, growing a paid group or community, drip releasing premium content, or leading a mastermind program, these products are all subscriptions.

You should expect cancellations of course, churn impacts all subscription products, but if you find the right customers and keep delivering what they want, you will have subscribers who keep paying for years.

Best of all, these subscribers keep paying whether or not you publish new videos on YouTube, or keep up daily content on Instagram or publish a new podcast episode twice a week. Recurring income is a key factor in a stable online business.

Multiple Streams Of Income

Although I have pointed out the negatives of advertising and brand deal income streams, there is no reason why you can’t have it all.

Using Candid to sell access to you or a premium community you lead, doesn’t mean you can’t also take brand deals and earn ad revenue.

Our mission is to help you earn a reliable full time income. Having multiple streams of income means you are more protected if one of them falters. It also gives you room to be creative and experiment.

In the near future you could be earning money from ads, taking brand deals, all while promoting your own products to bring in customers and grow a business.

When You Have Customers You Have Control

As creators we are always going to make use of the big content platforms – YouTube, social media, podcasting, blogging – because that’s how we attract our followers.

However, being entirely dependent for both audience and advertising money from these platforms is dangerous. It’s also a trap because you can’t stop producing content or your income dries up.

A better formula is to use these platforms to reach people, but then bring them into your world as subscribers, people who pay you for more access and content.

By doing this you avoid what today has become all too common problems for creators:

  • Advertisers that come and go, so you’re always chasing, negotiating new deals
  • Ad revenue share that is not decided by you
  • The risk of ‘bad ads’ or ‘bad sponsors’ that could get you in trouble or tarnish your reputation (for a recent example, the crypto exchange FTX, which collapsed in scandal, sponsored many creators)
  • Forced to create content about products and companies you don’t necessarily care about but you need the brand deal money
  • The overall inconsistency, meaning it’s hard to hire staff to help you because you don’t know how much money you will have coming in next month

By creating Candid products you create stable, recurring income streams with people who want more from you. These are you biggest fans and your most motivated followers, who want your insights, advice, or premium content/access.

A Candid product sales page takes 5 minutes to create. You set a title (product name), description, price and upload a short video using your phone that explains what you are offering. Review your new sales page, click publish and share it with your audience.

People visit your Candid product page, click subscribe, make payment to sign up, then you connect with them through the app you selected when you created your offer. They keep paying month after month to keep their access to you and/or your premium content via the app.

You can take on as many customers as you like, experiment with one-on-ones, small groups or community style memberships.

This could lead to ‘side hustle’ income of $500 a month, or if you take it far enough, a real business with hundreds of thousands of dollars coming in each year. This opportunity is only limited by your ambition to grow an audience and sell them access to you and your premium content via Candid products, delivered through the app.

Best of all, you are always in control with Candid. You keep your customers, which means they stay in your eco-system, rather than sending them away to advertisers or sponsors. You keep 100% of the money of the price you charge.

You can deepen relationships with your best fans and followers and earn a reliable recurring income.

Why not run a test today? Take 10 minutes to create your Candid account, then create your first product and share it via whatever method you have to reach your audience.

That could be Instagram, your email newsletter, your YouTube channel, TikTok, Snapchat, your blog, podcast or in-person events. Even sending a few emails directly to friends or colleagues who have shown interest in getting advice from you, or talking to you about a topic you both care about.

The options are limitless and it’s free to test any idea you have.

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