How to Turn Your Knowledge into an Online Business
These days there are so many different and unique ways you can monetize your knowledge – from writing a book or ebook, creating a self-paced course or a live training program, offering coaching or consulting services, and even a wide variety of other service-based ways to monetize what you know.
I’ve actually turned my knowledge into a variety of these different products and services. Some have taken a ton of my time to pursue and been less profitable, whereas others have taken a small majority of my time but wound up extremely profitable.
I want to share with you what has worked best for me in the informational business I run at Gillian Perkins International and what ways I recommend for you to turn your own knowledge into a thriving online business.
Step #1 – create a product
The first step to monetization is that you need to figure out the best way to turn your knowledge into a product that your target audience wants. On top of that, you also need to figure out how to sell that product in the most effective way.
What is something you’re interested in, a passion you have, an activity you’re great at, or a skill you hone? What topic do others constantly ask your advice about? This is your knowledge base.
A great way to start once you know the expertise you want to teach is to ask yourself, “How can I package my knowledge into a product someone can purchase?”
As I mentioned in the beginning, there are a variety of different ways you can monetize your knowledge, and here are just a few:
- Books or ebooks
- Self-paced courses
- Group coaching or live courses
- Coaching or consulting
So, the two items you need to figure out before you can work to create your product are:
- What information can you share with others? This is your knowledge base or a particular skill you excel in.
- What format are you going to put that information into? This is the product model you choose to test the waters with first.
Are you ready for a couple of examples?
Maybe you’re a talented artist, and your passion is in watercolor. You could create an ebook or a course about the beginning steps of watercolor, sharing the tools you would need and the basic principles of creating beautiful art.
You could take your love of watercolor and create more of a coaching or consulting business by teaching classes or workshops live online either one-on-one or in a group setting. Or, maybe you really enjoy in-person interaction and you host a day or weekend retreat for watercolor beginners.
What if you knew of a no-fail method to declutter and organize your home once and for all? You could offer a live 8-week group coaching program to deliver your system and help other moms clear the clutter and create a peaceful atmosphere in their homes. Through the 8 weeks together, you can provide built-in accountability they need to clear their space one room at a time.
Your biggest challenge? Narrowing down your ideas to one specific topic and the different formats you’d like to pursue as you turn your knowledge into a product.
In order to help you do that, I’ve created a PDF download with 100 different digital product ideas, and this can help you gain insight and clarity in that brainstorming process.
Step #2 – choose one idea to test
Like I mentioned already, the hardest part will be to narrow down your long list to just one idea, but I highly recommend you focus solely on one idea first. It’s important for you to take the time to test that idea and not build out a huge product or program right away.
This is really key: You don’t yet know which idea is going to take off, as you’re still in the experimental stages, so hold each of your ideas loosely. Don’t get fixated on your first idea so much that you can’t be flexible to pivot later.
One way you can really find out if the topic you’re interested in has leverage is to talk to people who are interested in that same topic. Reach out to your current network to find anyone who wants to learn more about that specific topic. These are the people who want the knowledge you have, and you can conduct your own market research with this network.
Let’s go back to the watercolor idea. If you want to develop an online watercolor workshop for beginners, you could reach out to your friends and family and see if any of them have ever had an interest in learning or if they know anyone who does. Then, get on the phone with those interested for 20 minutes and ask them some market research-related questions – find out what they want!
Here is what you want to figure out when talking to these key people:
- What exactly is the end outcome they are looking for?
- Is it aligned with the product you’re thinking of creating?
- Why do they want that outcome?
- What obstacles are getting in the way of getting that outcome?
Irresistible products solve a problem, so you want to include in your product the solutions to the problems your target audience is facing.
Maybe as you’re conducting your market research for your watercolor idea, you find out that many of those you talk with want to start, but they don’t have a clue what supplies they need to begin. Now that you know a problem they face, you can include the solution to that concern in your product by offering a complete list of supplies. This will not only help them be confident in your teaching, but also make the product more appealing to them and sway them toward purchasing.
Step #3 – outline the product
Once you’re finished deciding on a product idea to test AND you’ve done your market research with a select few people you think would fit the target audience for the product, you’re ready to begin outlining your product.
Your outline does not need to be a complete manuscript. Rather, you want to keep it as simple as possible and outline exactly what you want to teach or guide your students through.
The more simple, the better, at this step in the process.
Then you get to work on creating the product, right? No! It’s a huge risk of your time to create a product before you know that there’s a demand for it.
Monetizing the knowledge in your head is a time-consuming process. Writing a book can take months or even years to complete. Creating a course also takes long hours. It doesn’t just happen overnight, and, because of this, you don’t want to rush into creating the full-out version before you know it’s going to sell.
Step #4 – sell the product
This concept of selling your product before you’ve even created it may seem backward to you, but follow along with me here.
If you work to sell your product idea before it’s created, you will know full well if you should risk spending your time building it out. It’s time to go out there with your idea and find out whether or not people are interested in purchasing your product. The validation stage begins!
I strongly encourage you to do this step BEFORE you create the thing.
Your goal will be to start small, casual and live.
If you’re thinking about creating a course, group program, or event, testing these ideas live the first go-around is a great way to know if it will succeed before creating the longer version of the product. How about presenting your product idea as a live workshop first?
This is exactly how I successfully sold my online courses!
Initially, I tried to create the courses and sell them WITHOUT testing the idea in a smaller beta format – and that didn’t work. I just couldn’t seem to figure out if there was a demand for those products and why my hard work wasn't producing sales.
After much effort with little results, I decided to keep things casual and did a 60-minute live workshop on a topic that interested me. I sold seats to the workshop to people I knew or people outside my network online.
A few things happened during this live workshop:
- I received confirmed proof that people wanted to learn about the topic I was presenting on.
- People asked me questions during the workshop, which helped me get to know the problems they were facing with that particular topic.
- Those questions could then be added into the full version of my product as answers and solutions to their specific problems.
- The result? I could sell the full product for a larger price.
Once I figured out how to market effectively (because I created enough products that didn’t pass validation), I realized that creating a one-hour workshop was the golden nugget for me. I believe this can work for you too!
Don’t create the product first – this is a huge risk.
Start with something you can produce live – this is less risky, and if no one buys, then you don’t create the larger product.
Sell to your current network in a personal way
Another mistake I made early on was trying to sell my products to the masses. It didn’t work. I used email marketing and social media, but I quickly realized that trying to use mass-marketing tactics would only work if I had a large visibility and growing audience.
The reason is because mass marketing only converts leads into paying customers at about a 0.5%. This means that I would have needed 200 interested people to have one paying customer. No wonder I spun my wheels and didn't gain any traction with the first courses I tried to sell!
When first starting you, you may only have about 50-100 people that you can share your product with because your audience is small – that is okay! However, because you have little to no audience when you get started, those big mass marketing tactics that only convert 0.05% of your leads will be self-defeating if you try them.
What you want to do initially is go really small. What I mean by that is don’t try to automate and scale your business up front. The goal is to create a passive online machine, yes, but that takes time.
In order to convert more leads into sales, your goal is to get really personal and interactive. If you take the time to talk to your network individually, you’ll see between 10-50% conversion rates! Think about it this way: If you use mass marketing tactics for the 50 people in your audience, you’ll have 0 sales based on the conversion rate. That’s frustrating. But, if you use personalized marketing, your sales can be 5 or 10 or even 20!
Use individual marketing tactics for your first product launch. I promise it will make a massive difference in your conversions! You won’t need to keep doing the individual marketing forever, and you won’t want to because it isn’t a scalable model, but when starting out, this type of marketing is necessary and effective.
At the appropriate time (when your audience is too large to do the individual marketing) you can move to mass marketing tactics. Even though the conversions are much worse, larger companies prefer this method because they still end up making more sales than they would have if they kept marketing at the smaller level in a more individual-based manner. These lower conversion rates are better if you can’t talk to all your customers one-on-one.
How to sell your live event
Okay, you believe me, and you’re following me. Great!
Let’s talk about how to sell your live event so people actually show up, and we’re going to do this leveraging your current network and the people your network knows.
First, make a list of all the people you know. Then, divide the list into two categories: People who MIGHT be interested and people who you know are NOT interested in your chosen topic.
What will you do with these two categories?
- People who might be interested – reach out personally to share with them what you’re doing. You may say something like this: “I’m doing this workshop about watercolor painting, and I thought you might be interested because I know you are passionate about creativity and art. Would you want to join me in the workshop I’m teaching to learn the basics of watercolor?”
- People who you know are not interested – talk to them personally as well, but change how you share what you’re doing. Rather than inviting them to your workshop, you may say something like this: “By the way, I’m doing this workshop about watercolor painting, and I was wondering if you know of anyone who may be interested in joining?”
There is no sales pressure for those people who aren’t interested in your topic if you use this friendly approach. They probably won’t know someone off the top of their head that will fit what you’re looking for, but because you planted the seed, what you’re doing will be in the back of their mind for when they do hear of a friend who’s interested in the topic you’re sharing your knowledge about.
Overall, people love to be helpful, and this is one way they can support you! They can become the hero for their friend if they solve their problem by directing them to your workshop. They’ll hear someone say, “Man, I really want to take up watercolor painting, but I have no idea how to get started or what I even need to get started,” and your friend will say, “I know who you need to talk to about that!”
This is how you can make money online with zero followers. Leverage your connections. It’s a win-win!
Step #5 – automation
The final step in this process is to either automate the product itself or automate the marketing of the product.
Don’t try to do both at the same time – if you do, it probably won’t work out well for you. Stick with automating one at a time.
How to automate your product
Automating your product means you’re ready to shift from delivering it live to turning it into a pre-recorded course or writing a book. You are creating something that your audience can do at their own pace without you holding their hand along the way.
How to automate your marketing
Automating your marketing means that you’re moving from the personal, individual touch to either hiring a sales team to make those one-on-one connections or creating an automated system to do your marketing for you. Popular automated systems include email marketing, sales events, live webinars, or even an application process.
No matter how you automate, your goal is to guide people to discover your product, learn more about it, and purchase it without you having to be heavily involved in every step of the process.
Don’t forget, it’s important to create an automated version of your product that people can purchase before you automate marketing. The marketing process can be automated over time. If you choose to do the opposite, you will be very busy delivering the product live over and over again, and you won’t have the freedoms you were hoping your online business would afford you.
You have a huge opportunity to make a living doing what you love and helping people in the process. If you can solve someone’s problem with ease, they will want what you have to offer.
I love information marketing! It’s amazing to me that I can use my knowledge and get paid for it. I love learning new things and then sharing them with others. I’m glad I didn’t just give up in the beginning when my courses seemed to fall flat, and my marketing tactics weren’t working. I enjoy this type of work the most and love that you can make a great living using this business strategy.
I’m going to preface this, though: You will only get the benefits of information-based marketing IF you take advantage of the opportunity.
Your first step – the most important step – is to brainstorm digital product ideas you could start with. Take that first step! Until you start working forward, you will not make progress.
And, if you don’t start now, a year from now you will look back and wish you had.
Are you ready to get started? Are you excited to brainstorm digital product ideas so you can turn your knowledge into an online business?