This post originally appeared on MainStreet.
We are still in the covered wagon, Wild West frontier days of making money off the Internet.
New ideas, applications, and platforms are springing up almost weekly. If you are looking to cash-in on the Internet, first find a niche--then sell to it. Sports is not a niche. Women in Southern California that play tennis--left-handed--that's a niche. The trick is finding a target market that is small, but not so obscure that only you and a few neighbors on your block know about it.
The key consideration is: small enough to specialize, but large enough to monetize.
Now that you've got your niche, here's how to make money off it.
Get started with a free financial assessment.
Get started with a free financial assessment.
It's difficult to get a YouTube video to go viral enough to make money – unless you're a dancing South Korean musician -- but if you drill down to your narrow-of-the-narrowest target market and charge the folks therein to use your instructional video, educational audio or how-to production; you might just make a few bucks. Pivotshare.com is a free service that takes a commission off of the monthly subscription fee you charge, or from your pay-per-view revenue. Adam Mosam sold his first tech startup in Orange County back in 2006 and then started looking for his next big thing.
"The entire media industry was ripe for disruption, and I had a few ideas on how to help evolve that market," Mosam says. "We're finally at a point where both the availability of technology and the economics of delivering the solution that I wanted to build were feasible, so I went for it." He says Pivotshare exists to help content creators and publishers of all sizes make money from their media.
"We allow anyone to create an online channel, upload their content and then sell their media via rentals, purchases or a monthly subscription," says Mosam. "Their customers can then access the content via the Web, smartphones and tablets."
Make an App
If you have a blog or other useful content that your target market is looking for, turn it into an app and sell it. How? James Scott, CEO of theappbuilder.com says that he set out to "liberate app creation, enabling anyone to create and manage their own mobile app."
A free service, with premium features for a fee, Scott says The App Builder has created 200,000 apps since launching a year ago.
"It's as simple to use as Facebook with no programming required," says Scott. "You can create an app for virtually any purpose, in either a public or private setting, such as sharing information securely with your customers or employees. We have a bunch of standard off-the-shelf widgets that can be configured by the app creator to meet their objectives. Content is uploaded into the app through our website."
Create an Income Stream
The Holy Grail in business is recurring revenue. Rather than selling something once--then busting your butt to sell it again-and-again to someone else--sell it by subscription. Whether it's a 12-part lesson plan or custom content issued monthly – or better yet, weekly – you will need a way to manage the billing cycles and payments. That's where a service like Fusebill comes in. Having just raised a new round of $2 million in funding, the Ontario-based company automates the entire process of accepting automatic payments.
"Fusebill is the product of a ten-year history of building and running large scale billing systems with hundreds of thousands of subscribers," says Steve Adams, Fusebill CEO. "We've experienced the pain of billing and managing a large subscriber customer base in previous companies and -- like many others -- made do with a combination of home-grown softwareand manual processes. We've architected Fusebill to avoid this pain."
Adams is aiming to grow Fusebill's customer base by two- to three-fold during the next 18 months, from its existing roster of 100 clients.
Sell Your Expertise
Educational services are becoming an integral part of the Internet money machine. From teaching motion graphics to meatball-making, people are being paid good money to teach. Imagine that.
Skillshare.com is "a learning community centered around real-world skills," says Michael Karnjanaprakorn, founder. "We provide a platform that allows anyone to teach classes, both in-person and online to thousands of people around the world. We're seeing 20 to 30% month-over-month growth, in terms of membership growth and revenue generated."
How does it work? Posting a class that you want to teach is free. If you charge a fee, Skillshare will take a 12% commission on all tickets sold. "It's a great way to earn money while connecting to your community," says Karnjanaprakorn. "We've had Skillshare teachers earn over $100,000 in less than 6 months."
Sell Your Music
If your niche is something like "French Cajun folk songs," sell your music – and t-shirts – on a site like BandCamp.com, a publishing platform for musicians. Or, as their website says, "Your fifth, fully geeked-out Beatle -- the one who keeps your very own website humming and lets you get back to making great music and building your fan base."
There is no charge for the service, and you can determine how much your fans will pay; BandCamp will take a 15% cut of music, 10% on merchandise, with discounts on higher sales.
The company claims that artists have made "$2.2 million in the last 30 days alone."
Easier than getting a record deal.