For years, I ran a side hustle. While working as a copywriter for a software company, I spent my early mornings writing and self-publishing books on Amazon. I also created content to promote these books and also some digital courses.
One year, my side hustle reached a surprising revenue goal.
“With a salary and this extra income, you’re facing a big tax bill,” my accountant said.
“What can I do about it?”
“Have you considered setting up a limited company?”
(A limited company is the Irish equivalent of an LLC.)
“Why would I do that?”
“It’ll protect your business assets at the end of the tax year. Otherwise, you’ll have to pay 50% to the taxman.”
I spent a little over a hundred euros turning my side-gig into a part-time and later a full-time business. I didn’t know it at the time, but I set up what later became a personal media company.
If you're engaged in any type of creative work and want to earn a living from it, consider starting one too. As a creative, you already have an unfair advantage over other entrepreneurs, so why not take it?
What Is a Personal Media Company?
A personal media company describes an individual who builds a business around their content. They use formats like blog posts, articles, social media stories, podcasts, and videos to reach an ideal audience. And they get paid for their hard work.
Getting paid for content isn’t novel. Consider Netflix. In 2021, the company reportedly spent over $21 billion acquiring and developing original content. It uses high-quality content to attract its ideal customers into a profitable subscription arrangement.
Corporations like Netflix have nearly unlimited resources. However, personal media company owners aren’t trying to build a company on that scale. Instead, they’re using content to foster trust with customers on a smaller and more intimate scale.
Unlike a corporate or traditional media company, people consume content to connect with a creator’s worldview. A personal media company owner can also use this content to sell their digital products and services.
Register Your Personal Media Company
It’s a good idea to set up a separate entity that represents your personal media company, so you can differentiate your finances.
After setting up my business, I opened a business bank account to separate my personal finances from business finances. Then, I put in place systems ensuring contractors and I got paid on time each month. Later on, I set up benefits like health insurance and income protection.
I also hired a bookkeeper and later an accountant to track finances and submit required documentation to the taxman. I didn’t get into building a creator business to worry about bank accounts, so this step saved me a lot of headaches come tax return time.
Your situation may be different depending on what country you're in or how much you're earning. But it’s usually a good idea to register a business that you’ve 100% ownership of and set up corresponding bank accounts.
After all, your website and other digital properties may become assets you can sell later. As an example, according to Empire Flippers, it's possible to sell a content website for 32-to-47 times the monthly profits—an eye-watering amount for creators.
Don’t worry too much about the name of your registered business. Many personal media company owners use something generic based on their initials, such as BC Holdings. Chances are, your actual business will evolve over time too.
Pick Your Domain
New creators wonder if they need to acquire the website with their name and source matching social media handles. You can either build a media company under your domain name or under a name that represents your brand, like Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income.
I couldn’t afford to buy my domain name when I started out, so I built a site around the new name: Become a Writer Today. Later on, I bought that domain name for a little under $1,000.
But what if you still want your domain name and it’s unavailable? Consider looking outside of .com domain name extensions. For example, content marketer and author Steph Smith, whom I recently interviewed, chose the domain name stephsmith.io.
(The .io prefix is popular with tech and the startup community, which is her ideal audience.)
Cryptocurrency will radically inform how personal media brands get paid in the coming years, so consider acquiring the blockchain version of your name as well.
Use a service like Unstoppable Domains to purchase your blockchain domain name. Essentially, this type of domain name enables you to receive cryptocurrency payments via your personal name. Also, you don’t have to pay domain renewal fees.
Identify Your Area of Expertise
Consumers of social media usually post information about whatever they want, wherever they want. Then these platforms grow on the back of this content.
However, if you want to build a personal media company, pick one or two topics you're an expert in and then create and publish more strategically.
Ask yourself: What do I know more about or spend more time and money on than my friends or peers?
Then, create differentiated content, like videos, articles, blog posts, and podcasts about these topics. In your content, articulate your audience’s problems and how you can potentially help solve them. Another approach is to document your learning journey.
For example, a CrossFit enthusiast could become a popular blogger on this topic by writing what they’ve learned about the sport. Later on, they could diversify into video and audio content. Over time, through content marketing, they may become a thought leader in the CrossFit community.
You can always diversify into other topics later, as Gary Vaynerchuk did after moving away from his first online business Wine Library.
Create Differentiated Content
If you’re running a personal media company, like it or not, content is a widget. It feeds into your content marketing efforts. Use it to attract an audience, build your business and convert an audience into paying customers.
As you’re a creator, you possess an unfair advantage over other entrepreneurs, so why not leverage it? Most businesses pay creators lots of money for skills the creators themselves take for granted. You can still hire somebody to help if tasks like editing video become a bottleneck.
Some content formats to create for your personal media company include:
- Blog posts
- Questions and answers
- White papers
- Social media stories
- Case studies
- Customer testimonials
I enjoy writing, and I produced the bulk of the articles on two of my websites. However, I also run several other niche sites unrelated to my personal brand. For these sites, I hired freelance writers using Writer Access. These freelancers produce content for building niche websites.
The difference is the former relates to my personal brand, whereas the latter are business brands.
Even if you're not a writer, figure out what types of content formats and platforms suit you. You may enjoy podcasting, recording video, or interviewing influencers. If so, focus on YouTube or podcasting as part of your digital marketing efforts.
It helps if you develop a creative mindset.
Build Your Brand
As the face of your personal media company, spend time on personal branding. For example, hire a professional photographer to take a good headshot for your website and social media handles like LinkedIn and Twitter.
You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on design or a fancy logo. If your budget is smaller, use a service like Logo Maker to create a logo for less than a hundred dollars.
I recently interviewed Pamela Wilson of Big Brand System, who said:
“If you’re trying to show up as yourself, you could actually be doing a disservice to yourself if you create a logo because the logo is more associated with a business brand, and if you want to show up and be you, it’s probably better just to type your name out and put your name in front of people.”
Focus on Content Distribution
One night over a beer, I complained to a friend about a drop in online traffic to my websites.
“It’s affecting revenue for the month,” I said.
“That sounds like a footfall problem,” my friend said. He manages a busy brick-and-mortar carpet store.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“If footfall goes down in one of our stores, so do sales,” he said. “When that happens, we figure out how to get more customers into the store through promotions and ads.”
As the owner of a personal media company, you can get more people in the door by distributing your content via search engine optimization (SEO), influencer marketing, social media, and, potentially, paid advertising.
For example, LinkedIn is good for distributing business-to-business content, while Medium is ideal for connecting with people in the startup community. Similarly, Amazon is useful for distributing Kindle books that build your personal brand.
I distributed content by writing guest articles for sites like Lifehacker, Forbes, and Fast Company.
Build It, Own It
Content creators can earn money directly from many social media platforms. Some platforms with partner programs include Medium and YouTube.
I joined the Medium Partner Program in 2018, and I’ve earned several thousand dollars each year from it. I’m a small earner in that program. Some more prolific peers earn five figures a month from Medium. Top YouTubers earn millions of dollars per year from that partner program.
As great as these partner programs are, remember you’re earning a living by creating content on a third-party platform.
The owners of these partner programs can change the rules and even kick you out. Traditional business owners regularly diversify their income streams. So why not build a platform you own too?
By all means, build up a profile on YouTube, but direct people back to a personal media platform that you own, like an email list or your website. It’s far safer to create content you own and distribute it using third-party platforms.
Then, if a social media platform changes its algorithm or the rules, you're still directly connected through your relationship with customers and followers via an email list.
Ask new followers to join your email list early and often. And remember creating more content transforms into leverage later on. Write an article, record a video or a podcast, and thousands of people may consume it over time.
Pick a Monetization Strategy
As the owner of your personal media company, it’s your job to generate an income from creating content. It's easier than ever for creators to earn a living online today.
Some popular options include:
- Creating and selling online courses
- Developing eCommerce
- Increasing paid newsletter subscriptions
- Selling e-books and audiobooks
- Blogging and freelance writing
- Producing display advertising
- Building and flipping digital properties
- Joining partner programs for creators
It's almost impossible to succeed in all of these monetization options. Instead, pick one or two that align with your interests.
From my personal media company, I self-published e-books, as I like to write. I also relied on content marketing to promote these books. Then I transitioned to using affiliate marketing to promote products and services I use regularly.
I also created and sold online courses and promoted other creators’ products with varying degrees of success. Later on, when my website attracted traffic, I transitioned to display advertising as a monetization strategy.
Hire Other People
Successful companies are built on the efforts of many people rather than a lone individual. If you want to build a personal media company, you’ll need to either hire or outsource.
Ask yourself what tasks you can delegate.
Typically these are tasks you dislike, are of low value, or aren't very good at. It's relatively easy to outsource the management of email, content publishing, customer support, and any technical tasks relating to building a personal media company.
I started with my business finances.
I hated tracking my income and expenses prior to tax return time. (The taxman had little sympathy.) And I loathed spending hours working on bookkeeping.
So I outsourced the bookkeeping and hired an accountant to take care of my returns. He immediately spotted issues in my books and fixed them.
He wasn’t cheap, but outsourcing financials freed me to spend more time creating content for my personal media company. I immediately thought, “Why didn't I do this sooner?”
Track Your Numbers
If you create for yourself and/or don't care about getting paid, it's a hobby or passion project. But if you want to run a thriving personal media company, spend some of the day working on your numbers.
Or as British entrepreneur and publisher Felix Dennis said in his book, How to Get Rich:
“Facing up to cash-flow demands and refusing to succumb to the ‘ostrich syndrome’ is a paramount concern in any start-up. You can delegate many tasks when creating a new business, but monitoring and forecasting cash flow is not one of them. It’s your responsibility and your task. Nobody else’s.”
Understanding your numbers will help you determine if you can afford to invest more in outsourcing or even hiring people to support your personal media company.
For example, when my business began earning a profit, I invested some earnings into producing better content. I hired higher-quality book designers and editors for my books. I also hired a podcast editor who helps me polish my podcasts. This freed me up to spend more time creating content.
If you're in doubt, work on your craft in the morning and work on your business in the afternoon. Here's what this looks like in practice.
Spend two or three hours immersed in deep creative work like writing or podcasting, or recording video.
With this type of creative work, you possess an unfair advantage over competitors. It's also the type of creative work you enjoy the most. You can afford to experiment and take creative risks.
In the afternoon, spend several hours working on tasks that grow your personal media company. For example:
- Create a digital product
- Pitch editors or clients
- Write an email funnel
- Set up paid advertising campaigns on Facebook or Amazon for books or courses
- Coach your ideal clients or students
- Host free and premium webinars
Alternatively, spend afternoon time documenting procedures for content creation, publishing, and promotion that you can outsource to a team member or new hire.
Finally, allocate half an hour each day to learning more about your craft by taking courses and reading books. As a creator, your inputs dramatically inform your outputs.
Build Your Personal Media Company: The Final Word
The internet thrives on quality content.
As a creator, you can earn a good living online by harnessing your unfair advantage over other business owners. Start and build a personal media company about topics you’re an expert in.
Spend the proverbial morning working on creative tasks you enjoy. Then, work on your business in the afternoon, on tasks that help you earn a good living.
This approach will help you find the balance between creative work and running a profitable personal media company.
What are the benefits of having a personal media company?
A personal media company enables you to earn a good living from creating content about topics you’re an expert in. As the internet thrives on quality content, you can easily build a relationship with your ideal customers and audience and leave a dreary day job behind. As the owner of a personal media company, you can create content and digital offers once and sell them many times to an online audience.
How do I start my own media company?
You can start your own media company by creating and publishing quality content that you own. Use social media platforms as distribution tools to build relationships with your fans and audience.