Foundr Magazine publishes in-depth interviews with the world’s greatest entrepreneurs. Our articles highlight key takeaways from each magazine issue. We talked with NY Times best-selling author Rory Vaden about how to monetize a personal brand. Read excerpts from that in-depth conversation below. To read more, subscribe to the magazine.
If you’re familiar with Lewis Howes or The School of Greatness podcast, you can thank Rory Vaden for that.
In 2018, Howes asked Vaden and his business partner and wife, AJ Vaden, to help him build out his personal branding strategy. Howes was so impressed by the two days he spent with the couple—which he called “one of the most powerful experiences of my professional life”—that he invited Vaden onto his podcast.
After the episode aired, the Vadens received more than 500 requests for a call. And that’s how their personal brand strategy firm, Brand Builders Group, was born. Today, their business is well-known for helping aspiring influencers, entrepreneurs, speakers, authors, coaches, and executives move from obscurity to notoriety.
Twitter Rich, Dollar Broke
It’s all well and good to have a strong reputation, but that alone doesn’t pay the bills. When it comes to monetization, Vaden reminds people that having a ton of Twitter followers doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be rich.
“There’s a big difference between a pile of followers and a pile of cash. Some people are Twitter rich but dollar broke.”
This is good news. It means that you don’t need a million Instagram followers to make a million dollars. Instead, you just need to use one or two of the PAIDS methods to monetize your personal brand:
- Create a product
- Use ads and affiliates
- Sell information
- Get a third party to pay you for a deal
- Offer services
And contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to tap into all of these monetization channels to be successful, Vaden says. He actually helped Howes significantly reduce the number of income sources he had from 17 to three—one of which was The School of Greatness podcast. Just by focusing on a few streams of income, Howes’ podcast went from 30 million downloads to more than 500 million downloads within a few years.
The 4 Stages of Building a Personal Brand
According to Vaden, one of the most common reasons personal brands fail is because they do the right things in the wrong order. Most people jump straight to marketing without figuring out the first step: branding.
- Branding: Branding is just a fancy term for figuring out who you are. To explain this phase, Vaden shared one of his favorite quotes from motivational speaker Larry Winget: “He said, ‘The goal is to find your uniqueness and exploit it in the service of others.’”
- Marketing: Once you figure out who you are and what you’re trying to offer the world, then you can go into the marketing phase. This is all about creating the digital ecosystem around your personal brand—whether that’s through social media, podcasting, or content creation.
- Selling: The third phase is all about selling. This stage is tricky to master, which is why Brand Builders Group has a program called “Pressure-Free Persuasion” that teaches clients how to get people to buy their products or services without being too sales-y.
- Scaling: Finally, phase four is all about scaling. This is about creating the entrepreneurial infrastructure that will help your business grow in a sustainable way—and it’s where Vaden himself is right now, as they continually look for ways to continue expanding Brand Building Group.
Checking the Right Boxes
Regardless of your method of monetization, you want to make sure it checks some boxes.
Specifically, you want to make sure your business model is digital, automated, recurring, evergreen, and scalable—which Vaden refers to as the DARES framework.
You may have already figured out that it’s impossible for a business model to meet all of these criteria. In fact, some of these qualifications directly oppose each other. For instance, if someone is paying for a recurring service, it probably won’t be evergreen because the customer will want updates over time.
Read more: Personal Branding – How to Become the Hero of Your Career
Instead, you have to understand who you are and which type of business model makes the most sense for you strategically.
“It’s not that one business model is better than any other. It’s not that one social media platform is better than any other. It’s not that one message is better than any other. It’s all about the person. There’s no right answer here—there’s only your right answer. There’s what’s right for you,” Vaden says.