7 ways to make money as a thought leader


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Here are seven ways you can make money as a thought leader:

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1. Salaried employee

A consistent salary plus benefits is an excellent revenue stream, and hopefully it aligns with your why or can help move you toward your overall goal. As a thought leader, you can choose to stay in a salaried job long-term, but now you can negotiate your pay and how you spend your time. The more well-known you become, the more negotiating power you have. I know some thought leaders that get paid a high six-figure salary, and make three times that in speaking and side projects. Not only do they have both income streams, but they can negotiate how they divide their time.

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2. Keynote speaker

Keynote speaking is a stream that grows wider as you develop your skills in speaking and build your credibility. Through keynotes, even ones that aren’t paid, you can more easily develop your funnel, no matter what industry or position you’re in. You might want to drive marketing and sales goals, fill your funnel with more leads, or simply influence more people with the message you care about most.

If you’re a professional speaker, you can charge $500 to $50,000 or more for one speaking engagement! Some celebrity speakers can charge even more than that. This can be a lucrative revenue stream that allows time to pursue other things.

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3. Events

Events can be in person, online, or both. This can be a revenue stream in and of itself, but some in-person events do require significant risk and capital.

Events can dramatically expand your market, provide opportunity for collaboration and trades, and create a community around your goal. Some thought leaders run events that make money, and some run events that may cost significant money with no profit derived directly, but the event fills the sales funnel for more expensive products.

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4. Masterminds

Masterminds can be quite profitable. The buy-in can range from $500 to $100,000 a year, with the average between $5,000 and $25,000. Multiply that by five or 15 people, and that’s a pretty good income stream. Keep in mind that masterminds are ongoing and require more of your time. They often consist of an in-person meet-up once a year, while the rest of the interaction happens via a private online group.

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5. Business development & sales

Every business, regardless of industry, needs great people in biz dev and sales. But they can benefit even more when those in these positions are also thought leaders.

For this revenue stream, you need a strong network to succeed. By being a thought leader, many people will come to you. You will also be able to build your network through being on stage. When you are up on a stage, people trust you. They see how you think. When I meet with people now, they know I’m an expert. They also know I have successfully supported other companies, which increases my credibility. Almost every door opens once you become a thought leader, you will see a dramatic change in your life in this area. That is a fantastic tool for anyone in biz-dev or sales.

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6. Consulting

Consulting comes in many forms. You can speak to a whole company, run an event for an organization, or coach individuals. With consulting, you can negotiate your price.

Sometimes you only need to work with a few corporations to make hundreds of thousands each year consulting. To get to this point, you have to build up your platform as a thought leader and then build up your client base. The result of this revenue stream is a clear value exchange. Your company or client has access to your ideas and experience. You gain a particular amount of money or stock in return. It also grows your network easily. The best part is – you are designing your life, and choosing how and who you work with, and at what price.

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7. Affiliate marketing

If you pursue affiliate marketing, you set up ways to give others money for their referral. Perhaps you have an online program that you sell for $1,000. You could give affiliates 20% –  50% of the total sale each time someone buys through their link. This also works in reverse: they can pay you a referral fee when you generate sales for them.

You can also use affiliate marketing for events. Instead of paying affiliates cash, you might incentivize them with prizes: invite two friends, get an iPad; invite five friends, get a VR headset. In this case, your affiliates are also your customers.

Companies like Uber, Lyft, and Instacart have used this trick for years, where they pay you, usually around $5-$10, for anyone who signs up using your link. What do you have that can be marketed and sold by affiliates?

Robin Farmanfarmaian is a professional speaker, entrepreneur, and angel investor. This article is an excerpt from her book, The Thought Leader Formula.

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