Gini Dietrich

The Different Types of Revenue Streams Comms Pros Can Build

By: Gini Dietrich | November 26, 2019 | 
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Revenue StreamsLast week we talked about what you should do to prepare for an eventual economic downturn, the thought of which definitely doesn’t keep me awake at night fretting about the future.

Nope.

No lying there in bed at 2:30 in the morning, staring at the ceiling, wondering how things could be different this time around.

Not me. 

It is something for all of us to consider.

I’ve been through a few recessions during my career, but only one as a business owner.

And it’s completely different when you own the joint and depend on cash flow and suddenly it’s gone.

Sure, as an employee, you have to worry about layoffs, but those tend to be less stressful (at least for me when I was an employee) than when the livelihoods of others depend on you.

One of the things that we can do to protect ourselves or our businesses is to make sure our sources of income are diversified.

For our purposes today, diversified means that the money you earn in your life or business doesn’t all come from the same place, and you have different revenue streams from different kinds of products or services that make up your total income.

Got it?

Good. 

Diversify Your Business and Your Life

Not only do the global or national economies have their ups and downs, your professional experiences do, too. 

After the Great Recession and the advent of social media in the business world, we saw a lot of social media marketing firms pop up.

I remember thinking at the time, “This is dangerous. You must diversify.”

That’s mostly been proven to be true.

Rarely do you find a firm that focuses solely on social media anymore.

Trends in our industries come and go.

The composition of your team changes.

People who were dedicated to specific projects, business areas, or clients might leave for a variety of reasons.

If you’re an employee, those changes can affect you even more, so having a diversified set of ways to make money can give you security, as well.

No matter if you own the joint or if work for an organization, you don’t want all of your eggs in one basket.

And in today’s gig economy, it’s even easier to bring in extra income during your off hours.

Types of Revenue Streams for Communications Professionals

There are tons of ways we can add revenue streams to our businesses or our lives.

Consulting is probably the quickest and easiest.

An an agency owner, if you provide done for you services, it’s pretty easy to add on consulting for a higher fee but perhaps a shorter length of time than a traditional annual retainer.

This is great for organizations that can’t afford your fees on an ongoing process but need someone to teach their internal teams how to deliver a certain result.

As an employee, you can also offer consulting on the side.

Before you do this, make sure you consult your contract and non-disclosure agreement—most will prevent you from working with clients that compete directly with the agency’s clients—and talk to your supervisor before you start to pursue anything.

You have two options here:

  1. Build an expertise outside of your agency’s target marketing and negotiate a commission or bonus structure if you bring those clients to the business; and/or (because you can do both if you want) 
  2. Have a side business where you service those clients after hours. This one is a little tougher just because most organizations have business hours and want their work done during that time, too. But if you’re honest about it being a side gig and you set expectations, it’s almost never a problem.

I’m a big fan of consulting or coaching…whatever you want to call it.

I offer one-on-one coaching in my business to agency owners and to three very strategic organizations each year.

It allows me to dig really deep with business owners to solve some pretty big strategic issues.

If you’re interested in learning more—either in how we structure it for your own planning or to invest in yourself—you can check out what we do here.

Be a Leader of the People

It will come to no surprise to most of you that memberships and community groups are a key strategy at Spin Sucks.

These types of groups are the ultimate in brand ambassador programs, which every organization on earth would love to create.

The challenge with a membership or community group is it’s a very, very long-term play and most executives don’t have the patience.

But if you can build something that is highly engaged and active, the long-term implications are gigantic.

Someone who is willing to spend their time with you is a buyer.

You may not have something for them to buy yet (which is why they haven’t), but by them giving you their time, they are subconsciously telling you they trust you and they want to buy from you. 

This means you have an engaged audience who will give you honest feedback, who will help you test new products, who will provide market research, and who will be your biggest advocates.

I liken a community to an external sales team without the payroll or commissions or travel budgets. 

The Written Word Still Reigns Supreme

As a two-time author, I’m a fan of having published works out there.

There aren’t huge windfalls of cash when you publish a book, but you do gain serious credibility that allows you to increase your fees—either in your business or as your side gig—and people seek you out.

If you’re smart about it, you can also create informational products that allow you to build additional revenue and do it without spending a lot of time.

Passive income, FTW!

Our Different Types of Revenue Streams

Several years ago, I read somewhere (I don’t remember where anymore!) that a business should have at least seven revenue streams.

After surviving the Great Recession, I made that a goal for us at Spin Sucks and Arment Dietrich.

Today, we have eight revenue streams—16 if you separate out all of our online courses and books.

They are:

  • Online courses. There is The Modern Blogging Masterclass, which teaches communicators how to integrate earned and owned media, which is the first step in a PESO model program. We have the PESO model course we do with PRSA. Then there is Agency Jumpstart, which teaches agency owners how to craft a solid business development plan, and Close More Clients, which teaches agency owners how to scale their businesses. 
  • Published books. There is Marketing In the Round, which doesn’t really generate much revenue anymore. I imagine I make a few hundred bucks a year. Nothing to write home about. But Spin Sucks continues to be used in college classrooms (even though it desperately needs an update) and I get nice little royalty checks every quarter from that.
  • Speaking engagements. Though I’m not doing as much speaking as I once did, the ones I do are very strategic—they either pay my full rate or they have proven to bring in a minimum of $60,000 in new revenue from attendees.
  • 30-Day Communications Challenge. We started doing the 30-Day Communications Challenge a few years ago. It helps communicators plan a PESO model program for the year with an exercise every day in January and a daily writing prompt (if they want it). Two years ago, we developed The Communicator’s Playbook, an eBook to go along with it. That has video tutorials, special discounts with PR industry vendors, and more. If you need help with planning, this is a great way to go about it.
  • Coaching. You’ve read about the coaching we do for agency owners and a few select organizations. I won’t belabor the point. It’s something you definitely can consider adding in as one of your own revenue sources, be it business owner or employee.
  • PR services. These are, of course, the backbone of what we do in my agency—and likely in yours, too. Because there are two businesses to lead, we’re pretty picky about who we work with on the agency side and typically only bring on two new clients each year. You may be thinking, “That doesn’t really help with revenue, though!” Au contraire! It allows us to charge a premium because a limited number of organizations get to work with us.
  • Paid board appointments. Ten years ago, I started joining boards. At first they were volunteer gigs and then I managed to convince someone to pay me. I always joke that I make more on paid board appointments than I do in my own business, which is funny because it’s true. I cannot recommend this more. Find yourself a board appointment and negotiate revenue out of it. You can do this either in your business or on your own. Every one of you has an expertise to share. Use it!
  • Equity in several businesses. Taking equity in exchange for your consulting or services is risky and I don’t recommend you do a lot of it. Err on the side of paid board appointments first. But if you have some risk tolerance and time (it typically takes about 10 years to get a return), this is a really great way to add to your business or personal income. I had equity in a business that sold last year and let’s just say it was worth the risk. Do it!

Review Your Services Every Quarter

That’s all well and good, you might be thinking, but if you’ve been selling the same thing to the same type of organization for years, it might feel like quite a leap to change what’s working.

So make it easier to consider.

Right now, look at the services you offer with a critical eye:

  • If your biggest client was to suddenly leave, would your business survive?
  • What if you lost your two or three biggest clients?
  • If you lost your job, would you have any other resources to draw on? 

Let’s spend a few minutes on coming up with ideas for different revenue streams.

Do Some Spying

First of all, spy.

Go look at your competitors or similar businesses and see what, if any, products or services outside of their core offering they have available.

I LOVE to look at what organizations outside of the PR industry are doing.

Some of my biggest inspiration comes from places such as Mindvalley, SoulCycle, Peloton (I mean, of course cycling comes into it), Masterclass, Talkspace, and more.

I even pay attention to what the internet marketers do—mostly so we can do the complete opposite.

Look for organizations that inspire you and keep a list of the ideas that you could implement for your business or yourself.

Talk to Your Clients

Next, look at your best clients. Figure out what:

  • Other services they buy.
  • Problems they mention to you that you don’t currently solve.
  • Kinds of help and support they request from you.

Often within the behavior of your best clients, you’ll find ways to sell them more, of different things. 

A few months ago, I wrote an article for Spin Sucks that shows a graphic we use in our invoices so clients know what our other capabilities are and don’t go looking for another agency to help them out.

Your clients aren’t on your website every day. They don’t necessarily know what other services you provide.

Give them an easy way to keep you top-of-mind when they have other challenges to solve.

Talk to the People

And last, but not least, talk to your colleagues and peers!

Your team members, your suppliers, your contractors, your vendors, and your community have a different view of things than you do.

They will almost always see opportunities you don’t.

A few years ago, we were trying to decide what our first online course was going to be.

It would have been really easy to design something and then launch it.

Instead, we sent a survey and we asked.

Sure, we got some goofy answers.

But we also got some incredibly well thought-out answers that helped us design The Modern Blogging Masterclass.

That was not an idea we had. It came solely from asking our colleagues and peers.

What Are Your Plans?

So there you have it!

The best time to start developing multiple sources of revenue was last year or even 10 years ago.

The second best time is right now. 

I want to hear what you’re doing.

What are the different revenue streams that make up your business or your personal life?

If you don’t have enough of them, what are you going to try? 

The comments are yours.

Photo by Fabian Blank on Unsplash

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She also has run, built, and grown an agency for the past 14 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.