What is an authority business?
An authority business draws and holds attention online, and then monetizes that attention in various ways.
It’s basically any business with a significant number of followers or subscribers. Think of influencers or experts providing entertainment, information, or inspiration, to the point where people keep coming back for more.
In an authority business, the owner or brand is usually better known than any particular product or service they provide.
Authority is one of 19 types of online business and considered a Level 4 online business, according to our framework.
6 Levels and 19 Types of Online Business
Level 1 = Novice
Okay for side income or beer money, but hard to earn a living.
Level 2 = Intermediate
Best for earning a living online when you’re starting out, but hard to scale.
Level 3 = Advanced
Easier to scale and higher income potential, but you usually need significant investment of time and/or money upfront.
Level 4 = Superior
Even more scalable and even higher income potential, but also more complex / difficult / expensive.
Level 5 = Distinguished
Most complex / difficult / expensive, but the rewards here can be massive.
Level X = Wildcard
These are the misfits. Many aren’t even considered businesses in the traditional sense, but they are all ways to make money online. You typically need a lot of time, money, or luck to succeed with anything here.
How can you make money online with an authority business?
Here are the legit ways I’ve found to make money online with an authority business…
Start a Podcast
Jarlath Regan’s niche podcast earns him a decent amount each month…
- Podcaster, An Irishman Abroad
- $2k – $5k per month via Patreon
Start a YouTube Channel
Patricia Bright started on YouTube way back in 2009 and now has three channels and millions of subscribers…
- Fashion and Beauty Influencer
- $28,295 monthly ad revenue from one YouTube channel
A more modest example would be Ryan Roots, who started on YouTube in 2016 and grew it to more than 120k subscribers…
- Co-founder of Ralli Roots
- $7,000+ monthly YouTube ad revenue
Become a Social Media Influencer
If you can build up a big following on social media, you can probably earn a good income.
For example, Katy Bellotte has more than 170,000 followers on Instagram and gets paid for sponsored posts…
- Content Creator and Freelancer
- $2.4k – $5k per sponsored Instagram post
Another option here is to monetize a popular Facebook page, like Lester Diaz does with in-stream video ads…
- Internet Marketer
- $7,462 one month Facebook ad revenue
Build an Authority Website
An authority website = a website that is recognized as the authority on a certain topic.
For example, Cassidy Tuttle created an authoritative website about house plants that has done very well…
- Founder of Succulents and Sunshine
- $66,000 average monthly revenue
Start an Email Newsletter
Email newsletters are an add-on for many websites but they can also be the main event.
Sam Parr’s newsletter is certainly that…
- Founder and CEO of The Hustle
- $1+ million The Hustle monthly revenue
Become a Sought-After Expert
Sam Ovens achieved significant business success at a young age, making him a sought-after expert in entrepreneurial circles.
He’s amassed a big following online and has been able to monetize it in various ways…
- Founder of Consulting.com
- $2.5 million consulting.com monthly revenue
Pros and Cons of Authority Businesses
- Usually several ways to monetize.
- Many authority businesses are passion-based, making the work quite enjoyable.
- Decent passive income potential.
- Successful authority businesses that are NOT built around a personal brand can usually be sold for a big amount.
- With a successful authority business you become kind of a big deal on the internet. (Though that might be a bad thing, depending on your preference.)
- Usually requires a complex set of skills.
- Can take several months or even years to build a big enough audience and develop enough trust before you have a sustainable business.
- Tons of competition, unless you go very niche.
- Many authority businesses become overly-dependent on one platform. YouTubers, for example. Or authority sites that get most of their traffic from Google.
- Can be hard to sell this kind of business if built around a personality.
- Lots of fake gurus and scams promising quick and easy success.
Is an authority business a good way to earn a living online?
It can be, but it typically requires a ton of work upfront before you can break through and reap the rewards. Most who try to succeed with an authority business never make it.
If you want to give it a shot, I’d recommend building up a good chunk of savings or getting steady income flowing from elsewhere (eg. via a remote job or freelancing). Then you can do this on the side without needing it to pay your bills in a hurry.