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What Are Typical Income Streams for Online Marketers?

It’s another Expert Briefs, where I ask really smart business owners to answer your burning questions.

If you've missed past Expert Briefs, you can click on the undies to see them all –>

So, on that note, this week I asked our panel of experts …

It's nearly the end of the year, so I'm personally looking
back over the last year. My question this week is

“Where does your money come from?” 

Here are their responses they so graciously shared.

Tiffany Dow of The Guide to Shiny Object Syndrome says:

I get my Internet income from a variety of sources. I’ve always loved having many different sources because of the panic I would feel (and uncertainty) if I relied on just one stream. So my income is divided up into 5 parts:

1. My own eCourses
2. My PLR store
3. Digital affiliate income
4. Affiliate marketing on Amazon
5. Ghostwriting

When it comes to the lion’s share, it would have to be my own ecourses – because not only do I make money directly, but I worked to recruit an army of affiliates to promote for me. This provides approximately 40% of my online income. The best tip I can give you on this is to forget who else has already done what. Do it your way and you will have fans!

Next on the list is my PLR store. I’ve been building this for years and now have almost 500 products in my marketplace. It runs on autopilot and I have affiliates promoting it, earning 50% of the cart sales. Most PLR sellers create about 5-10 packs and quit, but volume is key to waking up and seeing $200 cart sales. PLR accounts for about 30% of my sales.

Digital affiliate income is what I consider my reviews to be. Here’s a tip on earning from digital reviews: whenever I buy any product, I implement and review it right away. It pays off because people trust me when they see my results unfold. The profits are twofold: once from the sales you make reviewing it as an affiliate, and again because you’re taking action and implementing! I make approximately 25% of my income from reviews.

The last two items on my list – affiliate income on Amazon and ghostwriting are very small players in my income, but not because I’ve failed at them. Combined, they only add up to about 5% of my income. I rarely ever ghostwrite anymore (just primarily to keep my skills sharp) and I’ve sold off (flipped) most of my Amazon sites and Squidoo lenses, so I’m just now building them back up. Best advice? KEEP the money makers. Build a portfolio, instead of flipping for fast cash.

-> Want more from Tiffany? Check out her The Guide to Shiny Object Syndrome

bobBob Jenkins of How to Use Mindmaps to Organize Your Business says:

Hey Nicole – I love having a diversified set of revenue sources to balance out the ebbs and flows of having a business.

Here's my breakdown from October 2011 – October 2012:

  • 40% – Personal Coaching Clients
  • 16% – Mindmap My Business 3-Day Virtual Training
  • 15% – Affiliate Income (Affiliate Marketing)
  • 13% – Information Products
  • 12% – Hotseat Holiday Workshops/Retreats
  • 1.4% – Domain Sales
  • 1.4% – Welcome To The Call
  • 1.2% – Beef Jerky

A few things are interesting from this list for me (and from reviewing these kinds of numbers).

First, if I was like most coaches, I would be missing out on a ton of revenue without the additional revenue sources like information products and information products.

The 3 private label sources (Domains – GoDadady, WelcomeToTheCall – Instant Teleseminar, and Beef Jerky – Jerky Direct) that make up a combined 4% are both neglected and rarely advertised. I consider spending more energy on them, but then I remember how much more fun I have coaching and teaching virtual workshops.

Some of these sources are also inter-related, in that they provide the same customers multiple levels of access and intensity. If I sold in a bunch of different niches, it would be harder for me to improve my revenue/customer numbers.

For example, the Hotseat Holidays both lead to and stem from personal coaching clients.

As for affiliate income, my top generating recommendations over the past year have been for Lon Naylor (Learn Camtasia), Clay Collins (TheMarketingProgram), Digital Access Pass membership software, and Aweber autoresponders.

-> Want to learn more from Bob (and get uber-organized)? Check out How to Use Mindmaps to Organize Your Business

connieConnie Ragen Green of Affiliate Marketing Case Studies says:

The end of the year always means that I will be reviewing and thinking about my online business to see what worked, what I loved doing, and what I need to completely revamp and update in my business.

2012 has been a year of great growth for me. I am now speaking internationally, which was a goal I set for myself at this time last year. This is my sixth full year online, so I am now more comfortable in every area of my business. You may have heard about the ‘10,000 Hours Rule', a concept based on a study by Anders Ericsson and discussed throughout the book ‘Outliers: The Story of Success‘ by Malcolm Gladwell. The premise is that one needs to accrue ten thousand hours of experience in an area before being able to move to the next level of competence and understanding. I am now at the point in my business where major changes are more likely to occur.

  • 50% – Affiliate marketing continues to account for about fifty percent of my income. I enjoy the responsibility that comes along with only recommending the people and products I love, in the exact areas that are relevant to building a successful online business.
  • 25% – My own products and courses account for another twenty-five percent of my income, and I now stay tightly focused on what I create and sell under my brand.
  • 25% – The rest of my income is derived from my high level Mentor programs, my Weekend Retreats, and from speaking at live events around the world.

My recommendation is to write down everything you are doing to generate income in your business to see which things are working best for you. The ultimate goal is to have a profitable business that allows you to engage in activities that you enjoy while serving the needs of your target audience.

-> Want to learn how Connie wins so many Affiliate Contests? Check out her Affiliate Success Case Studies.

KellyKelly McCausey of Solo Smarts Podcast says:

Where does my money come from? Had an interesting situation come up this week on Facebook. Lynn Terry and I have a big 1200+ member group working through a 90 Day Low Carb Challenge and someone got it in their head that we are some sort of Ninja Marketing Geniuses who make money every time someone clicks a link or likes anything. Lynn said ‘If only that were so!' LOL!

Affiliate marketing does represent a nice chunk of my income and it is one of my favorite sources since it tends to be the income that keeps on coming long after I did whatever I did to initiate it. It comes naturally as I recommend the tools, people and resources I have found most useful in my own online business.

Information product sales is another valued source of income for me. I have six different courses/workshops for sale right now plus a membership program. Sales come through my own list and via my amazing affiliates.

As we discussed not long ago, a surprising source of income for me is the check I get from an advertising network for displaying their ads on my small mom and family focused blog network. Sponsored posts, paid promotions and the like are all nice extras for my budget from month to month.

Occasionally I go back to my roots and generate cash with my graphic and web design skills. In fact, I put the word out last night that I'm accepting a couple of new clients. (I'm raising cash for something important!) I don't want to service clients on a regular basis, having a skill others are willing to pay to tap is a powerful thing.

I've dabbled with a few other things this year but unfortunately most of that didn't turn out to be the turn on I'd expected and I've let those projects go dormant. I think it's important for everything to know that every project and idea is not going to be profitable. I learn from these disappointments and use those lessons to be smarter about everything else I do.

Finally, I earn money by coaching clients one on one. What might interest everyone is the fact that this is not my primary income. Several people have told me that that is what they assume – that I'm getting RICH by coaching others. I'm not THAT coach who only makes money from coaching. I actually make money from real life projects that have nothing to do with telling someone else what to do as you can see here.

Flexibility, variety, having these choices is a dream come true for this solopreneur. I wish you all the same!

-> Want to learn more from Kel? One of the ways she earns money is through Podcasting. Check out her Smart Podcasting Course.

Jeanette S. Cates, PhD of Plan Your Online Business says:

What a great question! I generally know my numbers, but I was curious about how they have changed over the years. In fact, I pulled a spreadsheet for 2000 – 2012 and here's what I found:

  • In 2000, my revenue was half consulting and half products (which includes teaching classes). That was fairly early in my Internet Marketing career, so that makes sense.
  • By 2005, revenue was 25% affiliate programs, 15% adsense (the heyday!), 20% consulting, and the rest in product sales.
  • By 2010,revenue was at 20% affiliate programs, only 8% consulting (who had time?), 20% member sites (the hot thing that year!), and the rest in product sales, including partner products.
  • This year, it's steady at 30% affiliate sales, 22% consulting, 22% member sites, and the rest in product sales.

It's so important to have a mix of revenue sources. As some things come and go, other items remain steady. You may have years when you create a bunch of products and others when you want to work more closely with your clients in smaller sites and consulting. Remember – it's YOUR business and you get to choose how you make your living!

-> Want to peek inside Jeanette's head and get ready for next year? Check out Plan Your Online Business

Dr. Mani of How to Set Goals says:

Interesting question, Nicole.

Here are my answers, as they apply to online infopreneur income alone:

  • Affiliate marketing – 25%
  • Freelance writing – 20%
  • Adsense – 5%
  • Infoproduct Sales – 30%
  • Books on Amazon – 5%
  • Membership sites – 10%
  • Other – 5%

It helps that I periodically review this set of numbers, and see how well they match my overall goals for the year. That way, I'm able to tweak and focus on what matters for the month or quarter.

-> Want to learn more from Dr. Mani? Check out his report about How to Set Goals

NicoleNicole Dean of .. here! .. says:

Well this has been interesting to me to read the responses.  🙂

My income is similar to my friends above.

  1. My Own Product Sales
  2. My PLR Sites
  3. Affiliate Marketing
  4. Personal Coaching
  5. Google Adsense (Niche Sites)
  6. Web Hosting
  7. Amazon Kindle
  8. Consulting

I'll get into a bit more detail on each.

1. My Own Product Sales.

I have several training products that I sell to intermediate and advanced level online business owners.

My most recent one that I'm super proud of is – how to keep your blog fresh.

I also have some courses at the beginner level, including the ones at

2. My PLR Sites

I have three PLR sites.  Each is slightly different in focus.
I opened EasyPLR in 2006. At that site, I mainly sell packs of articles, reports, and ecourses. There is no membership component involved. The goal with the site is to get people to make an impulse buy as it's a low priced item and then find out they love me and my stuff and trust me. Then they become repeat customers.
Yummy PLR was opened after EasyPLR (I believe in 2007). We sell food PLR there, including PLR recipes. This site is a membership model and many of our members stay for years.
I opened Coaching PLR content with Melissa Ingold in 2010. At that site, we want to arm our customers with resources, tools and presentations they can use to expand their expert status even further. We have worksheets and PowerPoints slides and scripts and all kinds of stuff with PLR rights. A lot of our customers use our presentations to create video training and to do live webinars, as well.

3. Affiliate Marketing

I don't have exact numbers in front of me, but I would say that I earn approximately 50% of my income through affiliate marketing.

This varies from promoting things like Hillbilly Housewife ebooks on a niche site – to promoting exercise videos from Amazon on another niche site, to promoting services like Aweber here, on my blog and to my lists.

4. Personal Coaching

I take on a handful of personal coaching clients at a time. I spend a lot of time one-on-one with them which is why I only work with a few. I find it extremely rewarding and I love it.

I focus on Infoproduct marketers who have at least one product, who already know who their customers are, and they have their product up for sale (or nearly there). Once they get to that point, I have a blast helping them to multiply their income.

5. Google Adsense on Niche Sites

I still have some niche sites with Adsense on them. For four years, Google paid my mortgage. But, now? Not as much. It's just a nice little deposit every month. The good thing is that I don't have to do anything to earn it.

6. Web Hosting.

I am a partner in a web hosting company – (with Kelly McCausey).

We focus on helping newbies who are skeeeered of technology to get their WordPress sites up and running. (Many of them switch from Blogger to WordPress with our help.) So that project brings in some monthly cashola, as well.

7. Amazon Kindle

My Kindle earnings are small, but they will be growing next year. 🙂

You can see a few of my Kindle books here:

8. Consulting

On occasion, I will do hourly consulting for online or offline businesses. I don't do this too often, simply because I don't like to have a schedule where I have to be somewhere (even on the phone) at a certain time – yeah I'm weird like that. But am always open to having someone buy an hour of access to my brain.

Well that's an overview. I hope it was interesting to you.

Talk to me.

Is this what you expected to hear?

Is it similar to your income streams? Or different?

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter.

Nicole Dean

PS. If you like this post – share it and check out my friends’ sites. That’ll make me happy! 🙂 Appreciate you!

Here are the folks who contributed today…

I appreciate shares and I adore comments! Please share your thoughts.

  • Susan

    Most of my income this past year came from my own products, a small scale membership model providing newsletters for local businesses and doing marketing/consulting services for local businesses. I’m hoping to grow more into affiliate marketing next year and boost sales for my iPad magazine, Real Family Travel Mag.

    My biggest challenge is that my best selling product is in a niche that I’m not really passionate about, but think I could expand into a membership site. I’ve used your PLR products to continue selling to my small, but profitable list, but am nervous about starting a membership model and not being able to find enough PLR for it to keep it going.

    Lastly, I hope to make a nice chunk from selling some existing sites I just don’t have an interest in keeping.

    Obviously, I am scattered all over the place. Or maybe I should just say I am “diversified across many income streams”? Yes…the latter sounds much better. 🙂

    • Nicole

      lol. I like “diversified across many income streams” – although I sure feel scattered many days. 🙂

      Thanks for commenting.

  • Dr.Mani

    Interesting mix, eh, Nicole? 🙂

    What I find fascinating is that hardly anyone listed fewer than 3 distinct streams.

    There’s a lesson in there for many beginners who think about ONE avenue as being all they should focus on online. True, there’s one primary stream, but just about any niche can have complementary sources of income which can be planned and tried out to find the ideal mix.

    All success

  • Heidi

    That is sad that so little is made from adsense. I would have thought those amounts would be higher. I guess I should go create some products instead of worrying about traffic to my site.

    • Nicole


      Traffic is important, no matter how you monetize. But I would not recommend that anyone rely solely on Adsense for income on your main site anymore – if there are alternatives.

      Start diversifying a bit and run with what works. 🙂

      Best wishes,

  • Kevin Ocasio

    Multiple streams of income is so important, as your post clearly points out. As Dr. Mani commented above, “hardly anyone listed fewer than 3 distinct streams.” This post really shows the MANY different ways a person can make money online.

    • Nicole

      I definitely agree, Kevin. When I first started out, my main focus was Adsense and I did build it up to a decent level. But once I realized that Google could get a “fart lodged crosswise” and cancel my account on a whim – it made me really rethink whether that was something I was comfortable. I decided that it was not and I started to focus more on diversifying from there to things more in my control.

      Thanks for stopping by again. 🙂

  • Heidi

    You’re right Nicole. My products won’t sell if I don’t have traffic to my site. In April my traffic was cut by google by 2/3! All 300 pages of my site were written by me so I’m still not sure why the huge drop in traffic. I’ve been trying to recoup that traffic ever since. 🙁

    • Nicole


      Your site is awesome. 🙂 You share tons of great content and obviously know your stuff. You could so easily create some worksheets to sell, create a community (membership model), or even a line of Kindle books. That way you can add to your revenue stream.

      Do you know Rhea Perry? She may have some stuff you can promote, too, as an affiliate.


      • Heidi

        Thanks Nicole! That means a lot coming from you. I guess since my ebooks haven’t sold lately, I haven’t added any other products to the mix thinking that they wouldn’t sell either. I have some ideas for products or worksheets, just not sure that if I build it they will buy. I have been on Rhea Perry’s list but don’t get much from her stuff – very self promotional and not enough meat for me to chew on to get anywhere. Thanks for the recommendation though 🙂

        Do you think I should work on traffic and list building first and then add new products or do both at the same time?

  • Kelly

    The tough part of managing all these different sources of income is making sure that the amount of time you devote to one stream is matching up with the amount of income it produces.

    In the past I’ve spent say 30% of my time on a stream of income that only turned out to deliver 10% of my income. Bad energy management on my part!

    • Nicole

      Excellent point, Kel.

      Knowing your numbers is HUGELY important for maximum profitability.

      How else would we know where to invest our hours in our day?

  • Tiffany

    Oh I envy you experts who mentor others. I tried my hand at it and I didn’t enjoy it. LOL! I love helping but the one on one wasn’t my cup o tea when it was a specific mentoring situation.

    Oddly enough, I DO enjoy answering questions and helping one on one via email. So you’d think I’d like an official mentoring situation. Weird.
    Tiff 😉

    • Clyde

      Gosh I came here and was going to leave some kind of “cute” remark about seeing you here. When I left I checked the rest of my email and there was a Walmart message from you. Funny how I did not notice your link to it here.

      BTW, I left you a novel of a comment over there.

      Glad to see you and Nicole are doing things together.

    • Kelly

      Tiff, there are definitely clients who would enjoy email mentoring – you should consider offering it.

      I’m the exact opposite – I need the back and forth conversation to get to the heart of things. Emails take too long to write and wait for for my tastes.

      • Clyde

        I have to agree with Kelly. There have to be a lot of people who would like to have mentoring via email but I am also one who has to have interaction.

        I have learned through my years in the ministry I am very good at teaching a room full of people and usually get plenty of positive feedback but I am lost when it comes to one on one.

        But, that’s just me and you gotta consider the source. LOL

      • Tiffany

        Ah that’s what I did. LOL! I am a hermit, I don’t do phone or Skype! But what I couldn’t handle was mentoring people and then them not doing the work. I got flustered. So I’m not a good patient candidate for that – by the way Kelly, what do you do if someone doesn’t do what you advised?

        • Nicole

          It’s funny, because I totally only wanted to do email coaching. But I find more and more that I end up telling my clients “Get on Skype and show me your screen” – because it’s so much more efficient than trying to go back and forth via email. lol. Who woulda thunk it? I’m soooo not a phone person. Ask Kelly about the first time she had me on her podcast. I was guzzling a beer to get through it! lol.

        • Jeanette Cates

          Tiffany – I was just like you – spending more time worrying about my clients’ business than THEY did! We’d talk every two weeks – and they would have been “too busy” to do anything, while I had five more ideas for them to implement, ready to share. So I fired all of them! And went to a model I LOVE – the Brain Drain.

          One hour. I don’t do any prep beforehand. Everything I can think of I share with them on the call. I don’t have to hold back, saving something for the “next” session. I don’t have to pace them through their actions. They get the recording and a list of resources and action steps when we’re finished. Then they’re on their own. Many people take a month or two to finish their list. Many people come back when they’re ready for more. Some I never hear from again. All outcomes are okay with me -because THEY are responsible for their businesses.

          This model may or may not be THE one you will enjoy. But when you have a lot to offer people, keep looking until you find the model that works for you!

        • Anita Hampl

          Ummm, Tiff, I can tell you firsthand what Kelly does: she says you can’t come back after this group of sessions is completed.

          Talk about striking terror in one’s heart!

          Kelly says she can’t in good conscience take your money if you are not following her advice.

          (… there she goes with that conscience thing again …)

  • Clyde

    I just submitted a support ticket about Blog CPR and Income CPR because I did not want to use up comment space on those questions.

    Multiple streams of income. Something I have been working on for a long time. It seems I understood the fact I needed to find one thing to do and stick with it until I had it down pretty good. The problem came when I tried to decide when I reached that point so I could mopve to something else.

    I suppose I have at least 2 streams of income including selling my own products and affiliate marketing. As I mentioned in a comment on another of your Expert Briefs recently I seem to be the worlds worst at setting goals but I have now set at least one for next year and that will give me another stream.

    Dave and I have enough information, info products and multi media products to fill a fixed termmembership site for at least 3 months. Getting that off the ground is my first additional income stream for 2013.

    Thank you for your consistantly great information.

    Merry Christmas,

    • Nicole


      You know I appreciate you much, for being a regular commenter. 🙂 I always love to hear from you.

      Get those goals into writing and make sure they are visible with firm deadlines. You CAN do it. I have confidence in you.

      Merry Christmas back atcha.

  • Mary Kathan


    Just wanted to let you know I really like your site – I just came here today following a link from Tiffany Dow. Love the expert briefs.

  • Connie

    I am surprised to see the huge variety of income streams each of you have. It is a bit intimidating for a beginner, though. I am having a hard enough time getting ONE income stream going:) Seriously, thanks for the honest feedback. It helps give me direction and motivation to try more than one business model.

    • Nicole

      Connie –

      Definitely start small. With a niche site, I would try an ad network like Adsense plus affiliate marketing as it’s the easiest.

      But you’ll really see more income when you grow your list and get the same people to come by your site over and over again. So, be sure to work on that in the New Year. 🙂

      Hugs and best wishes!

      • Jeanette Cates

        I agree with Nicole – start small and focus on ONE success at a time. I don’t think any of us started our business thinking “let’s see – I want 7 streams of income.” Instead, each was the outgrowth of another stream. Or something we did out of curiosity.

        So just let it “flow” – you’ll find yourself with multiple streams, almost without realizing it.

  • Kim Phoenix

    This was a very timely blog post! Lately, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to what I need to be doing, what complements (or doesn’t) the things I’m already doing, and what I know how to do that I could help others with. Kelly’s point, about matching your energy and time with the amount of income it creates, is a good reminder.

    • Nicole

      It is definitely that time of year, Kim. My advice is to put your goals in writing. It’s amazing to me what a difference that makes compared to having them floating around in your head. 🙂

  • K Quinn

    My sister and I talk about this all the time. My google dropped like everyone else’s so I launched my own product. It took a lot of pushing for me to finally do it because I’m one of those who thinks well someone already does this, or is it perfect enough? Anyway Nicole reading your posts helped me over that hump. I also do affiliate marketing and ads.

  • Patricia del Valle

    Hi Nicole,

    Am a new NAMS member, just finding my way around, level 100.

    This is valuable information I can use right now, to get a more realistic big picture. I prepared for this type of business more than two decades ago. Stuff happened and now …

    My goal is to get an affiliate website up and running successfully in 2013, grow the heck out it, and still keep my sanity … with scheduling.

    I work late because I’m helping my Amazon parrot adjust to the midwest climate changes.

    Hope to keep saner hours soon. I’m taking Karon’s course and learning the Affiliate program at the same time. Almost finished with the lesson modules.

    Thank you for the many insights.


    P.S. Do affiliates subscribe to some of each other’s blogs?

  • julie

    I think with the changing economy and job market, everyone is going to have to rely on multiple streams of income. It’s interesting to see the similarities and differences in how everyone makes their money and the percentages. I would have to add publicity and offline events, like workshops. Also webinars. I’ve never sat down and calculated the percentages, but it seems like a good thing to do to focus more and what’s working.

  • 1099 sales

    Great post , What I find fascinating is that hardly anyone listed fewer than 3 distinct streams.

    There’s a lesson in there for many beginners who think about ONE avenue as being all they should focus on online. True, there’s one primary stream, but just about any niche can have complementary sources of income which can be planned and tried out to find the ideal mix.

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