Just two years ago, out of the blue, I decided I wanted to grow a new Instagram page from scratch.

My motivation was to grow a niche audience on Instagram fast and learn how to monetize online with digital products and coaching. 

I wanted to earn money online teaching what I know.

And I did!

In that time, I have sold hundreds of courses, grown a student base of over 4500 students, earned $30,000+ in my first year, and now offer $10,000+ services. 

But I started with exactly $0.

In the beginning, all I wanted to do to monetize online was sell eBooks and maybe a digital course. I wasn’t even sure how to sell courses, how to price my products, or even what exactly I was going to sell. But I was tired of reading and hearing about how people made money online with digital products and I was committed to testing my own theories. 

I knew if I wanted to monetize I’d need an audience that listened to me.

So I started a new Instagram page and focused solely on getting my first 5000 followers on Instagram. 

5000 followers before monetizing was a personal challenge for me. It was a milestone I wanted to hit before thinking about money. 

But forget 5000 followers, you don’t even have to think that far.

Here are 7 Steps to Monetize Online with $0 and Less than 500 Followers.

1 | Having an Audience Online is the First Step. 

Except you want to shell out thousands of dollars in ad spend, you’d need an audience. 

Having your own audience is a digital asset that pays dividends over time.

If you are a serious creator, you already know the value of having your audience, a group of people who listen to you and look to you to be their guide. 

The good news is you do not need more than 10 people to begin to monetize online. 

All you need is one person to say yes to your offer and you are literally in business. 

Personally, I ask that my students hit a milestone of 500 – 1000 followers first. Understanding how a platform works and knowing how to grow your audience on that platform is key.

I chose Instagram and I mastered how it worked with seven different Instagram pages in different niches. But just because you are growing your audience doesn’t mean you cannot begin to make money. 

A lot of money is made right inside your DMs this is why the next tip is important.

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2 | Don’t Ask How can I make money

When you are just getting started, it will be unwise to distract yourself with thoughts of how to make money. This is how a lot of people fail. Making money alone cannot be your immediate concern. 

Making money is a by-product of helping people. 

This is why you always want to start with the question – “How can I help?”

This one question will lead you down the paths that will unravel other connected paths for you. Starting with “How can I help,” will eventually lead you to see the opportunities to help you earn money. 

The money you are currently seeking is in the pockets of other people who have problems.

Your job is to identify the problems people have and match your products and services as a solution. 

This is why you need to start with the people. 

Even if you had less than 100 followers right now, you can begin to ask -” What do you need help with?”

That’s why it is very possible to start monetizing online with less than 500 followers on any platform. This is where the power of the DMs comes into play. 

3 | Learn How to Chat and Sell in the DMs

Your content positions you as the trusted source, the go-to expert, the one who knows the most in a specific subject area. But you must use your content to invite people to chat with you in the DMs.

Do not underestimate the power of your DMs to get clients and make sales.

You always want to make sure you use the Call-to-action “DM me” or offer some type of Freebie in a Sales Funnel that does the selling for you.

In the beginning, when you still have a small audience it is very easy to chat with people in your DMs and you must keep this line of communication open. 

People want to talk to people and people pay people they have access to.

I have had clients close $1000 deals in the DMs even with a very small following. 

Many people stop themselves from monetizing at all because they think they have to prove a point by having more followers. 

Yes having more followers is a great look and it’s nice as a vanity metric, but there are lots of people with many followers who are not even making a penny. 

That’s because people pay you for solving their problems, not just because you have many followers.

When it comes down to monetizing and making money, your focus is on the one person you can help right now. Get them in your DMs and start selling in your DMs

4 | Offer Paid 1:1 Help and Support

Please do not be the person who answers every question in the DMs and offers free advice.

Believe me when I tell you, if anyone has the audacity to pick your brains in the DMs, they are often ready to pay you. 

Your job always is to uncover the deeper desires of your followers and see where your products or services shine as the right solution. Then you must position yourself to offer that solution to your prospects.

And the easiest way I have found to do this is in a 1:1 capacity.

That’s it. Start offering to help people 1:1 time with you in exchange for a fee. 

Most of this conversation will start with that very awkward chat in the DMs, this is why I stress the importance of knowing how to sell in the DMs.

When I started monetizing online, I focused on chatting with people directly in the DMs and inviting them to a phone or Zoom meeting. 

Once in a meeting, I was able to upsell myself and my higher-paid services as well. 

5 | Raise Your Prices

I remember initially charging $45 for an hour of consultation and feeling all kinds of euphoria the first time I got paid. It was unbelievable to me at the time, that I could sit at home, talk to someone on the phone, solve their problem, and get paid. 

Over time, as I learned more about how to price my offers and how to deliver more value to my clients, I began to bring more to the table and inevitably charge more. 

I raised my consultation from $45 per hour to $100 and later on to $350 and so on. 

If you are in the beginning phases of your monetization journey, you are in the phase I call the Researcher Phase. 

Throughout your business and career, you will always be in this research phase but especially in the very beginning, you need to take this 1:1 research opportunity seriously.

What’s even better is you are getting paid to do your research. By talking with people 1:1 and helping them solve their problems, you’ll better understand:

  • Who you really want to help
  • How you really like to help
  • What services or products are winners
  • How much effort is required on your part
  • How to set your prices in relation to the value you offer
  • What to offer next

..and so on.

6 | Always Have an Upsell to the Next Offer

Charging for an hourly consult is great, but it is only the very first offer. You need to have a higher-priced offer as an upsell and you need to know how to sell this next offer.

It is very easy to sell someone on an hourly meeting or phone call for say $100. But once on the phone, you want to ensure that they are not only satisfied with your service, but you open a loop for them to continue to work with you on a deeper level. 

You never want to end your conversation with this prospect, without letting them know how else you can help them. You must show them the possibilities available to them were they to continue working with you, and even let them know the cost implication of that.

You can offer single coaching / consulting calls – e.g $100 per hour

And on your coaching call, pitch to continue to help your client through a deeper level of coaching – e.g  $1000 upfront fee for 2-Months of weekly coaching.

You must make this offer on the call, you don’t have to seal the deal just yet. 

Say goodbye, end the call and let them go back to marinate on the possible idea of working with you. In your follow-ups and check-in with them, you can continue to try the seal the next offer. 

This way, a single $100 per hour phone call can become a $1000 per month coaching with you!

7 | Go From 1:1 to One-to-Many

A lot of people begin monetizing by charging people by the hour. Unfortunately, this is where they stop and they never go on to doing much else. 

Soon your 1:1 consults begin to tire you out and you wonder if this is all life is about, selling your time for money. Even worse, you realize that you do not have enough hours in the day to sell and even if you did, it begins to drain you and you lose all love for the thing.

I started doing 1:1 coaching until I realized I didn’t enjoy it and I preferred to coach many people at a time. 

So I started offering group classes and paid workshops, group coaching, memberships as well as offering digital courses. These are great ways to take the material that helps one person at a time to offer it to more people. Now you can earn more in much less time than it would take to help just one person.

But getting your material to the point where you can prove results really comes from that 1:1 engagement you have with your clients. 

So start now and fail fast.

Begin inviting people into your DMs, make your DMs work for you by learning how to sell in the DMs, and begin to offer your solution to the many people who need your help right now.

It works if you work it.