It’s the root of every successful content business. People give you money in exchange for something.

But what should that something be? Should it be only one thing?

To answer the first question, keep reading. (The answer to the second question is no. The Tilt founder Joe Pulizzi says diversifying your revenue streams is essential.)

The top five profitable revenue streams cited in The Tilt’s 2023 Content Entrepreneur Benchmark Research include consulting/coaching, books, online courses/workshops, advertising/sponsored content, and paid communities.

5 most profitable revenue streams for expert creators are onsulting, books, online courses, sponsored content, and paid communities via 2023 Content Entrepreneur Benchmark Research. #CreatorEconomy Click To Tweet

As you can see from those results, expert creators, unlike influencers, build their business on models centered around their knowledge, not their popularity. That also explains why the average number of followers for an expert creator is about 4K.

Let’s look more closely at the five most profitable revenue streams:

1. Consulting and coaching

Almost half of creators (49%) tap into the consulting and coaching revenue – it’s the most popular and profitable stream.

Alexis Grant, founder and CEO of They Got Acquired, sold services in her first entrepreneurial foray. “Offering services is a great way to earn revenue and learn what your audience needs and will pay for. Then you can figure out how to create products and other offerings that decouple your earnings from your time,” she says.

Gregarious Narain, co-founder of Zealous, used consulting as his first revenue stream. He’s a big advocate for revenue streams derived directly from the audience – something he sees as a missed opportunity for many creators. He’s also a big believer in turning that audience into a community for long-term gains.

2. Books

Over one-third of expert creators (37%) publish books – digital and print – to bring in revenue.

Nora Dunn, founder of The Professional Hobo, turned her blog content into a book. How To Get Free Accommodation Around the World is in its third edition. She’s also published Tale of the Trains: Where the Journey Is Also the Destination.

Interested in adding a book to your revenue streams? These two articles can help: 5 Things To Do To Publish a Book and Diversify Your Revenue by Publishing a Book.

37% of expert creators say they sell digital and print books as part of their #ContentBusiness. Click To Tweet

3. Online courses/workshops

About one-third of expert creators (35%) sell online courses and workshops. Becky Pierson Davidson, head of product at bossbabe, says her first revenue came from a “power hour” workshop. “I set it up without an official launch, and I saw passive sales (of the workshop) from my newsletter after a month of sending it,” she says.

Chris Ducker, CEO of, agrees. “Create a digital, evergreen product or course. The ability to be monetizing ‘all the time’ cannot and should not be underestimated.

Entrepreneur Jade Weatherington launched her own online courses and later expanded to create an online academy with multiple instructors. 

Learn more about this revenue stream from Chris Lema, who shares how to start an online course.

4. Advertising and sponsored content

One-fourth of expert creators (26%) tap into advertising and sponsored content. 

Bernie Borges, host of the Midlife Fulfilled podcast, uses a sponsorship model. “This approach enables me to take the focus off the reach of my podcast (i.e., downloads) and put the focus on the alignment of my podcast audience with the brand’s target audience,” he says.

Trish Witkowski, chief folding fanatic of, sells corporate sponsorships for her video series. “I had to prove that I had an audience and that I had enough great content to keep going. I also had to prove I would actually show up and produce a quality show every week,” she says. “After a year, I could point to 50 episodes, and that closed the (first) deal.”

@BernieBorges says he uses a sponsorship model for his Midlife Fulfilled podcast. It allows him to align his audience with the brand's target audience. #ContentEntrepreneur Click To Tweet

Help ensure your sponsorships bring in sufficient revenue with help from this article: Paid Sponsorships: Build a Better Negotiating Table.

5. Paid communities

Eighteen percent of content entrepreneurs earn revenue through paid communities. Jay Clouse, 2023 Content Entrepreneur of the Year, built his business, Creator Science, around a paid community.

To understand if a community model might be right for your business, read up on what building one – free or paid – requires in this article on the audience vs. community royal rumble.

Bonus: Affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing is used by 30% of creators in the survey. Creators earn a commission or fee based on the products from third parties purchased by their audience. Just make sure to let your audience know if a product you promote brings in revenue – gaining and keeping their trust is a must.

Big-time successful entrepreneurs Roberto Blake, founder of Awesome Creator Academy, and Justin Moore, founder of Creator Wizard, both earned their first revenue through affiliate marketing.

Increase your knowledge with this more detailed article: Affiliate Marketing Brings Big Revenue.

About the author

Ann regularly combines words and strategy for B2B, B2C, and nonprofits, continuing to live up to her high school nickname, Editor Ann. An IABC Communicator of the Year and founder of G Force Communication, Ann coaches and trains professionals in all things content. Connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter.