How to Earn Money from Your Free Data Science and Machine Learning Content

You are building useful content and giving it to the community for free. You deserve to get paid for your efforts. It is difficult so I am launching a series to teach you what has worked for me and other content creators.

Vin Vashishta | Originally Published: January 19th, 2021

Book time with me for Career Coaching or sign up for my Business Strategy for Data Scientists class.

A career in Data Science is a path to a better life for a lot of people. Job security, a good salary, advancement opportunities, and the chance to build a stable, long term career. Maybe even a business at some point.

Those of you creating educational content to help people break into the field usually provide it for free. That is a huge service, and you deserve to get paid for it. Do not let anyone convince you otherwise.

If you do not charge aspiring data scientists to view your content, how do you get paid? This is the first in a series of posts where I am going to explain how to monetize your content. The main topics are:

  • Creating a Unique Position in the Space
  • Building a Brand and Community from Scratch
  • How to Get Your Community to Support Sponsors
  • Creating a Space for Advertising Without Compromising Your Content and Brand
  • Build a Sponsor Value Proposition
  • Gaining Sponsors and Keeping Them

  • Introducing Content Monetization. It is Hard to Do and Few People Succeed.

    This post is a reality check. People sell get rich quick schemes and none of them work. Building a large following, getting hundreds of likes and shares, and pushing your posts views past 1000 is not that hard. The scam is selling you the “secret” to all of that and glossing over how none of that leads to monetization.

    Shooting to the top 10% of content creators sounds like the path to making some money. Most people’s time at the top are short lived. It takes a lot of work to build all the content required to stay relevant. Audiences are always looking for the next new voice. After several months, most creators fall off the top spots and end up getting very little personal benefit from their work.

    I have talked with hundreds of creators over the last 6 years. Most get burnt out and angry. They share valuable work and have to watch someone else’s inspirational quotes get more engagement. A new profile pic post gets 10X more likes than a deep technical walkthrough of a new research paper.

    Bottom line, this is not easy. This is not the hype others may have sold you on. The only reason to stick with this is if you truly enjoy teaching people and seeing them break into the field. That is why I do it.

    Monetizing. Keep Doing What You Already Are Just Add A Few Things.

    Now that you know this is not a fluffy pillow, let me explain what monetization really looks like. Your current audience is students and people transitioning into Data Science. They do not pay for content. They hate watching ads. You are going to get some ridiculous feedback and demands of your time from them.

    The first thing to do is set expectations…starting with yourself.

  • Time Commitment: Hours per week.
  • Work Products: Posts produced per week.
  • Quality: Benefit to the Audience.

  • Keep these realistic and do not let the audience set expectations for you. Be clear with your audience about what you are putting into the content they get for free. Set clear boundaries with them and do not get pulled into more than you have time for. Quality suffers if you are spread too thin.

    Now that you have made and kept commitments to your audience, you have a right to set expectations for them. This is where monetization becomes possible. Likes and views do not translate into money. Being able to move your followers to act brings in sponsors.

    A Quick Example.

    I have set expectations in this post. I will build a 6-part series. I am going to teach you what I have learned doing this myself and from other content creators. I will be answering questions on Twitter and LinkedIn over the coming months.

    I expect you to follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn. I expect you to share these posts with frustrated content creators you know. When I bring sponsors in, I expect you to support them. When I post ads, I expect you to like and share them.

    Followers who do not meet those expectations are not going to be part of the QandA sessions. I will not be supporting their content either. I need your help and I will bribe you to get it.

    I am not just doing this for the sponsors. I do not have any lined up right now for this series. My main goal is to get more free content out there for aspiring data scientists. I want to make the field far more welcoming than it is now. Helping the next group of teachers share their knowledge is a big part of that. I also want to support and encourage higher quality content. I see too much that is not informative and sometimes completely wrong.

    I need you, quality content creators, to stay motivated and rewarded to make that happen. I need to get you paid. I need to build a community who will support each other’s work.

    You can already get the high-level view of the first 3 bullet points just from this section.

    What Comes Next?

    The next 3 posts are deep dives into building a community. 17 people reached out to me after my original LinkedIn post and asked me for a detailed writeup. I got an overview of their followers, social media sites, post frequency, and level of experience. They represent a wide range of starting points, so my post series is going to cover monetization from the ground up. I want to make sure I cover enough but keep in mind that some of what I share will not apply or be something you already know.

    My QandA sessions will allow you to get details. I will post those on Twitter and LinkedIn. I need to know you are working on monetization so I can follow your work and improve this series based on real world results.

    Also let each other know you are working on monetization. Build a supportive community to amplify each other. A group as small as 20 can build each other up in a month or 2. The faster we build a base community, the faster everyone gets to their goals.