Michelle Jackson – Navigating the Nuances of Monetizing a Personal Finance Brand

Welcome to the series finale of the Plutus Awards Podcast. Our community is filled with hundreds of stories from creators and entrepreneurs just like you. And through this show we share these stories of challenges and successes from bloggers to podcasters from writers, speakers and more. I’m your host, Michelle Jackson.

Michelle Jackson - Plutus Awards Podcast Cover

In today’s episode I share how and why I decided to monetize my personal finance brand. It wasn’t an easy decision and for those of you making the decision my monetization story will highlight the fears and concerns I had about the process leading with the following question that I needed to answer: “Will monetizing my brand impact the authenticity, brand mission and purpose of my project and negatively impact the community that I serve with my content?”

Navigating the Nuances of Monetizing a Personal Finance Brand

Notes and summary from this episode

In the first episode of this season I spoke with Harlan Landes, founder of the Plutus Awards, Plutus Foundation and Plutus Voices events. It’s a great conversation about the evolution of the Plutus ecosystem and what motivates Harlan to do the work that he does. The main question that the Plutus Foundation will be exploring this season is the tension that content creators in the personal finance space feel when deciding whether or not to monetize their brand.

I absolutely felt this tension and nervousness at the time that I decided to monetize my brand partly because I had to ask myself if I was being inauthentic, greedy or disingenuous as a person in the personal finance space. I thought it would be interesting to share what I thought about, what I was afraid of and how and why I ultimately decided to say “yes” to making money as a personal content creator.

The Beginning

I started blogging about money in 2012 and honestly, what I put out for the first couple of years was messy. I started with Blogger, a free blogging platform until eventually I decided that I liked blogging enough to tackle using WordPress. I’ll never forget sitting in Eric Rosenberg’s apartment in Denver wanting to use his turntables on Christmas Eve and hanging out with his girlfriend who would become his wife as he transferred my website to WordPress. Something that I couldn’t afford to pay for at the time. I wasn’t a prolific blogger, but I was passionate about the space, the community and the content that I was putting out there and my hope was that if I could help at least one person by sharing my story-I’d made a difference.

2012 soon became 2013, 2014, and then 2017 arrived. It was around that time that I was really having some deep private conversations with myself about the value of my time vs. what I was putting out. I still had debt that I was paying off, I had made the leap into self-employment and was navigating what I enjoyed doing as an entrepreneur and I was increasingly asking myself the following question “Does it make sense for someone in the personal finance space to say “no” to money…especially when they needed it?

They — meaning me. And the other question that I literally spent years working through is how can I make money, still be authentic and still advocate for the financial changes and empowerment that I talked about on my platform. I didn’t want to make money with credit card sign ups, I loved affiliates but hadn’t yet found many affiliate programs that were a good fit and “lit me up” At the heart of the conflict that had over monetization was how to do it in such a way that I could still share what I believed without having the products or services that I partnered with negatively impact my brand? Finally I figured out how to monetize authentically while staying true to my brand.

I became incredibly clear about the overall mission of my brand which is to empower Black and Brown communities while educating and partnering with allied communities to increase access to financial tools, products and opportunities that were previously inaccessible to these communities. This looked like sharing free content in the form of podcast episodes, leads for projects and sharing opportunities such as grants, jobs and scholarships. Basically, kicking the door open and getting rid of financial gatekeeping.

Being candid about wanting to unapologetically want to earn more money. I decided to rebrand and “Michelle is Money Hungry” was born. I made it clear that I was modeling, earning more for other Black and Brown women to see and feel good about. I also shared the statistics that backed up why this initiative was so important.

  • Black women earn significantly less than white men.
  • We are typically financially responsible for other relatives or friends who need financial support.
  • We’re battling what we don’t know such as the right wage to negotiate for.
  • We have to bridge the financial gap that Americans find themselves dealing with in the form of: health insurance, childcare costs, expensive housing and more.
  • Also, the math wasn’t mathing. I was known for being in the process of paying off my debt. I had no business not making as much money as possible in order to achieve that goal.

I sought out affiliates, projects and partners that were 100% in alignment with my brand and thoughtfully grew my content to support my monetization moves.

I said “no” to anything that would be off brand, inauthentic or just felt wrong for my community. No more weird backlinks on the website, no more yesses sponsored blog posts that felt random on the website, no paid projects that had my name on it that felt off-brand. Those became ghostwritten projects if I even said “yes”

Always leading with my community in mind and having a greater purpose. Because of these moves the projects that I was attracted to work on paid better over time and were just enjoyable to do.

Additional actions that I took as I undertook the monetization process:

  • I kept my side-hustles and used that money help me avoid saying “yes” to things that I should be saying “no” to.
  • I did not and do not judge other creators who’ve opted not to monetize their brands. This could be their life’s opus and who am I to judge their decision around how they spend their time.
  • I designed products, goods and services that allowed me to say “no” to anything that didn’t serve me well.
  • I added applying for grants and scholarships so that I could continue to create content that serves without compromising the integrity of the work.

Some last thoughts and reflections:

Monetizing your personal finance brand is personal. You earning money (however much you earn) may create some tension between you and other content creators

If you’re able to monetize beyond a decent wage-basically, make epic money, be prepared for some feedback around this. For example: are you FIRE or just an entrepreneur?

There is no right or wrong answer on whether or not you should monetize your brand. There will be people who disagree with your decision either way. It took me 4 years to say “yes” to monetization and even then I was uneasy about it at the time. Creating a mission and monetization rubric helped me be clear about what I could say “yes” or “no” to authentically.

Ultimately, I also moved all business of content creation of my website and launched a new how to build an online business brand where I could comfortably share affiliates and other resources that didn’t accidentally cannibalize the spirit and mission behind “Michelle is Money Hungry”

What say you? Do you plan on monetizing your personal finance brand? What are your fears and concerns?

Michelle Jackson - Plutus Awards Podcast Cover

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About Michelle Jackson, Podcast Host

Michelle Jackson is mission-driven to help her readers and listeners empower themselves financially. Whether it is by improving their personal finances or learning how to sell what they already know — she loves having those conversations. Michelle runs the website and podcast “Michelle is Money Hungry” and is the founder of the Money on the Mountain retreat focused on empowering financially single women one conversation at a time. When she’s not geeking out about personal finance you can find her hiking in the mountains of Colorado.

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