In the 20th-century economy, most of us had to find a way to fit into the workforce. Passion-driven careers, while lucrative for the lucky few, were not a luxury afforded to the majority of people with bills, debts, and no real knowledge or tools to monetize their personal skills. Job stability and security were wiser and more reachable ambitions compared with the financial risks and uncertainties of exploring self expression.
Journalist and author Adam Davidson calls this period in history the widget economy, which, he says, has reached the end of its technologically-disrupted road. In its place the so-called Passion Economy is emerging and along with it entirely new career opportunities and methods of monetizing that make following passions profitable.
Over the past decade we have already seen a shift towards more self employment through the gig economy. Thought-leader Li Jin writes about the topic extensively and explains how automated digital marketplaces
emerged within sectors such as food deliveries and taxi services with the
advantage that they managed the business side of things, such as setting market prices and driving customer acquisition, while workers could just get on with the job.
The gig economy positioned itself as the way to “become your own boss”, but in reality it wasn’t so different from the widget economy in that it provided a narrow scope of commoditized career options that people had to fit into regardless of their actual interests -- and without the steady security of fixed employment.
These middle-man marketplaces took control of customer relationships leaving little room for workers to nurture their own entrepreneurial growth or business expansion -- the only way to earn more revenue was to work harder and longer.
In the time-honored tradition of digital transformation, the gig economy is now being disrupted by even newer platforms that put people in charge of their own consumer relationships, while providing them with the entrepreneurial tools to monetize their creativity and passion.
Emerging marketplaces and SaaS platforms are democratizing the paths to making money independently and -- in contrast to the widget economy -- do not necessarily focus on tangible products or in-person services, but rather digital products and virtual services.
These new SaaS platforms are essentially B2B software solutions targeted directly at entrepreneurial consumers. They give individuals a way to set up independent businesses and grow their own customer bases, appealing to professionals who want to develop their careers. Marketplaces, meanwhile, tend to be more entry-level and appeal to consumers ready to monetize their digital creativity without the need for prior business acumen and with minimal setup requirements to start earning revenue.
Such platforms typically monetize by taking a percentage of a user’s earnings, which grows in proportion with that person’s success. This means that there is an incentive for the platform to nurture the ongoing growth and success of its users rather than purely relying on one-off transactions.
In comparison with the more one-dimensional gig economy and its predetermined career routes and earning potential, that success can grow in many different directions driven by the individuals who use the platforms.
Platforms That Monetize Knowledge
Take the rise of the “knowledge influencer”, namely people who are turning their expertise and skills into online courses. At the more hands-on end, SaaS platforms such as Podia provide professionals with a way to build and grow their own businesses out of online video courses. Marketplaces such as Out school, meanwhile, give people a way to monetize remote learning
classes for children, while tasks such as marketing or paperwork are taken care of by the platform.
Platforms such as these enable subject-matter experts, former teachers, and stay-at-home professionals to continue using and monetizing a broad variety of specialisms and skills via video -- even during a global pandemic -- while reaching an audience far further than in-person classes. The scope of classes and curriculums is determined by the uniqueness of the teachers using the platform -- the more variety the platform delivers, the
broader its potential reach.
Platforms That Monetize Content
Platforms underpinned by a mix of blockchain technology, social media, and cryptocurrencies are also creating innovative entry points into the Passion Economy. Blockchain makes it possible to facilitate micropayments and cross-border transactions, as well as establish decentralized, trustworthy systems, which create fair, transparent gigs and micro jobs out of digital creativity.
Investors are getting wise to this, and VC funds, such as the $515 million Andreessen Horowitz fund set up to invest into crypto networks and businesses, are being established.
Projects are bringing innovation to this space through the monetization of digital content. One example is the social blogging platform Steemit, where creators share content, such as blog posts and videos, and earn STEEM tokens based on user engagement. The more successful a writer becomes,
the greater their earning potential. Moreover, the scope of topics they can
produce content about is limitless, once again showing how the Passion Economy benefits from enabling unique individuality over commodity.
The WOM Protocol is another example of this blockchain-based wave of online economic development, offering people new ways to earn through user-generated marketing. Creators produce recommendation content about products and brands of their choice on participating platforms such as YEAY. Once that content passes a peer-review process where community members rate it on factors such as authenticity and likeability, the creators start earning WOM Tokens based on the level of engagement the content generates.
People who may be entirely new to blockchain and have no previous experience building their online influence now have ways to immediately start monetizing their content and accumulating cryptocurrencies that have the potential to keep gaining value as their prices rise. They also
have a greater incentive to cooperate and contribute towards the success of these platforms in order to continually increase their earning potential.
Platforms That Monetize Community
Musicians have never had the most clear-cut career path and
the events of the past year have created even more financial instability by
compromising one of the industry’s biggest revenue streams -- live music.
Without the ticket sales of tours, festivals and one-off concerts, artists have
to find alternative ways to monetize online.
Creative thinkers are realizing the potential to bring their fan bases into so-called “social token communities” where people can earn and spend cryptocurrencies to access discussion groups that bring them value. One such example is Friends With Benefits ($FWB), founded by musician meets tech start-up founder, Trevor McFedries. Friends With Benefits is built on
community-management system Collab. Land and uses a chatbot integration with Discord so that when community members have enough $FWB tokens in their crypto wallets they can access various Discord channels on topics such as music production or breaking news. Examples such as this show how musicians can capitalize on technology products to gain more control of their incomes.
Passion Can Be Profitable
For those of us born and raised in the widget economy, it takes a leap to faith to imagine that unique passions can be brought to life through digital products and virtual services, and, further still, that it’s possible to make a living this way. One year into a global pandemic that has caused countless business closures and job cuts around the world, however, it seems more necessary than ever for people to gain more autonomy over their sources of income and better access to platforms and tools that make it possible to build revenue-generating businesses.