The creator economy wouldn’t exist without social media. Adults average 95 minutes per day on social media platforms and, as of this year, there are 3.96 billion social media users across all platforms. It’s the central place where creators build and talk with their audience. In fact, 74% of Kajabi creators said social media was where they interacted with their audience the most. But, there’s a catch—it’s not the place to build a sustainable business.
We asked creators on Kajabi where they made the majority of their income and 57% said on Kajabi - less than 10% said social media. Unless you have a large following or have secured long-term brand deals, making income on social media as a creator can often be unreliable and profitless. And, the biggest setback of all is that you don’t own your audience.
Dominique Broadway, owner of Finances Demystified and Kajabi Hero, has known this from the beginning. She has always thought of herself as an entrepreneur first, which is why the email list she started building at a booth years ago has become one of her biggest assets as a creator. “Because I think of my business as a business, I need to operate it as such. I never want to feel like I'm dependent upon Facebook or Instagram or TikTok. I want to be able to send out an email or send out a text directly and constantly talk to my audience.”
Keep reading to find out the strategies and mindset Dominique used to create a sustainable eight-figure knowledge business outside of social media.
For a quick version of the interview, check out Dominique’s answers to our Rapid-Fire Q & A series below!
Note: Responses have been lightly edited for clarity.
Tell us a little bit about your story and how you got started in the finance industry.
When I was younger, I started trying to figure out how all these rich people were making money and building wealth. It was pretty much either the stock market or real estate. I decided that I was going to teach myself about the stock market because I didn't have enough money to just go and start buying houses. That’s really where I got started - I started teaching myself how to invest. I went to college and majored in banking and finance - fast forward and I had worked at a few firms including United Capital, which was acquired by Goldman Sachs. At the last firm I worked at, I went to my mentor and asked, "Hey, I think I want to quit and do something else." And he's like, "What are you going to do?" And I'm like, "I don't know. I want to teach people about finance." I had to figure out how to do that. I had no clue. I got this booth at For Sisters Only. I called my good friend and said, "Hey, I got this booth at an event next weekend, so I need you to make me a landing page so I can collect emails and I need some business cards and a banner. Can you do it?" And he's like, "Yeah." So, I have this booth and I had about 90 or so people that signed up for my email list - that was my first list-building activity. I ended up making about a third of them clients, and that's when things started.
I look up a year and a half or so later, and I'm broke. Dead broke. I got a job at a financial literacy nonprofit and at the time, I realized I had to figure out how to stabilize my income. That's when I decided to create my first course, which was the Finances Demystified boot camp. Eventually, I heard about Kajabi. We had our first million-dollar month six months in. We did about $8.5 million in that first year and now we've generated a little over $13 million in the last two years.
What drives you to do what you do now?
I think the interesting thing is this, and this is something that people don't talk about all the time that drives you and your why can change. When I first started my company, I had no kids. It was just me. I just wanted to make money and help people, so I could travel and eat. Now my why is helping other people create generational wealth and changing their financial trajectories, and now with my children, I want to teach them. But for me, it's really about providing financial confidence.
Why do you think it’s so hard for people to make money as a creator?
I think it's hard for people to make money for numerous reasons. The first thing is I never consider myself to be a creator, and I think that sometimes the creator syndrome to me is very similar to the artist syndrome. What I mean by that is growing up you hear, "Oh, so and so wants to be an artist." "Oh man, they're going to be broke forever." It's just a thing, and that's not the case. I think that sometimes people take that mindset and think, "Oh, I'm a creator. Things are going to be a little bit more difficult for me. It's not a real business. It's just something that I'm doing." I never thought about it that way. I've always thought about my business as a business. I feel like I am a CEO first and then a creator and a talent second. And because of that, they [other creators] are not focused on monetization; they're not putting any energy and effort into creating the products. Or, into figuring out what products their audience actually wants, and they're not marketing.
So I think if you thought of your business as more of a business, you would be able to start monetizing it better. That means having a marketing strategy. That means understanding who your target audience is. Because right now for a lot of creators, what they're doing is just getting on TikTok, getting on social, doing a little shaking and dancing or whatever, pointing to some stuff, and no one's buying anything. Well, there's no true call to action, so people don't even know where to go. They don't even know what you sell.
How important is it to build community as part of your business?
Building community is actually very important because the community becomes like a family. I call them [my community] the Wealth Demystified family. We're on a mission together. And creating that community creates almost natural ambassadors for you. They're going to go out of their way to make sure that you succeed, and that's one of the things I love about my community. They are constantly helping each other, supporting each other, and cheering each other on. And like I said, that creates a whole different component within your business. You have a group of people that, from a revenue standpoint, will buy almost anything that you put out if you did a good job with them. If you delivered a high-quality product, one of the easiest ways to increase your revenue is to sell to your existing members or your existing clients. It's way cheaper to sell to existing people than to have to go out and get new customers. If you do a really good job cultivating the community that you currently have, there's no reason why your business will ever fail, as simple as that. People seek community.
How do you get your followers on social media to join your community? What does that bridge look like?
It's something that I would definitely not say we've mastered—getting those people from Instagram to your email list. One of the biggest things, and I tell my team all the time, "I don't care how many followers I have on social, my email list always needs to be higher than that." So right now on social, I think I may have 125,000 followers, which nowadays is not a lot. Everybody has a million followers now, but our email list is over a quarter of a million. That's more important to me.
So how do you get them there? You use various calls to actions. You have various intentional activities that bring them over. So I'm like, "Hey, we need to have at least one IG story a day that tells people to come to this masterclass.” Or get them into the text community. We will even do little things where I'll put a few thousand dollars on the Starbucks card, like, "Hey guys, there's free coffee, just text in and you get the code." Having that little link in your bio that leads them to my Kajabi landing pages or leads them to my text number—that's literally how you bridge it. But most people don't give their audiences a way to get into the other house. They're in this [social media] house, but I need you to come to this house, come to this party too. And that to me has been the easiest way to do it. It sounds simple, but you have to give people a place to take action, and most people don't do that.
Why is having your email list be bigger than your following so important?
The reason why my goal is always to have a bigger email list than my following is that I want to own the data. I am obsessed with making sure that I own all of my people and my data. I want to own all of the information, the demographics, and the phone numbers. If any of these other platforms shut down or decide they want to go out of business or whatever, I’ll still have my contacts. I always think about MySpace. There were some people who built their entire businesses on MySpace and then all of a sudden MySpace is gone, and their business is gone. Because I think of my business as a business, I need to operate it as such. I never want to feel like I'm dependent upon Facebook or Instagram or TikTok. I want to be able to send out an email or send out a text directly and talk to my audience. And so that's why I'm focused on building my email list, and now the big focus is text.
Read more on how to your brand and audience here!
How would you advise smaller creators using social media to connect with their audience?
What I would tell creators that are only using social platforms is to stop. Social media is great, but it can't be your only lead stream or lead magnet. When you think about your business, think about it literally as a heart. I always say Kajabi is the heart - it's where I'm trying to get everyone into. I think about all the blood that's flowing. Where is it coming from? It can't be coming from one place. If it's coming from one place, you're dying. If you're only getting leads from one place, it's not going to work. Focus on getting people into your universe. You don't own the people on social media platforms. You have to get the people into your own [business] universe so that you can monetize them because it's very, very hard to monetize on these [social] platforms. You're a creator, but you're not just a creator. You are an entrepreneur.
Many creators think brand and affiliate deals are the only way to make money. Where would you tell them to start in terms of the monetization vehicle?
Brand deals and affiliates are part-time income for me, but what I love about my Kajabi business is, it's not a one-time hit. Even now, especially since we've switched to this membership community, our new focus now is MRR or monthly reoccurring revenue. I want money to come in even if I decide that I want to wake up and be on the beach. With brand deals and affiliates, most of the time they're only going to last for a little bit. And then every month, you’ve got to figure it out again and again. So put more energy and focus into creating something that's going to pay you consistently and create more consistent revenue streams for you.
What role does Kajabi play in helping you maintain control over your destiny as a creator?
Kajabi is really the heart of the business. I feel like everything kind of flows through there. And as far as being in control of my destiny, I think it becomes that central hub. I'm able to get a clear idea of how the business is doing through analytics. I'm able to see how my email list is growing. And for me, when I'm thinking about my destiny, we all want to be in control. We're not in control, but we want to feel like we have a little bit of control. And I feel like Kajabi is that for me. I can log onto the platform and I can see exactly what's going on. I can see how the business is doing this month, or last month. And so for me, that gives me a little bit of control in an uncontrollable world, to be able to feel like I'm navigating my own destiny.
The takeaway: Own your audience
Social media platforms call the shots, but you can still control your destiny as an entrepreneur by taking steps to ensure you own your audience outside of social media.
Start building your email list and creating lead magnets to migrate your audience into your ecosystem. Like Dominique said, “Focus on getting people into your universe. You don't own the people on social media platforms. You have to get the people into your own universe so that you can monetize them… You're a creator, but you're not just a creator. You are an entrepreneur.”
Hear from these other Kajabi Heroes on how they are being affected by the dark sides of the creator economy:
- How an online chef monetized her social following to build a six-figure business
- How going viral prompted a trans vocal coach to create courses
- How a LinkedIn suspension led an online entrepreneur to control his destiny