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How to Monetize Your (Inevitable) Business By-Products

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When Dustin Moskovitz and Justin Rosenstein were working at Facebook, they found it difficult to effectively collaborate on the projects they were working on. So, they decided to build their own tool to more easily work with their team.

Dustin and Justin loved their new tool so much that they later released it online for the public. Today, millions of people and businesses, including NASA, Uber, Dropbox, and Intel, use this tool for team collaboration. You may have heard of it. It’s called Asana.

Asana is the perfect example of a business by-product. A project that started out as an in-house tool is now valued at $600 million, and backed by billionaire investors such as Mark Zuckerberg and Peter Thiel.

Asana is only one of many by-products that turned out to be massive success stories. Unfortunately, many businesses are still not aware of how much value they’re throwing away by overlooking the by-products they’re already generating.

You don’t have to be Facebook or Google to come up with a successful by-product (and they don’t have to turn into a multi-million dollar product to be a success!). Even with a small product or idea, it’s a great way to generate an extra income stream, or bring more business into your company.

Sell Your Sawdust

Sawdust is generated when cutting, drilling, and processing wood. And there are entire industries built around this seemingly simple by-product.

The same principle can be applied for your business. Whether you work on design or development projects, brand identity, financial services, sell a physical product, or anything else. What do you do with the “stuff” that gets created as a by-product growing your company? Throw it in the trash? Or find a way to use it to your advantage?

A design firm named Fairpixel found a brilliant way to do just this. Whenever one of their logo designs get rejected by a client, the firm would release those designs online through their open-source project, Logodust, to let anyone in the world use the design for free. The project generated buzz for the design firm, and brought in new customers and revenue.

Pablo by Buffer is yet another by-product that drives more users to their social media scheduling platform. Sometimes, you don’t have to sell a by-product — just releasing it for free can have a great knock-on effect.

Monetize Your In-House Tools

If you’re like most companies, you probably have your own set of custom tools and software for streamlining your workflow. Believe it or not, those frameworks, style guides, and even your presentation slides, have more potential than you might think.

Zurb is a design firm that’s been around since 1998. The company became widely popular after they released their front-end framework, Foundation, for free for everyone online. Hundreds of thousands of websites are now powered by this framework, which has driven more business to (and boosted the reputation of) its creator.

That simple tool you’ve developed for your own team might help you get more business in the future. If it’s useful for you, it’s very likely to be useful for other people as well!

Open-Source Your Code

Another great way to build a reputation for your business, and bring more traffic to your website, is to be known as the creator of something valuable in your industry.

After Facebook developed the React JavaScript library, they didn’t make it a top-secret project and keep it for themselves. They released it as an open-source project to let anyone use the code for free (and help improve upon it).

You could use this same strategy to build a community around your agency. If you find yourself using the same code snippets over and over again, why not open-source them. GitHub is a great place to start.

Share Your Knowledge

Growing a business from the ground up takes a lot of effort, and you learn a lot through the process. The things you learn from your successes and failures are invaluable to you personally, but there are also ways you can turn that knowledge into actual profit.

The popular UX design platform, UXPin, use this strategy to bring more attention to their platform. They released a collection of valuable UX design related eBooks, and allowed people to download them for free.

You can also try a more direct approach and sell your knowledge. Founder of ConvertKit, Nathan Barry, converted his knowledge into eBooks and managed to generate over $200,000 through the process.

Don’t keep your valuable knowledge trapped inside your agency, or your head. Turn it into a book and sell it on Amazon. Put together a video course and sell it on Udemy. Turn it into an app and sell it on iTunes. Or host a workshop for local designers and developers while selling tickets and generating buzz for your brand.

Listen & Encourage

Listen closely to what your customers are asking. If many of your them regularly ask you for the same thing (or encounter the same challenge), you may have an opportunity to develop a by-product for an existing market. Better yet, it’s a market that you likely already have a route into!

It’s also worth thinking about how you can give your team the freedom and time to work on projects of their own. Encourage them to come up with new ideas and solutions to problems that you’re having as a business, or any other challenge they’d like to tackle.

You’ll never know what by-products you’ll have to share until you start looking!

posted by David Appleyard

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