Revenue Models: 17 Types, Examples & Template [2023]

/
Revenue Models List
Revenue Models

How does (or will) your business make money? It sounds almost too simple to ask, but having a clear understanding of your business' revenue model can be one of the most important ways to focus on key activities--and actually move the needles you care about most.


For indie businesses, settling on the right revenue model type rarely happens on first attempt. Instead, it's common to bounce around from subscriptions to digital products, membership communities and affiliate offerings until something finally *clicks* for you and your business.


This revenue models list component and template is intended to help you sort, consider and rank a list of common revenue models. In future, I'll be linking this table to related marketing channels, real data from other indie businesses and related templates--for now, let's take a quick look at the revenue models listed.


17 Common Revenue Model Examples

  1. Subscription
  2. Markup
  3. Licensing (Digital Prod.)
  4. Advertising
  5. Donation
  6. Affiliate Commission
  7. Sponsors
  8. Data Sales
  9. Project-Based Services
  10. Retainer-Based Services
  11. Tickets, Events, Workshops
  12. Royalties
  13. Manufacture (D2C)
  14. Library Access
  15. Rent/Lease
  16. Community Access
  17. Marketplace


1. Subscription

The most common revenue model for SaaS and membership-based businesses. Customers pay a recurring fee, typically on a monthly or yearly basis, in exchange for access to your product or service.

Pros of subscription model

  • Recurring revenue is more predictable and can be helpful in forecasting
  • Can be a great way to build long-term relationships with customers
  • Customers who are paying on a recurring basis are typically more engaged and have a higher lifetime value

Cons of subscription model:

  • Can be difficult to acquire customers who are willing to pay a recurring fee
  • Can be difficult to increase prices without losing customers
  • There is always the risk of churn (customers cancelling their subscription)

2. Markup

The markup revenue model is most common in retail and ecommerce businesses, where goods are bought at wholesale prices and then sold to customers at a higher price.

Pros of markup model:

  • Can be easier to get started since you don't need to develop a unique product or service
  • There is less risk involved since you're not investing in developing or producing a good or service
  • Can be easier to scale since you can simply buy more inventory as needed

Cons of markup model:

  • Can be difficult to compete on price alone
  • You may need to invest in marketing and branding to differentiate your business
  • There can be slim margins if you're not careful with your pricing

3. Licensing (Digital Prod.)

The licensing revenue model is most common for digital products, where customers pay a one-time fee for access to your product.

Pros of licensing model:

  • Can be a great way to generate one-time revenue from customers
  • Customers who pays for a license typically have a higher perceived value of your product
  • Can be easier to scale since you're not selling a physical good or service

Cons of licensing model:

  • Can be difficult to acquire customers who are willing to pay a one-time fee
  • There is always the risk of piracy (customers sharing your product without paying)
  • Can be difficult to upsell customers or generate recurring revenue

4. Advertising

The advertising revenue model is most common for online businesses, where businesses sell advertising space on their website or in their email newsletter.

Pros of advertising model:

  • Can be a great way to generate revenue from customers who are not ready to buy your product or service
  • Advertising can be a complementary revenue stream to other revenue models
  • Can be easier to scale since you're not selling a physical good or service

Cons of advertising model:

  • Advertising can be disruptive to the user experience
  • Advertising rates can fluctuate based on market conditions
  • You may need to invest in marketing and branding to attract advertisers

5. Donation

The donation revenue model is most common for non-profit organizations, where customers donate money to support the cause or organization.

Pros of donation model:

  • Can be a great way to generate revenue from customers who are passionate about your cause
  • Donations are typically tax-deductible for the donor
  • There is less pressure to generate revenue since donations are not expected to be recurring

Cons of donation model:

  • Can be difficult to acquire customers who are willing to donate money
  • May need to invest in marketing and branding to attract donors
  • Donations can fluctuate based on economic conditions

6. Affiliate commission

The affiliate commission revenue model is another common for online businesses, where businesses pay a commission to affiliates for referring customers.

Pros of affiliate commission model:

  • Can be a great way to generate revenue from customers who are already interested in your content
  • Affiliates can provide valuable marketing and promotion for your business
  • Can be easier to scale since you're not producing all the products you sell

Cons of affiliate commission model:

  • Not always easy to find good affiliate programs
  • You may need to invest in marketing and branding to attract affiliates, as well as readers
  • Commissions can vary based on affiliate performance

7. Sponsors

The sponsorship revenue model is becoming increasingly common for online creators.

Pros of sponsorship model:

  • Can be a great way to generate revenue from businesses or individuals who support your cause
  • Sponsors typically have a high perceived value of your organization
  • Can be easier to scale since you're not selling a physical good or service

Cons of sponsorship model:

  • Can be difficult to acquire sponsors who are willing to pay
  • May need to invest in marketing and branding to attract sponsors
  • Sponsorship can fluctuate based on economic conditions

8. Data Sales

The data sales revenue model is most common for online businesses, where businesses sell data that they have collected.

Pros of data sales model:

  • Scale advantages
  • Data can be a valuable commodity for businesses
  • Can be easier to scale since you're not selling a physical good or service

Cons of data sales model:

  • Difficult to acquire unique data sets
  • Longer sales cycle
  • Data rates can fluctuate based on market conditions

9. Project-Based Services

The project-based services revenue model is most common for businesses that provide consulting or other services.

Pros of project-based services model:

  • Can be a great way to generate revenue from customers who need your services
  • Projects can be customized to the customer's needs
  • Can be easier to scale since you're not selling a physical good or service

Cons of project-based services model:

  • Very hands-on
  • Need to keep your pipeline filled
  • Projects can fluctuate based on economic conditions

10. Retainer-based services

The retainer-based services revenue model is most common recurring stream for businesses that provide consulting or other services.

Pros of retainer-based services model:

  • Can be a good way to introduce recurring revenue to a services business
  • Customers typically pay upfront for your services
  • Can be easier to scale since you're not selling a physical good or service

Cons of retainer-based services model:

  • Need to find a service that's profitable on retainer;
  • Reducing churn;
  • Pricing your retainer.

11. Tickets, Events, Workshops

The ticketing revenue model is most common for businesses that host events or workshops.

Pros of ticketing model:

  • Can be a great way to generate revenue from customers who are interested in your event
  • Tickets can be sold in advance of the event
  • Virtual events and workshops can be easier to scale since you're not selling a physical good or service

Cons of ticketing model:

  • Need to consistently market events
  • Margins need to be high for it to be sustainable
  • Often need to pay staff to help facilitate event

12. Royalties

The royalty revenue model is most common for businesses that sell digital content, such as books, music, or software.

Pros of royalty model:

  • Royalties can be collected on a per-sale or per-use basis
  • Can be easier to scale since you're not selling a physical good or service
  • Highly asynchronous

Cons of royalty model:

  • Can be difficult to track sales and commissions
  • Typically low % commission
  • Royalties can be volatile from year to year

13. Manufacture (D2C)

The manufacture model, going direct to customer, is probably the most familiar. You make a product and then sell it to the customer, whether that’s through your own store, a third-party retailer, or some other means.

Pros of Manufacture (D2C)

  • You have complete control over your product
  • You can build your own brand
  • You can reach customers directly

Cons of Manufacture (D2C)

  • It can be expensive to get started
  • You have to invest in marketing and branding
  • You have to manage inventory and shipping

14. Library Access

The library access model is common for businesses that offer digital content, such as books, music, or software. Customers can access your content through a subscription or pay-per-use basis.

Pros of Library Access

  • Can reach a wide audience of potential customers
  • Can generate revenue from customers who are interested in your content
  • Can be easier to scale since you're not selling a physical good or service

Cons of Library Access

  • Possibility of duplicating digital content without license
  • Retaining users after they pay for first access
  • Offering a unique library

15. Rent/Lease

The rent/lease revenue model is common for businesses that offer physical goods, such as equipment or vehicles. Customers can rent or lease your products on a short-term basis.

Pros of Rent/Lease

  • Can generate revenue from customers who need your equipment
  • Can be quite 'Passive' income
  • Scalable if margins and demand are high enough

Cons of Rent/Lease

  • High expenses upfront
  • Potential damages costs

16. Community Access

The community access revenue model is common for businesses that offer physical goods or services. Customers can access your product or service through a subscription or pay-per-use basis.

Pros of Community Access

  • Can reach a wide audience of potential customers
  • Compounding as the community grows
  • Plenty of online community software and tech popping up

Cons of Community Access

  • Difficult to upgrade to a 'paid tier'
  • Community moderation can be time-consuming
  • Sustaining high community engagement

17. Marketplace

The marketplace revenue model is common for businesses that offer a platform for other businesses to sell their products or services. Customers can access the marketplace through a subscription or pay-per-use basis.

Pros of Marketplace

  • Buyers will typically bring their own customers
  • Can generate revenue from both sides of the market: buyers and sellers
  • Don't need to produce your own products (beyond the marketplace itself)

Cons of Marketplace

  • Quality control can be difficult
  • Chicken-egg problem: getting your very first buyers and sellers
  • Settling disputes and investing in customer support

Choosing A Revenue Model For Your Business

This Notion template database also includes some properties to help you understand more about the various revenue models listed, and how they compare with one another on a few important factors. These are:

  • Volume needed;
  • Typical Margins;
  • Capital needed upfront;
  • Relationship to customer (direct or indirect);
  • Scalability;
  • Revenue model examples; and
  • Your Rank

Volume Needed

The volume needed property gives an indication (on a scale from 'Very Low' to 'Very High') of how many customers are typically needed for this type of revenue model to work. For example, a subscription revenue model that charges $1.99/month will need a Very High volume of customers in order for the model to work; whereas a high-ticket services business may only need 1 or 2 big clients per year.

Typical Margins

The typical margins property is there to help you understand how profitable this revenue model can be, given the right circumstances, per sale or customer. For example, a business selling digital products will typically have very high margins (if they are priced correctly), whereas a business that relies on advertising as its primary revenue source may have lower margins.

Capital Needed Upfront

The capital needed upfront column describes (loosely) of how much money you will need to spend in order to get the business up-and-running. For example, a subscription business can be started with very little capital as there are no inventory or product development costs; whereas a manufacturing business may need a lot of money to get started as there are significant inventory and product development costs.

Relationship to Customer (Direct or Indirect)

The relationship to customer property gives an indication of whether the revenue model is direct, indirect or two-sided (e.g. marketplaces). A direct revenue model is one where you have a direct relationship with the customer; whereas an indirect revenue model is one where you do not have a direct relationship with the customer.

For example, a subscription business has a direct relationship with the customer as they are paying the business directly for a product/service; whereas an advertising-based revenue model has an indirect relationship with the customer as they are paying the advertiser, not the business.

Scalability

The scalability property gives an indication of how easy it is to scale this type of revenue model. A scalable revenue model is one that can grow without a significant increase in costs; whereas a non-scalable business is one that has fixed costs which limit its growth.

For example, a subscription business is usually more scalable than a manufacturing business as there are no inventory or product development costs; whereas a business that relies on a small number of high-value clients is usually less scalable as it is difficult for you to service more such clients with the same number of hours in a day.

Revenue Model Examples

This column provides an example of a real business that is deploying this revenue model. I've tried to select primarily indie businesses, however this isn't the case for all of the businesses listed (where I couldn't find an indie business, I chose something that may be relevant or a company that I just generally like).

It's also worth noting that many of the businesses listed under a certain revenue model type employ multiple revenue models, alongside the stream that they're listed under. This is quite common for indie businesses (to have multiple revenue streams) and can be a good hedge against any single revenue stream going dry.

Your Rank

As you look through the list of possible revenue models, you can give each a ranking and sort the list based on those that are best suited.  

Getting Started

Duplicate this template into your own Notion workspace, and start ranking the various revenue models as they suit your own business, today.

Next block in this ability stack →
Related Components
Explore Library
get landmark all access

Gain Notion superpowers, today.

Landmark All Access is simple. There's one plan, and it gives you access to everything you see on the site (and anything that gets released in future ✨). Get access, today.

Join 15,000+ Notion-powered businesses, today

Free

$0USD
(Start free)
Unlimited downloads
50+ free Notion templates
New: Member dashboard
Best for accessing our free templates and components.
Start free

Components Library

$12/month
Start with 100+ Notion for business templates.
100+ Notion Component Templates
Keep whatever you copy.
Cancel anytime.
Best for dipping into our
Get started 🔓

Notion OS + Courses

$79/month
Access all our advanced Notion OS templates & courses.
All 100+ Notion Component Templates
All Notion Courses 🎓
Keep whatever you copy.
30-Day 100% moneyback guarantee.
Cancel anytime.
Best for one-time access to grab the template you need.
Get started 🔓

All Access: Annual

$149/year $249
Get access to everything, including Flotion.
All 100+ Notion Component Templates
Includes Flotion ✨
Notion For Business Systems Courses 🎓
Keep whatever you copy.
30-Day 100% moneyback guarantee.
Cancel anytime.
Best for keeping access to a library of professional Notion template all year.
Get All Access 🔓
POPULAR

Landmark Lifetime Access

$349/once $699
Get access to everything, plus all future releases: forever. Get Lifetime Access while it's 50% off 🎁
Pay once.
All 100+ Notion Component Templates
Includes Flotion ✨
Notion For Business Systems Courses 🎓
Keep whatever you copy.
Plus everything we release in future.
1 Free Year Starter Plan to our AI planning app Bizway ($588)
30-Day 100% moneyback guarantee.
Get Lifetime Access 🔓
LIMITED SALE