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17 Common Revenue Models (For Indie Businesses): Types, Examples & Template
Revenue Models

17 Common Revenue Models (For Indie Businesses): Types, Examples & Template

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.

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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 Types

  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

Customers pay for time-bound access to your product, content or services on a recurring basis (e.g. β€˜monthly’).

2. Markup

You purchase products from a wholesaler or manufacturer, then sell them to customers at a profit.

3. Digital Products (Licenses)

You create and sell licenses to digital products which customers can download and use according to the terms of the license purchased.

4. Advertising

Advertisers pay your business a fee per click, view, or period in order to get valuable eyeballs on their products.

5. Donation

Customers pay you directly via donations, of their own free volition.

6. Affiliate Commissions

Companies pay you a fee for every product of theirs which you sell (or are credited for selling).

7. Sponsored Content

Companies (or individuals) pay you a fee in order to their products, services or causes to your audience.

8. Data Sales

You sell the data collected from your own research, or from your customer base, to companies and customers (e.g. Industry Reports and Analyses, unique survey data) Β 

9. Project-Based Services

You provide skilled services for a company or individual with a set scope (e.g. as a freelance designer).

10. Retainer-Based Services

You provide access to a certain amount of your time/skilled services over a given period, typically on a recurring basis (e.g. monthly).

11. Tickets, Events, Workshops & Cohorts

You host (or perhaps even run/perform) ticketed events, charging for access to the event or for access to recordings.

12. Royalties

You own the rights to a piece of work (often creative) and earn a percentage on all future sales (e.g. Spotify, book sales, etc.)

13. Manufacture (D2C)

You produce a physical product and sell it directly to consumers (e.g. Etsy seller)

14. Library Access

You create or aggregate a library of resources and sell gated access to its contents.

15. Rent/Lease

You rent out physical or digital property, or lease out valuable equipment, at a given rate.

16. Community Access

You charge members for access to a unique online or physical community.

17. Marketplace

You charge buyers and or/sellers on a marketplace platform for their participation, often via transaction fees or a percentage of each sale.


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. Β 


Getting Started

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

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