I received an email the other day with a question that has become more and more common: what are the different ways that a person can make money with their sketchnoting skills?
Today I’d like to do my best to answer that question.
Before we get into the specific avenues by which you can start to earn an income with your visual note-taking skills, let me first set the stage with a little bit of context.
First or all, there has never been a better time than now to earn a living with your creative skills.
The internet has made it so much easier to connect with potential employers, potential clients, and potential customers all over the globe. The ticket into many jobs these days isn’t a certificate or degree but simply a demonstrated mastery of the skill you’d like to put to use.
So if you document and publish your work in a way that other folks can find it, you’re putting yourself in the position to start earning a living from that work.
With that said, let me next offer a few words of warning: it’s not easy, it’s not quick, and it changes the relationship between you and the creative act, once money is involved.
By bringing in the financial component you’re potentially adding a layer of stress to the experience by tying it to your livelihood. That pressure is real but it isn’t insurmountable.
It’s really just another form of resistance that might be keeping you from doing the type of work that most lights you up. And with practice you can learn to conquer that resistance, just like any other.
With that context place, let me next lay out the three primary ways in which you can make money with your sketchnoting skills.
The first: in-person sketchnoting or graphic recording.
In this category what you would do is attend an event (like a conference or a company’s annual planning meeting) and sketchnote talks or conversations in real-time for the benefit of the participants.
You’re in the room where it happens, so to speak, and you’re actually helping it to happen by providing a growing record of the conversation that serves as a reference point to everyone in the room, to keep everyone on the same page (literally), and to keep the conversation moving forward rather than running in circles.
While you could be at a desk doing small-scale sketchnotes that are projected onto a screen, more likely you’ll be standing up, working large scale on poster boards. And that large-scale process is more typically called graphic recording as opposed to sketchnoting.
At their core I see graphic recoding and sketchnoting as the same thing – it’s just that graphic recording serves the specific purpose of facilitating group conversations that are working toward a common goal.
Because of the complexity of those conversations, the positive impact of keeping them on track, and the brain power that’s required to synthesize and capture what’s going on in a way that meets the needs and goals of the group, graphic recording is a well-paying gig, with day rates that can range from $1,000 to $5,000 (with the understanding that there is plenty of prep work and post work implied by those day rates).
That’s the most intense of the three categories I’ll be describing.
From there, let’s move on to the second way in which you can make money with your skills: remote sketchnoting.
In this case your job is to create sketchnotes of information that has already been delivered. So you’re working with text, audio, or video, and your task is to deliver sketchnotes as a visual recap of that information.
The benefit here is that the work can be done from anywhere – a home office, a library, or a coffee shop. That gives it a nice flexibility. It also opens you up to a larger market – the source of information can come from anywhere around the globe.
There’s also a sense of security that comes with working through those sketchnotes at your own pace. You have a pause button and a rewind button and the ability to walk away from the ideas and come back to them in order to find the best way to represent them visually.
That freedom and flexibility brings with it a great deal of responsibility. It’s all on you to develop the habits and routines to get the work done. You don’t have the built-in energy that comes from working with folks in-person.
For this type of work you could choose to charge by the hour, or you could consider each potential project case-by-case, determine the value that your sketchnotes will provide, and charge accordingly based on the impact that your sketchnotes will have.
Create Your Own Products
Finally, the third way that you can make money with your sketchnoting skills is to use them to create your own products.
Products could be physical (like prints or books) or they could be digital (like digital books or online courses).
This third category is the route that I’m currently taking by using my sketchnoting skills to create online courses. In my case I’m making courses about sketchnoting, but the courses you make could be about any topic. You could simply use sketchnotes as an instructional tool to teach people something that you have experience in.
The advantage in this category is that once you make something useful, you can sell that thing to as many people who find it and trust you enough to give you money for it.
The downside of this category is that it takes the most time because in addition to building whatever products you want to sell, you also have to build an audience that might be interested in buying those products.
So for this third category I think you need to be in it for the long game. It takes patience and perseverance. But it is possible.
Where To Start
Personally, I’ve had experience with all three of these categories. After experimenting some with the first two, I ultimately landed on the third, and what I do now is build educational products. That one fits nicely with my background in education – I was trained to be a high school teacher, and I really enjoy creating educational experiences for others.
If one or more of these categories appeals to you, start digging in.
If you want to go down the in-person graphic recording route, I highly recommend getting trained. There is enough pressure and responsibility associated with graphic recording gigs that it’s worth it to develop a solid foundation with the help of professionals. So do a search in your local area for trainings in graphic recording or graphic facilitation.
If you want to explore remote sketchnoting or the creation of your own products, I think there’s more flexibility. In those cases it’s more about developing your own style, your own niche, and your skills to the point where your remote clients or your customers are happy with your work.
If you’re serious about going down the path of earning a living from your creative work, then take a look at one of our course bundles – The Online Entrepreneur.
Those courses with help you to develop your skills while you build an audience, so that once you’ve made your thing, there will be plenty of people ready and eager to pick it up.
All in all, I feel like the sky’s the limit as far as what you can do with your sketchnoting skills. I’m starting to see it more and more as a kind of superpower. It’s a way of processing information and telling stories that’s more dynamic than any other single approach that I’ve seen.
Though there are plenty of challenges involved in taking what might have started out as a hobby and turning it into something that helps you generate an income for yourself, I think that those challenges are worth taking on.
Because on the other side of them lives a whole lot of opportunity.
Till next time,