10 Time-Tested Ways to Make Money

In Patterns That Work , I compiled a short list of patterns that describe how the vast majority of businesses make money:

  • Product: make a physical product, then sell and deliver it for more than it cost.
  • Service: provide a useful service, then charge a fee.
  • Shared Resource: create a shared resource that can be used by many people (like a gym), then charge for access.
  • Subscription: offer an ongoing subscription, then charge a recurring fee.
  • Insurance: write an insurance policy against some specific bad thing happening, collect premium payments up-front, then pay out claims only when the bad thing happens.

After thinking about this subject a bit more, I thought of five more common patterns…

  • Resale: acquire an asset, then sell the asset to another buyer at a higher price.
  • Lease: acquire an asset, then allow another person to use that asset for a certain amount of time in exchange for a fee.
  • Audience Aggregation: create and distribute information that appeals to a specific set of people, then sell access to that audience (advertising, direct mail, etc.) to an interested third-party.
  • Agency: sell an asset you don’t own on behalf of a third-party, then collect a percentage of the sale price as a fee.
  • Dividend: purchase an ownership stake in a business, then collect a corresponding portion of that business’ profit over time as a dividend.

You can describe 99% of all businesses - past and present - using one (or more) of these core patterns. If you want to create a successful new venture, start looking for ways to do one (or more) of these things.

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Published: March 30, 2009Last updated: March 30, 2009

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