Monetizing Mind Maps (Part 1): Introduction

Can you really make money from your mind mapping passion or expertise?

At ripe old age of 32, I’m technically a ‘veteran’ of the mind mapping arena, having launched Biggerplate in 2008. Over the years I’ve seen a certain cycle repeat many times within our community, and if we’re to build a thriving mind mapping arena, it’s a cycle we’ll need to break. It goes a little something like this…

Stage 1: A new name/face pops up on our community radar, usually as a result of a new mind mapping website going live, and some enthusiastic mind map sharing on Biggerplate.com! The content creation and social media activity in this initial period is energetic, prolific, and very welcome from our perspective!

Stage 2: We get to know the person/people a bit more over the following weeks and months, and understand that they would like to build either a part-time side business, or perhaps even a full-time business based around mind mapping. Some have aspirations to train the world in mind mapping, others are just interested to share some perspectives based on their own learning and experience with mind maps. Again, on our side the goal is to encourage and support these enthusiastic new entrants as much as we can!

Stage 3: Normally around the 6 month mark, I start to see a drop in the content and activity. There are fewer website/blog posts, fewer social media updates, and less maps being shared on Biggerplate…

Stage 4: From about 9 months on, we see a continued decline in activity, until eventually, it becomes clear that the project has stalled and (in many cases) the person has had to return their full attention to their real job. (Remember, many of these people are simply trying to share their passion and expertise on the side of a full-time job). The once promising new entrant goes quiet, and in some cases disappears from the mind mapping world entirely.

Stage 5: Another new face pops up on the community radar, and the cycle repeats…!

What’s the cause?

From my perspective, this is a cycle that I’ve seen many times, and am always sad to see. We need enthusiastic, new, excited entrants in the mind mapping space doing different and interesting things with mind mapping. When these people lose momentum and tune out, we’re losing valuable advocates for a better way of working and learning.

Obviously there are many things that might cause this, but in my opinion, a key factor is the degree to which people are able to generate revenue from their mind mapping enthusiasm and/or expertise. It’s not about making millions, but more about seeing some tangible reward for effort, beyond a retweet here, and a thumbs up every now and then on Facebook.

Those initial 6–9 months of the cycle are a lot of work. Creating content is time consuming. Building and launching websites is exciting but confusing for non-tech people (like me). And social media, while fun at times, can also become a burden if you’re not getting encouraging signals back from the world you’re trying to engage with. If you’re trying to actively sell something in addition, you can spend a lot of time having enthusiastic conversations, but may end up with very little to show for it if the opportunities don’t convert.

What can be done?

It is my view that we need ways for people to monetize their mind mapping enthusiasm and expertise, in order to ensure they can afford to continue contributing to the wider community and narrative, even if it is just on a part-time basis, and earning a bit of extra beer money! What might keep people engaged, and encourage them to stick with it a bit longer, is a little trickle of revenue that helps to show that they’re on the right path, and that there is recognisable value in what they are doing and/or producing.

In an ideal world, the best contributors would eventually generate enough “beer money” to justify committing more time, effort, and expertise, so that we see more individuals and organisations that can genuinely earn a full-time living off mind mapping. A sector where businesses of all shapes and sizes can thrive at different levels is certain to be a positive driver of innovation and adoption, and so I think it’s essential that we try to consider the ways in which this might be made possible for mind mapping.

About this series

Over the years I have spent many hours in conversation with people who have been in different stages in that cycle, and I’ve often been surprised at the degree to which people thought it would be different, and in some cases, how little people knew about different ways that they might have been able to generate just a little bit of revenue for their efforts. There are no fool proof plans, but at least by knowing of a wider range of options, perhaps people might stand a better chance from the start of their efforts.

Based on 10 years of trial, error, more error, further trial, and the occasional success with Biggerplate, I hope I may have some practical tips and perspectives that might help people break out of that cycle, or even avoid it in the first place. That’s the basis of this upcoming series…

This article is the first, and in the coming weeks I’ll be writing about several different ideas that might help you deal with the very practical challenge of monetizing mind mapping.

To be clear: Biggerplate has by no means cracked a magic formula, but we have certainly learned a lot over the years, and perhaps our learning (and pain) can help you navigate a better route ahead. At the very least, I hope to give you some food for thought, and (ideally) make you aware of some possibilities that you may have not been aware of before.

What topics will be covered?

In the next article, I’ll set some context by providing a basic summary of how Biggerplate generates money, and the combination of “commercial engines” that we are currently running in our business. This is certainly not to show off. We are very much still experimenting and learning, even after nearly 10 years online. However, since I’m often asked how we have managed to make a business out of mind mapping (ie. how we make money) I figure this is a logical place to start!

After that, I’ll be writing individual articles about each of these “Commercial Engines” and how you might be able to adopt or adapt them in your own world. I’ll also talk about some of the other possible revenue mechanisms that we don’t use at Biggerplate, so that you can be aware of other possibilities, and understand why they do not feature in our business model, as you consider whether they might fit with yours.

No doubt there are countless other ideas that I will not cover, but the series will cover the following revenue mechanisms over the coming weeks (and each of these headings below will link to the appropriate article once published):

Commercial Engines used at Biggerplate:

  • Training
  • Advertising
  • Live Event Mapping
  • Consulting/Facilitation
  • Affiliate Programs
  • Membership Systems
  • E-learning
  • Market Research/Insight

Commercial Engines NOT used at Biggerplate:

  • Develop mind map software/apps
  • Selling Mind Maps
  • Software Reselling
  • Selling personal data

I hope you will find this upcoming series useful, and I very much hope to get feedback and ideas from the community in response! As the old saying goes “a rising tide lifts all boats”, and I hope that sharing some of these perspectives over the coming weeks will help more individuals and organisations to make a commercial success of their mind mapping endeavours. If they do, then the tide will rise, and we’ll all be lifted a little bit higher!