I think it’s safe to say that memes are now part of our collective Internet culture.
A meme is a catchphrase, idea, hashtag, and any form of media (image, video, songs, etc.) that reflects the current culture that spreads quickly from person to person via the internet.
While the popularity of memes exploded with the rise of forums and social media, the word “meme” was coined in 1976 in the book “The Selfish Gene” by author/biologist Richard Dawkins, as he explained how cultural ideas and memories spread.
By the late 90s, with the help of online forum members of 4chan and Reddit, memes have become part of the internet culture.
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Memes mostly include an element of humor, but it can also have shock value or have themes like drama, urban myths, psychological/philosophical ideas, and more.
The most popular examples of memes include:
- Photos – Photos of passive-aggressive stick figure “Be Like Bill” and Grumpy Cat (real name Tardar Sauce) have been around for several years and continue to be some of the most-shared photo memes.
- Videos – Absurd songs like “What Does the Fox Say” about what a fox’s animal sound should be and the charmingly dorky “Gangnam Style” are great examples of video memes.
- Animated GIFs – If you’ve been active on the web around the late 90s, you’ve probably seen the dancing baby gif called “baby cha-cha.” This is the first viral internet meme in recent history.
- Websites – The earliest example of a meme site is the Geocities site filled with dancing hamster GIFs, which launched in late 1997 as a homage to creator Deidre LaCarte’s hamster named Hampton. The site and the dancing hamsters are live on in a copy of the original site: Hamster Dance.
- Songs – The annoying earworm “Friday” by then-teen YouTuber Rebecca Black was hated by many people in 2011, but Black earned $1.4 million from it.
- Expressions – Statements like Paris Hilton’s “That’s hot” or “OK Boomer” can also be considered memes.
And as with probably anything on the internet, people have found ways to cash in on memes.
If you think you’d be an awesome meme-maker, but don’t know where to start in monetizing this modern skill, read on for some of the most common methods of cashing in.
4 Ways You Can Make Money with Memes
Get ready to start amassing a following.
Here are the best ways you can turn your memes into cash.
1. Build an Instagram Meme Page
This is the easiest starting route out of the other items on this post, but this has also been done to death and is thus insanely competitive.
You can create a meme account to quickly gain followers and fans. Then, when you have enough followers to be considered an influencer, reach out to brands so that you can get paid to promote their brands through memes.
If you’re lucky, they might be the ones to reach out to you.
The way to stand out from your competitors is to have an Instagram page with a distinct personality and not just another page of random memes just to be hilarious.
Brands and companies are constantly looking for ways to take advantage of social media to reach a wider audience, and if your Instagram meme page attracts a certain type of demographic that they’re looking to attract as well, then your chances of being sponsored by that brand increases.
The good thing about it is that you don’t even have to be a creative genius to run an Instagram meme page. You can create your own memes, sure, but don’t knock curating other people’s memes.
You can take memes created by other people and still show off your own personality on your Instagram meme page. It can be difficult and challenging, but it’s certainly worth the effort.
An example of a success story that started with an Instagram meme page is Claudia Oshry, who started with her Instagram @girlwithnojob that was a hit with female millennials and is now a podcast host, stand-up comedian, and has even released a single.
2. Craft Corporate Memes or Get an 8-to-5 New Media Job
There are a few ways to make money with a meme-making career: you can either wait for a company to commission you for a meme-making project, find a new media job and work at an office from 8 to 5, or offer your services as a freelance meme-maker.
In some cases, companies opt for authenticity and hire professional meme-makers for the job. Such is the case for Gucci’s highly successful Instagram-based campaign titled #TFWGucci (“That Feel When Gucci”). This collaborative project was commissioned to multiple Instagram influencers, including @decorhardcore, @rozalinaburkova, and @youvegotnomale (real name Sebastian Tribbie Matheson), who said he got paid $2,000 for the starter meme pack he created for Gucci.
Many companies are hiring skilled people with a healthy dose of humor, pop culture knowledge, and advanced internet skills to handle new media marketing. In fact, dank meme-making is often listed as one of the responsibilities of a new media professional.
It may be difficult to get noticed by big companies to work on their projects. Similarly, it may be a struggle to get a day job as a new media professional.
Fortunately, in today’s gig economy, it’s possible to offer your services as a freelance meme-maker whom companies can hire for small projects, maybe even for only one to two memes. Check on Fiverr and other freelancer job boards to find small meme-making projects.
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3. Open a Meme Compilation Channel on YouTube
YouTube may seem like a strange place to make money with memes, but actually, video memes work so much better with YouTube. Like other social media networks, YouTube videos are easy to share and spread like wildfire.
If you have a keen sense of humor, a spider-sense of what will become viral, and a knack for video editing, you can go into compiling video memes and posting them on your YouTube meme channel.
Of course, creating your own video memes will work even better, if you manage to make it viral. Original memes have more potential to be monetized.
Promote your content as much as you can to your followers on social media or through your blog, if you have one. Once you have 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 watch hours within 12 months, you can link an Adsense account with your YouTube channel and apply to join the YouTube Partner Program so you can start cashing in.
A popular YouTube success story is Grumpy Cat. Before Grumpy Cat died in May 2019, she earned somewhere from $2k to $20k from YouTube alone. What’s interesting is that this amount wasn’t even half of what this feline and her owner Tabatha Bundesen actually made.
The Washington Post estimates that Grumpy Cat earned six-figure sums from her Friskies sponsorship, a book deal, Lifetime movie “Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever,” and a widely successful merchandising business.
An older success story is that of LA-based deep-voiced singer Tay Zonday (real name Adam Nyerere Bahner), whose original song entitled “Chocolate Rain” went viral on YouTube in July 2007. The song, which is super-catchy, isn’t even a parody – it’s a song about racism.
He initially made money through video ads and a promo song for Dr. Pepper called “Cherry Chocolate Rain.” When the fame died down, his earnings didn’t. At some point, he earned a sizable monthly income from ringtone and music sales, although it didn’t translate to a vast fortune.
The most important takeaway you should have here is that your YouTube monthly views may peak and then die down, but being a popular YouTuber can open so many more opportunities for you than just earning a trickle of dollars from YouTube ad revenue.
4. Create Real Products Based on Memes
A great way to make money with memes is to create products or have manufacturers provide products based on popular memes.
Many crafters take inspiration from memes that have gone viral to create handmade products, which they then sell over at Etsy or any other online marketplace.
If you started with an Instagram meme page, you can sell real products based on memes on your Instagram page. You can set up your Instagram as a business account so you can use Instagram shopping to offer your products on your organic posts as well as through your Instagram stories.
Another way to sell them is to set up a separate online store or sell in a marketplace, which you can then link to on your Instagram profile.
Similarly, if you started with a YouTube channel, you can sell real products based on the video memes you’ve been posting on your channel. Link to your online store right on the video or in the video description so that your viewers can buy your merchandise right when they watch your video memes.
Start Making Money With Memes Today!
Who would’ve thought that these charming, annoying, hilarious, philosophical, passive-aggressive, and sometimes thought-provoking memes could actually lead to a career, monthly income, or huge sponsorship deals?
The rise in social media and globalization has turned memes into a massive communication tool by people of all generations and cultures from all walks of life. And brands have started to notice too. So if you feel this niche best fits your skills and personality, it’s never too late to try and cash in from the opportunities meme-making has to offer.
But before you go off creating memes and waiting for the cash to roll in, a word of caution: Making money through memes is not a guaranteed stable and reliable source of income. Competition is only increasing with each new year and each new set of memes that become popular.
If you want to be involved in something creative and earn money online, here are some of the articles we’ve written before to give you some inspiration.
- 29 Online Jobs for Artists That Pay for Your Creativity
- How to Get Paid to Design and Sell T-shirts Online
- Sell Your Font: How to Make Money Designing Fonts
- Earn Cash on the Side by Selling Designs at Print on Demand Sites
- How to Start an Online Interior Design Business at Home
Have you tried to make money with memes? Or do you plan to get into it soon? Tell us your stories in the comments below!
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