So, do you have any online social network accounts? Adults who don’t have a social network account - e.g., LinkedIn, Facebook or even Twitter - might be doing themselves a huge disfavor careerwise. In the midst of this recession, many people are out of work, with many more concerned that they’ll be laid off.
While there are mixed opinions about whether job sites are really the way to find work for most careers, at least many job seekers seem to agree that referrals from friends and colleagues tends to be a sure way to finding work. So the wider your network, the better your chances of finding a new job. Even if you’re employed, you can stay on top of the job market.
In addition to networking, and whether or not you’re looking for work, there are ways to stand out in a recession - things you can do to shore up your job seeking approach and your attitude to career. Or you could always work for yourself - be a freelancer, contractor and an all-around entrepreneur/ webpreneur.
Sure there’s a recession on, but people bootstrap startup companies all the time. So what does it matter if you start one now? If you’re thinking about starting a business, here are some tips from ReadWriteWeb.
- Don’t focus on growth; focus on cash preservation
- Work out how to monetize social networks
- Don’t make new commitments, look for opportunities in mobile technology
- Strike while there is less competition
- Look to the virtual world and expect to nurture your product for 7-8 years
Looking for startup funding? Brainz has an article on sources of business startup funds. And when you’re working on hard on your business just remember to have balance and use problem-solving techniques to achieve your entrepreneurial goals.
This weblog is primarily focused on online businesses, many of which you can do at home. As I’ve said before, I’m not talking those envelope-stuffing types of scams. For example, I’m a freelance online writer, and I’ve been working from home for over a year now - with about 6 months of that being mostly full-time, often more.
But what if you’re expanding beyond the home - or even skipping it altogether? What’s more, what if you have very little capital and want to build a startup business pretty much from scratch? Well, the Bootstrapper weblog is for you. A client has asked me to edit the blog and contribute articles about bootstrapping, entrepreneurship, cash flow, financing, general business startup issues, productivity, tools and more. It’s an extension of the essence of what I had initially intended for this blog. I’m very excited about this project, and I hope that you’ll check it out, may be even participate in the comments. I’ll also be accepting (paid) submissions to Bootstrapper in the future.
Backround: Introducing Domaining
One of the most traditional (and profitable) ways of making a living online is domaining.
Domaining is simply investing in a domain name in much the same way as people invest in real estate: You buy the domain, sometimes put some time and money into improving it, and hope that the property appreciates.
There are all sorts of basic domaining precepts, for example, a .com domain is generally more valuable than a .net, which in turn is more valuable than a .biz.
One of the most overlooked aspects of domaining (which is why I am explaining it here) is the benefit of exact-match domains.
What is an Exact Match Domain?
An exact match domain is simply a domain in which the keywords that the site is targeting are precisely the same as the domain name.
It is considered an “exact match” domain, because the phrase “Currency Trading” is actually the name of the site.
Why is Exact Match Valuable?
Exact match domains are valuable simply because any time a person talks about or links to a site they will use the name of the site. In this case someone might blog, for example, “I read an interesting article over at the site Currency Trading.” The reason this is important is because the anchor text that people use when linking to a site determines which keywords the site ranks for. Thus, rather quickly the site will rank for the “exact match” term.
How Should I Approach Exact Match Purchasing?
Exact match .com domains for competitive keywords are predictably very expensive. But, for about 15-20% of the cost you can obtain the same exact match in a .net or .org variety. These get the same benefits of exact match search engine rankings for only a fraction of the price. While you might be losing some revenue from type-in traffic, it usually isn’t enough to compensate for the price differential.
[Note: I wrote this a few months ago and some info has changed, as indicated in italics.] Sharpen your proverbial pencils all you bloggers. If you have a blog (or six) that has been around for at least a few months and has garnered a bit of link and search engine juice (see TLA’s Blog Juice Calculator), you might qualify for ReviewMe (which I reviewed elsewhere). ReviewMe is like PayPerPost (PPP), but with far more lucrative payout potential. There’s a US$25,000 giveaway, given to qualifying bloggers who review ReviewMe by following the instructions. [Giveaway is long over.]
What’s different about ReviewMe? Several things. I helped beta test ReviewMe, so
- Full disclosure. You need to indicate somewhere in your review that you are being paid to write it. You are not required to be positive, but you must write at least 200 words and link to the advertiser/ review requestor. [Payperpost now requires disclosure.]
- Better payment. It’s based on your site’s ranking, according to a special formula to determine traffic and popularity. [Payperpost plans to measure their publishers' sites' performance in order to increase payouts where appropriate.]
- Opportunity for better pay. More lucrative payouts later, as your blog grows in rank. But it’s self-fulfilling: as you add reviews, more links will come in, at least from the advertisers, if not elsewhere. So if you enjoy reviewing products and services and feel you can maintain your sense of integrity, this could be a lucrative opportunity.]
- Multiple opportunities. PayPerPost, last I checked, had some restrictions about how many of your sites you could simultaneously review on, which might actually amount to zero. ReviewMe uses a different system and allows up to six weblogs on supported blogging platforms.
That’s it in a nutshell. Yet another service will be launching very soon called Sponsored Reviews. It uses yet another methodology and seems to have an interesting way to match up bloggers and advertisers. In fact, it almost seems like a combination of PPP and ReviewMe.
Are you a tutor? Do you have Skype? It’s free and is on my list of 13 services/ tools/ resources you need for running a small online business. Skype lets you talk to people for free (or cheap) over the Internet. Newer versions of Skype also allow video calling. It’s a perfect tool for earning money as a tutor.
Tutors Without Limits (TWL) is an organization that lets you tutor students over the Internet from anywhere in the world. Sign up is free, you set your own rates, and you pay a small transaction fee.
There’s a billing system, a means of keeping accounts, setting schedules, running reports, etc. The personal profile dialog runs in a separate web browser window and is extremely detailed. Expect to spend at least 15-30 minutes setting up, in addition to the 3-4 minutes you spend registering.
I should point out that I originally started this post almost two months ago and haven’t had much time to finish it. But when I last talked to someone (via email) at TWL, they were about to allow tutors in Canada and elsewhere. At the time, you could be a tutor from anywhere, but you couldn’t get paid. I still haven’t had much time to get into this service indepth, let alone set up my own tutoring niche. But I figured I’d rather share what I do know, as brief as this post is.
So, if you have skill or knowledge that you think you could teach to other people using VoIP software and the infrastructure at TWL, I recommend you spend some time on this opportunity. It could be just what you want, as well as a low-cost way to start an Internet business.
If you’ve run any sort of business in the past or are running one now, you know that a significant portion of your monthly business costs can come from long-distance calls - or even local calls. That’s why many small business owners love the idea of free phone calls directly from their computer. (See 13 free or cheap tools, resources + services for more free tools for running a small online business.)
Calling from your computer is similar to regular calling, but you have the choice of using software (soft phones) directly on your computer or using a special phone, either wireless or with an USB cable. (If you have a computer that’s 3 years or less, it has USB ports on it, possibly in the front. They’re thin and long - about a half-inch.)
The best part about soft phones is that if you are calling someone else with the same soft phone, the call is free, even if they are half-way across the world. There are also promotions for some soft phone-based VoIP services. One is SkypeOut from Skype, which currently allows people in Canada and the United States to call any landline or mobile phone in these two countries for free, until Dec 31st of 2006. Skype is doing other similar promotions elsewhere.
Gizmo Project has a permanent promo offering free calls from pc–to-phone (computer to landline) to 60 countries, provided caller and callee have registered (free). Gizmo is based on an open standard known as SIP (Session Initiation Protocol). This simply means that you can call any other soft phone based on SIP. On the other hand, Skype is proprietary and cannot communicate with most other soft phones (although there are some efforts towards inter-compatibility).
Sightspeed does not have any free promo calling, that I know of, but they do have free video conferencing for up to four people in total. And their video calling quality is one of the best. All you need is an inexpensive videocam and a fair amount of RAM memory free. The person you are calling, provided they have Sightspeed, can see you even if they don’t have a videocam to reciprocate with. Skype has video calling as well.
If you are looking for other soft phones, here’s a list of 10 Skype alternatives. some of which are mentioned here already. The drawback with most softphones is that while you can call out to regular phones (and sometimes mobiles), for free or for reduced rates, they are not inter-compatible with each other - with the exception of SIP-based soft phones, as indicated above. There are a few new free software packages that bridge some of the soft phones and IM (Instant Messaging) text clients.
IM text clients such as MSN Messenger (now Windows Live Messenger), Yahoo Messenger, Aim Pro, Google Talk, etc., started out as text-mode only chatting software. Now, all of them have VoIP capabilities. (Although Google Talk cannot call out to regular phones or mobiles without also using a free softphone called Talqer.)
Both the text IMs and VoIP softphones have converged into a single style of client software that can be used for text chat, voice calls, video calls (some), file transfers, and more. Skype has the added advantage of an add-on (free) called Jyve, which will let you consult and be able to bill for calls. I’ll get more into Jyve and another similar service called Ether (which does not use Skype). If you have some unique skills and a good telephone manner, you could turn that into a home-based consulting business either full- or part-time. For this and this reason only, I recommend that you get a copy of Skype. (Not to mention the free calls to landlines and mobiles if you live in Canada or the US, until Dec 31st, 2006.)
Ultimately, there are a lot of choices for softphones, and which one you actually pick should depend on your location and needs. If you want high-quality video conferencing, I’d recommend Sightspeed. If you want free calling to landlines and mobiles in North America (excluding Mexico), go for Skype. If you want open source software that can connect to other similar networks, go for Gizmo Project. I actually use all of these, plus all of the IMs mentioned above, but for call-out, I use Skype for the free promo in North America.
In the near future, I’ll get deeper into how to use all this free VoIP software to run your business. For now, consider it seriously, as it can save you considerable money that could make the difference in your business (even if you have a bricks-and-mortar business). If you can’t wait for focused reviews of each soft phone or text IM, you can visit any of the following sites, VoIP Lowdown, VoIP Sol, or VoIP Now, for general news about VoIP.
Here are some resources that come in handy if you are running an online business or otherwise doing work online to earn money. (Note: some links are my own affiliate links. I will not be offended if you decide not to use them.)
- Blog hosting or blogging platforms - To run a business online, you need either a website or a weblog. Weblogs are easier to maintain and often enjoy higher rankings in the search engines. Get free blog hosting at Blogpost (via Blogger), Wordpress.com, etc. Have your own web domain? Want to run a weblog? Get free Wordpress weblogging software at Wordpress.org. Read more about free domains and hosting plans.
- Search engines: Google.com, MSN Live, Yahoo Search - Great search engines, to find information on whatever it is you want to write about.
- Google Trends - A great way to compare the relative popularity over time of two to five topics.
- Paypal merchant account - your bank won’t give you a merchant account? No problem. Sign up with Paypal for free and start accepting credit cards on your website.
- Google AdSense - got a site? Want to earn money by running contextual advertising?
- Firefox web browser - one of the best web browsers around.
- Skype VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) soft phone software - make free/ cheap phone calls from your computer. [Read more about VoIP software, hardware and services at VoIP Now.]
- Ether - Have a website (even a free one) and want a way to promote your phone-based consulting? Get paid for your talk time by clients.
- Skype + Jyve - Combine Skype with Jyve to have the ability to charge a consulting fee for your time directly from the free Skype soft phone.
- 101 Resources for self-published writers - article. Planning to write a book or e-book to promote your business? Check out this list of resource links.
- Copyblogger - a weblog about quality writing for your website/ weblog by the immeasurable Brian Clark.
- Successful-blog - a weblog about successful blogging by the exceptional Liz Strauss.
- Tubetorial - a weblog with video tutorials on marketing and promoting your Internet business, by the incomparable Brian Clark and friends.
Note: I will talk about using Ether or Skype and Jyve in much greater detail in the future, including case studies about how to setup, pricing your time, promoting yourself, etc. I will also expand on some of the other items above at a future date. If you want to know about something NOW, feel free to drop off a comment and I will try to move the priority of an item up. Finally, I’ll expand this list in the future, but in a separate post.
What is PayPerPost? It’s a portal where companies can advertise requests for writers, and bloggers can answer those requests. PayPerPost is actually a great opportunity for those of you that don’t mind writing about some company’s product or service. The tone of writing can be neutral, positive or negative, but is set by the requestor. Payment per post is varies, and might be anywhere from US$3 up to $35.
For their initial trial, PayPerPost were only open to American bloggers because they recorded tax ids, etc. They are still in beta, however international bloggers can apply now, too.
So what’s the problem? Well, to be able to respond to a request for writers, you need to “register” a blog. You can only register until you have had 10 paid posts approved there. So if you publish more than one blog, to handle different topics, you are out of luck until you’ve been approved for ten posts on the first blog. What’s more, you have to have 20 of your own posts published within the past 90 days on your registered weblog before your it will be approved.
This is a shame because they don’t make this information front and center when you “add” a blog. So if you do not have a single blog that can cover multiple topics, you may not be able to respond to some requests. That is, if you have any desire to maintain relevance. Since I signed up a while ago but did not attempt to accept a writing job until much later, I forgot about the 20-posts rule, but didn’t recall anything about having to have 10 payperpost posts on a weblog before being able to register another weblog.
Foolishness. It penalizes people like me who write a number of blogs but don’t focus on one. So if you want to sign up at PayPerPost, browse all of the current writing requests before you decide which of your blogs, if any, would encompass MOST of the topics you will want to write about. Your blog cannot be an “I ate breakfast at 10 am today, isn’t that cool” type of diary blog. I’m guessing that PayPerPost’s rule of one blog at a time means that their clients miss out on a lot of exposure opportunities.
Conclusion: Payperpost is a potentially good opportunity for a certain type of blogger, and while it won’t make you rich, it could earn you a bit extra. But if writing about other people’s products isn’t your thing, maybe talking about them is. Voice over work can be fairly lucrative, and you can do it from home and promote yourself at Voice123.com or Voices.com.
Only 5 or 6 short years ago, registering a domain was a complicated, costly process. Getting hosting for your website wasn’t much better. Back then, I had a set of ten domains (none of which I have today) that cost US$55/yr each for the registration. While I didn’t get hosting for all of the domains, the ones I did have cost about $29.99-$49.99/m, depending on monthly traffic.
In the inbetween years, domain name registration and site hosting costs dropped. Today, they cost very little. I currently have two host providers, one of which is a very well-known company that lets you register a .com domain for only US$8.95/yr. But they run a regular promotion where if you also purchase hosting or some other non-domain product at the same time that you register, the second year of registration is only US$1.99. Now given that their most basic hosting plan is only US$3.95/m, the cost of setting up a website is significantly less than just a few years ago. Even when you add in a few bells and whistles, the cost is still pretty reasonable compared to a few years ago.
But that’s not all. You can in fact set up a website at no cost, provided you’re willing to accept a few restrictions:
- You’re willing to share a TLD (Top-Level Domain) name with other people.
- That you do not actually own the domain name.
- That you don’t need to upload any media files to the domain.
- That you typically can only have a weblog type of website.
For example, many of my older weblogs are hosted on Blogger.com’s Blogspot.com domain. That means that everyone who sets up a weblog at blogspot.com will have their own unique subdomain but the same TLD. An example is one of my old cooking weblogs, Curry Elvis Cooks, which is at curryelviscooks.blogspot.com. While the content on the weblog is mine, the subdomain is owned by Blogger.com (which was purchased by Google some time ago).
Another shared domain is wordpress.com, which incorporates the popular WordPress blogging software with free-hosted domains. Typepad is another, which uses the Typepad blogging platform (which is a variation of SixApart’s powerful Movable Type blogging platform). There are many others available, but typepad.com, wordpress.com, and blogspot.com are amongst the three most popular. One thing to note is that you can use some or all of these services to create a weblog on your own domain name.
If these restrictions do not suit you, or you feel that you business credibility requires that you own your own domain name, you can still get free hosting from some Internet host providers. The catch is that, in return for the free hosting, your host provider will display some advertising in a very conspicuous place: right at the very top of your webpages, which is a prime piece of real estate on a webpage.
So while you can set up a website at practically no monetary costs, the restrictions may be more than you are willing to pay. Such options may be suitable if you are, say, an artist or musician, business owners should register their own domain names. It gives you more credibility when you hand someone your business card and your website address is similar to or matches your business name.
(c) Copyright 2006, Raj Kumar Dash, http://www.itsmybizniz.com/
Recently, I wrote about voice over work as an unusual way to earn online. That post is fairly general but it referred to Voice123.com, one of many sites that act as a portal for voice over talent and talent seekers. After that post, Stephanie from Voices.com let me know about that portal. So I signed up for a guest account and am giving you a quick synopsis. I’ll do it as a comparison to Voice123.
Voices.com recently changed their from interactivevoices (or was that voicesinteractive) and has been doing a marketing push. But despite the fact that Voices.com and Voice123.com are both voice over talent portals, they are quite different in approach. I don’t want you to think that I’m favouring one over the other because I’m a (guest) member of both, but while I like Voice123.com, I really like voices.com. I haven’t paid for membership on either site yet, but I’m probably going to sign up for Preferred membership, at US$99/year. There’s also the Premium membership at Voices.com, which is $199/yr. Voice123.com only has a free “guest” membership and a US$199/yr membership.
For both sites, guest members can look for work and be contacted by talent seekers (anonymously). But guest will be unable to contact seekers. For that you pay a membership fee. Neither site represents talent on a commission basis. As I understand it, laws stipulate that an agency choose either a commission structure or amembership structure.
Voice123.com sends job postings via email to all members (guest included) on a frequent basis. I get up to 20 job postings in a single day. I can turn them off but don’t want to. All enticements I guess, as I actually ran out during a thunderstorm mid-week to buy a mini-studio setup (M-audio’s Fast Track USB unit and a Behringer starter microphone. More about setting up a studio in a future post.), in anticipation of creating several demo readings. But as I cannot apply to jobs for either site, I’ll have to spend the time doing demos and promoting myself on my Sound Alchemy Online website (no promo there yet).
Voices.com on the other hand has only sent a single email with a few jobs listed. I’m not sure why that is. Still, this site offers several very inexpensive e-book resources, including a collection of sample scripts for your demos and a 150 page guide to voice over success. They’re only US$9.95 each, and you can also pay with Paypal (without a credit card-backed account, which I really like). Oddly, these resources are extremely hard to find from the home page. I had a hard time going back to find them. But they’re more than worth the $9.95 each, and I’m in the process of reading them. As for Voice123.com, I don’t know if they offer similar ebooks, but I didn’t see any.
Both sites have a blog, which keep you up to date on new job postings, industry news, and all sorts of tips for your success. I’ve subscribed to both (Vox Daily, Voice123 Blog) using Bloglines (an RSS/ Atom web/news feed aggregator) and plan to start reading them regularly. One bit of advice to Voice123: show a larger excerpt of each blog post on the blog home page. You’ll improve your readership of those who do not use Bloglines or similar subscription tools. By contrast, Vox Daily has more posts and far more tips for your success in voice over work.
Conclusion: I’m going to fence-sit on this, but if I was forced to choose a paid membership, I’d pick Voices.com’s Preferred membership for US$99/year. Still, if you are interested in this kind of work here is my suggestion, in stepwise form:
- (1) Sign up for guest memberships on both sites.
- (2) Write up a profile for yourself, using the instructions given. You can look at mine as guidelines: Voices.com, Voice123.com. They are almost identical, and there’s nothing wrong with that. (I’m also going to be writing about voice over work, etc., at Sound Alchemy Online, as a way to promote my skills outside of either portal. If you are serious, I suggest you do something similar.)
- (3) Use job search feature (or email alert feature) to browse the kind of jobs there are. If you find a lot of work that interests you, consider getting a membership. Remember that there is competition for certain types of work, and the more unusual voices you can do, the less competition you’ll have. (My friend John, for example, can do pretty darn good Liverpudlian accents a la John Lennon and the Beatles.)
- (4) If you are pretty serious about doing voice over work as a supplement to your income, and seriously think you’ll get enough work, consider putting together a small recording studio. You really don’t have to spend a lot (<$200), and your profit margin will be higher than if you had to go to a studio each time you bagged a gig. I’ll tak about the basics of a voice over studio in a near future post over at my Sound Alchemy site, and will have a link from somewhere on this site.
- (5) Whether or not you buy some audio gear, you should come up with several demos. While their quality doesn’t have to be equal to a finished piece, if your dogs are talking trash to your kids in the background, don’t even bother posting that demo. On the other hand, if you have a talking dog, maybe s/he can get voice over work themself.
I don’t want this website to end up being only about voice over work, so henceforth, such discussions will be over at Sound Alchemy Online. Keep an eye out over there.
To those of you that design online affiliate programs and make up the acceptance rules: get a clue! Read Wired Magazine Editor Chris Anderson’s The Long Tail (the website and the book). The 80/20 rule of business does not necessarily apply to online business. That means that if you reject every small site like mine, you miss out on a substantial amount of potential customers. Small-volume sites tend to be more targeted on a topic. That’s why they have less volume.
But that also means that if they direct web traffic your way, those visitors are more likely to buy something from you. And if you, say, reject 1000 small websites but accept one big one, well all I can say is that you are losing out on potentially significant revenues. For example, if each rejected site had been accepted and only sent you ONE person each month who purchased something, you’ve lost out on 1000 sales per month. Don’t tell me that you can afford to lose out on those sales.
This is not the print world, and you should consider revising your acceptance rules.
The answer to this question ranges from “next to nothing” to a few thousand dollars, depending on what sort of onliene business you’ll be running. Apparently, you can start up as an online retailer for as little as $3,000, and run it during the evening. But if you are going to keep your day job, I’d suggest having a family member or three help out with the operation, maybe on weekends. You also have to decide where to focus your effort for an online business.
I know people who buy bulk quantities of quality items and sell them on eBay for as much as $20-100 profit per unit. One guy was grossing about a million per year in good years. But in bad years like 2002-3, he was only pulling in $200,000, most of which went to stock, packaging, shipping, and personnel.
Other types of online business require more of an investment of your time rather than capital. An example would be running a website that has article which talk about affiliate products. You might want to at least buy and try some of the products and services you are recommending, else your credibility is gone if the product stinks. But otherwise, you don’t have to invest a lot. You do need to write a lot, but offer content (articles, video tutorials, etc.) that is valuable to the people whom you want as potential customers. And that’s not always easy.
Then there are the websites which sell information. Maybe you’ve written a cookbook and want to sell it online in PDF format. Setting up a Paypal merchant account is free, and they only charge a small transaction free and percentage (depending on whether you want to allow credit card payments). It takes a bit of web savvy, but you can install the payment button on your website and configure things so that your e-book is downloadable to the customer once they’ve paid. You don’t need a commercial online “shopping cart”, but if you plan to add more products later, you might want to use one anyways. (More about shopping carts in the future.)
However, no one is going to visit your website just because you’re selling your cookbook there. In fact, except for your friends and family, people won’t even know your site exists. Not right away. Which is why you’ll need to either do a lot of advertising online, which costs money, or write articles for the site. Regular, quality articles build up your rankings in the search engines, making it easier to be found (eventually). The articles should, in this case, obviously be about food and cooking, maybe even food-related TV shows, health, etc. And they should somehow tie into your book. You might even give away an excerpt e-book of 8-16 pages, which contain a sampling of your recipes. If you’re promoting your recipes, you should also have recipes on the website.
That’s just one example of how you can run an online business. What you actually do should be based on your interests and your time commitment. If you don’t have a lot of capital but have lots of time, try writing to draw web traffic, and hopefully sales and/or advertising revenue. If you have capital but little time, try drop-shipping products, running online ads at other sites using some ad network such as Google AdWords, and hiring someone to write for you (or going to an article bank). Because either way, you’re going to need fresh, regular articles on your website.
If you have both capital and time, well aren’t you lucky!! You have some choice about what you want to do online. Maybe you want to start building your online publishing empire. Start a site, build it up, and once it is pulling in some revenue, move on to another project.
As per usual, instead of getting too verbose in a single article, I’ll expand on concepts in future articles. You are welcome to ask questions via the comments section. I’ll do my best to answer them as soon as possible. And if I don’t know the answer, I’ll at least try to point you in the right direction.
While Aaron Wall’s SEO Book site is more technical than maybe some of the intended readers of this site would seek, Aaron has some amazingly revealing information on a post about whether to build his own sites or selling his consulting services. I’ve had a similar experience as Aaron, in that most clients never want to pay you what you think you’re worth. Sometimes it’s better applying your knowledge to your own work and profiting from that than trying to convince a client that you are worth every dollar of your quote.
If you have one or more skills which you can talk authoritatively about (but not condescendingly), then Aaron has an example scenario that should make all of you budding online publishers salivate. He talks about building “2 legitimate 12-page sites a week” that each eventually bring in $200/month in some form of revenue. Now think about that. He’s an expert, and a successful interpreneur/ online publisher, and he’s giving you a valuable clue. You don’t need to have a site with hundreds of pages if you can build a small one with useful, real articles about a focused topic.
I’m not saying it’ll be easy, but if you can research a topic and write about it coherently, 12 pages is less effort than hundreds. Maybe you need to start with two such sites per month instead of per week. Can you do that? If you’re still holding on to a full-time job, you don’t want to wear yourself out trying to do too many things.
So start small, build a site up, and move on. What type of site? Well that’ll by part of your research. I won’t tell you what to do; you’ll have to decide. But here are 10 tools for online research. The article I’ve linked to is aimed at people doing distance or online education, but the tools discussed there still apply. Take particular note of one tool, Google Trends.
I’ll leave you with one piece of advice, if you are building a site related to a skill you have, or a product you are selling. (This is in comparison to sites that give away pure information and display advertising as the only way of monetizing the site. For example, the site you are reading now.)
To promote your skills/ products for sale, you need to promote your website, either through advertising or fresh, regular articles that relate to your site’s main topics, or both. You could try blogging, but you don’t necessarily need to write everyday. If you are promoting, say, your voice over skills, then you need to write articles related to that kind of work. However, what are you going to write about? Taking care of your throat? A potential client wouldn’t care about that. But someone who wants to get started in voice overs would. So one possible course for your site is to use the keywords that would attract both clients and future peers.
In this particular extreme example, because potential clients for voice over work could come from any industry, you can only talk about the common theme: voice over work and anything related to it. However, by writing about voice over work from your perspective as an available talent, if you use the right terminology, clients and agents will find you through the search engines.
If you’re learning about the industry as you go, no problem. Document what you learn about, say, finding clients, signing contracts, getting residuals, etc. This will draw in readers and build up your site’s ranking, which in turn will eventually draw in clients. And for those few clients that do hire you because they see on your website how much you know about the industry (and because of the free, downloadable demos you have), the ROI (Return On Investment) in time and effort will eventually pay off.
You may have a thousand visitors to your website before you get a client. But if you get one client out of every thousand visitors who gives you a contract worth $500, then the ROI is $0.50 per person. Doesn’t sound like a lot, but sometimes that’s more than you’ll make per visitor from a pure information website.
So before you begin building a site, ask yourself who is going to be the primary reader, how you expect to monetize the site, and where the revenue will actually come from. Most online businesses that fail did not address these problems.
Voice overs have always been one of those hidden markets that only a few people know about, care about, or are even suitable for. But if you nuture your voice as an instrument, take care of it, and are reliable, the radio and TV voiceover market can be lucrative.
Often, you don’t even need to go to a big city to get some work, as small cities and towns often need people for the odd local radio or TV commercial. You can’t make a living locally, for the most part. You’d need to be in a larger market to do that.
Well, what’s a larger market than the Internet? Voice123 is looking for voice over talent. This is the first I’ve come across an agency that looks for voiceover talent online, and offers clients the chance to listen to demos online as well. Signing up is free, and a number of features comes with that, including your own Voice123 website and notifications of qualified projects. Payment is made through Paypal directly to you. There are some additional features, some of which might require a fee. They include being listed on Voice123’s Voice Talent Feature, and being able to have a Paypal button right on your profile.
The Standard subscription is free; the Premium subscription is US$195/yr. The latter gives you the ability to audition using their “state-of-the-art voice auditioning system, Voice123″. Basically, whenever a talent seeker needs voice talent, the system finds the most qualified talent (provided you’re registered and have set up a profile), and automatically invites them to audition.
Because there is no way to record a demo to the Voice123 system directly, via your microphone and VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) software or from a regular phone, you have to have a few basic pieces of audio software to record yourself. You should be able rip a CD or DVD from the software as well.
Fortunately, Audacity is of incredibly high quality and is free, and rumoured to have been written by professionals in the industry. I wrote about Audacity, and what equipment you need for recording, over on my Sound Alchemy Online website. However, that article has a lot of extraneous text. Instead, I’ll try to write a revised version for this website, in a sort of tutorial, some time in the future. For now, suffice it to say that you should get Audacity, or a recording industry standard like Soundforge (free trials), which is now owned by Sony. Soundforge also lets you synch music/ voice with video and standard frame rates. So if you are planning on doing voice over work for TV commercials, it’s the type of software you’ll want.
The odd thing about accomplishing successful business-related actions is that often you end up without the time to do some of the things you love. As such, it’s been quite some time since I wrote anything on this weblog. I’m happy to say that my positive thinking, goal setting, and my systematic efforts have brought me enough online writing contracts than I’m making close to double what I was in my part-time job. Which means that I’ve now been exclusively working from home, for the first time in my life.
I couldn’t be happier about it, but it’s amazing how exponentially the workload accumulates. Contract after contract has come my way, after a four-year drought. I’m still nowhere near my earning power, but now I get to work from home, stay away from traffic jams and office politics, high gasoline rates, road rage, and stress. I spend time with the dogs, cats and birds, step out into the backyard, which borders a small nature preserve, or walk up to the nearest mall in about 20 minutes.
As I said, I couldn’t be happier. Well, I could. My own websites are being even more neglected than before, and thus still earning very little. However, indicators are that if I can write quality content to at least a few of my more trafficked websites, I could eventually earn a modest living from my online writing.
As part of my renewed effort, I’ve been reviewing what I want to write about on this website. My conclusion is that the general intent will stay the same: tips and suggestions about running an online business. However, a few things have changed since I last posted:
- As mentioned above, I stopped working outside the home and now make my entire living from online efforts - primarily writing for other people, and a trickle from advertising revenue on my own websites/ weblogs.
- I’ve made a great deal of contacts, many of whom are earning a living online, and from whom I’m learning quite a bit about the potential.
- A number of friends and acquaintances have found themselves either losing their jobs or unfulfilled in their jobs late in their life. They are scared to quit and don’t often know what they want to do next. Others are about to retire, but don’t have enough money saved in their bank accounts and are unsure if they’ll be able to maintain their standard of living.
It’s for these people that I am focusing my efforts on this website. That means that while the future articles here will be valid for anyone wanting to learn about online opportunities for part- or full-time careers, the case studies I’ll be focusing on will tend to lean towards people in their forties and up. I hope that this doesn’t scare off people under forty, because one day you are going to be older, and it seems like there are no safe jobs anymore. Even if you are years away from going into an online business for yourself, reading about your options will make you better prepared than your peers, giving you the advantage of at least having confidence and theory, if not actual online business experience.
One final note. I’ve submitted a weblog proposal much like what I’ve described above to a very popular weblog network. I’m not going to reveal that info here because I don’t want to jinx things. But if I do get in, it’s possible that this site will undergo a rapid change, visually and in terms of amount of content. It’s also possible that if I do get accepted, a new site and domain name (URL) will be setup.
If I don’t get accepted, I’ll continue here with a renewed effort. Either way, content will include: articles about tools and software necessary for various online busineses; various ways to earn money online; specific case studies; interviews; steps for setting up your own websites, weblogs, and e-commerce sites; summaries of articles from other websites; and whatever else I can come up with that relates to running a business online, or supplementing your bricks-and-mortar business with a website.
I hope you’ll check back soon for regular content. I will be trying a couple of page designs out, whether or not I get accepted into the weblog network, so you may see frequent visual changes. for a while, until I settle on something. Feel free to ask questions pertaining to using the Internet to earn or supplement your living, as that was my original intent with this website.
This post is really just a followup to What Computers Do I Need? Obviously, you have a choice between desktop and laptop. Desktop computers give you more power and disk storage for the buck. You also tend to get better sound out a desktop.
In fact, my experience with two brand new computers, one a high-end laptop and the other a high-end desktop, is that if you plan to do podcasting, vodcasting, or screencasting, especially with a webcam, you want lots of memory and as much speed as you can get. But given the type of reader that I am expecting for this site, it’s probably unlikely that any of you plan to do any of this, at least initially.
Thus, you are more likely to want to a laptop, as it affords you tons of mobility. And with the prices dropping, you can get a reasonably nice laptop with a 15″ screen (or larger) for about Cdn$700 - probably $499 in the USA. Always shop around. Don’t buy the first computer you see just because it’s on sale. Here’s what I recommend. Come up with a list of features and make a grid. Then a visit a few stores. Show the snotty-nosed clerk your list, and not matter how insistent they are that you’d prefer this special, stick to your guns and say that you want an approximate quote on your features. If you get extra, no problem.
When you’ve filled out your grid with at least 4-5 stores, then you can decide where to buy. Factor in distance; if something goes wrong, do you want to drive it over, or paying crazy prices for shipping? Are the sales staff friendly and helpful? Is the warranty reasonable? Are you allowed to open the case to install new cards, etc.?
Here is a suggested list of features for business owners who expect to be mobile and want a laptop that can be used on the go. (Keep in mind that if you read this a few years after it’s written, the list may be outdated or even useless. I’ll try to update it.) All measurements are minimums, and are just recommendations.
- 15″ screen
- 60 Gb (Gigabyte) hard drive, possibly offered as two physical drives of 30 Gb each.
- DVD reader/ writer that also plays/ writes CDs. There are a lot of different types of DVD media. I don’t think you have to worry too much about them. Just make sure that you can read AND write DVDs and CDs. Speed is an issue, and new drives come out so often it’s hard to keep track of what’s current. I have an ancient external CD reader/ writer drive that reads a 2x (two times speed) and write at 1x. That means that if was burning a music CD of 60 minutes in length, it would take that long to burn it. (That doesn’t include testing the CD media, which also would take 60 minutes.) My newer CD/ DVD drives are many times faster. So a 60 minute CD would only takes a few minutes.
- 256 Mb (Megabytes) of RAM. This is the least you should get these days, if you plan to work with a variety of software applications simultaneously. If you can afford 512 Mb, get it. If not, just make sure that your laptop lets you add more memory later. Some of the lower end machines don’t allow this.
- Wi-Fi card, either built-in or added later using a PCMCIA card. This lets you connect to any wireless network that you are near (usually within 250 ft) that you have access to (secure/ unsecure). If one of the computers in the network is connected to the Internet, your laptop will be able to connect as well.
- Network card, in case you have other computers that you want to connect using cabling. Or you can setup a wireless network.
- Soundcard and builtin speakers, with headphone jack.
- At least two USB (Universal Serial Bus) ports.
- At least one PCMCIA slot. (Although who knows if these will be phased out in a few years.)
- A dialup modem card, with phone jack, to connect to your phone, in case you do not have high-speed Internet access.
- Either or both of a built-in mini-microphone or a microphone jack (1/8″).
- Basic software: wordprocessing, spreadsheet. Many laptop packages that use a Microsoft operating system (such as Win XP) include either Microsoft Office home edition or Corel WordPerfect and related programs. Some cheaper packages include an “economy” Microsoft spreadsheet which isn’t nearly as good as Excel. If your laptop does not include any of these, you can get the free OpenOffice package, which runs on a variety of operating systems. So if you opt for an Apple Mac laptop instead, you should be able to use OpenOffice as well.
- Web browser. These come pretty standard, but they are usually Microsoft’s IE (Internet Explorer). I personally prefer Firefox, which lets you add all kinds of free plugins, and support new web technologies much better than IE, hands down. Firefox, or its cousin Mozilla, just give you a better web browsing experience (at the time of this writing), because Microsoft still refuses to follow Internet standards. If you visit the Mozilla downloads page, you can also find versions that will run on Apple Mac OS X or Linux laptops.
- Firewire port. Firewire is much faster than USB, and is suitable for extra external hard drives that you might use for backing up valuable data.
- Bluetooth connectivity. This is yet another form of wireless networking technology that is more popular in Europe and Asia than in North America. However, more and more smartphones and cellular-enabled PDAs have Bluetooth included. As I mentioned in part 1, if you have Bluetooth on both a PDA and a laptop, you can pretty much access the Internet anywhere within your cellular provider’s “Wi-Fi cellular” coverage area. (This may be different than the cell phone coverage area.) The Bluetooth connection lets your laptop access the Internet through the PDA.
- Infrared connectivity. This is one more wireless networking technology. With IR, you can wirelessly transmit files between your PDA and laptop (or desktop), or even between two PDAs or two laptops, etc.
I have not mentioned computer speed, as this changes rapidly. Several of the new breed of laptops are designed to be environmentally friendly and work on lower energy levels than their predecessors. As a result, the “clock speed” is specified as half of its actual value. For example, my Acer TravelMate is specified as 1.6 Ghz (Gigahertz - 1,000,000,000 cycles per second). But it is in fact a 3.2 Ghz computer, comparable to my 3.4 Ghz desktop computer.
I may have missed something here, so if you have any questions, please do ask.
Wayne, a young businessman near Toronto, Canada, asked what kind of computing power he might need for his business. Wayne runs an online grocery business with a very real bricks-and-mortar warehouse. Because of draftiness in the warehouse office in the winter, he moved his computer back to his home office, where he only has dialup access to the Internet. In the warehouse, he has no access to the Internet.
Wayne’s business setup is as follows. He has a webmaster maintain his site. People can order groceries from him via email or the website. He gets numerous emails daily, but since he works out of the warehouse, he cannot access the emails until he gets home at the end of the business day. On Fridays, his suppliers email bulk price updates, and he has to update his website immediately to reflect the changes. This is a tedious task that simply must be done, but he would like to do it as soon as possible. I.e., while he is still at the warehouse office on Fridays, instead of having to wait until he’s home.
Wayne also mentioned that, on occasion, he might go up to the cottage and want to bring along a computer so that he can access emails and possibly do a bit of work. While I suggested a variety of computing and communication setups to Wayne, I am repeating my suggestions here for the benefit of other business people who find themselves in similar situations.
Given the nature of Wayne’s business setup and the fact that he’s quite mobile, he has a couple of choices for computing power:
- Insulate the warehouse office and have an Internet connection installed. This might be costly, as a business would pay more for the Internet than a private citizen at home. Also, Wayne would no longer have a computer at home.
- Purchase only a smartphone or PDA. He already has a computer at home, so if he just wants to access emails throughout the day, he could go for a PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) such as a Palm Treo or a RIM Blackberry, or even one of the newer breed of smart mobile (cell) phones. The PDA selected must have some way to connect to the Internet. (Older PDAs did not even have cellular connections.) These PDAs and smartphones come with a variety of software, and custom applications can be added to some devices. The plus is that he also has a cell phone, possibly with text messaging. The drawback is that Wayne has a great deal of data to enter every Friday. From what he’s told me, that probably rules out using a PDA, as they’re not suitable for entering large volumes of data. In fact, doing so may cause MTS (Meta-carpal Tunnel Syndrome) in your hands.
- Purchase a PDA and have a custom software application built. This application would run on Wayne’s home computer, scan incoming emails from suppliers, summarize price changes, then automatically update his website. The drawback here is that it is doubtful his suppliers will conform to a single format for the emails, and thus writing a program to scan and summarize may be expensive, if not fruitless. If Wayne can convince all or most suppliers to adhere, then this might be the best solution, as it will save him from having to manually update his website each week, freeing up his time for other tasks.
- Purchase only a “mobile-enabled” laptop. The newer mobility laptops usually have a variety of ways to talk to other computers. So Wayne could use this laptop at the warehouse and offsite, then connect to a private local network at home to offload data for backup to his home computer. If he is at a cafe or somewhere that has a publicly-accessible Wi-Fi network with a connection to the Internet. The drawback to this solution is that he has no connection to the Internet at work, nor at the cottage, so he still would not be able to retrieve emails at those locations.
- Purchase a laptop with a long-range Wi-Fi networking card. These cards are hard to find, but if you can, they will often reach up to 10 km (about 6 miles). In Wayne’s case, if he sets up a Wi-Fi network on his home computer (which is connected to the Internet on dialup), and if he is within range, he can retrieve emails on the laptop, or update prices on the website. This still rules out retrieving emails at the cottage, which is more than 10 km away. (Experimental Wi-Fi antennas claim distances of up to 100 km or more, but these are not available to the public, and often make your cellular Wi-Fi providers froth at the mouth, since you won’t need them for mobility.
- Purchase a Bluetooth-enabled PDA and a Bluetooth-enabled laptop. Bluetooth is yet another connection technology with its own pros and cons. However, a PDA such as the Palm Treo can let a laptop or desktop computer connect to the Internet through a Bluetooth connection. (There are other connection options, but they are slower.) Most cellular providers have an “unlimited” monthly plan for Internet access. Most of them call it Wi-Fi, but note that Wi-Fi does not necessarily imply access to the Internet, except in the case of smartphone plans. Also, “unlimited” does not always mean unlimited, as I found out with my plan. Finally, note that not all mobility laptops have Bluetooth installed. The necessary software is typically part of most modern operating systems. So all you have to do is buy a Bluetooth card that either installs into one of the laptop’s USB (Universal Serial Bus) ports, or into the PCMCIA card slot (ask your sales rep). The primary drawback is that you might find yourself easily exceeding your monthly Internet bandwidth and paying exorbitant “excess” fees.
- Purchase a laptop with a cellular Wi-Fi card. This solution is similar to the previous one. A cellular Wi-Fi card is a PCMCIA card that contains the necessary circuitry to connect your laptop to the Internet, provided you are within a suitable coverage area. While these cards are set up with their own phone number, you will not have the benefit of having an actual cell phone, and you will have to pay whatever monthly Internet “cellular Wi-Fi” rate that your cellular provider asks. (High-speed home access to the Internet typically gives you a higher access speed and more monthly bandwidth for less money.)
There are other solutions, but they are primarily a variation of those above. Which solution is best for Wayne’s situation? Well, assuming that he does not want to install Internet access at work, and wants to access email from the cottage, options 6 or 7 above are probably the best for him. Many cellular providers are nearly giving away PDAs right now if you sign up for a 3-year coverage plan. You can upgrade to a smartphone from your current cell phone for little to no equipment cost, but your monthly bill will increase. If you choose option 7 but still need a phone, you will be paying for two plans. I’d say that Wayne could justify option 6, since he told me that his phone plan has to be upgraded soon anyway. The time he would save overall would be worth the extra monthly costs.
This is the first of a loose series of case studies. If you have questions about how computers or related technology can help your business, your questions are welcome. I will try to answer questions in a timely fashion.
As an aspiring online publisher, you should be aware of the two primary types of websites that are common on the Internet. The first is the classic website, with the standard writing that is usually done by the PR/ Marketing department (at least for large companies). Such websites are often static in content. That is, new articles/ web pages are not added frequently.
The second type of website, which is especially popular right now, is alternately known as a weblog, blog, online journal, or even diary. Content is expected - by readers - to be added very frequently, even daily or multiple times daily. Such weblogs are collectively known on the Internet as the blogosphere. Bloggers are sometimes professional writers/ copywriters, but more often not.
Which type of website you publish depends on your business needs. While weblogs appear to have an advantage in search engines right now, a well-planned website with lots of content can still do well. While weblogs are typically written in a very one-on-one writing style and help build credibility with readers, that credibility can be lost if the weblog cannot be updated with fresh content not only a regular basis but on an ongoing basis.
If your time is limited and/or you don’t fancy being forced into a writing schedule, a weblog is probably not for you. On the other hand, if you have a couple of employees with good writing skills working for you, and you can justify them spending time writing to promote your business, then you may want to consider it.
In the near future, I’ll be running a series of instructional articles that will discuss “how to blog”. Each article in the series will be geared to a specific type of business, discipline or entrepreneur. In the meantime, if you have any questions, please feel free to drop a comment and I’ll do my best to respond in a timely fashion.
(c) Copyright 2006-present, Raj Kumar Dash, http://itsmybizniz.com/
The short answer to the title question is, of course, no. No business absolutely needs a website. The mom and pop corner store certainly doesn’t need one. Unless they’re selling something that distinguishes them from all the other mom and pop shops. The local pub doesn’t need one. Unless they’ve decided to allow locals to order food online.
Generally speaking, no business absolutely has to have to a website. Although, if you want to expand your customer base and make it as widely geographically-based as possible, having a website is probably the right thing to do. But just creating a website does not guarantee that anyone will visit. I’m surprised at the number of friends and clients that tell me, “Well, I built a website but I don’t seem to be getting any traffic.”
The fact is, unless you are offering something on your website that someone else wants, you’ll probably never have any traffic. So the question is, what is it that you have, that you can offer? Selling your products is not enough. What do you sell? Who are your products for? Why would they use them?
If you can answer some of these questions, in the form of articles, then you have the basic requisite condition needed to eventually gain web traffic. It’s your expertise about one or more topics that is valuable. You can give objects away or charge for them, but knowledge is priceless. Giving away knowledge is a key step in building your website into a resource that someone will turn to. This does not mean that you cannot also sell information, but you have to give something to get something.
So ask yourself: what am I planning to sell on the Internet? Can I write intelligently about related topics? Do I have enough expertise to not only give away information but maybe even to sell information? Do I want to be writing articles? Can I afford to hire someone else to write these articles?
It’s arguable, but I’m guessing that the most lucrative websites on the Internet are probably selling nothing more than information. Information is the currency of the Internet. If you have information you can share or sell on the Internet, you might want to consider a website. If you in-demand products that you think you can sell online, you might want to consider a website.
If you plan to have a website, but are just getting started with an online business, then this website articles will guide you in the process.