A few years back the business model of creating hundreds of very small, deeply niched, mini-sites was a very popular idea. Marketers spent a lot of time and money on these small, quickly developed sites selling mostly affiliate products and Adsense advertising.
The concept was simple, could be implemented fairly easily, and didn’t seem to require a lot of marketing experience.
So, this type of question often comes my way . . .
I want to have multiple streams of income and not put all my eggs in one basket. Shouldn’t I create 100 small sites in different niches to protect my income?
The logic of the concept and set up is that if each site only brings in, say, an average of $2 a day, the sum total of all the earnings is over $70,000/year. If you want more income, you simply add more mini-sites to your network of little money-makers!
To a lot of folks that sounds like a safe, fairly easy, and sound way to proceed.
But my own feelings on this approach are pretty definite. I prefer the “gorilla” sites – the big authority sites and portals. The ones that are seen as the authority or ahub of the niche in that marketplace. Here’s my reasoning:
I tend to sit in the camp that says to focus on the quality of your one main site and products as that’s what really sells. Quantity of Internet properties doesn’t guarantee anything except a lot of work to maintain each and every site.
What good are lots of sites that gather dust and make few, if any sales at all? They cost you in time, money (maintaining domain registrations, hosting) and patience in keeping them going.
Others have said not to put all your eggs in one basket and that you need multiple streams of income.
Yes, I agree to a point, but here’s the thing …
You can have multiple streams of income and not put all your eggs in one basket even though you have one central business site.
Your focus just has to be on building or licensing (or having others create for you) multiple backend products and/or services. That’s where having some quantity can protect your income from shutting down when a product becomes outdated or sales dwindle for some other reason.
When you think about the tasks that most people would agree you need to accomplish with your website like adding content, building a relationship with customers, sending out emails to nurture your subscriber list, doing SEO (onsite and off), getting back links, advertising, forum posting, creating multiple back ends, handling customer service, etc, etc, etc … it makes the choice even easier … 1 site or 100?
How can you really accomplish all these important tasks if you have 100 sites? And believe it or not, some addicts have 1,000 tiny sites making a few cents each per day. About the only answer is to outsource it and pay others to help you. Ratcheting up your business in this manner brings with it a whole lot of other issues.
You have to remember that sales and income are the result of marketing. If you spend an inordinate amount of time on “building” sites and products for various and sundry niches your sales will generally reflect that fact. You can not simply throw up a site, grab a few back links, and expect it to run on auto-pilot and make a consistent income with no further attention from you, the site owner.
Besides, there is evidence that Google and other search engines now are penalizing these “thin” sites and not sending them traffic that maybe they did once upon a time (a few years ago). The search engines are interested in a relevant user experience at a web site they recommend (serve to the user) and the end user experience at these tiny mini-sites is not typically very good.
Just remember that there are a thousand ways a business owner can spend his/her time working on an Internet business. But many of the tasks necessary to keep web sites maintained don’t bring in revenue. The real key to success is the actual task of selling.
Focus on marketing and selling … putting offers in front of targeted customers.
To your online business success!
Freelance Writing as a Career Online
Like every other freelance skill I can think of, profitable writing for the Internet is largely market driven. The consumers of the product ultimately determine what, how much, and the price they will pay for their purchase.
Since the Internet provides access to global markets, and global freelancers, some have complained that they can’t compete against authors in far away places willing to sell their time and work for pennies on the dollar (U.S.). How does an author in the U.S., for instance, make a living writing articles when the going rate online seems to be so depressed?
If no one looking for articles, for example, would pay $5/500 words the price of articles would climb. But there are freelancers that will work “for cheap” and consumers that will pay dirt cheap prices for that work thinking it’s a real bargain … so that market segment exists.
In my opinion, here’s the key for freelance writers: don’t try to compete in that bottom dollar market.
Open your mind to the possibilities of using your writing skills in other ways. Too many writers (many of them newbies) assume that article writing is the only outlet for their work. But it’s not – not by a long shot!
Here are some other ideas for you writers:
1- Use your writing skill to produce your own reports, ebooks, lead magnets, sales letters, whitepapers, how-to guides, freemiums, etc.
Focus your list building on business owners and entrepreneurs, especially targeting a niche or two where you have some current knowledge and experience. Offer the complete finished product (ideally including graphics) and include branding with the business owner’s private logo, contact info, web site link, etc. Sell the finished products “ready to go” so the owner can use it right out of the gate with possibly only very minor changes needed. Charge custom prices for your custom work.
2- Your skill could be used in selling “hot sheets.”
I’m specifically thinking about the entertainment industry, gaming industry, dating industry, etc, but hot sheets can be appropriate for many markets. Subscribe to several hot niche magazines (like People Mag, for one) then focus on “putting your own take” on what you read. Don’t copy or rehash. Be a commentator and produce a weekly or monthly “hot industry news” kind of writing in your chosen niche. Build your list of people that can’t wait to hear from you. If you had 1,000 faithful subscribers that devoured everything you published on a weekly or bi-weekly basis at $2 a pop, you would be happy, right? What if you had 10,000 addicts? Or half a dozen specific niches you covered?
3- Write your own serials, novelettes, novels, plays, short stories, magazine articles.
If you’re good, this road could lead to some major income. I think the key would be to find the genre that appeals to you and for which you could find avid readers. Think about selling “serials” where readers get caught up in wanting to know what happens next with your characters. The same type of content can be written in the non-fiction space as well. The key here is to niche down deeply into the vertical market and specialize. Become the “go to” author for that specialization where avid fans dwell, build your subscriber list, and then feed the hungry audience over and over again with paid content (maybe) giving a nice discount for “valued paying customers” on your list.
4- Do technical writing if you can learn that skill.
There is a great and on-going need for manuals, instructions, how-to booklets, product guides, etc in technical fields. Those who already “speak the language” should focus on areas of their own expertise. Even those without experience could sell their writing in less technical subjects after researching the various appropriate topics online.
5- Write to create your own products.
Every “how to” niche is ripe for product creation where you explain something that needs doing to those who want advice, hand holding, or reassurance that they’re doing something correctly. The sky’s the limit on this one. There are e-books, e-courses, tutorials, reports, PLR content, and lots of other sellable products in every niche from which you can derive a nice income.
6- Instructions to business owners.
I almost hesitate to mention this one simply because it is so powerful if you grasp the idea. The market is online solo and small business owners. The idea is to write short yet authoritative instructions about various tasks that business owners have to do but don’t know how to do, don’t want to do, don’t have time to do, or at least would like to learn how to do better, faster, and cheaper. Think business execution steps of instruction. Let’s face it … more and more everyday people are coming online with ideas to make money. Many fail, of course, but there is a constant need to have a mentor or guide that can help these entrepreneurs to understand and execute specific online business tasks that have to be done. Many of these people know nothing about running a business online. You could be the one that authors the steps to daily online business execution for them.
There are so many things you could write about: getting customers, nurturing customers, promoting services, building or maintaining a web site, doing business taxes, dealing with angry customers, keeping employees happy, outsourcing billing, setting up merchant accounts, email marketing and list building, SEO for their web site and on and on and on. But here’s where you can make your writing very valuable.
For each set of instructions you write, make it specific to one type of business (their business) and one market (whatever their niche might be); for example, “How to promote your dental service online.” Be very specific. Then with just a little bit of “tweaking” you can change your report to “How to promote your bookkeeping service online,” or “How to promote your Investing service online.” By being specific you will attract a much larger and hungrier crowd of prospects in your chosen niche because the prospects see you are writing for their exact business. And by leveraging the concept of re-purposing your content, you can create great content once and then simply modify it a little for the niche audience and have a ready-to-go new product targeted for a totally different niche.
7- Blogging, of course!
This is a very powerful and popular way to express yourself through your writing and many people have learned to do it in a way that provides an income for their effort. To be a profitable blogger you must be disciplined and willing to create valuable niche content on a very consistent basis. You must be a good writer and be willing to share your personality and expertise in your posts. In addition, you must figure out how to monetize your blog. There are many, many ways and methods to choose from in order to generate income with blogging and you will have to decide what is best for you and your audience and then master that technique. There are lots of monetization examples online.
OK, this has been a long discussion but I wanted to help you to start thinking about writing as something other than just producing articles.
The field really is wide open and you can make a substantial income if you get creative, differentiate your writing, be specific in your business model, and provide outstanding service consistently as well as high quality, engaging and compelling writing!
A simple word of caution: great writing (that people will buy) is produced by authors that have writing talent. Many don’t. Certainly, anyone can improve their writing skills over time. But if you can’t communicate at all, can’t form a proper sentence, or don’t like to write, please choose a different way to make money online. I’m serious here. The Internet is a virtual dumping ground for poor and worthless content. Don’t add to it!
To your online business success!
How Well Do You Know Your Market?
Way too often I run into frustrated new entrepreneurs that understand very little about the marketplace they plan to enter.
Some may have a written business plan (although this important step is neglected way too often). Some may even have experience in a niche market but have not spent time researching that market in earnest given they want to do business in it. That’s a big mistake.
Part of the problem lies in the simple fact that business owners sometimes feel they are not capable of researching a market. They have never done it before and wouldn’t know where to begin or what to look for in their study.
Others don’t feel any need to delve into the market – they may have some experience in it already and figure “I’m a professional in the market and I know what my prospects and customers want.”
I can honestly tell you that the Internet superhighway is littered with products brought to market that no one wanted! Had market research been done in the first place, most such disasters could have been avoided.
The Internet is such a wonderful tool when it comes to researching a potential market and niche (and by the way, they are not synonymous).
Here are a few questions you can ask (and the answers are there online for you) prior to creating a business, product or web site that will help you to analyze whether your business hopes are realistic.
- Who are my perfect customers? I consider a perfect customer to be one that wants exactly what I have to offer and the ability to pay for it. Remember, you don’t typically create new demand for a product or service. The demand exists in the marketplace already and your charge is to find it and then sell into that existing demand. Yes, some persuasion may be needed in a sales letter … but if the prospect isn’t looking to buy what you are offering (or something very close) … well your conversions will not be good.
- What are the demographics and characteristics of that perfect customer? What is the customer gender, age, skill level for the product, where do they live, what is their education, income level, and past experience in the market? Understanding these things helps you to better target your product to meet the profile of your customer so that you can provide something that gives great benefit, solves existing problems, and is easy to understand and use. If your offering is not a good fit for the customer’s technical or skill level you risk a “one and done” customer buying experience which is never appropriate.
- Where do these perfect customers congregate? As you get into marketing your product or web site, it’s important to laser target your ads and even branding message to be seen by those most interested in what your are offering. You always seek a high ROI (return on investment) for your marketing dollars.
- How many, and what kind of competitors will I have? Understanding the direct competition is critical. It can be a daunting task to break into a market that is filled with heavy hitters who are already established and have a track record of success. It can be done, but most likely you will need a product or service that fills a different and important need in the niche.
- Another reason for understanding the competition is that you need to see what is currently available for your perfect customers. What other choices does your prospect audience have? When you know this, you can better position your business and products to address a unique need or a “gap” in the marketplace where the competition is non-existent or at least not so heavy. A great example is the retail book business. How will you ever compete with Amazon in that space? Local bookstores by the dozens have been put out of business because Amazon has become a consumer favorite in that marketplace. So one must ask the question, “What do my prospects want that they can’t get from Amazon?” Do they want some very deeply focused niche books? Do they want a more personalized buying experience? Do they want a physical place to hang out? Do they want book reviews from experts instead of average consumers? What else can I provide that Amazon (because of its size) can’t?
- Do my customers usually buy this kind of product online? Maybe there are reasons why you shouldn’t try to sell your product on the Internet. Maybe the cost to deliver the product is exorbitant. Maybe the exact product that you would sell is already online and selling well. Maybe the product is conveniently available in local physical locations.
- Is my product timely? Or did I just miss the “hay day” of my product and now the demand is petering out. You don’t want to be chasing fads or trying to sell out-dated information or technology. You want to be on the leading edge of the product wave … not floundering in the back wash.
- Have I incorrectly estimated the size of the market? This mistake can be a business breaker. A market too broad means there is too much competition and it will be difficult to differentiate your business brand and effectively target your customers. A market too small means you might find some saturation – too many competitors for the small amount of potential buying customers. If that’s the case, you can still compete in the market but you must position your business differently. Some suggest that the biggest markets are always the best because if you see there are lots of sellers you know there are lots of customers. I personally don’t buy that logic completely. I would prefer to have a unique product in a very targeted market – it means less competition. Most viable markets are larger than you think since online markets these days reach across the globe.
- Can I get repeat sales within my niche? Most business owners don’t make a living on a single product. You’ll be ahead of the curve if you choose a niche where multiple products can be created and sold to repeat customers. Selling a happy customer on another quality product in the same niche is almost always easier and less costly than finding a brand new customer. Build your business on repeat (back-end) sales.
- When my prospects are looking to buy a product like mine, where do they go? Understanding the places typical niche participants shop is important. It helps the business owner to focus advertising and it opens the door to knowing how best to make an offer that will work. Observe the best competition. Look for the authority sites in your marketplace.
- What are typical customers in the niche willing to spend on a product like mine? Pricing decisions can be very important to a business. I think the best approach is to understand the price points in the niche that are now working and then test and track price points for your own product before you roll it out in a major way. You can always ramp up marketing, but you should only do that after you understand where the best pricing points for your niche rest.
- How much support are my perfect customers going to need? Support requests for a solo business owner can get to be overwhelming. Time is money and if you get an avalanche of support inquiries it’s going to mean a lot of your day is taken in answering phone calls and emails. Many folks are lazy (or lack confidence in their own ability to figure something out) and will pick up the phone to get help even if simple, clear and plain instructions are sent with the product.
- Are my perfect customers candidates for a community? By that I mean, are they the type of people that like to get together and interact? If so, you have a perfect niche for a forum, a subscription or membership site, or even physical or webinar events. People like to meet and interact with like-minded enthusiasts. When I think about this phenomenon, the Harley Davidson brand comes to mind. Folks that buy Harleys seem to want to get together. The product brand is recognized and esteemed. Business owners can create a lot of recurring revenue if they can enhance the brand’s user experience and provide a community platform or infrastructure for their customers.
- Will the market prospects for my product or service also be candidates for another unrelated-niche? If so, a business owner can capitalize on affiliate offers in that other niche. In addition, there are joint ventures and cross-promoting that can generate a lot of new leads and additional revenue. Just as one example, a business owner with a bridal product might decide that brides are often candidates for printers (announcements), photographers (wedding pictures), and soon, baby supplies. All of these businesses could be potential partners in sharing leads, cross-promoted product offerings, and customer back end products.
- Finally, does my market share product or web site information? Certain kinds of businesses attract customers that tend to be social. If this is the case with your product, the use of social media in your marketing can be a huge advantage. Word of mouth advertising is very effective and if your customers have a great experience with your business and share their feelings about it with their friends, you are going to reap nice benefits in your business.
There you have it: fifteen questions to ask and resolve in order to better understand and analyze the potential of your marketplace for your online business. Initial market research is ignored by many entrepreneurs. Before you decide on a product to sell , or a web site to create, or even the business model you’re going to employ, you need to research the marketplace. It makes creating a profitable and lasting business so much easier and legitimate!
To your online business success!
Starting with the End in Mind
Just what do you plan to do with your business when you no longer want to have it? Have you ever considered that there may come a time when you get tired of running an online business on a daily basis?
Circumstances change, as do personal desires, motivations, and needs. There may even come a time when you move on to bigger and better things, or new challenges, or a different kind of business altogether.
If you have a pre-planned exit strategy that can be put into place very quickly, you might just save yourself a lot of work and worry or possibly even earn much more upon the sale or transfer of your business than you might otherwise without a plan.
Starting your business with an exit strategy, even if it isn’t complete or set-in-cement, is wise planning for the future.
My guess is … most entrepreneurs don’t go into solo business with the exit door in mind.
Why would they? Entrepreneurs are focusing on starting and growing a business and the last thing they spend time worrying about is how to get out of their business when they are done with it – for whatever reason.
Simply put, an exit strategy is a game plan of sorts. It’s a thoughtful plan for going out of business.
Why would a business owner want a plan for going out of business?
For some profitable businesses, at least, an exit strategy can include realizing a significant profit above and beyond the revenue that comes from daily operations.
As a solo operator, wouldn’t it be important to “collect” or receive payment on the sale of your business that you had created, grown, nurtured, and monetized over a significant number of years?
Regardless of your desire to build and never sell your business, there may come a time in the future when you want or need to turn this asset into cash.
Even if you hand the business down to children or other relatives, they may not have the same desire you did to run the business. They may not want to spend their lives as you did.
Though you may not hear a lot about exit strategies, buy-outs, and the sale of businesses on the nightly news, they are common place in the business world – especially with smaller businesses.
You see, investors put money into companies in order to realize a return on their participation. Often that return isn’t realized until the company makes significant income or when it is sold and the investors are paid off.
Some call this exit plan in a family business a “plan for succession.”
The succession plan answers the following questions:
1. Who will own the company when it is passed down to heirs at the retirement or death of the current owner?
2. What accounts receivable or investments will accompany the business?
3. What income will be available and where will it come from?
4. What income is expected by the original owner and how will it be taken?
5. Who will be responsible for outstanding debts and accounts payable, the original or new owners?
6. Will the new owners be expected to purchase assets of the original company?
7. What will be the disposition of intellectual property, patents, trademarks and other intangible assets?
In the corporate world, exit plans typically lead to one of the following: (a) a merger with another company, (b) a buyout by one or more of the interested company shareholders, (c) an IPO (initial public offering) where shares of stock in the company are sold to the public and then traded on the exchanges, (d) an outright sale of the company and all its assets and liabilities to another person, a company, or group, or (e) the creation of a franchise where the business is replicated in multiple locations.
The form that the exit strategy takes will depend largely upon the worth of the company at the time of exit, the desire of the original owner as to whether the business stays in the family or not, the potential to identify and cultivate new business buyers from either current investors or the public, and the needs of the original owner for an income stream or lump sum payments.
Thinking about all these questions and variables at the time of business creation is a sound strategy. Some businesses are specifically created with a 3- to 5-year exit strategy window. Serial entrepreneurs are very good at creating, growing, then quickly selling (flipping) a business for fast and maximum profit.
Think about the succession of your business early on . . . it will happen smoothly and more profitably if there is a workable plan in place prior to the time when the owner needs to get out of the business.
To your online business success,
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