I guess I was largely skeptical last summer about whether I could actually make money online. (For the record, like many others I’m still “mildy cautiously skeptical.”) Sure I had a few various blogs, a Google Adsense account going back to 2006, and some varied relevant experience. Google was even carrying a whopping balance for me of $7.36, with some earnings going back five years! At that rate, that would mean I would arrive at their $100 payout threshold in sixty-seven years (67)! Yikes.
It seemed like that internet was a place for pennies, not dollars -- and those people making real money online were exploiting some temporary opportunities, or working some pseudo-pyramid scheme where the last guy to arrive feels like an idiot! But I guess with a FT day job, a part-time service job, and various attempts to supplement my income through investing, trading (stocks and options), and other strategies -- I still felt like I wasn’t completely in control of my financial destiny. As I’ve said before, job security for most of us is an illusion... ask anyone who’s been laid off. Not that I expect downsizing or a pink slip at my work, I’d just rather leave on my terms when the mood strikes (i.e. last Tuesday at 3:25pm was the latest!).
START WRITING ONLINE
So while cruising iTunes in the summer for more personal finance and investing content, I downloaded a Pat Flynn Smart Passive Income podcast (#15, I think). I was hooked on the article writing and content creation idea for revenue-sharing sites like InfoBarrel and HubPages for two main reasons -- no start-up costs, just an investment of time and it would also give me a chance to explore my wide range of interests. He also made the astute point in that podcast that without cost you will learn all about the basics of keyword research, SEO, backlinking, affiliate marketing, and more. And he was right! (You should start with a free InfoBarrel account if you don’t have one.)
NOT EXACTLY INSTANT GRATIFICATION
When I started this -- I realized that I didn’t need a get-rich-quick process, and I would be patient enough to work on this for a while before deciding of it was fruitful. I knew I’d have to make an investment of time - writing, backlinking, keyword-researching, constant learning, and more, to see any return in the future. My simple plan was this -- while I waited for clicks, affiliate sales, and more, I would EARN money online outright through Fiverr gigs, blog writing, etc. I found that while my InfoBarrel and HubPages articles age and begin to earn, I would have also try to have concrete result to show ($$) for some of my time. This has kept me patient! I suggest this strategy to anyone starting out... use Elance, oDesk, Fiverr, Constant Content, or elsewhere to make some money this month while you look at the penny earnings of your long-term article content.
Since this is not an income report, let me just say that I started a spreadsheet to keep close track of all my Google Adsense, Chitika, Amazon and Commission Junction affiliate sales, Hubpages ads, Fiverr gigs, and all other writing earnings to date, and have averaged that number by the number of total days I’ve been at this. What did I find? All my active/passive earnings divided by the total days in this ‘experiment’ (since last summer) averages out to $3.47 per day. (As a running joke, my wife and I now say to each other, “if you found $3.50 in the driveway EVERY DAY, would you pick it up?”) For future comparison sake, $3.47 per day "annualizes" to $1268 per year - no guarantees but that’s my target... That little bit of cash return on my time has made me more patient for the long haul. And it has given me a little money to reinvest... risk free.
ENTER MY NICHE SITE BUG
Somewhere along the way, I started to think that unless you have aged articles over two or three years old, that they real way to make traction was to start niche sites based on your best articles, themes, or interests. Soon enough I was bitten by the niche site bug! The first couple were simply better-designed, better-monetized blogger sites to apply what I had learned, but having better-researched domain names. As I continued to create content for the rev-shares sites and these two blogger niches, I decided I didn’t like the lack of complete control and ownership of the blogger sites. So I got a hosting account, another domain and started a third site... then four, five, and six! Is that too many... we’ll see?
One of these recent niches is a ready-made site that I bought through Warrior Forum that came with design, images, and “non-unique” content. It’s designed as an affiliate revenue “catcher”, but only if it has direct or linked traffic. It won’t really rank in search engines with duplicate content, although I found a decent domain for it. I fixed the affiliate IDs, added adsense, and made a new header image, but my project after the holidays is to rewrite and/or replace the eight (8) articles that came with the site (about 5000 words), and to use 100% unique images. I’ve learned a lot from the purchase already... so the small investment was worth those lessons. I should also move my two blogger “niches” to my hosting account after New Year’s as well to have full control.
WORKS IN PROGRESS
All these niches require regular updating to increase their rankings, and they all feel like a work in progress. So that I have fresh content at Infobarrel and HubPages (less so) on a regular basis -- I feel like I write in a big circle for all these sites. When I finish the “circle”, I start again -- all the while making sure I complete enough content for IB’s increased share monthly. It does seem like internet entrepreneurs who earn a little bit online quickly move to outsourcing everything -- including their niche content. Not that I won’t ever do that, but for now my writing, research, keywords, and overall tone is what shapes these sites at this stage -- it seems too early to add other “voices”.
FLIPPA and BEING A DOMAINER
I like the idea of multiple properties creating a little stream of income, rather than expecting one niche to be wildly successful. But selling one or more of these sites at some point down the road is also a distinct possibility. I’ve been watching and learning over on the site Flippa to understand what works and what doesn’t (at the lower price levels). Obviously successful niches are turn-key businesses, but some people buy a site that is less successful feeling that maybe you, the owner, is executing poorly - and that they can fix it and make money. As an experiment, I have one niche site now (on my hosting account), that I am specifically grooming for a potential sale. I keep adding content and backlinks, and unless it becomes wildly successful for me before I sell it, I will try to get a return on the domain, the content, the images, and the idea -- with a little premium for the ranking, SEO, and backlinking. If it works, I’ll likely write an entire article about the process.
My other NEW territory is domains. I don’t really have a bunch of money to become a domain-er, and I think they don’t always work out -- but I registered a set of 17 domain names that I may not develop into niches, but just later sell as a group. They are all in the same niche and with a low enough bar - it’s either a replacement niche later if I sell one, or just a resell plan. I went with GoDaddy for these because they’re easy to transfer from there to a buyer (but only after 90 days I think!). Well, they need to age a little anyways... I may also sell 16 and keep one to start a niche site! (Told you I have the niche bug!)
THE HARDEST PART and THE BEST PART
The best part of this process is that I always have writing to do! The hardest part of this process is that I always have writing, backlinking, SEO, KW research, and more to do! It’s fun, and so far, rewarding in many ways, and I hope you enjoy your online experiments. I'm glad I started this whole journey here at InfoBarrel!