Weekly Carnival Roundup

Saturday, June 30, 2007 at 2:00pm by Site Administrator

Bootstrapper made it in to several blog carnivals this week. In addition to to Carnival of Budgeting #9 and Carnival of Debt Reduction #93, here are a few others.

  1. Carnival of Debt Management #155 Reasons to get out of debt fast.
  2. Carnival of Debt Relief #35 ways to increase your wealth.
  3. Carnival of Entrepreneurs #27Cautionary tales from a fellow entrepreneur.
  4. Working at Home Carnival #39Reasons to build a business online.

Instructions on submitting posts to those carnivals are available on their individual pages.

The deadline for the first Carnival of Bootstrapping Entrepreneurs has passed and I’m looking over entries now. There are lots of great entries, and unfortunately lots that are totally irrelevant or trying to sell something. The latter types will not, I’m afraid make it to any edition, so please read the instructions. I’ve moved up the first edition to Sat July 7th instead of 14th. So if you send additional entries, they will be considered for July 14, 21 and 28. It looks as if there is enough interest to maintain a weekly carnival. If anyone is interested in hosting a future edition starting mid-August, let me know.

Comments (0) | Filed under: carnivals

Benefits and Hazards of Working from Home

Thursday, June 28, 2007 at 8:00pm by Site Administrator

So you’ve managed to convince your boss of the benefits to the company if you work from home. Or you have your own business. For those of you that have spent time working from home, even part of the week, you already know the benefits. Now imagine the positives of working from home, whether teleworking for a salaried job or as a bootstrapping entrepreneur in business for  yourself.

  1. Flexible work hours.
    Unless you have a scheduled teleconference, you probably have complete flexibility in choosing your working hours.

  2. Comfortable work clothes.
    You can work in casual clothes, your pajamas. a suit, your birthday suit or just a tie. It’s up to you.

  3. Relief from commuting.
    Don’t discount how productive you can be when you have not spent the morning stuck in traffic or waiting on crowded platforms for buses or trains. Or in line at the airport. More specifically:

    1. No road rage.
    2. No parking hassles or costs.
    3. No wear and tear on the car.
    4. No waiting for fellow car poolers to get out of the house.
    5. No trying to find a gas station when the “empty” light goes one.
    6. No locking your keys in the car.
    7. No worrying about getting to work when you’ve lost your transit pass.
    8. No typical airport hassles.
    9. No forgetting your lunch on the kitchen counter.
    10. No leaving your wallet in the hallway.
  4. Reduced meal costs.
    Eating at home means:

    1. Not having to make your lunch
    2. Eating what you want, not whatever won’t spoil in the office lunch room.
    3. Eating healthier meals for less money.
  5. Time for personal tasks.
    Even though a salaried employee is supposed to get a certain amount of break time each day, you know it isn’t always that easy to get away, to get personal tasks done. Working at home gives you that luxury.

  6. Quality time.
    Just got a new puppy or kitten? Kids out of school or home earlier than usual? You can take a break and spend some quality time with them.

  7. Higher net income.
    You have an overall reduced “cost” of working. If you’re making the same gross yearly revenue at home as you would working in an office, then obviously you have the opoprtunity for higher net income, because of all the savings.

But there are drawbacks as well. Question is, do you have the entrepreneurial discipline to take advantage of the benefits, or will you succumb to the negative aspects?

  1. Expanding work hours.

    Negative: To someone not good at making decisions, picking your own work hours may not be such a great idea. Not having structured work hours at home can just as well lead to a situation where you feel that you’re in a work mindset all day long.

    Suggestion: Keep a physically distinct work area. Either work regular 8-4/ 9-5 hours, or split your day into two parts. But be consistent, except when situations warrant otherwise. Take regular breaks, whether that’s five minutes each hour or a half hour every four hours. Just remember that working eight hours straight doesn’t mean getting more work done.

  2. Slacker temptations.

    Negative: Working in pajamas doesn’t work for everyone. Some people like the structure of waking up, shaving (or whatever), showering, putting on “work clothes”, then “getting to work” in a home office by, say, 8 am. They feel that wearing casual clothes puts them in a casual mindset, which may mean less productivity.

    Suggestion: Wear what works for you. Some people joke about working naked from home. Hey, if it you get your work done, great. Just make sure that your webcam is turned off, in case the boss or a client calls on Skype.

  3. Distractions.

    Negative: You no longer have the office social interaction, so that’s sometimes substituted with spending time with pets or family members, or watching TV, surfing the Internet, or chatting with friends online.

    Suggestion: Set boundaries and schedules and enforce them. Set specific times to check and respond to important emails or chat sessions. Keep social interactions, but define a preferred time for them while you’re working.

  4. Expanding waistline.

    Negative: The temptation to snack is strong, since the fridge is so close and snacks so much cheaper than the office vending machine. That can mean only one thing: an expanding waistline.

    Suggestion: Each morning, set aside a zippered bag of healthy snacks – say pieces of fruit, nuts, carrots, celery, etc. – and place it prominently at the front of the fridge.

  5. Reduced exercise.

    Negative: You no longer have the benefit of walking to and from a bus/ train stop, or the parking lot to the office. You’re sitting around all day at home now. Certain types of serious illness, such as diabetes or deep vein thrombosis (DVT) can be triggered by weight gains and/or extended periods of low activity.

    Suggestion: Take walking breaks at least once every few hours, even if it’s to walk around at home. When you can’t leave your desk, occasionally massage your legs and knees, to ensure that blood is flowing properly.

The fact is that working from home has both positives and negatives, but with a bit of forethought and discipline, you can make the experience all positive.

Comments (4) | Filed under: Productivity

Wi-Fi With No Roaming Charges?

Wednesday, June 27, 2007 at 7:00pm by Site Administrator

So, you’re a nomadic entrepreneur travelling on business somewhere in the world and you need access to the Internet via Wi-Fi for your laptop. But you’re not big on the roaming charges. Well Boingo Wireless has 100,000 Wi-Fi hot spots around the world and for a monthly fee, you can access any of them. No roaming charges, no per-minute fees.

The plans vary based on whether you want access only in North America (unlimited, US$21.95/mth), globally ($39/m), or on a pay as you go basis ($7.95/day). There’s also Boingo Mobile, for your cell phones and PDAs. At the rate of $7.95/m, you get unlimited access in over 60 countries including the US. If you have Wi-Fi VoIP capability on your phone, then you can make calls anywhere there’s a Boingo hotspot.

Now I’m wondering, if a service like this catches on, what happens to municipal Wi-Fi?

An alternate solution, if you just want to make inexpensive VoIP calls, is Skype’s recently announced Skype To Go offering. You do have to be a Skype Pro customer, which means installing Skype on your computer, signing up for an account, and paying for a Pro plan. That gets you a free Skype To Go number. Essentially, you can call people around the world from any phone, at the typical country to country rates for SkypeOut.

Getting Business While Bootstrapping

Tuesday, June 26, 2007 at 5:00pm by Site Administrator

Every business undergoes some and ebb and flow in revenue. It’s just that smaller businesses feel the ebb more. Everyday Entrepreneurs offers some advice on how to get business when bootstrapping. Here’s a summary of the points:

  1. Subscribe and post to mailing lists.
  2. Write articles.
  3. Speak at conferences.
  4. Write a blog.
  5. Call up the bigger fish. (Work with other businesses in your industry.)
  6. Call up existing clients.
  7. Get your website listed.
  8. Drop flyers in your office complex.
  9. Put up hoardings in possible. (The term is British and Indian in usage, and refers to a billboard-like sign but is allowed to be established outside an office building.)
  10. Do work gratis.

You will have to consider the flyers and hoardings cautiously, depending on your local bylaws. Some of the advice is more applicable to consulting businesses, as the original article points out, but it’s still all good advice. To this list, I’d like to add a few suggestions, geared to online promotion of your business.

  1. Distribute your articles wide.
    Write articles and submit them to reputable online article directories such as ezinearticles. Make these submissions significantly different than anything you have on your own website or weblog. The idea here is that other websites will republish the article, usually with links to your website(s) intact. That, at the very least, may draw some traffic to your site, and possibly some business inquiries.

  2. Enter blog carnivals.
    This is a great way to get some recognition for your best weblog articles. Just make sure you are not hard-selling your business in the articles you submit, as they’ll probably be rejected.

  3. Participate in forums.
    Choose online forums relevant to your industry/ business and participate. Offer commentary and advice in existing forum threads, and write articles in new discussion threads. If you offer intelligent/ relevant/ helpful discussion, that will draw eyes to your site. (Most forums allow your forum member name to be linked to a site of your choice, once you’ve posted a certain number of discussions.)

  4. Comment, comment, comment.
    Visit relevant websites and weblogs and participate in a manner similar to forums. If someone is knocking your industry, business or product, don’t get defensive. Be diplomatic.

21 Ways to Promote Your Startup Business

Saturday, June 23, 2007 at 7:00pm by Site Administrator

Whether you’re running a bricks and mortar business or something online, you can promote your business in both worlds. Here are a few methods that have worked for others. Keep in mind that not all of them will work for you, as some options lend themselves better to certain types of businesses. This list is intended as a convenient resource, and even a reminder of some promotional methods you may have forgotten about.

New Media

These are just ten ways you can promote your business online, even if your business is offline. Most of these methods are free or low-cost.

  1. Website and/or weblog.
    It’s not enough these days to have just a website. Consider a weblog about a topic related to your industry or business, and resident in a subdirectory of your main website. If you already have a domain name and website, WordPress is an ideal, easy-to-use, expanable platform for adding a weblog. Publish useful resources, articles, ebooks, video how-tos, podcasts, etc., that are either directly or peripherally related to your business or broader industry. Establish yourself as an authority in your articles, without doing a hard-sell.

  2. Blog carnivals.
    Of course, if you build it, they won’t necessarily come. In some niches, it’s simply difficult to build up a blog’s authority and rank without networking, so to speak. Blog carnivals can help immensely. If you don’t see one that suits, consider starting one, but prepared for the work that entails. Remember, however, that you are not directly promoting your business. You’re promoting the wonderful, useful content on your website or blog, and that of participants in each edition of the carnival.

  3. Social media.
    Social media comes in a variety of forms and includes bookmarking sites with or without voting (del.icio.us, reddit, digg, netscape, stumbleupon), wikis (Wikipedia), eprofiles (myspace), environments (Second Life), and others. These sites/ services can go a long way towards helping you promote your business, provided you respect the culture at each and are not overly commercial. Sites like Wikipedia allow you to build a profile page. (Note: some firms are now conducting job interviews in Second Life, a 3D social environment. Other companies are merely establishing a Second Life presence.)

  4. Online advertising.
    This includes graphic banners, text links, pay per click text ad campaigns, sponsorship, purchased editorials, web directories, etc. There are far too many to list them all, but Google AdWords and Text-Link-Ads are a couple of examples.

  5. Templates and plugins.
    If you have design or coding skills, you could create custom weblog themes and/or plugins and give them away. The former would mean links back to your website(s) from any site using your theme. The latter would at least build some traffic because weblog resource sites such as Weblog Tools Collection will list your plugin (and themes).

  6. Award buttons.
    Can you think of a unique way to reward other websites that fall into some award theme? Create a design for the award, make it a standard size, and start profiling other sites, to whom you offer your award. The result, hopefully, is a link back from awarded site, as well as curious traffic from those sites. This is not something that will work for everyone because there are so many awards out there. A couple of popular examples are Liz Strauss’ SOB award for “successful and outstanding bloggers”, and Kineda’s Are you an A-list bloglebrity.

  7. Ebooks.
    Seth Godin, Chris Garrett, Brian Clark, Yaro Starak and others have given away quality marketing, writing and/or blogging advice in the form of free ebooks. What do you think that did for their reputations? Right. Cory Doctorow, a blogger and co-founder of Boing Boing and a highly-praised science fiction author gives away copies of his works of fiction in ebook form, and he feels that this has increased sales of his work.

  8. Viral videos.
    Viral videos are simply any type of video that you’ve released to a video sharing site such as YouTube or Revver and which catches so much attention that loads of people start adding the video to their site. Of course, your website or weblog’s URL is shown at the start and end of the video, so you’ll get some type-in traffic. Depending on how viral you go, this could be massive. Of course, you want videos that are not only entertaining but somehow relevant to your business. They could be how-to tutorials. Or they could be like the Diet Coke and Mentos video below. Now, imagine if you were running a laundry/ cleaners. The video, had you created it, would be relevant, because you want people trying out these soda geyser experiments to come to you to get the stains out of their lab coats.

  9. Affiliate program.
    Are you selling something online? Do you have enough of a profit margin to offer other sites (probably blogs) a percentage of sales to be an affiliate? They advertise your program/ products on their site, and if a visitor to your site, referred by an affiliate, purchases something, the affiliate gets either a flat or percentage commission. It’s free advertising for you, and if you develop a symbiotic relationship with affiliates, that’s revenue for both of you. Before you can pull off an affiliate program, however, you need establish some sort of authority with your brand/ website/ weblog. For example, Amazon.com, who are probably a better known brand around the world than any terrestrial bookstore chain, have an affiliate program that earns some diligent bloggers reasonable extra monthly income. [Some affiliates, of course, earn nothing.] One great resource to read is Tropical SEO’s How to: build an affiliate site you can sell for $1M. While it’s written for the perspective of an affiliate, if you plan to run an affiliate program, it’s worthwhile reading. It’ll come in handy if you plan to actually help your affiliates be better at their end – something that, of course, is good for both of you.

  10. Copywritten sales letter.
    The massively long sales letter written by a highly-paid but experienced copywriter could be enough to boost your business into the millions or multi-millions in terms of units sold or revenue. And it works online (one-page websites) as well as offline (direct mail).

Old media

Of course, let’s not forget the offline methods of promotion that have been around for decades. Some of these will still work for you, even if your business is online, especially if your website URL is displayed prominently.

  1. Billboards.
    Obviously, this is likely to put a dent in your wallet, but there are some locations that might be affordable. In some bigger cities like Toronto, Canada, there are digital billboards in some parts of the city, especially near the main thoroughfares. So billboard operators can control the number of “impressions” of your ad. This might allow you to opt for a smaller, more affordable monthly plan.

  2. Coupons.
    Coupons are suitable for some businesses. For others, they’re tacky, unless you can come up with a unique design/ approach. Coupons work both offline and online.

  3. Flyers + inserts.
    Back in the late-80s, someone stood on a busy corner in downtown Toronto handing out flyers that were rolled up and tied with a red ribbon. I stood around and observed for a while. Nearly every one that passed by took a flyer. Compare that to the uptake ratio of a flat piece of paper.

  4. Radio ads.
    Radio ads do not have to be all that expensive. Ask for affordable plans. Also check with community and student radio stations.

  5. TV ads.
    Every TV station will occasionally have an unfilled ad slot that they reserve for local businesses. You might get lucky and get an affordable spot. Find out if your community has a filmmaking/ multimedia collective. You may be able to put together a commercial for less than a few thousand dollars. There even a few websites that offer entrepreneurs inexpensive TV commercial production. Examples are Cheap TV Spots, Cheap TV Spots!, and Spot Runner.

  6. Talk shows, lecture/ circuit.
    If you’re the averge startup entrepreneur, Oprah’s probably not going to be calling you up. But it could and does happen. Just make sure you don’t pull a Tom Cruise. There are, of course, local radio and TV talk shows, and if you have something interesting to offer, that’s a bit more publicity for you.

  7. Stickers and bookmarks.
    Don’t underestimate the promotional value of little piece of paper or cardboard. Stickers are always fun, but limited in terms of the age group you can target. Bookmarks – the paper kind that you stick in books – can be given away at bookstores or libraries.

  8. Business cards.
    Or even better, Moo cards with your Skype acct printed on them. If you’re a software company, burn a stack of “business card” mini CDs loaded with software and give those away instead. They’re the size of a business card but are fully-functioning software CDs.

  9. T-shirts.
    Everyone loves a t-shirt, right? Well, maybe. Get something interesting designed, print off a batch, and give them away to friends and at tradeshows, or wherever they’ll take them. It’s not free advertising, per se, but it can be effective at least locally, sometimes nationally or globally.

  10. Festivals.
    Most cities and towns have a festival or three in the Summer and Fall, or even at other times of year. If it’s suitable to your business, give away free product samples. Or t-shirts. Or business card CDs.

  11. Human body.
    Tattoos and shaved logos (head)? It’s true. There are people who will rent space on their body for your logos – sometimes even permanent.

What ever method you use, be creative, be innovative, and consider different perspectives from the consumer side. Either that or open up your wallet and hire an experience advertising agency.

Hot Jobs: Entrepreneur in Residence?

Thursday, June 21, 2007 at 5:00pm by Site Administrator

Now here’s an interesting job for the entrpreneurial-minded: EIR, or Entrepreneur in Residence. Benchmark Capital, a venture capital firm in Silicon Valley, has always had EIRs. Though lately, they’ve bumped the average of two EIRs at any given time to four. And they’ve scooped the two newest EIRs from Google [Venture Beat].

The two newest, Bret Taylor and Jim Norris, were engineers working on the Google Maps application, which can be customized/ mashed up, then embedded into pretty much any website. These guys kept in touch with contacts at Benchmark for several months, and they say they’re ready to start a company now. They’ve actually worked together since college.

What’s interesting to note is that these two talented engineers, according to the Venture Beat article, started at Google at a point where they benefit somewhat from that company’s IPO (Initial Public Offering), but didn’t join early enough to have made many millions from share options. So this sort of employee – talented but lacking in capital – seems to be ripe for the picking. Provided they have the entrepreneurial passion.

I’m not familiar enough yet with the practices of venture capital firms to know if this is standard practice. The little I know, I thought VCs backed companies that already had a proof of concept, and preferably with some revenues or subscriber/ customer base, etc. This is in fact the first I’ve heard of Entrepreneur in Residence roles. They’ll be getting paid to come up with ideas.

So if you’ve got the technical smarts for a salable Internet idea but are still in the salaried employee stage, keep that VC’s business card handy. Not every entrepreneur wants to bootstrap their business, and there’s no shame in that.

Can Entrepreneurship Be Taught?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007 at 2:00pm by Site Administrator

There are many schools of business out there, and even a few that have a center for entrepeneurship and innovation [Inside Bay Area]. But considering that passion and tenacity are two characteristics of an entrepreneur, according to the Inside Bay Area article, can entrepreneurship be taught? Sure, you can teach all the business aspects, the cash flow, the team building, hiring, management, etc. What about the passion?

Also according to the article, some venture capitalists will not fund an entrepreneur if they don’t have “fire in the eye”. That’s understandable, though if you have that fire in the eye anyway, you very likely could bootstrap your own business, without a lot of capital.

But here’s something I’ve learned by observation over many years, something they probably don’t teach in business/ entrepreneurship school. The real fire in the eye comes from within, of course, for whatever reasons – environment, etc.. You don’t even have to come from a supportive and/or succesful family environment – many successful entrepreneurs came from poor and/or broken families. They come from different walks of life, even based in/ from communist countries or homeless. However, in my humble opinion, you can have all the passion, but if you don’t have some sort of support system – friends, family, partners, life partners – when you actually start entrepreneuring, the passion will start to leach out of you without a great deal of discipline. Or passion and tenacity – which are related to discipline.

As for the primary question, yes, I think entrepreneurship can be taught – especially to people who have entrepreneurial characteristics. And yes, I think the right coach can coax embers of passion out of a willing entrepreneur into a fire, if both parties are willing to put in the effort, and if the student has a support system in place that doesn’t leave out the emotional needs.

Never Too Young (or Old) to be an Entrepreneur

Tuesday, June 19, 2007 at 6:00pm by Site Administrator

People will say that you have to be this, have to be that, have to be young, have to be old, have to be rich, etc. to be an entrepreneur. Ben Casnocha started his first company at 12, thanks to a non-profit school project that inspired him to start a website. This effort was followed by a related company at 14. He’s 19 now and has a book on entrepreneurship, My Start-Up Life, which offers the wisdom he’s gained in such a short time – more so than being a biography, according to the NY Times [free subscription may be required.]

Casanocha’s company, Comcate, offers software that helps city managers log and track citizen complaints as part of the resolution process. And he’s doing just fine, thank you, and even travelling for work and vacationing for an extended duration.

[Aside: What I find strange, though it seems to be an NY Times quirk, is that they linked to Casnocha's old domain name, which is parked, and didn't bother to link to his current business' site. Do NY Times writers not "get" linking, or is there some sort of oddball hyperlink policy? Why bother linking to a dead/ parked site? Anyway, here's his company's site: Comcate.]

So why is he doing so well and others his age playing video games? What is the difference between the kids and adults who become entrepreneurs and those that do not?

Having had the good fortune to have met many thousands of people in my life, I know many who have had great ideas that would have been salable. They just didn’t bother to pursue the ideas.

When I was in my late-20s, in my second or third job in Toronto, working on contract for a very entrepreneurial guy, I came up with a list of 60 ideas, off the top of my head, that I thought could make at least a million dollars each. I tried shopping a few ideas around to a president of the architectural and consulting firm that my boss had his office set up in. The president said they were all fine, but they didn’t start projects. They waited until clients asked them, and had funds.

At the time, I also had the curse of someone who looked much younger than my 27-28 years. I had a hard time convincing anyone that any of my ideas had merit. They’d listen politely and give some polite excuse for why they couldn’t pursue them.

Did I give up? Yes I did, unfortunately, for that was my mentality then. I have always been more of an idea person than an entrepreneur. But the passion is there and I have tried my hand a few times. As a mostly introverted person, the only success I’ve had in my own business is as a web/ computer consultant or now as a blogger/ blogmaster for hire. The vindication for me, though, is that I kept that list of 60 ideas, and about a year later I did some additional intensive research. No word of a lie, but nearly every idea on my list had been implemented by someone somewhere in the world. All implemented ideas were making a profit.

So what’s my point? It’s not to show off about my ability to come up with ideas. They really are a dime a dozen. At the time, I did a great deal of meditation and I would literally come up with 10 ideas every morning. You can too.

The message really is that no matter how young/ old you are, or are treated or feel, if you have an idea, don’t slough it off because you think someone else may have done it already. You’d be surprised at how many amazingly simple ideas have not been pursued by others for that reason: ah, someone has probably done it already. Young entrepreneurs have an advantage that they’re less likely to think like this out of naivety. But us adults, we know better; we know someone has already done it, so why bother?

Without getting too metaphysical, the truth appears to be that many ideas flit around the world from brain to brain, waiting for someone to recognize their worth and implement them. So reconsider your ideas, instead of throwing them away, no matter what your age.

Case Study: Bootstrapping an Online Information Business

Friday, June 15, 2007 at 11:00pm by Site Administrator

Ever been told you’re good at teaching people how to do something? Maybe you’re good at a piece of popular software and think you could produce a few tutorial videos captured from your computer screen. Or do you have some skill that can be captured in live video?

A CNN Money article in March indicates that how-to videos are hot, and my own observations suggest that this is true. Even when there’s a subscription price involved, there might just be a market for your videos. What’s more, the cost of startup might be very low, and you don’t necessarily need a lot of subscribers to make a comfortable living. It just becomes a matter of finding the right subscribers. (If you’re listed in a few video/ podcast directories, or have a blog that accompanies the videos, it becomes easier to find those subscribers.)

The CNN Money article focuses mostly on San Franciscan dance teacher Evan Margolin’s SalsaBootCamp. His monthly video subscription price increased from a US$9 to $37 and still pulls in enough members to garner him $20,000 per month. That’s roughly 540 subscribers. Even if you worked at some how to videos part-time and only garnered 100 subscribers at the same price point, that’s close to $4,000/month of extra revenue.

Now, even if you can’t dance or don’t have anything you can teach in live video, maybe there are information/ instructional screencast videos that you can produce – these days for a song.

Screencasting is relatively easy, and while you do have to learn a few storyboarding and scripting skills, if you have a clear voice, this just might be an opportunity for you.

A screencast, if you’re not familiar with it, is simply a video that has captured someone using a piece of software. This is done with screen capture software such as Camstudio (free) or Camtasia Studio (US$299). Every action you take and all the screen changes are captured in a screencast video. You can see examples of what I mean at Tubetorial, where I’ve covered a variety of software that’s useful to bloggers.

The part that I’d like to emphasize is that whether or not you plan to offer live video or screencasts, you can bootstrap an online information business. In the case of live video, keep your production costs down until you have enough of a trickle of revenue to afford more lights, better backgrounds, a director, etc. For screencasting, you can literally start for next to nothing – provided you have a computer and high-speed access to the Internet.

Here is a suggested approach, though I’ll point out that I’m not necessarily endorsing any of these options. Some additional links are provided in the clickable mindmap at the end of this article. (None are affiliate links, and if you know of better options, great.)

  1. Brainstorming.
    Write out some how-to video ideas.

  2. Equipment.
    Buy an inexpensive microphone or webcam with microphone. (If you’re offering live video, get a $300 camcorder. It’ll probably have rudimentary video editing software included.)

  3. Test run.
    Download and install the free Camstudio to test out your screencasting skills.

  4. Bootstrapping.
    When you’re relatively happy with your work and want fancier screencast production, download a free 21-day, fully-functioning trial of Camtasia Studio (and Snagit). If you time it right, you can produce a video, sell a few copies, and pay for a full version of Camtasia Studio with the proceeds.

  5. Domain name.
    Register a $0.99 .info domain name for one year at GoDaddy. Or a $0.99 .info or .org at estdomains.

  6. Site hosting.
    Get some cheap hosting. Site5 has a great deal right now where if you pay 24 months upfront, you can get 5 Terabytes of monthly bandwidth and 110 Gb of disk space for only $5. That’s enough for a small video site.

  7. Articles or blog.
    Write a few articles to draw the search engines in. (I’m overly simplifying this step.)

  8. Video teasers.
    Post sample videos on your site.

  9. Promote.
    Use a video sharing service like YouTube or SplashCast, etc., for short teaser videos. Such services are presently free. Some offer content contributors a way to earn some revenue, but if you want your own subscription model, think twice. Either way, make sure that a watermark of your logo is visible in sample videos, or that your website address is.

  10. Offer premium content.
    When traffic picks up, offer full-videos. You’ll have to decide whether you’ll offer them free and run ads, or to charge a flat price for access, or a monthly membership. It’ll depend on how much content you’re planning and your production schedule. To simplify payment collection, use PayPal, which is relatively simple to integrate into your site, even for subscriptions. If you allow credit card payments via PayPal, you will have to pay a fee on each transaction. If you start off with no credit card payments, then you will not pay any fees.

Most of the above process applies to live how-to videos. Visit the immensely popular, amusing Ask a Ninja site and you’ll see that even humorous how-tos can do well – even if they don’t really teach all that much.

The principal idea is that if your topic is salable and the timing of your site rollout is right, you can bootstrap your way to a reasonable income without a large initial cash outlay. When you have the funds, whether from advertising on your site or from sales/ subscriptions, you can reinvest some of it for higher quality production tools to improve later content.

Toolkit categories:
These are some of the software categories that are useful for an online information/ screencasting tutorial business:

  1. Calendaring and planning.
  2. Brainstorming.
  3. Communication.
  4. Conferencing and collaboration.
  5. Creating content.
  6. Publishing and distribution.
  7. Payment processing.

Most of these tools can also be used to maintain a site offering live how-to videos. A clickable mindmap of specific tools is shown below. Just click the page icon beside a tool’s name and you’ll go to it’s web page. While the list is by no means comprehensive, it should be a good start.

Over time, I’ll try to cover some of the other aspects of building and maintaining an online information business. Of course, what would a case study for a bootstrapped startup be if I didn’t offer a live example. I’ve got one in production, and I’ll introduce in the future, along with discussions on how it’s doing.

Online information business toolkit mindmap

http://aimpro.premiumservices.aol.com/ http://aimpro.premiumservices.aol.com/ http://youtube.com/ http://youtube.com/ http://skype.com/ http://skype.com/ http://inkscape.org/ http://inkscape.org/ http://www.corel.com/servlet/Satellite/us/en/Product/1155872554948 http://www.corel.com/servlet/Satellite/us/en/Product/1155872554948 http://get.live.com/messenger/overview http://get.live.com/messenger/overview http://office.microsoft.com/ http://office.microsoft.com/ http://mindapp.com http://mindapp.com http://messenger.yahoo.com http://messenger.yahoo.com http://messenger.yahoo.com/webmessengerpromo.php http://messenger.yahoo.com/webmessengerpromo.php http://trillian.cc/ http://trillian.cc/ http://bubbl.us/ http://bubbl.us/ http://www.mindjet.com http://www.mindjet.com http://www.camstudio.org/ http://www.camstudio.org/ http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/visio/FX100487861033.aspx http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/visio/FX100487861033.aspx http://pidgin.im/ http://pidgin.im/ http://www.corel.com/servlet/Satellite/us/en/Product/1150981051301 http://www.corel.com/servlet/Satellite/us/en/Product/1150981051301 http://www.gizmoproject.com/ http://www.gizmoproject.com/ http://freemind.sourceforge.net/ http://freemind.sourceforge.net/ http://techsmith.com/snagit.asp http://techsmith.com/snagit.asp http://www.adobe.com/products/photoshop/index.html http://www.adobe.com/products/photoshop/index.html https://www.paypal.com/ https://www.paypal.com/ http://www.adobe.com/products/illustrator/ http://www.adobe.com/products/illustrator/ http://docs.google.com/ http://docs.google.com/ http://smartdraw.com/ http://smartdraw.com/ http://www.mindmeister.com/ http://www.mindmeister.com/ http://www.adobe.com/products/fireworks/ http://www.adobe.com/products/fireworks/ http://writer.zoho.com http://writer.zoho.com http://www.sightspeed.com/ http://www.sightspeed.com/ http://techsmith.com/camtasia.asp http://techsmith.com/camtasia.asp http://www.debugmode.com/wink/ http://www.debugmode.com/wink/ http://conceptdraw.com/en/products/mindmap/main.php http://conceptdraw.com/en/products/mindmap/main.php http://www.openoffice.org/ http://www.openoffice.org/ http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/products/FX100487411033.aspx?pid=CL100571081033 http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/products/FX100487411033.aspx?pid=CL100571081033 http://gliffy.com/ http://gliffy.com/ http://www.google.com/calendar http://www.google.com/calendar http://wordpress.org/ http://wordpress.org/ http://mail.google.com/mail/ http://mail.google.com/mail/ http://www.splashcastmedia.com/ http://www.splashcastmedia.com/ http://snipshot.com/ http://snipshot.com/ http://wwwl.meebo.com/ http://wwwl.meebo.com/ http://www.mindomo.com/ http://www.mindomo.com/ http://www.vyew.com http://www.vyew.com http://webmessenger.msn.com/ http://webmessenger.msn.com/ http://wordpress.com/ http://wordpress.com/ http://www.google.com/talk/ http://www.google.com/talk/

Productivity and Entrepreneurship Roundup – Thur Jun 14/07

Thursday, June 14, 2007 at 11:15pm by Site Administrator

The First American Entrepreneur?
Mark Skousen of The Daily Reckoning has a great retrospective of Benjamin Franklin and his positive influence in helping make the US a country of wealth and wealth-mindedness. Note that Skousen has “updated Franklin’s Autobiography for modern times.”

Personally, I think of Franklin as a consummate entrepreneur and inventor – a role model to be emulated. I’ve read his Autobiography and a number of other biographies about him, at the same time that I was studying my two other favorite inventors, Thomas Edison and Leonardo da Vinci. Franklin, in addition to being an entrepreneur, was also a diplomat and put in a public effort to educate people.

The Entrepreneurial Spirit
Richard Stratton, a British entrepreneur, graduated from business school last year, but became bed-bound recently when he dislocated a hip. But he didn’t let that stop him, and taught himself web design. He ended up creating a website that helps promote other sites at a low cost, while rotating their positioning. While it’s a fairly new site and has only attracted 57 companies/ advertisers, it’s sort of similar in concept to sites like Million Dollar. In other words, it has potential to do well. [via PR Leap]

Oprah: Most Powerful Celebrity
While I was watching the news tonight, one clip declared talk show Oprah as the most powerful American celebrity. She earned about US$260M last year. The next closest earner was Tiger Woods, who made less than half that amount. Oprah for President! Why not? She’s probably more qualified and popular than some of the other candidates, and very entrepreneurial besides.

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