Business Credit Cards » Case studies Information and Tips on getting the right card Wed, 05 Feb 2014 15:20:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Profiles of Forbes’ Top-Earning Supermodels Wed, 09 Jan 2008 01:46:37 +0000 Site Administrator Don’t hate them because they’re beautiful. Hate them because they’re rich and beautiful. Just when we’re starting to feel pretty good about ourselves, Forbes likes to burst our bubbles each year with its annual lists of the world’s wealthiest individuals, most powerful celebrities and of course, the highest paid supermodels. This list is especially unfair, yet somehow tantalizing, because for once, our everyday sloppy selves are allowed to peek into the glammed-up worlds of the most beautiful creatures on the planet. Do they deserve the millions they’re worth? Maybe not, but that doesn’t stop us from wanting to know as much as much possible about the photo shoots, television ventures, campaigns, and of course runway shows, that keep these women at the top.

  1. Gisele Bundchen: $33 million: Just when exactly did Gisele Bundchen sneak into the fashion industry and start to dominate American pop culture? Was it in 1999 when Vogue heralded her as bringing sexy back by naming her entrance into the fashion world as "The Return of the Sexy Model?" Or was it when she began dating Leonardo DiCaprio and became one of the most recognizable Victoria’s Secret Angels? None of it matters anymore, as Gisele has ditched Leo, moved on from Victoria’s Secret after a disagreement over salary, and now tops Forbes’ 2007 list after making a whopping $33 million due to campaigns including Dolce and Gabbana and Roberto Cavalli, plus an appearance in last year’s The Devil Wears Prada.
  2. Kate Moss: $9 million: International style icon Kate Moss has been a model for nearly two decades, a career that has survived everything from pregnancy and childbirth to a much-publicized cocaine scandal. Those who thumb their noses at the too-skinny trend have Kate to thank, who ushered in heroin-chic with her Calvin Klein ads in the 1990s. No longer an androgynous-looking teenager, Kate is still a modeling force to be reckoned with, as she makes more money today from campaigns and design stints than she did before that nasty coke habit got her fired from companies like H&M and Burberry.
  3. Heidi Klum: $8 million: Forget supermodel, Heidi Klum is a modern-day superwoman. As a mother of three, Victoria’s Secret powerhouse, television producer and jewelry designer, this German-born glamazon is a fashion magnate. Despite having a difficult time breaking into the industry (which at the time was obsessed with waifs a la Kate Moss), the curvy Klum is now the producer and host of Project Runway and continues to make millions in her campaigns and runway shows for brands like Victoria’s Secret and Jordache.
  4. Adriana Lima: $6 million: Take one look at this Brazilian beauty, and you’ll understand why she’s more than just your everyday model. Her seductive eyes, gorgeous hair and sexy pout have won her coveted spots with Victoria’s Secret and Maybelline, making her one of Forbes’ highest paid supermodels. She was also named "The World’s Most Voluptuous Virgin" by GQ after pledging, "sex is for after marriage…[Men] have to respect that this is my choice."
  5. Alessandra Ambrosio: $6 million: The Brazilian trend in the modeling world isn’t fading anytime soon, thanks in part to Victoria’s Secret Angel Alessandra Ambrosio. Not just another sexy Angel, Ambrosio has racked up contracts with The Limited, Armani Exchange, and Next U.K., and is also the National Ambassador for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
  6. Carolyn Murphy: $5 million: Carolyn Murphy’s quiet but sexy elegance has lent itself to Tiffany & Co., Estee Lauder, Versace and other prestigious fashion and beauty clients, earning her a top spot in the industry. Winner of the 1998 VH1/Vogue Model of the Year award, Murphy has worked almost continuously since the age of 16. After high school, though, she famously bleached her hair so blonde that it began to fall out. According to an interview with Murphy on BellaSugar, "many photographers took notice of her brave, boyishly short haircut and she began getting work in high profile magazines" like Harper’s Bazaar. The rest is history.
  7. Natalia Vodianova: $4.5 million: She’s only 25, but the Russian beauty Natalia Vodianova is already a modeling veteran. reports that this fashion chameleon "has been a Calvin Klein muse for longer than any other model, including Kate Moss." But just ten years ago, Vodianova was on the streets of her Russian town selling fruit to help support her family. Once she started modeling, however, Vodianova won campaigns with Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs and of course, Calvin Klein. She is also married to the Honorable Justin Portman and has two children.
  8. Karolina Kurkova: $3.5 million: Karolina’s bombshell beauty has made her a favorite with both high fashion magazines and the Victoria’s Secret camp. According to, Kurkova was one of the youngest models to ever appear on the cover of American Vogue: she was just 16 when she landed the spot in 2001. In addition to modeling and supporting several youth-oriented nonprofits, Kurkova also has a part in the upcoming movie My Sexiest Year.
  9. Daria Werbowy: $3.5 million: Daria Werbowy’s name might not be recognizable outside the fashion industry, but her enchanting looks have graced the covers of Vogue Italia and other top magazines. In 2003, the hardworking Canadian "appeared in more shows…than any model had ever walked in a single season," according to Her current campaigns include Versace, Chanel, Lancome and many others.
  10. Gemma Ward: $3 million: Don’t let Gemma’s babydoll face fool you. At only 20 years old, this Australian supermodel is a pro at winning over clients, marching down the runway and causing fashion heavyweights and the general public to fall in love with her. Designer Karl Lagerfeld calls her “a great model,” claiming “she has the look of the moment, the attitude of the moment. She is really the model of the moment," as reported by, and many industry insiders credit her with issuing in the new look and standard for ethereal beauty. Open any fashion magazine, and you’ll see Gemma in ads for Chanel, Dior, Louis Vuitton, Swarovski and more, not to mention shots of her commanding the runways at Celine, Prada and Jean Paul Gaultier.
  11. Liya Kebede: $2.5 million: Liya Kebede makes fashion history as the only black model on this year’s list and as the first black model ever for beauty giant Estee Lauder. In addition to working with clients like Anne Taylor, Gucci and H&M, the Ethiopian-born Kebede is a powerful activist and Goodwill Ambassador for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health.
  12. Hilary Rhoda: $2 million: For many in the modeling and fashion industries, Hilary Rhoda symbolizes a return to the American ideal: classic, elegant sexiness. Often compared to Brooke Shields, Rhoda, 20, just landed her big money-making contract with Estee Lauder, as well as staying busy shooting campaigns for Donna Karan, Zara, Gucci and others. reports that "in the Fall of 2006, announced that Hilary was one of the most sought after Top Ten New Faces," after dominating ads for Balenciaga and appearing in editorial shoots for magazines like American and French Vogue, W and Harper’s Bazaar.
  13. Shalom Harlow: $2 million: Shalom Harlow’s statuesque figure and feline looks have kept her at the top of the fashion industry for nearly 15 years. Besides her modeling work, Harlow has appeared in movies like Melinda and Melinda, Vanilla Sky, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and In and Out. believes that "she is making a comeback this year with new contracts with Chanel and Tiffany & Co.," but we’re not sure if she ever really left.
  14. Doutzen Kroes: $1.5 million: If Brigitte Bardot came back as a Dutch-born supermodel stomping down the runway at Michael Kors or Yves Saint Laurent, we bet she’d do it in the form of Doutzen Kroes. Doutzen’s pouty lips and curvaceous figure give her an edge over some of the wan, malnourished-looking models in the pack, and top designers have noticed. In 2005, named her its Model of the Year, and this year alone, Doutzen "bagged contracts with Calvin Klein’s Eternity fragrance and L’Oreal."
  15. Jessica Stam: $1.5 million: Simply known as Stam, this Canadian farm girl-turned-supermodel has a look that combines ferocity and provocative allure with an innocent sweetness. One of fashion’s new cool girls, Stam dated a member of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, was discovered by legendary photographer Steven Meisel, and is known for having an edgy-luxe personal style that inspires fashionistas everywhere. Seen on the runway and in shoots for Carolina Herrera, Marc Jacobs, Dior and Bulgari, we predict that Stam will shoot up to a higher spot on next year’s list.

If you could be rich or beautiful, which would you be? How about both? For these 15 ladies who book contracts with top designers, hosting gigs with successful TV shows and appearances in popular films, making millions just comes with the gorgeous territory.

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10 Ways a Ron Paul Presidency Would Help Entrepreneurs Wed, 31 Oct 2007 13:50:41 +0000 Site Administrator We’re almost exactly one year away from the actual 2008 presidential election, and candidates on all sides are gearing up for another intense, whirlwind season of campaigning and fundraising that will hopefully be rewarded with a spot in the White House. Americans are also stepping up to the plate, paying more attention to the candidates and agonizing which ones affect their lives the most. Entrepreneurs, for example, are looking for a president who will allow them optimum freedom to conduct their businesses the way they know best.

Republican candidate Ron Paul has been toted as the conservative Constitutionalist, a former doctor and longtime Congressman whose purist ideals have led him to pledge a scaled-back presence of the Federal government if he is elected president. How would this philosophy help entrepreneurs? While we’re not officially endorsing Dr. Ron Paul for president, we think these 10 issues would give entrepreneurs and their businesses an extra boost. Read on to find out how.

  1. Ron Paul’s Tax Plan: One of Ron Paul’s most appealing points is his proposed tax plan. He opposes raising taxes and even plans to abolish the individual income tax and the federal income tax. Besides eliminating the debate over how much people in varying economic levels must pay in taxes, most Americans would obviously find themselves with a significant higher salary each year. With the extra cash flow, entrepreneurs would also have the ability to hire more employees, increase company spending on supplies, technology, and other resources, and improve their businesses overall.
  2. Social Security for Americans Only Act: Ron Pauls’ Social Security revolution is one practice that would allow him to reduce taxes. According to Dr. Paul, "today['s]…system is broke and broken." Instead of pumping more American dollars into the Social Security system, Dr. Paul plans to limit the benefits given to Americans only, and not illegal aliens. This plan saves Americans money by decreasing the amount of dollars spent on Social Security benefits as a whole. In addition, Dr. Paul also intends to make Social Security optional for workers by "cut[ting] payroll taxes and" allowing them "the opportunity to seek better returns in the private market." As payroll taxes are cut, employers no longer have to match a portion of the taxes taken out of each of their employees’ paychecks.
  3. New Health Plan: In an effort to decrease government spending, Dr. Paul proposes a new health plan that eliminates many federal government-sponsored programs and plans like universal health care. As the "national leader in preserving Health Freedom," Dr. Paul promotes a weaker FDA and the individiual’s right to choose what vitamins and foods he or she consumes. If the government stops spending Americans’ money on health care programs, entrepreneurs would notice a hefty salary increase.
  4. Support of Hard Money: Inflation could very well be every entrepreneur’s worst nightmare. Business owners are forced to raise prices on all of their products as a result of paying more for basic goods and supplies, and consumers quake at the thought of overspending and instead keep their wallets tightly shut. To combat inflation, Ron Paul supports the idea of hard money, or money backed by gold and silver. If the United States operated on a hard money system, the Federal Reserve wouldn’t be able to print extra money, and Ron Paul beleives that inflation would disappear.
  5. Against the Iraq War: Ron Paul is the only 2008 Republican candidate who voted against the war in Iraq. As an anti-interventionist, Dr. Paul would like to see the U.S. begin pulling out of Iraq and cut military spending. Entrepreneurs would enjoy improved relations with overseas business partners and contacts, debatedly lower gas prices that can dominate a small business’ budget, and slighter taxes that would otherwise be used to support the war.
  6. Believes in Free Trade: A free trading system would benefit entrepreneurs immensely. Business owners would be able to maintain contacts, persue trades, maximize profits and access capital resources without interference from the government, which could impose tariffs, boycotts, or other regulations.
  7. Opposes Welfare for Illegal Aliens: Just as Ron Paul plans to eliminate Social Security benefits for illegal aliens, he hopes to save Americans money by abolishing welfare benefits for illegal aliens. Dr. Paul believes in protecting Americans first and foremost, including financially. Limiting government-sponsored welfare programs cuts government spending, thus saving both struggling and booming businesses money.
  8. Plan to Minimize the Role of the Federal Government: Ron Paul believes that states are more qualified and better-equipped to deal with supposedly localized issues like education and health care than the federal government. In addition to cutbacks in social funding, Paul also supports the liquidation of organizations like the IRS and the Department of Homeland Security in order to drastically decrease spending and put more money into other, more deserving projects and into the pockets of American citizens.
  9. Supports a Free Internet: If there’s one technological resource that entrepreneurs value above all others, it’s probably the Internet. The Internet makes fundraising, networking, and reaching out to new customers excruciatingly easy, and Ron Paul recognizes its necessity. Dr. Paul’s own campaign has benefited from the Internet, and in an interview with PBS‘ The News Hour, he discusses how he has reached out to millions of younger voters through MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, and other member-driven sites. Perhaps his profitable experiences have led him to support the idea of a free Internet, an unregulated, uniterrupted Web community of individuals who socialize, conduct business, and earn their livelihood online.
  10. Privacy and Personal Liberty: Ron Paul’s devotionto privacy and personal liberty makes him a popular candidate among entrepreneurs. He believes that business owners deserve a reasonable allocation of privacy as they work with customers, vendors, investors, and banks to support their business endeavors.

No matter which candidate you end up supporting in the coming months, entrepreneurs have a difficult decision to make. With threats of inflation, war with Iran, and an overall economic slowdown, these 10 points are worth considering.

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10 Popular Ways Entrepreneurs Can Make Money in Second Life Mon, 10 Sep 2007 13:51:46 +0000 Site Administrator While the idea of owning and operating a successful business in a purely virtual world might sound extremely futuristic, the reality is that virtual worlds are a growing market full of possibilities for entrepreneurs who know how to take advantage. Artists, designers, landowners and even currency speculators are turning the virtual environment of Second Life into a real-world profit center.

Second Life has become so profitable that it has an annual GDP of $64 million, with over 3,000 business owners earning more than $20,000 a year on their virtual wares. There are many ways that you can become part of this growing trend. Here are a few ideas for starting your own business in Second Life.

  1. Design avatars. As an absolute essential in the Second Life world, there is no shortage of demand for avatars. Because of this demand, selling avatars can be an extremely profitable business for entrepreneurs with a little technical know-how and creativity. Some businesses cater to the general crowd, while others profit from focusing on specific sub groups or parts of the body. Whatever you decide to do, no matter how bizarre, you’re bound to find customers as long as your products are well-designed.
  2. Be a real estate mogul. In Second Life, land is bought and sold just like it is in real life. Entrepreneurs can purchase it from Second Life or from other businesspeople in the game. It can then be developed with businesses, rented out, or sold off in smaller parcels at a markup. Don’t see how you could become the Donald Trump of the virtual world? It can be done, just ask Anshe Chung. Chung is a real estate tycoon in the game, just last year becoming the first virtual world millionaire. While it might take you a while to match that kind of earning power, there is definitely money to be made in the virtual real estate industry.
  3. Make virtual objects for real businesses. The line between real-world businesses and virtual world businesses is getting thinner by the moment. Many Second Life entrepreneurs make their money creating in-game objects that can help out real-life businesses. Some are used for medical and emergency training, others for builders and universities. It’s an area where there is a lot of room to grow as well. The next version of Second Life will be directly integrated with the web, making it easier for business owners to bring their tangible goods into the virtual world.
  4. Set up a currency exchange. Second Life has its own currency, Linden Dollars, and as such, residents must exchange dollars for in-game cash. The official exchange site for the game, LindeX, charges a small fee for the transactions, much like if you were to exchange dollars for any other currency. Of course, entrepreneurs who are good with economics could stand to make a tidy profit off setting up their own currency exchange, buying and selling as the market fluctuates. Some business owners have even gone so far as to add investments like stocks to their banking empire. With the constant evolution of the in-game economy, the idea may not be that far-fetched.
  5. Embrace fashion design. If you’ve always wanted to design clothes but lack the necessary sewing skills, you might be able to live out your dream through Second Life. Entrepreneurs adept with texture design and 3-D modeling can design clothing and accessories. Designer Jennifer Grinnell was able to quit her day job and live solely off the profits from her cyber clothing store, Mischief. And with a little business savvy you could do the same. Put your clothes on the right residents, and you could start a trend, earning you a handsome profit and a cyber celebrity status to boot.
  6. Be an architect. Real estate is a big market in Second Life, and it’s not just about the land. Well-designed buildings are in demand, but the customers aren’t just residents who want help developing beachfront property. Businesses are increasingly using the game as a means of keeping in touch with far flung employees, and need appropriately designed office space for meetings and work with these employees, often requesting replicas of their real-life conference rooms. As Second Life grows in popularity with businesses and casual users, opportunities for making money from designing buildings will only increase.
  7. Teach classes. Second Life isn’t all just fun and games, you can also use it to bring together residents to teach classes and provide learning opportunities. Several universities already use the program for teaching classes online. While the medium might be better suited for conceptual rather than hands-on topics, it is possible to offer classes that would be of interest to users. Provided you have the expertise, you could turn you a profit without ever having to leave your home.
  8. Design games. There are many interactive games available for Second Life residents to play, and because at heart it is a game, these can be a good way to make money. The most successful of these games, Tringo, sells within the virtual universe at $50 bucks a pop, but has also scored a much more valuable deal: a contract with a real-life video game company to market the game for Nintendo. Come up with the next big thing and you could find yourself in a similar situation.
  9. Create animations. Every interaction between Second Life characters has to be programmed, and many residents are willing to pony up hard-earned Linden Dollars for specialized interactions. While they may be time-consuming to create, they can be a very profitable business. Interaction designer Chris Mead sells about 300 of his custom interactions a day. Even at only $1 each, that figure is nothing to scoff at. Program your own interactions, and you could see a similar return on your time investment.
  10. Open a retail shop. Just like the real world, Second Life residents need more than clothes and a place to live to be happy– they need stuff and lots of it. That’s where you can come in. You can set up a shop specializing in selling everything from toasters to sports cars. Or if you’re especially design-savvy, open your own line of department stores for virtual one-stop shopping.

The 10 ways listed in this article are simply a taste of the entrepreneurial diversity that Second Life has to offer. To date there are hundreds of different varieties of businesses all fighting and thriving amid competition at least as fierce as in the "real world." In fact, the parallels between the Second Life economy and any other entrepreneurial endeavor are so similar that even if you don’t plan on opening up your own shop in Second Life, taking a stroll down the virtual street can be a learning experience on how to improve any small business.

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Case Study: 7 Principles of Bootstrapping an Online Media Empire Tue, 04 Sep 2007 22:00:39 +0000 Site Administrator Compared to traditional channels, the Internet provides opportunities for building online businesses that are within reach for many more entrepreneurs. Eager to try my hand, since I’ve had varying degrees of success with previous offline businesses, I’m in the midst of launching a bootstrapped online venture with several partners.

The model upon which this project is built, however, nearly guarantees some level of success, though it might come after year 1, or when we sell the business.

7 Principles of bootstrapping a partnered online business

Here are the seven principles of bootstrapping that this project is based on. Some project details are given afterwards. Note that these are not the only principles of bootstrapping, just the ones I based this project on.

  1. Minimal or no initial capital.
    Start with minimal resources and capital to carry the project through the first phase.

  2. Minimal operating costs.
    Use open source software and modify features as necessary. Use “bulk” resources that allow each sub-project to be easily operated in tandem. Recycle any revenues from previous phases.

  3. Minimal loss.
    An ideal bootstrapped operation results in minimal loss. In this case, I’ve guaranteed partners a refund of their $200-300 investment by no later than Dec 31st, 2008, if they are not happy with monthly returns. They keep any revenue share but give up their ownership to me.

  4. Return based on effort.
    Bloggers are used to the idea of greater returns for greater initial effort. This project’s success relies on early effort. However, once certain milestones are reached, the time investment decreases and the revenue increase.

  5. Leveraged partner efforts.
    Can’t run a business yourself? Bring in capable partners who get a large chunk of ownership in return for early efforts and a little bit of capital. In this project, each partner is at least a blogger. Some are designers, copywriters, SEOs. They’ll apply their skills to the official weblog for each sub-project. Each blog has the potential to generate web traffic and revenue supplemental to the rest of the sub-project.

  6. Leveraged resources and skills.
    What the Web offers to bootstrapping entrepreneurs that’s not available in traditional channels are free resources that can be customized. If you have the skills to use these resources, there’s a lot of opportunity for you. You just have to find it.

  7. Applied bootstrapping.
    An ideal bootstrapped operation will funnel the revenues from one phase into the next. Bootstrapped cash flow uses any suitable leverage.

Project details

The rest of this article goes into a bit of specifics about the project. They’re recorded here for posterity. This is a long-term bootstrapping project, and periodic updates for each phase will be provide on this blog.

  1. Top secret – sort of.
    Most of the details will be revealed in Jan 2008, after official launch. There will be 11-15 related sub-projects, all of which are based online. Each project will have an official weblog, which will hopefully generate enough early revenue to keep things going.

  2. Many partners.
    I could do this project all by myself but then it would most likely fail. I would much rather give passionate partners an equal net share of each sub-project in return for their early effort and no initial investment. The revenue model will hopefully motivate everyone to promote their sub-projects (1-3 per partner).

  3. Minimal partner investments.
    If early gross revenues are sufficient, there will be no cash investment required per partner. Else, each partner will put in $200-300 per sub-project that they are part of. That is, if I settle on 11 sub-projects, there will be a total pool of $2200 – $3300 dollars to hire some temporary staff. If things go very well in phase 1, partners will not have to open their own wallets.

  4. Minimal paid staff.
    Because this is an experiment in bootstrapping, paid staff have to be kept to a minimum, at least initially. At the start of the second phase, if revenues are sufficient, $2200 – $3300 will be pulled from gross revenues to hire staff. Otherwise, each sub-project’s partner will put in $200-300 towards the project pool, for hiring temporary staff.

    Success from phase 2 will determine whether staff can be kept on. If not, we go back to putting in our own time and effort, then try to hire again later – but only from available gross revenues.

  5. Self-promotion through blogging.
    A blog for bootstrapping a business project can be ideal for leverage. Each partner is a successful blogger in their own right, and hopefully each sub-project’s blog will generate enough revenue to create a bootstrapped cash flow for the entire project.

  6. Leveraged resources and skills.
    I am leveraging Open Source software and my own skills to bootstrap this project. This includes using free online collaboration applications where available. The only costs at the moment are for the project-related websites:

    1. Domain registration is about US$6.95/yr + $0.25 ICANN fee for each site. I registered all domains for two years.
    2. Hosting uses a special reseller acount for $52.97/mth. This provides 5 Terabytes pooled monthly bandwidth and 55 Gb pooled hard drive space. Using this site makes admin simple, but it requires a “main” domain, which also has to be registered ($6.95 + 0.25/yr).
    3. Design and graphics. Some of this work will be paid with a 10% net revenue share. Those sub-projects not launching immediately will have their design + graphics paid for in cash out of my own pocket.

    Thus, average monthly website costs are just over $60/mth out of my own pocket. When hosting needs go beyond my reseller account’s limits, the weblogs will be moved, and the cost paid from gross revenues.

  7. Overall project goals:
    To reveal this now gives away too much. From an entrepreneurial point of view, the project intends to show that bootstrapping can lead to successful revenues in an online venture, using a “synergy” of partnership, leverage of skills, and leveraging of Open Source software. The sub-projects will be aiding other people, but the details of this will be revealed in Jan 2008.

Expected returns

It’s impossible to determine what the exact return will be, but the nature of the project allows me to estimate long-term as well as minimums.

  • Minimum: $500/month gross revenue per sub-project, after a specific milestone point (to be revealed in the future). If operating costs are, say, $1000/mth across the entire project, that is divided 11 ways (11 partnerships). This is not much of a return for the partners nor myself, so there is hopefully motivation for a greater promotional effort.

  • My estimation: I’ve conservatively estimated that each sub-project could earn at least $3000/mth within two years, if partners do their share of promotional effort. While that will not be a huge return for each partner on a monthly basis, not only will they get their money back and some modest monthly income, they’ll benefit from any sale of the project.
  • Outside estimation: Two people I consider experts about such projects having been analyzing my plan. They feel there is a 50/50 chance of the project being hugely successful ($800K/mth) or a flop ($8K/mth). The latter means about $800/mth per sub-project. Their estimations are based on the success of similar projects.

I’m far more optimistic about the low end because I’m applying tried and true bootstrapping principles, leveraging effort and skills, and keeping costs minimal early on. What’s more, there’s a second layer of bootstrapping here. If my share of the project’s net monthly revenue reaches a certain level, I can afford to give up other paid work and devote more time. And because of the nature of the project, even a modest level of success means we’ll eventually get offers for at least $2-3M, if not as much as $10M. For some entrepreneurs, that’s nothing. But for a bootstrap-minded person like myself, it’s capital for the next project.

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Bootstrapping Case Study: Screencasting on the Cheap Tue, 28 Aug 2007 20:00:05 +0000 Site Administrator Screencasting is building into a hot niche, and tutorial videos have a great deal of potential for generating revenue. You could build a business around it. There are millions of people searching every day for information on “how to” do something, possibly on a topic you can “teach” through a video screencast. I previous wrote about bootstrapping an online information business. This post is supplementary to that one, and there is a bit of overlap here.

To clarify, screencasts are videos where you’ve “captured” your activity while running a piece of software. Camstudio is a free piece of software that lets you do that, but it has a limited feature set, if you want professional quality production, callouts, swipes, narration, etc. For that, you need something like TechSmith‘s Camtasia Studio, which runs about US$300.

I splurged earlier this year and bought a copy, and it’s worth every cent because it paid for itself in video tutorials I produced for other websites. But you don’t actually have to pay for it up front. If you follow my instructions, you can bootstrap your way. All it requires is a bit of planning, and you could generate enough income to pay for a copy.

Here’s one way that you can spend nothing upfront on Camtasia Studio and get the benefits of the full version.

  1. Brainstorm a plan for video screencasts that you can sell online, along with how you’ll promote.
  2. Set up a Paypal account.
  3. Set up the infrastructure for a website where you’ll sell your videos.
  4. Integrate the PayPal purchase button.
  5. Download the 21-day free trial.
  6. Produce a round of videos and post them on your site for sale.
  7. Promote your videos by releasing teasers on YouTube and other sharing sites, and SplashCast. Blog about your videos, too, to drum up interest.
  8. Sell either downloadable copies of your videos or a flat or monthly membership access.
  9. Pay for a full copy of Camtasia Studio.

There are at least three variations to the process above:

  1. Start with the free Camstudio for prelimary work.
  2. Promote your for-sale screencasts by offering an excerpted tutorial to some select blogs, in return for a promotional link.
  3. Instead of selling screencasts yourself, sell them to blog owners, along with a tutorial article. If you’re using either the free Camstudio or the free trial of Camtasia Studio, you can start selling articles with videos right away. No setup, no PayPal integration.

    You could sell such blog articles for between $50-$200 each, depending on how much work they are. My own tutorials over at Tubetorial, SearchEngineJournal and Performancing took between 4-6 hours of total work each, including scripting, screencasting, production, video upload to SplashCast, article writing, editing.

    While this freelancing, which is not entrepreneuring, it could turn into a startup business.

Ideally, you will want to have some “presence” online, maybe with a blog, before you try to sell a brand new video series. Or a very powerful copywritten sales page. This gives you a better chance of converting viewers of your teaser videos into buyers.

If you’re covering a hot topic and have screencasts that really teach something useful (such as how to use such and such software or web application) and are targeted to the right people, then there’s a good chance you could sell your series. Or you could get a promise from various bloggers that you’ll write an article and have a screencast video with it. With a bit of savvy and willingness to do the necessary work, you could turn screencasting into a business.

Obviously, you are ultimately paying for the Camtasia Studio software. However, you’ve made it work for you, without an initial cash outlay. That’s bootstrapping in action.

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Case Study: Bootstrapping an Online Information Business Fri, 15 Jun 2007 23:00:39 +0000 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

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