Bootstrapper’s Cascading Cashflow Case Study

Tuesday, November 13, 2007 at 11:45pm by Site Administrator

Bootstrapping - cascading cashflow engines

It’s true that some niches are more monetizable online than others. But what if you are not an authority in one of the more lucrative niches and can’t afford to hire someone? Being a generalist, I tend to fool myself into believing I can write about anything, but there are only a few niches that I can write about with a level of passion – which is key for a successful blog, but not necessarily a static site.

Now if you’re in the position that you feel your knowledge is not that monetizable, you still have a few options. I’ve been exploring a business model I like to call “cascading cashflow engines”. It is all theoretical, but applicable both online and offline. The gist of the whole exercise is to leverage what you do know into distributed projects that will collectively raise enough capital for your true startup goal. Applied to online publishing, this is an alternate financing method than blogging for startup money.

Cascading Cashflow Business Model:
Basically, I start with a few small projects that I can manage or can find volunteers for. The revenue for these projects (whether websites or something else) is used to fund the next level of projects. These second-level projects usually have some hired help – freelancers. Part of the revenue from the second-level projects is recycled, in hopes of producing more paid work for other people. The rest of the revenue is used to fund some third-level projects, which might have half-time or full-time people.

The revenues keep cascading down the project levels until there’s enough capital generated to launch the real startup goal.

Previous Entrepreneurial Mistakes:
Again, I’ll emphasize that this is a theoretical business model. I’ve been exploring it for years, but I made some serious mistakes before:

  1. Didn’t focus on a few areas of interest.
  2. Overcommitted resources and had to stop short, making collaborators angry.
  3. Bought too much equipment too soon. That is, I didn’t really bootstrap and suffered stunning financial losses as a result.
  4. Didn’t consistently apply kaizen.
  5. Didn’t take on partners (couldn’t find suitable ones).
  6. Over-relied on credit cards, and not even business cards with good rates.
  7. Didn’t plan to pay contributors/ hires a share of net monthly revenue.

Summary:
I’ve rectified these problems on what might be termed my third phase of entrepreneuring, which is currently purely online, as a digital entrepreneur. I’m also replicating the successful online business models of some of my colleagues/ partners who are earning between $5-50K/month. I’m also exploring, with partners, web mashup tools and subscription sites.

While all this doesn’t guarantee success, early indications are that the success will come over time, now that I’ve learned from previous mistakes. My cascading cashflow engines will be harnessed over the next three years, in hopes of producing enough capital to bootstrap a film production company (complete with funding of my entry into film school). I know. I don’t like doing things the easy way.

Top 100 Entrepreneur Podcasts

Tuesday, November 13, 2007 at 11:35pm by Site Administrator

If you’re a busy entrepreneur, chances are you barely have time to brush your teeth, let alone brush up on all of the blogs, business news, and books out there. If you’re too busy to read, podcasts are a great alternative. Try listening to these podcasts for entrepreneurs while you’re on the go.

Startups

Hear about strategies for up and comers in these podcasts.

  1. FlyingStartups: Get monthly updates of interviews with well known startup entrepreneurs on FlyingStartups.
  2. Startup Nation Radio: The Sloan Brothers take you on their adventure of starting a dream business.
  3. Loic Le Meur: This serial startup entrepreneur creates podcasts with interviews, news and more.
  4. Andrew Allgaier: Andrew Allgaier’s on the brink of launching his business.
  5. Cubicle Divas: Leesa Barnes shares secrets on how women can start a new business on a shoestring.
  6. StartupBizCast: Steve Mullen’s Startup BizCast has loads of business advice and tips for startups.

Finance

Keep your mind on your money by checking out these podcasts that center on finance and investment.

  1. Business With Cents: This podcast is all about starting a successful business without a lot of cash.
  2. Best Accounting Practices: Listen to Best Accounting Practices for insight from CPA Jack Boyer.
  3. Venture Voice: These podcasts offer infomation on venture capital, entrepreneurship, and other topics in business.
  4. Entrepreneur Magazine Radio-Money/Jobs and Economy: This podcast covers news and interviews in money and economy.
  5. Kiplinger Personal Finance: Entrepreneurs need to keep a close eye on their personal finances. Learn how to do that with Kiplinger’s podcast.
  6. Entrepreneur and Investor Corner: This podcast is designed to help entrepreneurs get their feet wet in finance and investing.
  7. Joseph Associates: This podcast from Joseph Associates covers the merger and acquisition marketplace.
  8. QuickBooks Small Business Podcast: Get small business seminars in this podcast from QuickBooks.
  9. TaxQuips: If you’ve got a small business tax question, tune in to TaxQuips.
  10. Accounting Best Practices: Steve Bragg discusses a number of accounting topics in this podcast.

Inspiration

Use these podcasts to spark ideas and inspiration for your business.

  1. 60 Second Ideas: Get inspiration from these quick idea podcasts.
  2. Daily Thoughts for Business: These inspirational thoughts will brighten any entrepreneur’s day.
  3. Teen Biz: On this podcast, you’ll find business ideas for teens and young adults.
  4. Biz Op Radio: Chris Murch stays on top of business opportunities in this podcast.
  5. HBR Ideacast: This ideacast from Harvard Business Review offers loads of management ideas and commentary.
  6. Entrepreneur Cast: Learn how to take your inspiration beyond the concept with Entrepreneur Cast.
  7. Tweak!: Tweak! teaches entrepreneurs to make small changes in their business.
  8. Escape From Cubicle Nation: Pamela Slim’s podcast is all about getting out of the cubicle and into a life you can enjoy.
  9. iinnovate: Learn about innovation and entrepreneurship with this podcast.
  10. Killer Innovations: Phil McKinney shares his knowledge about creativity and innovation.

Productivity

Listen to these podcasts for strategies and help for staying on top of everything.

  1. Gain Control of Your Day: Use these tools and techniques to stay on top of your productivity.
  2. A Motivated Entrepreneur: Get motivated with this podcast.
  3. Smarter By The Minute: Work smarter and live happier by checking out Smarter By The Minute.

Marketing

These podcasts provide loads of ideas for getting the word out about your business.

  1. Aggressive Marketing & Entrepreneurship Podcast: Tune into Michael Cage’s podcast to learn about strategies and news for marketing your business.
  2. The Cold Calling Podcast: Listen to the Cold Calling Podcast for tips, insight, and tricks on telephone prospecting and lead generation.
  3. Guerilla Marketing: Find out what people want online and how to be an exceptional guerilla marketer with this podcast.
  4. Recognized Expert Marketing: Listen in to this podcast to learn how becoming a recognized expert can help you with marketing.
  5. Biz III: Listen to this small business podcast for loads of tech-savvy marketing tips.
  6. Personal Brand Marketing: Check out Vikarm Rajan’s podcast for marketing tips you can use.
  7. Duct Tape Marketing: John Jantsch’s Duct Tape Marketing podcast delivers loads of marketing tips and offers lots of big-name guests.
  8. Marketing Edge: Check out Marketing Edge for insight on public relations, marketing, and more.
  9. Marketing Voices: Listen to Marketing Voices for perspectives on social media marketing.

Business Building

Build your business with these podcasts.

  1. Build a Private Practice: Learn how to build a private practice from therapists and experts who have been there before.
  2. Struggling Entrepreneur: Find out what this entrepreneur has learned along the way.
  3. Building a Home Business That Doesn’t Suck: Listen to this podcast to learn how to build a real home-based business.

Foreign

Check out these podcasts for business outside of the US.

  1. Business Coach Podcast-Canadian Small Business: This business coach has lots of advice for Canadian entrepreneurs.
  2. The China Business Show: Find out how business leaders do business in China.
  3. I’m Boss TV: Get small business information from Australians here.
  4. The Engaging Brand: Anna Farmery’s The Engaging Brand is all about a consultancy in the UK.
  5. China Business Podcast: Find out about growth and opportunities in China by listening to this podcast.
  6. Entrepreneur’s Journey: Check out Yaro Starak’s podcast to hear about the Australian’s journey as an entrepreneur.
  7. Small Biz Pod: Check out this podcast for UK entrepreneurs.
  8. InsidePR Podcast: This weekly Canadian podcast is all about public relations.

Interviews

In these podcasts, you’ll hear interviews with lots of successful entrepreneurs.

  1. Jenerous: Listen to the stories of entrepreneurs and marketers on Jenerous.
  2. Leader Network: On The Leader Network, you’ll listen to interviews on known and unknown leaders.
  3. Like Nobody’s Business: Lalita Amos’ podcast includes interviews and challenges to traditional business thinking.
  4. Startup Studio: With Startup Studio, you’ll enjoy interviews of entrepreneurs and learn how they did it.
  5. Biz Link Radio: On Biz Link Radio, you’ll get weekly interviews with entrepreneurs and executives.
  6. Entrepreneur Exclusive: Listen to exclusive interviews with entrepreneurs.
  7. Small Business Netcast: The panelists on this podcast discuss creating, developing, and managing small businesses.
  8. Round One: Listen to interviews of prominent entrepreneurs on Round One.
  9. Beermat Business Radio Show: Mike Southon, "Beermat Entrepreneur," interviews successful entrepreneurs, CEOs, and leaders.
  10. Meet The CEO: Listen to interviews of big-name CEOs on this podcast.
  11. DSM Buzz: This podcast interviews successful entrepreneurs and encourages consumers to buy local.
  12. Small Business Podcast: Listen to the Small Business Podcast for interviews with loads of business experts, entrepreneurs, and more.

Leadership

Learn how to be a good manager and leader using these podcasts.

  1. Change Maker Minute: Get motivational messages for leaders from this podcast.
  2. The Good Manager Podcasts: Learn how to be a good manager in these podcasts.
  3. Fireside Chat with Lisa Haneberg: Learn about business management with these podcasts from Lisa Haneberg.
  4. Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders: Check out these lectures from Stanford for thoughts from entrepreneurial leaders.
  5. Small Biz Survival: Becky McCray’s podcasts focus on business leadership and management advice.
  6. Manager Tools: Use Manager Tools to become a more effective manager and leader.

Technology

Get the latest in entrepreneurial tech news with these podcasts.

  1. eBiz Show: Learn about successful ebusinesses on this podcast.
  2. eCommerce RSS Radio Show: Listen in to this show for information about tracking topics online.
  3. The Podcast Brothers: Check out the Podcast Brothers for weekly infomation on the business side of audio and video new media.
  4. Managing The Gray: C.C. Chapman’s podcast discusses how entrepreneurs can use social media to their advantage.
  5. Internet Business Mastery: Listen to Sterling and Jay’s podcast for information on the art of internet marketing and online business.
  6. Calcanis: This CEO of Mahalo.com always has lots of special guests on his podcasts.
  7. The SBS Show: Manage your IT operations better by listening to the SBS Show.
  8. JoomlaJabber: Kathy and Tom discuss the Joomla open source content management service on this podcast.
  9. Podcasting for Business: This podcast will help you develop and create a podcast for your entrepreneurial venture.
  10. Midwest Business: Hear about business technology news that affects the midwest on this podcast.
  11. The Podcast Sisters: The Podcast Sisters is focused on small business and using the Internet to your advantage.
  12. CIO Podcast: Stay on top of the IT industry and learn how you can benefit from events.

Sales

For budding businesses, it’s all about focusing on sales. These podcasts do just that.

  1. Sales Roundup: Learn how to hire the right salespeople, keep communication with clients open, and more on Sales Roundup.
  2. Product Sourcing Podcast: Find out how you can find products to sell on this podcast.
  3. Copy That Sells Podcast: Learn how to write better copy with this podcast.

News

Get business news and commentary from these podcasts.

  1. New York Times: Stay on top of the latest news from all over the world with podcasts from The New York Times.
  2. On The Record: Listen to reporters from mainstream media discuss the future of the industry as well as marketing and business.
  3. Daily Review: Get an up to the minute briefing on daily news stories with this podcast.

General

For content that’s applicable to nearly every entrepreneur, check out these podcasts.

  1. Entrepreneur.com: Subscribe to Entrepreneur.com’s podcasts, and you’ll get access to loads of different topics for entrepreneurs.
  2. Mind Your Own Business Podcast: Listen to Mind Your Own Business for "the antidote to business advice."
  3. I’m There For You Baby: This "entrepreneur’s guide to the galaxy" covers a number of different topics for entrepreneurs.
  4. Business Week: On Business Week, you’ll hear about popular weekly features from Business Week magazine.
  5. SBA Podcast: Get access to loads of resources and help from the Small Business Administration with these podcasts.
  6. Small Business Radio: This podcast discusses recruiting, marketing, and more.
  7. Business Humor Podcast: See the humor in entrepreneurship with this podcast of Hesh Reinfeld’s columns.
  8. Microbusiness News Briefs: Dawn Rivers Baker covers everything of interest to microbusinesses and their entrepreneurs.
  9. The Trend Junkie: This junkie is addicted to both trends and entrepreneurship.
  10. Learn Small Business: Learn how to operate a solopreneur venture through this podcast.

Other

For even more thought-provoking content, listen to these podcasts.

  1. Entrepreneur Mum: This mom runs a business and a family.
  2. GopherHaul Lawn Care Podcast: Listen to this show to learn how you can create and maintain a successful lawn care business.
  3. Ask the Guru: Check in with real estate guru Larry King on this podcast.
  4. MBA Working Girl: Learn about both business school theory and real-world business practices from MBA Working Girl.
  5. Business Intelligence Network Solution Spotlights: Get business industry insights from experts in this podcast.

7 Niches to Explore for an Online Information Business

Sunday, November 11, 2007 at 9:30pm by Site Administrator

Are you thinking of launching a startup business but you’re not quite sure what market to focus on? You’ve heard that it’s possible to have a successful business online, if everything aligns. So why not explore some online niches?

Below is a list of a few niches that are considered hot right now by my colleagues, especially for blogs. To turn them into the semblance of an online business, you need more than just a blog. Following the niche list are a few suggestions for site-building, based on my research over the past three calendar years, as well as informal conversations with successful online publishing colleagues.

Online Niches:
These are only a few of many niches that are currently considered “hot”.

  1. Productivity and personal development. These topics can actually be split up into two primary sub-niches, since productivity typically relates to work and personal development is usually, well, very personal. While there are many top blogs in this space, you can still stand out with the right premium content.

  2. Personal finance. Personal finance is on the mind of pretty much every adult in North America, not to mention probably the rest of the world. Effective money management comes from learning BEFORE problems arise. Hence there’s also a potential for an audience in different age groups, especially for premium content. But it is a very competitive niche, with hundreds of good personal finance blogs (aka pfblogs).
  3. Health. If you believe popular media about the diabetes epidemic due to obesity, as well as all the other diseases we’re learning to cope with, then you know how much interest there is in health. It’s a huge, profitable niche, with many sub-niches – such as specific diseases – that are profitable on their own. But this niche requires a significant amount of knowledge. If you are interested in health but not qualified to write, hire someone who is, and act only as an editor, publisher and webmaster.
  4. Travel. Travel has always been a multi-billion dollar market, and the many thousands of travel-related blogs listed in Technorati suggests huge competition. Travel, like health, can be a good niche for setting up mini-sites for specific sub-topics. You can also stand out by catering to specific types of travellers on different sites: budget, post-college, honeymooners, luxury, adventure, geek travellers, business travellers.
  5. Style/ fashion. With the huge interest in celebrity lifestyle, there’s a sizable market for fashion. However, not everyone can afford high-end designer clothes. So you could focus on affordable but stylish fashions. Add affiliate links/ ads, or add an online shop.
  6. Home renovation. There are consumers out there who’ll take a second mortgage to improve their house, either with additions or renovations. If they’re going to spend the money anyway, why not help them? Offer how-to articles, sources of financing, where to save money without compromising quality, resources listing manufacturers, subcontractors, etc. This is an ideal niche for having a paid directory of relevant businesses.
  7. Sports. Pick the right sports and you could have a lucrative online business. Which sport? Why the one you love the most of course. Your passion will show through in your articles, and an online store could supplement advertising revenue.

General Advice:
In addition to blog posts, consider setting up an FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions), glossary of terms, resource list (sites, software). You can also setup very subject-focused mini-sites that link back to your main site. I feel that blogs are merely a way to build expertise and the web traffic that will potentially lead to conversions in terms of paid content or advertising. So provided that you can find the right means of monetization for your niche, you can give away content, even someof your premium content.

In addition to quality resource articles, you might want to participate in/ run a blog carnival for competitive niches – not to mention use the appropriate social media sites to promote your business and content.

Types of Content:
Don’t just rely on a blog and the static pages of mini-sites. Here are some other forms of content that can win you paying customers in the future. Some of the content below is premium. Premium content should be written by people with the appropriate knowledge. When your capital allows, hire qualified freelancers.

  1. Forum threads. If you have the time and inclination, consider adding a forum (if you are targeting some sub-niche of your topic). Just keep in mind that forums take a great deal of time, but after there is momentum, ask some of your regular members if they’d like to be volunteer moderators. If you think you’d like to pay them in the future, you can mention that – but don’t promise it.

  2. E-newsletters. Feedburner and other services will take your blog feed and produce an automated e-newsletter. You can configure the delivery frequency.
  3. Screencasts. Screencasting simply means to record a video of someone using a piece of software. Screencasts are an ideal way to teach specific software-related skills, and in the right niche, this could generate revenue.
  4. Podcasts. Podcasts, strictly speaking, refer to a piece of audio recording. It might be yourself reading and discussing niche news, or someone you’ve hired. The intent is to offer visitors a handy way to consume content, since MP3 files can be downloaded to an iPod or other media player. Podcasting is relatively easy to do.
  5. Video. If you have the capital to buy the video and editing gear, as well as the time and skills, producing video content can be a lucrative effort for the appropriate niche. Travel is an example that comes to mind. Offer video travel tips to premium subscription customers, as well as free teasers.
  6. Ebooks. Ebooks can be massaged collection of your blog posts, though adding some fresh content gives you more credibilty. Ebooks can be sold per copy or via monthly subscription access.
  7. Directories. As mentioned above, for the home renovation niche, you might want offer businesses the option of a paid listing. This listing could be merely contact info, or a website link, or even a mini-profile. Of course, you could do this for most niches listed here.
  8. Software. In some niches (e.g., personal finance), a suitable piece of software can bring your site many eyeballs. Even free software (whether for the desktop or web browser) can be monetized.

Monetiztion:
There are many ways to monetize your content, even if some or all of it is free.

  1. CPC ads. CPC, or Cost Per Click, ad networks give you a piece of code to include with your web pages and blog posts. Every time there is a legitimate click on an ad, you earn revenue. How much you earn depends both on the perceived authority of your site as well as as the niche.

  2. CPM ads. CPM, or Cost Per Mille (thousand), ads are based on # of impressions. You earn a prorated amount for the number of times a specific advertiser’s ad is displayed on your site in a given time period. CPM value varies with niche and, possibly, how much traffic your site gets. High-traffic authority sites can often sell such ads directly, thus eliminating ad networks as the middleman. Such ads are often in banner form.
  3. CPA ads. CPA, or Cost Per Action, ads typically earn more than CPC or CPM ads. However, they only earn when a visitor completes a specific action, such as signing up for something or even making a purchase. The latter, which pay either a flat fee or percentage of sale value, are typically for affiliate programs.
  4. Sales. Per-item sales of information or tangible products – such as ebooks, DVDs, etc., can be a significant source of revenue – provided you’ve established some sort of perceived authority in your chosen niche.
  5. Subscriptions. For the right type of premium content, on “authority” sites, you can charge for subscription access to premium content. Billing is made simpler by using PayPal and their developer API.
  6. Merchandise. In certain niches, you might sell t-shirts, mugs, etc., online. You can offer PayPal, Google Checkout, or other forms of online payment. It doesn’t work for all niches, of course.
  7. Consulting/ services. Some people have made a career of giving away all their online content simply to establish enough authority that they can later charge their high hourly rate for services, speaking tours, workshops or for leveraging book sales.

Finally, if you ever get to the point where you want out of your online business, another monetization option is selling your site(s). Even sites with free subscriptions can make “bank” with the right supporting conditions.

Career Choices: Follow Your Passion?

Friday, November 9, 2007 at 6:30pm by Site Administrator

For those of you with unfulfilled entrepreneurial dreams, there are a couple of blog posts I recommend reading. Jon over at OnMoneyMaking says don’t do what you love. He thinks that’s stupid. He obviously had a lot of foresight early in life because he started building his resume at around nine years of age. And the result was that despite a college degree in English, all his other activities scored him a six-figured salaried job upon graduation.

Ryan over at College Startup reflects on Jon’s article but disagrees with him about not doing what you love:

… in my honest opinion, the resources and infrastructure are now in place so that anyone, anywhere, with enough passion, can do exactly what they want and still hit 6 figures within a few years.

I’m a long-time freelancer but also raised “old-school” in the sense that you have to follow some career to be safe in life, to pay the bills, raise a family, have a mortgage, etc. After following the rules and being repeatedly thwarted in my career success (sometimes through self-sabotage), I figure that without a family or mortgage, I really have nothing to lose by following my passion. That is, my original passion, filmmaking – the one I forgot all about while trying to raise money for it the past sixteen years.

The conservative approach is to “do what you have to make a living.” The liberal approach is to follow your passion and make it work. My long-time thinking is to follow your passion, if possible. Just don’t be afraid to make detours if necessary, to survive, and don’t forget your passion, during the detour.

Fact is, the Internet has made it possible (but not necessarily probable) that you can make a living online, whether from blogging as a niche authority, having an online publishing business, software development, e-commerce or some other means. The question is whether you can find your passion, because that’s what I feel you need for online success.

Entrepreneur and Productivity Roundup – Fri Nov 09, 2007

Friday, November 9, 2007 at 3:15pm by Site Administrator

More Freepreneuring: Free Rice
No idea if Free Rice is sustainable freepreneuring business model, but as Seth Godin said, it’s a lot of fun. Free Rice displays a word and four meanings to choose from. For every word you get right, they donate 10 grains of rice through the United Nations, in the hopes of ending world hunger. They have some very well-known companies advertising in little graphic ad banners.

While the questions do get tougher, I managed to help donate 300 grains, getting 30 questions right out of about 35. If you have a few minutes where you’re relaxing, go check out Free Rice and have some fun while improving your vocabularly.

Budding Young Filmmakers
Ben Casanocha has been impressing entrepreneurs both for his web project ComCate and the fact that he started it at the age of thirteen. Well another young man, a Canadian, is now twelve and has been making stop-motion movies with plasticine sets – similar to Wallace and Grommit- for a few years now, winning kudos all over the world. In fact, if I remember correctly, he has essentially bootstrapped his allowance over a few years into a filmmaking skillset that won him a $10,000 prize in a film festival.

Does anyone think this kid will not become a filmmaker in terms of his career choice? [Apologies but I can't seem to find any info about him online, don't remember his name, nor which TV network he was profiled on this week.]

Garage Startups: Holey Soles
Holey Soles, a Canadian manufacturer of clog-like footwear, apparently started in Joyce Groote’s neighbor’s garage [via Business Opportunities]. However, this is not your typical garage startup, as Groote’s initial investment was Cdn$80,000 in 2002 – from leveraged mortgages, etc. But considering that in just five years, the company is now expecting Cdn$20M of gross revenue this year, it seems to me that they’ve still applied some bootstrapping principles, reinvesting their earnings.

The footwear, sold in over thirty countries, is designed not to absorb bacteria and to give more bounce on hardwood floors.

Bootstrap Your Career With Blogging: 7 Tips

Wednesday, November 7, 2007 at 5:30pm by Site Administrator

Entrepreneuring might not commonly be referred to as a “career”, but it is as far as I’m concerned. Over time, I’ve met some very interesting bootstrappers. Some of them raised the capital for their businesses – including restaurant chains – through the oddest means – including selling drugs or even writing romance novels. Now that’s not to say you should do either, heaven forbid, but maybe you can find some creative way to generate funds for your entrepreneurial career.

While I’ve publicly admitted that my own websites/ blogs don’t earn a lot of money yet, I believe they could. (Most of my income is from freelancing.) I feel that with the right niche, you could bootstrap your entrepreneuring with bloging, if it’s your sort of thing. I don’t mean publishing a blog for your business. I mean blogging as a means to raise capital for the business you’ve been dreaming of.

Challenge
I’m making it sound easy, and it’s not. To make it work, there are a lot of things you have to do right, in synchrony. I’m also assuming that you have the ability to communicate clearly most of the time. Far too many bloggers do not communicate well, then wonder why no one reads their blog. Communication skills are important in business, as well as for blogging.

  1. Pick a good niche. Find a monetizable niche known to have high ad CTR (Clickthrough Rate). This is the lynchpin factor. Without the right niche, you’re better off working over time or raising money some other way.

  2. Be visible. Write anywhere from 5-20 posts per day, with word count/post decreasing as quantity increases. The more you write, the more search engine traffic you’ll bring in, provided your writing is entertaining/ engaging/ informative (depending on niche).
  3. Develop your own voice. To keep readers coming back, develop your own voice in a niche.
  4. Experiment. Try different post styles (see below) until you find something that works for your niche.
  5. Persist. Trying for a month or two and giving up isn’t going to take you anywhere. It might take a few months for your site to draw regular readers and/or search engine traffic.
  6. Be informed. To pull off an authority blog, you need to know what you’re talking about. If you don’t know, learn. This of course requires a chunk of time for research.
  7. Promote. Use social media sites to promote your site and your best posts. This takes time and effort, something non-entrepreneurs tend not to want to spend.

Those of you balking at this advice, please leave the room now. It comes from someone who has concrete proof – in impressive monthly income – that this publishing frequency works – especially 10+ posts – for specific niches.

Approach
In addition to the points above, you have to take the right approach to the actual writing and research. Obviously, the more time you can devote, the more likely you’ll make this work.

  1. Start by writing small summary posts and apply the principle of kaizen to improve your writing. (Read this first if you’re starting in a niche that you know little about but want to learn.)

  2. Expand your knowledge so that you can summarize it succinctly in your posts. It’s actually harder to express the same information in fewer words, and takes knowledge of your subject.
  3. Add illustrations/ images/ videos, if suitable for the niche. Start with Flickr and YouTube, then expand your “sources”. Pay for quality pics if you have to, when you can afford it.
  4. Don’t dawdle. If you have an idea for a post, write up a summary. If after brewing it in your head for an hour, you have nothing else to say, post what you have then write an expanded post later. (Just make sure the summary is coherent.)
  5. Space out publishing. Some niches require that you post all day long. Wake up early, if you have to, and beat each busy period: morning, noon, evening by publish before those times, not during. (Of course, your time zone matters, depending on who your readers are.) What you don’t want to do is write 20 posts and publish them all in the same 30 minutes. Try to publish 1-5 posts per period, but with at least 10-15 minutes between any two. This is a necessity for staying visible in blog directories and search engines.

Post Style
Your post style is another important factor and depends on the niche you’ve picked. If you’re not sure, experiment. I’m doing that in a particular niche, where I have several partners and hired bloggers. These are small experiments, but should prove valuable. Here are the parameters:

  1. Voice: neutral or opinionated.
  2. Links, internal: with or without.
  3. Links, external: with or without.
  4. Images: with/ without.
  5. Word count: micro (25+), short (50-100), medium (200+), long (400+), or tome (600+).
  6. # Posts/day: 1 to many.
  7. Video: with or without.

The number of posts per day that you “should” do depends highly on the niche. However, generally speaking, the more content you have, the more often search engine spiders visit your site, thus improving the chances of lots of traffic. That’s a very nutshell explanation, but some niches absolutely require 10-20 short posts per day for a blog to be a success financially.

Of course, the more posts you do per day, the shorter the posts should be, if you are expecting to gain blog feed subscribers. It’s also less tasking to write 10-20 posts per day if they’re shorter.

Summary
The entire point of this exercise is not to blog about your business – which in this case hasn’t been launched yet. The point is to explore a possible means of generating startup capital to launch your startup. You can use a pseudonym if for some reason you don’t want to use your real name.

My colleague who earns five figures per month swears by most of the above information. As for niches, well, i’m not going to give away all my secrets just yet. However, if you’re clever and do a bit of hunting, you’ll figure out which niches I’m hedging my bets in, along with partners.

I have my regular freelance work that pays my bills. I’m hoping that my experimental blogging/ publishing will also help me start up my photography once again – possibly enough to pay for equipment and a live/work studio – pay for my entrance into film school, and then generate capital for when I do make movies. The double benefit is that I’ll already have a few of my own vehicles for advertising my films.

How to: ‘Fire’ Your Bad Clients, Make More Money and Restore Your Sanity

Monday, November 5, 2007 at 2:37pm by Site Administrator

Clients are the bread and butter of any business. Without them, your business simply wouldn’t exist. So it can be hard for many business owners to think about sending clients away, especially those just starting out. But it’s inevitable that you’ll have a client that taxes both your resources and your personal sanity to the point where it becomes necessary to let them go. Don’t worry, you’re not crazy to send business away. Sometimes the best thing you can do for your business is to cut a client loose. It’s not always easy, but it will leave you with more time to concentrate on clients that are easier to deal with and more profitable.

Types of Bad Clients

Bad clients come in many flavors, but these are some of the most common offenders. If you’ve got one of these on your client list, consider showing them the door.

  • The Complainer: Don’t expect to ever do anything right for this type of client. Even if you deliver under budget and sooner than expected, they will still be disappointed for a reason they just can’t seem to communicate to you.
  • The Something for Nothing: These types of clients ignore the old adage and try to get as much out of you as they can for as little as possible. Often, they’ll get your initial estimate and expect the cost not to increase when they increase the size or duration of the project or keep adding on "little" things.
  • The Time Waster: Expect your time to mean little to these kinds of clients. They’ll be hard to get in meetings and when you finally get ahold of them, they won’t listen to what you’re saying. They’ll run you around with changes, pointless meetings, and time wasted waiting, and then complain how much they’re paying you.
  • The Aggressor: This type of client is the hardest to work with and the scariest to get rid of. They are often verbally abusive and threaten to sue for the slightest reason. Be especially careful when unloading these as they have particularly short fuses.
  • The Know-It-All: The know-it-all is sure that he or she knows how to do your job just as well as you do because they have a basic familiarity with the programs you use or read a book on the subject. What they don’t realize is that your experience and expert knowledge are really what they’re paying for. Nonetheless, they’ll question your every move and drive you crazy.
  • The Boundary Crosser: This type of client will ask you for your home phone numbers "for emergencies" and then call you on weekends and after hours just to check in. This kind of client taxes your personal life heavily.

How to Fire Them

Whether you have a client that fits one of these profiles or an entirely different breed altogether, when the time comes to part ways, do you know how you’ll go about doing it? Here are some tips on making the process as painless as possible.

  • Do it in writing. This will help to prevent misunderstandings and raised emotions. It will also give you a written record of your interactions with the client if you should need it to back you up later.
  • Make sure you get paid prior to terminating your relationship. You’re asking for trouble by firing a client who still hasn’t paid you, even though sometimes this may be the reason that you are firing them. As illegal and unprofessional as it may be, a jilted client may withhold payment for your services as retribution for letting them go.
  • Fulfill any remaining contractual obligations to your clients if it is at all possible or you may find yourself subject to the consequences of breaking that contract. If this is the case, you might want to bring in a lawyer to tell you your best options. Remember, you want to do the work you’ve promised to do, as your reputation is still at stake.
  • When letting clients go, be honest but not hostile or offensive. If you can’t think of any way to put your reasons for parting ways nicely, then tell them your business is changing directions or that you just don’t think you can complete their project in the manner or timeframe they hoped.
  • Don’t just leave your clients high and dry after you’ve let them go. They may not have treated you with respect, but that doesn’t mean you should return the favor. Recommend another business, preferably a competitor, to take the project instead.
  • If nothing else seems to work, jack up your prices. Either they’ll part ways with you themselves or the pain of working for them will be lessened by your increased paycheck.

While it might be difficult both mentally and financially to fire a client, in the long run you’ll be doing your business and yourself a favor. You shouldn’t let go of every client that is difficult, but if you’re hitting the brink with a client, it’s time to make a change. In reality, many clients that take up hours of your time are costing you more than they’re bringing in. By cutting these clients loose, you’ll have more time and energy to concentrate on bringing in new, more profitable business, and that’s really what business is all about.

Freepreneuring: 5 Ways to Monetize Free Content

Sunday, November 4, 2007 at 10:00am by Site Administrator

With a shift towards free content online, no doubt many entrepreneurs are wondering how they can bootstrap their business if they are not going to draw any sales revenue. It’s a scary thought.

I don’t profess to have a solid answer, but I do have some ideas. Here are a few ways that you can still monetize your startup, even while offering free content or services.

  1. Advertising. TV and radio were always based on free content supported by advertising. At least until Cable/ pay per view and satellite radio came along. If you are offering only free content, consider monetizing your website with relevant ads – preferably those sold direct, on a CPM (Cost per Mille, e.g., 1000) basis of pageviews.
  2. Freemium. The freemium pricing model seem to be popular with web applications providers. General access is free, but the features that make the application efficient for the target end users cost a few dollars per month. One non-web app that has scored millions of users worldwide with this model is Skype, the desktop VoIP software.
  3. Subscriptions/ pay per view. Build a subscription site where premium content is only accessible by members. This does require that you have initial free content to draw potential subscribers, and for you to build your authority online, in your niche. If you’re successful, the numbers are worthwhile. For example, several marketing sites charge $197-299/year, and offer very high quality content that is essential to some professionals. While building up your membership list, you might supplement with advertising.
  4. Freedom to pay. This is what Radiohead did: pay what you like. Stupid or brilliant? You decide. I was unable to find the “buy” link on their official site and ended up downloading someone else’s low quality copy. Very low quality. But I’m a Radiohead fan and would have paid anyway. And of course, if I’m in a city where they’re going to plan, I’m even more likely to go see these guys. This monetization model is very similar to “shareware” for software.
  5. Buyout. if you have enough capital to build your brand/ presence online, and gain substantial eyeballs in the form of free content subscribers, selling to the highest bidder is a great option. For bootstrappers, this has to be preceded by one of the other forms above, else you’re not likely to have enough capital on hand to reach this stage.

With the exception of maybe freemium and freedom to pay, none of these are all that new. Which monetization model you choose (or a combo) depends on what it is you’re giving away – knowledge or services. Products, on the other hand, are hard to monetize with any of these models.

The Pros and Cons of Offering Free Content Online

Sunday, November 4, 2007 at 4:59am by Site Administrator

Popular bands such as Radiohead are now offering free (or pay-what-you-can) music online. Because of this, it’s been speculated that record labels are amongst the businesses facing extinction, along with newspaper publishers and possibly even desktop software producers.

The Internet has of course gone a long way in being a platform for delivery of such content. And with software that runs in a browser, what need will there be for paying for desktop software? Text and other media content also gets distributed from torrent sites, mostly illegally, in violation of copyright laws. So, whatever type of content you produce, you might be wondering whether you can go on charging for it.

Now, only the most immature of people believe that content producers as individuals (programmers, musicians, artists, writers, etc.) should not get compensated for their productivity. But when it comes to reality, not all content consumers behave this way. It’s easier to feel like you deserve to take free content from some big bad company that traditionally made millions/ billions – whether or not they’re now suffering financial losses.

So what do you do if you’re a startup without a financial history? Before I answer that, let’s look at some of the pros and cons of offering free content online, from the viewpoint of the producer.

Pros:

  1. Makes your target market happy, thanks to the freebies.
  2. Gets them talking, passing on the word – the makings of being viral content.
  3. Viral content can generate massive amounts of web traffic.
  4. Brings you to the attention of people that might not otherwise know you.

Cons:

  1. Brings you to the attention of people that’ll take your free content and never buy anything.
  2. The extra web traffic could boost your site hosting bill, and if you have no sales to show for it, you are not going to last long if you’re bootstrapping.
  3. Those who sample your free content might henceforth expect free content, all the time, and when it’s not free, might violate copyright and distribute it themselves (after they’ve purchased a single copy).
  4. Free content might alienate those without Internet access (about 3/4 of the world’s population), causing them to stop buying your “offline” product.

These may not be the only pros and cons, though they’re the ones that have been most prominent in my mind, as a retired programmer, an amateur composer, and a hopeful future filmmaker. The existence of free content on the Internet potentially impacts my livelihood.

Now, despite being a long-time Star Trek fan (but not a Trekkie), I don’t believe we’re going towards any sort of “free” model globally, for everything. At least not anytime soon. It’s far too complicated to get into that financial model across the world, even with about twelve years of the Internet’s (public) existence behind us. It simply goes against a thousand years or more of human thinking, with many unanswered questions to boot.

That means that for a quite a long time ahead of us, there will be people who will expect to pay for content, and even desire to pay for it. So back to my question: how do you deal with the current atmosphere of free content online, especially if you’re up against content producers who might be doing it for free?

This is a question I hope to explore here in the future.

How to be an Authority in Your Niche/ Market in 10 Easy Steps

Wednesday, October 31, 2007 at 11:30pm by Site Administrator

Writing does not come naturally to most people, but the activity in the blogosphere might suggest otherwise. Unfortunately, regular fresh content is crucial for building up a website, especially for businesses – whether you selling products or services online. Many entrepreneurs have selected blogging as their delivery vehicle for content, both for the informal style of writing needed, as well as because blogs enjoy special “relevance” status in many top search engines.

If you’re in this boat and don’t know how to get started, here are my suggestions:

  1. Get started. Launch your business website, if it’s appropriate to do so. This is the general online face of your business and encompasses all online activity that represents your company.

  2. Add a blog. Your business blog, if you have one, will be a less formal connection to your website visitors. Add a blog to a subdirectory, not a subdomain. So use mysite.com/blog instead of blog.mysite.com. You can call the subdirectory anything, but I suggest “blog”, “journal”, “notes” or something of that sort.
  3. Determine readershp. Whether you do the blogging or hire a professional, be sure to offer a consistent schedule. That’s more important than blogging daily. But be sure to consider who your audience is. Will your blog readers be other bloggers in your niche, potential customers, your (future) competitors, casual visitors, etc. Who should they be depends on your objective for your blog.
  4. Use reportage. If you don’t yet have an editorial calendar and are not sure what to write about, or don’t have time for indepth content, start by reporting on happenings in your niche.
  5. Add your voice. Gradually add your own commentary to your reportage. Base what you say on your knowledg of the niche. However, be careful not to be insulting or nitpicking. The average blogger can get away with this, but you cannot – not if you’re representing your business. The other thing you can’t do is talk “at” readers. If you’re going to sell, be indirect.
  6. Expand your coverage. As you gain confidence in your writing voice, expand your posts. Add original information, share your experiences in your industry, write more of what you know. Just remember who your audience is; this will determine how you write about a topic.
  7. Build your authority. Always deep-link to relevant posts you’ve already written on your site, as well to authority sites/ content elsewhere. This helps build your authority in search engines.
  8. Show your authority. As you gain even more confidence in writing – as well as website authority in search engines – create original content such as e-books, screencasts, video, audio, indepth articles and reports. Teach what you know. Show your authority.
  9. Promote your content. There are a number of ways to promote your best content online, but one of the most effective ways is through social media sites. These including bookmarking and voting sites, as well as Stumbleupon. Keep in mind, though, that social media site members do not like to be promoted to. Some topics are difficult to promote through SMM (Social Media Marketing).
  10. Advertise your site. If social media promotion is not appropriate for your  niche, consider advertising, possibly through PPC (Pay Per Click) advertising campaigns or some other form of advertising. Don’t look at the campaign cost on a per visitor, or you’ll lose money. If you need 1,000 visitors to make 5 sales, divided the advertising cost by 5, not 1000. If you can’t justify the cost of advertising, rethink your blogging plan. Consider hiring a blogging consultant for some advice.

If your business has nothing to do with selling expert content, then that’s not something you want to add to your website or blog. If you have the urge to monetize a website, do it on a separate domain. Your business should not be perceived as trying to make money both through your regular products or services offerings and through advertising – unless of course you give your products, such as software, away free.

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