Hello! My name is Tom (“Hello Tom”) and I am working towards making a full time online income. In brief, my aim is to quit my day job and have the freedom to choose what I do and when I do it.
This is not going to happen without healthy doses of determination and endeavour, amongst other things. The question is; how do you apply yourself effectively?
It is far too easy to work hard and fail – many have done it before me, and many will after. Ensuring that my hard work is chanelled effectively is a huge priority, especially when your available time is limited by a full time job.
So What Are You Doing?
I have just two projects that I am working on at the moment, of which only one is potentially income-generating. They are my niche site, Modeling For Kids, and this blog.
Modeling For Kids is my first real attempt, beyond eBay and the like, to generate an online income.
Meanwhile, Leaving Work Behind is my attempt to build a likeminded community so that we can galvanise each other to greater things. I have no plans to monetize it at this time, as I explained in my article, “Why I Am NOT Trying To Make Money From This Blog”.
Between the two projects, I am researching and writing six articles a week. I also spend a considerable amount of time marketing both. I am expanding my social network and trying to establish mutually beneficial relationships with peers.
In short, I am getting stuck in. And it is taking up an awful lot of my free time. About 90% of it at the moment, I would estimate.
How Are You Making Money?
Well, in short, I’m not. At the time of writing I have made a gross income of £3.66 ($5.85) from my internet endeavours. That does not concern me, as I only set up Modeling For Kids about a month ago, and it is the only project I have running that aims to generate an income.
Why Not Try Something Else Too?
At times like this, impatience is an evil mistress I have to keep in check. It is of course tempting to explore other income-generating avenues.
So why not surrender to impatience? Why not concentrate the tightly wound spring of energy that exists in me into as many projects as I can possibly manage?
Because I can’t manage. At least, not to the level of quality that I am prepared to accept.
Spread Your Butter Thickly
I believe that one of the biggest mistakes you can make in life, let alone business or even internet marketing, is to spread yourself too thin. This applies to all situations.
If you have too many friends then you will end up neglecting all of them. If you work long hours you’ll never spend quality time with your kids. If you butter your toast too thin then it’ll just taste like dry toast (with an ever so gentle hint of dairy). I could go on.
Obligatory Fishing Analogy
So what would happen if I started planning and executing more income-generating projects at this point? My efforts would be horribly diluted, and I would almost be just as well off doing nothing at all.
If you sail 50 yards from the shore and cast your net wide, who knows what kind of fish you will catch, if any. However, if you know where to fish and sail over to that spot and wait patiently, you will have a fine catch by the end of the day. Even if it turns out that you were fishing in the wrong spot, you probably learnt a lot more from your failed venture than if you’d spent all day sailing around in circles. I’m sure you can tell that I am not much of a fisherman, but the point of the analogy rings true.
Don’t Give Up Without A Fight
Analogies aside, I need to know that I have beaten a project to death before I can give in and move onto the next idea. As long as I am hitting my short term goals, everything else will fall into place. If you have your fingers in many pies, those short term goals will be awfully difficult to achieve.
If you want to work hard and fail, then try everything. If you want to work hard and succeed, pick a venture you think will be profitable, and pour your heart and soul into it.
I was first introduced to the concept of niche sites by Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income. He ran a “niche site duel” with Tyrone Shum. It was hugely successful, both in terms of the popularity of the competition and the results. Pat’s May 2011 income report shows his niche site, Security Guard Training HQ, bringing in $1,077.72. Pat’s only meaningful source of income from the site at present is Adsense. Not a bad effort – it certainly caught my eye!
Let’s Cut To The Chase
I am not going to waste your time explaining what a niche site is, as it has already been covered in great detail by many others. If you are completely new to niche sites then be sure to check out Pat’s Niche Site Duel Hub. I am skipping all of the preliminaries because I want to get down to the interesting stuff.
In this first article, I am going to reveal what niche I chose and why. In future instalments I will further reveal my strategies, and of course, their benefits (or lack thereof!).
My Niche Site’s Key Statistics
- Site online: 29 days
- Visits: 353
- Google ranking for my primary key phrase: #17
- Gross income generated: £1.46 ($2.37)
Choosing A Niche
This was a toughy. Most of the successful exponents of niche marketing consider key phrase research to be the most important part of the whole endeavour. With that in mind, I read all sorts of guidance on (a) how to come up with niche ideas, and (b) what criteria to apply to chosen key phrases to calculate their viability.
I quickly found out that there is a lot of information out there. Unfortunately, the information is often conflicting. In the end, I decided to take a leap, knowing that my knowledge base was far from wholly developed. Yes, there was (and is) a risk that I would get it all wrong, but as far as I am concerned, the best learning is in doing. I am a big fan of trial by fire. You can read about niche site development all day, but that won’t get the niche site built!
Even if this site fails I feel I will have progressed, as long as I can then dive into the next one with far more knowledge as to how to succeed. I am definitely looking long-term with this venture, so a failure say three months in isn’t going to halt my momentum. I believe that one of the biggest mistakes you can make in life, let alone business, is to not persist. Persistence is so often the key to success.
Niche Site Research Resources
I recommend two guys when it comes to advice on researching your niche site key phrase (and for any other advice on niche sites, for that matter): Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income and Glen Allsopp of ViperChill. You can check out Pat’s Niche Site Duel Hub as I mentioned above. With impeccable timing, Glen has just published an in-depth article on keyword research, and I strongly recommend that you check it out: “The Ultimate Guide To Keyword Research”. Be sure to brew yourself a cup of tea before you sit down to read it!
But I digress – back to my story. After a couple of hours of research, considering key phrases as wide ranging as “shin splints” to “property investment” (my day job), I settled on my choice…
Modeling For Kids
A bit out of left field, I know. The journey to this key phrase wasn’t particularly linear – I believe you should explore all angles when it comes to keyword research, as you never know what might pop up. I started by looking at “teacher training”, which led to “training to model”, which led to “child modeling”. A less competitive variant of “child modeling” was “modeling for kids”.
As a quick aside, most of the screenshots you will see on this article are from Market Samurai (not an affiliate link – why?), which I strongly recommend if you are getting into niche sites. The screenshot below reveals my key phrase’s vital statistics:
Those are results based upon an exact match. A broad match returns 40,500 monthly searches. My gut tells me that there is a lot of potential in this niche if you can rank for various associated key phrases. For instance, if I can rank well for “modeling for kids” and “child modeling” as well as various long tail keywords, the potential search traffic could be considerable.
I was relatively pleased with the level of competition for my chosen key phrase, shown below:
I won’t delve into the intricacies of Market Samurai here (as they have a great resource over at the Noble Samurai Dojo that does a much better job than I could), but I will point out the few key elements that I considered:
- Domain Age: for some reason the screenshot has not displayed the domain age, but the results aren’t great. All sites are four years or older. However, I was happy that the 1st spot managed to rank at the top with just a 5 year old domain. It was out-ranking 10+ year old sites. By that logic, there is room for me to outrank a mere 5 year old site if I can optimize well and offer quality content.
- Page Rank: nothing too scary here, and the number one spot only has a PR of 1.
- Index Count: only three sites have a significant number of pages – I’m only 29 days in and already have a higher index count than the majority of the top 10.
- Backlinks: again, nothing to worry about here. I already have the fifth most number of backlinks out of the top 10.
- Meta Tag Optimization: none of the top 10 sites are well optimized for my key phrase.
Overall, I think that I have a decent chance of toppling these guys. Only time will tell!
Four Simple Steps To Niche Site Success
Okay, I am being facetious. The steps may be simple to discuss, but they are far from easy to implement.
As mentioned above, this is the most important part of the whole process. Unfortunately, I am a bit concerned that I may have made a couple of mistakes in my research. I am concerned about (a) the competitiveness of the top 10 and (b) the value of the key phrase (i.e. is the Adwords cost per click high, and do people with commercial intent search for that key phrase?). Those are essentially the two key factors when it comes to key phrase research (although there are others). Nonetheless I will soldier on, because even if I do fail, the process followed in failing will have taught me a great deal.
When it comes to content, I plan to follow two very simple principles – quantity and quality. There are many different niche site strategies out there – you will probably read a lot about “set it and forget it” sites. I am not a fan of this method. I would much prefer to create a loyal community by offering quality content, and plenty of it. I think that this can potentially lead to greater long-term benefits.
29 days ago, I knew absolutely nothing about child modeling. It is not a topic that interested me in the slightest. Having now written 18 articles on the topic, I am pleased to say that it has not actually been that painful at all.
I don’t fully agree with the argument that you must be passionate about your niche in order to succeed. Perhaps that is more down to my character; I enjoy researching and writing articles in general, which obviously helps a great deal.
In terms of research, I bought a couple of books and scoured the internet for all things child modeling. One thing that became clear is that there is absolutely no competition out there in terms of a hub website offering quality guidance on child modeling. I will definitely look to exploit this.
I have tried a few strategies so far. I have closely followed Pat Flynn’s backlinking strategy (see “THE Backlinking Strategy That Works”), which appears to have got me plenty of backlinks (around 750 as of today). I have commented on blogs. I have introduced myself at a couple of child modeling forums, which has attracted decent traffic, but nothing that will ever set the world alight. The key is definitely in my Google ranking, which has been stuck in the high teens for a couple of weeks now.
I am quite pleased with my ranking at this stage, as my site is well optimised for my chosen key phrase and the quality and depth of content is increasing week by week. Although my ranking has not moved considerably for a couple of weeks, I am not concerned. I fired off a quick email to Pat Flynn a while ago, and he assured me that he had exactly the same experience with his niche site. I think my patience will pay off.
I also have a couple of additional strategies that I am either planning to employ or am currently experimenting with, which I will report back on in a later article.
Perhaps confusingly, monetization is the least of my worries right now. I think too many would-be entrepreneurs are too concerned with earning a quick buck. At this point, income is not the most important factor – traffic is. If you have traffic, the income will follow, as long as you carry out an effective monetization strategy.
So for the time being, I am not paying much attention to monetization. Yes, I have Adsense on my website, but I have put little thought into placement. Once I start to attract a decent amount of traffic, I will look to develop my monetization strategy. I already have a few ideas, which I will reveal in a later article.
It doesn’t hurt to say this twice: don’t get too caught up in trying to monetize your site in the early days. The level of traffic won’t warrant the effort; you should be focusing your efforts on content and marketing.
Simply put, rinse and repeat. I will continue to add three new articles every week and work on my marketing strategies. At this point I am not putting countless hours into the project – perhaps an hour a day. The start-up time taken was considerably more involved, but I think I am over that hill now.
As I have already stated, I am not concerned about my positioning at this stage. I am happy to bide my time, whilst remaining focused on the task at hand.
Now be sure to sign up to my newsletter below so you can get exclusive updates on my progress every week!
Read The Whole Series
Important note: after eight months and 96 posts without earning a single penny from this blog, I made the decision to monetize. I have successfully managed to do so without affecting the integrity of my content whatsoever. If you would like to know more, please read this.
This post was inspired in part by episode 13 of Pat Flynn’s excellent Smart Passive Income Podcast. If you haven’t subscribed to Pat’s podcast yet, I strongly recommend that you do.
I love WooThemes
This blog runs on WordPress with a WooThemes framework, and as far as I am concerned, it was $70 well spent. I am really happy with the functionality and turnkey features of the theme, as well as the ability to easily customize it with a bit of manual CSS. I dabbled with Thesis, PageLines and the Genesis Framework, but would recommend WooThemes above them all.
Very Clever…Affiliate Links Galore
None of the links above are affiliate-based. If you click on one and buy a product, I will not receive a penny. In fact, absolutely none of the products I currently promote on my blog are affiliate links. If you look around, you’ll notice that there is no advertising either.
The truth is, I don’t want to make money from this blog, and have no intention of doing so for the foreseeable future. This would seem to run contrary to the whole purpose of my online efforts, which is to create a sustainable and scalable online income. But, perhaps confusingly, I believe this will ultimately result in me making more money than if I was trying to monetize this blog now.
I think blogging online is far more of an art than a science. There are no hard and fast rules that you can apply to a blogging model, then ride off into the sunset with wads of cash in your pockets. My belief that not monetizing my blog will ultimately benefit me financially is based upon just one key concept: trust.
At the time of writing this article, my blog isn’t even published. There is simply a splash screen asking you to fill in your email address so that you will be informed of the launch. By the time you read this article, it may have only been live for hours, days, or weeks (unless you’re delving into the archives, in which case, you still have a lesson to learn here, so keep reading!).
I recommend Bluehost for web hosting
I don’t like to think of myself as an arrogant person. As such, I don’t expect that you currently value my opinion. I would really like you to, but I am not going to try to force you into it. I hope that you enjoy my content, and come back for more. I then hope that over time, you will trust my judgement and value my recommendations. But we are not there yet. I as far as I am concerned, I have got a lot to prove.
There are an awful lot of blogs out there saying an awful lot of things. What sets me apart from the rest? I have no agenda. You can read my content, comfortable in the knowledge that my sole intention is to offer you quality advice and guidance. Nothing more, nothing less.
I’ll Earn Money When I Deserve To
I do not intend for this blog to be a permanent financial sink hole, but I am keenly aware of the value of a loyal and broad reader base. In order to grow my readership, my Unique Non-Selling Proposition is to offer free quality content, with absolutely no strings attached. Once I have developed a relationship of trust with my readers, I will be in a position to recommend products on an affiliate basis that I have tried, tested and love.
So You Want Nothing From Me?
Well there are just two things I want from you right now – that is for you to read and enjoy my content, and sign up to my mailing list below, so that you can keep up to date with my latest posts and receive exclusive information not available on my blog.
To all of you budding bloggers out there, forget about money for the time being. Concentrate on building a valuable brand with a loyal reader base, and the money will follow. Good things come to those who wait.
I am aware that you might consider this an extraordinarily tenuous link.
Worse still, many of you may be thinking, “What on earth is cricket?” The specifics are not particularly important — I could be talking about any sport. What is important is how my experience today provides a great metaphor for the fickle world of blogging.
What Does This Have to Do With Blogging?
Bear with me for two minutes and it will all come together — I promise.
I play for my local village cricket team (very English, I know). We had a great day today. We batted first and put on a decent score. We then bowled them out for 31.
In case you don’t know, that is a spectacularly low score. In fact, in my 15 or so years of watching and playing cricket, I have never seen such a low score in either amateur or professional formats of the game. Look to a 70-0 American Football Score or a 15-0 soccer score as comparisons.
Where Are You Going With This?
Here’s the twist: I woke up this morning and loathed the thought of playing cricket. I have had an absolute nightmare of a season. I was ready to throw the towel in for the foreseeable future. I hated cricket. I was a failure.
And now? I can’t wait to get out there again. I took 9 wickets, for 23 runs, in 9 overs — my best ever figures, an all-time club record, and better figures than most cricketers could ever possibly hope to achieve in all of their years of playing. All of this, on the back of a completely hopeless run, where it felt like success was an unreachable target.
How Does This Link to Blogging?
Blogging is often just like my cricketing experience.
You might spend weeks or months working your tail off, for little or no reward. You are ready to throw the towel in, just like I was. It seems hopeless, and you’re getting nowhere. But then, completely out of the blue, you get a spike of traffic. Perhaps a big time blogger mentions you. Perhaps Google finally sits up, takes notice, and plonks your site on the front page.
All that hard work, in one moment of pure concentrated glory, becomes entirely worth it. Everything suddenly gets easier. You’re not scrounging around for scraps of traffic — people are piling in through the front entrance.
This is not a unique occurrence – ask almost any successful blogger and they will talk of this phenomenon. Almost every successful blogger was once a low-traffic, desperate blogger.
So What Can I Learn From This?
Have confidence in the quality of your content, have patience in the knowledge that success can be just around the corner, and capitalize when the traffic arrives on your doorstep. Bear those three things in mind and you can go far. When you are at your wit’s end and ready to give up, don’t give up.
And as for my cricketing future? Well, I’m certainly playing again next week, that’s for sure! Wild horses couldn’t stop me!