Leaving Work Behind

Let’s Make 2012 A Game Changer (My Plans For The Coming Year)

Written by Tom Ewer on December 31, 2011. 27 Comments

2012 Is A Game Changer

Hello all! I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, and more importantly, a great 2011.

Now is typically the time at which you look back on your year and give some thought as to how things went. Did you exceed your expectations, or fail? Did you even have expectations, or were you just floating along aimlessly?

If 2011 didn’t live up to your expectations (or if you didn’t have any), now is the perfect time to make sure you don’t follow a similar path in 2012.

This Year Can Be A Game Changer

From a personal perspective, 2012 is going to be a big year. For the first time in my life, everything is subject to change. I can honestly say that I have no idea where I will be in a year from now, which is pretty exciting.

But getting excited about the possibilities alone won’t get me very far. I recognize that I need to set some hard targets if I want to progress. After all, my 2012 begins with just some savings in the bank, and a modest income from a couple of freelancing clients. I have got a long way to go.

Flexibility Is Key

FlexibilityFor those of you who have been reading the blog since the very beginning, you may recall an article I wrote about setting goals, way back in June 2011. It is interesting to look back and reflect on it now. In June, my Endgame was to quit my job by 23rd May 2012. I have obviously beaten that by a huge margin, but it is interesting to note that the way in which I planned to do it was completely different to the actual way in which I did it.

And this highlights a key understanding that I will bear in mind moving forwards, despite my in-depth planning: best-laid plans can change – for better and for worse. With regards to my original Endgame of quitting my job, my plans certainly changed for the better, as I was able to achieve my goal in nearly half the time that I originally anticipated.

So whilst my plans will be detailed, I will always keep in mind the fact that they should be flexible to change.

Before we start, it best you understand the process that I go through in order to set my goals. So if you haven’t already, read this article: How To Succeed.

My New Endgame

At this point in time, I am not actually sure what I want from life. I certainly know what I don’t want, which is why I quit my job. But in terms of my work, where I should live, and how I should live, I am a little stuck.

So my Endgame is to discover what it is that I want from life. That may seem rather intangible, and it is, but there is no way getting around it. I hope to achieve my Endgame by the end of 2012, but I am not putting a great deal of pressure on myself with regards to this, as it is not something you can really force.

My (Not So New) Target

TargetsAlthough my Endgame may seem rather ethereal, there is a very tangible target that I know I need to hit in order to figure out what I want from life. That target is to grow an online income that is sufficient enough to support my existing quality of life.

The eagle-eyed amongst you will recognize this target, because it is the same one that I set back in June 2011. Whilst my Endgame has changed, the target remains the same.

Defining Actionable Goals

The next step is to figure out exactly how I will hit my target. I am going to be concentrating on a few different areas – some practical, and some more speculative. I will be setting S.M.A.R.T goals (which were first introduced to me by Pat Flynn). For those of you who don’t know, S.M.A.R.T goals should be:

All of the goals I set today will be for the first quarter of 2012 (i.e. I expect to have achieved them by March 31st). My aim is to take 2012 quarter by quarter. If I had a more solid idea of where I am going, I might expand upon this, but for the time being, I think that quarterly reviews will work best for me.

So let’s take a look at my goals for the first quarter of 2012.

Freelance Writing

Freelance WritingThis one is simple. In March 2012, I want to earn enough money from freelancing to match my outgoings, which are approximately £2,000 ($3,100).

I foresee this being a pretty tall order, but it is by far the most important short term goal, because having a negative net income is no good at all!

I intend to reach this goal in the old fashioned way – by looking high and low for new clients. I will trawl job boards and research alternative methods by which I can source high-quality clients. I will also seek advice from some of my new freelancing friends.

Authority Sites

I currently have two authority sites – my child modeling site, and Deal With Anxiety. My goal for these sites (combined) is to earn a minimum gross income of £200 ($310) this quarter. This may not seem like a lot, but with good reason – once I am back from my holiday, I will only have 1 1/2 months to work on making this goal a reality. In terms of ranking in Google, that is not a great deal of time!

In more specific terms, I predict that my goal will require me to attract approximately 10,000 unique visitors (or 5,000 per site). This is assuming that by using an AdSense monetization model, each unique visitor will be worth approximately 1p. That estimate is drawn from the data I collected from my first authority site.

Knowing the amount of unique visitors I need to attract enables me to research and target the appropriate keywords. I will be targeting keywords that deliver a minimum of 10,000 visitors per month.

Niche Sites

This is going to be a completely new endeavor for 2012. I will be launching multiple niche sites (i.e. sites of limited content that target low-competition keywords) over the coming weeks. My goals are to launch 20 sites, and earn a gross income of £100 ($155) this quarter.

The financial goal may seem very low, but anyone who has developed niche sites know that it takes time to develop an income, and I will only have 1 1/2 months in which to do so. So I am setting what I hope is a realistic goal, in a realistic timeframe. If things go well in this first quarter, I would like to think that my income in the second quarter of 2012 would be considerably higher.

I will drawing on the expertise of Spencer Haws and Trent Dyrsmid to help me in reaching these goals – they are two guys who have really owned the niche site business model.

Leaving Work Behind

Quitting Your JobFinally, my goal-setting wouldn’t be complete without a mention of this very blog, would it?

As regular readers will know, I am not currently monetizing the blog in any way, nor am I in any rush to do so. But I do eventually hope to earn an income from my efforts, and am steadily working towards that.

At this time, I am not sure as to what my monetization method will be. At the moment, my focus is on providing as much value as possible, without charging a penny for it. So I have no financial goals for the first quarter of 2012 – my goal is entirely traffic-oriented.

Over the last 28 days, traffic to this site has been just over 100 unique visitors per day, which as far as I am concerned, is nowhere near enough. My goal for the first quarter of 2012 is to be averaging at least 300 unique visitors per day in the last 14 days of March 2012.

I plan to reach this goal by writing epic shit, being published on other blogs via guest posts, and generally getting myself known and out there.

Edit: following on from Greg Ciotti’s advice in the comments section, I have decided to set an additional three goals for the blog, as follows:

So There Are My Plans For The Quarter – But What About The Month?

In terms of setting S.M.A.R.T goals, I am not stopping there. Although I have now successfully set myself some specific goals for the quarter, I will also be setting “micro-goals” for each month. These goals will be outlined (and subsequently reviewed) in each monthly income and expenditure report.

With my income and expenditure report for December just around the corner, I will be setting my micro-goals for January very shortly. I’d also like to get you involved in an experiment of sorts, so stay tuned!

Creative Commons images courtesy of aaronisnotcool, Haris Awang, ViZZZual.com, Savage Chickens and Jessica Lucia

8 Ways To Survive Your Day Job (Whilst You Need To)

Written by Guest Author on December 28, 2011. 5 Comments

Milton

This is a guest post by Bon the Math Mom.

You might have been very excited to read Tom’s recent article on Why You Can Quit Your Job Today.

I was.

Until I realized I had no safety net, and a husband and child at home who depend on my rather substantial day-job income.

Like me, you may be in the “no way out” boat. Or it may be that you need just a little more time of some of the benefits the corporate pillow offers – like paid maternity leave, major medical, or just one more year to be vested in your pension.

Regardless of why you are temporarily stuck, it’s only temporary. But planning on leaving work behind later, rather than sooner, takes some mental and emotional strategy work.

My plan is to leave work behind soon. But not today. So I have plenty of time to get annoyed with the day job.

So I’ve devised these tactics in my strategy to survive in my daily prison.

1. Have A Theme Song

Find a song, or even a collection of songs, to play on your way to work. My drive to work playlist includes:

These songs make me feel connected to a range of leaving work behind experts.

2. Create A Mantra

Come up with a statement that you can say or write a few times before you walk into work. Take a moment in the bathroom before each meeting to say it a few times, also.

Mine is:

I’m leaving this place in X days. I’m only here for the money. These people are doing their job and so am I. I wish them all the best and I’m not emotionally invested in their drama or outcomes.

It might also help to write it during meetings.

3. Keep Your Emotional Energy For You

Keep your mantra fresh and say it often. Release the stress because it’s no longer yours to worry about.

Ask yourself, “If this day-job project doesn’t get done, will there be real consequences? Will I have my pay docked or get fired?” If not, then ride the wave. Apologize and take the blame, but don’t stress. After all, this isn’t your real job.

4. Tell People What Your Real Job Is

When someone asks how work is, respond from the point of view of your real job, not your day job. Don’t be an entrepreneur, either. Be a business owner.

Empower yourself now.

5. Do Your Own Work First

Many people who start their own business do so in the evening. That works when you’re trying to make time. But be careful.

I’m exhausted in the evening after the day-job. I’ve given my best work throughout the day and by the end, I’m beat.

Instead I wake up at 3am and work. I give my best stuff to myself. When I get to the day-job at 8am, I’m already winding down. They get plenty, but they don’t get the “take over the world” version of Bon.

That I keep for me.

6. Work From Home At Least One Day A Week

Depending on how your day-job is, if you can work from home one day each week, do it. You’re likely to get your day-job work done even faster, then you can take a couple of hours to do your real job.

7. Daydream About Quitting

And when the chips are down and you’ve just had enough, go to your happy place. Think about how wonderful it will be working 14 energizing hours each day – all for yourself instead of 8 draining hours for someone else. Make a list of all the things you’ll get done each day. Plan out your week. Here’s mine on Mindmeister:

8. Plan To Leave Tomorrow

Work out the details on what you and your family would do if you left work tomorrow. How would you survive? What cuts would you make?

Knowing the details of this lets you ride in the seat of, “I don’t HAVE to be here – I’m just enjoying the money.”

Remember the movie The Princess Bride? The Dread Pirate Roberts told Wesley every night, “I’ll most likely kill you in the morning.”

Go to work every day thinking, “I’ll most likely quit today.”

It makes your day of torture seem so much easier.

How about you?

What kinds of things do you do to maintain your sanity while you’re waiting out your sentence? Let us know in the comments section!

Bon publishes a math education website for parents and teachers. Her plan to leave work behind includes forming a non-profit organization and deploying a family numeracy program called, “That’s Math!” Check her out, but shhhh… don’t tell anyone you found her here. Not for a little bit, anyway!

I’m Going To Disney World!

Written by Tom Ewer on December 22, 2011. 16 Comments
Disney World

I am a big kid at heart.

So it’s terrible timing really. December 2011 – my last month of employment. A bright new future beckons in 2012…and I am going on holiday. Until January 11th. That’s right – I will officially be unemployed as of 31st December, and my first 11 days of self-employment and entrepreneurship will be spent on holiday. What can I say – that’s just how I roll.

Although I will not officially be unemployed until the end of this year, I have in fact just finished my last ever day of employment. It is 17:07 as I type this, and I have clocked off for the last time. To coin my own phrase, I have finally left work behind. It is time to pack up my things and leave this workspace for good.

Workspace

Bye bye!

Now just because I am going on holiday, it doesn’t mean that I will disappear. Although my posting schedule may not be as regular whilst I am away, I do have a few exciting things lined up for the next three weeks.

What I am really looking forward to sharing with you are my detailed plans for the first quarter of 2012. That will be published at the very beginning of January. I’ve also got a great guest post lined up for next week from Bon Crowder.

Now I know you’ll all be shutting down for Christmas and the New Year – after all, we’ve earnt it, right? But I’d still like you head over here when you can to see what I have for you. And if you haven’t done so already, be sure to follow me on Twitter and join me on Facebook!

If I don’t speak to you beforehand, have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, and I will see you on the other side!

Creative Commons image courtesy of Joe Penniston

3 Reasons Why Targeting Multiple Low Competition Keywords Is Good For Beginners

Written by Tom Ewer on December 21, 2011. 21 Comments

Today’s post contains a lesson that I wish I had known when I started building niche sites. If you are just starting out, you should target multiple low competition (and invariably low traffic) keywords. But why?

1. Learning Curve

In my opinion, niche site building is more of an art than a science. We can spend all day estimating income and cost implications, but accuracy in those estimates is hard to come by.

And if we are calling niche site building an art, consider this – when someone picks up a paintbrush for the first time, are they capable of creating something like this?

Landscape

ooo...pretty

No – they’re not. Their work will probably look more akin to this:

Paint Splash

It looks like they bypassed the brush altogether.

So when it comes to link building, don’t start off trying to recreate the proverbial Sistine Chapel. Begin with something simple, and work your way up.

Here’s an irrefutable fact – when you are first starting out, you will make plenty of mistakes. I would rather make a mistake on a relatively inconsequential keyword (having spent less time working on it), than a competitive keyword that I have poured an enormous amount of effort into.

2. Time And Motivation

Rankings

Link building is a thankless task in the short term. When I first started out, I was rather skeptical about the whole concept of niche sites. I had read Pat Flynn’s niche site duel thoroughly and was excited by it, but that did not really dampen the voice of doubt in the back of my head. And for several weeks, whilst I spent hours creating content and building links, I had no real way of knowing if all of my hard work was going to pay off.

It is tough to work at something when you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. In the end, it took me just under 3 months to hit #1 in Google for the primary keyword of my first niche site. Now I don’t know about you, but 3 months is a long time to work when you’re fueled just by the hope that you will have some success.

So do yourself a favor – pick yourself a few easy keywords to get started on. You will quickly get a “feel” for the process and will also be encouraged by positive results early on. I’m not necessarily talking about #1 rankings, but just seeing your numbers climb for a few different keywords puts you in a frame of mind where working hard for your rankings doesn’t seem like such a chore.

3. You’ll Discover More

You can only learn so much from targeting one keyword. When you are targeting multiple keywords across multiple pages, there is a lot more scope for increasing your knowledgebase. And ultimately, when it comes to SEO, your knowledge if your asset.

4. It’s Easier – In More Ways Than You Think

Yes, I know I said 3 reasons, but another valuable reason was put forward by Justice Wordlaw IV in the comments section. Thanks Justice!

If you rank for low competition keywords first, it will be easier to subsequently rank for related high competition keywords. Think of it as building a house – if you rank for some low competition keywords first, you are setting solid foundations. If you go straight for the high competition keywords, unless you are really experienced in link building, you’re building on foundations of sand. Targeting low competition keywords gives you a solid base from which to build upon.

How Did You Start Out?

Did you pick multiple keywords when you started out? Or did you focus on just one, like I did? Let us know in the comments section!

Creative Commons images courtesy of Ken Green and Leo Reynolds

10 Link Building Methods Revealed And Reviewed

Written by Tom Ewer on December 19, 2011. 22 Comments

Link Building

I have been doing this niche site building lark for well over six months, and have learnt plenty of important lessons in my time. Regular readers of the blog have hopefully been able to benefit from my experiences and learn from my mistakes.

With the end of the year approaching fast, now is as good a time as any to give you a full breakdown of my experiences with link building, including what has worked for me, and what hasn’t. I will be ramping up my link building strategy in the New Year based upon what I have learnt, so now seems like a great time to review my findings to date.

The Purpose Of This Article

Some of the strategies I discuss below have benefits beyond that of high SERP rankings, but given the focus of this article, I am putting those to one side. That does not mean that I do not recognize or appreciate those benefits. For instance, I wouldn’t want you to think that guest posting is only good for SEO!

And one final thing, before the SEO purist lynch mob comes after me – I am fully aware that some of the methods described below are not “organic”. I make no apologies for that. I am here to report my findings on the effectiveness of the below methods – it is up to you to decide whether or not you want to implement them. Be warned – Google is a mercurial beast, and any link building strategy that incorporates black hat SEO carries an element of risk.

Any links to products on this page are not affiliate based – I do not get paid a commission if you buy any product that I recommend. If you would like to know why this is the case, check out my article: Why I Am NOT Trying To Make Money From This Blog.

Read This First – Link Valuation 101

If you are exploring link building methods, you should have at least a basic understanding of the way in which Google values links. One link is not necessarily as valuable as another. I go into great detail about how to value links in my free guide: Keyword Research & Competition Analysis Mastery. Given that you are interested in SEO, you should be reading the guide anyway. Get your free copy now!

With all of that out of the way, let’s get onto the list.

1. Forum Profile Linking

In my experience, if a link is easy to build, it often holds little value. Forum profile links are no exception to this rule.

When you sign up as a forum user, there is sometimes an option to add a link back to your website. Although this can give you an easy link, there are few reasons why I wouldn’t recommend this method:

I would only ever build these links if I were doing it as part of a larger strategy of attracting people to my site via forum commenting. Which leads us to…

2. Forum Commenting

Most forums allow you place a signature under your comments. Sometimes, you can include a link back to your site in this signature. However, this method shares many of the shortcomings of forum profile linking.

On the positive side, the pages upon which your signature is placed are quite likely to be indexed (search engines like forum posits). On the negative side, many forums prohibit “promotional” links in signatures, so you could go to all of the trouble of signing up, setting your signature, and leaving insightful comments, only to find that your link is removed.

3. Blog Commenting

This is a wildly popular form of link building. You can’t swing a virtual cat around in the blogosphere without hitting a blog comment that has been submitted for the obvious sole purpose of providing a link back to a site.

But I don’t believe blog commenting for links is worthwhile, and there are two main reasons why:

If you are leaving comments on a blog, they should contribute to the value of the post. That means you should read the article and leave a considered comment, which takes time. The return on time invested is either minimal, or non-existent.

If you are interested in blog commenting, take a look at these articles:

4. Social Bookmarking

In my opinion, this is another “too easy to be worth it” method of link building.

Social bookmarking sites, as you might have gathered, allow you to store bookmarks (i.e. URLs) online. It doesn’t take too much of a logical leap to realize that you can build links back to your site by submitting them to social bookmarking sites.

There are a few shortfalls with this method:

One thing social bookmarking sites certainly are good for is getting sites indexed. For instance, if you build plenty of web 2.0 sites, linking to them via social bookmarking sites will typically ensure that they are indexed.

Given that I don’t follow this strategy myself, I don’t have a big list of “dofollow” social bookmarking sites for you to utilize. The best source I found online was this post from Caroline Middlebrook’s blog. It was last updated in April 2011. If you know of a better resource, please tell me!

5. Web 2.0 Sites

Here’s the good news – building web 2.0 sites and utilizing them in the correct fashion can positively affect your main site’s SERP rankings. But the bad news is that it takes a fair bit of work.

Although I have separated web 2.0 sites, article marketing, and backlink pummeling, they operate best in tandem. Setting up a web 2.0 site alone will not be of great benefit.

But before I move on, there are a few things you should bear in mind. The sites should be created with unique content (I typically use manually-spun versions of articles on my main site). They should look like “real” sites in their own right – not just a bare shell. Add a couple of written posts, a video, some images…make the place look lived-in.  Essentially, you are trying to shield your site against Google’s suspicion. You don’t want to build 500 links to a web 2.0 site, just to find that it has been de-indexed.

If you want to know more about building web 2.0 sites, I recommend these resources:

One final thing – following these methods can quickly get overwhelming (it certainly did for me). Don’t be afraid to keep it simple – you can strip it down to a two step process:

  1. Build web 2.0 site with unique content and media.
  2. Link back to your site.

Here’s a list of web 2.0 sites to get you started (please note, I cannot personally vouch for every single one, as I have not used them all):

If you know of any others, let me know so I can add them to the list!

6. Article Marketing

Article marketing follows the same tack as building web 2.0 sites – it gives you a link from an established domain.

However, there are a couple of differences to take into account:

Once upon a time, Google liked articles from sites such as EzineArticles. However, they got hit hard by the Panda update back in February 2011. Having said that, coupled with backlink pummeling, article marketing still has a useful role to play for small-medium competition keywords.

My go-to article marketing sites are EzineArticles and Goarticles. If you want to branch out from these, check out this post: 11 Article Marketing Sites To Try In 2011.

7. Backlink Pummeling

This is a tactic that combines well with web 2.0 sites and article marketing. The concept is simple – pummel your “anchor” sites with hundreds of low quality backlinks. Those sites, which are hosted on high-authority domains, will be able to take the volume of links without alerting Google’s suspicion, and the huge volume of links will increase the site’s/page’s authority, which will subsequently be passed onto your main site.

A sizable proportion of the mass links that are created don’t get indexed by Google, but with this method, it is definitely a case of quantity over quality.

I won’t go into great depth on this method as it has already been well covered. I was originally introduced to it by Joseph Archibald in his 40 Day Challenge on the Warrior Forum. His method was popularized by Pat Flynn in his widely popular post, THE Backlinking Strategy That Works. There are various resources out there with which you can build huge amounts of links with little work. I personally used Unique Article Wizard, and had reasonable success with it.

There is a lot to be said for creating plenty of web 2.0 sites and articles that target various keywords for your site(s), then pummeling them with backlinks. It is a tried and tested method that still has a place in my toolbox today.

8. Article Syndication

Article marketing and article syndication often get confused, but they are in fact two very different beasts. We have already discussed article marketing, so let’s move onto the latter.

Article syndication is simply the process of publishing your best content on article directories, in the hope that other website owners will want to feature it on their sites, complete with a link back to yours. In my (admittedly limited) opinion, it is more trouble than it is worth. You absolutely should not be creating unique content for article directories. However, there is absolutely no harm in re-purposing your best content on the top article directory sites, in the hope that it gets picked up. At worst, you can treat it as an experiment.

Many people have a fear of duplicate content penalties by Google. Under these circumstances, I believe there to be little to no risk. After all, you are hoping for these articles to be syndicated (i.e. duplicated), aren’t you?

9. Blog Networks

This is the method I have been following primarily for the past couple of months. I have almost exclusively been using BuildMyRank, but have recently switched to two new services: Linkvana and RankJumpers.

Whilst I am not in a position to judge the latter two services yet, I happily and openly endorse BuildMyRank. It is solely responsible for some of my best rankings in Google.

For those of you who are not familiar with the concept of blog networks, it is very simple. The above services grant you the ability to post to blogs on a network of hundreds (or thousands), with a link back to your site from each post. It is a bit like guest posting, but with no real vetting service (and to be honest, no one is going to be reading the posts either). This is link building at its most pure. It also happens to be highly effective for low-medium competition keywords.

A word of warning though – you need to be very careful with how you go about building your links. Make sure that you vary both the anchor text and target URLs. Don’t make the same mistake I did.

10. Guest Posting

I left the best method until last, and it is no great surprise that the best link building method of the bunch is also the most labor-intensive.

Guest posting essentially allows you to place a link back to your site from someone else’s. Typically, that link will be hosted on a relatively high-authority and relevant site. Those two factors combine to provide you with a very high-value link.

If you are in a niche with plenty of other active blogs, guest posting should be your number one priority. It’s that simple. I will be going into great detail on guest posting strategy in the future.

That’s All Folks!

I have personally tried all 10 of the above methods, with varying success. If I were to suggest a generic strategy for link building, it would be the following:

I might also sprinkle in some blog commenting on relevant sites and also participate in forums, but I would primarily do so for reasons other than link buidling.

What do you think about my strategy? Do you agree or disagree? Do you do something similar for you own sites, or something completely different? Let us know in the comments section!

Creative Commons image courtesy of Bruno Furnari