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Please ... I Need Help And Advice
Posted 14 June 2007 - 05:06 AM
For various reasons, I'm seriously looking at starting a business online.
I've tried other ventures before, affiliate marketing, income from Adsense and so on but nothing has ever stuck or made me much money.
I'm really looking for help and advice from the folks here as I know there are many people here who are both trustworthy and experienced when it comes to running an online business.
I have a little over 20 years experience in IT and want to begin a business that I can use the experience I have gained over those years, in and for.
I have several questions and I think I'll list them in point form. So ...
Q1 - I'm thinking of starting a blog hosting business. Not web site hosting, blog hosting. People will come to the site, select a blog template they like, I set it up and away they go.
What are your thoughts, is there much of a market for this type of service?
From my own experience I think there is. My mother is 70 years old and getting more 'net savvy everyday. She'd love a web site but has no idea where to start. I think a blog would suit her down to the ground.
I'm very keen to hear what you think.
Q2 - How do I advertise my new venture? Adwords, PPC, stickers, ads in newspapers????? I really have no idea here. Your help would be much appreciated.
Q3 - Who can provide ongoing help and advice? I feel I need someone to create a roadmap for me. I've tried to do this online business thing before and failed miserably, but this time I'm deadly serious. My family (kids) is older now and I have more time to concentrate on this.
Q4 - The saying goes "cost is no concern" well it is to everyone I believe, but I'm willing to invest in good help, advice, products, training etc so I can make a real go of this.
I want to build a business so that in maybe 2 - 4 years I can run whatever it is I end up doing full time and leave my day job.
I live in a rural area and have spent almost the last 12 months trying to decide how to move on from my current job which pays the bills, but doesn't offer any excitement or hope for advancement. The options are very slim where I live and I think starting an online business that utilises my IT experience is a wise idea.
So please help me. Any advice, links to useful articles, referals to people who have helped you and so on, would be greatly appreciated.
I guess I'm looking for an 'online business coach'.
Thanks for your time,
you can email me at - email@example.com
you can also email me at - firstname.lastname@example.org
you can also PM me through this board
Posted 14 June 2007 - 07:09 AM
Which leads us to the first question one must answer ... Finding a market that interests you personally and has something lacking that you can provide.
Honestly, with your IT background --assuming this includes coding/scripting strengths-- you've got a huge advantage most webmasters don't have. Most webmasters have a problem imaging ways to improve things that are currently available, and even if they can imagine it they'd have to hire someone to do the grunt work. But the question is still how you find something that Fits you.
There are lots of ways to go about this process.
Early on I got into running my own web sites because I was a site designer and SEO. Because of this I came across a lot of sites in a lot of markets, often in a multitude of forums and other places where people were asking how to improve their own site. I'd see a general idea of what they were trying to do and say to myself Man, that could be done so much better or They're not doing nearly as much as they could to offer a better product/service. After years of seeing the same thing and giving people advice that was basically ignored because the webmaster didn't have the technical skills to implement ideas I and others had, I just started making some some sites of my own to fill the need.
Note above I said Sites, not Site. I'm a firm believer in the concept that one should have more than one site in order to spread out the risk and have a fallback position if one particular site just doesn't perform as well as I might expect it would. It's the old putting all of ones eggs in a single basket thing. I do everything I can to keep from being in that position. So even though it always has to start somewhere, my longer range goal was always to have multiple sites in multiple markets.
So you're starting with the right question. What market to dive into. I simply wouldn't choose the one you're thinking about because there is too much free competition already out there.
Posted 14 June 2007 - 07:28 AM
Yes, I had considered this for the exact reasons you mention.
I am a passionate music fan, but trying to make any money in that area is extremely hard. I've tried several times, but it is very difficult.
Once again I agree, it's good common sense.
Yep I agree, I understand completely. I still think it is a good idea, but I can see the trouble I would have trying to charge, let's say, $10 a month for something you can get for free (albeit maybe covered with advertising) elsewhere.
How can I go about finding out what might be the right niche for me? Should I jot down all my interests? Should I ask my friends? I know I may be the only one who can answer that question, but I'm wondering how others went about it?
Thanks or your input Randy, you're always helpful.
Posted 14 June 2007 - 10:43 AM
Then, as Randy alluded to, try hanging out — online forums and mailing lists are an excellent place to start — with people who are active in those areas. You'll probably fairly soon start to discern patterns of conversation. Again, as Randy said, there will be some questions or complaints that come up over and over. "How do I...?" "Why can't I...?" And the really good one: "Why doesn't anybody...?"
Then it's just a matter of figuring out how best to be "anybody."
A blog hosting service is probably not a good idea if you're planning to market it to the general public. As Randy said, too much free competition. But there may be a way to position it for one or more niche markets that would make it more attractive.
For instance, you mention your mother. There may be others in her age bracket who are reasonably net savvy, who want something like a blog, but who don't understand that's what they're looking for because the word "blog" doesn't mean anything to them. Can you find some way to set up a service that's specifically targeted to seniors, using their language and making it easy for them to get started?
Here in the states, they're heavily marketing to seniors a cell phone service called "Jitterbug." Notice how these folks entered a crowded, competitive market (cell phone service providers) by identifying a niche and creating a product and service that's specifically targeted toward what was previously an underserved audience? Dunno how well their business is doing, but the first time I saw one of their TV commercials, I thought to myself this was an excellent idea.
Another example: HostBaby. There are loads of general purpose sites out there where independent musicians can easily set up a website. But when CDBaby decided to offer hosting, they specifically targeted the musician audience and made sure to include features that would be especially important to musicians, such as built in concert calendars, easy streaming audio and an email mailing list. They were offering blogs before most people knew what blogs were (they called them "journals" and musicians used them to post "stories from the road" or announcements of new bookings & CD releases or just their own random thoughts).
The crucial bit about HostBaby is that they're charging a premium for the service. They're able to compete with free or low-cost "general purpose" hosting services because they understand their market and they offer specific services that their specific customers really want, in an easy-to-use interface that doesn't require a lot of technical knowledge on the part of the customer. I could set up a musician site using open source, free or very low cost tools on a bargain web hosting platform for way less than half the cost of hosting on HostBaby. But I've got web dev chops and technical skills that many musicians may not (plus the interest in doing the web dev work, while the musicians are primarily interested in, well, music).
And definitely do as Randy suggests and don't put all your eggs in one basket. Given constraints of time and physics, you may have to start with one, but once you get that one cooking, don't sit back. It's a good idea to always have an idea or two in the pipeline.
So, yeah, start with your interests, then go out and see what people who share those interests are looking for. I'm betting that — once you go and start participating in their conversations with your ear "tuned" toward potential opportunities — you'll start coming up with more good ideas than you'll have time to implement.
Posted 14 June 2007 - 06:19 PM
Your 2 examples of Hostbaby and the cell phone companies are using exactly the methodology I have in the back of my mind, 'offer what others are offering, but add a unique twist to your offer'.
With my idea of blog hosting, I was more thinking along the lines of using the blogging software as a replacement to all the software you usually need (FTP program, HTML editor, graphics program etc), to create a web site with.
I'm not thinking of setting up another Blogger style of service, I'm going to use the blogging software to easily create a web site (not a blog) with.
There are still MANY people who have no idea about registering a domain name or creating a web site, but so MANY people want to have one. And I tink that using blogging software I can get them up and running quickly and easily.
Thanks for all your help, I have to go now but I'll be back later.
Posted 14 June 2007 - 07:54 PM
Can money be made from portal sites? I have a 4x4 site that I am getting reasonable traffic (well, reasonable when I consider I'm doing nothing to promote it) to simply from the signature at the end of my forum posts.
I've even got a single line promo at the top of every page of a 4x4 forum for free because it's a worthwhile site.
I'm considering adding more resources to that site, but I can't see how I can make money from it?
Posted 14 June 2007 - 09:16 PM
It might be a good place to start.
Parts I'm sure, but I'm thinking something that would involve less up front cash investment. Since you have a captive audience to a degree, you can always flat out ask 'em or at least bounce ideas off of them.
Perhaps something simple, like the email a photo of their ride and it gets printed on a T-Shirt or something. Customized bumper stickers. One-of-a-kind accessories.
Think unique. Ask some questions and you might stumble across something that'll turn out to be very, very successful.
Posted 15 June 2007 - 01:14 AM
Is there a way I can find out how popular a search phrase is? I have come up with a new idea, I wont tell you yet, but from my initial checks it may be a pretty good idea.
Posted 15 June 2007 - 06:21 AM
Or to see how competitive a phrase/market is you might want to read the pinned Keyword Competition thread in the Keywords section of the forum.
Posted 15 June 2007 - 07:41 AM
Posted 17 June 2007 - 07:07 PM
Just wondering if anyone can give me a quick answer to this simple question. I spent the weekend reading this n that and my head is buzzing and I'm a little confused.
I have a great idea for an online business, not the blog hosting idea, a new one. I am very excited about the idea and want to know if it will be worthwhile following up on or should start thinking about something else.
I'm thinking about creating a XYZ video store that sells only XYZ videos, not a mixture of other sports, just XYZ.
So the question is, how can I find out if my idea is a popular topic?
I've gone to keyworddiscovery and wordtracker and done some quick and nasty initial testing on some of my main keywords and had a very quick look at the results. It that a good place to start?
And when should I not pursue an idea based on keywords? Should I give up if the amount of people searching on my keywords is low or when many people are searching on them and there are many sites using those keywords?
Posted 17 June 2007 - 11:17 PM
Here are the main things I look at before jumping in with both feet, not necessarily in any order.
- Keyword research via WT/KWD as you've already done.
- I'll feed some of the most prized phrases into my Adwords account to see if I can get an idea what others are paying for current ads, as well as if there are a lot of people bidding on my words. Double-edged sword there. If there is lots of competition or high bids it means there's probably a lot of money to be made in the market; However it also usually means the sector is quite competitive already. Feeding info into Adwords will also allow you to get a lot closer Prediction numbers directly from Google. So you can compare those numbers against your WT/KWD predictions.
- With my specific keyword phrases in hand I use a Competition Analyzer that is almost exactly the same as the one Dan outlined in the pinned measuring keyword competition thread. In other words, how much work am I going to have to put into it to get a Top 10 ranking?
- Then I start looking at financial stuff. First off, how much in real money am I going to have to put into the project to get things up and going. Do I need to buy inventory, and if so how much? Will I need to hire a designer or employees? Do I need to buy some shopping cart software? You get the idea. Try to get it all down so that you'll know where you stand with start up expenses.
- Then I try to estimate how much I'm going to need the site to make per week/month/year in order to be profitable. And how much profit I want/need out of it. And how soon, since it'll usually take months for or even longer for things to start ramping up. I tend to take a very conservative approach on this front. Generally with my new sites I just want them to make $1,500-3,000 Net per month when they're still young.
- Factor your costs into this. Find out how much Gross Profit and Net profit you need. Using your rough idea of how many visitors you should be able to expect based upon your keyword and competition research (guess low!) you should be able to work out how many sales you need to get in a certain time period to break even, make money or (egads!) the minimum number of sales you'd need to keep from losing money.
How much risk anyone can take is an individual decision. I might look at a market and think it's gravy because I'm going into it not needing any income from it for 2 years. While for someone else 6 months of more going out than is coming in would be crippling. So there's really not any stock answer.
Posted 18 June 2007 - 05:30 AM
Posted 18 June 2007 - 10:35 AM
I'm a few years into the process of building an online business for much the same reasons you've outlined for your own interest. I don't have near the experience that Randy or Torka have, but a few thoughts:
I think your original estimation of 2-4 years to total independence, while possible may be a little overly optimistic ... especially if you are initially going to be doing this on the side as you've indicated. Not that it can't be done, it certainly can - by people who already know what they're doing, and have the time to dedicate. But there's a pretty steep learning curve, and as a part-timer you'll have lots of challenges to face. While my site makes money, I have yet to break the needed threshold to reach independence. That's largely a factor of "life getting in the way" (my own difficulties in staying focused and my inherent deficit in organizational skills). I work on site issues a lot, but I've become long on know-how, short on practice ... i.e. I know a lot more about what I feel I need to accomplish to succeed online than I've managed to implement. Thus, it will probably take me a little longer than 4 years to hit a point I can break free of the day job.
<edit ... on the other hand, I'm doing most everything myself. If you are in the position to hire out some tasks, especially if you are in the position to hire good SEO, Copywriting & PPC/marketing consultants ... it's likely you'll reach your goals faster than I will ... /edit>
I started off with Retail just prior to finding HRF, and though I don't really regret that, I didn't accurately anticipate how high the needed sales would be to reach profitability or how much time it takes to fill all of those small $ orders. In the 3 years I've been working at it I've learned tons, but had I had your skillset from the start and the knowledge to make the decision I would have probably chosen another path. I think you're on the right track by looking at 'service sites' rather than retail sites. Most of my future sites WILL NOT require inventory.
Otherwise, I agree with pretty much everything Randy & Torka have said ... which is understandable as I consider the two of them and a few others around here as some of my principal mentors. Biggest piece of advice I can give is hang out here, ask questions and learn. I've spent time at several other forums with the same general focus, and this one out-shines all I've found for consistent helpful info, and isn't plagued with more nefarious participants who promote questionable practices.
Edited by arlen, 18 June 2007 - 10:51 AM.
Posted 18 June 2007 - 11:42 PM
As I sit here I am thinking, "I'm going to have sell alot of XYZ to make as much money as I'm earning now" (not that I'm earning lots), but really I feel I have to have a good shot at it. Job opportunities where I live are slim, the work future where I am currently aint too bright, so that is giving me the impetus to get things started online.
Going back to what Randy mentioned in his reply to my initial post about not having all my eggs in one basket, that is quite true and I have always agreed with that idea. What I am starting to think is that I don't want to start an online business, I want to start an online company that runs multiple online businesses.
I am thinking of getting into a retail business as I believe it will keep me on track, having to continually promote the product I have on the shelf just so I can get some money back from it, although I must admit the idea of carrying stock grates against my financial preservation common sense.
I'll keep on looking, thinking and reading and then do more, I just have to make this venture happen and become successful.
Thanks everyone for your help I greatly appreciate it.
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