Resources: Getting Started

Our last post was about resources to help you wrap your mind around this whole monetizing-yourself-without-a-job…thing. But maybe you understand the fundamental concepts, and are totally comfortable with the new economy and its implications. Maybe you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, so you get it (you’re awesome! I love you)…maybe you’ve observed these things for yourself… maybe you’ve already read all the resources I pointed you at in the last post. Whatever the reason, you’re ready to get started.

In which case: Behold!

I want to build a website

Google Sites Google, in their quest to organize the world’s information, wants to get as much of it online as possible, so they have made it fairly easy for anyone to get a website put together: they’ll help you search for and register a domain name, host the website, and give you an easy-to-use HTML editor for designing your pages. Not sure what all that is? Yeah, me neither, but what it means is that you have everything you need to make your own website.

    Pros:
    • It’s cheap (currently $10/year)
    • It’s easy (I made my online resume in an afternoon.

    Cons:
    You get all you need to make it — you don’t get any help making it good. Search Engine Optimization (SEO), keyword selection, meta tags, site mapping, and monetization are all up to you

Site Build It! SBI is a company dedicated to helping people build high-quality, high-traffic, monetizable websites. For their annual fee, you get all the stuff you got with Google, plus

  • assistance selecting a niche for your website (“Victorian Clothes” is too broad, but “British clothing styles in 1901 – 1902” is too narrow).
  • a tool to help you determine what people are searching for and what they’re finding, so you can build your website around the most profitable keywords
  • instructions and tools to help you determine the monetizability of your niche, and plan your monetization mix
  • instructions and tools to help you build web pages that people like, and come back to, and refer to their friends, while also being easy to find for search engines
    Pros:
    It’s comprehensive. They are aimed at people who want to make their website into a business, and they give you a pretty complete set of tools for doing that.

    Cons:
    It’s expensive. Currently a year’s access is $299.

WordPress Blogging software is, of course, ubiquitous, generating more than 12 million hits on Google, and you can certainly use whatever you’d like. But if you’re note sure what you want to use, I recommend WordPress. You can get a free blog at WordPress.com to get you started, and let you learn how to write posts, what tags will work for your content, what sort of posts interest your readers, whether you can get any readers, and so on. When you reach the point when you’re ready to to have your own domain name instead of http://wordpress.com/yourbloghere, you can register yourbloghere.com, and use the software from wordpress.org to run the blog just as you always have.

I want to write a book!

Awesome. Step one, obviously, is to write it. What the following resources will do is help you get published.

Lulu.com is a website for self-publishing, which no longer has the same negative connotations it used to. You submit your manuscript, select how you want your book printed and bound, and they take care of the rest. Your potential customers can buy your book at the Lulu.com website.

    Pros:
    • You get 80% of the revenue from your book
    • They take care of applying for an ISBN (the unique number assigned to all published books)
    • it’s automatically included in the Lulu sales site
    • it can be included in Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble’s online store.

    Cons:

    • The Lulu sales site is not nearly as easy to use as Amazon.com, which will make it harder for your potential customers to actually get your book.
    • I’ve never published a book, so I can’t personally testify to any of the benefits

Amazon.com Since Amazon thoroughly understands the long tail, they are in favor of getting as many products on their “shelves” as possible, and will happily help you get yours there, in print, DVD, video downloads, MP3, or Kindle formats.

    Pros:
    • your products end up in the biggest online store in the world
    • They take care of applying for an ISBN
    • non-exclusive agreement allows you to still sell your stuff elsewhere.

    Cons:

    • I’ve never published a book here either, so I still can’t testify to their ease of use, payment promptness, or anything else

Buy The Book Marketing Don’t feel up to doing this on your own? Buy The Book is run by Mary Walewski, here in Denver, and is dedicated to helping authors write, publish, and promote their books. Mary will be happy to help you with whatever stage of the process you’d like: finding an editor, selecting and purchasing a publishing model, finding and engaging distribution options, and promoting your book through web, public speaking, and/or social media.

    Pros:
    • Avoid common, stupid mistakes with the help of someone who’s seen them all before
    • get the perspective and advice of a professional who knows what works
    • have an actual person to call when you have a question or don’t understand something

    Cons:It’s more expensive than the do-it-yourself option (in money, at least — it’s way cheaper in time)

I want to freelance!

Want to see how much money you can make doing small side jobs in your free time? Start here:

Craigslist Yes, really. It’s not just for buying and selling used furniture — there’s a significant job posting section, including part-time, contract, and “gigs” job offerings. Post a resume (it doesn’t hurt), and browse jobs that might be fun. It can be an easy way to pick up customers, with no sales effort required.

E-lance Elance lets you sell your services to people around the world, instead of just in your neighborhood. You set up a profile listing what you do, what proof you can offer that you’re good at it (certifications, project results, testimonials, whatever), and usual prices. Employers list jobs they need help with. You bid on how much you would do that job for, and the employer selects (based on price, reputation, etc) which freelancer they want to use.

    Pros:
    • the biggest advantage is that it eliminates most of the need for sales efforts: your customers are already there, asking for your services
    • Standardized profile set-up makes it easy to decide how and what to tell potential customers
    • Elance aggregates many, many freelance jobs, making it easy to search for ones that fit you
    • if you live in an area with low cost of living, such as India or much of Eastern Europe, you can bid on jobs from employers who are expecting to pay much higher wages

    Cons:

    • not all sales work is eliminated: you still have to keep your profile up to date, and convince potential customers that your bid is the best
    • if you live in an area with high costs of living, such as Western Europe or the US, you may be consistently underbid by workers from other continents unless you can find a niche in which you can provide 10x as much value

Pick.im I wrote about Pick.im (it makes more sense when you say it out loud) Shopify You won’t find my shopify store anywhere, because I realised after a month that I had started up too many projects, and something had to go. (See! I can too prioritize!) But my assessment of the set-up is that it was wonderfully easy, just like they said, even if you have no prior e-commerce experience. In fact, my biggest complaint is that they assume (by default) that I am my grandmother, and don’t know ANYTHING, and I have to tell it repeatedly that I am not my grandmother. But if you are my grandmother, or another techo-phobe, you can still use Shopify. (If you’re a techno-phile, you can turn off the “Do you know what inventory is?” messages).

    Pros:
    • Easy to use
    • 30-day free trial
    • forums & wikis to help you run your shop, including set-up and promotion

    Cons:

    • Pay a monthly fee, regardless of whether you sold anything or not

eBay can be used for selling your kids’ clothes from the last school year or that exercise equipment you never used… but it can also be used to sell your creations, from books to clothes to hand-carved doodads. And if it goes well for you, you can make an eBay store.

    Pros:
    • Lots and lots of traffic
    • Auction mechanism lets you determine exactly how much people will pay for your stuff
    • No one cares if you go long periods of time without making/selling anything
    • Only pay when you sell stuff

    Cons:

    • It’s harder to build a brand or reputation when your customers don’t come to your site
    • you have to set up a listing for everything you sell, rather than listing types of items in an online store

Phew! That was a long one

… and it still didn’t cover most of the resources available to you. What sites or resources would you recommend to someone who wants to make money online?

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