Yearly Archives: 2010

A Common Online Business Mistake

One of the most common online business mistakes I see (and have seen over the past 10 or so years) is when individuals put all their eggs into one basket and concentrate on just one online business and one online income stream.  For me this has never been an ideal option and quite frankly, in my opinion, it is risky beyond belief!

The Internet changes at an alarming rate and what works today may not work tomorrow.  Believe me, I have owned websites which were earning £3000 a month on Friday but due to a Google update were down to £300 a month by the following Monday!   At the time, if that had been my only website and my only source of income, I would have been seriously worried.  As it was, the site was only one of several which I owned at the time and although it was incredibly irritating/frustrating/annoying, it wasn’t the end of the World and I wasn’t going to lose my house over it.

I have said it before and I will say it again, it is far better to have multiple streams of income.  I would always prefer to have ten websites each earning £300 a month rather than one website earning £3000 a month.  The main problem seems to be that if you have a site which is doing really well, you end up spending most of your time working on that one site to ensure you get the absolute maximum benefit out of it.  That’s fine to a certain extent – I have periods where I concentrate on one business for months at a time BUT I always keep an eye on my other businesses and tweak them as necessary.

If you are just starting out (or even if you have a couple of online income streams in place), my advice is to get a business to the point where it is earning a certain amount of profit each month (I have always considered £300 a month to be about right).  Then when you have achieved this target, start working on your next website/business and do the same.  Continue to maintain and grow the first one at the same time but ideally have more than one project on the go at once.  One of the other advantages of this way of working is that it will help to prevent you from getting bored with one specific site.  Believe me, whilst you may think that your new website is the greatest thing since sliced bread when you first start working on it, after a few weeks of looking at the same site everyday it can soon start to get stale!

Of course, some business ideas will work far better than others and some won’t work at all but the beauty of the Internet is that it costs so little to run a simple online business that even if a site only makes a few pounds a month profit, it can be worth keeping it going.  For example, I have a number of websites which I set up years ago and which I haven’t updated (or even looked at!) for about four years but every single month these sites each generate between £20 and £50 a month in profit in return for me doing absolutely nothing!  Why would I turn them off?  Ok, they are never going to be big money earners but even £20 a month is worth having if you don’t have to do anything for it.

Over time it is likely that you will find that you have one or two websites which contribute the bulk of your monthly income and that’s fine but just make sure you have a handful of others which also bring in some cash just in case one day your big sites no longer work…

As well as my websites and other online business interests, I still have an eBay business which ticks over in the background and which, in a worse case scenario could pay my monthly bills (I personally don’t like selling on eBay at all, far too much effort but if it was a choice between this and getting a job, eBay wins every time!)

Todays lesson?  Multiple income streams are key – don’t put all your Internet eggs into one virtual basket 🙂

How the South Africa World Cup could affect your business…

In case you hadn’t noticed, the World Cup has started!  Now, I personally have very little absolutely no interest in football whatsoever BUT despite this, the World Cup could affect the profitability of my businesses over the next few weeks…

Football, in the UK at least, is one thing that will drag people from their computers to in front of the television and if people are not in front of their computers, they are not spending money with me (or you).  Therefore, if you are planning any kind of promotion or launch over the World Cup period you would do well to ensure that it doesn’t coincide with one of the major matches.  Even if you don’t run an online business, it is possible that the World Cup could affect you.  Do you sell on eBay?  Do you buy on eBay?  If so, avoid posting auctions which will end during a match and if you are buying, lookout for auctions which DO end during a match as there is every possibility that you could grab yourself a bargain.

And don’t think this is just a bit of theory on my part, I learnt the hard way some years ago that football does indeed affect eBay bids!  I had one of my favourite cars of all time up for auction, a 1961 Land Rover and I was extremely surprised when the vehicle went for about £500 below its value.  It was only when the buyer picked it up and mentioned in passing that he had nearly missed the end of the auction because ‘…it was right in the middle of the England game…’ that I realised what had happened!  It also explained the steady flow of emails from people asking if I had sold the Land Rover as they had been watching the match and therefore missed the end of the auction! 

As I said before, I have absolutely no interest in football but now I do at least take a bit of notice if it is going to affect my pocket!  You will find a full World Cup fixture list at this link.

iPhone Apps – Developing Apps Without Programming!

As iPhone sales (and now iPad sales) continue to grow, the demand for new iPhone apps is growing at a similar rate.  Although I have been busy with my web businesses over the past few months (mainly on account of the fact that I have had nearly three years ‘off’!), I have had one eye on the iPhone apps market as I think there is considerable opportunity to make some serious money over the next few years.

Now I am no app expert but I have been reading a fair bit about the marketplace over the last few weeks and have followed a couple of individuals as they have developed and released iPhone apps onto iTunes.  There are two main ways of ‘selling’ an iPhone app, either for free or for a fixed price.  My initial thoughts were that the paid apps would be the best way of earning however this does not necessarily seem to be the case.  With a free app it is possible to include adverts (a bit like Google Adsense) which earn you money whenever someone clicks on one.  This means that you could potentially earn something every time a user opens the app whereas with a paid app, you only earn on day one.  Equally, even if someone downloads a free app and doesn’t click on an app for months, there is still the chance that one day they will so your earning potential is kind of unlimited.  When you factor into the equation the fact that free apps get download in far larger numbers than paid ones, I have to say that going down the free route looks like the better option.

The initial problem which held me back from moving into the app market was the fact that I have very little programming experience but when I think about it, I have very little HTML/PHP experience yet I have been earning from websites coded in these languages for over 12 years.  How?  Simple, I hired someone else and guess what, surprise surprise, the app market is no different!  There are thousands of capable app programmers out there who would be happy to take on the development of your app and hand over the finished product to you so that you can deal with the marketing.  So this is my plan, I have a few ideas for different apps and over the coming weeks I will be obtaining development quotes and hopefully getting one or two up and running and (fingers crossed) bringing in a bit of revenue.

Jeez, it’s easy setting up an online business these days!

Seriously, how much easier can it get?!

I started my online ‘journey’ in 1998 and getting an online business or website up and running was a totally different experience to today.  My first ‘product’ (if you can call it that!) was something which went onto become an eBook.  However back then, I had no idea what an eBook was and I certainly wasn’t aware of the fact that you could buy software to create one.  Thus my first eBook was little more than a text file (which went onto become a Word document)!  It looked cheap and scrappy and to be fair, it was BUT the content was solid and that was the most important thing and my poorly presented text file sold by the bucketload.  When I eventually decided that there must be a better way of presenting the information I was selling, it took me days of Googling (actually I probably wasn’t even using Google back then so perhaps that should be AOLing or Yahooing) to find the one piece of software that would do what I wanted.  Search for ‘eBook software’ now and Google is jammed full of the stuff!  Not only that but today you could hire someone to write the eBook for you thus saving even more time!

In the early days (actually right up to 2006), I built all of my websites myself using a very cheap bit of software called CoolPage.  This software was extremely easy to use but looking back, it took ages to create anything worthwhile.  I remember opening up Dreamweaver one day and after seeing how complicated it looked, I closed it straight down and removed it from my PC.  So CoolPage it was and I struggled on with this super-basic web design package for years – got to get my moneys worth, after all, I think it cost me about $27.00 🙂 

Taking payments was another pain in the backside – Paypal didn’t exist until 1999 and processors such as WorldPay etc hadn’t even been thought of.  Even when processors such as Clickbank and Paypal started to emerge, they were still very basic systems and integration into your website was hard work, especially if you had no programming skills (ie. me).  I know today you could just head over to freelance sites such as Scriptlance but they weren’t around until 2001 so it was a case of speaking to other Internet marketers to see if they could recommend someone. 

I remember spending weeks working out how to create a video product and then how to get it into a format that everyone could view (it was hard enough getting eBooks into a usable format nevermind video – who remembers .exe eBooks which wouldn’t work on Macs?!)  In the end some bright spark came out with a multi-media package which explained how to create multi-media products.  Desperate to put an end to my trial and error approach, I spent something like $700 on this package.  It was the answer to my prayers at the time admittedly but if I were in the same situation today, a quick Google search would have given me the answer for nothing.

My point is that however hard you might think it is today to get a website business up and running, 12 years ago it was considerably harder.  Everything has just got easier.  Ok, so maybe the technology involved is more complex but the point is that you don’t need to understand how to code or build websites or anything really because there are thousands of people out there who will do the work for you at a very reasonable rate.  Let me give you some examples.  The first website I ever had designed for me was my UK wholesale site, Simply Wholesale.  Now although it might look fairly straightforward from the front-end, the back-end of Simply Wholesale is actually quite complicated.  There is a lot of custom coding which ensures that the site can run pretty much on autopilot yet the intial design and coding costs for this site back in 2006 were around £3,500 and that was using UK developers (as opposed to cheaper options available in Eastern Europe, India etc). 

That was in 2006 and I haven’t been particularly active in developing new Internet businesses during the past 4 years (ok, not active at all!) but now that I am getting back into it, I can only say that things are even easier.  Using sites such as Scriptlance, I have had several websites and bits of code designed/written for me for, what I would consider, bargain prices.  With scripts out there such as WordPress (which this site is based on), it is easy for a designer to throw together a theme or template without having to worry about how the back-end of the site is going to work – that bit has already been done for them.  As I said at the start of this article, how much easier can it get?

In 1998 it would have taken me several weeks work, if not several months to put together one new website.  During the past month I have created two new sites and it really only took me a few days.  The reason being that I just wrote the design brief and then passed the hard work (from my point of view at least) onto someone else.  If you are struggling to get an idea off the ground and are spending time trying to work out how to build your website or make it work, why not consider giving the job to a professional?  It probably won’t be anywhere near as expensive as you might think and it could save you months and months of frustration and effort.  If you are stuck for where to look for designers, programmers, coders etc, try Scriptlance as a starting point…