Blog

First Week In The Rear View

Just wanted to do up a quick post here to review the blog’s first week.

Man it went by fast, but looking back, we achieved quite a bit around here!

I’ve finally sorted all the major plugins out (look out for a post on that early next week!), fixed up the RSS links to goto the FeedBurner URL, got some wigged out looking design happening (it’s not great, I know, but it will do until my photoshop skills improve!), and most importantly I started putting some posts up and talking about them on Twitter.

I thought I’d try to summarise the week by giving a week in a review post. I might see how this goes for a couple of weeks during the launch phase, and then maybe move this type of post to be a monthly thing.

We had some pretty cool articles here this week, mostly centred around starting something new:

Feel free to leave a comment and let me know how I’m going so far, yell at me, or any suggestions about what you want to talk about next week and into the future!

Unconventional Places To Find Money To Start Your Online Business

Skimping To Raise Seed Capital

Testing business ideas has NEVER been cheaper than it is right now. The entry cost can be as low as a few hundred dollars into any market. Sometimes less.

The general idea is to test your business idea in some small way with a small subset of people from the target market you’ve identified. Generally for internet businesses this is extremely cheap to do with domain and hosting from as low as $6.95 a month. You can secure hosting like this for under $100 a year. This gives you a global reach for bugger all cash.

Website templates and content management systems are free. Try out WordPress.org or Joomla! for anything from basic professional websites and blogs all the way up to full e-commerce solutions. Cost is $0 and a bit of your time learning how these things work (something I’m hoping to help with in the future).

So we’ve established that we can setup a .com domain with reliable hosting and a credible professional looking website for less than $100 for a whole year. Now you need to do some testing.

Adwords is my favourite way to test, some people use an equivalent PPC system or other paid means of generating traffic. For the testing phase, this is perfect and might only set you back another $100 tops for a week or two of advertising costs and market testing to see if you’ve got a viable idea.

So the big problem is that people don’t want to fork out ANYTHING! Not one cent. That’s a real shame, because it really is worth it if you’re totally committed to making something work.

Because of this “hurdle” of a couple of hundred dollars I’ve devise a couple of strategies that have worked for me over the last few years that allowed me to put an extra $1000 or so back in my pocket as “play money” for my internet money making dreams.

Pocket Your Shrapnel

The first strategy is kind of lame and stupidly obvious. Sorry about that. I’ll probably get flamed for this, but whatever, I can tell you first hand that it works.

Whenever I’m out and I buy a drink, pay for a meal, or rent a movie, I pocket the small change instead of putting it back in my wallet. I’ve easily saved around $50 a month doing this practise for the last two years. I’m pretty consistent, and to stop me from spending the money again, I have a few safe spots to chuck the change to get it out of my red hot little pocket.

Stuffing the spare change from your pocket into your bag or some other safe keeping spot until you get back home is a good idea. Once I’m home I have a jar which I empty every 6-12 months (or whenever it’s a large enough sum that I’m uncomfortable keeping in my house) into my bank account. Banks usually have these awesome coin counting machines which make it a breeze, tip your coins in, and take the receipt to the cashier. My last deposit was well over $550. That was just shy of a year’s worth of coins.

Look Out For Bargain Specials

I regularly scout Big W, Kmart and Target for insane discounted specials that I think I could sell online. Installing price check barcode scanners in their aisles was probably their biggest mistake. I recently picked up 20 packs of tealight candles that were incorrectly marked 60 cents each down from over $12 each. 9/10 the troll at the checkout doesn’t care what they are scanning! I’ll sell them on Ebay for a tidy profit.

Promotional Gear

Some people have access to promotional gear. If you know someone in sales ask them for left over promo gear next time they have a big sale. I picked up 6 perfume packs from one of my old work places (a phone shop) that were going to sit in their stock room gathering dust after a mother’s day promotion. They were Elizabeth Arden promo packs with 4 little perfumes. I used my Sales Copy skills (of which I admit is very little) to whip up a quick ad on Ebay. I used the same ad over an over to sell them off until I’d sold them all. I made nearly 100% profit on these and netted a cool $200~ in about 3 weeks just before Christmas.

Sell any other crap you haven’t used in over 12 months

Cordless drills, barbeque sets, grilled sandwich makers, whatever. You’ll feel a lot better getting all this clutter out of your house, and you can do it in less than a week. Sell it online, or take it to the pawn shop. Bang, instant cash.

Take up a second job

Deliver some pamphlets, wait tables, deliver pizzas, whatever you need to do that will land you an extra hundred a week. Be sure that it doesn’t over take all your spare time. You don’t need another “job”.

Borrow!

This is probably my least favourite method of getting quick cash. But if you really have to (and you simply can’t make any of the other methods work for you), hit up family or friends for a couple of hundred to get you going. The problem here is you have to pay it back, and when money is involved things can often turn ugly.

The aim is to supplement your normal budgeted income for a short period of time in order to get started. Don’t take a job if you need to commit to a certain period of working. You want something you can stop doing in an instant. As soon as you start making some (any!) money online, drop it and concentrate your extra efforts on that.

Unexpected Power Words For Use In Blog Posts, Articles And Product Names

In this post, I reveal some of the secret words that have allowed me to snap my blog posts into the front of my reader’s minds over and over again and it’s so simple and easy that you can do it for your articles, products, and services right now!

And… just how many of those words do you think I squeezed into were in the previous sentence? Alot. But did you notice? Could you feel the anticipation?

Not all words are created equal and using the correct words placed strategically in your product’s or service’s name can have massive impact on the amount of sales you’ll make.

I’ve been compiling a list of these “Power Words” and want to present them to you now. Please keep in mind that this list isn’t conclusive by any means, and is a work in progress!

Without further ado, here are some of the power words and phrases that can help you trigger the buy impulse in your customers:

Emotive Verbs:

  • Discover
  • Blast
  • Skyrocket
  • Experience
  • Create
  • Feel
  • Cheat
  • Savour
  • How To (combine with an emotive adjective for maximum effect)
  • … (to be continued)

Other adjectives, nouns and phrases that trigger emotion:

  • Free
  • Stunning
  • Reveal
  • Secrets
  • Little Known Ways
  • Easy/Easiest
  • Quick
  • Magnetic
  • Power/Powerful
  • Techniques
  • You/Your
  • Unexpected Ways
  • Simple
  • Blueprint
  • Bonus
  • Guaranteed
  • Strategically
  • Proven
  • In Less Than X Minutes
  • Special
  • Delectable
  • Maximum
  • … (to be continued)

Obviously I’m no expert in sales copy writing, so if you have any suggestions or alterations to the list above, please let me know. Your suggestion could make it onto the list and you will be emblazoned in Internet fame for all time!

Just use the comments section below to post your suggestions πŸ™‚

Questions To Ask Yourself If You're Starting A Blog

Starting a new blog can be quite daunting and is not something that should be entered into lightly. A lot of forethought went into the blog you are reading. As this is the first launch week of this website I thought it would be quite fitting to do a post along these lines. I’ve spent around a month preparing for the launch of this blog but there is a simple set of questions I use on most of my ideas as one of my first evaluation tools.

This is something I like to do when launching anything (especially blogs). It begins by asking myself a few simple marketing questions. Don’t feel daunted, this isn’t real marketing, but just something to get you into the mood and way of thinking that you need to be in when thinking about starting something new.

The questions are all too familiar:

  • Who Am I?
  • What Are The Benefits Of Paying Attention To Me?
  • When Do I Give My Information?
  • Where Do I Give My Information?
  • Why Am I Doing This?
  • How Can People Find Me And Follow My Stuff?

Here is how I first answered these very questions for this very blog you are reading now:

  • Who am I?
    • About Me Page
    • Post about why I’m doing this
    • Summarise past history up to where I’m at
  • What are the benefits of paying attention to me?
    • I bring information about internet business in a way that programmers can “get”.
    • I’m a programmer myself trying to do the very same thing.
    • We learn together
    • Find potential business partners
    • Find business ideas
    • Learn new technologies
    • Learn how to leverage technology we use every day to get stuff done effectively
  • When do I give my information?
    • Blog
      • Daily for the first 2 weeks then every second day
      • News posts in between when I want to highlight important things that would normally be tweeted
    • Twitter – Randomly when I find cool information. Usually a couple times during the day
    • Email Newsletter – Monthly or Fortnightly on occasion
      • Potential for a fortnightly/monthly re-cap on blog posts and end of period thoughts
  • Where do I give my information?
    • Blog
    • Twitter
    • Email Newsletter
    • Eventually, a premium membership arrangement?
  • Why am I doing this?
    • About Me Page
    • Decide on a “message”. Ie. mission statement
  • How can people find me and follow my stuff?

The answers to these questions can be fluid and I know I’ve already changed some of these. Don’t worry if you don’t get it 100% right the first time you go through them. This exercise actually doesn’t end, and it’s something you should probably look at every few months (or weeks for a fresh project).

Try answering these questions yourself next time you want to analyse an idea. This isn’t just limited to blogs, but could include membership websites, article sites, corporate sites and news, and pretty much everything web based.

This is a great way to analyse your current scenario as well. Have a think about how people contact you and interact with you currently and how you might want to improve on that. Do you have something to say about your hobbies or business? Maybe you could start a blog. It’s easy and can be a great way to expand your thoughts on any topic.

Where To Start On A New Business Idea

If you actually paid attention in your software engineering classes on programmatic design then you probably shouldn’t read this article.

Also, I feel sorry for you.

I have a confession… I hate programmatically planning out exciting new business projects. I know.. bad programmer. Bad!

For goodness sake! When you first have a business idea, the last thing you want to do is drain the excitement out of it by drawing schema diagrams and flow charts.

That’s why I thought I would talk about how I go about the very start of the business process for an idea. Here are a few tips to help you on your way:

Top down design

I like to start on how my project might look. My favourite part of this process is sketching out what you might want your new website or program to look like. You’ve got a few ideas about what you could do with it. Now it’s time to get it on paper.

I love using tools like Photoshop to mess around with high level design concept ideas, but the really powerful tools are things like Balsamiq. Very cool tool for quickly creating nice mockups for conceptual level design. Fast enough to operate to use at meetings, and good enough to even show potential investors. Check out the cool iTunes like interface in the demo video to get a feel for it’s power.

The old fashioned way you can do this (and I advocate carrying pen and paper at all times) is to jot it down in a notebook. Yes, pen and paper, it’s your extremely handy friend. 90% of my ideas that make it into some form of life have come from a scrawl in a notebook.

Starting with how it might look is a great way to feel out your idea without putting a wet blanket on your creative moment. Drawing and concept work is a fantastic way to realise features you might not have discovered yet.

Functional elements

Figure out some good functional elements and concentrate on those.

Put your extra ideas that will inevitably pop up into a lovely formatted document (or notebook) and let them sit idle for a bit. This way you’re not forgetting about them, but instead letting them ferment. You also don’t need to spend time on “shaving the yak” too early. Let the features creep later on when you’ve got an actual working product/website.

Get it out there!

Get something (anything!) out into the wild. Open source it if you want. Seek feedback from friends/family or better still, potential customers. Give them rewards for helping you. Just get something working as soon as you can, it will help your product survive (you will become accountable for it) and will also help with low motivation which does inevitably rear it’s ugly head at some point.

Don’t forget to have fun πŸ™‚

It’s called a hobby project for a reason right? It’s not your full time job so don’t take it too seriously!!! Have fun with it! Half the fun is in the hobby.

Why do you think I write this site and work on my projects in my spare time? I could be out watching movies or playing soccer. But I like doing this. It’s what I class as fun which is why I’m so motivated to keep going with it.

Why Am I Doing This?

Or, How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Adventure

How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Adventure

What is the point? I’m sitting here at night. It’s late.

I’ve been considering this topic for the past few weeks. I’m already several months into my first venture which is shaping up to be a lot of fun and a lot of learning. I’m also considering starting a few other ventures that I hope to make some recurring money from.

I first started thinking this way over a year ago. For some reason my business instincts just naturally started kicking in. Perhaps it was the sudden realisation that I wouldn’t be able to “make it” just on a regular salary. The money I earn working 9-5 as a programmer is alright, it pays the bills and afforded me my first house and a pet cat. I guess I can’t complain.

But I’ve always been a naturally inquisitive person.

I used to get in trouble with computers during high school and fancied myself a bit of a hacker. Looking back on it now, it was really silly, but it let me do a few cool things at school that no one else could do. Earning me many weeks of detention time on more than one occasion and losing me all computer privileges for a whole term. Kind of hard to do a computer class without a computer right? Apparently not. Queue the 10,000 word essay on ethics, what a breeze.

I’ve had a number of these “why am I doing this” moments in my life. Two so far actually. After I finished high school I started university straight away. When I found out I had glandular fever I took the opportunity to bail from my degree and put it on hold for a semester to give me some time to think. I took a job at a local telco store selling mobile phones to make ends meet. Surprisingly enough to me, I was naturally good at sales (“The gift of the gab” as it’s known here in Australia). But two years later I was still there, totally disillusioned in what my life was shaping up to be. Did I really want to do this for the rest of my life? How stressed out should a 19 year old be? I was drinking too much, and partying way too hard. My body was hating me and I hated myself for it.

That was the first time I had a moment.

It was about that time that I met my fiancee (M) and we hit it off instantly. I knew that if I was to have any kind of chance with her I’d have to pull my shit together. So I called my university up to find out what I had to do to get back into my degree. Turned out it really wasn’t as hard as I had imagined and less than a week later I was signed up for my 3 year Bachelor of Information Technology course.

Fast forwarding a little to the end of my second year. I took a job as a vacation student in a big IT company which would turn out to be where I work after I graduated. Looking back on it, this is when I started looking for ways to really make money long term. About this time I was getting really interested in property strategies. The problem? I was dirt poor. Literally living on $70 a fortnight after paying for my bills, insurance, and debts. Namely a pain in the ass car loan I wished I never took out that was haunting me from my telco days of excess.

I really don’t know how I ever got by back then as it seems like an utterly impossible situation. It was lucky I made a little cash on the side helping my Dad run his electronics business. That was my first true taste of self employment business. Suddenly I knew how tough it was on my Dad relying on your own skills to make the money to put bread on the table for your family.

I struggled a little less in my final year because I’d convinced the big IT company I was working for to take me on part time paying me peanuts while completing my studies full time. I was extremely busy, too busy for dreams of property or working for myself. Man it was a relief to finally get that piece of paper in my hand. Bachelor of IT, I’d made it. So I hunted around for a job, and ended up accepting the job that was offered to me by the same company. I’ve been there ever since.

Things were exciting for a little while, but like with any job, the shine wears off and a slight scuff takes it’s place. It was at this point, a few months into my first “real job” (called so because I was earning “real money” now), that I had my second epiphany.

I’m not going to get rich doing this.

I can’t make my dreams come true by surrounding myself with fabric covered walls ignoring opportunity. My second “why am I doing this” moment.

So I did what any good nerd does. I started reading.. and then I read some more..

I read so many books that my reading speed more than doubled. I snorkeled down motivational books, business books, Harry Potter books, text books, eBooks, forums, blogs, you name it. Somewhere over these months something inside me changed. I became hungry for this.

I want to be successful off my own merit, I want to choose when I work, I want to choose what I work on. I want to work not because I have to but because I choose to. Choice and freedom to do what I want, when I want. I owe it to myself and my family.

I guess that was the conclusion that I came to and as I type it now, I see that it’s actually not a small goal. It would take me more than just a few months and countless “great ideas” to get even onto some sort of path that would take me there.

I’m the kind of guy that likes to procrastinate, and I have a feeling that I’m also the kind of person that talks themselves out of things (the first sign of insanity?).

With the Internet in it’s current state, there is no longer any excuses. It’s so incredibly cheap to test ideas on a micro scale you’d be mad not to. You can even do it for free in a lot of cases, something I’m really a fan of.

So to answer the question “Why am I doing this?”…

Well it’s an ambiguous question, but I think I know what you mean. I want to make a better life for myself, for my fiancee, and for my cat. And one day maybe my children too.

I’d like to actually see my children grow up instead of just being a bystander. Always having to be “half there” because I’m also “half at work” trying to keep my boss happy. I am not somebody who just sits around waiting for things to happen. I’ve accepted they won’t.

Why am I doing this? I’m doing it for myself because that’s who I am. And I’m doing this for my family so that we can enjoy our short and hopefully sweet time here in this life.