Lessons Learned in 12 Years – The Online Income Experience
November 2013 marked the 10th Anniversary of my Google Adsense, completing a whole decade of earning money online for a living. During the whole period (and 12 total work years since 2002) many projects were launched. Many achieved the desired results, and many projects were failed.
I started without a mentor, with a very limited exposure to webmaster forums and groups, and there were no blogs like this at that time that could help newbies.
The lessons I learned during the time, which are not only helpful for beginners, but also for well settled entrepreneurs, developers, and webmasters, are as follows:
1. Beginning with the end in mind
Its often said that failing to plan is planning to fail. One cant have a plan unless the goal is clear. It is not necessary that the goal is big, or looks impossible to achieve. Even if it’s a small project and small amount of revenue is to be made, the goal has to be decided and written in clear words.
It is better to have both short term and long term goals in mind. Write them on a piece of paper. Expand you goals with the rough plan to achieve them. Read it occasionally, if not daily. Looking at your goals will keep to focused and motivated.
2. You don’t need to be a programmer or a designer
Often we read success stories of the companies, apps, and websites sold for high prices, and even millions, the owners happen to be the programmers. Entrepreneurs we get to see every day are also coders. But, having programming or designing skills are not necessary. Truth is, many good programmers and designers are doing jobs at companies that pay them for their time, which they hardly find for themselves, while the people they are working for have all the fun in life.
You can too hire other people working for you. It is easy these days since you can hire virtual employees as well, for full-time, or even for projects only. Do you math, and decide what is better for you. Elance.com, oDesk.com, and Freelancer.com can help you.
3. Analyzing keywords, potential traffic, and competitors
Focus on minimum possible main keywords initially (1 seed keyword to focus well). Use Google Keyword Planner for generated the list of keywords and look at the ‘Monthly Searches’. 1st position on Google typically drives 40% of the search traffic.
Make sure the keyword is searched few thousand times in a month if you intend to use Google Adsense or other banner advertising. In case of highly targeted traffic and affiliate offers, you can make handsome money if the program pays good. Otherwise, low traffic sites will generate low monthly income and you will eventually spend more time in generating handsome revenue by creating more websites and doing seo for every website.
Low to medium competitive niches are easier to rank but also pay less when compared to high competitive keywords. Medium competition with high traffic is worth spending time and money on if you intend to make good money long term.
4. Launching quickly, without perfection
Many entrepreneurs including Tim Ferris of The 4-hour workweek, and folks at 37signals insist that perfection is when you remove all the features the product could work without.
While developing a website, most of us spend time on small stuff in order to make it pixel perfect without realizing that the time spent in making those small things perfect will only delay the launch, and give someone else the opportunity to take the lead.
Launch the website or the web-based product with its basic features. You can always add new features, improve design, and fix small bugs later. Instead, spend the time and money on marketing the product.
5. Consistent SEO and Social Media Marketing
I regret not running SEO campaigns consistently in the past. A virtual assistant can be hired for the job. Delegate the SEO and SMM of your project when you know that you won’t be able to handle it yourself. Go slow, but must build links on a regular basis.
Tools like BufferApp and HootSuite make it easier to schedule and automate most of the social activity, eliminating the need of a full-time assistant.
6. Think profit
The end goal for everyone of us is to make money. Someone may say that the customer comes first, and they want to serve the community. But no one would be interested in doing so if it doesn’t make money.
Do what makes money. Spending time on things that don’t earn you anything will only demotivate you in the long run.
7. Hire people who are smarter than you
The things you can do better will push you to do it yourself. If you hired people who have lesser skills, you will never want to trust them. You will have to spend time with them on the projects. Eventually, you will end up doing more stuff then them.
Work on the business, not in the business
Do what others can’t do for you. That is, working on the business, developing strategies, and making plans.
8. Create a System: Automate or Delegate
The main purpose of opting for the business over a full-time job is to make free time available, without compromising the income. Whats the point If you work in your business 8-14 hours a day? Then why not continue with the full-time job and get consistent, guaranteed pay? And save yourself from thinking continuously or worrying about the business as well.
Yes, you will need to work day and night initially. But once the things settle down, create a system. Train people to do the work for your. Use tools and softwares to minimize human involvement. Automate as much as possible, and delegate if it can not be automated.
9. Reinvest what is left after spending
The biggest mistake I made was not reinvesting back into the business. You must save for your future, but keep the ratio to the minimum level. Whatever is left after spending, must be reinvested into your business. This will help your business grow, and multiple your profits in coming months.
10. Think less, do more – Take quick decisions
We often think too much before starting a project. All those hours, and even days, wasted thinking about it will end up with doing nothing. Resulting in missing an opportunity, and regrets that would only contribute to the lack of motivation, and disbelieving in yourself.
It is better to do it and fail. Failure is a failure only if it does not teach you anything. In most cases failure will open new options for you. It will teach you so much that no one could ever tell in, and no money could buy that experience.
11. Get Things Done – Use shortest To-do list and a Timer
I used to have never-completed to-do lists and calender entries, that would stay on my phone only scheduling for ‘tomorrow’ again and again. Nothing could be done that way, resulting in the increased stress.
I know have only 1 to-do list, with minimum possible tasks on it. Usually it has 1 major task for a day, which would add value to your business.
I maintain another list with small chunks split from the main task, and set shortest possible deadline (in minutes). Stopwatch or a Timer from cellphone force me to focus on that task and complete it in the shortest time possible, eliminating the distractions turning away my focus.
It is highly advised that you turn off your email client, and logout Facebook and Youtube during your work time.
Many also suggest working in small chunks of time, such as, 30 minutes without distraction, and taking 10 minutes break after each. And a 30 minutes break after working 2 to 3 hours.
You need to try all these options to find what best suits your need, and what gets most work done.
12. Read industry news and blogs
I now use InoReader.com after Google discontinued the RSS Reader. Also, find the list of recommended blogs below.
Reading related blogs in your industry, following influential people and experts on their blogs or twitter, and reading industry news will keep you up to date on what is going on. You don’t need to read whole articles every time. Just go through the title and main points, and read only if you are interested. Even reading the titles and main points will store into your subconscious, improving your knowledge, and eventually improve your business decisions.
But, Do not read too much, or you will suffer from information overload.
13. Don’t master, but learn the basics
As written above that you don’t need to be a coder or a designer. But it is always good to know the basics. This way you will know what your assistants or hired developers are doing.
14. Manage and sync backups, passwords, and bookmarks
The risks of data lost because of crashing Hard Drives, forgetting passwords, and losing bookmarks when working between multiple devices are not new.
I use External Drives for Offline backups, ownCloud for online backups of important data, Dropbox for files that need to be shared with others often, Backup VPS from Backupsy.com, Xmarks for bookmarks, and LastPass for managing passwords.
15. Keep yourself motivated
Beside reading related blogs and following inspiring personalities, you should also consider watching motivational videos occasionally. Reading success stories of others helps motivate better than anything else.
Take few minutes everyday and visualize you spending quality time with your family, or doing what you are passionate about. Imagining it will increase your Want Power, and push you to work smarter and achieve your goals.
Get in touch with people in your field. Comment on their blogs, join forums, and attend events and seminars. By talking to the people sharing similar interests will give you new business ideas, and opportunity to build a business partnership, or working on a larger project.
17. Learn to Say No
It is difficult to decline a help request when it comes from a friend or a relative. Helping others is not bad, but you must do it in your free time.
Often during your work time, people come up with tasks and want you to do it for them. Those tasks will profit them, but take away your focus. You should avoid fulfilling such requests.
Try to say NO to everyone unless it risks a relationship, or you have free time.
18. Diversify Income Sources
Focusing on diversification is not a good idea when you are just starting off. But once you have a system for your first project, and the project starts to earn you money, you must look at alternatives to make more money.
Never put all eggs in one basket
If you are using Google Adsense, try ValueClick, InfoLinks, and Media.net as well. If you are using all of them, try to add affiliate income to your business. Earn through offering services or selling products. If possible, invest in some offline business as well.
19. Stay Fit
Sitting longer hours in front of computer screen surely cause health issues and bad posture. Exercise often, even for few minutes. Lift weight thrice a week if possible. Stretch every day. Eat healthy foods.
Staying healthy enhances the mind, and you feel motivated. You are more likely to get things done, and in time, if you are physically active.
Go out with your friends, play some sport, swim, walk on the beach, sit and relax. If you are inactive physically, you are likely to burn out quickly, and ruin your business while increasing laziness.
- The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferris
- Getting Real by 37Signals
- The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It by Michael E. Gerber
- Getting Things Done by David Allen
Wonderful start and good post about you and your previous works and the services you use.
I enjoyed and read every single word of your post. Good work Zahid keep it up.