The single biggest contributor to my financial success with online business has been the amount of profitable niche websites I’ve been able to develop over time.
I currently own over 20 profitable niche websites, each of which generates income from a variety of sources such as contextual ads, private placement ads, affiliate product sales, sales of my own products as well as lead generation.
Although I have been working on what would be considered an “authority” website (outside of this blog), most of my online income is generated by the portfolio of niche sites I have established.
In this post I will discuss how I was able to quickly develop several profitable niche sites, and how you can do the same if this is a business model you want to replicate or simply add additional income streams to your portfolio. (Note: If you are interested in starting a web based business venture, consider looking for vendors with experts who can advise you on the legal ramifications associated with start-ups. One such example is SunDocument Filings.)
I started establishing niche websites while I was employed in a fairly demanding profession. I came across the SBI platform, which really educated me on how to take a topic I am passionate about and turn it into a successful online business.
When I first started, I set aside my weekends for content creation. Once I saw some success and understood how the business model works, I started to explore options through which I can expedite the process, starting with the concept to creation to marketing and all the way to monetization.
Fast forward a few years, through a rinse and repeat method, I was able to establish several profitable niche sites and in the process was able to sell a few as well for a healthy five figure sum as well (I have built and owned more sites than what I have now).
How was I able to do all this in a relatively short amount of time?
By learning the process, trying it out and proving it for myself, systematizing and automating as much as I could and then outsourcing most of it. It’s interesting how easy I am able to summarize it all in just one sentence, but the truth is that it takes time to do and really understand how all of that works and flows methodically. It is truly a method, much like an assembly line in a manufacturing business.
When I worked on my first website, I did everything myself. This is the best way to learn the process in my opinion, and really determine what works and what doesn’t. I am not saying that you have to do the same. In fact, many successful internet marketers outsource the entire process from start to finish without having done it themselves. That route can also work, but is not the route I personally prefer.
For me to be able to successfully facilitate a project, I need to be fully comfortable and confident in what I am doing, and the only way I can achieve that comfort level is by doing something myself first.
So let’s break down the process of developing profitable niche websites in 5 steps.
Topic Research – The first step in the process is to research a topic that you want to establish a website on. When I established my first niche website, I made sure the topic I chose was something I was personally interested in. This is critical if you want to develop, hone and grow your business yourself.
Many people chase numbers and end up giving up the project because the passion is just not there. If and when you begin to outsource the process, passion for the topic becomes less important. That said, the content you develop for the website still has to be superb.
Topic research involves evaluating your competition online, conducting keyword research to determine what keywords to focus on that will bring the visitors / search traffic, assessing the commerciality of the topic (is there money to be made / are people paying for products and services), etc.
Personally, I like to research new profitable topics myself, but this process can be fully outsourced because it is not subjective. In other words, you can research and conclude whether or not the topic can be profitable based on factual numbers.
Website Development – I am not technical and by no means a programmer. However, the tools we have today make it easy for anyone to get up and running online quickly without being technical at all. Here is an example of a tool that allow anyone to create a free website within minutes. Although I know how to create websites rather quickly now, this is one part of the process I almost always outsource.
Content Creation – Content creation is another one of my favorite activities, but only for topics I am passionate about. I can only force myself to write so much about profitable topics which I have no interest in. This is an area that I have heavily outsourced throughout the years.
Marketing – Successfully marketing a website is the most challenging part of the process in my opinion because there is so much that goes into it. There are several internet marketing strategies out there and a lot of noise that goes with them. Marketing can also get rather tedious, redundant and frankly boring.
This is my least favorite part of the process, though arguably the most important for your websites to get the exposure they need to succeed. I currently outsource 95% of all internet marketing initiatives related to my niche websites (under my close direction of course).
Another approach is to focus on creating superb content and a lot of it and let the marketing happen automatically. Let others find it compelling to link to you over time.
Monetization – Ideally you want to know how exactly you will be monetizing your website before starting on the project. I am not comfortable outsourcing this aspect of my business mainly because I enjoy implementing the different monetization avenues once I have a website where I want it in terms of the traffic it’s generating.
You likely picked up on this already from reading the above but the way I was able to expedite the process by which I established several successful niche websites over time is by leveraging competent resources who I outsourced the bulk of the work to.
What to outsource and to who?
Topic Research – I often don’t outsource this part of the process, but I have. If you are going to outsource this process, I recommend hiring a VA (Virtual Assistant) and training your VA to conduct research exactly how you do it yourself.
Most VAs are highly competent and are able to take instructions and fly with the task. This training is best conducted face to face via programs like Skype, coupled with a short bullet point instruction list. In my experience, the best resource to find a VA capable of this tasks is Odesk.
The output of this exercise is a road map to how the website will be built and what keywords will be used to create content and later promote the website. This output, or deliverable, becomes the main “guiding document” for the rest of the project.
Web Development – This is something I almost always outsource. I have found the best resources for development through freelancing platforms such as Odesk and Elance. A VA can also do this for you. I like to get the shell up and running and go back later to add the beefy content once it’s created. This gives your domain URL a chance to starting aging.
Content Creation – This is usually all me for topics I am passionate about, but when I am not developing it I like to use a VA from Odesk or a freelancer from Elance depending on the specific topic I am considering. When I get content outsourced, I review it and make modifications as needed and then provide it to the web developer to include on the website.
Marketing – Once you have your website complete, up and running, it is time to promote it. I have a couple approaches to marketing. Some of my websites are being promoted by my VAs following instructions I have specified for them, while others are being marketed by a specific SEO agency overseas who has delivered superb results in the 3 plus years I have been working with them.
Their fees are a bit steep, but worth the results they have delivered, mainly because I have them promoting some of my higher profitability niche sites. Since I recently started a local SEO firm, I am still evaluating how we can take over the promotion of these sites internally and still deliver the solid results we have been enjoying on these sites.
Monetization – Monetization is something I don’t recommend you outsource. This is a strategic business decision that is better made and implemented by you, the business owner. I discuss several means of monetization on this blog such as contextual advertisement, private ads, promoting affiliate products, selling ebooks and other digital products and more.
If you want to expedite your success, you will have to engage help at some point, especially if you are a working professional with limited amount of time. If you can learn what it takes to become successful, you can outsource the bulk of the execution process so that you are working ON your business and not IN your business. My business really took off when I finally grasped this concept.
Before concluding, I’d like to share some tips that have helped me along the way, many of which I have learned the hard way from the mistakes I made. I hope you can avoid the same mistakes by learning from my own experience.
I have found that technical tasks are best outsourced overseas to professionals from India. When I say technical I am referring to coding, graphic design, etc. Similarly, softer skill sets such as communication skills are best found overseas in the Philippines (at least in ways where you can take advantage of the cost of doing business). That said, there is good talent everywhere. These are just some of my takeaways based on my experience.
If you want to replicate what I’ve been able to do, the 2 biggest suggestions I have are:
1) Learn the process inside out, get comfortable with it and try it out yourself first
2) Outsource, outsource, outsource. The sooner the better. You will (as I did and many others) look back to your success and think to yourself that you shoud’ve outsourced sooner.
Everyone I know who has tried this says this. I understand that there are fears of the unknown to overcome, and one really has to be mentally prepared and conceptually ready to start outsourcing, but it really works wonders as you will see when you finally get there.
And when you are ready, there are fantastic resources available online today that you can use to find exactly the type of business partner you want to work with no matter what business model you are into. The three best resources I personally use and recommend are Odesk, Virtual Staff Finder and Replace Myself.
I have written a little bit about each one of these in my previous post on outsourcing. In addition, here are two other posts I have written about why you should hire a VA, as well as how you can leverage a VA to boost your business.
Finally, keep a spreadsheet with the entire process mapped out so you can easily go from one phase of the process to another as you progress in your business. I maintain such spreadsheets for each of my projects, and simply update them as the process moves forward.
If you are hesitant and reluctant to pursue outside help, I can understand how you feel as I was once there too. But I will tell you that doing so will tremendously impact your business in a positive way. You will grow leaps and bounds, and the sooner you engage help, the sooner your business partners will get to know about you and how you like to do business.
The relationships I have established have only gotten better over time, and as a result business has been streamlined and seamless. I hope that you can experience the same for yourself. If I can help address any questions, please let me know in the comments section below.
I am a user and an affiliate of all the platforms and services mentioned in this article. I’d be happy to answer any questions you may have if you are contemplating using either one of these.
Finally, a very Happy New Year to you and your loved ones. May 2013 bring more health, wealth and prosperity for you. Set your goals now, get out of your comfort zone, try something new and take bold action. Cheers to your success in 2013!
Do you have any experience outsourcing? What’s the experience been like? Is this something you feel you want to pursue? Do you want to read more about this topic? Please provide your thoughts in the comments section below.
I have written in the past about how entrepreneurs can boost their productivity and overall business by hiring virtual assistants (VA). In this post I want to discuss how successful working professionals can boost their careers while achieving more work-life balance by doing the same.
Let me emphasize that outsourcing is not only for big companies who send their call centers and accounting work overseas. Outsourcing for working professionals works equally as well, and in this post I will discuss just some of the tasks you can outsource to your VA to create more balance in your life.
The single biggest aspect of life that busy successful professionals lack is time. We all have 24 hours in a day and we all crave for more. We can always earn more money, but none of that will buy us just an additional second of time if we wanted.
There always appears to be more work than there is time, and outsourcing part of your life in a controlled manner is one solution to creating more free time that you can enjoy with your friends and family doing the things you love doing.
Outsourcing is not only for business owners and internet marketers. Career professionals are leveraging outsourcing today to enable living unprecedented lifestyles while achieving maximum success in their careers while enjoying life at its fullest. How do I know this?
I know this because one of my niche sites is a site that discusses a lucrative career field or profession. Outsourcing part of one’s personal life is one of the topics I discuss on that site. To give you an idea, the average reader of the site is someone who works in a large corporate setting making anywhere between $120,000 to $220,000 or even more per year.
I can’t tell you the number of personal thank yous I have received from the site’s newsletter readers who have leveraged methods of outsourcing for working professionals that have not only boosted their careers, but at the same time enabled them to spend more time with family and friends or on hobbies and interests. I can personally vouch for the results because I not only outsource business related work, but also part of MY personal life.
I have friends who I have conveyed this option to who have experimented with it with tremendous results as well. Many have outsourced part of their lives so they can take up more special projects at work and get on the fast track to promotion. Others use it to free up time to acquire more business, and some to perhaps start that long pending internet business that they hadn’t had time to start up before. Outsourcing for working professionals clearly works.
For someone working an hourly job, one can easily benefit from arbitrage resulting from wage difference. For example, if you make $12 an hour and you can outsource an hour of your life at $3, you can work more hours and make an extra $9 ($12 – $3) for each hour worked.
While some C Suites have personal assistants that not only help in the office, but also in their personal lives, the rest of us average folk will just have to do with virtual assistants. The good news is that we can affordably and effectively do so. This is definitely the way to go.
So now that we have discussed why one should consider outsourcing part of their life, here are just a handful of tasks you can send away.
This is not by any means a comprehensive list of tasks you can outsource to your VA, but just a handful of tasks that I and a few friends of mine outsource.
As a rule of thumb, if it takes a longer time explaining a task as it would take to do it yourself, you might as well do it yourself, unless it is something that once trained can be executed repeatedly over time. That is a time investment worth making.
On a day to day basis, I normally outsource those tasks that are easy to communicate in a single email. As long as the email is elaborate enough and provides for various if / then options, I have found that competent VAs can fly with it to your satisfaction most of the time.
What I am experimenting with right now is instead of relying on email, is to use Google Docs with a running TO DO list arranged in terms of priority. I have my VA going into it once a week, with all “urgent” tasks sent via email.
This way, I can update the list at my convenience, and my VA can view it at hers. She simply checks off tasks that have been completed, and since Google Docs allows you to share a working version of a document, all changes are real time and tracked.
All this is just the surface of this topic. There is no end to the list of what you can outsource. What you cannot outsource however is doing dishes, or mowing your lawn. For those you can hire local maid and lawn care services. But for everything else, outsourcing works, and it doesn’t have to be all business related either.
For example, we just back from a 2 week trip to Europe. While there we took 500+ pictures. One of my VAs is cropping them for me right now, fixing the rotation, lighting and I expect to see all the images done and uploaded to our shared drive within the next 24 hours.
In the past I even had one VA research the entire procedure to get dual citizenship in a country I was interested in and obtain all the forms for me to fill out. It took about a week to do but the process saved me countless mind numbing hours. She put together a summary of benefits and important tips/things to keep in mind, most of which I already knew from my research but it was good to get validation.
There are several places where you can find virtual assistants to work with, and these resources are only increasing as people are starting to become more comfortable and understand what outsourcing part of our lives to VAs can do for them.
The two resources I recommend and personally use are the following:
Odesk – Odesk is a business through which you can find pretty much any kind of a VA that can do pretty much anything. I have used Odesk to hire part time and full time VAs. The advantage of using Odesk is that there is no upfront fee to you, and you can hire VAs on a part time or task by task basis depending on what you want to get done.
On Odesk, you do all the screening and interviews yourself to select the right candidate for your job. You can always rehire the same VA for other tasks in the future if you had a good experience with them.
Virtual Staff Finder – This is a more customized service that is particularly beneficial if you are interested in hiring a full time VA. My friend Chris Ducker owns this Philippines based company. Chris has been in the outsourcing business for as long as I can remember and I can’t think of anyone better to go to for VA related matters other than Chris.
Virtual Staff Finder is like a VA headhunting company. You provide them with your customized requirements and what you want yourVA to be capable of doing and they go find the best candidates for you.
They will set you up with the top three candidates who you can interview before deciding on who to work with. They charge a small fee for this service, a fee well worth what you get in return (a match made in heaven) particularly if you are making a full time commitment. You specify and they deliver.
There is a third resource I want to mention, which is a comprehensive program that teaches you how to select the right person to work with and how to train them. This training program is really meant for you so that you get the most out of outsourcing as possible, and emphasizes the biggest mistakes people make when they outsource and why outsourcing doesn’t work for many. It also provides you with all the tools and resources you need to train your VA in pretty much any task you can think about.
The program is called Replace Yourself (you can literally) and it’s developed by my friend John Jonas, who has been in the outsourcing business for well over a decade, specifically in the Philippines (where I was born). If you are contemplating hiring a full time VA either for personal or business help and don’t have prior experience, I highly recommend you check out John’s program before getting involved with outsourcing.
Hiring a full time VA can cost you anywhere between $350 to $850 per month. Understandably, you will end up paying more per hour if you periodically hire VAs on a part time basis for tasks here and there.
On the lower end of the price spectrum, you will find VAs well versed in communication, word processing, basic data entry and clerical tasks. On the higher end of the price spectrum, you will find VAs who are fluent in programming, graphic design and other more advanced technical skills. Imagine a US based programmer who earns a $150,000 salary outsourcing a lot of his or her work to a VA for just $850 a month? Think about how much time that would free up in the programmer’s life?
VAs are flexible and they understand our working hours, therefore they are willing to work during our normal working hours if you so specify. You can also have them mimic the work week in your country. A typical VA working full time for an American would work a 40 hour week between Monday and Friday and take the weekends off.
Although many don’t expect paid holidays and vacation, I personally give them the same benefits a local employee would receive, aside from insurance and 401k type benefits of course. I do however periodically send surprise spot bonuses, especially when business is going very well.
I don’t want to conclude this post by making it seem all is as smooth as butter in the personal outsourcing world. Like any other worthwhile initiative, outsourcing “life” comes with its unique challenges as well, but nothing that cannot be overcome easily. By understanding the main challenges, you can better prepare for outsourcing your life and avoid the same mistakes many (including myself) initially make.
Make sure that your VA has a strong command of English. As long as you can clearly communicate with them, all else can be taught. And in order to truly assess their communication skills in English, you want to request a face to face interview with them over a program like Skype (free).
Many savvy job seekers often have prepared answers and sample documents that may seem a lot more polished than their true communication skills really are. Live interviews are great for separating the serious contenders from the pretenders.
The only other challenge worth mentioning is whether or not your VA is actually working a full 40 hour work load. It won’t take longer than a week for you to know based on the deliverables you get back and the quality of what’s being provided to you. There are also tools you can use to monitor their work hours.
Personally, I am able to assess the work ethic of a VA on a week to week basis. Whenever in doubt, confront them nicely and immediately. Many times they are just stuck spinning their wheels and won’t ask for help as a matter of pride. Make it clear that the communication doors are open when they need help.
I am at a point where I have even provided one of my VAs with a credit card. I have discussed spend limits both with her and my bank, as well as daily transaction limits. A bank can also block charges from predetermined vendors (i.e. vendors based in my VA’s country). You can set these controls up with your bank upfront for added security measures.
None of these challenges should preclude you from hiring a VA if this is something you are interested in. Look at it this way – what do you have to lose aside from some time and maybe half a month’s salary ($175)? That won’t happen, but I wanted to show you the worst case scenario.
Totally worthwhile in my opinion considering what you get back in return. And yes, I’d do it again and again if I were to repeat all over. In fact I’d do it much sooner. I am a user and an affiliate of all three VA service companies mentioned in this article. I’d be happy to answer any of your questions if you are contemplating using any of them.
How do yo feel about outsourcing part of your life to create more balance in life? Is $350 a month worth more free time with friends, family and activities that bring you pleasure? What reservations do you have?
I often get asked how do I manage multiple online businesses with so much else going on offline as well. And while there are many habits I’ve developed that contribute to effectively and efficiently managing multiple initiatives, in this article I will discuss how I handle the accounting and tax side of my business. At the end of this post I will also give you access to the spreadsheet I have developed and use to manage multiple online businesses.
Keeping clean and accurate accounting records for your business is important for several reasons. You not only need to track your progress to understand where your business is headed, but you also have to comply with certain laws such as paying income taxes. If you make a full time living online, you are responsible for remitting income tax estimated payments each quarter.
While it may be manageable to do everything yourself during the early years of your business, it becomes more difficult to handle everything as your business grows, especially if you diversify into more business mediums and create additional income streams.
While many entrepreneurs outsource the accounting and record keeping task to professional bookkeepers and CPAs (and some even have in-house accountants), others (including myself) outsource the task to virtual assistants (VA). In either case, the objective is to relieve yourself of non value added activities that do not contribute to the growth of your business.
Instead of spending time on administrative and compliance matters, you want to spend as much of your time working ON your business as possible – not working IN your business. This makes a BIG difference, especially when your business’ size and complexity requires hours of transaction recording and compilation each month.
I used to keep a spreadsheet log of income and expenditures generated by my online business when I first started. This log developed and evolved to fit my business needs as my business grew over time. What was once a simple 2 tab spreadsheet is now a multi-tab workbook that takes a few seconds to open when I need to reference it (it’s a large file).
When I found myself starting to spend some serious time accounting for my business activity each month, I contemplated several ways to relieve myself of the responsibility. Thankfully, because the way I had my “system” set up, I decided I could easily hand off the log to a virtual assistant, conduct a couple hour training session, pass-on the necessary login and password credentials to certain websites and I’d be all set.
Though there were some training opportunities initially in the process, overall the transition was just as simple as I thought. If you have a system that is quite streamlined in the first place, it is relatively easy lifting and shifting operations from one individual to another.
Tip: If you are considering outsourcing anything, make sure the process is as clean and streamlined as possible before you delegate. Otherwise, you will end up creating more difficulties than you wished.
As it stands today, I have a VA who each month populates the log with transaction activity generated by each of my websites. Each website has its own tab within the excel workbook. All tabs roll up into the master tab which shows the totals for all my businesses combined.
Each month, my VA “rolls over” the workbook, clears out the data from the previous month and saves the file as the current month’s file. I have this log saved in my Google Docs account, which my VA and I can access and update at any give point. This method also helps me with random spot checks.
At this point you are likely wondering how do I communicate transaction data to my VA. When I set up account information, there is one particular email ID I use for all accounts for that particular website or business (In some cases I have multiple websites rolling up to a single business entity). However, my login credentials are all different (this is a risk mitigation mechanism I have in place in the event someone decides to hack into my accounts and modify the login credentials).
Most payment systems today either allow direct deposit to your bank account, or to a PayPal account, both of which I control for each business. However, when a payment is sent, an email notice is also sent to the email ID on file. I have given my VA access to these email accounts. This email account also forwards all receipts / transaction data to an email account only I have access to (another control point that I have set up within the process).
This ensures my VA gets all the automated emails while not having the access to make any material changes to my accounts. This also ensures I have mirror copies of messages in the event I want to conduct spot checks or reconciliation of activity. For one off items here and there, I simply send her an email with a sentence or two explaining what it is and what to do with it.
There are always risks with any worthwhile initiative. The same goes for outsourcing your business’ accounting records. For example, you need to determine how important privacy and confidentiality is to you because no matter what agreement you have in place with your VAs, information may leak intentionally or unintentionally.
Once you start getting comfortable with your working relationship, you may get carried away occasionally and end up sharing sensitive information such as PayPal login credentials, or even your bank account information. Because my accounting VA is based out of the Philippines, I am not too concerned about unauthorized bank account activity. I have international wire alerts set up with my bank so that risk is pretty well mitigated.
In the event some account sensitive information is compromised (for example, your VA able to login to your PayPal ID), there is a remote risk of having your funds re-routed to another bank account or address. However, most changes made to such accounts prompt an automated email (once again, a control check point).
Even if outsourcing your accounting doesn’t make sense today, it may down the road. You may be able to manage accounting for your businesses on your own today, but if you are serious about growth, there will be added complexity that comes with that growth, not to mention the time demands on you as the entrepreneur running the ship.
Personally, I have designed my approach to accounting in a way where I can take over any time I want, or hand it over to someone else with minimal training required. I can get as high level or as granular as I want in how I view and monitor each of my businesses (you will how when you see the spreadsheet).
I do conduct spot checks and independent reconciliations of account balances every now and then on a random sampling basis, or pass the task on to another VA to do. However, there is a certain comfort level between my VA and I as we have been working together for a couple years now.
Finally, I want to reiterate that any worthwhile initiative will come with its unique risks. The key is to set up a control system to mitigate those risks as much as possible. In my case, I do assume a little bit of risk. But when I think about it, I am completely alright with loosing out on some income in exchange for more free time and peace of mind. Think about it, since I review the log every month, it won’t take long to spot “missing income”, so the most I have to lose out on is one month’s worth.
This is not only an extreme case, but also an unlikely situation. My VA depends on the salary I pay her to live and support her family. I also send occasional bonuses when my businesses are doing well. When I put myself in her shoes, I don’t think I’d risk losing a steady, good paying and flexible job for a quick, one time gain.
Her income definitely means more to her than some lost revenue means to me, therefore the likelihood of any such risk is low and the impact is minimal in the grand scheme of things. But like I said, the risk is well worth taking considering the rewards gained.
Come tax time, I simply compile the logs and corroborate the information with all the 1099 forms received and do a quick review. I also have clean and complete records each time I want to reference them or need them for an audit or other matters.
Every now and then, I will also, either myself or have my VA do, period to period fluctuation analysis to trend my business’ growth over a period of time to determine what’s working and what isn’t.
All that can be done in a jiffy when you have clean, complete and timely accounting information.
You can access my spreadsheet here: My AccountingTemplate
Click on each cell and notice how the tabs are interlinked by a formula. My VA inputs all the data into the individual website tabs, which all carry over to the consolidated tab and populate the respective sections. I have deleted the confidential information as well as the rest of the tabs for ease of viewing and downloading. You can add as many tabs as you want for multiple businesses and follow the same linking structure.
What do you think about this approach to managing multiple online businesses? What other risks and controls you feel I have not incorporated in my approach? How are you managing your accounting today? I’d love to hear more about your approach in the comments section below.