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How to Make Money Online & Build a Passive Stream of Income

Now that my extended family has come to know about some of my niche content websites, I am often asked at house visits how I am able to build these in my spare time, including questions like “what made you choose that subject?”, “do you know programming?” and “how does your website make money online?”

When I put myself in their shoes, I can totally see why they would ask such questions. I would too if I didn’t know what I did today. And while the answers to those questions can be months’ long discussions, I have attempted to melt it down to the crux of the matter.

The short answer is to find a problem, address it with a solution and then use technology (the Internet) to automate the revenue generating process. The Internet is all about answering the basic questions Who, What, Where, How, When.  So find a popular question and the best answer(s) for it and you should be alright.

What’s In It For Them?

Think about this for a second, why do you go to the Internet?  You go online when you want to find something out right?  You either have a question, curiosity or a problem you are looking to solve.

Similarly, so is everyone else.  What are some of the popular questions or problems people have?  Do you have a solution to their problem or an answer to their question? Can you establish a website or blog that is targeted just to that particular segment of the population?  This segment is what I call a “niche” and hence a niche content website or blog.

Because most people are consumers and only a few producers, the fewer the supply of information is on the internet (the number of niche websites), the better your chance of making money in that particular niche or subject matter.  You make less money as competitors enter the market (or start supplying more information), a concept called market saturation.

How to Stand Out From the Crowd

The smart entrepreneur will either come up with a unique proposition that sets them apart from the rest, or simply move on to another profitable (less competitive) niche.  I will discuss how to research and find a profitable niche in future posts.

By finding a less competitive (but profitable) niche, the smart entrepreneur can get more bang for effort (i.e. more financial return relative to work put in).  You can climb the ranks of search engines faster in less competitive niches, and establish your footprint before the herd moves in.  There is a significant advantage awarded to “first movers” by search engines, providing your website or blog is not junk.

The Niche Content Website Model in a Nutshell

I have written about you can benefit from a niche content website in the past, and I plan to write about it extensively in detail, breaking down each component and step within the process in more detail in the future.

But for now, the fascinating online business model called a niche content website allows you to build a business around your passion, providing that one of the topics you are interested in has a market (enough demand to support monetization).

This business model allows you to automate its operations once established, thereby creating a passive stream of income for you.  The best part of this business model is that it is 100% “replicable”.  If you can do it once, you can do it again.  You can keep repeating the process and build several streams of passive income, each generated by one niche content website.

A Practical Example

Just to have a point of reference, let’s go through the Dubai Information Site which is a niche website but not as niche as I’d like a website to be.  This is an exception to my portfolio of income generating websites because it really started out as a hobby website.  My wife is from Dubai in case you are wondering about the link.

Anyhow, the only difference between this website and any other niche website that I own is that this one is a lot bigger (and I mean exponential more content), is not really a narrow niche that I would have pursued strictly from a strategic perspective and one that took a lot of hard work to make it a success.

The differences are irrelevant and ones that I can talk about endlessly if you are up for it (feel free to comment below).  What I want to do is to focus on the core concept, which is universal in nature, and one that is rather simple.

What’s So Special About My Website

There is nothing extra ordinary about this website.  In fact, it is a very basic, plain vanilla and boring looking website. No flash, no fancy imagery, nothing.  But try typing “Dubai Information”, “Dubai City Information” or “Dubai Information Site” in any search engine and notice the results.
Dubai Information on Yahoo

Dubai City Information on Bing

Dubai Information Site on Google

I used three different search engines to offset any search engine bias.

Notice the “supply”, or number of competing search results (circled in red), and notice the placement of my website of all the competitors? How can the site be on Page 1 for all three popular keywords on three different search engines?  Is it magic?  It isn’t.

The amount of money your website or blog will generate for you is directly correlated with your website traffic. The higher you are ranked for popular search terms, the more “organic” or free search engine traffic you will get.

How is the website ranked so high for such a competitive niche? It is through detailed keyword research, proper search engine optimization and proactive internet marketing strategies.  In addition to writing about researching profitable niches, keyword supply and demand, I will be dissecting each of these three components in detail as well in future posts. For now, suffice it to say that the website ranks on page one of Google for thousands of key terms the last I checked.

Another thing to note here is that the web content is written in first person active voice. Kish and I are not speaking about the reader, at the reader, or about others to the reader, rather we are speaking directly TO THE READER in first person active (not passive) voice.

Who cares you say? Believe me, it makes a world of difference.  Because this website is written in the way it is, it is able to generate serious revenues through affiliate commissions.

Let’s prove that out in just 2 minutes.  Go ahead and read the home page, and then click on any other page and read it.  Do you feel that this is a commercial website that is built just to sell, sell and sell some more? Or do you feel otherwise? What is it that you feel?

I will also be writing extensively about the concept of soft selling, or pre selling, one that involves building trust, credibility and at the same time warming up your audience. This is the single biggest success factor of my niche content websites, one that is most often neglected either because of lack of awareness of what it can do, how it is done or simply ignorance.

How Does My Website Make Money Online?

If you are still on the home page of the website and scratching your head wondering how does this piece of $%&* makes money, go ahead and click on any other page of the website.

What do you notice? Do you notice some Ads by Google?  Do you see affiliate products and services?  Scroll down and have a look at the right hand side column.  Do you see books and guides? Some of these are my own, and some are affiliates.

Scroll down to the footer.  Do you see the Donate button? Yes we do get donations. Many resent this approach to monetization, but I simply see no wrong with it if you are providing high quality information. Apparently all the donors don’t either.

A big chunk of this website’s revenues are generated advertising, both public and private placements.  A good chunk comes from generating leads and affiliate marketing commissions. Finally, product sales and donations make up the rest for this website.

Carefully Planned Approach

I didn’t simply slap any and every monetization method I could find under the sky.  The work executed in planning, building and monetizing this website was very carefully thought out at the onset and implemented in a specific, step by step manner.

The first task was building the website’s infrastructure, which involved researching the website concept, keyword research, domain name search and registration, building the website blueprint (the skeletal system similar to your house’s architecture design) and inter-page interlinking.

Building the website and hosting were taken care off because we used SBI to build this website.  The domain name, keyword research tool, search engine optimization tool and website blueprint tool also came with SBI.  I know that many of these terms may be foreign to you at this point.  However, I promise to discuss each one of these in detail in future posts.

Once the website was completed, Kish and I focused on internet marketing strategies that brought us more visitor traffic over time. These involved search engine submissions, article marketing, press release marketing, blog marketing, commenting on forums, social network marketing, social bookmark marketing, deep linking, link wheeling strategies and YouTube marketing. Again, many foreign concepts, which I promise on covering one by one in future posts.

Was it simple? Yes as always.  Was it easy? He$% no. This website did not make a single penny in its first 11 months of operation, but when it did, it poured and still hasn’t stopped.  I haven’t touched the website in well over a year and God willing for another few decades.

Concluding Thoughts

There you have one of my niche content websites in a nutshell.  A lot to digest I know. Seems overwhelming I know. It really isn’t. Wait till you try it step by step.  It all comes together very nicely, and your second one will be significantly faster. If you continue doing it, it becomes second nature I kid you not.

The key is to find topics that can help people, have a demand large enough to make the effort profitable for you, and one that is also fun for you.  Most of my niche content websites are on topics that I have expertise in (that I may have developed after learning about the niche), some level of interest (or have developed it) as well as passion for the process of researching, establishing, growing and monetizing a niche website.

I like to generate income from activities that also provide value to others, and I specifically love it when it relates to areas of my expertise and passion. By providing value, I am also helping myself, fueling my passion for what I enjoy doing (the process from start to finish). The money generated is simply a byproduct of the process.

Now compare this to someone who is selling their soul behind the cube. The lack of passion is exactly why so many people get bored out of their minds and remain corporate slaves their entire lives, struggling, hating their jobs, not moving up and simply demoralized.

It is a fact that most people do not enjoy what they do for a living, and that they simply do it to feed the family.  Think about all the successful people you know in Corporate America who are happy in their jobs and you will notice one thing they all have in common, and that is passion for what they do.

I know that this post is about making passive income online and not about life lessons, but I can’t ignore this tangent that has formed itself. Whether you are in the corporate world, or out on your own, doing something that both addresses a need in society and at the same time is aligned with your own interest and passion is the “secret” recipe to happiness and success.

And to bring all together, simply take whatever it is that you are doing that fits the bill and implement it online (if possible – most things are), and thanks to the operational nature of the internet you can start to establish automated and passive streams of income online.

As I’ve often said, there are many ways to slice bread, as well as generate income from online endeavors.  This is one of my favorite ways to do it.

How do you like this particular method to make money online? Would you be interested in details on how to execute this process step by step?

Here is a brief list of alternative avenues to make money online.

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What Kind of a Side Business Should You Start if you Travel for Work?

Traveling for work can be a huge hindrance when you intend to start a side business because your options are inherently limited. If you are a consultant traveling Monday through Friday and back home for the weekend, you can’t really start a side business that will require you to work on weekday evenings

In this situation, you have to select a business that you can conduct on weekends when you are home. Alternatively, you can pursue a side business that you can partly manage remotely while traveling and closely be involved with over the weekend. Better yet, you can choose a business model that you can start and manage remotely now and in the future.

My Experimentation With a Mix of Side Business Ideas

I started with real estate when I first started pursuing side businesses. Specifically, I was buying undervalued and distressed properties and flipping them for a profit. I was an M&A consultant at the time and traveled significantly for work. Not only was I traveling quite a bit, but my schedule was rather unpredictable. I would be in the home office weeks at a time, and suddenly out of State or the country for weeks at a time with no predictive pattern whatsoever.

Because of travel, I was constantly rescheduling appointments, missing out on time sensitive meetings, delaying phone calls and all sorts of other stuff that gets pushed back when you are so busy with your professional life. Bottom line, not only did the people who I did business with hated it, but I too became fed up with it.

I switched gears from flipping properties to long term value investing, where I bought move-in-condition properties from motivated and troubled sellers at a significant discount and then found tenants to pay me rent every month. This model worked well initially as I started it when I wasn’t traveling too much. But what happened when I started traveling again was that I was not able to show my properties to potential tenants (therefore more opportunity / holding costs for me).

I was not able to attend to requests and concerns from existing tenants, and had to call expensive handy men to service the properties when tenants called with a concern. Bottom line here is that it got to be way too much to handle, and both the tenants and I got fed up with it. The biggest disadvantage I’d say was that I wasn’t available to check out hot properties and bid on them because I wasn’t in town, therefore losing out on several lucrative deals. My agents would get frustrated sending me hot listings just to see me not act immediately on them. If you know anything about real estate investing, I am sure you can feel my pain right now. Early bird always gets the worm.

So I stopped flipping, and I hired property managers to manage my existing properties. Property managers are vultures who I still pay 10% of the tenant’s rent each month, and 1 month of their rent in lump sum each year they renew the lease. The biggest rip-off in the world, however it can relieve quite a bit of stress of your mind if you find the right partner. I still invest in real estate today and because of my current situation in life, I chose to hand off all my properties to managers rather than spend time worrying about day to day tasks. I have much better things to do than plunge the garbage disposal.

The same thing happened when I invested in a small business. I thought I could manage it remotely. Sure I could, but without giving it my 100% I was not able to realize the full benefits I had envisioned when I made the investment. I still own the side business today and it is still profitable, though not as lucrative as I had hoped. There is no way it could produce up to its potential without my close supervision. Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on how you see it, I have better things to spend my time on today.

I was clearly not in a position to pursue a service based side business (at least physical services) because of travel. I could have pursued freelancing work which I could have done during evenings in hotels while traveling, or on weekends when home. However, I was never attracted to opportunities that only offered money for the time I spent “working the job”. I’d rather spend my time and energy on ventures that can provide me with passive and residual income.

The Internet Was the Answer for Me

Entered into the picture Site Build It (SBI), a website I came into familiarity with while reading one of the blogs I am subscribed to. The website introduced me to a new way of doing business, by investing my spare time into establishing a profitable online side business in my area of interest. SBI made me realize how I can blend my passion, my interest in entrepreneurship and my desire to establish a side business and turn it into a profitable venture while working remotely from anywhere I had an internet connection.

I spent several weeks reading sections of the SBI website and studying several successful existing businesses to understand the possibilities of working on my own terms. As my travels continued to increase over time, I slowly transitioned from focusing on real estate to cyber state – the Internet. I realized that building successful websites is similar to real estate in many ways. Both are passive and residual ventures, both are assets that can be sold for a lot of money and both provide great opportunities for tax planning. What I liked most about the concept of doing business on the internet was that it costs very little to get started and I could work on it from anywhere in the world.

The more I studied Site Build It, the more I realized the opportunity to live my life the way I always wanted, with mobility to move anywhere, financial freedom and flexibility. Not having a programming and computer related background was initially intimidating. However, I was surprised at how fast I was able to grasp the theoretical concepts by reading through various articles online about doing business on the internet and everything related to it.

SBI made it easier for me from a technical perspective because a majority of SBI users are like me. They do not have any computer background whatsoever. SBI provided all the tools necessary to get started building and establishing my side business. All tools were point and click, drag and drop. I was impressed by SBI’s founding principle, which is to enable those without computer knowledge to leverage the power of the internet in building a business around what they know, love and are interested in.

If any of my pain points resonate with you, or if you are looking to get started with a part time business but are hindered by your busy travel schedule, I highly recommend you read about SBI and what it has to offer. You can witness tons of other SBI users in all kinds of situations in life who are making their dreams come true. So if your busy travel routine has been the reason you haven’t gotten started, I hope this post has provided the solution you were looking for.

Readers: Do you currently travel for a living?  What do you think about starting up an online venture while on the road?

Here are some of my additional thoughts on starting a side business while maintaining a full time career.

Sunil
Going Online

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