Freelance Writing Income Report: May 2016

Hey everyone, it’s been awhile since I’ve done a freelance writing income report here in 2016, but first, a quick little recap to bring you up to speed…

I’ve been freelance writing on and off for over four years now. I started writing online back in March 2012. In these past few years, I’ve messed around with blogging, niche sites, affiliate marketing, HubPages, Squidoo, Yahoo Contributor Network, Bubblews and freelance writing for content mills like Textbroker, Zerys (Interact Media) and WriterAccess.

Textbroker 2012-2015…

I mostly wrote for Textbroker, with an occasional article at Zerys and WriterAccess (when there was something available). I never made more than $150/month from freelance writing at these places. In fact, most months I earned either zero dollars or less than $40. I just felt burned out all the time, so I’d flip flop between content mill writing, HubPages and niche blogging for my own sites. I didn’t do so great with those methods either (except for Amazon niche sites — I’ll write about that later).

After the first four years – in which I wrote over 200 SEO articles for clients and probably 300+ blog posts and articles for my own sites – I got tired of the mills and the shitty, low income gigs and tried going the more traditional freelance writing route:  I started pitching to individual clients.

My friend bought one article for his blog for $30. One editor enthusiastically contacted me back, so I submitted the article – then I never heard from her again. Another editor shot me down, but at least he responded! The rest of my pitches all fell on deaf ears — lots and lots of deaf ears.

Back To The Content Mills…Again

But I need money, so now I find myself dragging my sorry ass back to the content mills again. I’m trying to take it more seriously this time around, though. I mean…I have a whiteboard and everything!

You know things must be getting real when you have a whiteboard, right?

May 2016 freelance earnings

So on May 13, 2016 I dove back into the content mills. I actually had to sign up at Textbroker all over again, since I burned my bridges a few months ago and deleted my account to help me focus on pitching clients. It seemed like a good idea, and I guess it was.

Except that it wasn’t.

Ah well. Here I am again.

So now let’s get into the numbers…

  • articles:  29
  • earnings:  $165.54
  • wordcount:  11,982
  • avg articles/day:  1.5
  • avg words/day:  630
  • avg earnings/day:  $8.70
  • avg pay/word:  $0.0138

So as you can see, in those two weeks or so I wrote 29 articles and earned $165.54 for the month. Sure, that’s not a lot, but it helped me pay a few credit card bills that I wouldn’t have been able to pay otherwise.

I wrote content for three different content mills, and the earnings per article ranged anywhere from $1.27 to $17.00. Yes, I actually wrote a handful of 200-word articles for $1.27 each. I don’t plan on doing that very often, but I do plan on doing it again, and in a later post I’ll explain why I even bother writing those things. But most of the articles I write for these sites earn me $5 to $7 each with wordcount hovering around 500.

I suppose I’ll take a few posts over the next few weeks/months to explain more about why I even write for content mills at all, but my goal right now isn’t to try to persuade anyone else to write for content mills. People can debate that elsewhere. My goal here is to share my own journey with the mills and to hopefully help out some of you who have already decided to write for these types of freelance writing websites and are just looking for tips on how to make more money at it.

So, that’s it for this month. I hope you’ll join me again next month for more Notes From The Underground. You can subscribe to FWunderground in the sidebar to receive new income reports and blog posts by email. It’s free, I won’t spam you and I won’t share your email address with anyone, either. And of course, you can unsubscribe anytime.

I have a few more posts planned out for next month, where I’ll discuss some of the websites that I contribute to in order to bring in both active income and passive income.

Bye.

Continue Reading

How To Choose A Niche And Amazon Product For Your Niche Sites: NSG1 Coaching Call 2

niche site grind 1

NOTE:  THE TEXT BELOW IS NOT A TRANSCRIPT OF THE VIDEO. The coaching call and the accompanying blog post are separate resources to teach you how I make money with niche sites. And that’s how the rest of the weekly posts in this series are going to be. In the blog post itself, I’ll be sharing my thoughts to help guide Sanjeev (and our readers), while the video coaching calls will show how he is applying the ideas I’m sharing with him. We share EVERYTHING in the videos (domain name, keywords, etc), so be sure to watch the actual coaching calls and read the blog posts to get as much out of this project as you can.

Niche Site Grind 1 links…

Okay, so our niche site project – Niche Site Grind 1 – is officially underway, and now it’s time for Sanjeev to pick a product on Amazon around which he will build his niche site.

Since this whole project is geared more toward “entry-level” niche site marketers (aka beginners), let’s start out with the most basic questions, and then jump into choosing products on Amazon.

What Exactly Is A Niche?

A niche can be defined in different ways by different marketers, but for our purposes here today, I’m just going to define a niche as a narrowly-defined topic or product. “Camping” is not really a niche (way too broad), but “camp sites in Northern California” would be considered a niche.

In terms of products, for example:  “knives” would be too broad to be considered a niche, but “best survival knives” would be a niche.

What Exactly Is A Niche Site?

So then, in a similar way, a niche website is a site that focuses in on a narrowly-defined topic or product. A website about camping is not a niche site, but a website about camping stoves would be.

NOTE:  A big, site about camping could start out as a small niche site about camping stoves, and then over time it could expand to cover other camping products and related topics. In time, it could even grow into a very large, authoritative site that covers all aspects of camping. We want to keep that in mind, but for now we are focusing on just one little niche product.

A few years ago, the term niche site usually referred to very small, spammy websites with short, garbage articles that offered little value to the reader. In fact, many niche site marketers INTENTIONALLY dumbed down or watered down their content in order to push readers to click on their ads and affiliate links to go find the REAL answers they were searching for when they came to the site.

But we are not creating sites like that.

Those are basically just spam sites, but the niche sites that we are trying to build offer real value to the reader. We want to go more in-depth and provide tons of information to our readers. They have questions, and we want to provide adequate answers. They have problems, and we want to provide helpful solutions.

So for us, a niche site is a relatively small website that is super-focused on a particular type of product, but we are not building an e-commerce site. We aren’t just putting up short product descriptions and photos and “Buy Now” buttons. We are providing a service to our site visitors. We’re putting in the hours to research these products, to sort out the good products from the junk products, and we are presenting our findings to our visitors to help them make informed purchasing decisions.

In short, we’re trying to help them find what they’re looking for, and we don’t want them to feel ripped off in any way. We want them to come back to our site time and again for more info and hopefully more purchases through our links.

Okay, so now that we’ve covered that, let’s get down to business and choose a product for our niche site.

Choosing Amazon Products For Niche Sites

In the last coaching call with Sanjeev – Coaching Call 1 – I laid out some guidelines to help him focus in on a product to build his site around. Now, there are many, many ways to decide what products to market with niche sites, and I’m not claiming that my way is the best way out there. But my way has enabled me to actually build up a steady little stream of passive income, and Sanjeev has asked me to share how I do it, so here we go with Coaching Call 2…

UPDATE: I’m sorry, folks. We had all kinds of technical difficulties with this call. The screen capture stopped recording properly early in the call, so most of this coaching call is audio only. We will continue the process in the next call, so hopefully we’ll get the visual problems worked out so you can see what we are looking at on our computer screens and talking about during the call. Still, the audio came through okay, and I think you’ll find some value in listening to it like it’s a “podcast”…

 

Choosing Amazon Products For Niche Sites…

Here are some things I look for in a product for my niche sites…

  1. PERSONAL INTEREST (HELPFUL BUT OPTIONAL)
  2. PRACTICAL / USEFUL
  3. COLLECTIBLE (MULTIPLE PURCHASES OVER TIME)
  4. COOLNESS FACTOR & SUBCULTURE
  5. EVERGREEN
  6. SEVERAL BRANDS & MODELS
  7. GOOD CUSTOMER REVIEWS
  8. RELATED PRODUCTS & ACCESSORIES
  9. POTENTIAL FOR LONGFORM/HOW-TO CONTENT
  10. NOT TOO COMPETITIVE / MAINSTREAM

1. Choose A Product You Are Familiar With Or Interested In

It definitely helps to choose a product and niche that you are already familiar with. It will make content creation much faster and much more enjoyable – and potentially more valuable to your readers, as it will have in-depth information from an insider and not just basic info you found on Google. It will also put you in a great position to build out that site into an authority site later on.

But you don’t actually need to know about the product in order to create a niche site on it. If you at least find the product to be interesting and something you’ll enjoy researching and writing about – and perhaps purchasing yourself – then that will help you a lot.

For two of my best niche sites, I had zero personal experience or knowledge about the topics when I first started those sites. Because of this, I ended up relying more on outsourced content to get some momentum going, and now those sites are doing just fine and earning me $50-$100 per month on average (and several times that amount at Christmas time).

For one of the sites, I eventually bought several of the products myself and learned to use them and made some friends with other folks who use them too, so I ended up writing most of the content for that site. But initially, I was completely ignorant. I just saw it on Amazon and thought it looked cool, so I started the niche site and outsourced some articles to freelance writers.

Again, though, this is not a deal-breaker. You can choose a product that you’re not interested in at all. But that just means you’ll need to be more disciplined to write articles about it, or it means you’ll need to spend some money to hire others to write those articles for you.

Now, there may eventually come a time when that approach just won’t be good enough to rank in the search engines and get free traffic from them. At some point in the future, content that is not written by experts or insiders just won’t cut it. But here in early 2016, it’s still working pretty well for me. We’ll talk more about WHY it still works in a later post in this niche site project.

2. Choose A Product That Is Useful Or Practical

I’ve had good results marketing products that provide some kind of usefulness to the customer. These products aren’t just there to look at; people pick them up and use them or play around with them or whatever. These might include things like sporting goods, garden tools, automotive tools, woodworking tools, toys, art supplies, kitchen utensils, kitchen appliances, camping equipment, exercise equipment, photo and video equipment, etc.

They don’t necessarily have to be items that people use every single day. And they don’t have to be boring, either. Sanjeev mentioned that he made a niche site about pressure washers. Yes, pressure washers are definitely useful tools that people can use often, and there is plenty of money in that niche (and plenty of competition too). But writing about pressure washers can also get pretty boring, making it hard to create enough content to make a decent income.

3. Choose A Product That People Like To Collect

Now, we aren’t talking about collecting in the usual sense of the word. I don’t mean things like baseball cards, vintage toys and comic books. If you want to make a niche site on those things, you had better know the subject matter really well, or nobody in those niches will ever trust your site or come back to it in the future.

What I mean is that people buy many of these products over time, perhaps even during a single purchase. Spencer Haws’ Niche Site Project 1 on NichePursuits is a great example of this. He built a website about survival knives. Survival knives have practical value as tools (see point #2 above), but they are also quite collectible – in the sense that we are discussing here. Nobody buys knives on Amazon and puts them in display cases or anything, but people who are really into knives don’t just buy one. A lot of people like to build up a collection of survival knives of all shapes and sizes.

Sure, when you’re out in the wilderness on a 10-day hiking trip, you don’t need 20 survival knives, but people still own 20 survival knives simply because they BIG KNIVES ARE COOL and because they enjoy collecting them.

4. Choose A Cool Product With A Subculture Around It

When people come to your website about pressure washers, it’s not likely that they’re going to link to your articles to share with all their friends. Correct me if I’m wrong, but you probably don’t see too many active Facebook groups about pressure washers.

There’s just nothing cool or collectible about pressure washers.

But build a niche site about survival knives and make the content really good, and you’ll find it a lot easier to get organic links and social shares. That’s because there is an active subculture around survival knives and related products. There are blogs and books and movies and even brick-and-mortar retail stores devoted to the survivalist niche, so again, what a great choice Spencer made choosing that product for his niche site. Survival knives are pretty cool.

5. Choose A Product That Is Evergreen

For my niche sites, I avoid trendy products.

Since I don’t build backlinks or spend much time on promotion, it takes my niche sites a year or two to get them up into that $50/month range in earnings. So there’s no way I could make this work with trending products that are going to lose popularity overnight.

If you want to pursue trendy products, you’re going to have to put in a lot of work on promotion so that you can rank your site and get traffic quickly. But as I mentioned before, I don’t know how to do that kind of stuff, nor do I want to spend my time, resources and energy on that.

With a content-heavy strategy like mine, you need to stick with evergreen products and have more of a long-term perspective.

6. Choose A Product That Has Several Brands And Models Available

My most successful niche sites have 30-60 articles on them, and they cover a variety of brands and models. There’s no way I could do that if there was only one brand or a handful of models selling on Amazon. There’s only so much you can say about one particular product model.

So I recommend looking for a product for which there are at least 5-10 distinct brands on Amazon, all of them selling several different models each. If you can find a niche/product with 5 major brands selling 10 different product models, then you have at least 50 potential review articles right there. You can build a pretty extensive niche site in a niche like that, and when you start considering related products too, you might even have the potential for a larger authority site down the road.

7. Choose A Product With Good Customer Reviews

As you’re browsing through products on Amazon, pay attention to the ratings and reviews that customers are giving those products. Ideally, you’ll want your niche site to feature products with 4- and 5-star ratings and LOTS of reviews.

If you come across a line of products that simply has no reviews yet, then that’s a good indication that nobody is buying those products. You should probably choose something else.

Also, be aware that many products will have fake reviews on them, either fake reviews that the seller hired someone to post for them, or fake reviews that their competition hired someone to post for them. This is usually done on a small scale, though, so if you find a product with a handful of 5-star reviews, be a little suspicious. Look instead for products with dozens or hundreds of reviews on them. When you see a lot of reviews like that – especially recent reviews — then you know that these are products that people are buying.

8. Choose A Niche That Also Contains Related Products & Accessories For Your Main Product

Now, I haven’t really exploited this approach with my own niche sites, and I’ll talk more about that when we get to Coaching Call 3 next week (I made some mistakes early on that limited my growth potential). But it’s something I’m looking into for my future projects, and it’s something I want you to keep in mind when building your own niche sites.

When choosing your main product, it can be really helpful if there are also related products for sale on Amazon. And not just related products in that niche, but accessories for your own main product as well.

Darren Rowse of Problogger has talked about this in regards to his digital photography site, so please go read his thoughts there, particularly point #6 about related products. But the idea is that you want to choose a main product for which you can also market a variety of accessories and replacement parts.

For a site about digital SLR cameras, readers would also be interested in buying lenses, tripods, filters, spare batteries, battery grips, flashes, filters, lens cleaning supplies, etc.

For survival knives, readers might also be interested in sheaths, sharpening stones, rubbing oils, lanyards, paracord wraps, handle scales, etc.

If you’re not familiar with the product, you might not know enough to even think about accessories, but Amazon can help you with that. Look carefully at the “Customers who bought this also viewed…” section in the Amazon listing. Also, read some of their customer reviews and also scroll down and read through the questions and answers section in the product listings for additional ideas.

9. Choose Products That Have A Lot Of “How-To” Article Potential

While our niche sites are going to be focused on specific products for sale on Amazon, we don’t want the sites to be composed entirely of product reviews. We also want to give a lot of informational content, not only to give search engines a lot to bite into, but also just to be helpful to our visitors on the site and to attract organic links and social shares.

So when considering a product, think about whether this is a product that you could also write informational articles about. You might even do some quick searches on Google or Bing to see if there are already “How-To” articles about these products. If you can find a lot of information out there, then that’s probably a good thing. It shows that there’s a lot to be said about these products.

Of course, if there’s already a lot of content out there about the products, then that can also work against you, making it harder for your niche site to rank against those other websites. But even if competition is strong, there may be room for us to get in there and grab some long-tail keyword traffic.

10. Choose A Product That Isn’t Too Mainstream

Another point to consider that goes hand-in-hand with the “subculture” idea above is that the products we’re looking at are not exactly mainstream. Mainstream products are everywhere, and the competition from e-commerce sites and authority sites is fierce. There’s no way we’re going to make money with a niche site about iPhones or Nike shoes – way too mainstream, way too popular and way too competitive.

That’s why we want a product that you won’t find advertised on television or in large, pop-culture magazines. We don’t want a product that is so popular that everybody is talking about it.

If everyone knows about your product and already owns one or plans on getting one, chance are that niche is too competitive for you to make any money with a brand new, small niche site. But if most people walking down the street have never heard of your product, then it’s going to be a lot easier to rank and get some traffic and sales.

So how do you know where to draw the line between a product that is not too popular but that is also something that is selling and has decent profit potential? I think a decent way to judge that is by looking at the number of monthly searches in Google Adwords Keyword Planner, probably something in the 5,000 to 10,000 range is good (exact, US).

We’ll go into more detail with keywords next time.

For those who are unfamiliar with the GAKP, here’s a video I found that will help you learn how to use it. It’s a free tool by Google. You need to create a Google AdWords account, but you don’t need to actually buy Google ads to use the Keyword Planner.

<GAKP VIDEO ON YOUTUBE>

Follow Up Email To Sanjeev…

Hi Sanjeev,
So how is the product-choosing process going? Do you feel good about choosing one or more of the products we looked at in Coaching Call 2?
As I was thinking back about the call, I realized that I should clarify something.
When we plug in our main keyword to Google and look at the competition, we don’t need to be scared away if we only see big authoritative blogs and ecommerce sites on the front page. Spencer [of nichepursuits.com] might not go with a niche with competition like that, but we don’t have to worry so much, because we aren’t trying to earn $500-$1,000 per month with this niche site like he is. Since our goal is to earn $50/month, we don’t need to rank on the front page for our main product keyword. In fact, we don’t really even need to rank on the first two or three pages to make $50. Our traffic will mostly come from longtail keywords, and ecommerce sites don’t normally rank too well for those, because they are thin on content and usually only give their visitors a short product description, photo and price tag.
The reason we were looking at our competition on the first page or two of search results is that we want to see if there are any easy openings. If we see niche sites, blogs, forums or Q&A sites ranking on the first page for the main product keyword, then that shows us that the competition is not too strong and we’ll have an easier time ranking. But even if we only see ecommerce sites, we can still go after that niche — as long as there’s plenty of longtail potential, how-to content potential, or personal interest/knowledge about the topic (so that our content can provide greater depth, written by an insider).
So I felt like I didn’t explain that very well in the video.
I hope that helps.
  • UP NEXT:  COACHING CALL 3: Sanjeev Chooses His Niche/Product
Continue Reading

My Basic Strategy For Making Money With Niche Sites: NSG1 Coaching Call 1

niche site grind 1

Niche Site Grind 1

NOTE:  THE TEXT BELOW IS NOT A TRANSCRIPT OF THE VIDEO. The coaching call and the accompanying blog post are separate resources to teach you how I make money with niche sites. And that’s how the rest of the weekly posts in this series are going to be. In the blog post itself, I’ll be sharing my thoughts to help guide Sanjeev (and our readers), while the video coaching calls will show how he is applying the ideas I’m sharing with him. We share EVERYTHING in the videos (domain name, keywords, etc), so be sure to watch the actual coaching calls and read the blog posts to get as much out of this project as you can.

Niche Site Grind 1 links…

Okay, well we are now officially started with our niche site project titled, “Niche Site Grind”, and Sanjeev and I are both very excited and are having a lot of fun with it so far. We just finished our first coaching call this morning (well…it was late at night for Sanjeev, as we are on opposite sides of the planet). In that call, we discussed our overall plan for this project, our basic strategy.

I’ve put the outline notes from the call down below for everyone to look over.

We’re Holding Nothing Back

Sanjeev and I spoke earlier — before this first “official” call — and we decided that we wanted to share all the details for this niche site with you as we went along. We figured that doing it this way would really benefit those of you who are new to building niche sites and need to watch it being done, in detail.

We’ll be sharing the…

  • domain name
  • niche
  • product
  • keywords
  • traffic
  • earnings
  • expenses
  • everything

We just want Niche Site Grind to be as helpful to each of you as possible.

Why “Niche Site Grind”?

I chose to call our project Niche Site Grind, because I think that really sums up the way I make money with my little niche websites. It is truly a grind. I started these sites over two years ago, and it took quite a while for them to even get up to the point where they’re earning $50/month. I mean, it just took a lot of effort and time to get to that point. We’re talking about dozens of articles per website.

But now…the money is basically coming in on autopilot, and it’s growing with little or no effort from me. My best niche sites typically make $50-$100 per month each now, and they earned me well over $500 this past December (2015). My niche sites get lots of return visitors too, so that tells me that people are finding my content valuable, and that definitely makes me happy.

A few months ago, one of you guys here on iWOC asked me if it was really worth it to put in all that effort just to be making $50 a month. There were certainly many times that I felt it wasn’t worth it, and I can’t even count how many times I’ve given up. But now, looking back, in my opinion it’s definitely worth it. And apparently, Sanjeev thinks it’s worth it too. That’s why he asked me to do this project with him.

So here we are…grinding…

Who Will Benefit From Following This Niche Site Project?

If any of you are trying to make money online but aren’t making more than a few pennies per month, then we hope you’ll find this niche site project to be interesting and helpful. This is definitely aimed at beginners or at bloggers and marketers who have been online for awhile but just aren’t seeing any results.

And if you’ve been sitting on the fence, waiting for just the right time, I think the time has come, don’t you?

I should also point out that following this strategy takes patience. If you prefer to cut corners and look for shortcuts to speed up your earnings, then this project might not be for you. If you want sneaky seo tricks, you’ll need to look elsewhere, because I don’t really know how to do all of that. Sorry.

What we’re doing here is SIMPLE and legit.

Make no mistake; it is work — real work — but it’s not that complicated, and it doesn’t require a whole lot of technical skills and tech wizardry and expensive software tools. I’m not some kind of expert or guru or whatever. But I’ve learned that you can make some money with niche sites if you just keep at it. And I’ve learned a few things along the way that can hopefully keep you on track and help you take your results to a higher level.

I hope you enjoy the video…

(Sorry, the audio is a little staticky)

NOTES:  COACHING CALL 1 with Sanjeev and Chris

BASIC STRATEGY

  1. OUR GOAL & OUR APPROACH
  2. CHOOSE A PRODUCT & NICHE
  3. CHOOSE A DOMAIN NAME
  4. CHOOSE KEYWORDS
  5. BUILD SITE (SEE LINKS IN BLOG POST)
  6. ADD CONTENT
  7. PROMOTE SITE (OPTIONAL)
  8. EXPAND SITE
  9. CONVERT TO AUTHORITY SITE (OPTIONAL)

1. OUR GOAL & OUR APPROACH

  • GOAL:                   $50/MONTH
  • TIMELINE:           2 YEARS

APPROACH…

  • PRODUCT-FOCUSED WEBSITE
  • POTENTIAL TO EXPAND SITE TO RELATED PRODUCTS
  • KEYWORD-FOCUSED CONTENT (30-50 ARTICLES)
  • GENUINE OUTREACH OR DON’T BOTHER
  • CONTENT THAT PROVIDES VALUE
  • VERY WHITE-HAT
  • LONG-TERM
  • GOOGLE-PROOF
  • VALUE
  • A WEBSITE YOU’D BE PROUD SHARE WITH FRIENDS & FAMILY

2. CHOOSING AMAZON PRODUCTS/NICHE

  • PERSONAL INTEREST (HELPFUL BUT OPTIONAL)
  • PRACTICAL/USEFUL
  • COLLECTIBLE (MULTIPLE PURCHASES OVER TIME)
  • COOLNESS FACTOR & SUBCULTURE
  • ( EXAMPLE:  SURVIVAL KNIVES )
  • EVERGREEN
  • SEVERAL BRANDS & MODELS
  • RELATED PRODUCTS & ACCESSORIES
  • POTENTIAL FOR LONGFORM/HOW-TO CONTENT
  • NOT TOO COMPETITIVE/MAINSTREAM

3. CHOOSING A DOMAIN NAME

(WEBSITE ADDRESS)

  • .COM
  • AVOID EXACT MATCH DOMAIN (2 REASONS…)
  • SHORT
  • EASY TO SPELL
  • EASY TO REMEMBER
  • BRANDABLE
  • EXPANDABLE

4. CHOOSING KEYWORDS

  • FREE TOOLS:  GAKP, SEO QUAKE (FOR G CHROME)
  • PRODUCT KW:  5,000-10,000 SEARCHES
  • ARTICLE KW:  50-1,200 SEARCHES

5. BUILD SITE

6. CONTENT STRATEGY

PRODUCT REVIEWS…

  • OVER 500 WORDS EACH
  • SINGLE PRODUCTS & MULTI-PRODUCTS
  • NO LIES, NO HYPE
  • PRETEND IT’S FOR YOUR MOM

INFO ARTICLES…

  • OVER 1,000 WORDS
  • NO AFFILIATE LINKS
  • LINK OUT TO AUTHORITATIVE SITES

FAQ/Q&A ARTICLES…

  • 300-500 WORDS
  • SET CATEGORY & TAG AS “FAQ”

LONG-FORM CONTENT…

  • OVER 2,000-4,000 WORDS (PILLAR ARTICLES)
  • POSSIBLY FREE EBOOK (E.G. PATRICK MENINGA)

VIDEOS…

  • IF YOU HAVE THE PRODUCTS YOURSELF
  • YOUTUBE

7. PROMOTING YOUR NICHE SITE

  • NO BACKLINKS
  • NO SPAM
  • BE GENUINE/INTERESTED OR JUST SKIP IT
  • FORGET SEO – WE WANT REFERRAL TRAFFIC
  • DO IT WHEN YOU’RE IN THE MOOD TO DO IT

COMMENTS…

  • RELATED AUTHORITY SITES & BLOGS
  • DON’T COMMENT ON GENERIC NICHE SITES
  • ACTIVE FORUMS
  • Q&A SITES (E.G.  YAHOO ANSWERS, QUORA)
  • AVOID UNMODERATED SITES

SOCIAL MEDIA…

  • NO FAKE ACCOUNTS
  • INSTAGRAM, FACEBOOK GROUPS
  • POST IMAGES & MEMES, NOT LINKS

GUEST POSTS…

  • INCREDIBLY HIGH-QUALITY CONTENT
  • IF YOU’RE REALLY INTO THIS PRODUCT/NICHE, DO IT
  • WRITE THE CONTENT YOURSELF
  • EITHER BE THE EXPERT OR QUOTE THE EXPERTS

8. EXPANDING YOUR NICHE SITE

  • 10 POSTS ASAP IN FIRST MONTH
  • 20-40 POSTS DRIP (PRE-SCHEDULED) 1/WEEK
  • 30-50 TOTAL IN FIRST 12 MONTHS

CONTENT TYPES…

  • PRODUCT REVIEWS:  15-30
  • INFO POSTS:  5-10
  • SHORT FAQ POSTS:  5-10
  • PILLAR ARTICLES:  5-10
  • EBOOK:  1 OR MORE (OPTIONAL)

9. EXPANDING INTO AN AUTHORITY SITE

  1. DEPENDS ON TRAFFIC
  2. DEPENDS ON INCOME

 

  • PERSONAL INTEREST AND EXPERTISE
  • CAN YOU BE AN EXPERT IN THIS NICHE?
  • IT’S A BIG COMMITMENT

OR…

  • INVEST $$$
  • OUTSOURCE IT ALL
  • HIRE VIRTUAL ASST & EMPLOYEES
  • HIRE WRITERS
  • HANDS-OFF OWNERSHIP

 

Continue Reading

Intro to Niche Site Grind 1: Meet Sanjeev

Sanjeev: Niche Site Grind 1 student

Sanjeev: Niche Site Grind 1 student

On December 18, 2015, I received this email…

Hi Chris,

This may take you by surprise, but I want you to do a niche site project of your own, for your blog’s audience. I am a niche site project 3.0 (nichepursuits.com) applicant who didn’t make it to the final three. My video is here

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pluh0NL31Xc

I saw some of your comments on NSP 2.0 and felt that you were the kind of person who would be a super guide for me to start off on my niche site journey.

My reasons for asking you to become my niche site mentor are:

  1. I will get a mentor, which I feel is essential for me to succeed online
  2. I will learn how to build a niche site from someone who is already making niche sites with $50-100 per month earning
  3. I will be accountable to someone (and others who watch along) to develop a successful niche site
  4. I might develop a very valuable friendship

I feel that you too would get something out of this:

  1. A niche site project of your own to fully showcase on your blog
  2. The satisfaction of guiding a willing and hard working student to develop a niche site that earns
  3. A student who is a writer by profession with over 15 years of experience, as well as a past creative director in leading advertising agencies, good at graphics (photoshop/pagemaker) and ideation/advertising
  4. A student who knows the basics of creating a niche site – niche research/keyword research/seo/wordpress/backlinking/affiliate programs/hustling and who is a good writer capable of creating well-written and detailed posts on the niche site’s progress every week (if you are open to it)
  5. Maybe audio recordings of our Skype calls could add a new dimension to your blog, also grow your audience through the niche site project etc.

I can assure you of:

  1. Being a very sincere and hard working student
  2. Of taking up very little of your time, as you will only need to give me instructions, and guidance every once in a while and I do all the work and research and writing etc…

If you feel that this is an interesting idea, I will be delighted to be your niche site student.

Regardless of whether this works out or not, I would like to tell you that I really appreciate your frank and straightforward approach (which comes across clearly in your blog posts) and would love to have you as a guide/mentor.

Warm regards,
Sanjeev

And that is how this project began.

As I mentioned last time here on iWOC, I initially dismissed the idea of mentoring Sanjeev — especially as a public niche site project — so after letting it sit for awhile, I finally emailed him back…

Hi Sanjeev,

I’m flattered that you think I would make a good mentor for you, but to be honest, I could probably teach you everything I know in about an hour. It might not be much of a case study haha. But if you have any questions or would like feedback on your sites or just want a little encouragement, I’ll be happy to help in any way I can.

Chris Desatoff

But, Sanjeev was extremely motivated and persistent. He was determined to taste success with niche sites, and as you are beginning to see, he does not give up so easily.

So he emailed me back…

Hi Chris,

Thank you for taking time to reply, and I still feel you can make a great mentor for me. No, please don’t guffaw and wave it off as something silly. I want a mentor to teach me how to create a niche site that earns $50 a month. Yep that is what I am looking for.

I am still willing to start a niche site project with you, where you will actually not need to do any big time mentoring, writing or research, just nudge me away from what you feel is the wrong direction.

I have Long Tail Pro, I have the ability and tools to design a decent wordpress site. I have been doing niche site stuff all this while, albeit unsuccessfully 😀 I have the entire process in place, and only need to avoid the pitfalls that you may be able to see.

What do you say to me sending you the first post on starting out a niche site, and you give me feedback on it whenever you find the time.

Please do not hesitate to say no, I will understand 🙂

However, if you agree, I promise it will be a completely stress-free and interesting journey for you as my NSP mentor.

Warm regards,

Sanjeev

How could I refuse, right? 🙂

So after reading Sanjeev’s response and thinking about how we would do this niche site project, I found that I still wanted to know a little more about Sanjeev’s experience with building niche sites and making money online. And I’m sure anyone reading might want to know some more about him too, so here are three more questions I asked him, along with his responses.

1. When and how did you become interested in making money online?

My first brush with trying to make money online was way back in 2009. I have always found the web to be an astounding source of information and opportunities, and endlessly exciting too. Right from the time when connecting to the Internet meant dialing in through a landline and waiting to hear a series of strange tinny ringing-groaning noises, which indicated that the connection was going through. Also being a copywriter and creative director who has worked for many years in advertising agencies, I have also done a fair bit of digital centric advertising.

Coming back to the first time when I became interested in making money online, it was around the middle of 2009, while exploring different websites, concepts and ideas online, that I came across a pdf book titled ‘Blogging to the Bank 3.0’ by Rob Benwell. Something told me that this book was going to show me the way to making loads of money online. When I started reading it, I was amazed. I read it from cover to cover, twice. I was hooked. I took a printout, underlined stuff made notes and then started to apply what I learnt on my blog. It was a nature and art related blog on blogger.com

I worked like crazy, applying the guidelines set out in the book, and following a variety of tips and tricks. It was exciting, and I spent many happy hours submitting to blog directories, creating social media accounts, writing articles for article directories, learning to embed tracking code from sites like StatCounter, which tracked the number of visitors.

What I did not focus on was the monetization and the research aspects. I put in Google Adsense and left it at that. I didn’t bother about the bits on research or SEO or backlinks. For a few months I kept at it, in a frenzy of expectation and excitement. Finally after about five months I had made a grand total of $1.85 with Adsense.

At that point, I should have tried to find out what I was doing wrong. But I didn’t. In fact I totally gave up. I continued with the blog, but gave up the idea of making money online.

Fast forward by six years. I was tinkering around on the web looking for this and that. I had picked up some HTML and CSS along the way, I was also into social media marketing, and was looking to do a free course on it. I came upon Lynda.com but the courses there weren’t free. Then I found a course on Alison.com called Diploma in Social Media Marketing, that was totally free. I jumped at it.

A bit of a co-incidence is that, the course was by a person with the first name Chris, same as Chris Desatoff, my mentor for the upcoming Niche Site Grind 1. I finished about three modules of that course by Chris Farrell, and then started to explore the idea of affiliate marketing. It was around June 2015 that I discovered affiliate marketing and since then I have been trying to make money online through niche sites, CPA offers, Amazon affiliate links, micro niche sites, direct linking and what not.

2. What were your first attempts at making money online?

My very first attempts at making money online was through Clickbank. I read up about how to do affiliate marketing through Clickbank products, about how to look for the right balance of Gravity and commission amounts, and how to create a website around the product. I made some really atrocious choices. I decided to go into the weight loss niche, and with the intention of doing something totally different from the norm, I went in for a product with a Clickbank Gravity of 0. I bought a domain with the word ‘review’ added to the product name and set up a WordPress site. I created content and some links in Web 2.0 properties, and then realized that the product I had chosen was a dead one. In all, I got 10-15 spammy visits to the site.

Next I came across several courses on affiliate marketing through niche sites, which I absorbed the best I could. This time, I focused on a niche for products on Amazon.com. I didn’t know how important keyword research was, so I just picked up a promising product category. I went in for pressure washers. I bought another domain and set up another WordPress website. I worked much harder on this one, creating some nice articles and a nice comparison chart. What I hadn’t looked into was the competition in the niche and the default main keyword I was targeting. It was way too competitive. I kept working on the site, but it was futile. The site is still there, and I am thinking of ways to revive it and put in articles focused on related but lower competition keywords.

In the meantime I did some courses from Udemy.com. One of them showed how to make money without a website, by direct linking affiliate offers to pay per click ads. It showed how to do this with Bing Ads. I tried it, and after spending $50 on Bing Ads, I made one sale resulting in $19.5 being added to my Clickbank account. 

I kept reading, downloading and learning, and came across a method of analyzing 30-35,000 keywords at once to find extremely long tail keyword nuggets. It had to do with downloading lists of keywords from the Google Keyword Planner Tool, and then using Excel formulas and even .bat files to create one monster excel file of 35,000 keywords, and then picking out really long tail keywords with big search volumes. I ended up with a 12 word keyword that got 80,000 monthly searches. It was amazing, I immediately bought the domain and set up a WordPress site. I filled in some basic content and waited for the traffic to come in. It never did. I realized later that you cannot compete with really huge authority sites even if their PA was really low, also that you couldn’t compete with ecommerce sites. I still have that website and am wondering what to do with it.

The next stage was discovering nichepursuits.com and Spencer Haws and Long Tail Pro and Niche Site Project 3.0. After all of this I have begun to understand how important keyword research and choosing a profitable niche is. I bought several more domains in the meantime, due to foolish spur of the moment excitement.

Right now, of course, thanks to Chris Desatoff and Niche Site Grind 1, I will hopefully, finally learn how to make money online.

3. How many websites have you built so far, and how did you monetize them?

I have built around 5 websites. Two are based on Clickbank products, two are based on the Amazon affiliate programme, and one is based on a CPA offer. None of the sites generate traffic or sales.

Okay, so that gives you an idea of who Sanjeev is, what he’s done so far in his Internet marketing journey and what his goals are for NSG1 and beyond.

Do you have any questions of your own for me and Sanjeev? Ask in the comments section below, and be sure to subscribe to the comment thread (check the little box down there) so you don’t miss our responses…

Sanjeev and I will be doing coaching calls on Skype for the remainder of this project, and the first call will be posted here on iWOC next Monday. Stay tuned!

UP NEXT:  COACHING CALL 1: Basic Strategy For Making Money With Niche Sites

 

 

Continue Reading

Reprint: Textbroker Tips For Beginning Freelance Writers

NOTE: I originally published this article on HubPages back around 2012 or so, when I was writing there as “chrisinhawaii”. I deleted that account long ago, and then my computer crashed and I lost the backup copy, but I recently found that someone had copied it and put it on their blog, so I copied it back to put on here.  I realize that much of the info I wrote back then can still be helpful to beginning freelance writers who are using Textbroker to gain some experience and pick up some extra cash, so, I’ve decided to reprint the article here on iWOC. I even included a comment that someone left over there. It was too good to pass up.

ANOTHER NOTE: Some of these links are pretty old. If you come across any that lead to articles that have been unpublished, please send me a note via my contact page so that I can remove the link. Nobody likes dead links. Thanks.

————–

Beginning freelance writers often get discouraged and give up after their first few months, because the money simply doesn’t come in as quickly as they were expecting. Many take the leap into self-employment without even knowing where to start. Online freelance writers will turn to sites like Textbroker.com, expecting these freelance websites and content mills to be the answer to their problems.

But what happens? They realize that making a lot of money online as a freelance writer is difficult! At times it seems impossible. The money trickles in so slowly during those first few months, and many writers give up and look for other opportunities.

Below are Textbroker tips from 12 freelance writers who have earned decent money on Textbroker.com (and other freelancing sites like Textbroker). Put some of their tips to work to improve your Textbroker earnings.

  1. COMFORT ZONE: WRITE ABOUT TOPICS YOU’RE NOT FAMILIAR WITH

Freelance writer Chris Cehlarik doesn’t know a single thing about fashion, but she researches and writes article after article about purses, shoes, and designer clothing. Why? Because that’s the kind of thing she has to do to make a decent amount of money writing for Textbroker clients. You have to be willing to step out of your comfort zone and take on assignments that seem overwhelming at first.

As she points out, the client will often give a URL to another site where you can find all the info you need to write the article. And even when no “sample article” is provided, most Textbroker clients aren’t very demanding about the level of detail and research that you put into the assignment, so merely browsing through 2 or 3 articles on the client’s keyword will often provide all the info you need to make the client happy.

If you want to make money on Textbroker, you have to stretch yourself and take on writing assignments that are beyond your current knowledge base.

Chris Cehlarik – Tips For New Writers At Textbroker.com (from Yahoo Voices, now unpublished)

  1. NICHE: FOCUS ON TOPICS YOU FEEL CONFIDENT WRITING ABOUT

On the one hand, new Textbroker authors often need to boldly take on writing assignments for which they have no previous knowledge if they want to make more money. But part-time freelancer Gabriel Howell points out that a lack of self-confidence is often an issue for the beginner. So taking the time to find topics you are already knowledgeable about will allow you to write those first few articles with confidence and skill. That may be all you need to get over that initial hump and start making money on Textbroker.

Gabriel Howell – Five Practical Ways To Improve Your Textbroker Article Quality Rating (Yahoo Voices, unpublished)

  1. SPEED: WRITE ARTICLES QUICKLY TO EARN MORE MONEY

Every Textbroker author eventually comes to the realization that the only way they will ever make a decent income on there is to write articles quickly. Blogger and freelancer Julie DeNeen breaks each assignment down into chunks – writing the title, intro and conclusion first, then fleshing the body out until her word count and content requirements are met.

This method allows her to complete 2-3 500-word articles per hour, and that’s the kind of speed required to make writing on Textbroker worthwhile.

Julie DeNeen – How To Write An Article Quickly

  1. QUALITY: WRITE BETTER ARTICLES AND IMPROVE YOUR SKILLS

While focusing on volume and writing speed is most often recognized as the path to higher Textbroker earnings, HubPages author SOKCGOLD makes the case that focusing on quality can offer even more advantages.

His suggested method to making more money on Textbroker is to focus on advancing to the next TB skill level – that should become your #1 priority. The advantages to this approach become clear when considering the pay increase from the 4-star level to the 5-star level. A 4-star author earns $7 for a 500-word article, but that same article would earn a 5-star author $25!

In your quest to improve writing speed and volume, be sure to also spend time improving your writing and editing skills. The difference in income can be substantial.

SOKCGOLD – How To Raise Your Star Rating And Succeed At Textbroker (from HubPages, unpublished)

  1. HUMILITY: EAGERLY ACCEPT AND ACT ON TB EDITORS’ FEEDBACK

Fitness fanatic and ebook author Damien Darby highlights a benefit of Textbroker.com that is practically unheard of in the online freelance writing world: TB editors actually critique your writing and offer specific, detailed suggestions for improvement. Not only do they offer this free service, but the site also maintains a blog in which writing tips are offered freely. He recommends that Textbroker authors take advantage of this feedback to improve their writing ability.

Damien Darby – Content Writing: A Wordway To Heaven (HubPages, unpublished)

  1. MANAGED CLIENTS: TAKE OPEN ORDERS FROM THE TB PRIORITY ASSIGNMENTS FORUM

5-star Textbroker author RA Marshall made over $1,100 last month (September 2012) by writing for TB’s managed clients. Managed clients are basically big spenders who provide tons of work for Textbroker writers, and TB even has teams that focus on these clients.

Marshall recommends that one of the best ways to get invited onto one of these TB-managed teams is to hit the Priority Assignments Forum regularly and pick up the Open Orders that the editors list there. Doing so is a great way to get into the TB staff’s good graces and land yourself a steady stream of Team Orders for these managed clients.

RA Marshall – Textbroker Moves Away From Content Farm And I Get My Second-Biggest Payday Ever (from TextbrokerSuccess.com, now unpublished)

  1. CLIENT INSTRUCTIONS: DON’T WASTE TIME ON LOW-PAYING, HIGH-MAINTENANCE CLIENTS

HubPages writer paxwill describes a phenomenon that nearly every Textbroker author – newbie and veteran – is familiar with: you click on an Open Order to see what the client wants, and the instructions are so long, complicated, and demanding that it will take you longer to read the instructions than it will take to actually write the article. Sometimes the client wants you to read even more instructions on their website too!

Time is money, so think twice before overextending yourself with these clients. At first you may feel frustrated with the other type of clients: the ones who give a keyword and a word count and no other expanation for what they want. But in time you will learn to love those clients. It’s the ones with the 500-word instructions who send back your submissions for rewrites over and over. Make it easy on yourself and learn to avoid the divas.

paxwill – How To Write For Textbroker (HubPages, unpublished)

  1. PROFILE: FILL IT OUT COMPLETELY AND PROFESSIONALLY

Freelance writer Angela Farrer took forever to finally fill out her extended author profile on her Textbroker account, but once she finally did, things started to get exciting. Soon, the Direct Orders began to trickle in. That trickle turned to a flood (sort of), and now she has a steady flow of Direct Orders and repeat clients to keep her busy.

A professional writer on a professional freelance website needs to have a professional profile, so fill yours out as completely as you can.

Angela Farrer – Succeeding WIth Textbroker Team Orders And Direct Orders (TextbrokerSuccess.com, unpublished)

  1. DIRECT ORDERS: ASK FOR THEM

Krisitine Wolfe admonishes Textbroker authors to converse with their Open Order clients, especially those who offer positive feedback and messages. She emphasizes the need to respond promptly and professionally to these clients. Thank them for their feedback and let them know that you are available for Direct Orders.

Kristine Wolfe – Tips On Receiving Direct Orders For Textbroker (from Suite101.com, now unpublished)

  1. 5-STAR STATUS: ASK FOR THAT TOO

Freelance consultant K’Lee Banks points out one simple fact that is often overlooked or forgotten by Textbroker authors: in order to advance from level 4 to level 5…you’ve got to ask! Once you’ve received at least half a dozen 4-star ratings in a row from the Textbroker editors, ask them to review your account and raise you to 5-star status. There’s good money to be made at that pay level.

K’Lee Banks – New Writer Tips: Textbroker

  1. PERSISTENCE: DON’T QUIT TEXTBROKER TOO SOON

Well, I’m not exactly a Textbroker pro, but I’m currently earning about $50 per week writing for Textbroker. I actually kind of walked away in frustration after my first month, but I’ve since been determined to make a comeback on there, and this article is a direct product of that decision. I’ve been searching out tips for Textbroker success, and I’ve found quite a few great ideas from TB authors who have gone before. I’m making more money on Textbroker, and I know you can too.

The main lesson I’ve learned about writing for Textbroker is this: it does get easier. At first you feel frustrated with the clients’ ambiguous instructions and the apparent lack of assignments that you feel qualified to write. Then you feel frustrated over the amount of time it takes to research and write those first Open Orders, and for what? Five stinking bucks? It took me all day to make $5?

Then you feel frustrated that it’s all ghostwriting, and you’ll never see another penny for those articles. These are legitimate reasons to quit and go look for something else to do. But for a beginning freelance writer with no professional background or track record to point to and no high-paying clients, you take what you can get. You pay your dues. You don’t quit.

It does get easier. My first 20 articles had me second-guessing my decision to write for Textbroker. But I knew that other freelance writers were making 4-figures per month on that site, and I knew that I could do it too.

And if you’re considering giving up (or have already), then you need to know that you can make money on Textbroker too. It does get easier, or to be more precise…you get better at it.

The author, Chris Desatoff 

  1. PASSIVE INCOME: DON’T BECOME TOO DEPENDENT ON TEXTBROKER

Freelance writer Erik Parker made a lot of money on Textbroker before moving on to higher paying clients. One of the many great pieces of advice he offers to up-and-coming authors is to not become too reliant on that Textbroker payout, but to also schedule time every day to work on your own blogs and other writing projects.

It seems counter-intuitive at first: you’re a Textbroker writer, and you need to take as many assignments as possible to maximize your payout, so why would you intentionally walk away from TB assignments to work on your blog? Because online freelance writers can’t always depend on any one client or income source to always be there, that’s why.

You need to have a backup plan.

What would you do if Textbroker went out of business? What would you do if you got demoted to a lower pay-level on Textbroker? What would you do if your computer died, and you couldn’t afford a replacement for another month? What would you do if you got sick and couldn’t work for a couple of weeks? What would you do if there was a family emergency, and you had to take several weeks or months off to care for a family member?

Every freelance writer should consider dedicating some time to building passive income streams as a backup to their active income from Textbroker or other clients. It just makes sense.

Erik Parker – Advice For Writers: Put Your Own Projects Into Your Schedule By Cycling And Circling (unpublished)

 

Author: Christopher Desatoff

Source: http://chrisinhawaii.hubpages.com/hub/Textbroker-Tips-For-Beginning-Freelance-Writers

Comments
  • Mia July 7, 2014 at 12:31 PM
 Thank you so much for this post! This is one of the best blog posts I’ve ever read, and I am not exaggerating. This is more helpful than Textbroker’s own forums. Thank you so much!!

 

Continue Reading

Small Update and Big Announcement

Hey everyone,

It’s been pretty quiet around here the past couple months, so I figured I should put out a quick little update about what’s been going on in my life, particularly in my money-making adventures.

A few months back, I had decided to ditch content mills and focus exclusively on building up private clientele for freelance writing, but that didn’t work out so great. I landed a couple paid gigs, but overall, it just wasn’t cutting it.

And on top of that, I suddenly remembered something that I had learned about myself a few years earlier…

I really hate freelance writing.

Yeah.

That sure makes it hard to be a freelance writer.

I mean, I like the IDEA of freelance writing, especially if the pay is good. It’s a win for everyone. But I guess I’m just an entrepreneur at heart, and it always killed me to be building up someone else’s website business when I’d rather be building my own.

Plus, I probably just don’t have the patience and stability to make it as a freelancer.

Freelance writing is active income, not passive income. You have to be very consistent. As long as you keep working hard, you can be making money. But the instant you back off or take time off for your family or — you know, have a nervous breakdown — you’re not making money.

I hate that.

In the beginning, you have to keep hustling and pitching article ideas for days, weeks or even months on end before a client hires you or even notices you. And even after you build up a steady clientele, you still need to keep pitching and pitching, because clients come and go. Some full-time freelance writers are cool with that, and they can work hard and hustle every day for years on end, but I’m just not consistent enough to make that model work.

Plus, I need my quarterly nervous-breakdown-vacation-pay.

J. O. B.

So, with unpaid bills and debts hanging over my head, I pushed freelance writing aside and forced myself back out into the wage-slave job market. I didn’t have much luck, and let’s just say there might have been some job interviews missed due to an anxiety attack or two.

In desperation I turned to Craigslist to look for some quick cash gigs.

I found one gig delivering flyers door to door, and that turned into a part-time job as a delivery supervisor. Unfortunately, the work is sporadic. So, I’m either extremely busy working 12-hour days, feeling exhausted and bordering on burn-out…or I’m sitting here all day trying to keep busy, waiting for my manager to send some work my way.

I don’t mind having plenty of time off, though. It gives the blisters on my feet time to heal.

But I need to be making money around the clock, whether I’m busy working or not.

I need that passive income.

My Niche Sites

And that leads me right back to my niche sites.

I need to build more niche sites, or at least, I need to build up more passive income, and niche sites have been my most successful method of doing that.

When I last spoke about my niche site income a few months ago, my two best sites were typically earning between $50-$100 per month. Well, a third site has now joined that club, so I have three niche sites earning me a decent little stream of income every month. So that’s good news.

But it’s not the only good news I have about my niche sites.

My Niche Sites Earned $536.73 Last Month

My previous best month of earnings had been just under $200, if I remember right, which isn’t bad for two niche sites (plus the newer one, which was previously earning $5-$10 monthly). I was already expecting to hit a new high, since it was December and that month is always higher than normal due to holiday shopping, but I was blown away by the progress my sites made this holiday season.

They blew right past $200.

Then a week later, they blew past $300.

Then past $400.

And then past $500.

So that made me feel pretty good.

But then, just a couple weeks ago, it hit me…

I just leveled up.

Sure, my income won’t hold at $500+. It was Christmas. I totally get that.

But $500 in passive income in one month is definitely a turning point for me, not only financially, but mentally as well.

I’ve been at this game for almost four years, and all that time I’ve been riddled with doubts and discouragement. For those of you who’ve been with me for a while, you know that my motivation is always up and down. I’ve been trying to make money online for almost four years, and I’ve always been happy to share what I’m learning and try to encourage other bloggers and Internet marketers who were struggling too. But in the back of my mind, I always felt like, “Who am I to help anybody? I’m not earning much.”

And I’m still not earning much — not compared to folks like Pat Flynn, Spencer Haws, Patrick Meninga, Matthew Woodward or Tung Tran. I’ve followed those guys for years and felt a bit of shock and awe when looking at their numbers. I’m not even on the same planet as those guys.

But I’m also not where I was last year or where I was the year before that.

For the first time, I’m really starting to feel…I dunno…legit. You know what I mean? But I’m not talking about my ego or whatever. I just mean, for the first time, I feel confident that all the hours I’ve put in over these years have not been wasted chasing after fool’s gold. I can say with confidence — and joy — that this niche site stuff really works!

And you don’t have to be some kind of technical, SEO or marketing genius to make real money online. You can just keep your head down and keep grinding away, and you’ll get results too. It might take longer if you’re not taking short cuts or using all those complicated software tools, but you’ll get there. I always wondered whether that was true or not, but now I know with certainty that it is, because I’ve done it.

That’s not to say that EVERYTHING works.

Some things work, and some things don’t. But I can now look at the things I’ve done online since March 2012, and I can tell you what I’ve done that actually works.

And that’s why I’m really excited to share this announcement with you today…

Announcing My Upcoming Niche Site Project

I’m very excited to announce that I’ll be doing a public niche site project, similar to the ones that Spencer Haws and others have shared on their blogs. In fact, Spencer is currently a few weeks into Niche Site Project 3 over on his blog, NichePursuits. He put out a casting call for students to participate in his project, and he received over 100 video responses from folks who wanted to be chosen to be mentored by him for NSP3.

Well, of course, 99% of those who applied were not accepted, but that doesn’t mean that they all gave up. One of the rejected applicants emailed me a few weeks ago and asked me to mentor him and do a niche site project of my own here on iWOC.

At first I kind of laughed it off. I mean, I’m not Spencer Haws, you know? I’m making chump change compared to those guys. My sites typically only make $50 to $100 per month. Could I actually have anything to offer? Could I actually mentor someone?

We are going to find out.

I’m no guru, and I don’t really feel comfortable with the term mentor, but regardless — next month I am going to be working with a student here on iWOC. We are going to build a niche site from scratch, and we’d be happy to have you follow along as we do it.

Our first post drops Monday, February 8th.

Continue Reading

Beat Writer’s Block in 30 Seconds Flat

If you’ve been blogging for a while, you’ve probably experienced writer’s block on more than one occasion, and you’ve probably read a dozen articles about how to beat it. There are some useful tips out there, but what you’re about to read is completely different from anything you’ve ever read on this topic.

To beat writer’s block and get those words flowing across your screen again, all you have to do is ask yourself three simple questions.

You don’t have to take a break, turn off your Internet, jog in place, read a book or take a spiral notebook and pen and go sit on the beach. Sure, things like that will help sometimes, but more often than not they’re just a distraction from the real problem. They’re good things for bloggers to do on a regular basis, just to bring some balance into your daily routine and give yourself a much needed break, but they miss the point.

So today, if all that well-meaning advice seems a bit cliché and ineffective for you, try this instead.

In fact, you won’t even be taking your fingers off the keyboard!

Are you ready?

Here we go.

To Beat Writer’s Block…

Just stop for a second, sit back in your chair, take a deep breath, clear your mind and ask yourself the following three simple questions:

  1. Who am I writing this blog for?
  2. What is that person struggling with?
  3. What will help that person move forward?

Most of the times when you’re struggling with writer’s block, you’re banging your head against the wall and focusing on yourself, racking your brain to come up with a blog topic. That’s normal, but it’s missing something.

When you just shift your focus away from yourself and think about your audience and their problems instead, the fog instantly begins to clear and you can likely think of more than one possible topic about which to write. In fact, if you don’t start writing about the very first topic that comes to mind, you’re likely to find yourself stuck with too many ideas to blog about, and you’ll be facing something just as bad as writer’s block:  information overload.

So just grab that first thing that pops into your head and start running with it.

Now let’s take a closer look at those three important questions…

1.  Who Am I Writing this Blog For?

If you have several regular readers – blogging buddies, perhaps – that read and comment on everything you write and likely have blogs of their own, then you might try zeroing in on one of those people and write a post just for that person. We’re not just talking about some hypothetical client persona here. Instead, try to think about an actual, specific follower of yours.

What do you know about her personal life, her career or her family? If you’ve been building genuine relationships with some of your loyal readers, then you likely have a fairly large pool of people coming to mind right about now.

Pick one.

2.  What Is That Person Struggling With?

Now that you have a specific reader in mind, think a little deeper into that person’s situation. What challenges is she facing that she’s mentioned to you in blog comments? Has she commented on one of your posts in the past, saying something like,

“Great post! It’s so amazing how you do that. I wish I could do that, but I can’t because….”

If so, then that might be a clue right there. That person is interested in that topic, struggles with some problem related to it and wants to take action, but she just feels stuck and can’t visualize the initial baby steps she needs to take today that will lead her to success. Or maybe she can see the path ahead, but she lacks the self-confidence and support to take that first step.

Or maybe she has a blog of her own and talks all the time about her problems on there.

If you listen deeply to your readers, they’ll drop hints about the challenges they face and how you can help them.

3.  What Will Help That Person Move Forward?

By now you likely already have an answer to this question. You know who you’re writing for, and you know what she’s having a hard time with right now.

So how can you help? What advice could you offer? How could you break it down and simplify the process into daily action steps? What resources can you point her to that will help her take the next step and do the things that need to be done?

This is where the rubber meets the road. This is why you blog. You have knowledge, skills and personal experience that can help other others, and blogging has been your preferred method of reaching out to people to help them. You love interacting with your readers, and you take great satisfaction in helping them improve their lives.

When you focus on that, it’s energizing.

Now that you have specific readers in mind, and you know what they’re struggling with, put yourself in their shoes and start asking some questions.

  • “How can I _____ ?”
  • “What causes _____ and how can I fix it?”
  • “What is the best _____ for someone like me?”

If you can see – or at least imagine – the types of questions that your readers would ask, then you can get right to work writing up some solutions and a plan of action to help them get going on it. So think of your readers, think about the problems they face and offer up your best advice.

Now go coffee up and start pounding those keys!

Continue Reading

My Week in Freelance Writing 4: I Got my 1st Client! Maybe…

  • Pitches sent out: 3
  • Articles completed: 2
  • Money earned: $36.02
  • Money received: $0.00

Okay, so this wraps up my fourth week of freelance writing beyond the content mills. This week I’ve still been struggling with the same junk as last week, so I didn’t get a whole lot accomplished: only sent out three pitches to potential new clients and only completed two articles, one of which was my weekly update on the blog.

But that other article…

That other one has me a little bit excited.

I was contacted by an editor who I reached out to a few weeks ago, and she offered me $40 to write an article for the blog she’s managing. I accepted her offer, and she said she’d send me more details. So I waited as patiently as I could – okay, I checked email constantly and was on an emotional roller coaster all day every day for the whole week.

Total newb, right?

Anyway, since she had already told me the working title and topic, I just went ahead and wrote it after waiting a couple of days. Then, after waiting a couple more days (without hearing anything from her), I sent it to her.

She responded and said she’d look it over and get back to me early this next week.

Again…more emotions.

So, I’m trying to tell myself to stop acting like a little kid on Christmas Eve and just let the busy editor get back to me when she has a chance.

But I can’t help it.

I’m excited.

Even though I’ve written over 200 articles for anonymous clients on Textbroker, this is different. This feels like my first REAL client, and I just want it to work out. I hope she likes it and is able to offer me more articles, maybe even a steady one-post-per-week or something like that. We’ll see. And I think she manages sites for other clients too, so who knows – perhaps it could even turn into a whole slew of gigs down the road?

In the meantime, my pessimistic side is constantly reminding me that she may change her mind, and I might not even get this one little gig, much less anything beyond it.

So, I’m waiting.

In the meantime, I need to get back out there and start pitching again.

Money earned is passive earnings from my niche sites and HubPages articles.

Continue Reading

My Week in Freelance Writing 3: First Paid Guest Post

cartoon: self-doubt monster

cartoon: self-doubt monster

  • Pitches sent out:                              1
  • Articles completed:                         3
  • Money earned:                                $54.39
  • Money received:                             $28.53

Okay, so this week started out great, as I landed my first paid guest post. I got $30 minus Paypal fees, so that’s my $28.53.  The rest is my passive earnings from my niche sites, blogs and HubPages articles.

I only sent out one pitch this whole week, so that’s not so great. That old Self-Doubt Monster raised its ugly head again and had me in a funk all week long. On the bright side, I did eventually pull out of it and managed to write up a blog post that I think I’ll start pitching tomorrow morning. Hell, I might even pitch it to Problogger. I doubt they’d pick it up, but who knows. I don’t think they pay, but the exposure and SEO benefit for my writing site would probably be worth more than the money in the long run. So that’s a possibility.

So, I guess that’s about it for this week. I hate to say it, but I really can’t think of much else to say right now.

Continue Reading

My Week in Freelance Writing 2: Pitch, Write, Tweak, Read, Network

  • Pitches sent out:                              18
  • Articles completed:                         3
  • Money earned:                                $26.05
  • Money received:                             $0

Okay, so this week went by pretty quickly. As you can see, I only wrote three pieces this week. One was a guest post that I sent out. Hopefully that one will be accepted. The other two were just blog posts that I put here on iWOC. And now that I’ve ditched content mills…no quick, easy money hitting my bank account. I need to hustle up some clients very soon.

Overall, I spent more time researching and reaching out to potential clients than I actually spent writing articles this week. If you’ve never pitched your services or your article ideas to a client yet, it’s actually really exhausting, especially in the beginning. Especially for me. Exhilarating, but exhausting. It’s nerve-wracking, but it’s just one of those things that you have to do as a freelance writer, so I’m working on it.

Freelancer Nicole Dieker just started writing a new column on TheWriteLife called Pitch Fix, where she analyzes pitches that readers send in and gives them feedback on how to improve them. Check that out if you’re interested in that sort of thing.

So, I’m doing the pitching thing now, but 18 emails still doesn’t seem like much for a whole week’s worth of work, and that’s because I’ve been doing more than just pitching and writing.

I’ve also been spending more time working on ChrisDesatoff.com, turning it into my “freelancer website” and tweaking every stupid little thing on it. I’m pretty happy with how it looks now:  very streamlined, to-the-point and client-focused. Not perfect, but much better than all the other versions of it that I’ve created up to this point.

I’ve also decided to move the last few blog posts from there to here. I’m trying to figure out exactly what I want on there, and those posts don’t really fit with the new vision. I guess I’ll explain more later on next week.

This week I’ve been investing a little more time and money into my freelancing education. I got a couple of ebooks by Bamidele Onibalusi, and I’m working my way through those. Have you ever read his ebooks Stop Pitching Clients and The Freelance Writer’s Success Starter Guide? If so, let me know what you think of them.

Last of all, I’ve been trying to get myself out there on social media a little bit more. I feel like a fish out of water, very awkward, but I guess I’ll get used to it the more time I spend on there. I started using Twitter more, followed some more people, read and liked and commented more. I also finally signed up on LinkedIn, since that seems like the respectable thing to do. I don’t know anything about LI yet, but I’ll figure it out soon, whenever I get the chance. If you guys are on those two places, feel free to connect with me there too.

Since I’ve burned my bridges at the content mills yet have no actual clients yet, “Money earned” this week is just passive income trickling in from my blogs, niche sites and HubPages articles.

Okay, so that’s it for this week.

 

Continue Reading
1 2 3 10