Your Questions Answered
Helping others build their online empire is an extremely rewarding activity for us. Many of our best questions come in via email and Joe and I make a point to respond to all of them. The problem is that many of those answers would never see the light of day as they were private replies.
Instead of keeping those answers buried in my email, I thought it might be helpful to share our (expanded) answers here for you as well. Below, you’ll find some of the more common questions we get regarding niche sites, outsourcing, the Philippines, and partnerships.
Are Niche Sites Best For A Newbie Like Me To Get Started?
In short…yes. You may have noticed our debate post a while back, Niche Sites Vs. Authority Sites. There were some great arguments made on both sides of the debate and the value authority sites hold isn’t lost on us…but here are a few of the reasons we think that niche sites are the best option if you’re just starting off.
Niche Sites Are Easier
This is especially true if you’re using AdSense. You do your keyword research, buy the domain, setup your theme, and write your content. Learning how to build niche sites will give you all of the fundamentals you need to build the authority sites later. They don’t require any of the intermediate or advanced skills that are required for authority sites. You can make some mistakes, plod along, and you’ll still find yourself making a bit of money in a couple of months…which leads to our next point.
Fastest Route To Earnings
Authority sites may have more opportunity in the long run, pound-for-pound…but when you’re first starting off you’re wondering whether you’ll be able to make ANY money, not just BIG money. There’s plenty of built-in self-doubt when starting anything new and I think it’s really helpful to start down a path that can prove itself viable awfully quickly. There’s a bigger concern that, if starting with an authority site, you won’t be able to make it through the 6, 12, or 18 months that are required to start seeing a return that’s worthwhile. With a niche site, you’re looking at 4-6 months…maybe less.
You Learn The Building Blocks
It’s not like you’ll build niche sites for 6 months, want to switch to ecommerce sites and end up feeling like you haven’t learned anything. In fact, there’s very little you’ll learn building niche sites that WON’T apply to any other sites you’d like to try out in the future. Whether you decide to switch to authority sites, kindle books, squidoo lenses, directories, etc…all will require the skills you’ll learn building niche sites. (and then some)
Learning Curve Will Cost You Less
This may apply to both your actual $$ spent as well as your time. Any good poker player knows they spent quite a bit of time and $$ learning the required skills that made them good. If you’re just starting out and looking to learn, you might not want to start out at the high-roller table unless you have a bankroll to support it!
We made plenty of mistakes with our first niche sites. I think we were a couple weeks and 10 sites in or so before we realized we were targeting the wrong keywords and building worthless sites…ouch! That would have been a much more painful mistake if it were 10 authority sites and 6-9 months of my time.
Why An Internet Business In The Philippines
We’re often enamored with the Silicon Valley start-ups like Linked-In, Pinterest, and others with their massive, multi-million dollar funding rounds. These companies have great stories, but almost sound mythical for most of us and our plans to start an online business. Are there options for the rest of us? Those that aren’t Silicon Valley heavyweights?
Fortunately, we’ve seen an explosion of information regarding boot-strapped start-ups in recent years. From Tim Ferriss’s 4 Hour Workweek to Chris Guillebeau’s $100 Startup, we’re being shown that it doesn’t always require insider connections or VC funding to take your dream from idea to launch. There is another way.
We’ve left corporate America, moved to the Philippines, and have started two successful business with plans for more. No, we’re not getting write-ups on TechCrunch and our businesses wouldn’t register with Valley insiders, but we’re making money. Real money. Here are some of the reasons the Philippines might be an answer for your business:
Low Cost Of Living
Outside of the poshest areas in Manila, you’ll find that your monthly living expenses are significantly lower than they might be in the US, UK, Australia, etc. Want a luxury two-bedroom condo with a live-in maid and maid’s quarters? $400-$600 per month. Want a guarded 4-bedroom, 4-bath luxury home with a pool, clubhouse access, etc. that you can use to house a team to build out your project? $800-$1,000 per month. Sick of worrying about the little details (food shopping, cleaning, paying bills, laundry, etc.) instead of building your business? In the Philippines, you can hire a live-in maid or “house manager” that will run your house for around $80-$130 per month. You just can’t beat that…
Amazing Employee Value
Start-ups can be planned out by the founders, but there’s usually a ton of ground work that needs to be done and employees in the Philippines are a great way to get that work done quickly. Depending on your location, you can hire an entry-level data entry employee ($200-400), a mid-level designer ($300-$500), and a mid-level programmer ($500-$800), for significantly less than you can in the West. Another benefit is the English. Young people are taught English in school in the Philippines and it is one of the national languages. (All contracts and legal documents are written in English…a real benefit) You won’t have any problem finding internet-savvy young employees to help you grow your business.
If you don’t have awesome angel investors or VC cash to play with, figuring out your “runway” (how long you’ll be able to operate and pay your bills while getting your business off the ground) is critical. If you’re willing to put your head down, cut some of the extras, and get to work…you could easily live on $1,500 or even less in the Philippines on your own. That’s key…$18,000 could buy you an entire year of full-time work in getting your project off the ground!
There is some downside, (government bureaucracy, living in a third-world country, etc.) but the overall benefits have been tremendous and critical for us in building our successful overseas business. If you’re considering building a business in the Philippines and for further reading, I would highly suggest checking out Derek Sivers’ Wood Egg project. There’s a book coming out about building a business in the Philippines that we’ve helped create and you’ll likely find useful.
Outsourcing: How Do I Get Started? How Do I Pick The Best People? Any Tips On Hiring?
There seems to be a trend in recent years where authors and bloggers talk about outsourcing as if it were some magic bullet. It’s not. There’s tremendous value when used correctly, but there are a few all-to-common mistakes people make when attempting to outsource their first projects. Here are a few key points:
Know The Process Yourself First
You’ll almost NEVER be able to take an un-established process, send it overseas, and find success. YOU need to be the to determine best practices, test through the process, and make sure you have some defined metrics and a blueprint for success. Hoping you can dream-up a business, send it overseas, and then collect your money just isn’t realistic, no matter what you’ve read.
Lay Out A Step-By-Step Plan
Once you know the process, you need to send them your exact process so that they can follow it exactly. This is usually best accomplished through written directions and/or screenshots or screencasts. As questions come in, considering creating a FAQ’s section that you can send to the next Virtual Assistant you’d like to train and get up to speed. (See: Building Human Machines)
Outsource Specific Skillsets NOT Combinations Of Skillsets
Many web entrepreneurs only want to hire one Virtual Assistant and they want that person to be able to do some copywriting, a bit of design, custom coding, etc. That’s just not realistic. You won’t be able to replace a co-founder’s work with a $300 VA. (You’d have a problem finding someone good at all of those skills in the US at any price…nevermind the Philippines at $300/month!) Instead, look for repetitive, time-consuming tasks that can take up a good amount of time but don’t require a ton of autonomy to complete. Group those tasks by skillsets and find VA’s to help in those specific areas.
Hiring Directly VS. Using An Outsourcing Company
If you’re only looking to hire one or two agents, you’re often better off hiring directly. The larger outsourcing companies would consider that too small to take on and it won’t be worth the time for many mid-sized companies to put much effort into your project. You can find independent VA’s through a company like oDesk directly, but you could also consider using a company like VirtualStaffFinder to save you the time in finding and hiring your VA for a fee. When your project has more complicated needs and processes and a need for 4 or more agents, you may consider using an outsourcing company to manage the project directly. This will save you time in managing the agents directly and provide you better reports, redundancy, etc.
Use Of Easter Eggs
When writing a job description on sites like oDesk, Sulit, etc…considering including “easter eggs” to weed out applicants. This may include something like mentioning “pink unicorns” in their application to including a 200-word writing sample on their favorite sport. There are a ton of potential candidates that blindly apply for jobs without even bothering to read the job description. This will help to weed those agents out and is highly recommended.
How Did The AdSenseFlippers Blog Become An Authority So Quickly?
When we decided to start documenting our niche site creation and monetization process online, I looked around at some of the top bloggers that I admired or respected in the space and put together elements of their business that I thought would go together great with our AdSense Flippers brand. We never knew it would grow to the success we’ve found today, necessarily, but we did incorporate marketing that we knew would help to put us in front of the right audience. Here are a few of the strategies we incorporated in building our blog, podcast, and brand.
The internet is littered with low-level, anonymous bloggers recommending this or that service only to make a buck through an affiliate offer. This type of marketing wreaks of desperation and lacks any authentic connection with their audience. We decided early that, since we already had a successful business that was paying the bills, we didn’t need to “monetize our audience” directly and could instead focus on providing them real value and sharing both our success and failures. We used our real names, our real stories, and didn’t hold anything back when it came to talking about our business. This connected with readers and listeners in a big way and is something we still follow today.
Your ideal audience likely consumes content in different ways. Some may prefer blog posts while others prefer video. Some may like podcasts while others are big on forums and community. Having a “Be Everywhere” policy allows you to connect with them through the medium of their choosing and there’s no better promoter of the idea than Pat Flynn. He’s presented the idea at BlogWorld and is currently going through the process of writing a book about it, but you can check out SmartPassiveIncome.com to see more about this concept.
Focus On Connecting Instead Of Sales
This concept may be specific to our brand and not to brands in general, so please keep that in mind. Joe and I aren’t terribly great at sales. We understand the concepts, but feel a bit queasy about the hype and pulled-heartstrings that typically come along with selling products, services, etc. Instead, we’ve focused on providing extremely valuable information to our audience and regularly inviting them back to consume that content. While we do offer sites for sale, we’ve realized that by showing people step-by-step how to recreate our process we’ve actually bolstered the authority and trust we have with our audience, making our offers and sites for sale that much more appealing. Sure, there are plenty of people that sell much more directly, but we’ve found that selling around our content has been a great way for non-salesy guys like us to still bring in the cash required to keep the business successful.
While there are many positive aspects of other successful bloggers we copied, we also looked for areas we could be disruptive and go against the grain. We noticed that there were a ton of paid ebooks, courses, and membership groups promising to show you how to build niche sites, make a profit, etc. Since we were doing this already, our thought was to simply document our successes and failures for free and to not hold back where others would when it comes to what’s working for us. By not putting our best content behind a paywall, we were able to build an audience much faster than we would have if we had charged for that content. While we might have sold ourselves short in the short-term, the long-term benefit of having an active and engaged audience is tremendous and totally worth it.
What Advice Do You Have On How To Choose The Best Business Partner?
Picking the right business partner is extremely difficult. It’s funny…Joe and I have been in business together for many years and we often recommend to new entrepreneurs that they should NOT bring on a business partner. Instead, you can have limited partnerships on a project-by-project basis, find yourself an accountability partner, etc. We’ve discussed our thoughts on partnerships at some length in our podcasts. For more information, feel free to check out:
- Our podcast episode on partnerships here.
- Our interview on the Lifestyle Business Podcast regarding partnerships.
- Our post from the “Business Lessons” series regarding our failed partnership.
Remember that in a 50-50 partnership split, your business has to be twice as successful or more to make it worth it. Otherwise, you’re better off on your own. That being said, Joe and I have had quite a bit of success together so it can’t be that bad, right? 🙂