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My $25,000 Lesson

By bobej in Op-Ed
Wed Dec 21, 2005 at 04:47:20 PM EST
Tags: Internet (all tags)

About a year and a half ago, I quit my day job as a programmer and started burning through my savings (and at the end, borrowing money from family) in a quest to work for myself by making my own websites.

15 months later, I have one fairly successful website, a half-dozen or so failed websites, a bunch of debt, ruined credit and I'm back working for the man. For all you would-be webmasters out there, here's my $25,000 dollar lesson:

Lesson 1: Be Sleazy.

I was actually a fairly principled self-promoter. About the worst I ever did was jump into a forum I couldn't give a crap about and pretend I liked it just long enough to dump a link there. I did this maybe a few dozen times, and if there was a forum specifically for promoting stuff, I used it.

That said, the way to make money on the web is to create a bunch of link trap websites. I'm not sure if there's just one small ring of sleazebags out there, or if there's a zillion mini-sleazebags, but this is the real way to make money. About 50% of the clicks on my various AdWords ads are from link traps setup on squatter domains, and I've paid them probably 10 times what I've made on the AdSense ads on my sites.

Worse, they make it very hard for a guy like me to promote my own sites, which (I like to think) are actually useful. I admit, it's easy to skirt the line between self-promoting spam and trying to get the word out about something you've made, but the web would be a friendlier place if there weren't more abusers than contributors.

Lesson 2: The 5 Stages of Web Promotion.

There are 5 basic stages to promoting a website:

  1. Brand new to the internet. No search engine rank, probably not even crawled yet. The site could be the coolest thing since caffinated beverages, but no-one could give a shit.
  2. Link building. You get as many links from as many sites as you can. (I liked to just email people with blogs or websites that are reasonably related and see if they'd like to exchange links.) You submit to DMOZ, Zeal and other web directories.
  3. Traffic building. Now you sit back and wait until your site is crawled and your search rank improves. Either your site is reasonably highly ranked for a few hot search terms, or go back to 2. In my experience, it takes at least a month (sometimes 3 or 4) for things like PageRank to really kick in on a new site.
  4. Search Engine Advertising. If you are REALLY starving for traffic, or just can't do anything to improve your ranking for a search phrase you MUST have, then you can advertise on it. I'd cherry pick just one or two phrases and play around with the bids until I wasn't paying out the nose, but would have decent visibility. Don't waste your time with super-popular search terms.
  5. Wait. If your site is good, people will bookmark it and pass links around. Your search engine rankings should gradually improve and you should see traffic slowly grow. If your traffic (which should be getting at least 100 visitors a day by now) is just slowly declining, either you need to revamp the site to make it more interesting or useful, or you should just give up the ghost and move onto the next project.

Lesson 3: Be Frugal.

You will not make very much money. AdSense seems like a great concept, and it's surprising how many of your visitors will click on the ads, but it is very difficult to drum up enough traffic to make them pay a significant portion of your webhosting costs. One year of hosting cost me about $1500. In that year, I got about 75,000 unique IPs visiting about 300,000 times for a total of 1,500,000 page hits (not including images, css, etc.). I made about $100 bucks on ad links of all types.

I burned through my savings of $10,000 in just about 6 months, mostly just on living expenses. I got through the next 6 months by borrowing $15,000 from family. I got through the next 3 months by ignoring "non-essential" bills like my school loan and anything where someone wouldn't actually break my legs or turn off a utility. I regret the last 9 months.

Lesson 4: Just Cause You Think it's Cool, Doesn't Mean it Is.

It's interesting to me how much of the web seems really crappy, yet no matter how good an idea you have there is always at least one site out there that does it, or something like it, just a little bit better. Here's an obfuscated (so no one can accuse me of self-promotion) list of the websites I created:

  • sioux review .com - A local business directory for Sioux Falls, SD.
  • shirt rank .com - A t-shirt ranking website.
  • kinda karma .com - A music, game and movie review website with some collaborative filtering mojo.
  • far family .com - A photo sharing website.
  • web volver .com - A RSS feed site.

I'll leave it to you to determine if my sites are "worthy" or just so much web-cruft, but I was VERY excited about each one as I created it. I had visions of millions of page hits and cash rolling out of my pockets each time, but every time I rolled one out it was met with resounding silence. Admittedly, they aren't genius web-sites, KindaKarma is clever, most didn't quite live up to what I envisioned, and Webvolver is just plain lame.

My advice is don't get too wrapped up in the moment. Don't listen to your friend's critiques, they'll just tell you how cool you are. If you can't imagine yourself and others using the website on a fairly regular basis, then abandon the idea. This is lame, but don't try to innovate too much. Innovation is great if you've got cash to burn on advertising and late-night snacks for your all-night testing/bug-fixing sessions, but an incremental improvement of an old idea is easier to code, easier to sell and is more likely to interest people. That said, don't try to improve what already is done really well, your "google-but-better.com" search engine idea is destined for failure.


In the end, I had fun, got to see a lot more daylight than I do now and while I won't be buying a home any time soon, I DID happen to meet my fiance during my "year of folly". (Which goes to show what not being a cube-rat working brutal hours can do for your social life.) Would I do it again, HELL NO. If I'm hot to do a shiny new site in the future, I'l try to take a month sabbatical from work, do one site, then go back to work while it incubates. Rinse and repeat and hope I get lucky.


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Display: Sort:
My $25,000 Lesson | 138 comments (126 topical, 12 editorial, 0 hidden)
Uh... wasn't that more than one lesson? nt (none / 0) (#1)
by Mystess on Tue Dec 20, 2005 at 12:57:57 AM EST

"Don't worry, You're better than somaudlin." - stuuart
He said 25000 (3.00 / 3) (#2)
by IceTitan on Tue Dec 20, 2005 at 02:02:26 AM EST

Nuke 'em from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.
[ Parent ]
DAMN Damn Damn Damn Damn (none / 1) (#8)
by Have A Nice Day on Tue Dec 20, 2005 at 05:41:37 AM EST

I was hoping maybe to do something similar sometime, quit the open-plan-office life (thankfully we don't actually seem to have cube farms in UKia, but still) and write a webpage. I had an idea, it's also sort of been done. Never mind then.

How precisely does one get out of "working for the man" then?

Have A Nice Day may have reentered the building.
By becoming the man $ (none / 1) (#12)
by bml on Tue Dec 20, 2005 at 08:19:22 AM EST

The Internet is vast, and contains many people. This is the way of things. -- Russell Dovey
[ Parent ]
I don't wanna be the man (3.00 / 2) (#13)
by Have A Nice Day on Tue Dec 20, 2005 at 08:22:04 AM EST

The man still has to come to the office most of the time and deal with business and stuff. Being the man sucks. And not many get to be tha man anyway. Now being the mans son, that could work, 'cos the man has money...

Have A Nice Day may have reentered the building.
[ Parent ]
Start your site first (3.00 / 5) (#33)
by rusty on Tue Dec 20, 2005 at 02:25:20 PM EST

Work on it in your spare time, work on whenever you can find time to slack off at work. Work on it on the weekends. Work all the time. Wait until it's producing enough revenue for you to live on, and only then should you even start considering quitting your job.

If you want advice from someone who's been there, I'd say save everything you make from the site until you have 6 months of your regular income saved. Then quit your job. I never did this, and always regretted it.

Also, if your idea has been done, that's a good thing, as long as you can think of a few ways you might be able to do it better. If you can, then you're golden -- especially if whoever's doing your idea now is making money from it.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Asshole warning. (none / 1) (#41)
by toulouse on Tue Dec 20, 2005 at 06:25:51 PM EST

work on [it?] whenever you can find time to slack off at work

Is it faintly possible that certain parts of Scoop aren't legally yours by any chance? ;)

More seriously, this is actually quite hard to do. Most contracts don't allow for "extra-curricular" activity during work time (or rather they do, but it belongs to "the man"); some even forbid it all together (I'd never sign such a thing, but they do exist). It's okay if you are freelance, or working flexible hours but, if you're doing an office shift, you can legally lose your entire project (or as near as damnit) if you write a single printf statement whilst at work. I've seen this happen. It's surprising how quickly server logs will be checked and activity monitored and audited if there's a whiff of profit in the air.

Having a life on top of this adds other impediments (as I'm sure you are aware).

'My god...it's full of blogs.' - ktakki

[ Parent ]
True enough, I suppose (3.00 / 2) (#44)
by rusty on Tue Dec 20, 2005 at 10:08:50 PM EST

As anyone who has taken a look at the older parts of the Scoop codebase will find it not hard at all to believe, I wrote a lot of it while not really employed as a programmer. It's basically what I did to teach myself perl, while I worked as an HTML monkey.

It stopped being aimless noodling and started to look like a working application when I actually did work as a programmer, but of the sort of odd-job hacker variety for a small company that did a number of computer and network related things. They actually helped me found the company that still officially owns and operates K5, and were partners in it with me for several years. and they supported open source very strongly, so there was never a problem with ownership.

There were a few parts of Scoop that I had already written for work, and eventually got absorbed because they did something useful, but actually I didn't write that much of it at work. It was mostly a nights and weekends thing.

But yes, it does behoove anyone who plans to do such a thing to make sure they're not working in the sort of place or under the sort of contract where that's going to be a problem.

I also strongly recommend not having a life while you try to start your own business. The only way you'll get anywhere is if you work all the time. No one becomes an overnight success without a good decade of constant work. :-)

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Yes.... (none / 0) (#133)
by Nomad on Sun Jan 08, 2006 at 08:10:14 AM EST

I also strongly recommend not having a life while you try to start your own business. The only way you'll get anywhere is if you work all the time. No one becomes an overnight success without a good decade of constant work. :-)

That's right. It reminds of the story of a woman who was at a piano recital. When the recital ends she goes up to the pianist. "That was wonderful," she says, "I'd give up everything to play like you."

"I did give up everything to play like me," he replies.

This isn't true only for virtuoso pianists but all sorts of endeavours in life, particularly when you start a business. There are all sorts of vaguely dishonest books out there telling you how easy it is to start a business. It's not. It's very, very difficult.

[ Parent ]
Innovate (3.00 / 2) (#9)
by ffrinch on Tue Dec 20, 2005 at 05:46:12 AM EST

"[D]on't try to innovate too much", just enter an existing market with a substandard product? ("There is always at least one site out there ... just a little bit better.")

What a winning strategy.

"I learned the hard way that rock music ... is a powerful demonic force controlled by Satan." — Jack Chick

Truth be told... (3.00 / 2) (#19)
by Sairon on Tue Dec 20, 2005 at 10:37:14 AM EST

that has been a winning strategy in the technology field.


[ Parent ]

It's a great strategy (3.00 / 5) (#32)
by rusty on Tue Dec 20, 2005 at 02:21:51 PM EST

The tech world is littered with the corpses of businesses and ideas that were too far ahead of their time, and got plowed under by businesses that were good at taking just the next step in a logical evolution.

Evolution is much more likely to succeed than revolution. And if you just can't help being a revolutionary, at the very least don't be the first business to invent a whole new field. Watch someone else do that; watch them spend a lot of time and money teaching people to understand the new business and finding out what their mistakes were. Then go in and do their business but without any of the mistakes or overhead.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Yeah (3.00 / 5) (#34)
by pHatidic on Tue Dec 20, 2005 at 02:32:26 PM EST

As Free Prize Inside by Seth Godin says, if you are working at cereal company and you need to increase sales you could:

A) Spend millions of dollars researching, developing, testing, and marketing a new type of cereal.

B) Put a free prize inside.

The idea is that the increase in sales will be the same regardless of how much or as little you spend, so just come up with a good idea that can be done on the cheap.

[ Parent ]

You failed because you violated rule #1 (none / 1) (#14)
by pHatidic on Tue Dec 20, 2005 at 08:32:36 AM EST

Your business exists to serve your customer's problems, not yours.

s/serve/solve NT (none / 1) (#15)
by pHatidic on Tue Dec 20, 2005 at 08:34:22 AM EST

[ Parent ]
oh yeah (3.00 / 2) (#16)
by pHatidic on Tue Dec 20, 2005 at 09:35:28 AM EST

+1FP though, great article

[ Parent ]
Business exists to earn money (none / 0) (#65)
by svampa on Wed Dec 21, 2005 at 08:47:46 PM EST

Obviously, something interesting to public is a good beginning, but there are many products/services that are good for the business, not for the customer... ask any bank.

Your business MUST NOT exists to serve your customer's problems. On the contrary, You serve your customers in order to make business. The difference is important, many technicians have started a business to server the customer... they have almost become charity organizations... and have run out of business.

[ Parent ]
I thought the last of the ad-sustained sites (3.00 / 6) (#17)
by cbraga on Tue Dec 20, 2005 at 10:11:29 AM EST

had closed around 2000.

Creating a site without any idea of how it would generate revenue was an acceptable plan five years ago and even then most sites that depended on ads closed. Even K5 is only up because Rusty doesn't pay for bandwidth.

Also, creating another four sites without solving that problem strikes me as lack of planning and excessive enthusiasm. And remember that Google once was "altavista-but-better.com" so there's definitely room for improving on existing ideas.

Websites as service (those that don't sell things like books or music) are quite far from a proven business plan and shooting aimlessly you would be unlikely to score a hit. In the end, your real $25k lesson is that you really lack business sense. Go get some.

ESC[78;89;13p ESC[110;121;13p

I agree with this (1.00 / 2) (#20)
by pHatidic on Tue Dec 20, 2005 at 11:00:39 AM EST

Here is a list of my personal Book picks on entrepreneurship if you are interested. (Note: These may or may not be referral links, I'm not sure)

[ Parent ]
Not really (3.00 / 2) (#26)
by bml on Tue Dec 20, 2005 at 12:27:19 PM EST

It's true that the banner-based business died with the dotcom burst, but things have changed. A lot of people are making a living out of AdSense nowadays. If your site is specific and popular enough you're gonna get a lot of click-throughs and a decent income.

I think two prominent k5ers have made some decent money with AdSense, and they didn't really try very hard.

Also, the Google vs Altavista is not a very good example for several reasons: Altavista was crappy, it didn't have almost 50% of market share as Google has today, and Google was not altavista-but-better - it was a revolution in the concept of web searches. Besides, I don't think the point of the author was that noone can pull out a new Google, but that you are not gonna pull out a new Google.

The Internet is vast, and contains many people. This is the way of things. -- Russell Dovey
[ Parent ]

uh (none / 0) (#28)
by cbraga on Tue Dec 20, 2005 at 01:15:28 PM EST

I'm pretty sure that MichaelCrawford put a lot of work adding content to his site(s), maybe even as a full time occupation.

Google was Altavista but better. They serve exactly the same purpose: web search. I agree that Altavista and its alternatives were crappy and that Google was a revolution but that doesn't make them different. The fact that there were tens of other search engines and Google dominated them all just shows how much better it was.

ESC[78;89;13p ESC[110;121;13p
[ Parent ]

the purpose of google isn't 'web search' (3.00 / 3) (#29)
by tkatchevzombie on Tue Dec 20, 2005 at 01:36:17 PM EST

the purpose of google is outsourcing marketing costs for small businesses.

'web search' is just a cameo for luring dumb so-called 'geeks'.

[ Parent ]

I could be wrong but... (none / 0) (#55)
by porkchop_d_clown on Wed Dec 21, 2005 at 03:33:42 PM EST

I'm pretty sure CBB's biggest hit only actually lasted a few months.

He made some serious cash during that time, but the site had a distinct run with a natural end date - on top of the world one day, stuff on a rock the next.

People who think "clown" is an insult have never met any.
[ Parent ]

Actually (3.00 / 3) (#30)
by rusty on Tue Dec 20, 2005 at 02:03:52 PM EST

I could afford the bandwidth for K5 from what we make advertising. I couldn't afford both the bandwidth and to pay myself anything though. But K5 isn't my main (or even major) source of income anyway, so if it came to that, it would still exist.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Also (3.00 / 8) (#31)
by rusty on Tue Dec 20, 2005 at 02:05:43 PM EST

Sites like dKos and metafilter are making very good money advertising. K5 probably could as well, if I wanted it to be my main job again. I've found that I enjoy this site a lot more when I don't have to look at it all day, though. :-)

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Hey, it's the SiouxReview guy! (3.00 / 5) (#21)
by CAIMLAS on Tue Dec 20, 2005 at 11:50:26 AM EST

Sorry to hear you botched your little endeavors.

I'm familiar with your SiouxReview site, as, well, I'm from Sioux Falls. (Small world, eh?) WHile I"ve heard of it, I've only really used it a couple of times. While it was a neat site, and certainly had value to someone that's not intimately familiar with SF, it lacks anything which would bring anyone, not just locals, to keep coming back.

Did you try getting funding from the local chamber of commerce? I'm sure they'd be interested in a site which helps promote the "thriving young city" image that many of them want to try and project.

Also, with something like SR.com, you can't rely on internet advertising. You need to work with local advertising companies, billboards, radio, and various other media to get it noticed by the people that would actually give a damn.

Your other sites (namely shirtrank) don't seem to have any method to acquire you income... but then I didn't dig too deep.

Good rule of thumb: don't quit your day job unless you've got an assured source of income. That goes for everything that is of the "branching out" nature: web design/developer, musician, writer, programmer, consultant, or prostitute*.

Frankly, with a 10k starting budget, I'm surprised you didn't simply start creating "original works" for pornography. There are soooo many slutty college-aged girls around here, and quite a few attractive international students from 3rd world countries that surely need the money.

* prostitutes always have an assured source of income, because sex always wells provided the person isn't ugly.

Socialism and communism better explained by a psychologist than a political theorist.

About SiouxReview (none / 0) (#23)
by bobej on Tue Dec 20, 2005 at 12:00:47 PM EST

SiouxReview works because of search traffic. Many of the businesses on the site aren't listed anywhere else, so SR floats to the top. I'm quite content to have a person visit once, maybe drop a review of a restaurant and be on their way. It's not really meant to be a portal, only a source of information.

I agree I should have done more on the local advertising front, but it's not cheap (about $1000 + production costs to do a month of TV advertising on our local CBS affiliate) and I wasn't convinced that advertising a website in the paper or on TV would really be worth it. We tried more grassroots type of advertising, mailers and flyers, but it was too time intensive and didn't seem to make much difference in the volume of traffic.

[ Parent ]

Personally (3.00 / 3) (#25)
by bml on Tue Dec 20, 2005 at 12:13:29 PM EST

I have never visited a URL I've seen on a flyer or any other non-digital medium. Well, except maybe for TV ads.

The Internet is vast, and contains many people. This is the way of things. -- Russell Dovey
[ Parent ]
If you aren't making any money.. (none / 1) (#88)
by emmons on Thu Dec 22, 2005 at 02:06:34 PM EST

Then it definitely doesn't work.  Do you charge any of the companies/organizations listed on the site for the service of listing them?  Otherwise you're just giving them free advertising!  Did you talk to your chamber of commerce?  Because you're doing a great job of advertising the city for free too.  How about the people that use your site?  They get useful information for free and they aren't clicking on your adsense.

In other words, everybody is benefiting from the site but you.

No wonder you lost money!  Did you ever actually think through ways to make money from these sites?

Want a way to make money being a web developer?  Freelance to the local business community.  Use the site to promote your service.  Instead of just adding local businesses, send them an invitation to enroll and use that to plug your service.  You'll get their attention because they think they're getting free advertising.  Some of them will pay attention to who sent it.  They'll appreciate the fact that they can hire someone local that they can talk to.  If you have good people skills and can communicate with business types in person... then bam, you've got customers.

In the beginning the universe was created. This has made a lot of people angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.
-Douglas Adams

[ Parent ]

shirtrank.com income (none / 1) (#24)
by bml on Tue Dec 20, 2005 at 12:10:19 PM EST

He probably gets paid if someone buys a T-shirt referring from his site.

It's a neat idea, but doesn't offer much incentive to come back neither. Unless you're totally crazy about t-shirts.

The Internet is vast, and contains many people. This is the way of things. -- Russell Dovey
[ Parent ]

$10k and all you can think of is porn? (2.75 / 4) (#27)
by nietsch on Tue Dec 20, 2005 at 12:57:20 PM EST

I admid that it think porn is cool too, but there may be more options to invest 10K that are not porn.  I've never tried but I've heard that being a male porn actor is pretty hard (to stay hard and cum on command). While you can hire other male actors to solve that, that takes the whole point out of it. And if you want to produce porn, as with any other product, you got to know where to get the raw material for the right price and who to sell your product to. Waving your 10K in the air will not solve those problems, but only attract intent on taking your 10k.

Besides, he met his fiancee, I don't think he is interested in making porn, he's trying to get all the sex in his life before he gets married :-)

[ Parent ]

$25,000 ? (none / 0) (#35)
by SpaceMonkeyGrif on Tue Dec 20, 2005 at 03:23:40 PM EST

I would have stopped at $100.

I found your problem (2.00 / 2) (#36)
by NaCh0 on Tue Dec 20, 2005 at 03:53:31 PM EST


You're running liberal/communist by a 10 to 1 margin.

Air America admires you being in the hole by only $25,000. The rest of us say good riddance.

K5: Your daily dose of socialism.

You're not kidding (none / 1) (#70)
by The Real Lord Kano on Thu Dec 22, 2005 at 01:35:17 AM EST

They actually have Mao and Soviet flag t shirts there.

I'd say yeah, that's a part of the problem.


[ Parent ]

YFI (none / 1) (#37)
by debacle on Tue Dec 20, 2005 at 04:44:24 PM EST

kind karma? It doesn't even have a domain name relevant to the site material!

None of the domains seem poignant or interesting, and if they had cropped up in a search I wouldn't even have visited them.

I also don't see why you needed to take off a year from work to make five shoddy web sites that seem more about generating shit than anything else.

It tastes sweet.

you went at the problem the wrong way (3.00 / 22) (#38)
by circletimessquare on Tue Dec 20, 2005 at 05:58:54 PM EST

first, way too many sites, stick to 1 or 2 subjects that actually interest you

two, don't go into it for the money, go into it for the passion. make a hobby of it. that way, you'll still enjoy it even if it makes $0. and if it makes money, even if marginally enough to support your hosting costs, than so be it

but otherwise, you can still be like that guy who spends $15,000 a year on remote control airplanes: he's never getting a penny back for all the time and effort and money, but he's got a big smile plastered across his face. that's the bottom line: happiness, not $

k5, slashdot, fark, etc... these were not started as grandiose megalomaniacal schemes to make money, they were started because rusty was testing some code, cmdrtaco was a major dweeb, and drew curtis thought squirrels with big nuts were really funny. that's it, that's the big mystery. the passion comes first, then the cash. just starting a bunch of speculative sites that you don't really care about shows in the sites. starting a site that makes you really happy just might do the same for someone else.

making $ on the web is like making $ as a musician or an actor: 1 out of thousands ever really succeeds. and i think you'll find that those who actually do succeed ACTUALLY LIKE to make music, or to act. thinking only about the cash at the end, without any real passion for what might get you your much sought after $, means you most certainly never will

meanwhile, going into it for fun, and not giving one shit about how much $ you'll make, makes you that much closer to really making some cash

it's a weird rule of life actually: if you ignore happiness as your prime motivation, you are rewarded with exactly that, less happiness. and even if through some miraculous divine intervention you actually make some cash while ignoring your passions, you'll wind up rich and miserable.

bullshit you say? no, i'm completely right: if you ignore happiness as your motivation, you teach yourself that you don't care about yourself. this fucks you up mentally. this leads to misery. happiness, like death, is something no amount of cash can help or hinder

in the rich west, you have yuppies busting their ass every day to make mortgage payments and sitting in long commutes and not being close to their family as a result and getting divorced, children who hate their parents, etc.: misery. rich, but miserable. meanwhile, some guy in cambodia barely subsiding on a few crops he's lucky enough to plant focuses on his family, and a hobby or two, and dies with a big fat fucking smile on his face, surrounded by a family and wife who loves him. poor, but happy

so just follow your passions that make you happy in life. the rest takes care of itself. weird, but true. because you'd rather die a homeless bum on the street with a big smile plastered across your face than a miserable millionaire in a penthouse apartment, whether you know that fact, or not, it's absolutely true of you, and everyone on this planet. happiness is the means, and the ends, all rolled into one. never forget that. as soon as you make your happiness of secondary importance to some other pursuit in life, you've just doomed yourself, at that very moment.

passion sells, the rest is just so much wannabe cruft, in life, and on the web

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

I read an interesting study once. (3.00 / 5) (#43)
by originalbigj on Tue Dec 20, 2005 at 09:34:16 PM EST

Some people passed out questionnaires asking people how happy they were. As it turned out, in the developed world, money is not correlated to happiness. However, in less developed countries, with more wealth inequality, happiness is very much correlated to one's income. I would argue that while your American yuppie will probably kill himself, your Cambodian farmer is probably pretty sick of working in the damn paddies. I agree with your general advice circle, but don't write off a little money completely. I'm poor and happy right now, but I'm 23. I'm not going to put up with this when I've got kids.

[ Parent ]
It's because... (3.00 / 5) (#53)
by bradasch on Wed Dec 21, 2005 at 11:22:54 AM EST

There is a difference between "poor" meaning "not having ways to support oneself" and meaning "not having money for leisure". Developed countries are in the "second class of poverty", and money usually can be discarded as a measure of happiness.

If you are starving, you are "poor" and miserable. If you can't buy the new iPod, but enjoy a decent home, food and clothing, you are "poor", but happy.

You will find many Cambodian farmers "working the damn paddies" and happy, just because they get what they consider enough for themselves and their families.

As you will find many American yuppies with everything you ever wanted, but unhappy, because they need more of something else they can't get.

It's very relative. And I guess we could define several degrees of poverty also... but in the end I agree with cts: if you have your passions fulfilled (which usually take some amount of money), you are happy. If you don't have anything to start, you are unhappy.

[ Parent ]

recent economist story (3.00 / 2) (#64)
by danny on Wed Dec 21, 2005 at 08:15:40 PM EST

This Economist story, contrasting a doctor in the Congo with Appalachian "white trash" may be relevant here:

[900 book reviews and other stuff]
[ Parent ]

Thank you for the link (none / 1) (#79)
by omrib on Thu Dec 22, 2005 at 09:28:50 AM EST

I may consider a subscription now. I'm not joking, either.

[ Parent ]
I have a quote... (none / 1) (#71)
by Fuzzwah on Thu Dec 22, 2005 at 02:16:22 AM EST

"That which is offered must sometimes be enough".

Happiness comes from accepting your situation.

The best a human can do is to pick a delusion that helps him get through the day. - God's Debris
[ Parent ]

no, you want 100 websites that produce $1/day (none / 1) (#63)
by kpaul on Wed Dec 21, 2005 at 08:05:20 PM EST

not one website that produces $100/day.

one, it's a lot easier to make the first. two, if one or more of the domains get 'hit' by a filter or something else odd in the SEs, you still have other ones running.

carnegie is the only guy, i think, who suggested putting all eggs into one basket. he was a steel baron, though, and i imagine the rules for them are different. ;)

there's a fine line between spam and content when you're talking hundreds of sites, though.

domain age also plays a big factor in SEs these days, imho...

2014 Halloween Costumes
[ Parent ]

your goal is different than mine (none / 0) (#69)
by circletimessquare on Thu Dec 22, 2005 at 01:02:04 AM EST

i'm talking about creating a website for the sake of loving the content of the website, and allowing your passion to attract $, completely and utterly forgetting the mechanics you are talking about

you're just acting like a bean counter, you're not saying anything remotely valid to the issue at hand, because the top story is about how disappointed the guy was. you're pov is emotionless, i am addressing his emotional concern

your point is valid if it's all about making money, but obviously, it's not

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

no, i agree that you should have one or two (none / 1) (#91)
by kpaul on Thu Dec 22, 2005 at 03:02:10 PM EST

'special sites' that you love. however, it's also good to have several smaller sites that generate income to support your endeavors in 'beloved site'...

2014 Halloween Costumes
[ Parent ]

happiness not a good goal (none / 1) (#74)
by m a r c on Thu Dec 22, 2005 at 06:21:05 AM EST

While I agree that rating happiness over wealth is a good idea, I don't with the idea that happiness in itself is life's holy grail. To start with its so abstract that its almost unobtainable. Whereas you have happy moments, to set a goal of happiness would entail the requirement of always being happy all the time, which is simply impossible. Even if this were possible, you would be accustomed to this new found happiness as the norm and it would lose its special status.

You contrast choosing to live happily over choosing wealth, but there are other goals in life not so hollow as wealth that I believe are more important, such as self awareness, that lead to greater appreciation of the happy moments you have. When you die, all the money you have means nothing. When you die, all the happiness you have had means the same. To equate happiness and purpose seems like self delusion to me.
I got a dog and named him "Stay". Now, I go "Come here, Stay!". After a while, the dog went insane and wouldn't move at all.
[ Parent ]

okay (none / 1) (#75)
by circletimessquare on Thu Dec 22, 2005 at 06:33:36 AM EST

rather than "happiness" as the goal of life, howabout simply "the pursuit of happiness"

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]
Don't be sleazy. (3.00 / 4) (#40)
by emmasdad on Tue Dec 20, 2005 at 06:14:12 PM EST

You say "Lesson 1: Be Sleazy."

Actually lesson 1 really is "be honest and open, and don't make sleaze.

You won't make a huge amount of money, you'll just make a lot more than -$25000.

You also say, "Lesson 4: Just Cause You Think it's Cool, Doesn't Mean it Is."

Might I suggest that you take that particular rule more closely to heart? You may find you do a lot better.

gotta agree (none / 0) (#42)
by zenofchai on Tue Dec 20, 2005 at 07:03:44 PM EST

"don't be evil" is not a bad slogan while you can be trusted to follow it.
The K5 Interactive Political Compass SVG Graph
[ Parent ]
I didn't get sandboxed (none / 1) (#45)
by Rippit the Ogg Frog on Wed Dec 21, 2005 at 12:48:17 AM EST

I expected to be. When I registered the domain I figured I should put up some kind placeholder page so that six months from now, when I finally have some software ready for people to download, I would start showing up in the search engines then.

But I got crawled by Google the day after my first page went up, so I figured I should put some kind of content up so that maybe the people who found me through search engines would want to come back.

I'm going to try to get at least one significant new page up each weekend until my software (a Free (GPL) CD ripper and encoder) is ready.

I think my site has potential, but I just don't have enough time to deal with it.

Software isn't the only thing that should be free. Music should be too, as it once was.

My music gear wasn't free. (3.00 / 2) (#58)
by Ignore Amos on Wed Dec 21, 2005 at 05:06:23 PM EST

Studio time isn't free. Album pressing isn't free. How does it make sense that the end product should be free?

And that explains why airplanes carry cargo on small boats floating in their cargo aquarium. - jmzero
[ Parent ]

Music used to word differently, pre-RIAA (2.60 / 5) (#60)
by TheGaffer on Wed Dec 21, 2005 at 06:13:40 PM EST

Back in the day, artists of all sorts were sustained by patronage, be that change in a busker's hat or a commission by some nobleman. With every technological step (mass-produced sheet music, records, radio) the industry grew and with it the western-capitalistic concept of regarding everything as a scarce commodity. Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of western capitalism, but treating something that can be infinitely reproduced at negligible cost (like software or music) the same way we something inherently scarce (like a barrel of oil) is madness. Keeping a tight reign on your rights only makes sense if you have the marketing might to sell someone the pig-in-a-poke that is a shrinkwrapped CD. For those of us who aren't making the commercial pop that will get played on radio and plugged by the big 5, a different approach is required to succeed through anything other than sheer luck.

If the intangible product you make really matters to people, you'll be supported to do it even if you never sell it - with paypal buttons and cafepress it's easier now than it's ever been. By all means sell CDs, but realise that if people like your music they'll want to give you money. The hypothetical of losing CD sales due to piracy is more than compensated by the priceless free promotion you'll gain. Here in the UK we're seeing an explosion of independent artists making a career for themselves through free downloads of their music on sites like MySpace - ask a band like the Arctic Monkeys if they'd rather be holding on to their music and playing sleazy pubs or giving it away for free and playing on TV and in huge venues. They've got a deal, they sell CDs, but they understand that giving away music is very good for your career if you make what people want to hear.
Poker for Linux, Mac & Windows
[ Parent ]
White Hat SEO Tip (2.66 / 3) (#46)
by Rippit the Ogg Frog on Wed Dec 21, 2005 at 12:55:27 AM EST

Post rough drafts of your new pages as soon as you have something coherent written. Link them, but don't announce them publicly.

If you're getting crawled regularly, then they'll be crawled by the search engines, so that by the time you have your final draft posted, they'll already be getting search engine referrals.

Works for me every time, but another webmaster I discussed this with felt it was a bad idea, because her readers expected her to keep to high standards.

Software isn't the only thing that should be free. Music should be too, as it once was.

Sanity Tip (2.83 / 6) (#47)
by durdee on Wed Dec 21, 2005 at 04:07:28 AM EST

Don't pretend to be a frog.
Fact: You have no insight whatsoever into my motivations, personality, or thought process.
[ Parent ]
it worked for mr. crazy frog (none / 0) (#127)
by tkatchevzombie on Tue Dec 27, 2005 at 12:38:08 PM EST

he's a rockstar now.

[ Parent ]
Fuck yuo hippie (none / 1) (#112)
by Chewbacca Uncircumsized on Fri Dec 23, 2005 at 10:54:08 PM EST

You'll pay for music and like it

[ Parent ]
HOW-TO make a small fortune making Web sites... (3.00 / 12) (#49)
by beak on Wed Dec 21, 2005 at 06:14:33 AM EST

... start with a large fortune...

Just remember (none / 1) (#50)
by starX on Wed Dec 21, 2005 at 08:03:06 AM EST

The Internet is for Porn.

Keep this one fact in mind, and you will be profitable.

"I like you starX, you disagree without sounding like a fanatic from a rock-solid point of view. Highfive." --WonderJoust
You are more interesting now (3.00 / 4) (#52)
by BottleRocket on Wed Dec 21, 2005 at 11:02:59 AM EST

...Than when you still thought you were hot shit.

About the worst I ever did was jump into a forum I couldn't give a crap about and pretend I liked it just long enough to dump a link there.

I think that's true. I don't recall you ever pretended to like this site. http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2005/6/3/105038/9167

$ . . . . . $ . . . . . $ . . . . . $
. ₩ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . * . . . . . * . . . . . * . . . . . * . . . . . *
$ . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $
Yes I do download [child pornography], but I don't keep it any longer than I need to, so it can yield insight as to how to find more. --MDC
$ . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $
. . . . * . . . . . * . . . . . * . . . . . * . . . . . *
. ₩ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
$ . . . . . $ . . . . . $ . . . . . $

+1fp: For the comments, aticle is interesting too (3.00 / 5) (#54)
by fyngyrz on Wed Dec 21, 2005 at 11:52:58 AM EST

Aside from what I do for a living, I've got several sites up that make more in income than they cost to keep up — if you don't count my time, which could be considered very expensive indeed.

Other comments have emphasized that you should love what you do; I would say that this is the most important type of remark in the entire comment set to this point. The sites that have done the best for me thus far are sites that I am passionate about.

That's not to say I don't have some sites out there that I put my heart into, but didn't raise a following — I do — but the two that are doing the best could cover the costs of the entire rest of them without breaking a sweat.

I have found that buying ads on Google without a concrete product to offer is a poor idea. However, displaying Google ads on your web sites works, as your traffic builds. With typical hosting that supplies adequate bandwidth for a mostly-text site going for $30/month, and domain registration for $35/year (cheaper if you want to put up with smaller registrars), you have to bring in about $40/month just to break even. It goes without saying (though I'm going to say it) that you won't make this right out of the gate. So, again as has beeen said, you have to plan for this, expect to lose it, and build solid, useful content. If you do, income will rise and eventually, the site will make its costs back. This is cause for celebration, but certainly not for quitting your day job.

The sites that will make the most money are the sites that have something to offer. The more concrete it is, the more they will make. To that end, I will offer an up example of mine:


This is a site that is of use to those who are interested in genealogy in general, and what mom, grandpa, and great-uncle Frank went through in their lifetime. It generates timelines — you put in a name and a birth+(optional death) date, and it returns an HTML page with historical events plotted out against the submitted person's lifespan. There are some other services, such as who was born in your birthyear (any birthday) and who was born on your birthday (any birthyear) but these aren't the core of the site's attraction, I can say for certain.

We take paypal donations (and receive, very, very few) and we host Google ads, which make what I consider to be an astonishing amount of money and this is, in my opinion, because it (a) offers something concrete and unique to the visitor, (b) the site is exactly what it seems to be, (c) there is enough text on the site's main pages so that Google can serve relevant ad content that will actually get clicked. Aside from this, as I said above, I was very interested in the site early on, and this kept it up while it wasn't making money. And, we have lots of traffic as a result of (a) and (b).

This theme is also reflected in my other sites that make money, as opposed to consume money.

I stick to a few basic principles: I don't use any client side technology; that means that no matter what your browser, my sites will work for the visitor. I try to provide a reasonably wordy commentary for whatever is going on at the site — this works well for Google's ad services, but it also works well for the visitor who is actually interested — pretty pictures may be worth a thousand words, but they're typically only 2-letter words, IMHO. :) I used to write my server-side features in perl, but I found python and now I can write stuff about five to ten times faster (and I suggest anyone else who thinks they're in love with perl to take a few weeks to learn python, it's an amazing language.) There is no question that the more efficient the coding process is, the better it is for you, so I consider this a significant tip.

Aside from that, I sell software along the lines of Photoshop in some ways, a concrete product and by anyone's standards a major, major application, and that, of course, is the holy grail of how to make money on the web. Compared to the income derived from that, all my website efforts are just noise. But again, I really enjoy those other sites, easily as much as I enjoy the day to day job, even though the money's not even remotely comparable.

So. Don't quit your day job. Offer something of concrete value. Bring passion to what you do. Roundly ignore your critics and keep doing what you enjoy. Don't worry about linking. If you create something wonderful (or even significantly useful), other people will do the linking for you. Put your efforts into improving what you have to offer, instead. Links come and go; valuable content is a permanant boost for your site. Try to make the value you offer timeless; current events and commentary on same, by their very nature, lose value over time and unless (like Kuro5hin and slash) you have people who both create content and add value to it, you'll kill yourself in a heartbeat if that's all you do. It'll eat all your time, all the time, and you'll have to be amazingly lucky to stand a chance of breaking even.

Blog, Photos.

Topical Question (hoping someone can answer) (3.00 / 4) (#56)
by porkchop_d_clown on Wed Dec 21, 2005 at 03:35:16 PM EST

I run a website for a small (very small) club; and I'd swear that fully 90% of the traffic is referrer spam. To the point where I have given up and completely blocked several class A address ranges. My question is: WTF? Why do they do this? Is it to diddle with AdSense? To boost their google page ranks?

I don't run Ad Sense now, but I've been thinking about it as a way to (slightly) defray expenses. Except that if this crap is just going to prevent me from getting and returns from AdSense at all, why bother?

People who think "clown" is an insult have never met any.

i have several theories... (none / 0) (#61)
by kpaul on Wed Dec 21, 2005 at 08:00:48 PM EST

1) clueless, scriptkiddie bhat seo's

2) you pissed someone off and it's kinda like a low level continuous DDoS

that's where the real money is made (spammers), but i can't see myself going to the dark side.

i'm six months into it and may last another several months before having to give up. Muncie Free Press is a local/regional play which will/can work, though.

if not, i can always go to honduras for a while...

not 'the man' again, tho. no, not that...

2014 Halloween Costumes
[ Parent ]

I could believe that I pissed someone off but... (none / 0) (#66)
by porkchop_d_clown on Wed Dec 21, 2005 at 11:35:03 PM EST

It seems like a lot of trouble and expense when the only person who will ever know my site is constantly being referred to by Russian porn sites is, you know, me.

People who think "clown" is an insult have never met any.
[ Parent ]
for me, personally, (none / 0) (#68)
by kpaul on Wed Dec 21, 2005 at 11:46:47 PM EST

it looks like a lot of zombie machines so no expense and no hassle really. don't get me wrong - i don't understand it either. it's so easy to set them up, though, that it's no trouble to hit someone this way...

2014 Halloween Costumes
[ Parent ]

You're probably right. (none / 0) (#82)
by porkchop_d_clown on Thu Dec 22, 2005 at 12:06:14 PM EST

Out a quixotic urge I did send a complaint to the abuse address of one ISP; they wanted me to, basically, take part in a multi-day dance with their support team.

Yeah, I can just see doing that with every single zombie that's bombing me.

Ah, well. DENY FROM at least lets me block the worst offenders.

People who think "clown" is an insult have never met any.
[ Parent ]

related article in new yorker... (none / 0) (#92)
by kpaul on Thu Dec 22, 2005 at 03:26:18 PM EST

here... good read.
2014 Halloween Costumes
[ Parent ]
Damn. (none / 0) (#106)
by porkchop_d_clown on Fri Dec 23, 2005 at 09:33:52 AM EST

I should count my blessings; I don't think I'm being hit by more than 5 or 10 boxes at a time.

Looking through it, I think you had a point earlier - they seem to be targeting me because my site runs the Drupal CMS and Drupal, by default, allows all users to see the referral logs and trackbacks - so the spammers have an incentive to try to get on those logs.

Which really pisses me off because my main "pay off" for running the site is the vanity boost that comes from seeing I've been getting links from Make magazine or something like that. Blocking those logs annoyed all the users.

People who think "clown" is an insult have never met any.
[ Parent ]

another thought (none / 0) (#120)
by kpaul on Sun Dec 25, 2005 at 07:45:45 PM EST

here (post #22)
2014 Halloween Costumes
[ Parent ]
January Wired (none / 0) (#117)
by porkchop_d_clown on Sat Dec 24, 2005 at 09:26:32 AM EST

I just got my January Wired yesterday, it has a feature article on zombies and the threat to adsense and other pay-per-click advertising. I don't think it applies in my case (I don't have ads right now) but it's a very interesting read.

People who think "clown" is an insult have never met any.
[ Parent ]
Blocking referer spam (none / 1) (#76)
by pankkake on Thu Dec 22, 2005 at 06:46:45 AM EST

Try Bad Behavior.

[ Parent ]
Got it. (none / 1) (#107)
by porkchop_d_clown on Fri Dec 23, 2005 at 09:50:58 AM EST

Yeah, BB keeps them out of the site logs, but (unfortunately) it doesn't seem to stop them from trying to access the site - so instead of a flood of hits in my access log, I've got a flood of denials in the BB log. Better, but still annoying, and 5-10% still gets through.

Also unfortunately, BB depends on the zombie bot using odd/non-compliant headers. It shouldn't be that hard to write a bot that looks just like, say, Firefox 1.5.

People who think "clown" is an insult have never met any.
[ Parent ]

why did you ever think (1.75 / 4) (#57)
by kbudha on Wed Dec 21, 2005 at 04:56:51 PM EST

that you could make money off any of this shit?

All you did was contribute to the clutter of the web. That and your own debt.

Actually (none / 0) (#59)
by Andrevan on Wed Dec 21, 2005 at 06:01:18 PM EST

The real lesson to learn is this: promotion alone gets you nothing, and you certainly can't make a living off it. Find a niche, and if you build it, they will come - but you need to build it first and build it well. I designed the IT/promotion/web side of an information/reviews website with a 50/50 after taxes agreement, and I'm making a good $150/month from AdSense and Commission Junction (my partner is making that much as well). It's certainly not a living, but it's nice to have. The website is now considered the authority on its subject area, a highly specialized niche, but not because it was promoted vigorously by me (though it was) - because it has great content and useful information.

my experience (3.00 / 3) (#62)
by danny on Wed Dec 21, 2005 at 08:03:44 PM EST

I'm now making a decent amount from my websites -- through AdSense and Amazon -- but I'm not throwing in my (part-time) day job anytime soon.

My advice to anyone who thinks this is a good way to make a living is to try it on a small scale first -- keep on at your ordinary job, but build one or two small sites in your spare time and see how that goes. That will give you some idea of a) whether you enjoy being a webmaster and have or can acquire the necessary skills b) the costs and possible income sources.

Experience from a small trial may not scale, of course, but it'll give you some clue as to whether it's feasible as a business.

[900 book reviews and other stuff]

Lesson 6: (3.00 / 8) (#67)
by modmans2ndcoming on Wed Dec 21, 2005 at 11:39:50 PM EST

Don't be a moron and quit your day job before you are actually making some coin on the website deal.

easier said than done (none / 1) (#85)
by paf0 on Thu Dec 22, 2005 at 01:30:59 PM EST

I've been trying to create the killer-app in my spare time. It's something no one has done and might end up being cool. I just can't find the time to get it done while "working for the man".

While things didn't go well here, I can understand why the author felt the need to quit and give his ideas a go.
The real question is not whether machines think but whether men do. --B. F. Skinner
icq 3505006
[ Parent ]
Actually... (3.00 / 2) (#90)
by skyknight on Thu Dec 22, 2005 at 02:36:27 PM EST

if you have a really good business idea, then you probably need to work it full time. Fragmented effort, a few hours here and a few hours there, is not a recipe for success. The real issue is to make sure that you have a really good and novel idea first. Also, you should probably move into a cheap place and have enough savings to last two years, perhaps sharing a place with a co-founder to keep expenses really low and to keep both of you busting your asses full time.

If ten grand only gets you through six months, and your business plan is about as specific as "make cool web sites", then you are fucked, as the OP has amply demonstrated.

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
In that vein... (none / 0) (#129)
by Shajenko on Thu Dec 29, 2005 at 11:42:05 AM EST

Make sure that your employment contract doesn't say that your company gets the rights to whatever you do while you're working there.

[ Parent ]
My experiences (none / 1) (#72)
by chroma on Thu Dec 22, 2005 at 03:41:23 AM EST

I'll just barge right in here to promote my own web site.

I'm actually about 2 months into doing this right now. I figured out that I can't get rich just by selling my time as a consultant. I want a real business, where I can sell things. I'm following a business model that's already slightly established.

RSS this and file sharing that seem pretty picked over. But we're just getting started on computer controlled custom manufacturing. So I came up with Big Blue Saw to help people make real parts with their computers.

bigbluesaw.com (none / 0) (#93)
by smallpond on Thu Dec 22, 2005 at 04:32:55 PM EST

You have a good business model. I think you need to do some work on the website, tho. Fix the character set bug for example.

[ Parent ]
Big Blue Saw (none / 0) (#102)
by chroma on Fri Dec 23, 2005 at 12:05:14 AM EST

Ah, but the site you see is only the beginning of the business; just a way to fund the larger, related project.

I actually have a volunteer who has tracked down a volunteer graphic designer to help with the look of the site. Everything you see was either created by me or is open source or public domain.

I've seen problems with the character set, but haven't put in the time to track down the issue yet. It looks at least passable on most web browsers, so it's at the bottom of my list of things to do.

[ Parent ]

this is supposed to be constructive: (3.00 / 2) (#73)
by th0m on Thu Dec 22, 2005 at 03:47:20 AM EST

your sites are badly designed, both visually (ugly!) and logistically (confusing!). it's unfortunately the case that this "cool web site/service" space is so overcontested that nobody's going to stick around to even give a chance to a site that doesn't already look great. look at riffs.com, for example: would you use a site that looks like kindakarma.com when there are sites like this out there? functionality aside, you should have spent some of that $25k on a designer -- ANY designer -- to try to give yourself an edge.

Lesson n: (3.00 / 2) (#77)
by pitarou on Thu Dec 22, 2005 at 07:47:28 AM EST

Sheer dumb luck.

An anecdote:

A friend of mine has his own little web-log.  He discusses significant life-events and writes occasional thoughtful mini-essays.  Very little traffic -- no big deal.

Until ...

One of his posts discussed a temporary ailment suffered by his terminally-ill father.  It was a very frightening episode, but turned out to be fairly minor.  And then other people started posting comments.  People whom my friend had never heard of.  It turns out that my friend's 'blog was the only suitable forum for people worried about this condition.

To my knowledge, pretty much all the traffic is now just follow-ups to that one 'blog post.  If you want to know about this ailment and you're feeling lucky, Google takes you straight to him.

Sheer dumb luck.

Yes. The biggest hit on my little site (none / 1) (#108)
by porkchop_d_clown on Fri Dec 23, 2005 at 09:56:15 AM EST

was an article on making your own LED flashlights. (For reasons I won't go into, dim red lights are preferable when using a telescope).

The article was picked up by Make's blog, then I started getting hits from dumpster divers and (I'm not kidding) possum hunters.

But since the site does have a very specific purpose they tend to just read the article then leave.

People who think "clown" is an insult have never met any.
[ Parent ]

Labyrinthitis (none / 0) (#114)
by sharpblue on Sat Dec 24, 2005 at 05:34:42 AM EST

Assuming this is about my experience with labyrinthitis, it was me and not my dad who suffered from it. But the response has certainly surprised me greatly: most of the things that I thought were pretty good on my site have met with total silence and then this one post about an obscure illness generated over a thousand comments so far and still seems to be building up speed!

[ Parent ]
Yeah, wacky search results rule (none / 0) (#124)
by mozmozmoz on Mon Dec 26, 2005 at 10:56:38 PM EST

For reasons that make no sense to me, I've got a couple of quite high ranksing in google searches for things. So I get traffic from them, even though with the image search one the thumbnail bears no resemblence to what I suspect people are looking for (that gets results #1 and #3 onwards). Adwords pays well enough to cover hosting costs. When I got slashdotted I made nothing at all out of the hits - too many /.ers have adwords filtered out or maybe they're just stingy. Some of it is luck, some of it is having search-friendly pages. A lot of it is having content worth linking to. The last one is worth focussing on IMO.

There's lots of comedy on TV too. Does that make children funnier?
[ Parent ]

Bad sites (none / 0) (#78)
by vadim on Thu Dec 22, 2005 at 09:01:55 AM EST

siouxreview: I don't know where "Sioux Falls, SD" is, or even what "SD" stands for. IMHO, it's not a very bright idea to make a website so geographically limited. Why limit yourself to an area, when the web gives the whole world access to your site?

shirtrank: If I wanted shirts, there are already plenty sites where to buy them. Personally, the only t-shirt I bought in the last few months was a Debian one at HispaLinux.

kindakarma: Now that's some bad web design. Really, if it's any good, I'll never know it, because it looks *exactly* like that crap dead sites get replaced with. The moment I see something like that, I close the page.

farfamily: Better looking, but why would I want to pay for that? There are plenty free places where to post photos, like flickr or even LiveJournal.

webvolver: I guess this might have some potential, but given the number of comments it looks like it needs to get a whole lot more popular before it starts going somewhere. BTW, the current front page seems to have a HUGE Nokia ad on it. It may not be one, but that's what it looks like.

<@chani> I *cannot* remember names. but I did memorize 214 digits of pi once.

A Rebuttal (none / 0) (#80)
by bobej on Thu Dec 22, 2005 at 10:58:28 AM EST

I'll try not to get too defensive here, but here's a sort of appendix to the article:

  • SiouxReview: Agreed it has limited appeal, but it's by far the most successful site. Granted, if you're not living in, or somehow connected to Sioux Falls, you could give two shits, but it happens to be the best place for info about Sioux Falls ATM. I come up on the first page for about 75% of all the businesses listed on the site. The personal appeal is that it gives me a good place to find out what the best places to eat in SF are.
  • ShirtRank: This is the newest of the sites and it's intended for the niche CafePress crowd. In the limited time it's been out, and the limited amount of effort required to create it (basically one night of marathon coding) it's definitely one of the winners. I happen to be a t-shirt fanatic myself and I find the UI of most t-shirt sites to be a bit shit, so this is my take on something better. On the todo list is to incorporate some collaborative filtering algos ala. KindaKarma.
  • KindaKarma: The personal appeal here was that I'd get to find cool stuff in "the long tail" by correlating different types of media. The algo is fairly successful (better than Amazon recommendations IMO), but you're right, the UI is nasty without images of the media itself and playing editor for 20 to 30 thousand images is a nightmare.
  • FarFamily: This site consumed about 75% of my energies during my 15 months. What you've missed, is that this is private (as in SSL and password/login) photo sharing with somewhat better storage guarantees (since you're paying for it) than other sites. There's also a bunch of calendaring, news posting, message board type functions inside. It's my failing in not being able to communicate that message more clearly and to a wider market. IMO it's a failure because of the lack of marketing money. There are far worse sites out there (seemingly) making money. If I had half a million, I think I could hit this one out of the park. My personal reasons for doing the site are that I have a big extended family and the ability to privately share and search in our 6,000-some photos and that's very very cool.
  • Webvolver: The personal appeal is the idea of filtering down the deluge of good RSS feeds out there into something that's more consumable. This is the red-headed stepchild of the bunch since it came at the tail-end of my "year of error" so I didn't spend as much time with it as I would have liked, it has some big UI problems and the rate of incoming votes isn't fast enough to keep up with the rate of incoming RSS items.

So Lesson 5: Even Though You Think You Do, You Don't Know Shit

KindaKarma, FarFamily and Webvolver would probably appeal to a wide audience, but I:

  • lacked the marketing expertise to make them appeal to a fickle and highly competitive market.
  • lacked the advertising dollars and expertise to bring them to a wide enough audience to ever get any kind of toe-hold.
  • lacked the design expertise to ensure that what the sites do well, they do in a manner that is intuitive and eye catching.

[ Parent ]
Looked a bit better at them (none / 0) (#81)
by vadim on Thu Dec 22, 2005 at 11:38:16 AM EST

So, a revised opinion:

ShirtRank: On a first look, I thought you were selling them. My immediate thought was "why would I risk giving my card number to a random site for a t-shirt when I could go with something that's been around for ages like cafepress"? I finally noticed the links go to cafepress, but:

Now I don't get how you earn money (commisions from cafepress?), and it makes the actual buying stranger. See, I don't buy a Debian t-shirt so much because I like the logo (although it's cool), but more because it's a an easy way to support Debian and get a shirt in one step.

My impression about cafepress is the same: If I bought a t-shirt from them it'd be because I like the design *and* support the site. If just I wanted a shirt, I'd go out and buy one. Giving money to some random site is a bit strange.

KindaKarma: My problem with it is that it looks like a site that died. That is, if somebody gave me the URL, I'd assume that there used to be something there, but not anymore. The Yahoo-style bunch of links, ads and search textbox make it look very similar to many dead sites, or places like en.wikipedi.org

FarFamily: Ahh. Hadn't thought of that.
<@chani> I *cannot* remember names. but I did memorize 214 digits of pi once.
[ Parent ]

About ShirtRank (none / 0) (#99)
by bobej on Thu Dec 22, 2005 at 08:01:36 PM EST

ShirtRank hasn't made a dollar yet, I just liked the idea and had some thoughts about using CSS and JS for the layout, but yes, if it ever makes a dollar, it will be from affiliate sales.

[ Parent ]
fat family (none / 0) (#84)
by jolt rush soon on Thu Dec 22, 2005 at 01:14:12 PM EST

flickr has the ability to do all the privacy stuff (if you want) and will win every time because it has free accounts (which are very good) as well as paid for accounts(which are excellent).

the event planning looks like a nice feature, but i'm sure someone could code something similar in less than a day and that's not enough to convert the masses of flickr using people. there's community recipie sites too, you know?

as for the paid-for-assurance, well, it's not very assuring is it? certainly not when your choice becomes eat dinner or host my photos. i'm pretty sure that i'd rather keep my mail with google rather than someone i don't know so unless you've got some brand new feature that's not provided anywhere else and the fact that you've got it is going to make you a financially stable hosting option.

i guess my point is, and i appreciate that you've had the guts to actually try to make it, but you either need to have a good idea or to just do something significantly better than other and make the migration process easy.

your problem is not marketing &mdash how much marketing does del.icio.us have? i certainly haven't seen any flickr or firefox adverts from here. what you need is a really good product or service.
Subosc — free electronic music.
[ Parent ]

http://www.myfamily.com (none / 0) (#116)
by fn0rd on Sat Dec 24, 2005 at 08:28:38 AM EST

It's like your site, only freer. And my mom can find it.

This fatwa brought to you by the Agnostic Jihad
[ Parent ]

hyper-local news - geographic gold mines (none / 1) (#101)
by kpaul on Thu Dec 22, 2005 at 08:37:30 PM EST

there's a lot going on in this space. from BackFence to H20 Town to my own Muncie Free Press. one almost needs to be regional, though. granted, there aren't a lot of success stories yet, but the biz model is being perfected.
2014 Halloween Costumes
[ Parent ]
Computer system mimics neurobio cognition (1.00 / 3) (#83)
by k24anson on Thu Dec 22, 2005 at 12:50:12 PM EST

The original piece of prose I like to post is:

Template for computer systems mimicking neurobiological cognition discovered.

Then I show a link. It piques the curiosity. I don't think it's deceptive or the message fraudulent ...,

And if the US does it first in the future, as opposed to Communist China, the North Koreans, the Ruskies, the prestige to the West will be similar to when we put men on the moon in the late 60's - 70's.

I may be wrong but I think the message, the product will sell itself even with a mediocre, above average website design and layout, like mine.

Stay focused. Go slow. Keep it simple.

Hey mindpixel, ... (none / 0) (#86)
by Ignore Amos on Thu Dec 22, 2005 at 01:40:16 PM EST

... what's with the dupe account?

And that explains why airplanes carry cargo on small boats floating in their cargo aquarium. - jmzero
[ Parent ]

I just have to spend alot of time posting (none / 1) (#89)
by k24anson on Thu Dec 22, 2005 at 02:13:11 PM EST

I don't think my posts as per above are spamming, though craigslist.com threw me off a computer discussion forum for some strange reason.

Jules Verne wrote that book about going to the moon. Galileo and helicopter drawings ..., and now my novel!


Stay focused. Go slow. Keep it simple.
[ Parent ]

This is fairly typical (3.00 / 3) (#87)
by actmodern on Thu Dec 22, 2005 at 02:02:47 PM EST

Just see Michael Crawford. These ventures start with great optimism and then die quickly.

Do what I do. Go to work and play WoW all night. You'll have fun and it only costs $15 a month, and a half decent PC (2 gigs of ram recommended), while your income can go to savings.

LilDebbie challenge: produce the water sports scene from bable or stfu. It does not exist.

What? Did Michael Crawford die?$ (none / 0) (#111)
by Chewbacca Uncircumsized on Fri Dec 23, 2005 at 10:09:32 PM EST

[ Parent ]
Michael Crawford is doing just fine, making $$$ (none / 0) (#128)
by MichaelCrawford on Wed Dec 28, 2005 at 10:04:57 AM EST

... and is expecting his latest $3500 EFT for Google AdSense to hit his bank account tonight.

I have been earning $3k to $5k per month most of the time I've been in the program.

I'm expecting Ogg Frog to make twice that within a year.

It's news to me that I'm a failed webmaster; even though I've got a day job, I make as much money from my websites as I do from my job.


Live your fucking life. Sue someone on the Internet. Write a fucking music player. Like the great man Michael David Crawford has shown us all: Hard work, a strong will to stalk, and a few fries short of a happy meal goes a long way. -- bride of spidy

[ Parent ]

Great example, bad advice... (3.00 / 5) (#94)
by Jack Johnson on Thu Dec 22, 2005 at 04:55:01 PM EST

The author is a great example of the way I imagine many people have failed at sucking money out of the web. His advice is terrible and his conclusions taken from the experience are just as shallow and misdirected as the assumptions that lead him into it in the first place.

This guy put up a bunch of ugly sites with names as clever as a Jump-To-Conclusions board game built on dusty, done-1000-times-before ideas for the sole purpose of making money.

He thought he could build a userbase and/or communities overnight. That people should care enough to repeatedly visit and spend money on something he didn't really give a shit about himself.

This business plan sounds like something straight out some kind of "Make Money on the Web in 21 days!" handbook.

Plenty of sites have and continue to succeed by providing content, services or giving a centralized home to various communities. I remember when Tomshardware.com was a true "homepage" and shoryuken.com just just talk on IRC. Both are now hugely popular sites that succeeded in different ways for different reasons.

I'm glad it still takes more than being lucky enough to have a supportive family to siphon money from and free time on your hands to be successful on the web.

If you want to kick-start a successful website you'll need passion for your subject, long-term committment, an original or truly innovative idea/method and the expectation that it probably won't make you rich.

In My Own Defense (none / 0) (#98)
by bobej on Thu Dec 22, 2005 at 07:48:25 PM EST

I really do care about my sites. I'm continuing to pay out of pocket just to keep my server account alive because to see 1 year of my life disappear into the trash bin entirely would just plain make me sad. Plus, some people genuinely like the sites and it's cool to receive the occasional supportive email.

My goal wasn't about making money per se, it was about earning a good enough income to be able to play with technology the rest of my life.

[ Parent ]

Lesson 2.6 (none / 1) (#95)
by Highlander on Thu Dec 22, 2005 at 06:43:55 PM EST

When you discover your business model is failing, don't miss the chance to promote your sites on kuro5hin with an article about your failure.

You harm meant, just noticing ;-)

Moderation in moderation is a good thing.

Money issues (none / 1) (#96)
by chroma on Thu Dec 22, 2005 at 06:52:51 PM EST

One year of hosting cost you $1500? Did you get some sorta ultra deluxe package, or what? I get basic hosting of one site for $72/year, and $240/year for a VPS. Plus domain name reg should be $25 or less per year.

Also, I think it's misleading to say that you burned through $25,000 in a year, as that apparently went mostly toward living expenses, which you'd be paying anyway.

Clarification (none / 0) (#97)
by bobej on Thu Dec 22, 2005 at 07:36:46 PM EST

I use a dedicated machine with a largish raid array and unmetered bandwidth (1.5Mbps). Add about $3000 in various forms of advertising, then the rest for rent, food, etc.

[ Parent ]

Expenses (none / 1) (#103)
by chroma on Fri Dec 23, 2005 at 12:17:12 AM EST

See, this is what I didn't really like about the article: not enough detail on the fuckups. Where did that $3000 go? And why the badass server solution, instead of the $5/month cheapie?

[ Parent ]
Marketing Budget Breakdown (3.00 / 2) (#104)
by bobej on Fri Dec 23, 2005 at 12:51:26 AM EST

The server was primarily to support the FarFamily site since it requires nightly backups and relatively high load due to serving images over SSL. It also allowed me to add on as many sites as I liked without having to manage a seperate account each time, just a bunch of IPs. Generally, I'd beta each site on my home server via my cable internet, then once they were tight, move them to the main server.

All of our advertising was for the Sioux Falls website. We intended to spend a few thousand more to promote the FarFamily site, but by the time it was complete, Flickr had blown up, and I felt I'd just be throwing money down a hole trying to compete against their buzz. The advertising dollars broke down thusly:

  • ~$1000 in AdSense advertising, entirely for SiouxReview.com
  • ~$1000 to do a mailer to Sioux Falls businesses telling them about SiouxReview, the number of hits their business page had gotten and exhorting them to come buy a site profile.
  • ~$750 to do flyers that we distributed to local restaurants with a map of the city with some local landmarks highlighted. This paid for about 1000 flyers a month for 6 months.
  • ~$100 for business cards, which we distributed to business owners when we ate out, met them in local business group meetings, etc. We printed another 1000 for distributing to peoples mailboxes, but we found out this was not legal.
  • ~$200 for printing quesstionaires and soda which we distributed at a booth at a local park. Free soda to anyone who filled out a questionnaire. We wanted to get info on what businesses people were most interested in reviewing, etc.
  • ~$500 for a banner ad + text link on the local NBC affiliate for 3 months. They have the highest PageRank of any non-governmental Sioux Falls site at the time. Our motive here was really PR and trying to ensure we got crawled.
  • ~$300 for monthly giveaways we did on the site to get people to rate things for the first few months. People would just abandon the site before it had reviews.
That comes to ~$3850 which pretty closely syncs up with my financial records.

[ Parent ]
You need a product (3.00 / 2) (#100)
by Armada on Thu Dec 22, 2005 at 08:26:47 PM EST

I hate to say it, but in a world of failed service startups, you have to have a product to sell. Or if you want to call a web app a service, that's fine too, just charge a monthly fee. Services will make a comeback eventually, but right now the web is inundated with crappy websites.

Make a website for Sioux Falls is like making one for Cedar Rapids, only hicks and single women with kids are going to go there.

small world, indeed... (none / 0) (#105)
by jxn on Fri Dec 23, 2005 at 02:45:44 AM EST

I also live in Sioux Falls (assuming you do, too), and I've seen a couple of your sites; the one that sticks in my mind most is the siouxreview.com site, which I only visited once (it was linked from the wipeyoureyes messageboard, which I casually maintain).  The site seemed pretty well-designed and nice in concept, but the problem to me seemed to be that given the size of this lil' city, I've already been to every restaurant listed in reviews and then some.  Also, I didn't find reviews all that helpful; if I want a sandwich, I'll go try a place out instead of trusting others' reviews, because most of the people in SxFx that I know have *horrible* taste...at least much different than mine; these people would consistently pick Taco Bell over Tacqeria America or Inca.  People want McDonalds instead of Burger Time.  They want Olive Garden, not Spezia.  To illustrate my point, the worst Chinese food place in town -- China Express -- seems to be today's featured restaurant.  It's hard for me to trust reviews in a town like this (especially as a vegetarian).  I don't know who's writing these reviews, but I'd sooner just go check a new place out than go online and read reviews about it.  It reminds me of that "thelocalbest.com" site, which I find anything but helpful.  (yes, I realize that more than restaurants are featured on the site)

Realistically, though, I could have gotten over my initial doubts and learned to trust the reviews and maybe even use them, but I forgot about the site before I had a reason to go back and check for anything on it.  I think that if I would have had a reason to go back even twice, I would be easily twice as likely to revisit the site regularly...  Have you considered changing the layout to devote more space to "featured" business?  It would take more content work, but I think it would be visually more pleasing.  What about printing up business cards that ask customers to review whatever establishment they're in, and asking local business owners to make them available near the cashier's table?  It might serve as a cheap way to entice people to come back to your site (to compliment a good meal or bitch about a bad one).

Also, some businesses don't seem to me to be especially fit for the web.  I think you'd get more sales from items such as the palmercash.com vintage t-shirts if you could just sell them brick-and-mortar style, because there are so many other vintage t-shirt resalers on the internet.

Maybe that's just me.

So, your lessons are? (none / 0) (#109)
by zecg on Fri Dec 23, 2005 at 11:02:11 AM EST

Be sleazy but be frugal?

Your advice, I would like to note, cannot be applied to people who are content generators - your ideas are slightly improved mousetraps which are costly for you to maintain. So, without the marketing budget and integration such as Google or Yahoo have, they are practically bound to be money sinks. You, sir, are a dotcom enterprise n00b, but I salute your mettle.

As a business owner about to go live myself... (3.00 / 2) (#110)
by Metasquares on Fri Dec 23, 2005 at 05:05:52 PM EST

I'll add a few tips that I feel have guided me through the process of setting up a business.

3. Be frugal:

This is the most important tip that you have up there. Remember, Profit = Revenue - Cost. If you want to make money, don't spend more than you're earning! $125/month on hosting? If you must have a dedicated server, you can get one for about half that. Even then, you shouldn't pony up for something like that until you need it... which you probably never did, since your sites were all small. I'm starting my business on the same $9.95/month hosting plan I use for my other sites (My host is Dreamhost, in case anyone is wondering; I would highly recommend them). I'll upgrade as traffic dictates. Traffic usually doesn't grow so sharply that you have no warning that your servers are not adequate (unless you get Slashdotted). It begins as consistently slower operation. That's when you schedule a day or two of downtime and upgrade your plan.

5. Don't quit your day job:

If you work normal hours (that is, a 40 hour workweek), that's plenty of time to do something on the side. It took me 3 months to set up my business' site, but it is now within a week of launch. I'm working two jobs and attending college at the moment. It can be done.

Now that you have a fiance, you may find that more difficult (though by no means impossible). There are some definite advantages to being single, having spare time being among them.

6. Don't rely on AdSense:

AdSense should not be your primary source of revenue unless you already have a significant amount of content... and users viewing that content. Use it to augment your site's revenue. Make sure your site will generate revenue in some other way.

7. Don't assume you will have traffic:

You won't get millions of users from your first day. Do not count on that. Assume you'll start with a handful of users, especially if you're setting up a site that caters to a specific locality. If your site is good, your site will grow.

8. "Don't be sleazy":

There are plenty of honest ways of getting the word out. If you need to rely on dishonest means to promote your website, you're doing something wrong. Just as in many areas of life, the truth will eventually come out. If you gain popularity with a facade of some kind, you will eventually lose it.

this is a great tale for me to read (none / 1) (#113)
by zenofchai on Sat Dec 24, 2005 at 05:23:37 AM EST

also, an essay how to make wealth from paul graham that both inspires and depresses me a bit. i'm just not the entrepreneurial stock. i don't take enough risks. in the end, i'm a follower. i think i'm a pretty damned good follower, but i think i'm accepting that is my role. i come up with potentially interesting ideas, investigate them and research them and plan with such a heavy skeptical and pessimistic eye, that if i see risk i wilt. if there was a "work hard and you will succeed" guarantee then sure, but of course there is no such guarantee. even with competitors that appear to be easy pickings for someone with their act together, i think "ick, competitors" and decide "ok, this market is taken, my idea wasn't as original as i thought" and i move on.
The K5 Interactive Political Compass SVG Graph
Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill (3.00 / 2) (#123)
by Stain of Mind on Mon Dec 26, 2005 at 12:16:07 AM EST

Either buy a copy or download it (copyright's expired).

I origially found out about it through "Double Your Dating."

Anyway, the book gives very good advice on being more sucessfull. The chapter on overcoming procrastination has been very positive influence on me. If you read nothing else from the book, read "Power of the Master Mind".

[ Parent ]
Wonderfully insightful! (none / 1) (#125)
by mcrbids on Tue Dec 27, 2005 at 06:29:33 AM EST

Boy, this became a rant. I hope it helps you some!    

also, an essay how to make wealth

That has to be the most insightful link I've read in  at least a month, maybe more!

As somebody involved in a late startup, (one that's starting to make decent money, but not yet rich) It's amazing to me how exactly spot-on he's gotten it!

If it helps any, I've been involved in probably half a dozen startups. Some (such as a legal research website, lookuplaw.com now dead) were complete, utter failures over which I almost lost my best friends, and some were profitable, but not particularly so. (EG: https://cmgr.effortlessis.com:444)

I come up with lots of ideas. Really. Probably several per day, several per week that I don't throw out right away.

Of these everal per week, I might come up with 1 or 2 a month I haven't given up on. Of these, I try out probably 2 or 3 a year, and of these, I see one succeed perhaps every 3 or 5 years.

So, rule #1 for success: COOK UP LOTS OF IDEAS. Try them out. Feel them up. Try them on friends, neighbors, and complete strangers. It's TOTALLY OK if 99.9% of them end up nowhere. Keep cooking. To be successful, you only need 1 good idea + execution.

Sadly, even with all the ideas I cook up, the one that I'm succeeding at is somebody else's idea that I was able to latch onto early before it was proven, and provide the technology (software) to make it all work, based on all the ideas I did cook up.

So, between 4 partners in the company, 1 core idea got cooked up, not by me, and we just managed to make it work with lots of guesses, questions, and politely answered phone calls made by irate customers.

Lastly: Competitors == room for growth. Remember, if there are lots of competitors in a marketplace, it's because there's lots of food. The more competitors, the more potential room you have to grow in. (They're eating, why can't you?)

You don't need to own the entire marketplace to be successful! You only need to earn more than you spend. The critical point is the first sale. If you can make that first sale, and keep that customer happy, you'll probably do OK. Getting that first sale is the difference between an interesting theory or hobby, and a career!

if there was a "work hard and you will succeed" guarantee then sure, but of course there is no such guarantee.

If there was such a guarantee, then startups wouldn't be so much fun. Startups are a form of educated-guess gambling. The keys for success I've found are:

  1. Marketplace - demonstrable people willing to buy the deliverable.
  2. Production - provable ability to provide deliverable.
  3. Marketing - provable ability to make consumers aware of deliverable.
  4. Legal - ability to make sure customers can't own your ass if something goes wrong.
  5. Accounting - no amount of earnings is large enough to compensate for incompetent accounting! Witness Enron...
Get all these things in, and it's hard to go too wrong. At the worst, you break even, and learn a lesson.

Spend lots of time in the shower thinking about how you approach various problems. Another one that works well for me is jogging or bicycling without headphones.
I kept looking around for somebody to solve the problem. Then I realized... I am somebody! -Anonymouse
[ Parent ]

Done that (successfully) (3.00 / 2) (#115)
by clawDATA on Sat Dec 24, 2005 at 07:26:32 AM EST

A couple years ago I also started a few websites.

I already run a business, but saw a niche for a few specialized websites that cater to a very small -- but neglected -- community.

Hosting cost $20/month (for a reseller account), I use Drupal as a CMS (with custom templates), content comes from highly-filtered RDF news feeds (so ever hour shows new news that our readers would be interested in). In short, it was fast and cheap to set up, and I don't have to do anything to maintain it.

Even though we cater to a very small community, we offer them EXACTLY what they want, so they keep returning. We tried features such as a forum and posting comments to news items, but our readers weren't interested so they were removed.

Last year we had 1.2 million page-hits, and about 10,000 regular visitors. This is small by internet standards, but very large for our community. Our monthly bandwidth is just a couple gigs.

I didn't do anything to attract readers except to have well-written meta tags. You aren't going to find returning readers by suckering them. If you have content that they want, they'll find you.

Money is made from selling banner ads to the people who sell things to the type of people who would visit these sites. And we don't sell just banner ads -- we sell access to our readers by providing a place for them to put white-papers, news, and other things that would be of interest to our readers.

Also, I didn't sit around waiting for money to roll-in (spend a few minutes with a calculator, and you'll quickly see that referral programmes don't work). I went out and found the money. I didn't join any banner networks, and I don't share links with anyone. I found clients the old-school way -- I knocked on doors and made cold-calls. I think this is a key point that most people miss.

At US$600/year for an ad (we're raising our rate next week to $1000), I only needed to sell a few ads a month to make it worthwhile. This was usually about a days work. My business keeps me quite busy, so I don't have a lot of time to spend on the site anyway.

I think that the author was on the right track, but missed going door-to-door in his community to find "sponsors". In my view, if you have something that helps them reach their customers, then they'll be more than willing to give you their dollars.

Bad design? (none / 1) (#118)
by mcgon1979 on Sun Dec 25, 2005 at 08:37:42 AM EST

Gotta agree with alot of the bad design comments. I think they are constructive criticism. As "john Q public" web surfer, they are definately the kind of sites I close instantly. Impossible to navigate around, too much info on the page at once, confusing, busy, etc etc. I admire your spirit though for making the effort. I thin kwith the same effort and better design you would succeed. Or at least improve your chances.

Hours (none / 1) (#119)
by dogeye on Sun Dec 25, 2005 at 12:13:46 PM EST

How many hours per week were you spending on these sites? Are you going back to work full time now?

I don't think that you were really serious (3.00 / 2) (#121)
by mrcsparker on Sun Dec 25, 2005 at 10:26:29 PM EST

As a business owner, and a good friend of many successful business owners, I can see a striking difference between you and anyone I know that is successful.  You had 5 web sites - that tells me that while you like making web sites, you had very little focus on what you really wanted.  In order to be successful, you have to understand what you want and be totally committed to achieving that result.

From that I have read in the comments and in you're article, you're goal was to make enough money to get by with the web sites.  With that attitude, you are going to get no where.  Most people do not get lucky in life - they really believe in themselves and drive towards a clear result (which is a good reason to have a business plan).  Maybe you should be creating web sites for others, or at least try doing something that you love.

still active? (none / 0) (#122)
by user 956 on Mon Dec 26, 2005 at 12:00:52 AM EST

some of those sites don't show up for me... like the shirtrank site. Are all of them still supposed to be active?

Top Chuck Norris Facts.

(lazy sunday)
How long does it take to get a site going? (none / 0) (#126)
by Alert Motorist on Tue Dec 27, 2005 at 06:55:51 AM EST

I run a travel website that is based around my relocation to Melbourne, I'm basically posting about things I discover here, how to get around the city and things to do and see. Anything that's useful to those that are planning to visit or come live here.

The websites Seasons Travel and at the moment I'm getting about 60 people a day to the site, the sites been running for about 4 months and I'm trying to make a post to it once a day, once a week I try and write a full article (where to live in Melbourne, how to get to a specific location etc)

What I want to know is, is this amount of traffic normal for a site of this type considering how long its been on the net? I'm having trouble breaking over one hundred visitors a day in any of the websites that I've setup.

-- List your horse on FrozenHorseSemen.Com
Kinda felt bad for you (none / 0) (#130)
by allenp on Sat Dec 31, 2005 at 06:48:30 AM EST

So I clicked on all your ad-sense ads.

thanks for the advice! (none / 0) (#131)
by rjnagle on Mon Jan 02, 2006 at 03:43:28 PM EST

What a great article. I'm at a similar stage in my own career and am pondering similar options with about the same cash flow. The irony of the DIY businesses is that they end up making you work harder than the cubicle farm jobs. I do like the Sioux Falls idea; there are possibilities to win local advertisers/consulting business. I don't want to go into detail about my projects (I haven't quit the dayjob yet), but in my case it has proven impossible to get anything off the ground while locked into a 40 hour commitment. That said, one of the reasons why I've given up on sticking with the dayjob is that they don't give leave of absences or time off for conferences. I'll be transitioning from full time dayjob to parttime contract work, (with 3 months to work on my projects). the projects will supplement income, not be the sole provider. One unmentionable that needs to be mentioned: the credit card! During unemployment a few years ago, I coasted on credit cards for 6 months, and that was really dangerous. I eventually paid a price for that. this time, however, i'm going to carefully curtail credit card spending. this is a dangerous time to be borrowing money from credit cards, even small amounts. One problem with "failed projects" is having to maintain them during the downward spiral. My plans are to run a content site, and I need to be careful to allow enough time for me to work on my own content (for me that is VERY important). Also, if one of my projects tanks, I may have to support it longer than I want to. It's easier to shut down a business-related site than a content one. I agree with several posters that timing (and marketing) is often the key. Sometimes a big player can enter your field, and then suddenly the great advantage that comes with your site suddenly seems irrelevant. Frankly, in the last 3 months while I'm getting ready to let go of my dayjob, I've noticed other sites implement cool features I'd been planning for my own, so I've gone back to the drawing board on certain aspects of the site. finally, I think having a good "elevator pitch" is helpful. Surfers need to immediately "get" what your site is all about, and that is often not easy to do. Once again, thanks for the great article, and hopefully next year I won't need to write a similar article!

the age to go out on your own (none / 0) (#132)
by rjnagle on Mon Jan 02, 2006 at 03:55:41 PM EST

You mentioned relying on your parents for help.

Been there, done that. You can only get away with that once.

A famous career counselour once said that techie types should quit their jobs at about the age of 37. That's when they get kicked into management, where they are not doing the fun stuff, and their company is not appreciating their contribution.

He made that statement several decades ago. Now, it seems that web enterpreneurship is something better to try right after college (if not during college itself).

I'm 40 and about to do the same kind of move, although you only have a small number of transitional moments when people have adequate freedom and resources to  contemplate such a bold change. Such moments don't occur often--usually 5 or 10 years.   Letting that moment pass now can sometimes meaning giving up on it forever.  

[ Parent ]

Thanks, a few thoughts (none / 0) (#134)
by Nomad on Sun Jan 08, 2006 at 09:06:04 AM EST

Thanks for sharing your experiences.  It comfirms my view that making money from web sites is not easy. Particularly if you rely on advertising revenue.  The way being currently touted by people like Darren Rouse on problogger.net is to 1) choose a subject with a highest paying adsense keywords, 2) post huge amounts of keyword-laden copy onto your web site. 3) Attract the sort of people who are likely to click on adsense ads.

Rouse claims he makes six figures from this.  But note, you have to choose a subject with high-paying key words, last time I looked I think these keywords were something to do with gambling.  Rouse himself has sites reviewing mobile phones and digital cameras - hence high margin consumer products. The other thing is that you need viewers to click on the ads.  Geeks, engineers and sophisticated internet users, just don't click on ads, at least they don't click on ads often enough to make these sites profitable, so you need to aim your sites at less sophisticated users.

In any case, I'm sure that these ventures are subject to the vagaries of the market.  Just because adsense keywords for digital cameras pay well this year, doesn't mean they will next year, so the web master in question might need  a new site.

Note also that Rouse sells courses on how to be a "six figure blogger". Once someone starts selling courses, you can bet your bottom dollar that the course is far more profitable than the thing the course is about.  My guess is that this is true for Rouse too.

Although the jury is out, I'd say that adsense business model doesn't work for most sites.  If you want to monetize a site, you need to look at different models.  One model that works appears to be practised on samizdata.net.  That site is really only an example. These people's real business consulting on how to use blogs in business.  "Consulting" can be quite lucrative.

Making things and selling things (none / 1) (#135)
by garywiz on Tue Jan 10, 2006 at 12:38:55 AM EST

Great posting. I'm sure many people have similar experiences.

I have one observation to add: Many technically brilliant people don't understand that "making things people want" is different from "selling things to people". I know many, many people who have had the same experiences as bobej. They made great things, and expect that just because they can, people will buy them, or visit them.

Making things and selling things usually require two very different types of personalities. Rarely, if ever, have I seen a single person equally capable of both. And most of the time, the "making things" personalities have a complete disregard and even disdain for the "selling things" people.

My advice: If you, like bobej, are a "making things" person, make sure you partner with a "selling things" person who is just as excited about how easy it is to sell as you are about how great it is to make. Be picky about your partnerships and find people you trust who have accomplishments under their belt, even if you don't particularly relate to them.

Web 2.0 (none / 0) (#136)
by jimmyp on Wed Jan 18, 2006 at 07:43:54 PM EST

with all of the hype surrounding web2.0 there is a big temptation to launch websites and get them quickly bought by yahoo/google/rupert murdoch. In some cases this is almost justifiable, because these sites do get bought quickly, and for non-trivial sums of money.

I think the instinct to go out and create value for people is a good one. However, you have to make sure you are actually doing this. The author seems to not be able to describe "what's in it for me" for any of his websites listed above. Webvolver - an RSS feed site. What's in it for me? Why would i use this? The only site that sounds like it might have value for me is the t-shirt ranking, which sounds kind of interesting.

So if there's an unlearned lesson for the author, it needs to be that you have to create things that have value for the end-user.

With all that said, I'd like to do my own bit of shameless self-promotion in accordance with rule 1. We've created a social video catalog, jimmys.tv to help people find cool/interesting video content on the web. Hopefully I've learned the lesson I spoke about earlier! Please leave me comments on what you think and especially if you find it lacking.

Same problem I had (none / 0) (#137)
by cindylou on Wed Jan 10, 2007 at 02:02:13 PM EST

except I did not quit my job I had 30 sites - I bought crappy traffic - I used blackhat SEO - I tried everything even Credit card Offers . Finally I jsut made a quality adult site that offered Adult Personals and the site took off. Now I make a modest 500.00 a month - but I dump that back into development etc.

In what way Reciprocal Links will help your PR? (none / 0) (#138)
by GodAdSense on Fri May 18, 2007 at 04:35:04 AM EST

I was struggling for months for traffic to my AdSense site before I considered PR

In what way Reciprocal Links will help your "Page Rank"

The term "Page Rank" can be considered mysterious for some Internet users who discovered it. Yet, they quickly noticed that this notion is the main of the Google's algorithms for them to classify the pages.

Originally, "Page Rank" was a mathematical criteria giving them the possibility to define the popularity of a single page on the web. The more the external links to that page the more it is considered to be popular. The "Page Rank" (which is often written as PR) is one of the most important elements that Google consider, but there is not only this one. Certainly there are many others. But Google also accordingly uses the "Page Rank" in all their processes. Then a site having more pages approved to be highly "Page Ranked" will have the more advantages. Consequently Google will more often index that site and her references will be more often updated in the Google database. Possibly Google will also index some of her dynamic pages and then will show them at the top of the directory for that category. Unfortunately that will not be the case for a site having a low "Page Rank"


My $25,000 Lesson | 138 comments (126 topical, 12 editorial, 0 hidden)
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