Saturday, March 31, 2007

Baby Loves Disco

When Heather Murphy had her first child she looked forward to visiting the zoo, the children’s museum and other family friendly places. But she was concerned that the junk food, gift shops and merchandising were overly commercial for children. And while the kids-only activities were fun for her son Max, she would have also enjoyed a more “adult-relevant” experience. So Murphy created Baby Disco as a way for kids and big people to have fun together. She rented a local club for a Saturday afternoon, decorated it with balloons and equipped it with a bubble machine, diaper changing station, egg shakers, healthy treats, and a professional DJ to spin disco tunes. Two hundred people attended the first Baby Disco event.

Just over two years later, Baby Loves Disco has spread from Philadelphia to eighteen U.S. cities, and will soon head over to Europe to open in London, Manchester and Amsterdam. Parents can enjoy a glass of wine while their little ones nosh on crackers and string cheese. Local businesses provide parents with on site pampering including massages and facials. Baby Loves Disco hires local parents to organize the dance parties, gives them a share of the profits and helps them with their first event. Toys, giveaways, insurance, cleaning and food run between USD 2,000 to USD 4,000 per event, says co-founder Andy Hurwitz. Organizers keep expenses low by contracting with nightclubs, which are normally empty during the day, and offering them a percentage of ticket sales.

Given BLD’s expansive growth over the past few years, mom- and dadpreneurs might want to set up something similar in their own city, getting local business owners to offer samples of their services or wares at the events. And why not offer baby discos as an alternative to kids’ birthday parties? Legions of parents will no doubt thank you.

Selling Celebrity Addresses Turns Out To Be A Killer Business Idea

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Friday, March 30, 2007

How To Get Business License Online

Anyone who has tried to register a business in a small town while living halfway across the country will understand the appeal of Business Licenses (

The company, based in Airmont, N.Y., lets users download, file and store any of about 28,000 federal, state and local license and permit applications for sites around the country.

Users pay $19.99 to download an application, an additional $19.99 to get the surrounding documents (regulations, laws and the like), and $49.99 if they want to file and archive the license online.

According to co-owner David Polatseck, the 55-employee company has more than 10,000 small-business customers and makes about $2 million a year, a number that he expects will rise quickly if he can sign up more large clients (he currently has 50). "Real profits will come when we're out there in the corporate world," he says. 10 Awesome Startups You’ve Never Heard About

Weird Business Startups - Smashing-Plates.Com

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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Most Haunted Homebusiness Idea

I've got two "weird business" stories for you. The first one is called
5 Online Millionaires You’ve Never Heard About

And this is the second one

Two Minnesota men have found their niche in the travel market by taking groups to scary places.
Dave Schrader of Circle Pines and Tim Dennis of Burnsville are leading groups on trips to haunted hotels and spooky cruise ships.

The two started an online radio show called "Darkness Radio" in January 2006. Within a year, their weekly broadcasts had made them celebrities among fanciers of otherworldly mystery.

They then began asking the stars of T-V shows about the supernatural to cohost weekends at haunted destinations.

Among the locations are the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado -- made famous by the movie "The Shining."

Travelers pay between 180 dollars to 250 dollars for the trips -- not including transportation or lodging.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Peasy.Com - How To Make Money With Vacant Parking Spaces is an online marketplace for parking spaces, enabling drivers to search for and book spaces before they leave home, and letting British homeowners monetize unused parking spaces by adding them to the Peasy network.

To rent out a parking space, the owner needs to register and enter all relevant details, including price, when the space is available, and whether it will be rented out daily, weekly, or both. Those who require parking can then search for suitable parking spaces and securely book them online, or first negotiate a better price. To protect the privacy of owners, searchers can't view exact addresses. Instead, they're given the street the space is on, as well as its postcode and location on a map. Once booked, the renter is provided with the exact address. If booking on a weekly basis, renters are also given the owner's contact details, enabling them to introduce themselves and arrange for collection of keys or remote controls if required.

Any off-street parking spaces can be rented out: driveways, garages and secure allocated spaces. Peasy estimates most people will earn GBP 10-30 a week, for an extra stream of income of GBP 500-1,500 per year. In prime locations, spaces can go for as much as GBP 3,000 per year. Listing a parking space is free, and Peasy takes a commission fee of 12% for each rental transaction.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

eDimensional Story - From $500 To $5000000

Started in 2000, Startup costs: $500

Michael Epstein and Nathan Newman, both 28, started eDimensional, their gaming accessories company, when they were just college students. Armed with credit cards and backgrounds in IT management, the two friends set about realizing their entrepreneurial dreams to make video games as realistic as possible using 3-D technology.

Focusing on computer gaming, they found a supplier of 3-D medical imaging glasses and began buying wholesale. A software contractor helped them develop a program to make their glasses compatible with PC games, and they sold it packaged with the glasses on their website (

By purchasing their initial stock in small amounts, they kept overhead costs down. "We worked on small margins, buying very small quantities and using any connections we had from growing up in the area," Epstein says. Those connections included a fellow student, who designed their site for free.
Sales began to take off after their product generated favorable reviews on gaming websites. "The websites started talking about how 3-D glasses made flight simulators much more realistic," Epstein says. "It was like they started jumping on it overnight." That led to eDimensional partnering with different gaming sites, trading a percentage of sales for ad space. Now the company is planning on expanding its retail presence and adding more products to its line, with 2007 sales projected at $5 million.

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Monday, March 26, 2007

Dog Vending Business Or How To Turn $6000 into $100,000

Started in 2005, Startup costs: $6,000

When July hit Miami in 1998, everyone seemed to be enjoying the dog days of summer--except the dogs. As owners took giant swigs from their 32-ounce water bottles, their dogs ran to and fro, wearily retrieving makeshift toys in the afternoon heat. It was on one sunny afternoon in July that Carlotta Lennox rolled by a park on a pair of rollerblades, noticed that the dogs looked tired and hungry, and realized how she could give the day back to the dogs.

Seven years later, the first Hey Buddy pet vending machine was established in Bark Park Central, an off-leash dog park in Dallas. Lennox, 36, stocked the machine with dog treats, tennis balls, dog shirts, dog glasses--basically everything a dog might need for a walk in the park. And with its shingled roof and slated facade, the doghouse-inspired vending machine was hard to miss--which meant pets and their owners weren't the only ones begging Lennox for more.

"It's a really great branding mechanism for corporations looking for an extra niche for items they want to sell outside their stores," says Lennox. And thanks to Hey Buddy's unique patent, which gives the company exclusive rights to distribute pet products in vending machines across the U.S., Lennox can take full advantage of the niche market she's created.

Hey Buddy is already in negotiations with major corporations interested in branding the machines for dog parks throughout the U.S., and sales are expected to reach $100,000 this year. But Lennox sees the business reaching far beyond the day-in-the-park demographic.

"I see my machines at the Plaza in New York City, maybe gold-plated, carrying Louis Vuitton dog collars and Chanel pearls and everything else a celebrity would want for their dog," says Lennox. She also lists apartment complexes, RV parks and veterinary offices as just a few more places she hopes to have Hey Buddy Machines in the future. "That's really what we're all about," she says. "We just want to make it convenient for the customers who are out there with their dogs."

How To Start Your Own Vending Business

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Evlove Intimidates - Great Customized Lingerie Idea

When Chicagoan Jenny Dombroski spotted the NikeID website where consumers can customize sneakers according to their preferences, she knew it was a concept that could work for lingerie too. So Dombroski, who loves lingerie but knew nothing about the apparel industry, spent six months networking, asking lots of questions and working in a lingerie shop. Then she hired a designer and Evlove Intimidates was born. (Evlove is ‘evolve’ spelled backwards.) “A panty is a panty, a boy short is a boy short,” Dombroski says. “There isn’t a lot of variation in the design. We offer customers the opportunity to create personalized lingerie products and to have fun doing it.”

Customized Evlove Intimates lingerie is sold primarily through private home parties. Invited guests sip wine while they select from a wide array of designs, samples, fabric swatches and decorative touches including ribbons, appliqués, rosettes and bows. Dombroski hooks up her laptop to a TV screen where guests view and revise their choices courtesy of her online design studio. Prices for a lingerie set run around US$100, with prices for individual pieces US$35 and up. Purchases are delivered in about three weeks. Dombroski recently launched a website to enable customers to design and place orders online. But most of her business is through home parties, with the number of bookings increasing each month, mostly through word of mouth.

Dombroski’s ‘customerization parties’ are an inspired idea that could work just about anywhere for all sorts of products, including t-shirts, home fashions, fragrances and cosmetics. The founder’s advice for other fledgling entrepreneurs? “Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know. If you love the product, ask questions and network—a lot. And above all, be persistent.”

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Friday, March 23, 2007

ClubPenguin.Com - MySpace For Little Kids.

There are no plush toys to buy or entrance fees to pay. New members are offered small virtual penguins that they can adopt, name, feed, and clothe. They can also chat, play games, and even help publish the Club Penguin newspaper.

Where creator New Horizon Interactive makes its money is in what it calls premium play. Any kid can have a penguin for free, but if he or she wants to decorate the penguin's igloo, Mom or Dad will have to subscribe--for $6 a month, or $58 a year. Traffic has mushroomed. Club Penguin saw 2.9 million unique visitors in January, according to Nielsen/NetRatings, up from just 705,000 in March 2006.

So what keeps Crandall and millions of other kids playing for more than an hour each day?

One thing that attracts them, experts say, is the sense of power that children get in a virtual world but rarely experience in real life. "This isn't rocket science," says Club Penguin founder and CEO Lane Merrifield. "A lot of virtual-reality companies look at these games like television--'We are going to entertain you, and you are going to enjoy it.' Ours is a two-way stream."

One way Club Penguin gives kids control over their environment is by letting them "bank" points they win in games and convert those points to "money" that can be used to customize their igloos. "Club Penguin Time," a standardized clock (actually based on Pacific time), lets kids from all over the world meet up online without having to worry about coordinating time zones.

Another trick used by Club Penguin to keep kids hanging around is throwing themed "parties." During the holidays, for example, Club Penguin's writers built a plot around a huge winter storm. News of the storm began leaking onto the site's weather reports in November to create a buzz of anticipation. When the storm finally hit in December, it dumped snow in every room on the site.

The penguins had to dig tunnels to get around. Captain Rock Hopper, the site's pirate, was delayed by the gale. When his ship finally landed, it was in shambles and the penguins had to repair it. The winter party was a big success: In December the number of unique visitors to Club Penguin jumped by more than 20 percent.

Is 'Anyone Can Do It' Just A Marketing Schtick?

Japanese Billionaire Hands Over a Few Mansions to Hawaii's Native Homeless

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Making Soap As A Fulltime Career.

When her dream of working in law enforcement didn’t quite pan out, Anne-Marie Faiola decided to turn her passion for making soap into a full-time career.

Bramble Berry, based in Bellingham, Wash., now offers more than 2,500 soap-making ingredients like fragrant oils, soap molds, lip-butter flavorings, assorted herbs and botanicals, and even the books and kits to teach anyone to make their own soap from scratch.

I’d been making soap since I was 18 and I loved it. My husband at the time saw how unhappy I was, and encouraged me to quit my job and start selling soap. He said as long as I made $500 a month, we could eat macaroni and cheese and be happy. I didn’t have any lofty ambitions, just to sell 1,300 bars a month, which I figured would be enough to feed us and pay our mortgage.

I placed a huge bulk order of supplies, set up a Web page, and waited. It didn’t take long before I sold everything to seven different soap makers on the West Coast. I was like, ‘Wow, there’s a business here.’ I moved my operation into an office and Bramble Berry was born.

“My clients are mom-and-pop businesses. I just did a customer survey and most of them make less than $250 a month selling soap. Our average order is for about $75. It’s a very seasonal business. Our orders go through the roof in the fall before the holidays. We pride ourselves on our customer service and 24-hour turnaround.

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What a Stinky Dog Can Teach You About Business

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

How To Make Millions Creating Sudoku Puzzles And Kakuro

Will there be another puzzle craze after sudoku? Perhaps kakuro? What about nurikabe?

If so, chances are it will spring from a Japanese company called Nikoli, run by the self-proclaimed godfather of sudoku, Maki Kaji.

While no one knows how much revenue is generated by the global sudoku business, most agree it has easily topped $250 million over the last two years from an estimated 80 million devotees.

Nikoli received only a sliver of that money. Mr. Kaji says his private company, with just 20 employees, had annual sales of about $4 million.

Sudoku’s popularity in the United States caught Mr. Kaji by such surprise that he did not try to get the trademark there until it was too late. As a result, Nikoli receives no royalties from sudoku-related sales overseas by other publishers.

In hindsight, though, he now thinks that oversight was a brilliant mistake. The fact that no one controlled sudoku’s intellectual property rights let the game’s popularity grow unfettered, Mr. Kaji says. Nikoli does not plan to trademark other new games, either, in hopes this will also help them take off.

“This openness is more in keeping with Nikoli’s open culture,” said Mr. Kaji, who sat on a sofa in his Tokyo office among pillows adorned with printed faces of racehorses. “We’re prolific because we do it for the love of games, not for the money.”

Even so, he says he wants to pursue a bigger piece of the global sudoku market by selling books of the puzzles written by Nikoli. In the United States, Nikoli is a co-publisher of pocket-size books and sudoku-a-day calendars that together have sold more than a million copies.

Game publishers say that because of its Zen-like simplicity, sudoku will be a tough act to match. But they say that if anyone comes up with the next craze, it will be Nikoli.

“No one is as inventive as Nikoli,” said Andrew Stuart, co-author and contributor to more than 20 books about logic puzzles, including “Extreme Sudoku for Dummies.” “If sudoku has a successor, it will come from them.”

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How To Make $50 Profit In 20 Minutes With Traffic Arbitrage.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

How To Make Money As A Postal Companion

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Valerie Peters, 43, is an 18-year resident of Ahwatukee. Peters was a metallurgical engineer for Honeywell when she had her second child. She went back to work for six weeks then quit to start a home business in August 1996 with one computer and one laser printer. She read a book on mailing list services and took classes from the post office on how to process and package specific kinds of mail.

“I wanted to be home for my kids, yet I needed to nurture my mind,” Peters said.

Peters developed a postal service business, Postal Companion. The business maintains mailing databases and processes 10,000 or fewer pieces of identical mail, from postcards to magazines and large envelopes.

She also cleans up databases so addresses are deliverable, sorting, folding, inserting, printing labels, tabbing, bar coding and fulfilling post office requirements so customers get the best discounts for mailing.

Peters’ customers are small businesses such as telemarketing firms, chiropractors, doctors, real estate offices and financial planners; churches and organizations.

Peters grew her business slowly, paying off the cost of equipment as soon as she bought it. “It was a huge change going from Honeywell to a home office,” she said. “You are constantly seeking work and selling yourself. But it makes you grow.”

She shares her home office with the washer and dryer in an extra large laundry room with a door to the outside. “It’s a struggle because I find myself working nights or weekends because I want to be with my kids,” she said. “Now that they are older, I do have a full span of time when they’re not here.”

Peters has this advice for budding work-at-home entrepreneurs: “Close the door so you have no home noise, and be professional,” Peters said. “Have written documentation on what you have promised or bid on, admit when you err and fix it, let customers know six weeks in advance when you will be closed, and network with other businesses of the same type so you can refer back and forth.

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How I Grossed More Than One Million Dollars in Direct Mail and Mailorder Starting With Little Cash and Less Knowhow

Monday, March 19, 2007

Unusual Women Owned Businesses, Part I

She has race-car driving in her blood. Kristine Gross's great aunt Greta Molander was one of the world's first open-wheel race-car drivers: a Swede who began rallying in 1929 and took the Ladies Cup in 1952. So it makes sense that Gross made the leap from marketing communications manager at AT&T to found eight-person, Chicago-based Rising Star Driver Development. The company, an all-inclusive motor sports training system that prepares and promotes young drivers, earned around $400,000 in revenues last year. Gross says it's not all about DNA: She had had the idea of starting her own marketing consultancy right around the time that NASCAR was taking off. Then she realized nothing existed for aspiring racers at the grassroots level, and her business was born.

How did you, a woman, get into motor sports?

I find that Viking blood runs in my veins, and I carry a bit of the Molander thrill-seeker DNA in me, just like my Great-Aunt Greta. Because of my previous career at AT&T Wireless, I had been approached numerous times by different motor-sports entities regarding sponsorship—teams, drivers, series, etc. I didn't fully appreciate the level of excitement and fan loyalty attached to the sport until my good friend, Roger Johnson, who owns a race team, invited me to a Busch race to experience it for myself. I was hooked! And yes, I have been in a race car, rounding a turn at over 100 miles per hour. Most importantly, I am involved in motor sports to help promising young drivers, regardless of gender, race, creed, or socioeconomic background, to make it to the top levels of their sport.

How To Make Money Naming Domains

How To Create An Umbrella That People Will Line Up For

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Math Software Millionaires

Richard Marett and Ron Van Der Meer believe they’ve found a solution to help fighting poor math skills. Their maths tutoring software uses computer animations to teach maths and is already active in 2,500 schools.

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“If a child uses the software twice a week for a year, maths age progresses by two years for 95% of kids,” insists Marett. It’s proved almost as rewarding for the founders. Inside three years, turnover has hit £1m and is set for another growth spurt with release of a home tutoring package.

The idea for Whizz came from Van Der Meer, who had been toying with the idea of a computer generated maths tutor for some years before meeting Marett. Marett, fresh from running a financial advisory firm in Singapore had moved back to the UK and was looking to set-up an educational company. The pair were introduced by a mutual friend and the rest is history.

Marett and Van Der Meer started by enlisting the help of two prominent academics, who between them had authored more than 100 maths books. It took two years of research with the duo to ensure Whizz content was not only fun and creative, but educationally sound. In addition, a 40-strong team of animators, editors, programmers and developers were recruited.

The project took £785,000 of financing, painstakingly gathered from eight private investors. “It took me nine months going round demonstrating the product,” explained Marett. “Even when we got the investment, it was only really enough to make the product. We still didn’t know how we were going to sell it.”

The solution to Whizz’s marketing problems came in the form of a crucial deal with a sales company. Whizz partnered up with a team of 50 sales people on a commission basis.

With a solid customer base now secured and home market about to be tapped, Marett is wary of large developers entering the market. However, he insists the company’s prolonged research and design work will have made it an expensive market for others to enter.

Despite ploughing huge amounts of time and energy into planning a business that took such a long time to get off the ground, Marett insists they couldn’t have done it without the dedication of the company’s staff.

Collecting the Startups Awards Team of the Year award for 2006, sponsored by Wageroller, he said: “They’ve all worked so hard on minimal salaries because they believed in the product.”

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Friday, March 16, 2007

IT Business Idea For Folks Who Come Up With Great Domain Names

PickyDomains.Com is a perfect example of how to turn one’s talent into a profitable business. With ever expanding Internet and tens of millions existing websites, finding an available domain name that’s not already taken by cybersquatters can be a real nightmare.

But one man’s problem is another man’s solution. Rather than to shell out hundreds or thousands of dollars for a domain name on the aftermarket, an increasing number of web entrepreneurs turn to professional “domain namers”.

While most naming agencies charge a non-refundable fee that can be as high as $1500 for a corporate domain, one service that unites 17 professional domain namers from countries like United States, Russia, Australia and New Zealand, decided to offer a risk-free service that costs only 50 dollars per domain.

After 50 dollars are deposited, clients start getting a list of available domain names via e-mail for a period of 30 days. If they see a domain they like, they register it and notify the service about domain acquired. The individual, who came up with the name, gets $25, the other half going to the service. If no domain is registered, the money is refunded in full.

While the idea is brainlessly simple, it appears that PickyDomains.Com has no competition with its risk-free business model. But that is almost certain to change as more people find out that finding available domain names for other people can be a profitable business.

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

The King Of Marshmallows

Heads up to those who live in US and want to get their tax refunds online in just 2 days.

Here is the article

"We're one of the country's biggest exporters of marshmallows. We also sell our own lines of gourmet pretzels and popcorn to 41 countries. This means that we have to be pretty creative at tapping into international markets.

"For instance, our Thailand importer managed to get a bag of our pretzel nuggets on the Thai version of The Price Is Right. For a trade show we dressed up a German woman in a puffy white marshmallow suit. Two months later her photo landed on the front page of the business section of a Chinese newspaper.

"Before I became a marshmallow king, I spent several years in the early 1990s as a banker in Hamburg. I was struck by how much my wife missed American junk food. She'd drive eight hours to Belgium and spend $12 for a $3 box of Oreos. It got me thinking that there might be a demand for American-branded products, not only among expats but among the locals.

"It took me 2-and-a-half years to land my first sale, to a German catalog company. Unfortunately it wanted small quantities of a lot of different items. Soon I was exporting almost 2,000 different American food products- Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Bisquick, cake mixes.

"This wasn't the most profitable way to do business- the margins were too thin, and we depended on the cooperation of major brands. It made more sense to develop our own versions of American food that wasn't available overseas, selling the product instead of the brand.

"We started with marshmallows. My manufacturer offered to develop a private label for me, and Rocky Mountain Marshmallows was born in 1996. We launched our pretzel and popcorn brands shortly after. Our marshmallow-exporting business grew so well - doubling in sales every year from 1996 to 2004 - that my co-packer, Doumak, purchased the Rocky Mountain brand from me on the condition that we continued to export it. In the past two years we have nearly tripled marshmallow sales.

"Politically the U.S. is unpopular abroad. But we see an almost unlimited opportunity for growth for our products. We recently shipped marshmallows, popcorn, and pretzels to new clients in Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. American culture, at least as it's manifested in food, is pretty bulletproof."

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

7 Great Home Business Ideas For Women

If you are a woman looking for a homebiz opportunity that suites your lifestyle, I suggest you first study some real-life examples for online homebusinesses and some offline ones

After buying their first home, Debra Cohen and her husband faced the unenviable chore of finding reliable home improvement contractors. Fed up with blindly picking names from the Yellow Pages and waiting for contractors who didn't show up, it occurred to Cohen that if she and her husband were having trouble finding contractors, other homeowners in their community must be facing a similar predicament. This bleak reality sparked the creation of a unique service that has since expanded into a profitable cottage industry across the U.S. and internationally. At first, Cohen worked approximately 15 hours to 20 hours per week; she now works about 30 hours per week. Last year, sales for Home Remedies exceeded $100,000.

Diana Waltman came up with the idea of a bookmark business because it was a fun way to express creativity and would require a low investment. Extensive foot surgery forced her to quit office job and doctors told her she would be out of work for more than three years. She knew she had to do something while recuperating, so she decided to look into an online business and found only one Website selling handmade bookmarks. Thus her small online home based business was born.

People often ask Sheril Cohen to talk to their family members or friends who had cancer. Ater all she is a survivor. One of the first questions people ask is: "What about my hair?" So she started a wig business for cancer patients that undergo chemotherapy. “I immersed myself in the wig business. I met with wholesalers, retailers, and stylists in Brooklyn's wig district and spoke to women who wore wigs. I hired four part-time stylists, each of whom had a connection to someone with cancer. They bring wig samples into people's homes and style them as the client likes. My prices -- anywhere from $50 to $5,000 for a wig, depending on the hair -- are comparable to those in wig stores because I have no overhead”

Believe it or not, Baby Einstein (sold to Disney for $25 million) was started as a home business. The Baby Einstein Company LLC based in Littleton, Colorado, came from Julie Aigner-Clark’s need for a learning tool for her infant daughter. In 1995, this former teacher and new mom read the latest research regarding babies’ capacity to learn. Finding nothing in stores that used the research and that was developmentally appropriate, educational and fun, Aigner-Clark decided to create something herself.

Vicky Prazdnik and Lori Mozzone avid knitting and crocheting hobbyists, knew that they needed to create something beyond the standard fare of knitted hats and scarves for them to succeed as a fashion company. They stumbled on the idea of dainty crocheted thong underwear, and went on to create the design and develop the right prototype. Once convinced that they have the right design, they tested the market’s reaction by showing the crocheted thongs in a Valentine’s theme party in New York. Their product got a wild response!

In 1994, Judy Rakocinski was looking into a home based career as a scopist, a person who edits legal transcripts from home for court reporters. That's how she found Cathy Vickio and contacted her about getting started. They have only met in person once since Judy lives in Florida and Cathy lives in Texas. Regardless, a friendship immediately bloomed and has grown since. Cathy helped Judy start her successful career and they continued to be friends. After several years, the pair realized that the ratio of scopists to court reporters was about 1,000 to 60,000. It was clear that the need for professionally trained scopists was great and Judy and Cathy decided to develop a training program for that specific purpose. Thus, they began to develop their online business at where they offer an online, self-paced course designed to teach people to become professional scopists. They just celebrated their four-year anniversary in business together in March 2007.

Wendy Newmeyer started her foray into the balsam business by selling the cut branches of the balsam fir trees for a local incense factory. Quite coincidentally, she had read in a book that Native Americans used balsam trees as herb for many different home remedies. With her long-standing interests in herbs “that got me excited into thinking about it [balsams] in a different way,” said Wendy. She became a supplier to the incense factory, which used her balsam fir boughs to stuff souvenir pillows. Through the years Wendy has experimented with trade shows, catalogue sales, the QVC home shopping network, and many other avenues to showcase her products. She recently set-up a web site, to widen her market reach and take a dip on Internet retailing. Her worldwide outlets now exceed 4,400 stores and her employees have increased to 12. Sales of Maine Balsam Fir Products have reached well over $500,000 per year.

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Great home
business ideas

How To Make Millions On Counterfitted Goods The Honest Way

Faux products are hot -- and so are the Web's counterfeit detectors. Though official numbers are scarce, online protection company MarkMonitor says a record $119 billion in knockoff goods will be sold on the Web in 2007, up from $84 billion last year - everything from counterfeit watches to fraudulent pharmaceuticals.

Companies pay outfits like San Francisco-based MarkMonitor to handle the problem. The privately held company says its revenue grew by 50 percent in 2006 to an estimated $25 million. Its 500 corporate clients pay fees starting at $50,000 a year - a small price to help save millions in fraudulent sales.

For example, Acushnet, maker of Titleist golf balls and clubs, was able to shut down 75 auctions of knockoff gear in one day last June using MarkMonitor's software - and it took just one mouse click and "about three minutes from starting enforcement to ending the auctions," says Acushnet trademark manager Lisa Rogan.

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I was on vaction four times last year. This is who paid for it.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

10 Best Posts

In case you haven't notices, Uncommon Business Ideas That Work just turned one year old. So I decided to go through all the posts and create a top 10 list.

0. The easiest low-cost homebusiness in the world

1. How David Mrack made over $2 million a year, chasing the geese.

2. How to make six figure income naming domains for other people.

3. How Michael Senoff turned $50 into $1700 on eBay, selling Jay Abraham's old seminar tapes.

4. How Steve Pavlina makes $1000 a day from his blog.

5. How a man who hauled other people's junk became a multimillionaire and will probably turn a billionaire shortly.

6. How one smart lady set up a touring business that takes people to various NY locations connected to movies and serials, like Sex and the City.

7. How Puneet Nanda makes $25 million selling toothbrushes.

8. How two guys figured out a way to find out how profitable or unprofitable certain AdSense niche is and built a business around it.

9. How to make a million dollars selling ecosystem in a bottle.

10. How Andy Gregg sells furniture made of used bike parts.

How One Blogger Increased His Revenue From $300/Mo To Over $3000/Mo With Things Other Than AdSense.

Dr. Bob Sports - A Bookie Nightmare Or How To Profit From March Madness Without Gambling

How One Blogger Increased His Revenue From $300/Mo To Over $3000/Mo With Things Other Than AdSense.

Doctor Bob Sports (real name Bob Stoll) is a bookmaker's nightmare. So many customers subscribe to his website, - where they can access the 41-year-old sports statistician's insights for anywhere from $15 for a day to $2,495 for a year - that casinos have often had to recalibrate their point spreads after he posts new picks.

Seeking an advantage in our office pool we asked Bob Sports for March Madness advice. Stoll recommends looking at the overall tournament as a combination of likelihoods.

For instance, maybe you think the No. 6 seed has a 70% chance of getting out of the first round, while the No. 3 seed is 95% likely to beat its first-round challenger. In forecasting a second-round matchup, even if you think the No. 6 has a 55% chance of beating the No. 3 seed, you should still pick the No. 3, because when you multiply the two rounds together, the No. 3 has a higher percentage chance of making it into the third round.

Stoll's personal March Madness pool experience suggests he's onto something.

"If I don't win, it looks bad. But the good thing is, I usually get part of the pot, usually in the top five," says Stoll.

More Wacky Business Ideas

Don't Amazon Me - How To Pick A Good Niche For A Bookstore

Monday, March 12, 2007

How To Make Money With Allergy-Free Snacks.

2006 sales - $300,000

Lori and Mark’s son Benjamin was born with severe food allergies. As he got older, “he felt excluded from just about everything, because so much of our lives revolves around food and eating,” says Lori. She began creating allergen-free treats that actually tasted good.

When did Lori know she had a business on her hands? “When my older children loved the cookies,” she says. “Friends and classmates loved them, and teachers asked if I could bake them for their classes.”

Lori had quit her job to become a stay-at-home mom and Mark had sold his furniture rental business. They saw a market opportunity in the 11 million Americans who have food allergies. The Sandlers started their self-financed company in spring 2005 and opened a facility where no peanuts, tree nuts, eggs or milk were allowed.

They started selling online in October 2005; getting into Bloomingdale’s was their first big break. Securing several locations in Disney World, including restaurants, hotels and bakeries, was another turning point for Divvies. “Disney has given us great credibility,” says Lori. Currently, they sell their gift- and party-favor-size popcorn and cookies in all 50 states and Canada at places such as small boutiques and Bloomingdale’s restaurants.

“There’s a real passion here, and the inspiration is Benjamin,” says Lori. “I’m on a mission to make this labor of love available to everyone, whether they have food allergies or not.”

Other Million Dollar Ideas Plus Easy Money On The Internet If You Love Writing

Sunday, March 11, 2007

You Can Make AMAZING Money As Online Dating Coach

The Playboy Mansion

Marianne Kost, a divorced mother in New York, paid $2,000 for a profile, photographs and coaching from Evan Marc Katz, owner of two coaching services based in Los Angeles, and Ms. Kost was new to online dating, so Mr. Katz also helped her decide which dating service to use and which men to meet.

When Ms. Kost wrote her personal essay, Mr. Katz pushed her to tell specific stories, such as, “I came face-to-face with a bull moose during rutting season,” and, “I occasionally smear a glob of peanut butter on my dog’s nose, just for fun.” Ms. Kost said she had many responses when her profile went online at

Ms. Kost, 49, said Mr. Katz was of much help. “It was wonderful for my ego, and I felt I had a pick of the cream of the crop. I ended up having so much interesting stuff in my profile that I had a lot to talk about and write about in e-mails.”

Ms. Kost said she did not meet many men in person, because Mr. Katz had advised her to go through a long screening process with e-mail and phone conversations before an actual date. After three months, Ms. Kost met Stephen Micallef, who, like her, is an engineer. She immediately liked how he spoke of his daughters. “I liked his values,” Ms. Kost said. “He seemed emotionally mature and very open.”

Mr. Micallef, 47, liked the professional photographs of Ms. Kost. And he liked the way her profile captured her essence with details, like how she raced a storm on a sailboat and collected strawberries to make jam. “This was well written. There was thought in it,” he said. “I found her profile to be authentic, sincere and honest, and it was proven out.”

They have dated for eight months and plan to marry.

Mr. Katz said his company has helped thousands of people since it began five years ago. It offers several packages, starting at $49 for a 20-minute consultation and a line-by-line critique of a profile. For $129 to $199, people fill out a questionnaire and spend a half-hour on the phone with a freelance writer, who writes two essays for them. For $1,500, the company interviews clients, writes their profiles, takes professional photographs and coaches them via phone and e-mail about online dating. For $1,000 a month, he coaches them about dating and relationships in general.

How to Make Great Money Hosting Speed Dating Events: A Complete Guide Anyone Can Follow

Matchmaking From Fun to Profit: A Complete Guide to Turning Your Matchmaking Skills into a New Business

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Spotrunner - DIY TV Ads

While internet and mobile advertising are gaining ground, television remains a powerful marketing tool. And one that's out of reach for many small businesses. Los Angeles-based Spot Runner offers a solution, by making it fast, easy and affordable for local businesses to advertise on television.

The entire process is online and automated: customers pick from a wide range of ready-made videos that are tailor-made to their industry. After selecting an ad, the business customizes voice-over text and on-screen information, and tells Spot Runner how much it would like to spend on air time and which markets the ad should run in. Complete campaigns, including production and airtime, start at USD 1,500 and can be up and running within weeks.

While some businesses may balk at the idea of cookie-cutter ads, the production quality is higher then most local florists, pet shops and wedding planners would otherwise be able to afford. And the self-service approach saves time and should appeal to businesses who don't have budgets for working with agencies and media planners. Very comparable to Google's AdWords approach to advertising online.

Spot Runner also operates a franchise advertising program that lets franchisees select commercials from a library of ad templates, and customize them with their own information, content and images. Which gives local franchisees more control over their marketing campaigns, while maintaining a consistent national brand identity. Franchisee partnerships include Contours Express (women's fitness centers), iSoldIt (eBay drop-off stores) and Century 21 (real estate agents).

As explained by iSoldIt's CEO: “Our industry is really still in its infancy, and TV lets us visually explain what we do in ways that print and online ads can’t. Spot Runner’s Franchise Advertising Program gives our franchisees a way to get on TV and introduce their services to the community, which is extremely valuable, because once people understand what we do, they visit our stores.” One to start up outside the U.S.?

Clutterbusters Story - How To Make Money Organizing Other People

How To Make And Market Your Own Movie For Under $50,000

Friday, March 09, 2007

Blog That Makes $1000 A Day. was launched on Oct 1st, 2004. By April 2005 it was averaging $4.12/day in income. Now it brings in over $1000/day (updated as of 10/29/06). I didn’t spend a dime on marketing or promotion. In fact, I started this site with just $9 to register the domain name, and everything was bootstrapped from there. Would you like to know how I did it?

This article is seriously long (over 7300 words), but you’re sure to get your money’s worth (hehehe). I’ll even share some specifics. If you don’t have time to read it now, feel free to bookmark it or print it out for later.

Do you actually want to monetize your blog?

Some people have strong personal feelings with respect to making money from their blogs. If you think commercializing your blog is evil, immoral, unethical, uncool, lame, greedy, obnoxious, or anything along those lines, then don’t commercialize it.

If you have mixed feelings about monetizing your blog, then sort out those feelings first. If you think monetizing your site is wonderful, fine. If you think it’s evil, fine. But make up your mind before you seriously consider starting down this path. If you want to succeed, you must be congruent. Generating income from your blog is challenging enough — you don’t want to be dealing with self-sabotage at the same time. It should feel genuinely good to earn income from your blog — you should be driven by a healthy ambition to succeed. If your blog provides genuine value, you fully deserve to earn income from it. If, however, you find yourself full of doubts over whether this is the right path for you, you might find this article helpful: How Selfish Are You? It’s about balancing your needs with the needs of others.

If you do decide to generate income from your blog, then don’t be shy about it. If you’re going to put up ads, then really put up ads. Don’t just stick a puny little ad square in a remote corner somewhere. If you’re going to request donations, then really request donations. Don’t put up a barely visible “Donate” link and pray for the best. If you’re going to sell products, then really sell them. Create or acquire the best quality products you can, and give your visitors compelling reasons to buy. If you’re going to do this, then fully commit to it. Don’t take a half-assed approach. Either be full-assed or no-assed.

You can reasonably expect that when you begin commercializing a free site, some people will complain, depending on how you do it. I launched this site in October 2004, and I began putting Google Adsense ads on the site in February 2005. There were some complaints, but I expected that — it was really no big deal. Less than 1 in 5,000 visitors actually sent me negative feedback. Most people who sent feedback were surprisingly supportive. Most of the complaints died off within a few weeks, and the site began generating income almost immediately, although it was pretty low — a whopping $53 the first month. If you’d like to see some month-by-month specifics, I posted my 2005 Adsense revenue figures earlier this year. Adsense is still my single best source of revenue for this site, although it’s certainly not my only source. More on that later…

Can you make a decent income online?

Yes, absolutely. At the very least, a high five-figure annual income is certainly an attainable goal for an individual working full-time from home. I’m making a healthy income from, and the site is only 19 months old… barely a toddler. If you have a day job, it will take longer to generate a livable income, but it can still be done part-time if you’re willing to devote a lot of your spare time to it. I’ve always done it full-time.

Can most people do it?

No, they can’t. I hope it doesn’t shock you to see a personal development web site use the dreaded C-word. But I happen to agree with those who say that 99% of people who try to generate serious income from their blogs will fail. The tagline for this site is “Personal Development for Smart People.” And unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your outlook), smart people are a minority on this planet. So while most people can’t make a living this way, I would say that most smart people can. How do you know whether or not you qualify as smart? Here’s a good rule of thumb: If you have to ask the question, you aren’t.

If that last paragraph doesn’t flood my inbox with flames, I don’t know what will. OK, actually I do.

This kind of 99-1 ratio isn’t unique to blogging though. You’ll see it in any field with relatively low barriers to entry. What percentage of wannabe actors, musicians, or athletes ever make enough money from their passions to support themselves? It doesn’t take much effort to start a blog these days — almost anyone can do it. Talent counts for something, and the talent that matters in blogging is intelligence. But that just gets you in the door. You need to specifically apply your intelligence to one particular talent. And the best words I can think of to describe that particular talent are: web savvy.

If you are very web savvy, or if you can learn to become very web savvy, then you have an excellent shot of making enough money from your blog to cover all your living expenses… and then some. But if becoming truly web savvy is more than your gray matter can handle, then I’ll offer this advice: Don’t quit your day job.

Web savvy

What do I mean by web savvy? You don’t need to be a programmer, but you need a decent functional understanding of a variety of web technologies. What technologies are “key” will depend on the nature of your blog and your means of monetization. But generally speaking I’d list these elements as significant:

* blog publishing software
* blog comments (and comment spam)
* RSS/syndication
* feed aggregators
* pings
* trackbacks
* full vs. partial feeds
* blog carnivals (for kick-starting your blog’s traffic)
* search engines
* search engine optimization (SEO)
* page rank
* social bookmarking
* tagging
* contextual advertising
* affiliate programs
* traffic statistics
* email

Optional: podcasting, instant messaging, PHP or other web scripting languages.

I’m sure I missed a few due to familiarity blindness. If scanning such a list makes your head spin, I wouldn’t recommend trying to make a full-time living from blogging just yet. Certainly you can still blog, but you’ll be at a serious disadvantage compared to someone who’s more web savvy, so don’t expect to achieve stellar results until you expand your knowledge base.

If you want to sell downloadable products such as ebooks, then you can add e-commerce, SSL, digital delivery, fraud prevention, and online databases to the list. Again, you don’t need to be a programmer; you just need a basic understanding of these technologies. Even if you hire someone else to handle the low-level implementation, it’s important to know what you’re getting into. You need to be able to trust your strategic decisions, and you won’t be able to do that if you’re a General who doesn’t know what a gun is.

A lack of understanding is a major cause of failure in the realm of online income generation. For example, if you’re clueless about search engine optimization (SEO), you’ll probably cripple your search engine rankings compared to someone who understands SEO well. But you can’t consider each technology in isolation. You need to understand the connections and trade-offs between them. Monetizing a blog is a balancing act. You may need to balance the needs of yourself, your visitors, search engines, those who link to you, social bookmarking sites, advertisers, affiliate programs, and others. Seemingly minor decisions like what to title a web page are significant. In coming up with the title of this article, I have to take all of these potential viewers into consideration. I want a title that is attractive to human visitors, drives reasonable search engine traffic, yields relevant contextual ads, fits the theme of the site, and encourages linking and social bookmarking. And most importantly I want each article to provide genuine value to my visitors. I do my best to create titles for my articles that balance these various needs. Often that means abandoning cutesy or clever titles in favor of direct and comprehensible ones. It’s little skills like these that help drive sustainable traffic growth month after month. Missing out on just this one skill is enough to cripple your traffic. And there are dozens of these types of skills that require web savvy to understand, respect, and apply.

This sort of knowledge is what separates the 1% from the 99%. Both groups may work just as hard, but the 1% is getting much better results for their efforts. It normally doesn’t take me more than 60 seconds to title an article, but a lot of experience goes into those 60 seconds. You really just have to learn these ideas once; after that you can apply them routinely.

Whenever you come across a significant web technology you don’t understand, look it up on Google or Wikipedia, and dive into it long enough to acquire a basic understanding of it. To make money from blogging it’s important to be something of a jack of all trades. Maybe you’ve heard the expression, “A jack of all trades is a master of none.” That may be true, but you don’t need to master any of these technologies — you just have to be good enough to use them. It’s the difference between being able to drive a car vs. becoming an auto mechanic. Strive to achieve functional knowledge, and then move on to something else. Even though I’m an experienced programmer, I don’t know how many web technologies actually work. I don’t really care. I can still use them to generate results. In the time it would take me to fully understand one new technology, I can achieve sufficient functional knowledge to apply several of them.

Thriving on change

Your greatest risk isn’t that you’ll make mistakes that will cost you. Your greatest risk is that you’ll miss opportunities. You need an entrepreneurial mindset, not an employee mindset. Don’t be too concerned with the risk of loss — be more concerned with the risk of missed gains. It’s what you don’t know and what you don’t do that will hurt you the worst. Blogging is cheap. Your expenses and financial risk should be minimal. Your real concern should be missing opportunities that would have made you money very easily. You need to develop antennae that can listen out for new opportunities. I highly recommend subscribing to Darren Rowse’s Problogger blog — Darren is great at uncovering new income-generating opportunities for bloggers.

The blogosphere changes rapidly, and change creates opportunity. It takes some brains to decipher these opportunities and to take advantage of them before they disappear. If you hesitate to capitalize on something new and exciting, you may simply miss out. Many opportunities are temporary. And every day you don’t implement them, you’re losing money you could have earned. And you’re also missing opportunities to build traffic, grow your audience, and benefit more people.

I used to get annoyed by the rapid rate of change of web technologies. It’s even more rapid than what I saw when I worked in the computer gaming industry. And the rate of change is accelerating. Almost every week now I learn about some fascinating new web service or idea that could potentially lead to big changes down the road. Making sense of them is a full-time job in itself. But I learned to love this insane pace. If I’m confused then everyone else is probably confused too. And people who only do this part-time will be very confused. If they aren’t confused, then they aren’t keeping up. So if I can be just a little bit faster and understand these technologies just a little bit sooner, then I can capitalize on some serious opportunities before the barriers to entry become too high. Even though confusion is uncomfortable, it’s really a good thing for a web entrepreneur. This is what creates the space for a college student to earn $1,000,000 online in just a few months with a clever idea. Remember this isn’t a zero-sum game. Don’t let someone else’s success make you feel diminished or jealous. Let it inspire you instead.

What’s your overall income-generation strategy?

I don’t want to insult anyone, but most people are utterly clueless when it comes to generating income from their blogs. They slap things together haphazardly with no rhyme or reason and hope to generate lots of money. While I’m a strong advocate of the ready-fire-aim approach, that strategy does require that you eventually aim. Ready-fire-fire-fire-fire will just create a mess.

Take a moment to articulate a basic income-generating strategy for your site. If you aren’t good at strategy, then just come up with a general philosophy for how you’re going to generate income. You don’t need a full business plan, just a description of how you plan to get from $0 per month to whatever your income goal is. An initial target goal I used when I first started this site was $3000 per month. It’s a somewhat arbitrary figure, but I knew if I could reach $3000 per month, I could certainly push it higher, and $3000 is enough income that it’s going to make a meaningful difference in my finances. I reached that level 15 months after launching the site (in December 2005). And since then it’s continued to increase nicely. Blogging income is actually quite easy to maintain. It’s a lot more secure than a regular job. No one can fire me, and if one source of income dries up, I can always add new ones. We’ll address multiple streams of income soon…

Are you going to generate income from advertising, affiliate commissions, product sales, donations, or something else? Maybe you want a combination of these things. However you decide to generate income, put your basic strategy down in writing. I took 15 minutes to create a half-page summary of my monetization strategy. I only update it about once a year and review it once a month. This isn’t difficult, but it helps me stay focused on where I’m headed. It also allows me to say no to opportunities that are inconsistent with my plan.

Refer to your monetization strategy (or philosophy) when you need to make design decisions for your web site. Although you may have multiple streams of income, decide which type of income will be your primary source, and design your site around that. Do you need to funnel people towards an order form, or will you place ads all over the site? Different monetization strategies suggest different design approaches. Think about what specific action you want your visitors to eventually take that will generate income for you, and design your site accordingly.

When devising your income strategy, feel free to cheat. Don’t re-invent the wheel. Copy someone else’s strategy that you’re convinced would work for you too. Do NOT copy anyone’s content or site layout (that’s copyright infringement), but take note of how they’re making money. I decided to monetize this site with advertising and affiliate income after researching how various successful bloggers generated income. Later I added donations as well. This is an effective combo.

Traffic, traffic, traffic

Assuming you feel qualified to take on the challenge of generating income from blogging (and I haven’t scared you away yet), the three most important things you need to monetize your blog are traffic, traffic, and traffic.

Just to throw out some figures, last month (April 2006), this site received over 1.1 million visitors and over 2.4 million page views. That’s almost triple what it was just six months ago.

Why is traffic so important? Because for most methods of online income generation, your income is a function of traffic. If you double your traffic, you’ll probably double your income (assuming your visitor demographics remain fairly consistent). You can screw almost everything else up, but if you can generate serious traffic, it’s really hard to fail. With sufficient traffic the realistic worst case is that you’ll eventually be able to monetize your web site via trial and error (as long as you keep those visitors coming).

When I first launched this blog, I knew that traffic building was going to be my biggest challenge. All of my plans hinged on my ability to build traffic. If I couldn’t build traffic, it was going to be very difficult to succeed. So I didn’t even try to monetize my site for the first several months. I just focused on traffic building. Even after 19 months, traffic building is still the most important part of my monetization plan. For my current traffic levels, I know I’m undermonetizing my site, but that’s OK. Right now it’s more important to me to keep growing the site, and I’m optimizing the income generation as I go along.

Traffic is the primary fuel of online income generation. More visitors means more ad clicks, more product sales, more affiliate sales, more donations, more consulting leads, and more of whatever else that generates income for you. And it also means you’re helping more and more people.

With respect to traffic, you should know that in many respects, the rich do get richer. High traffic leads to even more traffic-building opportunities that just aren’t accessible for low-traffic sites. On average at least 20 bloggers add new links to my site every day, my articles can easily surge to the top of social bookmarking sites like, and I’m getting more frequent requests for radio interviews. Earlier this year I was featured in USA Today and in Self Magazine, which collectively have millions of readers. Journalists are finding me by doing Google searches on topics I’ve written about. These opportunities were not available to me when I was first starting out. Popular sites have a serious advantage. The more traffic you have, the more you can attract.

If you’re intelligent and web savvy, you should also be able to eventually build a high-traffic web site. And you’ll be able to leverage that traffic to build even more traffic.

How to build traffic

Now if traffic is so crucial, how do you build it up to significant levels if you’re starting from rock bottom?

I’ve already written a lengthy article on this topic, so I’ll refer you there: How to Build a High Traffic Web Site (or Blog). If you don’t have time to read it now, feel free to bookmark it or print it out for later. That article covers my general philosophy of traffic-building, which centers on creating content that provides genuine value to your visitors. No games or gimmicks.

There is one other important traffic-building tip I’ll provide here though.

Blog Carnivals. Take full advantage of blog carnivals when you’re just starting out (click the previous link and read the FAQ there to learn what carnivals are if you don’t already know). Periodically submit your best blog posts to the appropriate carnivals for your niche. Carnivals are easy ways to get links and traffic, and best of all, they’re free. Submitting only takes minutes if you use a multi-carnvival submission form. Do NOT spam the carnivals with irrelevant material — only submit to the carnivals that are a match for your content.

In my early traffic-building days, I’d do carnivals submissions once a week, and it helped a great deal in going from nothing to about 50,000 visitors per month. You still have to produce great content, but carnivals give you a free shot at marketing your unknown blog for free. Carnivals are like an open-mic night at a comedy club — they give amateurs a chance to show off their stuff. I still submit to certain carnivals every once in a while, but now my traffic is so high that relatively speaking, they don’t make much difference anymore. Just to increase my traffic by 1% in a month, I need 11,000 new visitors, and even the best carnivals don’t push that much traffic. But you can pick up dozens or even hundreds of new subscribers from each round of carnival submissions, so it’s a great place to start. Plus it’s very easy.

If your traffic isn’t growing month after month, does it mean you’re doing something wrong? Most likely you aren’t doing enough things right. Again, making mistakes is not the issue. Missing opportunities is.

Will putting ads on your site hurt your traffic?

Here’s a common fear I hear from people who are considering monetizing their web sites:

Putting ads on my site will cripple my traffic. The ads will drive people away, and they’ll never come back.

Well, in my experience this is absolutely, positively, and otherwise completely and totally… FALSE. It’s just not true. Guess what happened to my traffic when I put ads on my site. Nothing. Guess what happened to my traffic when I put up more ads and donation links. Nothing. I could detect no net effect on my traffic whatsoever. Traffic continued increasing at the same rate it did before there were ads on my site. In fact, it might have even helped me a little, since some bloggers actually linked to my site just to point out that they didn’t like my ad layout. I’ll leave it up to you to form your own theories about this. It’s probably because there’s so much advertising online already that even though some people will complain when a free site puts up ads, if they value the content, they’ll still come back, regardless of what they say publicly.

Most mature people understand it’s reasonable for a blogger to earn income from his/her work. I think I’m lucky in that my audience tends to be very mature — immature people generally aren’t interested in personal development. To create an article like this takes serious effort, not to mention the hard-earned experience that’s required to write it. This article alone took me over 15 hours of writing and editing. I think it’s perfectly reasonable to earn an income from such work. If you get no value from it, you don’t pay anything. What could be more fair than that? The more income this blog generates, the more I can put into it. For example, I used some of the income to buy podcasting equipment and added a podcast to the site. I’ve recorded 13 episodes so far. The podcasts are all ad-free. I’m also planning to add some additional services to this site in the years ahead. More income = better service.

At the time of this writing, my site is very ad-heavy. Some people point this out to me as if I’m not aware of it: “You know, Steve. Your web site seems to contain an awful lot of ads.” Of course I’m aware of it. I’m the one who put the ads there. There’s a reason I have this configuration of ads. They’re effective! People keep clicking on them. If they weren’t effective, I’d remove them right away and try something else.

I do avoid putting up ads that I personally find annoying when I see them on other sites, including pop-ups and interstitials (stuff that flies across your screen). Even though they’d make me more money, in my opinion they degrade the visitor experience too much.

I also provide two ad-free outlets, so if you really don’t like ads, you can actually read my content without ads. First, I provide a full-text RSS feed, and at least for now it’s ad-free. I do, however, include a donation request in the bottom of my feeds.

If you want to see some actual traffic data, take a look at the 2005 traffic growth chart. I first put ads on the site in February 2005, and although the chart doesn’t cover pre-February traffic growth, the growth rate was very similar before then. For an independent source, you can also look at my traffic chart on Alexa. You can select different Range options to go further back in time.

Multiple streams of income

You don’t need to put all your eggs in one basket. Think multiple streams of income. On this site I actually have six different streams of income. Can you count them all? Here’s a list:

1. Google Adsense ads (pay per click and pay per impression advertising)
2. Donations (via PayPal or snail mail — yes, some people do mail a check)
3. Text Link Ads (sold for a fixed amount per month)
4. Chitika eMiniMalls ads (pay per click)
5. Affiliate programs like Amazon and LinkShare (commission on products sold, mostly books)
6. Advertising sold to individual advertisers (three-month campaigns or longer)

Note: If you’re reading this article a while after its original publication date, then this list is likely to change. I frequently experiment with different streams.

Adsense is my biggest single source of income, but some of the others do pretty well too. Every stream generates more than $100/month.

My second biggest income stream is actually donations. My average donation is about $10, and I’ve received a number of $100 donations too. It only took me about an hour to set this up via PayPal. So even if your content is free like mine, give your visitors a means to voluntarily contribute if they wish. It’s win-win. I’m very grateful for the visitor support. It’s a nice form of feedback too, since I notice that certain articles produced a surge in donations — this tells me I’m hitting the mark and giving people genuine value.

These aren’t my only streams of income though. I’ve been earning income online since 1995. With my computer games business, I have direct sales, royalty income, some advertising income, affiliate income, and donations (from the free articles). And if you throw in my wife’s streams of income, it gets really ridiculous: advertising, direct book sales, book sales through distributors, web consulting, affiliate income, more Adsense income, and probably a few sources I forgot. Suffice it to say we receive a lot of paychecks. Some of them are small, but they add up. It’s also extremely low risk — if one source of income dries up, we just expand existing sources or create new ones. I encourage you to think of your blog as a potential outlet for multiple streams of income too.

Automated income

With the exception of #6, all of these income sources are fully automated. I don’t have to do anything to maintain them except deposit checks, and in most cases I don’t even have to do that because the money is automatically deposited to my bank account.

I love automated income. With this blog I currently have no sales, no employees, no products, no inventory, no credit card processing, no fraud, and no customers. And yet I’m still able to generate a reasonable (and growing) income.

Why get a regular job and trade your time for money when you can let technology do all that work for you? Imagine how it would feel to wake up each morning, go to your computer, and check how much money you made while you were sleeping. It’s a really nice situation to be in.

Blogging software and hardware

I use WordPress for this blog, and I highly recommend it. Wordpress has lots of features and a solid interface. And you can’t beat its price — free.

The rest of this site is custom-coded HTML, CSS, PHP, and MySQL. I’m a programmer, so I coded it all myself. I could have just as easily used an existing template, but I wanted a simple straightforward design for this site, and I wanted the look of the blog to match the rest of the site. Plus I use PHP and MySQL to do some creative things outside the blog, like the Million Dollar Experiment.

I don’t recommend using a hosted service like Blogger if you want to seriously monetize your blog. You don’t get enough control. If you don’t have your own URL, you’re tying yourself to a service you don’t own and building up someone else’s asset. You want to build page rank and links for your own URL, not someone else’s. Plus you want sufficient control over the layout and design of your site, so you can jump on any opportunities that require low-level changes. If you use a hosted blog, you’re at the mercy of the hosting service, and that puts the future of any income streams you create with them at risk. It’s a bit more work up front to self-host, but it’s less risky in the long run.

Web hosting is cheap, and there are plenty of good hosts to choose from. I recommend for a hosting account. They aren’t the cheapest, but they’re very reliable and have decent support. I know many online businesses that host with them, and my wife refers most of her clients there.

As your traffic grows you may need to upgrade to a dedicated server or a virtual private server (VPS). My web server is hosted by What I like about ServInt is that they have a nice upgrade path as my traffic keeps growing. I’ve gone through several upgrades with them already, and all have been seamless. The nice thing about having your own server is that you can put as many sites on it as the server can handle. I have several sites running on my server, and it doesn’t cost me any additional hosting fees to add another site.

Comments or no comments

When I began this blog, I started out with comments enabled. As traffic grew, so did the level of commenting. Some days there were more than 100 comments. I noticed I was spending more and more time managing comments, and I began to question whether it was worth the effort. It became clear that with continued traffic growth, I was going to have to change my approach or die in comment hell. The personal development topics I write about can easily generate lots of questions and discussion. Just imagine how many follow-up questions an article like this could generate. With tens of thousands of readers, it would be insane. Also, nuking comment spam was chewing up more and more of my time as well.

But after looking through my stats, I soon realized that only a tiny fraction of visitors ever look at comments at all, and an even smaller fraction ever post a comment (well below 1% of total visitors). That made my decision a lot easier, and in October 2005, I turned blog comments off. In retrospect that was one of my best decisions. I wish I had done it sooner.

If you’d like to read the full details of how I came to this decision, I’ve written about it previously: Blog Comments and More on Blog Comments.

Do you need comments to build traffic? Obviously not. Just like when I put up ads, I saw no decline in traffic when I turned off comments. In fact, I think it actually helped me. Although I turned off comments, I kept trackbacks enabled, so I started getting more trackbacks. If people wanted to publicly comment on something I’d written, they had to do so on their own blogs and post a link. So turning off comments didn’t kill the discussion — it just took it off site. The volume of trackbacks is far more reasonable, and I can easily keep up with it. I even pop onto other people’s sites and post comments now and then, but I don’t feel obligated to participate because the discussion isn’t on my own site.

I realize people have very strong feelings about blog comments and community building. Many people hold the opinion that a blog without comments just isn’t a blog. Personally I think that’s utter nonsense — the data just doesn’t support it. The vast majority of blog readers neither read nor post comments. Only a very tiny and very vocal group even care about comments. Some bloggers say that having comments helps build traffic, but I saw no evidence of that. In fact, I think it’s just the opposite. Managing comments detracts from writing new posts, and it’s far better to get a trackback and a link from someone else’s blog vs. a comment on your own blog. As long-term readers of my blog know, when faced with ambiguity, my preference is to try both alternatives and compare real results with real results. After doing that my conclusion is this: No comment. :)

Now if you want to support comments for non-traffic-building reasons like socializing or making new contacts, I say go for it. Just don’t assume that comments are necessary or even helpful in building traffic unless you directly test this assumption yourself.

Build a complete web site, not just a blog

Don’t limit your web site to just a blog. Feel free to build it out. Although most of my traffic goes straight to this blog, there’s a whole site built around it. For example, the home page of this site presents an overview of all the sections of the site, including the blog, article section, audio content, etc. A lot of people still don’t know what a blog is, so if your whole site is your blog, those people may be a little confused.

Testing and optimization

In the beginning you won’t know which potential streams of income will work best for you. So try everything that’s reasonable for you. If you learn about a new potential income stream, test it for a month or two, and measure the results for yourself. Feel free to cut streams that just aren’t working for you, and put more effort into optimizing those streams that show real promise.

A few months ago, I signed up for an account with Text Link Ads. It took about 20 minutes. They sell small text ads on my site, split the revenue with me 50-50, and deposit my earnings directly into my PayPal account. This month I’ll make around $600 from them, possibly more if they sell some new ads during the month. And it’s totally passive. If I never tried this, I’d miss out on this easy extra income.

For many months I’ve been tweaking the Adsense ads on this site. I tried different colors, sizes, layouts, etc. I continue to experiment now and then, but I have a hard time beating the current layout. It works very well for me. Adsense doesn’t allow publishers to reveal specific CPM and CTR data, but mine are definitely above par. They started out in the gutter though. You can easily double or triple your Adsense revenue by converting a poor layout into a better one. This is the main reason why during my first year of income, my traffic grew at 20% per month, but my income grew at 50% per month. Frequent testing and optimization had a major positive impact. Many of my test failed and even made my income go down, but I’m glad I did all that testing. If I didn’t then my Adsense income would only be a fraction of what it is now.

It’s cheap to experiment. Every new advertising or affiliate service I’ve tried so far has been free to sign up. Often I can add a new income stream in under and hour and then just wait a month and see how it does. If it flops then at least I learned something. If it does well, wonderful. As a blogger who wants to generate income, you should always be experimenting with new income streams. If you haven’t tried anything new in six months, you’re almost certainly missing some golden opportunities. Every blog is different, so you need to test things for yourself to see what works for you. Failure is impossible here — you either succeed, or you learn something.

Pick your niche, but make sure it isn’t too small

Pick a niche for your blog where you have some significant expertise, but make sure it’s a big enough niche that you can build significant traffic. My wife runs, a popular vegan web site. She does pretty well within her niche, but it’s just not a very big niche. On the other hand, my topic of personal development has much broader appeal. Potentially anyone can be interested in improving themselves, and I have the flexibility to write about topics like productivity, self-discipline, relationships, spirituality, health, and more. It’s all relevant to personal development.

Pick a niche that you’re passionate about. I’ve written 400+ articles so far, and I still feel like I’m just getting started. I’m not feeling burnt out at all. I chose to build a personal development site because I’m very knowledgeable, experienced, and passionate about this subject. I couldn’t imagine a better topic for me to write about.

Don’t pick a niche just because you think it will make you money. I see many bloggers try to do that, and it’s almost invariably a recipe for failure. Think about what you love most, and then find a way to make your topic appealing to a massive global audience. Consider what will provide genuine value to your visitors. It’s all about what you can give.

A broad enough topic creates more potential advertising partners. If I keep writing on the same subtopic over and over, I may exhaust the supply of advertisers and hit an income ceiling. But by writing on many different topics under the same umbrella, I widen the field of potential advertisers. And I expand the appeal of my site at the same time.

Make it clear to your visitors what your blog/site is about. Often I visit a blog with a clever title and tagline that reveals nothing about the site’s contents. In that case I generally assume it’s just a personal journal and move on. I love to be clever too, but I’ve found that clarity usually yields better results than cleverness.

Posting frequency and length

Bloggers have different opinions about the right posting length and frequency. Some bloggers say it’s best to write short (250-750 word) entries and post 20x per week or more. I’ve seen that strategy work for some, but I decided to do pretty much the opposite. I usually aim for about 3-5 posts per week, but my posts are much longer (typically 1000-2000 words, sometimes longer than 5000 words, including the monster you’re reading right now). That’s because rather than throwing out lots of short tips, I prefer to write more exhaustive, in-depth articles. I find that deeper articles are better at generating links and referrals and building traffic. It’s true that fewer people will take the time to read them, but those that do will enjoy some serious take-away value. I don’t believe in creating disposable content just to increase page views and ad impressions. If I’m not truly helping my visitors, I’m wasting their time.


Blogging is dirt cheap.

I don’t spend money on advertising or promotion, so my marketing expenses are nil. Essentially my content is my marketing. If you like this article, you’ll probably find many more gems in the archives.

My only real expenses for this site are the hosting (I currently pay $149/month for the web server and bandwidth) and the domain name renewal ($9/year). Nearly all of the income this site generates is profit. This trickles down to my personal income, so of course it’s subject to income tax. But the actual business expenses are minimal.

The reason I pay so much for hosting is simply due to my traffic. If my traffic were much lower, I could run this site on a cheap shared hosting account. A database-driven blog can be a real resource hog at high traffic levels. The same goes for online forums. As traffic continues to increase, my hosting bill will go up too, but it will still be a tiny fraction of total income.


Depending on the nature of your blog, you may be able to enjoy some nice perks as your traffic grows. Almost every week I get free personal development books in the mail (for potential review on this site). Sometimes the author will send it directly; other times the publisher will ship me a batch of books. I also receive CDs, DVDs, and other personal development products. It’s hard to keep up sometimes (I have a queue of about two dozen books right now), but I am a voracious consumer of such products, so I do plow through them as fast as I can. When something strikes me as worthy of mention, I do indeed write up a review to share it with my visitors. I have very high standards though, so I review less than 10% of what I receive. I’ve read over 700 books in this field and listened to dozens of audio programs, so I’m pretty good at filtering out the fluff. As I’m sure you can imagine, there’s a great deal of self-help fluff out there.

My criteria for reviewing a product on this site is that it has to be original, compelling, and profound. If it doesn’t meet these criteria, I don’t review it, even if there’s a generous affiliate program. I’m not going to risk abusing my relationship with my visitors just to make a quick buck. Making money is not my main motivation for running this site. My main motivation is to grow and to help others grow, so that always comes first.

Your blog can also gain you access to certain events. A high-traffic blog becomes a potential media outlet, so you can actually think of yourself as a member of the press, which indeed you are. In a few days, my wife and I will be attending a three-day seminar via a free press pass. The regular price for these tickets is $500 per person. I’ll be posting a full review of the seminar next week. I’ve been to this particular seminar in 2004, so I already have high expectations for it. Dr. Wayne Dyer will be the keynote speaker.

I’m also using the popularity of this blog to set up interviews with people I’ve always wanted to learn more about. This is beautifully win-win because it creates value for me, my audience, and the person being interviewed. Recently I posted an exclusive interview with multi-millionaire Marc Allen as well as a review of his latest book, and I’m lining up other interviews as well. It isn’t hard to convince someone to do an interview in exchange for so much free exposure.


I don’t think you’ll get very far if money is your #1 motivation for blogging. You have to be driven by something much deeper. Money is just frosting. It’s the cake underneath that matters. My cake is that I absolutely love personal development – not the phony “fast and easy” junk you see on infomercials, but real growth that makes us better human beings. That’s my passion. Pouring money on top of it just adds more fuel to the fire, but the fire is still there with or without the money.

What’s your passion? What would you blog about if you were already set for life?

Blogging lifestyle

Perhaps the best part of generating income from blogging is the freedom it brings. I work from home and set my own hours. I write whenever I’m inspired to write (which for me is quite often). Plus I get to spend my time doing what I love most — working on personal growth and helping others do the same. There’s nothing I’d rather do than this.

Perhaps it’s true that 99 out of 100 people can’t make a decent living from blogging yet. But maybe you’re among the 1 in 100 who can.

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

Great UK Voice-To-Money Business

Frustrated with the process of scrabbling around for a scrap of paper to write down details from voicemails, Christina Domecq decided there had to be an easier way to access her messages. With the help of her long-term business partner Daniel Doulton, she turned her voice-to-text idea into Spinvox – an award-winning multinational business currently turning over more than £2m a year.

After Domecq’s initial idea in 2003, the next 12 months were spent gathering funding for the project, putting the team together, and developing the patented technology that allows Spinvox to convert speech into written word.

Daulton led the team that built the first prototype using open standard network telephony protocols and a customised conversion system, which he developed himself. The pair had the proof the concept could work even before they started looking for external funding, which meant they had an actual product to market. Their investors could see how it worked and try it for themselves.

Domecq then set about devising her business strategy, which included getting some well-known high street retailers on board. Having established partnerships with big names such as 3G, the Carphone Warehouse and The Link, Spinvox used their brands and customer relationships rather than try to compete against them. In 2005, Spinvox’s Voicemail-to-text service was launched through the high street retailers.

Initially the company was funded by Domecq and Doulton, but angel investors soon followed as the company proved to be more and more successful. Domecq says the idea was to raise finance in instalments, as the company grew.

Spinvox was not the first successful business Domecq founded. At the age of 20 she set up her own IT services consultancy, which employed 140 members of staff. It’s no surprise then that she was able to find investors for Spinvox – although the reported £25m raised is still extremely impressive for any start-up business.

Domecq says the company’s biggest success to date has been securing deals in three languages with companies across four continents for the Spinvox technology to be used with mobiles and internet calls.

However, if she could do it all again from scratch, Domecq says she would have tried to gain a stronger presence in North America. “It’s a different market, with extraordinary potential,” she says. “The American market has the potential to fast track our service into new areas, such as internet based messaging.”

But despite the fact that the company did not focus on the American market from the beginning, Spinvox’s growth has been rapid, increasing to a current team of around 130 members of staff.

Based in Maidenhead the company currently operates in the UK, U.S, Germany, France and Spain. Domecq has high hopes for Spinvox, with the aim of getting the service operating on every mobile handset in Europe by 2008.

Current turnover is over £2m per year, but Domecq has big expectations, forecasting turnover to be breaking the £100m mark within a few years. Domecq says the speed of growth has vastly improved her decision-making ability and clarity of leadership. She says she used to climb mountains for a challenge, but now she has a whole industry to climb.

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