I have had conversations with various people in the last couple of years about making money on the Internet. Usually my response is simple, “The same way you make money in meatspace, you work hard and hope life does not crap on you.”. That ends about 75% of the conversations, but a few people push me for specific ideas for a business run exclusively online. I can see why this is attractive, start up costs is less than $100 and the idea of making money without changing out of your pajamas is every slackers dream. So here is a business plan that may or may not work for you, but has worked for others. If you doubt me google Gawker Media.
Step #1: You need an idea, you need a subject matter you want to discuss, at length, for years on end. Politics, games, cars, porn, whatever, it does not matter as long you are interested in the subject and you like talking about it. If you are an aspiring fiction writer or poet this is a great way to express yourself, perhaps gain a following and get noticed.
Step #2: Register your domain and procure hosting. I use Godaddy, I have heard excellent things about Laughing Squid. The only thing I would stipulate here is the cost, anything over $75 for the first year is too much, go find a different service provider. Don’t let anyone sell you unnecessary extras, all you are doing setting up a low traffic blog site. Later on if you start getting 10,000 hits a day, you can start thinking about dedicated server hosting. Lastly, be sure you read the end user license agreement, this is especially true if you plan to host adult content, some service providers also have rules about ads on sites they host.
Step #3: Decide on your blog software and customize your site. Depending on who you talk to, the advent of the blog was either the single greatest innovation of the Internet age or it is the greatest blight since the black plague wiped out 1/3 of Europe. Regardless of what critics think, blog software is a great way create, present and organize content. I use WordPress, its reasonably easy to use and has a lot of options for customising your site. When configuring your blog software make absolutely sure it is set up for accepting comments, you definitely want an on going dialogue with your customers and besides, some of them will be funny and insightful, I view them as contributing writers who work for free. When choosing your theme, avoid dark colours, emo teenagers like it, but no one else does. Instead go for subtle tones and easy to look at colors, if you are not sure, visit several of the afore mentioned Gawker sites to see what I mean.
Step #4: sign up for Google Adsense and Paypal merchant services. This is going to be your source of income. Use Adsense to put topical ads on your site, get enough people reading your stuff, a few of them will click on the Ad links and a couple penny’s will be deposited in your account. Use Paypal to collect donations from people who appreciate your service. Later, you can even offer premium content to those who donate. If your site ever gets big, you will be able to sell space on your site to advertisers, this is the holy grail of for profit websites.
Step #5: Start writing content. This is the single most important thing you have to do. This is were the work comes in. If you spend an hour a week throwing crap on your site, your site will be filled with crap and will go no where. View this as a part time job and work on it at least 20 hours per week, be prepared to post a minimum of three times a week and seven or even ten times a week is better. Even when you are not writing, you should be researching your chosen subject matter looking for interesting new information to serve up to your readers.
Step #6: Advertise, advertise advertise. You will spend almost as much time doing this as you do researching and writing new content. You will want to visit similar sites, post comments on blogs and participate in forum discussions, all the with purpose of subtly driving people to your site without irritating them. In every post you make, be sure you place a link to your site as part of your signature. Remember when posting on other sites you are selling yourself and your site. You want to avoid trolling and flame wars. It is also a good idea to look into blogging networks like the RPG Bloggers Network, they are a great way to advertise your blog to like minded persons. Another good way to spread the word is through FaceBook, MySpace and Twitter. When you post something new to your blog, goto your FaceBook account and post a link to your latest blog post, do the same thing with MySpace and Twitter. This is what the Web 2.0 is all about.
Step #7: Profit. If all goes well, money will start to trickle in, probably not much at first, but if you are providing a good service, people will come to your site and they will keep coming back. If it never makes a dime, you are really not out much in the way of real cash and who knows, you might just keep doing it because you like it.
If you have never done any serious blogging before and you are not sure you can hack it, go sign up for one the free blog sites like Blogspot and try writing there for a while. Then if you do find you can consistently blog and maybe even develop a following, you can always carry out my business plan, transfer all of what you have written to your new site and open your doors with content already available. If on the other hand if you get bored and decide I am full of crap, you are not out any cash at all.
Finally, for those of you who are saying to yourselves, “If its so easy, why aren’t you doing it ?”. The answer is simple, its not easy, its a hell of a lot of work, and I am a lazy bastard. No where in these 1000+ words, did I say this was easy, only that you could do it in your pajamas.