Monthly Archives: September 2007

Improving By Being a Beginner

While browsing through the bookstore I stumbled upon a section of books about online business, eCommerce and the like, and just for fun I decided to pickup this book called “Start an Online Business in 10 Days.”

With my smug attitude I was secretly thinking how I could (and have) put up fully functioning businesses within HOURS rather than days, and that I was “beyond” this book. However to humor myself I picked it up and thumbed through.

It had all the pretty basic information about what kind of software to use for an online store yadda yadda, but what caught my attention were all the details it had about a lot of small stuff I’ve never really paid much attention to. For example it had a section on how to format a professional looking email footer, and a section on what information should be on your contact page, and it gave examples of each used in other successful web businesses.

This got me thinking that I could use this beginner’s book as an outline to start improving upon my own online ventures. HouseOfRave.com started from scratch from my high school days, and has slowly been pieced together since then. Never have I once taken the time to properly format all these small elements into a professional looking end product, and to this day I still think some of the order flow or HouseOfRave could use drastic minor but very effective changes.

So instead of making a giant to-do list of general improvements I can make, I can read this book front to back while implementing the suggestions as I read! This will take much longer than reading the book first then making a list of improvements, but this way I won’t be overwhelmed by a massive and vague to-do list.

So this begineers book went from me scoffing at it, to me paying $19.99 for it and using it to re-vamp my sites.

I remember reading a quote (probably from TheKirkReport where I steal all my good quotes from):

“You can learn new things at any time in your life if you’re willing to be a beginner. If you actually learn to like being a beginner, the whole world opens up to you.”
–Barbara Sher


P.S. Wow, I can make these posts so much faster when I don’t make accompanying pictures.

Take This and Run With It

Here’s a GREAT business idea which anyone with a moderate level of computer knowledge can do in a reasonable amount of time, and I’d say make pretty damn good money with.

Truth is I tried this with Max from HowToBePoor.com over a year ago, but we were both too busy and the project fell off the charts. Just yesterday I got a notice from the hosting company we used that our hosting plan was cancelled due to non-payment, and it reminded me of this little gem of an idea: Selling Blogger Templates.

You can go to TemplateMonster.com and other websites to buy professional looking WordPress templates, but try buying Blogger templates…………go ahead, Google it. Find any? Neither did I.

All the offerings out there are free templates, and most of them look pretty bad. Compare these to the level of professional WordPress templates at TemplateMonster.com. Someone needs to fill in the gap and make a website selling Blogger templates.

When we tried doing this, we got the website up and running within a day, I believe this was the template we originally used:

Of course we changed all the images/text to a Blogger Template selling site. We posted the site at BloggerTemplateWorld.com (now a dead link). Somehow neither of us have the original files, so I can’t even put up a sample of exactly what it looked like.

Well since I’m no longer running with this idea, I hope someone else can, it seems like a very lucrative idea.

HOW TO SET IT UP:
This was my exact plan to make money off Blogger templates:

1.) Buy a decent looking, fully functioning OScommerce store from TemplateMonster. Price: $140. (You could even download a free one if you choose).

2.) Install the system. Hosting cost: approx. $5/month.

3.) Start making some templates! The cost here varies. If you can do this by yourself, it’s free, but will take at least a week or two to get 5-10 templates made. Blogger templates are extremely easy since there’s only one template to work with, not multiple like in WordPress. You can also mockup several Photoshopped versions of what you want the template to look like, then outsource the work to a designer for around $100/template.

4.) Add screenshots and preferably working demos of the templates to your site.

5.) Buy some Google AdWords with the term “Blogger Templates” to start promoting the site at first. Proper SEO will play an important role in the future success of the site, and OScommerce pretty much takes care of most of it for you. Perhaps even have a “free templates” section to lure people in and see the quality of your work.

6.) Start selling! Open up a Google Checkout account or PayPal account to accept credit cards, these integrate right in with OScommerce and most other shopping cart softwares.

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The beauty of getting this business setup is once you have a good selection of templates, there’s little to no overhead to run the business. You don’t even do anything, because when someone orders and pays, the OScommerce system automatically delivers the digital product package to their email!

There are literally millions of blogs on Blogger.com, and most of them use the same 30 or so plain-old templates…even NevBlog.com still uses the same old, ugly (but functional) Blogger template it started out with. Mainly because there’s no really attractive looking alternatives.


TARGET MARKET:

1,000,000′s+ blogs on Blogger.com.

PRICE RANGE:
$10 – $40 per template

PAID COMPETITION:
None.

STARTUP COSTS:
Between Free and $500

I figured there would be two ways to make money from this:

1.) Direct sales of the templates. This involves sending the buyer the template text file (which they just copy and paste) and uploading the template images to their own hosting service.

2.) If they are too technologically challenged to upload their own photos to a free service, you can always charge them a recurring $5/month for hosting them on your server. This way all they have to do is copy and paste ONE text file into their Blogger template. This is a good way to start building some recurring income.

The optimal person to run this idea would be a web designer, since they can create their own highly professional and unique templates for free in the beginning. Once the site starts making money, you can then hire someone to help keep adding templates.

I’d really love to see someone bring this idea to fruition, if you do, make sure to send me a link so I can see it! Best of luck.

Maybe I Won’t Buy That House Afterall…

A powerful quote I’ve heard from many sucessful people comes from Warren Buffet:

“Be fearful when others are greedy. Be greedy when others are fearful.”
Source I heard it from: TheKirkReport

I’ve recently spoke about how I’m buying a house, and about to get financing for it. Well I’m doing a double take after really looking into this. I have no doubt the area I’m buying in will be developed like crazy in the coming years, but there’s a little problem lately: All those financing problems in the sub-prime market.

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I look at it this way:

There’s currently huge problems in the financing world, many lenders are going bankrupt (even some big ones) and the last few years have been a lending-spree for them, meaning people that really shouldn’t have got large loans were getting them with ease. This obviously means almost anyone interested in buying a home could. Which means increased home demand, which means increased prices.

So at the very height of these years of steadily increasing prices and easy lending practices, I’m actually BUYING right now??? Hmmm…

What I’m trying to say is that some of these people with wacky loans will eventually fall….and that means foreclosure. I feel I’d rather hold onto my cash right now and scoop up a home in a year or two when others start getting desperate to sell.

———————————–

A family friend of mine who I highly admire for his real estate accumen through the decads sold almost ALL his holdings about 2-3 years ago, when things started getting really hot. I asked why he sold everything, because ever since I’ve known him he’s had multiple holdings and deals concurrently going.

He said, “I’m waiting till 2008 or 2009 when all the foreclosures start happening.” Keep in mind he told me this about 3 years ago.

I see what he’s talking about now. The way this man has made his wealth is by getting DEALS. I’m getting pretty much a standard rate on this new homes, not even a “decent” deal, and definitely not a bargain price.

So for now I might be backing out of buying the home. All I had to do was put down $500 for the deposit, and if for some reason I couldn’t purchase the house, I get it back. Since the last month they’ve yanked the financing option I was planning on doing, so because of that, I’ll be requesting my $500 check back from Centex and the whole deal is off.

Not a bad learning experience….and this time it was actually free :-)

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Nev in New York

That’s right, I’ll be in Manhattan from Sept. 14th (Friday) till Sept. 19th (Wednesday).

I’m going mainly for fun, but would like to do a little networking if possible while there. Some people there I’d currently like to meet:

Tim Sykes – Started a hedge fund whilst in college and made a bundle in the stock market.

Dave Askaripour – Started MindPetals.com

Adam McFarland – Him and some partners own a company called Pure Adapt which owns a sports collectibles site, a car detailing site, an SEO division and several other sites which make up all their income.

If you’d like to meet up, contact me and I’m sure we can setup coffee or go for a drink! Also inform me if you know any cool events happening during those dates.

Consistency In Brand Image

Although I rarely watch CNBC anymore, I like when they profile big companies like WalMart. Today I saw a profile about the start and growth of McDonalds.

It showed how the McDonald brothers had a small chain of restaurants until Ray Croc (a milkshake machine salesman of all things) bought them out. He started replicating the McDonalds business model all over the nation then globe, but the thing he was fanatical about was consistency.

He wanted all McDonald’s stores to have a proper look and feel to them to make customers familiar with them, therefore more inclined to buy from them. I’m not selling hamburgers, but having a “put together” business to make people feel comfortable is a good idea for any business.

This somehow ties into my recent plan to start making HouseOfRave more consistent and “put together” to appear more professional. I’ve started working with a more professional supplier, and therefore I need to make the site more professional and consistent. This doesn’t mean necessarily re-designing the site, but just making everything more congruent.

I went from somehow watching a special about McDonalds (which I then proceeded to eat at) to snooping around my own website trying to view it from a brand new visitors perspective. One of the first things I noticed was the 2nd top-level navigation menu button “Catalog” was horribly designed and outdated by several YEARS.

This is a highly clicked page, and some of the category links on this page had dead links, and many of them have been changed or removed over the years. This could easily turn a potential customer away. I immediately started working on this and cranked out 18 custom category images. I use Photoshop all the time, so this went relatively quick..but was very boring. Now instead of writing “Battery Operated Section” and including a small 75×75 pixel product image from that category, it now has a proper image associated with it. So the battery operated section of the catalog has this image:

It has a more congruent feel with the website and more thoroughly conveys what that section contains. A portion of the images used were actually taken by me in previous product photo shoots. For example, the only non-mine image above are those finger lights, that’s just a standard manufacturers picture.

Another thing I quickly noticed on the top menu bar was another high-traffic page which has been neglected for some time. The video section leads to a page that looks like this:

It’s meant as the video landing page where you can select between five different types of videos. This section has been around a long time and has proved to be pretty popular, so I figured I should at least jazz it up with a few small images. So I quickly added a few and it looks like this now:

I’m not 100% happy with that look, but it’s slightly more engaging now.

So these are just two small changes I’ve made to make the site look more congruent and put together. The ultimate goal is not to have the best designed site around, but to make potential customers feel comfortable enough to order from it.

Since I see the site everyday from the owners view, I focus on different things than customers. I need to start patrolling around the site more often with a different perspective to catch other obvious errors and areas that could use improvement. That will be my main objective for HouseOfRave this September.

Feel free to let me know via comment or personal email if you catch other obvious errors!