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passion

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Getting started is the hardest part

Jerad Hill - Wife's Craft Room

I am my own worst enemy at times. I have so many ideas that I want to work on but many of them never see the light of day, even less of them make it to a note in an Evernote notebook. Over the years I have somehow led myself to believe that if I am going to execute on an idea that I have to have time to give it 100%. When I start on an idea, it has to be polished and up to a level of quality that I feel acceptable. Even if I do start on an idea, it has to be top notch, or it will sit in a folder on a hard drive until it is too out of date to be relevant.

Here is a prime example: Almost two years ago, I put up a free photography course on an online educational site called Udemy.com. The course took off pretty quickly gaining hundreds of new students each week. It was pretty cool. The course was geared at the type of person I encounter at weddings and events who chat me up about photography. I never would have thought that photographers and photography enthusiasts of all levels would end up taking this course. I should have started engaging with the students of my course right away. I should have gotten started on producing more content, but I told myself that I didn’t have the time to work on that. I love teaching. I really enjoy helping people do something new. I am a problem solver. I could have been almost two years into building a community of photography enthusiasts around the photography and life through the lens. Almost two years later, I am just getting started on that path. I have created a Facebook Group and a Podcast that I am using to get started. My podcast is on episode four, but it could have been on episode 204 by now.

Getting started is the hardest part because we tell ourselves that we will get started right after we finish “x.” Whatever “X” is, is our excuse. X is always standing in the way, or at least that is how we make it seem. X is not really in our way and it would gladly share it’s time with us so we could work on a new passion or idea. X is actually us. We get in our way and we need to learn how to stop doing that so we can try new things.

I have wanted to start taking a spin class again, get to the gym at least 3 times each week, ride my bike more, get back into golfing, take my go-kart to the track at least once a month, do more activities with my kids and take my wife out on more dates, but I get tired. I let myself get tired and I give myself excuses. After enough excuses, that tiredness becomes routine and routines are hard to break.

As a website designer and online marketer, I have spent the last ten years building websites for small businesses and non-profit organizations. I have poured countless hours of ideas into my clients. I want to see each of them succeed so I don’t just build what they ask for, I coach them along through the process. I learn what it is that they want to accomplish and I set them up with the tools they need to achieve that. From these ideas I have drafted over a dozen small business courses I have wanted to record and publish online. I have ideas for just shy of 20 Ebooks. Some of these ideas are now common practice.

This blog has been a hundred or more things since I first launched it in 2005. It has been a journal, a marketing website for my website design services, a photography website, a photo blog, and now it’s back to being a regular blog again. I have used it to post about whatever is on my mind at the time and I don’t make it here often enough. I often think about this blog and wonder what I should do with it. I get stuck in the mindset that everything needs to be specific and this blog is anything but.

I am going to set a new goal for myself and it starts right here with this post. My goal is to work on ideas regardless of the amount of time I can give to them. You never know if an idea has any weight to it unless you get started. I have started to work on ideas in the past only to toss them but I would have never known if it was a good idea or not if I had not started on it. The only reason I am able to provide for myself and my family is because I started on an idea. The reason I will be celebrating my 15th year as a self employed entrepreneur next year is because I chase ideas. The idea I started on almost 17 years ago is no where near what I am doing today, and that is ok. Ideas come and they go, but if you never start on one you will never know what it could become.

I have wanted to start a blog focused on turning ideas into a business for a long time. So many of my clients over the years had an idea and came to me to help them market that idea. I have also done the same thing for myself several times. I have been a retail store owner, online store owner, website designer, professional photographer, speaker, videographer, blogger, podcaster and several other things. All of them started as an idea and either became something or was put aside to work on something else. The most important thing that has happened as a result of any idea I gave a moment of my time to is that I learned something new. When we are trying things, we are learning. Even if we fail at it, we are learning. Some of the best lessons come from having tried something. The outcome is not as important as the lessons learned. It’s easy to get hung up with other things and forget to try new things.

Jerad Hill - Wife's Craft RoomThough this is not the place I envisioned blogging about business, this is where it will start. As with many of my other ideas, I should have started this years ago. All of the emails, text messages, conversations over coffee and lunch should have been an indication to me that I should have started this earlier. I don’t have all of the answers but I know a lot about business and online marketing. Beyond that, I have always had the desire to help other people. I want to see their ideas grow just as I want to see people learn more about their cameras through my Ditch Auto community. It will have to start here, on my blog, in my home office that is overtaken by my wife’s craft materials.

If I could offer any advice at all at this point, it would be to get started. Just as there is no perfect time to have children, there is no perfect time to start a new project. You will never be 100% prepared and if you wait for that perfect time to start, you will probably have missed the opportunity.

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Creating a Blog for Profit, My Path – Part 2

First off let me mention that I truly believe if your 100% intention to start a blog for profit outweighs your desire to provide great content, you will fail. Your viewers/readers/listeners will sniff you out and walk right past you faster then the guy collecting signatures outside of Walmart. With that said here are a few other items to consider before you start blogging or podcasting.

When you blog/podcast you are associating your name to something. Everything you say or do is a direct reflection upon yourself and the integrity of who you are. It is important to consider this because if you have no desire of being tagged as a sports guy then you have no reason to be blogging about sports. Catch my drift? You need to make sure that your blogging platform matches the one you are currently standing on.

I have always been the tech guy to those around me. When the iPod was first able to hold photos, I made sure my wedding clients could view their photos on their iPods to show others. When the iPhone came out I did the same, I even made sure that the video slideshows I put together for my clients would play on their iPhones. I wanted to make sure the content I gave them was readily available to be shared with ease. In website design I have always pushed my clients in the direction of mobility. I tell all of my web design clients that they need to be accessible on mobile devices because that is where many customers of the future are going to be doing their searching. I have always been pro-mobile. When I decided to start the iPhone App Podcast I saw a good connection there that would bridge something I was already passionate about with my own personal brand.

A note on Personal Branding: We all have a personal brand, some stronger than others, but our brand is what we stand for and what we lend ourselves out to. My personal brand stands for excellence in wedding photography and website design but it lends itself out to other brands such as Apple, Toyota, Guess, Nike, and a myriad of other brands in which I support by purchasing and allowing other to see me using. I love Apple products and I wear that on my sleeve. When you start to blog or podcast, the attention of the people you reach are going to start to notice those other things about you. The more popular you become the more the associations you have with others will be noticed as well. Consider what you are doing to your name before you start talking about something. Make sure it does not water down your name or spread it thin. Think about the celebrities you have seen over the years who farm their name out to anyone with a few dollars to throw at them. Your name is important in the biz world and it’s use should be well watched over.

1. Find your audience
Before you start blogging or podcasting you need to define and find your audience. The first thing I did when starting my blog and podcast was to identify that my viewer was not just an iPhone or iPod Touch user but also a business person, a student, a father, a husband and much more. If all I did was review game applications for the iPhone then I would miss a large part of my demographic which are business people who are looking to get productivity from their iPhone. I make sure I cover all of the bases.

2. Be passionate!
When you are talking with someone who is in business strictly because they are trying to make a quick buck you can tell. You don’t feel the passion that someone who truly loves that business would have. The most successful people in this world were passionate about what they were doing. Having a passion for something means that you love to do it and would not care if it paid the bills or not. Of course you have to decide when you can afford to have passions and can not. One of my passions is to go to pilot school so I can learn to fly a plane but that passion is not in line with my bank account at the current moment.

3. Be specific
It takes enough time and effort to become a voice in any industry, if you decide to talk about to many things you risk not having enough content about each topic to hold an audience. I have been asked over and over to start reviewing applications for the Blackberry and the Google Phone. I have no desire to do this because it goes outside of what my website is all about. My website is the iPhone App Podcast, somebody even started the iPod App Podcast because I so specific. Of course most applications for the iPhone work just the same on an iPod, my demographic is people like me who have an iPhone and use it wherever they go.

4. Don’t be afraid to invest in your passion
Like I shared earlier it cost me a few dollars to get started. I am fortunate enough that I have years of website design experience behind me which saved a ton of startup costs. There are blogs that are very popular such as the photography blog “The Strobist” which have been using Blogger since the beginning and still do. My podcast is video so I wanted to make sure that the video I served up was of quality. My viewers watch the podcasts on their iPhones, iPods, computers, laptops, Appletv’s and I’m sure several other ways as well. I started out using my digital camera to record video and quickly upgraded to a nicer camera so I could use a better microphone. After watching my podcast on my own tv and hearing my voice through my Dolby 5.1 system I was a little embarrassed and knew I needed to step up quality. People will pick up on quality and believe me quality makes up a large portion of value.

5. Live what you preach
I have been an Apple Fanboy for lack of a better term since 2001 and everybody knows it. I always have the latest Apple offering. When the iPhone came out, I got one. When the 3G came out, I was in line to pick one up. Everybody comes to me for Apple advice and if you are going to blog about a subject everybody should know you are the one to come to for that topic. If you blog about gardening then you should have the best garden in the area. It just makes sense, nobody writes books about topics they don’t have any clue about… Ok maybe some do, but they will never become a best seller. People are not stupid, give them something to follow.

By now you have figured out that creating a blog for profit is not going to come easily. Trust me, it did not come easy for me. I have had 100’s of blog ideas, dozens of blogs launched and this is the first one that has turned a profit worth getting excited about. I bet if you contact all of the other “successful” bloggers out there they will tell you the same thing. Your core value should be to share what you love with others in hopes to inform them and empower them to love it as much as you do.

Once my blog and podcast started getting popular the cost of running it went from moments of my time and mild stress on my server to gobbling up my spare time and sucking the very life from my server. I knew that I needed to create an income stream from this project or it would quickly have to be put on the back burner. Here are some of the things I did to start generating income from my blog and podcast, some worked great, others were a waste of time.

The first thing I did was create some ad spaces on my blog and hook up Google Adsense to them. I did this not because Google pays out much at all but what it does do is serve up random content that is ever changing so it brings the appearance of activity in those ad spaces. I have never generated more then $120 in one month from Google Ads. My goal was to sell those spaces to companies for a monthly fee. I have successfully done this a few times earning as much as $250 a month for a 300×300 side bar ad space. The downfall to this was having to remember when to remove those ads and email the company to renew that space, most did not. I knew that this was not going to be my core source of income.

From the beginning I was plugging the idea of pre-roll and post-roll advertisements on the podcast. I wanted to keep clear from an actual commercial because that would require me to have to edit that into each video file. I did not want to have to drag any of my video reviews into video editing software. I contacted Godaddy and was able to land them as an affiliate sponsor. I have my own coupon codes and earn about $100-$200 a month from them depending on how much time I spend plugging them.

One of my goals from the beginning was to provide a way for the new app developer to get noticed. I knew that the iTunes App Store would quickly become like the music store. Great music is released every day in the iTunes Music Store but is never found because there is so much there. The same is becoming of the app store. This means that Developers will have to find ways to get their name out there just like music artists. Even on my own website apps will get buried as I review more of them. With my website growing in viewership I realized that there was value in that viewership. On most websites, front page placement is worth a lot of money. My front page was receiving a lot of attention as I was getting linked up on websites such as Digg.com, Makeuseof.com, Appscout.com and many others. I decided to start offering a featured placement to developers for a small fee of $25.00. This would get them on the front page of my website in rotation for 7 days. The day their review released they would be in the #1 position until the next day when another app review took it’s place pushing it down to #2 and so forth until seven days later it would be pushed off of the front page. I also created a category in the menu titled “Featured Apps”. The name lends itself to believe that there is more value in the apps listed under it then apps that are not. Our minds are predisposed to this kind of thinking because we like words such as value, sale, special, featured, etc. They are verbs that get our brain in take action mode. From the get go I started selling that Featured spot almost daily, after a few weeks I was selling it daily and with in the first 30 days I was selling the space more then once a day. This quickly turned into a problem, though it was a good problem. My website went from generating about $200-300 a month from Google and Godaddy to $750 a month not including Google and Godaddy. The problem was that now I had a waiting list. I could not get the app reviews up as fast as they were coming in because I had created this Featured placement that only allowed for one to be released per day. To be honest, I am still backed up to this day but I am always working toward finding quicker ways to do things and get content out faster.

One of the most important things I have done to show that there is value was to put they data out there about my website’s viewership. I posted screen shots of the Google Analytics reports, the views each video was getting from my video hosting solution, and I contrasted the different in views a Featured App review received from a non featured app review. This was important, it’s like comparing vehicles when you buy. You will spend more if there is more value in the selection. Check out my Submit An App page to see what I have done.

Featured App PlacementFeatured Plus App Placement

My website was on track to earn a projected fourteen thousand dollars in it’s first year but developers were getting restless and uneasy about having to wait 15+ days for their review to show up on the front page. With the layout I had created for featured placement on the front page there was no way to feature two apps at the same time so I decided to offer another way to get special placement on my website and use more of my front page for featured reviews.

I removed the “recently reviewed” section and added a new “Featured Apps” section that allowed me to list apps in blog view down the front page below the old “Featured Apps” section which is now called the “Featured Plus” section. My website now offered two different ways to get on the front page. The featured plus section provided much more real estate so I increased it’s price to $50 and kept the same 7 day rotation plan as before. Below that is the $25 featured app section which will list apps eight deep. Now I was able to list 8 apps on the front page at $25 each and one app at $50 each day increasing the ability to earn $250 per day should I receive that many requests. Do the math… The featured placements alone at max fulfillment have the potential to bring in over $66k a year. You can now see the issue of finding time to blog and podcast floating out the window.

My biggest issue at this time is organizing my time effectively so I can keep up with this podcast and my clients in my other businesses as a website designer and wedding photographer. I use a great app called Things for the Mac and iPhone to keep myself in order.

I have always seen live as more of a journey then a destination. This blog is no exception to that rule. In the next couple of months I may have to transform the way my blog works again to fill the needs coming at me, who knows what will come. That is what keeps it exciting. I am now getting offers to attend seminars and conferences for free as press to interview app developers and I look forward to getting to speak to developers and businesses as well.

I feel this experience has brought a lot of insight to me about the industry. I would be more then happy to answer any questions you may have, please feel free to post them in the comments section or use the contact form on my blog.

Thank you so much for reading my blog. I hope it helps you take your passion to the next level so you can share it with the masses.