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Seven Silly Ways I Made Money On The Internet

We live in this really weird time in history where there is real life money to be made in the ether (i.e. the internet). I’ve been looking into (and trying) different things over the course of the last few years and I thought it would be fun to do a post about the weirdest ways I’ve made money online. (This is almost like a part two to my Thoughts On Passive Income post a couple months back.)

Seven Extra Moneymakers (With At Least An Online Component)

I sold a stock photo on Twenty20 for $2.

I take tons of pictures on my iPhone so for fun this summer, I uploaded a bunch of my nature shots (you need releases if you put photos of people online)… and proceeded to forget entirely that I did this.

Then I got this email…

As you see, this isn’t the most stunning photo ever taken. But someone still bought it, even after I’d forgotten it was for sale.

I told people to sell their extra jewlery on Worthy.com.

One of my friends got divorced several years ago. To give her a hand, I offered to shop it around to local jewelry shops. They all offered me less than $100 (I had the original paperwork for the $2000+ ring) so I held onto it. Then I saw Worthy.com and decided I had nothing to lose so I sent her ring in… And got her $600 for it.

Since then, I’ve told a few other people to do this (via an affiliate link) and have made $50. Note: they did not accept my engagement ring because it was too common of a style so I ended up going through a local jewelry store. In other words, look online and real life if you are trying to find the best price for your jewelry.



I wrote reviews on Capterra.com. 

You know, as much as I’d love to write reviews all day for free for giant corporations, I don’t typically. But if someone’s willing to pay $10 for my opinion on Quickbooks or Dropbox or whatever, I’m fine writing up a detailed review of my years of experience with it. Occasionally Capterra offers $10/review for up to 5 reviews. So I wrote 5 reviews and got $50 in Amazon gift cards. Think about it, Capterra owns my review and can use the content in marketing or for resale on their site so I don’t feel bad getting money in exchange for adding to their database of information.

Note: if you are a small business that I have a good experience with, I’m happy to leave a review gratis.

I am an Airbnb Superhost.

We could say I didn’t choose the Airbnb life, it chose me. I will say having people constantly in your living space can be a little draining (insert high strung dog and demanding day jobs for additional consideration) but it has been a good way to help pay my rent and generate some additional income for my landlord and myself. If you find yourself in Bar Harbor this summer and  want to check out the Golden Girl Palace (long story) for yourself, come on over. 

Airbnb is the largest paying part of the sharing economy. Click here to learn more.

I rent out my projector/screen setup.

My budget for starting Breaking Even was about $10,000. I used $1000 of this to buy a nice LCD projector and screen setup. I was doing a lot of presentations and was getting tired of relying on the venue’s technology. Then I met other people who needed stuff (most of what we rent this out for is family reunions and weddings with an occasional business presentation and kid’s birthday party). We rent it out for $50/day which includes any needed dongles/Mac converters, extension cords, table to set it on, etc. I estimate we rent it 3-5 times a year so we’ve more than paid back the initial investment, plus it’s a benefit we can offer our coworking space members.



I hosted an amateur comedy night.

I’ve been wanting to try standup comedy for awhile so I made a plan to really do it. When I realized I had to travel 4 hours and miss two work days to do it, I figured I had to host something local first to see if I liked it.

So I contacted a local venue and asked if they’d be up for it. We could charge a small cover, which would cover my time to organize and run the thing (and my help with marketing) and they could sell food and drink. So I made a Facebook event and talked about it a little online and then showed up that night and ran the event for two hours. It went great and I walked away with $300 in covers.

I guess the moral is, if you want to do something, see if you can find a way to do it in a low risk way and partner with a venue that has a complimentary audience.

I made and sold courses on Teachable.

You too can buy my SEO course or my online shopping card course! Basically, if you are a consultant type (or heck, any industry where people have to like you to do business with you) an online course is a low risk way for prospective clients to try you out. Plus if you naturally like public speaking (see amateur comedy night), it’s not that much of a stretch. I will, however, be moving these courses to my own domain to avoid the monthly fee, now that I know people are theoretically interested in them.



I’m not including my ‘passive’ income experiments here.

A couple months ago, I did an experiment where I did much more than this stuff. I took surveys, I joined Amazon Mechanical Turks, Google Adsense… You name it, I spent a month trying anything anyone considered passive income. It did make me some money but not a ton (See this post for more information.)

The thing with any of this online money making stuff is you have to understand:

  1. There is a learning curve, during which you clearly aren’t earning money.
  2. It’s not any money I can count on (at least for now) because it’s so variable. For example, I might sell 10 SEO courses one month and 0 the next month.
  3. Most things start online but have an offline component to be truly successful. If you want to sit in your basement and not talk to anyone and be completely anonymous, the reality is very few online opportunities will exist for you.

Now I could do more to expand these. For example, I keep meaning to email all the local caterers and other event venues about our technology setup so they could upsell/rent it for their events. I could get multiple peoples’ jewelry and shop it around for them. In other words, any of these things could bring in more money if I let them… but since most of them happened by accident, I am only thinking of these ideas now.

In other words, as long as you treat online income as a fun experiment that may or may not make you money, you’ll be able to do these (or others) with a spirit of fun and excitement (versus desperation and drudgery). You might not be able to quit your day job, but at least you can get random emails in the middle of the day that will notify you that you made a couple unexpected dollars while you were doing other things.



Would You Like Fries with That? Cross-Selling 101

Back in January and December, I was spending a lot of time on Amazon trying to create a Baby Registry.

As a first timer whose Mom didn’t necessarily use the internet to create a baby registry, I was on my own figuring this out.

Fortunately, hundreds (or thousands) of moms-to-be in recent years have used Amazon to create a registry, so Amazon has plenty of guides for people creating a registry from scratch.

One of the helpful tools that Amazon has as you are viewing a specific product is “Customers who bought this also bought…” (and “…also viewed” and “Sponsored Products related to this item”).

 

As someone who needed a little bit of handholding during this process, this feature was greatly appreciated. It’s also known as “cross-selling,” or selling a different product/service to an already existing customer.

If I was shopping on a specific brand’s website, cross-selling would look  a little different. Say for instance I’m looking for a crib. Common cross-sells would be crib sheets, a blanket, and maybe a mobile. Other times you may have seen cross-selling in action include “Would you like fries with that?” and “Who wants to see a dessert menu?” (Guess where my brain is at today?).

Your business may not be quite as big as Amazon, but you can still implement cross-selling techniques on your own website.


General Facts About Cross-Selling

Since it involves selling to someone who is probably already a customer, or even in the middle of a purchase, cross-selling really is a “nothing to lose” scenario. In order to get the most out of your cross-selling , there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind.

First- cross-selling is relevant. If someone is buying a baby stroller, Amazon doesn’t offer a Keruig as a suggested purchase- they offer other baby products and/or different baby strollers by other brands. While you could argue that a Keruig is sort of related to someone gearing up for a baby, that’s too much of a stretch for a good cross-sell.

This article suggests using “you” in cross-selling pitches, because it feels more personal. Amazon does this using “Recommended for You,” or in some cases, “Recommended for [your name].” My advice is to go with your gut on this one- during an in-person transaction, I’d probably feel closer to the sales-person and more likely to make a purchase if they were using my name, but knowing that a website is using an algorithm to produce my first name doesn’t elicit that same response (and some people are creeped out by this). Sticking with the general “you” might be the safer way to go.

Shopify also offers the suggestion of adding products that people would generally be familiar with as cross-selling options, because it’s more likely more people will make a purchase if they know what the product is.

Another tip- keep the cost of cross selling items relatively low. The actual suggestion is to keep the overall cost of the order within a 25% increase of the original order (i.e. whatever the customer was planning to order before adding on), while Forbes suggests 35%. Either way, that’s more money than you would have made otherwise.



Cross-Selling Before/During Checkout

Odds are, your website is not as robust as Amazon (the idea of creating that website makes my head spin). However, depending on what type of cart software you have, you may have the ability to add cross-selling into your cart.

Woocommerce comes built with the ability to add cross-selling options to your cart, whereas Shopify requires you to get an add-on app through their website. Investigate the software you use for ecommerce- it may require an add-on or already be built in, but it’s usually fairly simple to set up afterwards. This requires some data entry and thoughtfulness on your part, as you go through your products and think of relevant recommendations (remember- you don’t have to have a cross-sell option for each one of your products- just where they make the most sense).

Don’t be afraid to think outside the box here, either- you can cross-sell services for your products, too. For instance, if I were purchasing a crib, maybe the cross-sell service would be delivery + assembly for people who live within 25 miles of the store. Other examples of services you can add to products include 24 hour support, 1 year warranty, insurance, and so on.

Even if you don’t have a product/service on your website that you’re trying to sell, you can still offer something similar. A lot of the blogs I read will offer suggested posts based on the one I’m currently reading, and they’re usually related to the topic at hand (it’s also a great way to remind people of your older content). If you have a Wordpress website, WP Beginner suggests these 5 “Related Posts Plugins” that can set this up for you.



Cross-Selling After the Sale

Although cross-selling typically happens as a person is shopping or as they are checking out, there is still a chance that they’ll be interested in a cross-sell after the fact. This can double as a customer service follow-up after a purchase.

For instance, if someone buys a lawnmower from you, sending them an email newsletter following up about the quality of their product is never a bad idea. You can include some cross selling items in that newsletter, such as a bagger that stores the cut grass as you’re mowing. Maybe at the time of purchasing the customer didn’t see a need for this, but after a few weeks and seeing the email they will think, “Hmm, I have had to spend a half hour raking after I mow, this could really cut down my time…”- in other words, the value is now apparent.

This isn’t quite the same as a checkout cross-sell, but you get points for customer service follow up and it’s a good chance to get customer service points, and you may make another sale.

Stay tuned for more posts about selling more online this month!



Selling More Online 101

This month’s theme is all about selling more (using what you already have), so look for upcoming posts about specific concepts (like cross selling and upselling) but for now, let’s get started with some basics to get your head thinking in this direction.

Having worked on my first ecommerce site in a very long time recently, I realized that selling online can be tricky when it’s your own business. Certain things that may seem obvious from a distance become less obvious when you’re actually “in it.”

To sell more, as a business you have three general options:

  1. Sell different products/services to the same people.
  2. Sell the same products/services to different people.
  3. If you sell products, add services to go with and vice versa.

Here’s what each of those options looks like:

Selling different products/services to the same people.

This is the ‘easiest’ as your current customers already know you and trust you.



One way to get thinking about this is to use a large website like Amazon or Ebay to look at your products, paying attention to the ‘Best Selling’ and ‘People Who Bought This Also Bought’ sections:

Maybe it’s because I’ve never sold coolers before but I would have never though people would need a mountable wire rack to hold jugs.

This kind of thinking will get a bunch of potential products on your radar that you would have never thought of otherwise. Some you may be interested in carrying, some perhaps not, but it could give you a fresh perspective on your business that your current customers will appreciate.

Other ideas in this same vein:

  • bulk discounts
  • ‘bundles’ of products at a discount
  • loyalty programs

You get the idea; you want to increase your offerings so people have more of a chance to buy but not in a direction you don’t want to go in. Ex: If you do air conditioning repair but don’t want to sell the air conditioners themselves, don’t go there… or else you’ll have air conditioners all over your workshop AND be unhappy.


Selling the same products/services to different people.

This is a bit more nuanced because while you are spending more time (and money) to reach new people, you are doing less work as you aren’t making new offerings so much as repackaging/reframing current ones.

Let’s say you sell pint glasses to breweries. You put their logo on the glass and get them out. At a certain point, you may run out of breweries. So why not offer pint glasses for school fundraisers? Or pint glasses for beer festivals? Clearly, depending on how you want your business to grow, you may choose one of these options over the other as a starting point but you get the idea. Both of these will involve building a different kind of web page (note: I’m not saying a separate website, just a landing page on your current site with information for that particular audience), doing a different kind of advertising campaign, and building a different contact list.

‘White labeling’ is a popular concept that goes with this idea. This means simply taking a product or service and reworking it slightly for another company/group. You can give someone a ‘just for you’ experience without starting from square one. You see this concept a lot with software, like these two separate insurance websites running identical software, but you can apply this in other ways too.

Let’s say you write a book about finding the right social media career. You may rework it slightly to make it specifically for college grads, website developers looking to transition into marketing, or seniors re-entering the labor force. Each of these groups have slightly different concerns/backgrounds and you will frame the information you have slightly differently, but it won’t take nearly the amount of time it would take to write three separate books.


If you sell products, add services and vice versa.

Let’s say you’re a photographer who can think of different picture taking scenarios all day. Since you can’t clone yourself, at some point your revenue is going to reach a ceiling. What products can you offer that your customers need? Or how can potential customers become actual customers if they never book your intro photo package at $300/session? A course about taking better smartphone photos? A piece of software to help them edit photos more quickly and easily (and less expensively) than Photoshop? Cool lenses they can clip to their smartphones to take cooler photos? Only you know the answer…or more accurately, your customers will tell you over time by buying or not buying. Don’t commit to a large inventory (if you don’t sell products normally) or learning a lot of new skills (if you don’t sell services normally); just try a few things and see what works best.

Selling more, online or off, requires some research, flexible thinking, and testing. Whether you sell products or services, are a one-man show or have some employees/volunteers helping you out, there’s always a new way to think about what you already have (whether it’s products/services or a customer base). I hope the resources we are gathering together this month on this topic will help you (and us) sell more online!


Selling Stuff Online: Products

SellingShizOnlineLast week, we talked about some basics you needed to be ready to sell things online. The next few weeks is the fun part: what you actually sell!

The most normal thing to sell is physical products. Physical products being things that have dimensions, weight, and possibly variables for people to select from (sizes, colors, etc.)

Selecting a shopping cart software: part science, part art. 

We’ll get into selling other types of things next week but you don’t need me to tell you that buying a seat in a stadium for the next Britney Spears concert you are going to is different than buying a black t-shirt. So different cart software is built to sell different kinds of things. You may also want to ask yourself these questions as you start your research to find a cart you like:

1) What integration does my cart need to have? If your cart needs to interact with your POS system or Quickbooks, that’s a good way to cross off a lot of options up front. Note the word ‘need’ here, you may be smitten by some swoonworthy features but knowing what you need will keep your eyes on the prize.

2) What payment gateway do you want to use? Some software only works with one or two gateways, some work with lots more. If you don’t have passionate views on payment gateways like some of us do, enter into this research knowing you’ll be flexible.

3) What are you planning on selling? And how many? See concert tickets versus black t-shirt example above. Also some cart software charges you by the quantity of items you list. So get a clear idea of what you want to sell first to help you evaluate options.

Once you have your cart softwares narrowed down to two or three options, start reading online reviews and looking at examples of each. This will give you an idea of customer support and whether you like the way it looks. For example if a cart promises to be ‘responsive’ and looking at the 4-5 examples listed on the website none of them seem mobile friendly, you may want to ask yourself why. Or you could just hire some nerd to do this nerdy research project for you. Seriously, there is a reason I can’t find a fun picture to go along with this.



Care about the little things.

The more information you give to customers, the better. Things like dimensions and weight not only help them figure out how that item will look in their living room but help you figure out how much to charge for shipping. When possible, fill out all available fields for each item in your cart software… and be consistent product to product.

Decide on shipping.

The below chart shows why you need to decide about shipping:

shipping-study

You have a few options when it comes to shipping: free, calculated, or flat rate. Rather than saying the same thing this article says, I’ll link to a nice blog post from Shopify about the differences between these three. 

In short, we’ve seen free shipping is quite motivating for a lot of people… and most consumers understand the idea of the minimum order amount to get it:

someecardfreeshipping



Cross-selling and Upselling: Helping People Buy More

So now you have what you’re going to sell, a cart you’re going to sell if from, and some idea of how you’ll handle shipping.

Now it seems a little sad we’re already thinking of how we can get your customer to spend MORE money with you but why wouldn’t we be? Your favorite brands cross-sell and upsell to you all the time.

Cross-selling: If you like X product, you may also like Y, Z, and A products. Or customers who bought X also bought… you get the idea. Many cart softwares will let you cross sell.

Up-selling: Getting someone to buy a higher priced version of what they were going to buy.

This is the best visual example for this I have ever seen. And the blog it comes from is super useful and you can go read it: http://blog.flowify.net/up-selling-and-cross-selling-how-to-increase-your-restaurants-revenue-using-resources-you-already-have/

UpsellingInfographics

 

Luring Them In With Bargains: The Allure of the Coupon Code

Now there may be points in the life of your online cart where you either need to move some inventory (to make way for new stuff) or you want to experiment with pricing. Coupon codes are something you can typically issue for either a dollar amount or percentage off either all the items in your cart or just certain items. For obvious reasons, they typically have an expiration date.

What coupon codes allow you to do is measure if/how purchases change while it is in effect. Most cart software will let you make them.

Then you distribute the codes (or perhaps different codes) via direct mail, email, social media, print and online ads, etc. to get them to your customers.

Old-Navy-THANKYOU-376x300

 

So I hope that is helpful as you sell physical products in your online store! Next week, we’ll talk about selling event tickets and things you may want to think about related to that. Stay tuned.



Online Ads 101: Affiliates

The last few weeks, we’ve talked about a few different ways to make money online with your website: PPC (pay per click) ads, display ads, and ad networks. The idea, of course, is not to overwhelm but show you how some of your favorite people online make money when you visit their website. This post is the last in our series.

Affiliate ads, or basically selling a product or service for a commission, is not a new idea. Many people do this in real life (think of any sort of party at which you could also buy things: cookware, jewelry, adult toys, etc.)

Online affiliates are even easier as you don’t have to clean your house or have suitcases of product to do them. Sometimes an affiliate will pay when someone clicks on a link to their site from your website, sometimes only when a purchase is made. Fees paid out can be a commission (percentage of total) or a flat fee per customer, depending on the service. There are literally thousands of affiliate programs (and if you have a unique product or service, you can set one up. More info on setting up an affiliate program here: http://lkrsocialmedia.com/2011/09/how-to-create-an-affiliate-program-that-doesnt-suck/)



The most popular online affiliate program is Amazon. When you sign up, they give you a way to make special links to products on Amazon.com. Like the new desk chair you bought? Make an affiliate link. Like the sweet and spicy tea you keep in your office? Make an affiliate link. Then you post these links places: social media, blog, website, email newsletter, etc. If someone follows your link and buys your product, you get 2-3% commission (up to 10% if you sell more).

For fun once, I made an Amazon Affiliate account and shared a couple links on Facebook (to my personal profile) over the course of a few weeks. You know, I never did get that $1 and change from Amazon…

I made $1 as an Amazon Affiliate. Stop being jealous.

I made $1 as an Amazon Affiliate. Stop being jealous.

(I guess I just felt slimy doing this, which is why it ended up being a three day experiment without much thought put into it and yielded such unimpressive results.)

But I do know plenty of bloggers who post, say, links where you can buy books they are reading or write ‘affiliate’ blog posts linking to products. It’s possible, especially if the thing you want to sell isn’t made by you (ex: You want to recommend people buy a Seth Godin book but aren’t a bookstore or Seth Godin.)



Amazon doesn’t have high profit margins so they can’t give you, say, 50% commission. But that’s where working directly with a smaller distributor makes sense. The more directly you work with the company selling the product, the higher your commission.

Let’s take another affiliate example. I am a pretty big Rupaul fan but I also know that Rupaul mentions sponsors, etc. on his/her/not-sure-the-proper-pronoun podcast. So I went to the Shop portion of the Rupaul website:

rupaulaffiliate

I know the writing is tiny on my screenshot but you’ll see the ‘Glamazon’ shirt can be purchased on Rupaul.com but The other items (ex: action figure) can be purchased from other websites. Tell tale sign of an affiliate, you get redirected to another website (note the URL and website design change when I click on the action figure):

Love Rupaul but not sure my love is $199 of love.

Love Rupaul but not sure my love is $199 of love.

Point is, affiliates let you recommend stuff and get paid, without having to process the payment, ship it, or really do any kind of customer service. You are middle manning it. That said, if you have an audience and that audience trusts you to recommend products, your middle manning is worth something.

If you want to see if a product you like has an affiliate program, simply type in “company name affiliate” into Google. Typing “Constant Contact affiliate” into Google got me to the CC affiliate page:

constantcontactaffilate

Affiliate marketing, when done by those who genuinely enjoy a product and want others to experience its benefits (and, let’s face it, make a buck or two in the process), is a useful marketing tool. That said, there can also be a dark side. For example, if I am a financial advisor and I sell you the IRA plan where I make commission on but there is another IRA in the world that I know is actually better for you, that’s conflict of interest territory to me. I couldn’t sleep at night doing that. But as long as you’re straight-forward about what you make money on, I think affiliates can be perfectly ethical and potentially profitable.