Category Archives: Lifestyle

The Goal of Every Internet Business

Well it appears that I’ve taken most of the summer off from this blog, but since yesterday was the first day of fall, I guess it’s as good a time as any to get this thing rolling once more.

One of the great thing about owning your own business it the ability to determine your own schedule. One of the really great things about having an internet based business is the ability to work from anywhere. One of the incredibly great things about certain types of internet businesses is the ability to not have to work on them at all for long stretches of time. This is definitely the goal for all my projects; long term sustainability without effort on my part.

I’m happy to say that at this point a substantial portion of my income is in fact mostly automated (not terribly diversified though – but that’s another story).

So, August 1st, my wife and I went on a road trip.

We took a few weeks and headed south to checkout a bunch of the national parks around Utah, Arizona and Colorado. We saw some amazing things: I think Arches National Park was my favorite, though Antelope Canyon and Yellowstone were pretty cool as well. We had a great time and it was great to just forget about work for a few weeks. I was even remarkably good – I had my laptop along (we were using it for GPS navigation) and although I did check emails more or less each day (whenever we had free wifi at a campground) I limited myself to personal mails. I highly recommend doing this if you can – just leave the grind behind. (but NOT the coffee!! =)

When we got home we somehow got into a renovating mood, so we took a week and repainted a huge part of the inside of our house, as well as throwing up some crown molding. After that it was back to work for a few days then we went camping on Vancouver Island for a few days.

All told, I must have taken at least a month off work, and I’m happy to say I still got a paycheck after all that.

Isn’t that the goal of an internet-based business? It is for me.

Anyways, now I’m back at it, thinking about which direction I’m going to take this fall. I’m a little torn between developing new PPC-affiliate campaigns, creating some new products, and pursuing local business clients. At this point there’s a little bit of everything going on, but I know that’s not a very efficient way to approach it.

Anyways, for this blog at least, I’m thinking of broadening the scope a bit more. Recently I purchased a Mac (I’ll review it here in a few weeks hopefully) so I’ve been going through the process of switching over and learning a new way of doing things. What fun ={. In the course of doing that and some other things I’ve been working on, I’ve been running into a lot of problems I’ve needed to solve and haven’t found great answers for online. So I’m thinking if I have time I’ll try to post on some of those things and hopefully help some others get past those things quicker than I did.

Argh – anyone figured out streaming flv through S3 yet? That’s my current one…

Anyways, welcome back to me and you – talk soon!

It’s Easy to be a Critic

I have never liked reality TV. Although I don’t deny it can be entertaining at times, there are several things about it that bother me. I don’t like the gossip, the backstabbing and the grandstanding antics that drive ratings through the roof. But what bothers me most is not so much what happens on the shows, but what happens to the viewers.

As a coach, I know that the crucial key to creating the life you want is taking action. Watching reality TV is a perfect example of how not to get what you want. Instead of stepping forward and engaging in life themselves, viewers live vicariously through the participants as they struggle to deal with challenging situations. It is easy and seductive to be part of the audience; to criticize and judge others who are taking action while you sit on your butt in the safety of your living room. Meanwhile, watching TV and talking about what happened on the show last night is not moving you any closer to your goals.

Perhaps I am feeling sensitive because of my own age. I will be 57 years old in a few months and recently several acquaintances younger than me have died of natural causes. Suddenly I am feeling a sense of time urgency as never before. Things are going well but I still have more to do and more to give. I have not created the life of my dreams yet.

Think about Michael Jackson. He was only 50 years old and although you may argue that he did not die of “natural causes”, his time is over. One thing you can say for him is that he did not play safe. He took action and shared the best and the worst of himself with the world. He played full-on while millions of armchair critics sat back passing judgment. How many of them accomplished anything worthwhile or even broke a sweat working to reach their potential the way Michael did?

I was recently reading “The Think Big Manifesto” by Michael Port and he reinforces this point with an excerpt from a speech delivered by Teddy Roosevelt in 1920: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Life is short and there is much to be done. Celebrate failure – at least you tried! The biggest and most seductive trap of all is to live your life as part of the audience; to feel smug and superior as you watch, judge and criticize others while doing nothing to achieve your own goals. So the next time you catch yourself playing the role of critic, identify something you want in your life and do something – anything – that will move you towards it. Yes, it is risky to take action. But a greater risk is to do nothing and let life pass you by. And the most annoying and useless thing you can do is spend your time talking and complaining about others while you do nothing to create the life you say you want.

Andrew Barber-Starkey is a Master Certified Coach residing in Vancouver, Canada. His coaching program, the ProCoach Success System, is designed for entrepreneurs, small-business owners, self-employed and commissioned sales people who want to double their income while simultaneously doubling their time off within 3 years.

Jonathan’s note: I met Andrew recently and was very impressed with what he’s doing. I now receive his newsletter, and I found this issue so relevant that I requested permission to post it here. I hope you find it useful.

April’s Outsourcing Update

Several people have asked me lately about how things are going with the outsourcing, so I figured it was about time to update the blog status on that front.

If you’ve been around here a while, you might remember that I’ve wrote about replacing myself (outsourcing) a while ago. Back in February I hired someone full time from the Philippines. She started on a half time basis, then after two weeks requested to go full time, so I agreed.

She’s been very communicative, and as requested, has sent me an email report every day.

So far it has worked out well. I’ve kept her busy with a ton of linkbuilding, using a packet of links I get from the Warrior Forum each month. I’ve had her do article writing, bookmarking, blog & forum commenting, and some work in WordPress as well. Recently I’ve started teaching her to build linkwheels and we’re going to start using that strategy to promote some sites as well.

Payment

Several people have asked me how I pay someone overseas. The simple answer? Xoom.com. That was the service requested by my employee, so I thought I’d at least give it a shot. Turns out it is SUPER easy to use. In fact, I just processed a payment there and it took me less than a minute. It remembers all the details of my transaction, so I can easily repeat it month after month. Literally, you login, then it is about 2-3 mouse clicks, and you’ve paid, emailed the recipient and yourself a receipt, and you’re done. Very straightforward. It costs me about $14 per $350 USD payment, which isn’t the end of the world either.

What’s Next?

I find myself wishing sometimes that I had a full on web designer working for me, so if I can really get the first one nailed down and busy on a long term basis, I might yet consider adding a second person.

The reason for this is it would be great to have someone with the capability of creating and tweaking customized wordpress themes, as well as doing site design for my consulting clients. I currently outsource most of those projects on a one-off basis, but it isn’t the most cost effective way to go, neither is it great if you really need something done in a hurry.

Plus, if I can get the two of them working in tandem, that could be a potent duo, creating and promoting niche mini-sites.

What About You?

I’m very curious to hear if you have experimented with outsourcing yet –  if so, what have your experiences been? If not, why not, and is there a particular thing holding you back?

Outsourcing Update

This is the 100th post on this blog! Just thought I’d put that in here before we get going =). 

Well, it’s been a couple of weeks since I last posted my progress on my resolution to replace myself. Since then, a few things have happened. The guy I offered the job to accepted, and started. The first assignment I gave him was to follow the directions in four backlink packages I gave him. These are all laid out with screen shots and the whole bit, pretty straightforward. 

So there were a total of 120 links to get. He started on a Wednesday, but hadn’t done a lot by the following few days. I stressed a few times to him that my absolute most important requirement was that he email me regularly, once per day, to update me on his progress. That wasn’t really happening. On top of that, it seemed difficult to communicate with him. For instance, if I asked a question in an email, close to the top, but then went on with other topics in the email, that question would never get answered. 

So by the weekend, I was still trying to figure out where this guy was at, skills wise, to see what training was going to be necessary. So I emailed him a very direct list of things, asking him to just put a yes or a no beside each item. I got that back, and I was surprised to see he’d done nearly everything on my list. Apparently he had a lot of relevant experience. However, over the next few days I just didn’t get any emails. 

This persisted until the end of the following week, at which point I decided enough was enough. I wasn’t in the mood to stick this out until the bitter end. I hadn’t had any evidence from him that he’d actually done the things that I had asked, and about double the amount of time had passed that I expected it would take an extremely slow person to do the job. I figured there just wasn’t much effort going into this relationship. 

So I sent him a “dear John” letter, offerring to pay for his work thus far if he could prove it was done, but explaining to him that because of the amount of time it had taken him thus far, and primarily because of his lack of communication that I wasn’t going to be able to offer him continued employment. 

So during this time I got an email from a girl from the initial batch. She’d been on holidays and hadn’t been able to reply at the time. She was wondering if the job was still open. So I looked at her resume and decided, sure why not? She didn’t have nearly the same level of experience this guy did, but her English seemed good enough, and at this point I was looking more for a trainable, happy to work, person than I was to have someone who’d done everything before. 

Anyways, long and the short of it is that I’ve never heard back from guy #1, and it’s been several days since I sent that email. Conversely, I’ve been back and forth multiple times with the girl. We negotiated work terms (which included part time hours) which worked for both of us, and she’s agreed to start next week. 

Throughout the process I’ve actually been somewhat impressed by her level of communication. I’m the kind of person that picks up on small things in communication, knowing what is required by proper English and what is “extra” for good communication. She seems to be beyond the basic, and communicates, at least via email, as well as anyone I’ve dealt with in Canada or the US. In fact, much better than many. I like the fact that when I mention something that requires an answer in an email, I know I will get that answer, and not have to email about it again. To me, that is a very valuable trait. 

So I still don’t know how things are going to work out, but it is amazing how much you can learn just by emailing someone, if you’re tuned in to the signs. So far I’m remaining optimistic about this. I think she’s going to work out just great. I was warned that I might not find the perfect person on the first try, and I didn’t really hold high expectations for doing so. I’d be very happy to get that person on the second try. 

I’ll keep you posted. =)

(if you haven’t read it yet, you should check out my previous post on this topic)

Following Through on the Resolution to Replace Myself

In my last post I mentioned how I had discovered ReplaceMyself and listened to John’s free audio where he gives tips and pointers for how to hire someone in the Philippines. Although I’d heard the rationale before, for some reason a few of the things he said really clicked with me. Maybe it was the fact that previously when I’d looked into hiring someone through Agents of Value, I was looking at a minimum of $650 – $700 per month. John was talking about $350 ish. Big difference.

So anyways, I listened to the audio, and decided that day that I, at bare minimum, owed it to myself to give this a shot, at least for one month. The extent of my loss, if everything turned out absolutely terribly, would be $350 plus my time spent in training. In exchange, I would get 160 hours of full time work from a qualified, motivated individual. Unless they turned out horribly, I expect they should be able to produce at least $350 in revenue for me.

So the worst case scenario is I lose $350 and pull out my hair from the frustration and time sink the experiment turns out to be. Okay, I can deal with that.

What’s the upside? I get someone who can capably and reliably perform the tasks that I’m not currently doing on my own business even though it desperately needs them to be done. I get someone that I can hand off assignments to, and expect them to be completed sometime thereafter. I get to keep on learning the coolest internet marketing stuff, turn it into a system, teach the system once, then watch it take effect on my business. In short, I get to replace myself.

To me, after comparing the potential downside to the potential upside, I couldn’t see a rational argument to NOT give this a shot.

So I made that a New Years resolution for my business. I’m not normally much of a one for resolutions and what not, but why not eh?

Yesterday I joined ReplaceMyself and cleared everything else off my desk. Part of the benefit of membership there is that you get access to BestJobs.ph which would normally cost $35 a month. So I logged onto BestJobs.ph and started browsing for resumes.

Bear with me here, as this post might get a bit long, but I want to give you a good idea of everything that is involved in this process, because now that I’m nearly through it, I believe it is something that anyone can do.

The position I’d like to fill is basically an internet marketer that can wear many hats. The person above all needs a good command of English, needs to know the internet very well. They will need to do link building, article marketing, blogging, forum marketing, social media, video marketing, PPC, web design, web developing, will need to know WordPress, FTP, ideally some CSS and PHP, they will need to be a good writer and willing and able to work on their own from home on the other side of the world, for $350 a month. Sounds impossible doesn’t it?

Well, I did a search on the site for resumes less than a month old on the term “SEO Writer.” The rationale there was that I wanted someone who could write, and the SEO bit would indicate familiarity with internet marketing concepts. So I got a bazillion results. I went through the top three pages, or 60 results. I looked at probably 80% of those results, viewing their summaries and resumes. There were quite a few good people on there, but I narrowed it down to 22 people that were available immediately or within a month, whose salary expectations were at least within a few miles of where I wanted to be, and who had most of the requisite skills.

I then created a short email that looked like this:

Hello {Name},

I’m looking for a person who can do article writing, link building, forum commenting, web design and other forms of internet marketing. Familiarity with PHP/CSS would be helpful, but not required.

I have a job opening that will allow you to use and expand your internet marketing abilities while working from home. Training will be provided on an ongoing basis.

Salary starts at $300-$400 USD per month (full time), depending on your abilities and experience, and goes up depending on performance.

I’m wondering if you’re interested?

Jonathan

I then sent that email to the 22 people I’d found, and – here’s a tip – at the bottom of the email I pasted the link where I’d found their resume. Later on, when they reply, this allows you to easily reference their resumes from the email.

I sent that out Thursday afternoon. This morning when I checked my email I had 8 responses of interested people.

Ok, next step. So I went through these 8 in much finer detail. I made a simple spreadsheet with their names, years of experience, level of English, some notes, some downsides, and a rating. For each person I scoured their resume, filled in notes like “CSS, PHP, graphics, minisites, SEO, hosting, wordpress, office” basically different things they claimed to be experienced in. After I’d gone through each of these, I considered the level of English, ability and experience in writing, routine internet marketing knowledge & experience, and more technical skills like PHP and CSS. I then gave each one a score from 1 – 10. Okay fine, the lowest was only a 6. I had two nines and a couple eights. I again re-examined the nines, and ended up downgrading them to eights. Then I looked at my eights, and promoted one to a 9.

To give you an idea of what their qualifications are, here are my notes: PPC, SEO, link building, blogging, forum posting, strong analysis, submissions, reviews, reporting, CSS, Dreamweaver, FTP. English was Advanced, and more importantly, since mid 2005 this person has been working in internet marketing for various companies, doing most of these things. Available immediately, they wanted $400 per month. The only things lacking from my perspective were a demonstrated history of writing, and a more technical side capable of dealing with PHP. I should mention that they have a degree in Computer Science.

So I wrote back and offered this person the position, starting at $350, moving to $400 over the first few months if all went well. To be honest, unless they performed so poorly that it just doesn’t work out at all, I fully intend to raise them to this level. However, this allows me to get a good feel for how things are going before committing all the way.

So, this may sound like a lot of work to you, but I can assure you, it’s not that bad. I spent probably 2-3 hours yesterday combing through resumes, trying to figure out what I wanted and what my priorities were, composing emails and sending them all. This morning I spent perhaps another 2 hours, maybe less.

Have you thought about outsourcing before, or tried it before, but weren’t happy with the results? I’ve been told the Philippines are very different from India. I would recommend you take 5 minutes, think about the entire extent of the downsides of your going through with this. Or, just re-read the first part of this post. Then take a bit longer, and think about the potential upsides. Think about the 4 Hour Work Week lifestyle, business growth, and most importantly, if you’re have entreprenuerial attention deficit disorder like most of us, IMPLEMENTATION! The power to actually get done and follow through on those projects you’ve dreamt about, started and abandoned. You can get them done now!

Don’t wait any longer – go checkout ReplaceMyself today and give it a whirl. It’s $4 for the first two weeks, so you can’t go wrong.

Then, stay tuned – I’ll let you know how this works out.

UPDATE: ReplaceMyself really helped me get up and running, as it provided initial training for my outsourced employee to get going. Gradually I’m going to be working on developing my own training, specific to my own needs, but as a great way to get a quick start, checkout ReplaceMyself.