Is Buying A Website For Ad Revenue Still A Good Idea?

You’ve found a gem of a site. You literally lie awake at night thinking of the possibilities this website holds for you. However, with all of this excitement comes one question you can’t quite answer:

How am I going to monetize this website?

It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the possibilities of how you’re going to monetize your site, especially with so many “systems” that promise you quick profits with little to no work. But before you plunge into any system, especially a system based upon ad revenue, it’s important to understand the current state of ads in the online world.

Ad revenue can still be profitable and potentially lucrative, but you’ll need to understand the specific cases in which such an outcome will apply. The ad landscape has changed, especially if your thinking still lies back a couple of years ago.

You’ll leave this article with a greater understanding of how you can build a website based upon ad revenue, as well as the instances in which this will be a good business decision.

After The Auction: What Kind Of Business Are You Trying To Build?

If you’re anything like me, you have myriad new business and project ideas run through your mind every single day. Of course, there isn’t enough time to even think about executing all of them. That is where focus and the ability to effectively analyze profitable ideas becomes very useful.

Let’s begin with one question: what type of business are you trying to build?

Some people are trying to attain the passive income dream, while others are attempting to build a sustainable business that will last years, not just months. Regardless of the business model you choose, you need to have a definition of what you’re trying to build, who you are serving, and why your customers would choose you over your competitors.

Once you have this distilled, it makes sense to start thinking about monetization strategies and the role ads might play with your bottom line.

One thing to keep in mind when building your overall business strategy is to focus on sustainability and reliability – especially with regards to income sources. What would you rather have:

1. A few sources that bring in steady, predictable income every single month, or
2. A single source that could bring in a lot of revenue, but is unpredictable and/or volatile.

I’m guessing you’d choose the predicable sources every time.

When running your own business, the steady sources are worth it, as they’ll reduce a lot of stress and uncertainty about how you’re going to continue operations every month.

Why Would You Choose Ads In The First Place?

Now that you have a solid foundation to build upon, let’s dive into the ad conversation. In the “golden days” of internet advertising you used to be able to build a website, throw up a block of Google Adsense ads and see profits all the way to the bank. However, those days are long gone. Were in a new age of online advertising.

If you want long-term profitability, you’ll want to get this right. Ads can be a great choice, especially when first starting out, as they require no product development or time spent in consulting sessions or sales calls. In essence, they are very easy to set up and implement as long as you have an in-depth understanding of your target market.

Ads can still be a great source of revenue, but their effectiveness greatly depends upon the style of website you’re building. For instance, if you’re trying to build a small, dedicated audience, there may be a chance they could get offended by advertising.

On the other hand if you’re looking to build a site that you’re hoping will have massive amounts of traffic there’s a good chance that placing strategic ads on your site could be a great source of revenue.

What Works Today

In order to thrive with ads today you need one of two things:

1. Massive amounts of traffic, or
2. A very targeted audience.

If you’re planning on growing your site towards both of these things, ads might just fit into your game plan.

When you have a highly targeted website you can solicit advertising offers from businesses that are related to your niche. For instance, if you have a website targeted towards fishing enthusiasts, ads that display fishing poles and other accessories would potentially be helpful.

Some people bat an eye at advertising, but there are certain circumstances where you can even provide value to your readers through your ads.

In our other example, if you’re trying to build a highly trafficked website then using a platform such as Google Adsense could potentially bring you a good source of income. For example, the website Viral Nova – as well as a bunch of others – have managed to build substantial income solely based upon ad revenue.

Different Styles Of Ads

If you’ve decided to pursue the advertising route it’s important to decide what style of ads you’re going to display. The choices depend upon the style of advertising you’re looking for. Below you’ll find a few of the most common options.

1. Google Adsense

Google Adsense has been around for a long time. This makes them one of the most used and most profitable ad networks. However, since they’ve been around for so long they tend to be ignored quite frequently. After years of browsing the web, it becomes easier for people to simply filter out the ads.

However, even with this occurring psychologically, these ads still convert. If you’re looking for relevant sidebar ads then consider applying for a Google Adsense account. After all, you can test the ads, and if they don’t provide the results you’re looking for, you can always remove the.

2. Ad Network Alternatives

There are various ad networks that display ads similar to Google Adsense. If you’re using a general ad network, the ads will be very similar to Adsense, but the payout is usually a little lower (because these sites simply do not have as many bidders).

There are also more niche ad networks that allow you to run more custom ads suited to your niche. These have a tendency to convert at a much higher rate since they have such high niche overlap.

3. Custom Advertising

Another great option is simply opening the floor for advertisers to pitch you on your website. This may take a little more work on your part, as you may have to pitch companies yourself. However, the income you can generate from just a few companies can be much higher and steadier than the other platforms.

If your website tackles a very niche market and you’re building a passionate audience, this might be a great option for you.

Wrapping Up: It’s All About Adding Value

One last thing to note in regards to placement of advertising on your website is the idea of value. Sometimes we like the idea of being able to build a website about whatever we like, slap a few ads onto the sidebar and sit back and collect our paycheques. However, this is the wrong way to view advertising.

At the end of the day, if you’re looking to build a lasting business focus on adding value and the profits will come, you can use advertising in a legitimate way as long as providing value is at the core of your offering, instead of trying to game the system or make money off your readers.

If your business is something you can support and stand behind, is helping others and offers real tangible benefits, there’s no way you’re not going to succeed. If you can align the introduction of advertising into that, that’s a great balance that will help your business grow. However, if you can’t, a different model might be a better idea.

In the end, there’s still money to be made by using ads on your website. However, if you’re looking to build a long-term business that provides value, you’ll need to find a way to integrate your ads in a way that provides value to your readers and the internet as a whole.

Yay or nay? What are your thoughts on ad revenue for your website?

How to Find The Hidden Gem When Buying Websites

Buying websites can feel like a lot of work. You’ve been here before. You have multiple tabs open, pages and pages of spreadsheets and an almost endless list of questions.

When you first began buying websites you felt like you had everything under control. However, now that you’ve gotten deeper into the process, your confidence has slowly been withered away. This is a familiar point that a lot of us find ourselves in. So, don’t worry, you’re not alone.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you’re trying to find the perfect website to invest in. After all, there are so many choices, an essentially infinite amount of niches and new offers springing up every single day. The website buying process can be intense and even draining, especially if you’re not an expert. However, there are some steps you can take to reduce this feeling of overwhelm and maybe even give you a fresh perspective to continue your search.

At the very least this will give you a better idea of what to look for. Instead of being seduced by new offers, you’ll be able to find the gems that stand apart from the rest. We’ll do our best to help expose an element of research that usually goes overlooked.

Unlocking A Website’s Hidden Value

Every website that’s for sale on the marketplace has some sort of value, that’s why you’re buying a website! For some people this might mean a way for them to channel their passion, or a way to make enough money to quit their day job. It might even mean a way to make some quick cash to pay rent for the next couple of months.

Whatever the reason, some websites will hold more value than others. Even though our value spectrums and priorities are different, one thing remains the same: the process for growing a business online. Because of this, there are going to be some factors that make a website exponentially more valuable than the next one.

The internet is so fast, money can be made and business can be done in virtually any area you can think of. No matter the niche the website is in.

The Hidden Element

Sure, a website can have tens or even hundreds of thousands of monthly visitors, but this means nothing if those visitors aren’t engaged with the site. It’s better to have a small engaged audience than a large unresponsive one. The need to build a small tribe around your offering and business grows by the day.

It shouldn’t be huge numbers you seek, but instead engaged fans. We won’t go into the power of engagement and fan building here, just know that it’s crucial to your success.

If you’re looking to build a business, it’s important to recognize the power of email marketing over other forms of marketing. What’s more effective: selling to a random group of users who either could or couldn’t care about your offering, or speaking to a group of people who have given you permission to talk to them?

I’d choose the latter every time.

When you’re browsing the listings, make sure you look for websites that are including their email list with the sale of the website. That way, when you buy a website you automatically have a group of customers (or even fans).

Not All Email Lists Are Created Equal

It might be tempting to buy a website that has the largest email list, but this might not always be the smartest move. This goes back to our earlier point: just because a email list is large doesn’t mean the group is responsive. An unresponsive list is almost as bad as not having an email list to begin with.

Sure, you can attempt to resurrect a dead email list, but it’s probably not worth your time. In that case, it would be easier to simply build an email list from scratch.

When you’re priming your website list based upon having an email list, you’ll want to refine that list down even further if you can. If the stats of the email list aren’t listed on the auction page see if you can request that information from the site owner.

Some important figures are the open rate, unsubscribe rate and the frequency of new subscribers. Before you disqualify a potential website due to its low email open rate, make sure you check the industry standard open rates. Some niches simply have higher or lower email open rates than others. Websites in the online business and marketing niches usually have a lower open rate, as users are used to getting marketed to, so emails are opened less frequently.

Once you’ve found a website or two that have a thriving email list, and satisfy all your other website requirements, you’re just about as good as gold.

Understanding False Value Triggers

It’s easy to get pulled in by websites that seem too good to be true. The same goes for when you’re targeting listings that include an email list. Sometimes, websites will buy email lists and market to them until the list is essentially dead. I’m not saying this to scare you, but simply to keep your wits about you when making a business investment.

Do your research and trust your gut when making a purchase decision. There’s always the option of trying to hop on Skype with the website owner before you buy. Usually, you’ll be able to tell if buying the website is a good idea or not based upon that interaction.

Isn’t Buying An Email List Bad For Business?

Some people equate buying a website with an email list the same as buying an email list outright. However, the two are very different beasts. When you purchase a website with an active email list you’re essentially buying a audience. You’ve assumed the responsibility of serving these people and improving their lives.

Essentially, you’ve been granted permission to enhance these readers’ lives. By taking over the reigns of the website, your goal is to bring as much value to the table as possible. If you have the right intentions, your newly acquired email list is probably happy to be hearing from you.

On the other hand, buying an email list is an old internet marketing tactic that screams 1999. Basically, no one does it anymore.

It doesn’t work.

When you buy an email list you’re essentially sending spam email to thousands of inboxes. Besides, damaging your reputation, you could even get banned from your email service provider.

Buying a website with a subscriber base isn’t the same as buying a sourced email list.

You’ve Got An Email List: Now What?

You have a website with active email subscribers, congratulations. You’re already head of most people when they start a new online venture. Now, you need to nurture this relationship and continue to grow your influence. The main ways to do this are to always send value-laden emails and employ several list building strategies.

1. Write Emails That Get Opened

It might be tempting to try to sell your products and services to your email list right away. However, I’d advise against this. Since you’re a new voice in these readers’ inboxes, you’ll want to spend some time deepening this relationship.

You can do this by providing value in every single email you send. Answer your readers’ questions. Create free guides. Respond to their comments. Address their needs in any way you can.

Although it may seem like a lot of work in the beginning, it will be worth it. You’re building customers and readers for life, not simply, a one-off exchange.

2. Use List Building Strategies

As you’re building engagement with your current list, you’ll want to ensure you’re maximizing your ability to grow your subscriber base. The main ways to do this are to:

  1. Increase the prominence of your website opt-ins
  2. Optimize your copy to directly target your ideal readers
  3. Showcase benefits of your offering
  4. Use incentives (if necessary)

It used to be enough to simply add a “Subscribe Here!” button to your sidebar, but those days are long gone. If you can create an incentive that targets a unique problem your users are facing and offer that in exchange for their email address, you’ll see a big increase in your number of subscribers.

At the end of the day, it’s not all about numbers, it’s about engagement. Why not have the best of both worlds? It’s possible to have a large, engaged list. It’ll just require some more work on your part. You can do it by serving your current subscribers day in and day out, while attracting new visitors to your website who love what you’re offering.

Remember, by targeting websites with active email lists you’ll be able to not only narrow your search, but give yourself a head start in growing your newfound business.

Photo credit. 

Why You Should Consider ‘Diamonds In The Rough’ When Buying A Website

You’ve been browsing the websites for sale on Flippa and you can’t seem to find the ‘perfect’ one. Buying websites can be a full on experiencing and you might resign yourself to thinking you can’t seem to find a website that’s worth buying. This is the wrong attitude to have.

Even if you’ve been disenchanted in your search, there’s a way to turn it all around. You’ve simply been placing your attention on the wrong type of websites. It’s time to expand your perspective and begin searching for diamonds in the rough. We’ll be calling these websites ‘forgotten sites’. I’ll also explain the first steps you should take after purchasing a forgotten website.

What Is A Forgotten Site?

Essentially, a forgotten site is a web property that’s leaving a lot of potential on the table. This can mean a variety of things, but just keep in mind that forgotten sites are hidden gems. Most people overlook these sites, but with what I’m about to share, you’ll be well placed to spot them when they appear.

The main elements of forgotten sites are:

  • Not frequently updated. They often give off a feeling of neglect.
  •  Leave a bunch of money on the table. Not being optimized properly.
  • Lack of passion for the business. Usually, the owner is burned out.

There are obviously a wide variety of ways you can go about your search. For instance, you could search by your interests and passions and try to find a site within those niches. Or, you could look for sites solely based upon your income potential.

Once you understand the basics of a forgotten site, you’ll be able to use your newfound knowledge within any niche you choose. Although we won’t go in depth about niche selection (there are a number of great posts on niches on the Flippa blog) and whether to buy a website based upon your passions, these questions should get you started. It’s important to know your motivations for your new website before you begin.

  1. What is my main motivation for wanting to buy a site?
  2.  Am I trying to buy a website for profit or passion?
  3. What skill set can I bring to the table through this website?

With your intentions in line, and the foundation for being able to spot forgotten sites in place, it’s time to dive deeper.

Elements To Look For

Forgotten web properties can come in all shapes and sizes and span across a variety of niches. However, some of the most common sites you’ll find for sale are blogs, niche content sites, e-commerce sites, membership sites and community or local websites.

There are two things that always need to be in place if you want to profit from a forgotten site.

1. Something About the Site Can Be Fixed

This means there needs to be an element of the site that if you improved upon would take it to new heights. An example of this could be an engaged community that’s hungry for content, yet there hasn’t been a new post in a matter of months. The site owner could have lost interest or simply moved onto other projects.

In the case of lost interest, you can buy the website and move in for the steal and begin to serve the audience in new ways. This could mean creating epic content or even building a product that addresses the audience’s needs. Since the site you’ve found has been neglected, the audience is craving for a solution to their problems and you’ll be the one who can deliver.

A simple fix that’s present way more often than not is poor design. By having a poorly designed website, there’s usually a lot of cash left on the table. By taking the time to work with a designer, you can increase your conversions from traffic to grow your email list. In the online world, a list can be your biggest asset.

Aside from poor design and neglect, another common mistake is a failure to monetize the website. There are a lot of ways to make money from your web property. For instance, if the website is getting a lot of traffic, you could monetize the site with ads. If the website has a large email list, you could survey the audience about what product they want created and then create it.

The fixes you employ are activating the site’s potential and transforming a neglected property into a powerful asset.

2. Potential for Increasing Revenue And/Or Decreasing Expenses

If you find a website that has some of the above properties, yet you have no way of transforming those properties into profit, it’s a good idea to move on. Usually, you’ll want to aim to buy websites that are already profitable, but you can use your skills to improve and take the site to the next level. Of course, you can always hire a person to manage the site, create content, or do a site redesign, but you want to be careful about how much money you’re investing into your site before it’s a sure thing. 

Think of a forgotten website as a foreclosed property. You’re going to get a good deal and you could strike it rich. But, there could also be some unforeseen circumstances that you didn’t see through, such as a burst pipe. Just keep this in mind when searching to buy forgotten websites.

It’s important to minimize your risk when buying any website. One of the best ways to ensure you’re protected and actually buying a gem instead of a dud is to talk to the owner. That way you’ll be able to verify the site stats and even uncover the real reason they’re selling the site in the first place.

That said, it’s still important to look at the data and numbers of the site you’re thinking of buying. Our intuition can often tell us a lot. If you think the deal is too good to be true, or get a weird feeling when interacting with the website owner, it’s probably a good idea to move on with your search.

What Skill Set Can You Bring To The Table?

The style of website you end up choosing will depend upon your skills and focus. For instance, if you’re a writer by profession you should be able to create quality content, no matter the niche the site is in. However, if you struggle to write a coherent sentence then you’ll have to outsource the work, which will be an added expense.

It’s easy to get in over your head when buying a website. You think the website you’re buying will be extremely profitable with a few simple tweaks. Often, this is far from the case.

For some reason there’s a stigma surrounding making an investment in a website. Many others assume all we’ll have to do is push a few buttons and we’ll be on our way to soaring profits. Think of investing in a website along the same lines as investing in a business. If you’re taking over a struggling business you better be prepared to put a lot of work in. You should have the same mentality when buying a website.

From Dud To Stud

Once you’ve purchased a forgotten website and have evaluated your skills it’s time to move on. Although we won’t discuss a complete strategy for growth in this post, we’ll dive into a few elements you’ll need to ensure are present in your new site.

1. Make building your email list a priority.

The main way to grow your site’s traffic and ensure its profitability in the long-term is to collect email addresses. Make sure the day you take over your site that you add an email opt-in box, and offer some form of sign-up incentive. That way, anytime you have a new blog post or product to offer, you can alert your email list.

2. Go beyond search engine traffic.

Google can send a ton of traffic your way, but you don’t want to solely rely on it as your only source of traffic. Use the early phase of your site ownership to experiment with alternate traffic means. For instance, you can drive traffic via Google and Facebook ads, guest posting, and through your social media platforms.

3. Increase your conversions.

If your site isn’t set up to convert your new visitors into subscribers, you’re wasting your time. You’ll want to make sure your site is optimized for conversions. You’ll want to test your conversion rates to increase them as high as possible. Only when you have a solid conversion rate does it makes sense to move forward with means to increase traffic.

4. Narrow your focus.

Once you buy your forgotten site, you’ll actually need to spend time on it. One of the biggest reasons website purchases aren’t worth the investment is due to the lack of focus on your end. If you want your new site to be successful, you’ll have to put time and energy into it and be willing to experiment.

I hope this primer on buying forgotten sites helps guide you through the process of finding hidden gems and turning them into gold mines.

How do you filter your sites when looking to buy? Share in the comments.

Thanks to Martin for the photo!

How My New Blog Design Increased Email Subscriptions by 500%

Most bloggers are obsessed with conversion rates. They monitor their analytics, continually adjust copy and fiddle with design in a bid to convert more of their readers into email subscribers.

I’ve never really been one of those people. I happily floated through the first two and a half years of my blogging life without concerning myself too much about conversion rates.€“ I just enjoyed what I did.

But a few months ago, I made a conscious decision to make my blog better integrated. I made some key decisions about the purpose of the blog and how it could best help people. These decisions led to a total re-launch with a new design, manifesto, and community forums.

But more importantly for the purposes of this post, my decisions led to an enormous leap forward both in terms of email conversions and overall engagement. Read on to discover how.

The Background

It was early summer when I finally decided that I wanted to re-design my blog, Leaving Work Behind. I had big aspirations for the site but I felt that the current design didn’t reflect where I wanted it to be and€“ my message wasn’t well presented.

I wanted people to hit my site and immediately know what it was all about, but that wasn’t happening. Furthermore, I decided that my number one priority was to get people to sign up by email.

I had deliberated about this in the past, but I came to the decision that the best way that I can help people is by email. As a blogger, it’s the only way I can send people prescribed information in a suitable order. So that was the decision that I made: I was going to put email front and center.

Beyond that, I wanted to give people further opportunities to engage€“ through social media, the forums, and comments. I wanted to make it as easy as possible for them to do this.

Once I’d figured out what I wanted, I started designing. That’s the right way round to do things.  Don’t start designing until you know exactly what you want to achieve, not just in terms of aesthetics, but also in regards to the overall purpose of your site. It doesn’t make any sense to stumble blindly into things. Instead, you should identify your goals and work to align your design decisions with those priorities.

The Results

I launched my newly-redesigned site on November 4th. The impact was immediate.

I was getting great feedback from my readers in the comments section, but that’s not all. My email subscriptions had taken a huge leap as well. It hasn’t slowed down much since.

In the ten days leading up to the launch I attracted just 39 new email subscribers. In the ten days after, I attracted 195, which is€“ an increase of 500%.

New LWB Subscribers

This wasn’t due to a huge spike in traffic.€“ In fact, the re-launch didn’t attract an inordinate amount of new visitors. While traffic in that period did increase by 44%, the net email conversion rate increase still increased by a factor of 350%.

But that’s not all. The community forums got off to a great start and is going strong so far. One of my fears is that the forum would fall flat, but that has not been the case (touch wood!).

Furthermore, commenting has been as regular as ever and my Facebook and Twitter accounts have continued to grow at a healthy rate, even though I focus less on promoting them in the new design.

So how did I make this all happen? Let’s take a closer look at the key elements of my design (and content) that brought around this result.

Color Scheme

In my opinion, one of the keys to the new design’s success is the color scheme. Take a look:

So, what’s going on here? There are two €œaccent colors:€ blue and green. Their roles are well-defined: blue is used to attract attention, green is used for calls to action.

The aim is to pull people’s eyes to specific parts of the page, then draw their attention even closer to the bright green calls to action.

You will notice that the colors are used relatively sparingly throughout the design; only in the places that I most want people to explore:

  • The feature box
  • My About page
  • My information product and resources page
  • Other email signup forms

Email Signup Opportunities

Speaking of email signups, as I’ve already said, increasing email subscribers was the major focus of my new design. I wanted to see what I could do to increase my email conversion rate, and it turns out that I succeeded in boosting it considerably.

Here are the areas where visitors are given an opportunity to sign up:

  • The homepage feature box
  • The sidebar
  • The footer
  • Within posts and pages
  • When commenting
  • When they try to leave the site (using the excellent OptinMonster plugin)

That seems like a lot at first glance and€“ and it is! But, so long as you’re not being obnoxious and spammy about it, I think that it is hard to under-emphasize email.

In fact, I plan to do even more work to highlight my email signups. Here are some additional areas that I am planning on incorporating signups in:

  • Post footers (I’m currently still ironing out the kinks on this)
  • The community homepage
  • Within the community registration process

I have made it almost impossible for any visitor to come to the site without seeing at least one or two email subscription opportunities. Basically, you can’t go far without being invited to subscribe. However, I try to make it as non-invasive as possible.€“ I try to keep that balance between encouraging people to sign up but not pissing them off.

My usage of OptinMonster is a good example of this. Most pop up plugins serve up their pop up when you first hit the page, which I find infuriating. But I use OptinMonster so that the pop up only appears when people go to leave the page (i.e. when they move the cursor outside of the browser window). This means that they won’t get rudely interrupted by a pop up while they’re exploring a page on my site. This plugin has been an excellent contributor to my email list so far, converting at 1.35% alone. I’ll be sure to split test it to improve that conversion rate.

Tying It All Together

I’ve already said that email subscriptions were my number one priority with the new design. However, I couldn’t ignore the likes of social media, nor do I want to discourage people from joining the forums.

With that in mind, once I have secured an email subscriber, the next thing I want to do is give them the opportunity to join the Leaving Work Behind community in other areas.

First, when people have subscribed, they are redirected to this page, complete with clear social media calls to action. Beyond simply orienting recently signed up readers, this page carries the potential to multiply my readership by encouraging social media engagement.

Moving on, the second email autoresponder they get asks them to like Leaving Work Behind on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, and join the forums.

The third email includes links to all three again. Remember that people are unpredictable. Just because someone didn’t engage with me on social media after the first try doesn’t mean that they won’t do so if prompted again. Some people are wary, careless, or just plain busy, which is why it works for me to reach out a second time.

But that’s not all. I also utilize an awesome WordPress plugin to redirect first-time commenters to this page, within which they are given another opportunity to join the forums or follow me on social media. It makes sense to do this, since commenters are more engaged than your average reader.

The Art of Prioritization

I think that I have managed to create a website that encourages email subscriptions, but doesn’t do so in an overbearing manner. It also manages to promote other means of following, but only when doing so does not overshadow my main objective. I centered my strategy on my goals, and I remembered that my readers are people, too.

So far, the results have been highly encouraging and I am delighted with the outcome.

There are, no doubt, ways in which I can improve upon what I’ve done and I’ll certainly be looking to do so in the future. Few people (or websites) are perfect, so I do my best to always be on the look out for improvements.

With that in mind, I’d love to get your feedback in the comments section. What do you think about the new design and its efficacy? Do you have any suggestions for improvement? Let us know in the comments section below!

PS. Did you know we currently have 50 % off domain listings? Start your auction right now.

Photo credit: Steve Jurvetson

How I Quit My Job and Launched a Successful Web Business

How I Quit My Job and Launched a Successful Web Business

In May 2011 I decided that I wanted to quit my job. I didn’t know what I would do instead, but I knew that I needed to move on. That December, I did move on, and I haven’t looked back.

Today I work as a professional blogger and have never been happier. Earlier this month, I launched my own content marketing agency, Clear Blogging Solutions.

In this post I want to recount my story. Hopefully you can learn from my experiences – both my successes and my failures.

You’ve Got to Want It

I actually liked my old job.

I led the management and development of an eight figure property portfolio in my father’s business. But I became restless – I was an entrepreneur at heart, and even though I had autonomy in my role, I had an epiphany. I wanted to quit.

On May 23rd of 2011, I launched my first website. I then set myself a goal – to quit my job within one year. I did not rely solely on hope and dreams. I set a concrete, actionable goal.

To succeed at anything, you need goals. Nowhere is this more true than in efforts to quit your “offline” job and start an online business. I didn’t waffle and waver – I committed to my goal and I succeeded because I really, truly wanted it.

If you don’t have the drive to strive for your goal, then you are unlikely to succeed. That’s okay, but it might mean that you aren’t ready to quit your job. You have to really want it.

I did. And December 23rd of 2011 was my last day of employment – I beat my goal by five months.

Don’t Play It Safe, Play It Smart

People just starting out are often told to wait until they are making as much or more with their online business as they are in their current job. Frankly, I think that is bad advice.

I started out trying to gain passive income from niche sites, which did not really work out (more on that later). After a while, I began doing freelance writing work. I secured one client, then another.

I wasn’t making enough money with my writing to support my lifestyle. But I did the math – I was making an equivalent hourly rate of $25 (which was considerably higher than my hourly rate at my job). If I could find writing work to fill the extra hours freed up by quitting my job, I would make enough to stay afloat. I was confident in my ability to find more clients. Simple logic dictated that I could quit my job and still make enough money.

You should not play it safe and wait until you are making as much money online as you currently do. Instead, you need to logically calculate when you can successfully rely on your online business.

Prepare for the Worst Financially

Another key part of playing it smart is making sure that you have something to fall back on in case your financial situation turns bad.

Any sort of safety net works. You could save money. You might be able to get the guarantee of a job in the event that you need to return to stable income. You could even consider moving back in with your parents if things don’t pan out (if such a thing were an option of course ;-)).

Whatever you choose, you need some sort of Plan B. For me, that was financial savings. I put enough money away to cover me for several months.

There is another side to this coin. Yes, you need to prepare for the worst. But you also will need to make sacrifices. To brighten my financial outlook, I critically assessed how much I was spending and cut 30% of my monthly costs.

That’s right – I eliminated almost a third of my expenditures. It is hard – but if giving up that flat screen TV or shiny new car will give you the wiggle room to succeed in quitting your job, it is worth it.

What is the takeaway from all of this? You should be prepared to adopt a more frugal lifestyle and you always need a back up plan in case things go south.

If It Doesn’t Pan Out, Change Your Plan

When I decided that I wanted to quit my job, I didn’t know how to do it. My first plan involved passive income streams – creating niche websites and making money through ad revenue.

I created an authority site for parents in the world of child modeling (random topic, I know — such are the vagaries of creating websites based upon keyword research). I obsessed over SEO and did everything I could to target the right keywords.

After a few months, it worked. Modeling for Kids reached #1 in Google search rankings. But the earnings I had hoped for didn’t pour in. Soon, due to excessive backlinking on the site, Google pushed it down in the rankings.

I was seriously frustrated. So in September 2011, I submitted a bunch of applications to the ProBlogger Job Board. I did it on a whim, but soon heard back from WPMU. After a paid trial there, I secured ongoing work. I then sent out some more applications and got a job with the ManageWP blog (where I still write). Finally, I was making real money.

I learned that passive income streams are not the only way to make money online. From my experience, they are not necessarily even the best way.

I did not begin to succeed until I took a leap and tried something new. Of course, you should work hard to put your business plan into action. But you should never ignore new opportunities.

The path of your online business may twist and turn in new directions but as long as you enjoy the journey and it gets you where you want to go, that’s okay.

Know What You’re Doing Before You Do More of It

Unfortunately, I wasn’t done with my futile foray into niche sites.

In January of 2012, even as I was getting paid for writing, I drew up a plan to create a large number of sites. Without the time to work extensively on the mass niche sites myself, I hired a Virtual Assistant (VA) to write the content for me.

On April 5th, my VA quit without notice – I only found out when I emailed her to ask why nothing was getting done. It was a huge setback for my passive income dreams and gave me a chance for reflection. My ideas about scaling completely changed.

I didn’t really understand how to make money from niche sites, and yet I had tried to make money from multiple niche sites. That was a bad plan.

On top of that, I tried to hire somebody else to do the work of creating content for those niche sites – work that, again, I personally did not know how to do effectively.

Scaling could mean that you are going to do more of something yourself, or that you are going to hire someone else to do more of it. Either way, you should always understand a process before you try to scale it.

Carve Out Time To Think

The next month I took a trip to Bulgaria. It was an amazing decision. With little to worry about, I found that I finally had a relaxed creative zone to relax and reflect within.

Too often, we get caught up in the noise of daily life. But great ideas that drive us forward come most easily in the silence of reflection. Here is a short list of ideas I came up with while on holiday:

  • Two different information products
  • A new strategy for guest posting
  • A new blog
  • The re-branding of Leaving Work Behind
  • Ten ideas for new articles

I was able to make positive changes to my own blog and put new ideas into action. That would have been impossible without some space to think. Constant hustling and endless work will burn you out. Instead, you should be sure to make room for time when you have nothing to worry about – with no worries, you can think.

Own Your Time

Prior to quitting my job, the issue was finding enough time to work on my business. While working many hours in my offline role, it was often hard to slot in enough time to advance my online aspirations. Time management was paramount.

After quitting, I came to realize that time was still important. Now that it was totally in my control, I started striving to be as efficient as possible. Reading and experience led me to four steps that I call the AESA process: act, eliminate, streamline/systematize, and automate. I detailed it in an earlier post.

Time is the single most important asset you have. Don’t waste it.

Preserve Your Integrity

Some advice seems so short but rings so true. Here’s a piece that I learned – be honest.

In the past, I tried a lot of ways to earn money other than niche sites and freelance writing. A lot of them centered around my blog – affiliate hard sells, webinars, etc. I always ended up feeling bad about these ploys and with good reason. They may not necessarily have been unethical, but they got far closer to being so than I was comfortable with.

Don’t build your business on dishonesty, cheap gimmicks and short term profit goals. I have now decided to do the right thing and throw those ideas in the trash can (where they belong).

Keep Your Eyes on the Prize…

Running an online business is hard and the difficulty doesn’t end. It’s not a quick dash – it’s a marathon. But it can be incredibly rewarding if you keep the right mindset. I try to do that every day.

I don’t force myself to work. I know that on some days I will feel demotivated. If I need to read a book or take a nap, I do that. Why? There are days where I work for hours on end late into the night. Those motivated days will more than make up for the days when I’m just not feeling it.

Here’s my point – the ultimate goal of a business should never be money. Money is nothing more than a means to an end. If money gets you from point A to point B, that’s great. But what matters is point B and the journey to get there.

My focus is always on quality of life. For me, the little things matter. I enjoy an occasional afternoon round of golf. I love the freedom to drop by my dad’s office in the middle of the day to say hi. The little things do matter because they stack up and make my life more fulfilling.

Never lose sight of why you do what you do.

…Because the Prize Is Awesome

I don’t intend to let my business stagnate. I launched Clear Blogging Solutions in early August. I have new plans for my blog, Leaving Work Behind.

I hope that you will adopt a similar mindset – never stop dreaming and never be afraid to make your dreams come true.

This post was an overview of my experience quitting my job and starting an online business. I think there are some key lessons you can glean from my story – both the things I did right and the things I did wrong.

  • To succeed, you must truly want it.
  • Don’t be too cautious – be logical, and know when to take the leap.
  • Be smart with your finances.
  • Never be afraid to branch out, even if it changes your plans.
  • Understand a process before you scale it.
  • Find your creative space, be it a location or vacation.
  • Value time management.
  • Be honest with your customers.
  • Quality of life is always the most important consideration

Hopefully my story and advice will give you the practical wisdom to leverage your work ethic to make massive gains. Good luck!