Monday, October 17, 2011

Outsourcing Article Writing: Lessons Learned

Is outsourcing the solution to maximizing your productivity and success as an online entrepreneur? If  you have more work than you can manage yourself, and the budget to hire others to do it for you, it might make sense to outsource some aspects of you life or home business in order to focus your own efforts on the most important areas. The key is to discover which aspects you should hire out and which are best done by yourself.

As I mentioned in my post about focusing on one website vs. many, I have more website ideas than time to properly write and manage them all. One approach I've tried is to hire freelance writers and employ article writing services to create original content for me to use on my blog ... to mixed results.

Specifically, I've turned to Textbroker andContent Kingdom, as well as individual private freelance writers, to write articles for which I'd already created keyword-specific titles. These articles were for a variety of my websites (but not this blog, of course).

Mixed Results from Article Services
The article writing services I used were hit-or-miss. I got some great articles from Content Kingdom, and then some really disappointing fluff pieces. Textbroker was largely disappointing at first, even while paying for higher-end pieces. I got a few good articles from them after adding more details to my article request descriptions, but it was still clear to me in most cases that very little research, if any, was done by the author.

There were even some cases of complete inaccuracies I was able to spot at first glance because I am very familiar with the topics of all the blogs and sites I've started -- I do live by the adage to "write what you know." Perhaps precisely because I chose my niches based on a combination of passion and potential profitability, it would take a lot to satisfy my expectations for content on these topics.

For some of the articles, I spent more time editing, tweaking and adding more information that I would have just writing the article from scratch myself. Spending the extra time and money became a drain, not a boost.

Ultimately, unless I find a freelance writer who has real life experience in my best niches, I've learned that for my top sites I am much better off writing my own content. This is most especially true for sites that have a strong author voice, as both my top sites do.

Outsourcing Other Tasks
Some web writers swear by their virtual assistants, who do all sorts of tasks for them, from paying their bills to performing basic research to setting up new website and adding content as directed.

While I don't think I'm anywhere near needing or being able to justify my own personal assistant,. there are some non-writing business-related tasks that would be best done by someone else.

I'd really like to hire a web designer or graphic artist to help me with several website re-designs and create logos and headers for my sites. I am not capable as a graphic artist and would love to find the right person at the right price (If you have a recommendation, please leave me a comment!)

Should I Outsource my House Cleaning?

My mom, who raised a large family and home-schooled most of her children all the way through high school, has wisely pointed out (practically insisted) that I should hire a housecleaner once a week to do my deep cleaning and other household tasks.

I actually tried this last spring. I found a cleaning service that was "green," and did not use harmful chemicals in the cleaning process, important to me with kids in the house. (Oddly, though, the woman was a smoker and would take smoke breaks. When she came back inside she smelled smoky and it really bothered me. I was pregnant and extra sensitive to smells at the time).

It felt uncomfortable to me to have strangers in the home, and to have another woman cleaning my house while I was not. I was stressed out ahead of time trying to get the house ready for her to clean (can't mop floors with kids toys all over them). Some items were left undone, but I still paid the regular price that was supposed to include everything. Maybe I have issues and need to "let go" a bit, but the additional stress led me to cancel her services after two visits.

This is one area I am going to revisit for potential outsourcing. I first have to get past any feelings of failure if I'm not cleaning my own house to the standard I like it. 

What Should You Outsource?

Your own needs and talents are unique and what might make sense for you to outsource can vary widely based on your home business and family situation.

Tips on Outsourcing:
  • Don't force yourself to hire out the tasks you actually enjoy doing.
  • Find competent assistants or service providers, even if you have to pay a little more.
  • Make a budget and re-evaluate it every couple weeks. If the payof isn't there, reconsider your options. 
  • Have a clear idea of how much time or money you will save, or how much you'll be able to increase revenue based on your outsourcing. Make sure it is worth it to you either financially or for your sanity (moms of many, I'm looking at you!).
Have you outsourced or hired others to help you with your business? What were the results? 

Friday, October 14, 2011

My Highest Residual Income Day

Last November, I set a record for residual income earned on one day -- a personal record, that is. There are, obviously, plenty of freelance writers and internet marketers who regularly do far better. This was quite a day, though, hundreds of dollars above my previous best day and something I likely won't beat for quite some time.

The majority came from sales through a certain merchant I link to via the commission junction ( affiliate network. While the sales were in the same general niche, they came from two avenues: an eHow article I'd written, and a niche website that was only a few months old at the time.

Here's the breakdown:

( sale commissions via eHow article:  $164.44 sale commissions via family/home niche website: $575.47) total: $739.91
eHow: $104.55
Adsense: $20.15
Amazon $4.47

Total one-day earnings: $869.07

Just to make that number seem even crazier, a year of those earnings every. single. day. would mean a $317,000+ annual income! Wow.

Ironically, I'm earning less than $1,500 now per month, as my September earnings demonstrate, but having this crazy-high earnings day to look back on reminds me of what's possible, as well as how much potential there is in my home/family niche blog.(By the way, I got the inspiration for that blog during my first month in the Wealthy Affiliate online training program).

The thing about residual income is that it can be fickle, and follow a feast/ famine trajectory at times. But when I look at earnings over a time frame of weeks and months, it evens out to a more predictable pattern. The key is not to expect single-day highs but to work strategically for long-term growth and income. And that's what I'm doing now.

Do you have a earnings mark or other indicator that you look back on as a reminder that you're doing something right? I'd love to hear about it!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

September Passive Income Online

My passive income online in September 2011 came so very close to $1,500 ... just a few dollars shy. I know I won't be in the $5,000 a month range by the end of the year, but it's definitely attainable by the end of 2012. Right now, I'm building the foundation for future earnings through my network of websites and niche blogs, especially two in particular. Of course, I'm looking forward to my efforts paying off; but I'm also having fun as I go.

September Earnings:

Adsense $592.72 $349.27
RA commissions $154.24
Clickbank $149.81
Amazon Associates $132.57
Demand $84.08
WA commissions $65
NB commissions $39.92
ShareASale      $8.70

Total $1,492.23

 In addition to online income from websites and blogs, my husband and I earn a somewhat passive income from two two-bedroom rental homes here in our county. I'm planning to blog about that this month, just to give some insight into another residual income model with which I have experience. Diversification really strengthens your ability to survive economic downturns and industry changes, and diversifying offline makes sense to me.

How were your online earnings in September? If you're just starting out, what's the main challenge you face to building a reliable online income?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

One Website or Many?

Should you focus on one website (or niche) or several?

This question has come up for me many times since I started my online writing journey, or more precisely, since I began focusing on my own websites for the foundation of my writing business. Part of my conundrum stems from having more great website ideas than I have time to build, develop and write. I've purchased a couple (okay, maybe a few) dozen domain names and yet the bulk of my income comes from just two of those. 

Oh, I've tried outsourcing, to mixed results. But ultimately, my best websites and articles are ones I've written myself. They tend to be so focused that a hired freelancer without preexisting interest or experience in the topic can't do it justice at the standard freelance rates I've been able to afford.

The problem I've discovered, when you have a large number of domains and thus websites and blogs (assuming you've made the first steps to turn the domains into traffic-generating, revenue-earning assets) is that your attention can become very fragmented, meaning that even your best niches and blogs become somewhat neglected.

In the quest to make every website reach its potential, none actually do. For example, my pets website earns $500-$1,000 a month. It could hypothetically bring in much, much more, but I still haven't gotten it a new and better template, or regularly added new content in recent months. I'm too distracted by other sites that may not be in as great a niche and I've barely touched, yet feel an odd obligation to take care of.

I don't think I'm ready to just delete -- or not renew -- my collection of great-idea domains that are languishing in various stages of completion. But my approach moving forward is to give my most focused attention to the ones that showed themselves early on as true winners. By winners, I agree with fellow WAHM Felicia at No Job for Mom: the website has to both do well AND be something I truly enjoy writing about.

By putting about 80% of my efforts into my two top niches (the pets site and a home/ family niche that is also doing very well, responsible for most of my affiliate sales) I think I can have my cake and not eat it, too (I'm on a post-baby diet.) That is, I can both hold onto all my wonderful ideas and still maximize my earnings by focusing the majority of my time, effort, and resources on the best income-generating ones.

With these two websites alone, I know I can get back to my previous income level of  $5,000 a month.

To keep myself on track, I will:
  • Make a detailed work plan at the start of each week, and a checklist for each day to accomplish the week's goals. 
  • Schedule my work time, with my family's cooperation.
  • Use my prime morning work time (5-7:30 am) for my top niche sites.
  • Work on the extra sites when I need a break, or during extra work sessions after my main weekly goals are completed.
 Have you faced the dilemma of how many successful websites you can truly manage? What was your conclusion or solution?