Archive for September, 2010

Creative Commons Images

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

I’m always looking for good images that I can legally use for various website projects. However, it’s hard to find legal ones that I can use without feeling like I’m stealing someone else’s content.

Today I came across a Creative Commons search engine. Ok, it’s not actually a search engine. It’s just a way for you to use some of the major search engines that are able to search for content that’s licensed under the Creative Commons.

Pretty cool way to find good images that you likely can use. You do need to verify that it is indeed licensed under Creative Commons and that you follow the Creative Commons license, but that’s a good thing.

Enjoy the extra images!

Google Apps – Boot Strap Email for Small Businesses

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

Since I’m such a huge fan of boot strapping a business into fruition, I figured I should share some of the ways that I save myself spending hordes of money while still having amazing tools. One of those tools is Google Apps.

What most people don’t realize is that there is a Google Apps Standard and a Google Apps Premiere. Notice that I only linked to the Standard, because a boot strap internet startup company will never go for the Google Apps Premiere. Down the road as you grow you might want to consider it, but at first there’s no reason you shouldn’t be totally satisfied with the FREE Google Apps Standard edition.

Of course, Google tries a lot of different ways to kind of hide the Free Google Apps Standard edition and have you use the Google Apps premiere, but since you’re reading this blog you’ll know better. Although, I should say that as you grow, Google Apps Premiere is a great cost too, but that’s for much later.

So, why do I love Google Apps Standard (from now on known as Google Apps)? It’s basically Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Docs, but all from your own custom domain. That’s right, when I email you from my @crashutah.com domain it’s all going through Google’s email servers for free. Trust me. There are no email applications that can compare with gmail. I’ll save why for another post, but it’s fantastic.

Add in the nice integrations with Google Calendar and Google Docs and it’s better than even implementing an Exchange server for your company. Plus, did you remember that it’s FREE (Exchange is far from free in case you didn’t know).

Sure, you can only have 50 users (which shouldn’t be a problem). Sure, you have ads around your email (as if that really matters, they’re not in your email. Sure, you’re limited to 7GB of email per user (which is a TON of email). Yep, all things that really don’t make much of a difference when you start a business.

I’m always amazed when someone from a pretty large business emails me from ksmith@cox.net. I mean really? How unprofessional is that? I’m sure they’re just afraid to setup a cool email like ksmith@yourdomain.com. Luckily, with Google Apps it’s Easy to setup and it’s free. Ok, it will cost you the $10 or so per year for the domain, but you’re going to have to pay that for your website anyway.

Not sold? Ok, then go and sign up for your .aol.com email account and see how much credibility you have with your customers;-)

Evaluating CRM Applications

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

I’ve been slowly keeping my eyes open for a CRM package which I can use to keep track of all my contacts for Giving Sports and Giving Square. I’m really amazed at how quickly keeping track of sales contacts can get out of hand. Not to mention how easy it is to have the follow up with these contacts fall through the cracks.

Today I came across a blog post on the Google Apps blog about their App Marketplace being 6 months old now. In their list they included a link to a CRM application. I thought this was the perfect opportunity to look into the various CRM applications. Especially since I LOVE using Google Apps and do so for all of my domains. So, I was interested to see what CRM applications were out there that I could use with my existing Google Apps accounts. Not to mention potential integration with my emails, docs, etc.

So far I’ve narrowed my selection down to these 3 CRM Google Apps:
Insightly – Free to signup for the CRM. I’m still trying to figure out when they’re going to charge me.
Zoho CRM – Free CRM for 3 users
Applane CRM – Free CRM for 2 users

Have any of you used any of these applications? I’d love to hear people’s experiences with any of them. I’ll let you know which I decide to use and likely a writeup of my experience with it.

My Bootstrap Approach to Funding My Startup Company

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

I’ve been thinking about starting Giving Sports for a number of years. In fact, I’m sure that there were many many people that thought that I would never do it. Heck, there were times that I didn’t think I was ever going to do it. However, the previous timing was never right for me to start the startup. I’ll likely talk more about this later and why the timing is great now, but one key element to the timing is my ability to bootstrap my startup company.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about getting funding for Giving Sports. A number of investors have been talking to me and they invariably ask the question, “Do you need some money?

That’s such a hard question to answer. I actually hate when they ask it, but it’s a genius question. Of course, EVERYONE wants money. Of course, what the investor doesn’t tell you is the cost to be able to get their money. That’s right, there’s a price you have to pay to get the money.

Evaluating the cost to get an investment in your company against the benefit of cash is an impossible math. In fact, I’d say it’s more art than science. Plus, it seems like the advice I’ve gotten over and over from investors who would never invest in my company (wrong niche, too small, etc) is to wait as long as possible to take money.

This has kind of become the theme in my various networking opportunities with investors. That along with my reading of the fantastic book Rework by the founders of 37 Signals has really pushed me to bootstrap my startup company.

I guess I’m not a total bootstrapper. In fact, the in vogue term is to call me a lean startup company. The key is that I’ve been able to self fund my startup company on the back of my blog income. I’m sure many out there are thinking that there’s no way they could do that. I didn’t think that I could do it last year either. Turns out. I can and I am doing it!

Certainly I have to be careful how much time I spend on my blogs versus on my startup company. I can see how it can easily distract me. However, it’s like everything in life that just takes balance. Plus, I’ve been thinking lately about the time cost associated with chasing capital. Not to mention that I could end up spending what amounts to a part time job chasing capital and end up with NOTHING.

This is why it’s easy for me to justify the occasional need to focus on my blogs. It’s likely much less time than I would have spent fundraising. It’s something I love to do (which I’m guessing fundraising would not fulfill). Plus, I don’t have to give up any equity in the process.

Here’s a quick look at the options:

1. Work on my blogs similar to the amount of time I would have spent raising money. Make enough money to self fund my startup doing something I love. Keep 100% of the equity in the company.

2. Work on finding funding for my startup. Possibly find no one interested in investing. If I land a nice pile of cash I have to give up 15-50% of the company (depending on a lot of factors).

Seems like a pretty clear choice to me.

I should say that I’m not against going for funding either. At some point I could see funding as a viable option. Sometimes scaling needs the cash to really grow the company. However, for now I’m quite comfortable growing organically. Isn’t organic the in thing?

Monetizing My Blogs

Friday, September 10th, 2010

On a forum I recently started participating in, someone asked me a question about how I monetize my blogs such that I can be a full time blogger. Here’s the question in it’s full form and my response:

“Mind telling us what you blog about and what your revenue stream is
(advertising, affiliates, etc.)? I’d be interested in hearing about
it.

Aaron”

I mostly blog about 2 main topic areas: Electronic Medical Record (EMR) and TV Shows. You can see my full list of blogs: http://www.crashutah.com/about/

I have 3 main revenue streams:

  1. Direct Sale Ads – I have 20-30 ads for my blogs that I’ve sold directly to advertisers. My first ads came from people interested in getting some SEO value of having an ad on my site. Over time my traffic has increased that they get a number of benefits including SEO and click throughs. I haven’t really solicited too many advertisers. I just posted an image on my site that said “Advertise Here” and that linked to a page with some details. Although, I do occasionally find an advertiser from someone I’ve met.
  2. PayPerClick (PPC) – My strongest source of revenue for this is Google Ads. It took me a month to get my first $100 check. 3 years to get my second $100 check. Then, I found the right niche and how to scale up traffic and it’s done very well for me. I also do some text link ads which provide some revenue, but not a significant amount. I’ve also been trying to diversify this revenue stream by trying adbrite and others. Can anyone get me into the Microsoft ad network?
  3. Affiliate – This is an interesting part since my EMR sites sale $1000 scanners which make a nice commission, but obviously I don’t sell that many of them. My TV sites have a niche around the music from TV shows and so I sell iTunes music like hot cakes, but at $1 a song it takes the volume to really add up. I also do pretty well with Ticketmaster tickets that are kind of the middle of the road between those 2 extremes. Amazon affiliate has been decent for me too. I was sad that eBay partnered with another site for tour/concert ticket sales and killed that revenue stream for me.

I do a couple other minor things with a job board and other affiliate things, but those are my major sources of blog revenue which let me work for myself full time.

I have a different focus than many other people who make money through advertising/affiliate. Many people that do it create a zillion websites about things they know nothing about and just drive the traffic like crazy to these things and make a commission on the traffic. Often they’re paying for lower cost Google Adwords in order to convert either higher paying Google Adsense or higher paying affiliates. Personally I don’t feel comfortable doing that.

Instead, I build a website that’s chock full of content that provides value to the readers (at least that’s the goal). I spend $0 on marketing (so far) and instead use free online marketing methods and great content to build the traffic and community. Then, I monetize that traffic using the above methods.

Anyway, this is probably more than you wanted, but take it for what it’s worth. I’ll be telling more of my experience becoming a full time blogger at WordCamp Las Vegas.

Izea at BlogWorld New Media Expo

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

Many of you probably don’t know about my history with a company called Izea (previously known at PayPerPost). Turns out that Izea is really the key to me being able to live my dream as a full time blogger and internet entrepreneur today. Without Izea I’d still be working the 9 to 5 and submitting resumes looking for a job. Instead, I’m working from home, working whatever hours I want and never changing out of my pajamas. It’s an awesome life. In fact, if you want to hear more of my story come to WordCamp Las Vegas where I’ll be sharing more details about becoming a full time blogger.

All of this intro is really just my way of saying that Izea should hook me up with a free pass to the BlogWorld New Media Expo in the lovely Las Vegas. You can learn more about the contest here.

As Blogger 61 in the Izea blogger family, I feel that I’m in a unique position to tell stories about Ted (CEO of Izea). Don’t believe me? Check out this blog post I made up back in 2006 about Ted really being a guy named Willie trying to hook up with Colleen. Although my favorite story about Ted was probably the Big Green Monster and eating a large pizza. Ask him about that one!

I can’t make any promises about what will happen during BlogWorld Expo with Ted and the Izea team. However, I can’t make any promises about what won’t happen either. Just don’t be surprised if we find Ted swimming in a big sheet cake at the end of the night while 3 Izea ladies massage his back with the icing.

While they say What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas, that’s just not possible at a blogging conference. I’ll have the camera and the Flip video ready to make sure it doesn’t.