For people who have been working online for a while it’s easy to overlook a couple of things:
- The amount of knowledge you actually pick up through your day to day efforts at getting your business going
- How little people who don’t work online actually know about promoting a business online.
A while ago I read a post in the Warrior Forum (if you’re not already a member this is definitely one you should join) in which the poster pointed out how easy it would be to earn some money putting up websites for offline businesses.
Now, as those who have followed my posts will know, I am strongly anti the hype. I get seriously frustrated at all the ridiculous claims of megabucks tomorrow that you see being pushed so often by people promoting online business opportunities. And I’m not about to change that position here.
However, if you’ve been working online for sometime – 9 months to a year or more – you will probably have learned a heck of a lot more than you realise. Even if your business hasn’t yet taken off.
Things like basic Search Engine Optimisation, relevancy, calls to action, keyword research, website design, promotion channels, blogging, social marketing, autoresponders and so on. These are a complete mystery to most owners of small, offline businesses.
The gist of that post in Warriors was that if you looked around your neighbourhood you could probably find a number of offline businesses that you visited regularly enough to be on greeting terms with the owner. I’m talking about restaurants, your local gym, your hairdresser, bars you go to, etc.
If you got talking to them one day about what you do (internet marketing, putting up your own websites), and how you can grow a business with a good website, you would quite likely very soon find yourself looking at an opportunity to put up a website for them.
So this got me thinking. At first I was all fired up. And then the self-doubts started to creep in. Yes, I do design and build my own sites, but they’re definitely not sophisticated. Who would want to pay me to put up a website with my skills..?
The solution to my site design deficiencies is, of course, WordPress.
Putting up a website for a small business by downloading and installing WordPress is a no brainer.
Ok – time for some market research.
I started looking at the websites of a few of the bars and restaurants in my local area that I visit regularly. The ones I looked at were nicely designed but completely devoid of a personal touch. And totally without any hint of creating an online community for regulars.
So far so good. But what was the going rate for designing a simple website?
I located a couple of website design studios in my area and called for ‘ballpark’ estimates for building a simple 5 page website.
Since, mostly, studios like this do everything they can to avoid giving an estimate without first meeting you, analysing your requirements and developing a hernia-inducing proposal, I positioned myself as a small business considering setting up my first website.
I told them I had no budget, because I didn’t have any idea what costs would be involved, and that I was just looking for ball park estimates, for budgetary purposes only, that would enable me to assess whether I wanted to take it any further.
That got me the information I needed.
So now I had a potential target market, a means of delivery that I could be confident about (WordPress) and an understanding of the going rate in my area.
Having checked out the websites of a few bars and restaurants, I also had a clear idea of how I could put up something different and unique for any clients brave enough to hire me.
Now it was time for the rubber to hit the road, but where to start..? I didn’t fancy the idea of morphing into a bar-hopping sales person for my website design service. So how to actually get my first commission?
As chance would have it, I was sitting in one of my regular haunts one evening a few weeks after doing this initial research, when someone I’d known for a while walked in. His name is Geoff, and he had been the previous owner of the bar we were in, but he’d sold out about 5 or 6 months before.
When I asked him what he was doing with all his free time, it turned out that he’s setting up another bar/restaurant and just needs to finalise premises. Long story short – he’s my first commission, and it came from simply exchanging ideas about what each of us are up to.
So what’s my plan for his site?
Install WordPress, find, download and install an appropriate theme (there are so many WordPress themes available, including hospitality themes), make the home page a static page, use the blog functionality to create a dialogue between Geoff and his customers, personalise it as far as possible, set up an opt in page for newsletters, which I’ll run from my Aweber account (unlimited Autoresponders).
The natural SEO features of WordPress will get his site indexed quickly and I’ll add several SEO related plugins to further improve its visibility to the search engines. And remember, we’re really only concerned about local searches here, so hitting the #1 spots will be a lot easier.
All Geoff has to do is finalise his premises.
So what’s the moral of the story..?
If you’ve been working online for a while I’ll bet you’ve accumulated more knowledge than you probably think you have, and a heck of a lot more knowledge than most people who are running offline businesses.
If you focus on small to medium off line businesses, particularly those in non-techie industries, you’re quite likely to find a number of people who will gladly pay for the knowledge you’ve accumulated in order to increase their business.
Do your research: establish what the going rate is in your area, check out other websites and identify what you can do differently (create your USP).
Don’t try to turn yourself into a pushy sales person (unless you already are one!) – just talk to people who you know about what they’re doing, and what you’re doing, whenever the opportunity arises. Keep it natural – it will be much more effective that way.
You will quite likely find that you can start to earn a small income quite quickly. It took me about a month from when I first thought about this, and I literally didn’t do a thing to promote myself.
And also keep in mind: this is not get rich quick. Firstly, you won’t get rich and secondly you need to have accumulated several months of experience and knowledge before you can realistically do this. But you may start to earn some money from the knowledge you’ve accumulated.
Of course, the fact that Geoff walked in at that time, and the fact that he’s setting up another bar/restaurant was fortuitous, but hey, that’s life and at least I was prepared and ready to grab the opportunity.