Here are the six steps you will follow to turn your hobby into cash:
The first step is to choose a hobby or activity that inspires you. Begin by scratching out a list of everything you enjoy. Make the list as long as possible. Don’t worry if your passion seems crazy or even embarrassing. Crazy and embarrassing can be good!
After you have at least 10 (but hopefully several dozen) topics, you will begin to narrow them down by asking the following questions:
- Is this something that is difficult or complicated? (Collecting butterflies, rare coins, etc.)
- Is this something that requires skill? (Golf, fly-fishing, playing the French horn, building airplanes, etc.)
- Is this something that needs tools or parts? (Repairing old radios, vacuum cleaners, motorcycles, etc.)
- Is this something people have strong opinions about? (Wine, beer, cooking, etc.)
- Is this something that sounds crazy or embarrassing? (Skydiving, sexual fetishes, eating dirt, etc.)
You are looking for “yeses.” The stronger the yeses, the better. You can then get rid of topics that don’t have that many yeses.
Of the remaining topics, think about the ones that YOU feel you could really get behind and write about enthusiastically.
This is where we figure out the online supply and demand for your topic ideas. Supply represents the number of websites and pages that have already been published on your topic by other people and companies. Demand represents the number, or universe, of people who are actually looking for information on your topic.
As you have perhaps already figured out… you don’t want too much supply, and you do want a healthy level of demand.
To see the supply number, think of a search term that matches your topic and type it into the search box at Google. Just above the list of search results you’ll see a number that tells you how many results are being listed.
To find the “demand” number, you can use a free tool like Google’s Ad Words Keyword Planner. This will tell you how many times people use that search term each month.
If this sounds complicated, don’t worry. It doesn’t take long to get the hang of figuring out a promising supply/demand ratio. And you’ll use this ratio to identify which of your topic ideas has the most potential.
For now, let’s focus on the “demand” figure, which represents your universe of potential site visitors.
Take CrossFit, for example. Tim is enthusiastic about CrossFit. A quick look on Google AdWords gives me a universe of 4 million people.
That is a lot of people.
Or how about one of my favorite topics—Jiu Jitsu? Every month more than 1.8 million people scour the Internet looking for information on Jiu Jitsu.
So both CrossFit and Jiu Jitsu might be good topics for a moneymaking website of this kind. (When you start working on this, you’ll also be looking at the supply figures, to make sure your topic isn’t too competitive.)
The purpose of this step is to find a popular topic that has a sizeable universe of prospects, and not too much competition.
And yes, this process works. For example, Tomaz Mencinger, whom I mentioned earlier, is bringing in $3,000 per month in extra income from his site. And Tomaz tells us that it hasn’t yet reached its full potential.
After you have determined your topic has the universe you need, find an angle that makes it unique in some way.
I told you that Nick saw a gap between the large coffee websites that offered general information and the connoisseur websites that appealed to coffee snobs.
Every site, forum, or blog he went to was for the “coffee geeks,” the people who freak out if their coffee is brewed two degrees too hot. So Nick decided to fill gap by providing the basics.
Nick’s angle was to create a website for people interested in coffee that was not too snobby, but still comprehensive enough for these beginners to become experts.
Kathy Widenhouse from Lake Wylie, S.C., turned her passion for tomatoes into a moneymaking website. Her site, Tomato Dirt, digs up the best gardening tips for growing tomatoes in your garden or patio.
The money it brings in helps pay for her daughter’s living expenses while she goes through a three-year doctorate program at the Medical University of South Carolina.
Then there’s Nancy Hearn from Phoenix, Ariz. She has an incredible passion for the health benefits of water. Nancy’s site, Water Benefits Health, teaches the health and fitness benefits of drinking water. Her site brings in anywhere from $1,000-3,000 per month with minimal effort.
What you are doing in this step is one of the most important things you must do if you hope to make money from your website.
Every good book on entrepreneurship will tell you that it is easier to sell a product or service if it has a unique selling proposition (USP).
Usually this is some quality or characteristic of the product or service that is lacking in the competition. But sometimes it can simply be a different approach.
For example, let’s say your interest is in pet care. You search the Internet and find that it has a sizeable universe. So you think, “How can I narrow this down?” You could narrow it down by focusing on just one kind of pet, so you choose cats.
That helps but there are hundreds of websites dealing with cat care. How can you make your website unique? You decide that your website will focus on some special interest that you have.
It turns out that you are also a vegetarian. So you decide to create a website to teach and help people who want to feed their cats a vegetarian diet. This is loony but as I said, crazy is good. Sure enough, you’ll find more than 4 million results on Google when searching “vegetarian cat food.”
Or you could devote your website to communicating with your cat telepathically. This is both crazy and embarrassing (or it should be), but it will certainly give your website a USP.
Not every USP sells. You will discover that later in the process—when you test your website.
After you have chosen your topic and its USP, it’s time to choose a domain name. A domain name is basically your Internet address. For example, our domain name is Palmbeachletter.com.
It’s very simple to create a domain name. All you need to do is go to a website like godaddy, type in the name of the site you’d like, and godaddy will let you know if it’s available and for how much it costs.
Once you choose a domain name, you can start setting up your website. A content management system (CMS) makes this possible. It also allows you to design, publish, and update your content seamlessly.
This used to be difficult and expensive. But thanks to sites like SiteBuildIt! and WordPress, it’s simple for non-techies to do. And affordable too.
For example, SiteBuildIt! makes it easy for anyone to set up, manage, and maintain and monetize a website—without having a degree in website development. You pick a template you think best suits your website and then start filling it in. All this in one place for $30 or less each month.
Now it’s time to fill up your website with content. It needs to be chock full of facts, statistics, articles, reviews, and, most importantly, insights and opinions. It needs to show the universe of prospects that you have something useful and unique to offer.
Here are a few steps to help you get started:
- Determine your audience. Are they beginners, experts, or somewhere in between?
- Choose a point of view. You’re an expert, and that’s why we should listen to you. Maybe you’re an amateur with a few years of experience. Or you’re just like the reader and want to share your journey with them as you learn about your specific niche.
- Remember why people are on your site, what their needs are, what questions they may be looking for answers to. Most people will come to your website in search of the answer to a particular question.
- Find content ideas by using Google Alerts, Google Insights, and Google Trends. Follow related blogs, check out customer reviews, and browse newspapers and best-selling books.
- Immerse yourself in social media. This not only is a great way to find inspiration for content ideas but can also tell you which aspects of your topic people get the most passionate and enthusiastic about. (Once your website is published, you can get a ton of visitors through social media too.)
- Write your own content—you can get inspiration from all the sources I mentioned above, but writing it in your own style with your own unique perspective is what will keep readers coming back.
- Develop your own unique voice. This will make you stand out from your competitors.
- Keep your writing style simple. Use short sentences and paragraphs with simple words.
- Keep all your content on-topic, and optimize all your pages to get the highest possible listings in the search results.
This may sound like a challenging task, but let me assure you, it’s not. The content management systems I mentioned earlier, such as SiteBuildIt!, offer tools to maximize your search results by utilizing keywords and other strategies.
How You’ll Make Money With Websites
How much money can you make with a website for enthusiasts?
There’s really no typical or standard answer to this question. There are websites that make millions of dollars per month and there are those that bring in just a few hundred dollars.
Since this is an extra income opportunity and not a full-time business, our marketing plan is designed to bring in hundreds or thousands of dollars, not millions. But the great thing about this kind of website is that once you get it going, it becomes relatively easy to gradually grow it without working terribly hard.
Remember Nancy Hearn? She spends just 4-5 hours per week on her website about drinking water. Spending this little amount of time will eventually bring in $3,000 per month, she believes.
Once you have your website set up and the content on your topic loaded, the two best ways to generate money from your site are:
- Selling affiliate products
- Selling your own products
Affiliate marketing is where you sign up as an affiliate with an online merchant or network of merchants. You link to its product sales pages from your site, using a unique affiliate link.
If someone clicks on your link and goes on to complete a purchase at the merchant website, you get a percentage of the sale price.
Depending on the nature of the product or service, this commission can range from 10-75% (or more!). In some cases (we do this at PBL), the fee can be 80% or more!
Nick has averaged about $2,000 per month with just one affiliate partner on his coffee website.
Lastly, you can offer your own products or services. You can sell physical products if you want, but that involves trips to the post office. If you want to stick with the passive income model, you simply sell e-products, such as e-books and guides.
These are purchased through your site, and then the payment and delivery process is automatic. So even while you’re away on vacation, your site will continue to display, sell, and collect money through e-product sales.
On her website about raising rabbits, Karen Patry makes good money selling a series of e-books on the various aspects of keeping and taking care of rabbits.
Once It’s up and Running
Let’s review the benefits of having your own moneymaking website for enthusiasts:
- It’s inexpensive and relatively easy to set up.
- Your reach is national or even international.
- You don’t have to be an expert, just an enthusiast.
- You can do it part time when you want from your home.
- Every page you publish can make you money indefinitely.
- You’re building a long-term asset.
Moneymaking Websites Versus Blogging
You may be wondering what is the difference between a moneymaking website and a blog—the extra income opportunity I introduced in a previous essay.
In many ways, they are the same. You write about something that interests you. You develop readers and followers. And you advertise products and services to those readers.
One big difference is that for the most part a blog tends to be tied to its writer. And because a blog is all about the writer, it’s not a very easily sellable asset.
But a website can become a very valuable and sellable asset. In fact, Nick once turned down an offer of over $100,000 for his site.
Why would someone offer to buy his website?
His website is focused on the brand, Coffee Detective, not Nick Usborne. In other words, even if he sells the website it doesn’t affect the market… consumers will be interested in coffee whether it’s Nick writing about it or someone else who shares the same passion and enthusiasm.
You might wonder why Nick refused that six-figure offer. After all, that’s a pretty nice chunk of cash for what is essentially his hobby. Well, he simply did the math and figured out his site would make him a lot more than $100,000 over the next few years.
Besides which, Nick sees his coffee website as an important part of his retirement planning. When he retires, he wants a “portfolio” of websites that continue to deliver passive income, month after month and year after year.
That said, there may come a day when he does want to cash in and sell the site. And because his site is a stand-alone brand, he can do that.
Plus, blogging can be more of a JOB. To keep readers interested in your blog, you’ll typically need to add a new post at least twice a week, preferably every day. This means you have to stick to a publication schedule and be at your desk.
And remember, blogs attract comments—or at least the good ones do—and as the writer and publisher, you need to be around to respond to those comments.
A moneymaking website is not a job. You can work on it every day if you want. But you can also take a break for a week or two. Nick tends to work on his moneymaking websites in bursts, when he has the time.
And when he goes on vacation for 10 days, that’s fine… the site will look after itself. Not fine if it were a blog.
Does that mean blogging is bad? No, not at all. If you love to write and have no problems writing a few times per week, blogging is for you and you can make great money.
But if you’re looking to create an asset that generates passive income, moneymaking websites could be exactly what you are looking for.
Are You Ready to Start Your Own Moneymaking Website?
Someone once said, “The best time to launch your new website is five years ago. The second best time is now.”[Ed Note: Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]