Category Archives: making money

How to save money on eBay shipping and keep your customers happy in the process

 

Save money on ebay shipping

Reduce your shipping costs

Shipping is one area of selling strategy that I think new sellers over look. They lose a lot of money and are less competitive because of it. EBay shoppers tend to be bargain shoppers looking for the best deals on the internet. They compare prices on merchandise, as well as shipping prices.

Now put yourself in the shoes of the shopper for a moment. Imagine that you were browsing for merchandise that you wanted. You stumble upon the listings of two different merchants who are selling the same exact item at the same price. The only major difference between the two listings are the shipping prices and options. All other things being equal, which listing would you choose?

Exorbitant shipping fees (gouging) are prohibited on eBay. Since eBay allows sellers to set their own shipping rates, it is wise to set shipping prices as close to the actual shipping costs as possible. Keep in mind that eBay charges a final value fee on the shipping. The higher the shipping cost, the higher the final value fee. Therefore, it behooves the eBay seller to keep shipping fees and costs to a minimum. It benefits both the seller and the customer.

Weigh everything that you ship

The first thing you will need is an accurate shipping scale. This is so that you can actually weigh the item that you are selling and calculate out the shipping costs ahead of time.

The type of shipping scale that you should purchase is dependent on your business needs. An industrial postal shipping scale may be best for some larger e-commerce businesses, whereas a consumer postal scale may be better for low volume, smaller business sellers. If you plan to sell some light-weight items, then a low cost consumer shipping scale is sufficient for your needs when starting out. Good digital shipping scales are available for cheap on Amazon, eBay and at office supplies stores.

 

Buy a shipping scale designed for postal shipping, with the capacity to accurately weigh the types of items that you are selling. Make sure that you purchase a digital scale that weighs in increments of at least a tenth of an ounce. I purchased my first shipping scale from office depot for about $30 dollars. It has an 11lb capacity, which is good enough for the items that I usually sell.

Weigh the item along with the packaging material that you will use. Then, input the shipping weight into the eBay item listing. Once you know the shipping weight of your items, then you will be able to accurately charge for the costs of shipping through the different carriers. On eBay, sellers have the capability to enter shipping weights on the backend for each product listing. The seller will have a pretty good indication of how much shipping will cost for each item and the shipping fees for each type of service offered.

Factors that impact the cost of shipping include package dimensions, weight and where the items is being shipped. If you know all of this information, then you can easily figure out shipping costs, give or take a few pennies. Don’t forget to factor in complete shipping expenses (supplies, gas, etc.) into the price of the item that you are selling. You also have the option to include a shipping and handling charge to customers on the backend as well. This is where I add in the cost of packing materials.

Selecting your delivery service or carrier

Which carrier should you use? Well, it depends. Most consumers and businesses ship parcels via the USPS, UPS, or FedEx. Others choose a freight service for bulky and heavy items. Determine which carrier offers the best value and efficiency for the type of shipping service that you need. The USPS usually offers the best value for parcels that weigh 13 oz. and under via their First Class Parcel delivery service. The USPS also offers low cost Media Mail service for certain types of package contents (books, CDs, DVDs).

When possible, I ship packages weighing 13 oz. and under through First Class Parcel instead of Standard Post. You can easily save money by sticking say, a small lightweight clothing item in a bubble mailer and sending it by first class parcel. Plus, it is much cheaper than parcel post and the customer will get their merchandise faster.

Some customers don’t like to use USPS shipping services due to problems with packages getting lost in the mail. So, they rely on higher priced (but more reliable) carrier services from UPS and FedEx. They all offer shipping discounts for businesses that ship in volume.

Save on shipping supplies

Always recycle shipping materials. Whether they are shipping boxes, envelopes, bubbler mailers, packing peanuts, bubble wrap, remember to save them all. Break down boxes that you receive and set them aside for later reuse. Sometimes, I check Craigslist and Freecycle for listings of free shipping supplies and moving boxes.

Another thing that people don’t know is that the USPS has free Priority Mail Flat Rate® boxes and envelopes available for shipping. Some of them may be available at a local post office and others can be ordered at the USPS website. Have them shipped to you free of charge. The added benefit to using Priority Mail® shipping is that free USPS tracking and insurance up to $50 are included.

Order cheap shipping supplies in bulk from a wholesale supplier of shipping products like Uline or find sellers on eBay who sell discount shipping supplies. The most expensive way to get shipping products is to go to a regular retail store and buy shipping boxes and packing materials individually. The practice of buying “as needed” is okay for the casual, occasional eBay seller. However, this is not a smart move for the seller who ships moderate to large volumes of merchandise. It might not to seem like much but those extra $.30-$.50 or more that you pay per individual shipping supplies add up over thousands of packages.

Purchase postage online

There are quite a few companies that offer online postage/carrier services: The USPS, FedEx, UPS, and stamps.com are just a few. Sellers can also buy reduced cost postage for shipping through the USPS and FedEx directly through eBay or PayPal. I do most of my shipping through the USPS. In my experience, it is so much cheaper to purchase postage online through eBay or PayPal versus going to the post office counter and paying for shipping in person.

It is also more convenient, because you could pay for the postage from your PayPal account. You also don’t have to worry about any transcription errors in addressing the packages because you print the shipping label from the eBay website. All the information is prepopulated and placed on the shipping label. No special labels or printers are needed. The shipping label can be printed from a regular laser or inkjet printer. USPS tracking is free as well, which is a savings of up to $1.05 per package.

What is a niche website? What is niche marketing?

A niche is focused on a specific interest or target audience. People often confuse mass markets with niches or subniches.  A market is a broad or general topic or industry, while a niche is more highly targeted to a particular audience or customer.  An example of a market is healthcare.  A niche or sub-niche of this market may be focused on nursing education or even more specifically, continuing education for nurse practitioners.

 

A niche website displays content which encompasses a given niche or sub-niche.  They can be in the form of static websites, blogs or e-commerce sites.  They can be used to make direct sales of a product or service that you create or to the promote products and services of others (affiliate marketing).

 

There are an abundance of niche opportunities available.  The possibilities are endless. To find a good niche, examine your interests, hobbies and passions.  Take a close look at your talents and areas where you are highly knowledgeable. Also, consider trends and what is happening in the world around you and in your local community.  You can get some good ideas from observing topics that pop in social media, current events, the news, magazines, catalogues, brochures and store shelves at retailers.  You may just get your “Eureka!” moment by talking with a friend or watching TV.

 

 

For example, when my siblings and I were growing up, we would always spend hours on the weekend watching “Kung Fu theater” on syndicated TV.  You know, those older martial arts movies with the poorly dubbed English were televised often in those days. We’d always try and mimic the fighting moves used by the actors in the movies during our play fights.  Up until this day, is still enjoy Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and Jet Li action flicks.  I almost consider the martial arts as a beautiful art form.  Although I don’t know the first thing about martial arts, I am intrigued enough to be able to research and write about the martial arts.  And, there are plenty of niches to be found within the marital arts markets, such as UFC jui jitsu gear, Gracie grappling techniques, tai chi for relaxation, etc.

 

 

A few good websites that will inspire some niche ideas are mazagines.com, Yahoo Answers, Quora, eBay and Google Trends. Brainstorm on how you can produce content, a service or a product that will actually add value to the niche and help the end user at the same time.

 

 

Starting your research with things that you are interested in or passionate about is helpful.  This is because you will be less likely to get bored and abandon the project.  It won’t feel as much like a chore when you are trying to consistently come up with fresh ideas and content within the niche. But, your research shouldn’t stop here.

 

 

Just because you like a particular niche doesn’t mean that it will be worth your while to pursue it.  That last thing that anyone wants is to invest time, money and resources into building a website in a niche that isn’t profitable.

 

Some people trip themselves up from the beginning by starting with too broad a topic.  They make the mistake of assuming that they are capable of serving every audience in a market.  Then, they later realize just how overwhelming a task this is and some give up.  They also don’t consider the fact that broad markets tend to be highly competitive and difficult to thrive in.  They are already dominated by well established brands and companies.

 

Donate Plasma For Money $$$$- Ka-Ching

I became a plasma donor a number of years ago, while searching for a way to earn some cash quickly. Since I worked in this industry for several years, I had known about it, but never gave it a second thought until I really needed the money. It is a safe, relatively painless way to earn a few extra dollars on the side. You get paid right after the process is complete. Besides the obvious benefit of getting paid, you are helping to save a life by donating blood plasma.

Plasma is the yellow or straw-colored, liquid portion of your blood. Your blood is roughly 55% plasma, and the rest is composed of red blood cells, white cells, and platelets. Plasma contains important proteins like antibodies, albumin, gamma globulins, enzymes, and clotting factors. These proteins help your body perform numerous functions such as fighting microbes and infections, normal clotting of the blood, digesting food, and metabolism. The plasma that you donate is put through a manufacturing process to make life saving therapies for patients. People like hemophiliacs are counting on plasma donations in order to sustain life.

In the United States you can donate plasma at an FDA regulated plasma collection center. Most of the time the centers are owned and operated by private, biopharmaceutical companies. I am going to go through some of the things that you should expect as a first time donor.

To get started, you will need a government issued picture I.D. and a social security card. The plasma center will need this documentation in order to verify your identity. Some plasma collection centers also require proof of address, such as a utility bill or banking statement. Have the proper documentation ready, because you won’t be allowed to donate without it.

On your first visit as a new donor, the entire process from start to finish will take about three to four hours. However, it can take more or less time, depending on unpredictable factors, like the amount of donors ahead of you, staff available, etc. So don’t bother attempting to donate plasma on a day when you have other important commitments.

You will go through a screening process and private physical exam on the first visit. The screener will verify your residence and identity. You will be asked many questions about your health history and sexual history, lifestyle, etc. This is to “weed out” people who aren’t healthy, are engaged in “high risk” behaviors or aren’t qualified to donate. Your pulse, blood pressure, temperature, weight, hematocrit, and hemoglobin will be measured. Your blood protein level will be tested as well. A urine sample may also be requested for the physical exam.

All this information on you will be kept in a confidential file and/or computer records. After your first donation, you will be considered a regular donor and won’t need to go through a physical exam. You will need to go through and pass a screening every time you donate. Also, you will asked to read and sign many forms as part of the screening process. These forms are mostly documentation that you know and understand the process and the policies of the plasma collection center.

After you pass the screening and physical exam, you will be sent to a waiting room. You just wait until it is time for you to donate. Bring a book or a music player to keep you occupied while you wait.

Examples of questions that you may be asked during the screening and/or physical exam are:

Do you have any piercing or tattoos? When did you get the piercing or tattoo?

Have you been to prison or jail within a specified period of time?

Have you donated whole blood within a specified period of time?

Have you been treated for any sexually transmitted disease within a specified period of time?

Have you traveled to Europe or Africa?

Are you taking blood thinners or Propecia?

Are you on hormone replacement therapy?

Are you pregnant or nursing?

Do you have a cold, the flu, any open wounds, or boils?

This is a limited list of questions that you may or may not get asked during the screening process.
Donation process
Donors are escorted to a donation room where no eating or drinking is allowed. You relax and lay down on a donation bed during the entire process. Most plasma collection centers have free Wi-Fi, so you can surf the internet.  You can also watch TV, read, or listen to your mp3 player while donating. It is just that easy. A phlebotomist will verify your identity before sticking your vein.

The area where the needle is inserted will be cleaned and disinfected prior to the needle stick. A tourniquet is placed on the arm, that you will be using, and the phlebotomist will insert a needle into your vein. You might feel an initial sting or pinch after the vein stick, but the remaining process should be painless.

The needle is attached to sterile tubing, which is attached to a sterile reservoir, and a sterile collection container, which are all connected to a plasmapheresis machine. The machine cycles your whole blood through the tubing and the reservoir and separates whole blood from the plasma. The plasma is sent through tubing to a collection container and the cellular portion of the blood is sent back to your vein. This is plasmapheresis (separating the plasma from whole blood) in a nutshell. This process happens continuously until the collection container is filled with plasma (600 ml- 880 ml collected, depending on your body weight). At the end of plasma donation, the needle is removed from your vein and a bandage is applied to stop any bleeding.

After you are done donating plasma, you will sent to a reception counter to collect your compensation. The average pay ranges from $20-$30 per donation. This depends on where you are choosing to donate and the center’s payment schedule. You are allowed to donate once every 48 hours and up to twice in a 7 day period. Therefore, you can donate 8 times in one month and make about $200 or more in a month. Some donors whom have rare blood types and antibodies in their plasma make a lot more money for their donations.
Before you donate:
Eat a hearty, healthy meal. 

You will need to have enough food energy in your system to keep your blood glucose levels and energy up. Some people experience dizziness, sweating, weakness, and fainting during the donation process. This can be due to not eating enough food. I can speak from experience and when this happens it is not pleasant. I love eating a large chicken salad before donating.
Drink plenty of water before and after donating. 

Donating plasma removes about 600 ml -800 ml in fluids from your body, so you need to be well hydrated. This will help to speed up the process of donating and keep you from feeling drained. I personally drink a gallon of water and Gatorade on the day before, the day of donation and after the donation. Your body will replace the plasma within 48 hours after donating. Avoid alcohol and caffeine containing beverages because they dehydrate the body.
Avoid greasy foods for at least a day before donating.

Fatty, oily, foods get broken down by your digestive system. Some of the fat molecules end up in your blood. People who eat very fatty foods may have plasma which appears milky or very cloudy during the donation. A plasma center phlebotomist will be monitoring your donation process. If it is noted that your plasma is lipemic, the donation will get terminated and you will be disconnected from the machine. Lipemia is fat in the blood. Lipemic plasma is unacceptable and will be rejected. Depending on the policies at the company that you deal with, you might not get paid anything for your trouble. Some might not pay anything, others might pay a small amount like $5, in this case.
Don’t do things that will raise your heart rate or blood pressure before donating. 

This includes smoking, exercising, and drinking coffee. These activities all stimulate the heart to beat faster and might raise your blood pressure. If your pulse or blood pressure is deemed too high during the screening process, then you won’t be able to donate plasma that day. The plasma center might allow you to make an attempt to donate the following day.
People with certain conditions aren’t allowed to donate.

Under most circumstances, infection with blood-borne and sexually transmitted diseases exclude people from donating blood. If you are pregnant (or recently pregnant), have diabetes, are taking blood thinners or certain other medications, or you are anemic, you won’t be allowed to donate. Rules vary from company to company. As a precaution against spreading disease, the FDA mandates that all blood be tested for blood borne pathogens such as hepatitis B and HIV. Even though the blood is tested, it should go without saying that if a donor knows or even suspects that he or she has a disease, then don’t donate blood.
Make sure you use the restroom before you start to donate.

You will be hooked up to a machine for between 40- 60 minutes. During this time, you won’t be able to use the bathroom. I don’t think there is anything worse than feeling like your bladder is about to burst and not being able to pee.
After you donate blood a few weeks, you will pretty much observe which phlebotomists know what they are doing. Some of the “newbies” might do a painful venipuncture or cause a hematoma (bleeding and bruising of the surrounding tissues). You can request a specific person to do the vein stick. I put some very helpful links below, including an excellent link to a Youtube video that describes the donation process thoroughly.
Sources/ related information:
My experience as a former medical professional and also a plasma donor

This video goes into more detail about donating plasma and plasmapheresis.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nkXzG1k2DCI&feature=related

 

You can get more information about donating and find a plasma donation center near you at this website.

 

http://www.donatingplasma.org/

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blood_plasma

This link is more about people who are on the receiving end of therapies, but is interesting, nonetheless
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plasmapheresis

For additional information, you should also visit the website of the facility you choose to donate at.

Can You Make Money Investing in The Financial Markets?

Disclaimer:  I am neither a financial planner, nor an investment guru.  So, don’t take anything that you read here as professional advice on investing.  As always, do your own research!!!

Although it is much more expansive, I use the term financial markets here to refer collectively to equities (stocks and mutual funds), futures market, Forex and bonds trading. The simple answer to this question is “yes”. However, the ability to make money through these avenues comes with many risks. If you don’t know what you are doing, then you open yourself up to more risks and the probability of losing money increases exponentially. Therefore, I highly encourage new investors to get a solid financial education and a thorough understanding of investing before taking risks with real money.

I’m very much like most people who grew up in the United States. There were periods when my family fluctuated between poor/working-class and lower middle-class. While I was growing up, I didn’t get the benefit of a firm foundation in financial education.

My parents don’t have much formal education. In their younger years, my father was a self-taught, skilled tradesman/construction contractor, who owned a small business. My mother worked mainly in retail, domestic housekeeping and care-taking.

They definitely knew how to hustle and make money. They taught us all a good work ethic by example. The problem is that they didn’t understand how to manage the money they earned and grow it. So, this knowledge (or lack thereof) was passed down to their children like genetic material.

I had to teach myself how to balance a check book and set up a budget in my late teens. Personal finances and retirement were rarely, if ever discussed in my family.

So, my financial markets education began in the mid-1990s. This was at a time when mail-order catalogs and brochures were extremely popular and before the internet blew up. I received a pamphlet in the mail from The Ken Roberts Company in Oregon. The pamphlet was a story about how Ken Roberts became a millionaire in real estate and later through trading in the commodity futures and options.

I was so intrigued by the brochures that I decided to take a chance and order a course which he offered for $195. It was called TWMPMM (The World’s Most Powerful Money Manual & Course) which was a futures trading course from the Ken Roberts company. Futures markets deal mostly with the purchase and sale of contracts on underlying commodity assets. Commodities are basically raw materials and things that people need in order to subsist such as oil, natural gas, metals, sugar, corn, wheat and pork bellies.

There are also futures markets for currencies like Eurodollars. Futures trading takes place at exchanges around the world. The most well-known exchange for commodity futures and options trading in the U.S. is the Chicago Board of Trade. The market is so much more diverse now than when it was back then. Now, people are trading derivatives on real estate, stocks and bonds.

The traders who invest in futures are speculating on whether the prices of a commodity will either go up or down at a point in the future. Traders who buy a futures contract (go long) are expecting to profit off an increase in price on the commodity. Traders who sell (go short) a futures contract are expecting to profit off of a decrease in the price on a commodity. Farmers use commodity futures and options investing as a hedge (or insurance) against loss in the agriculture industry.

Obviously, the futures market is more complex than what I discuss here. I say all of this to explain a bit about what the TWMPMM & Course taught. The box set included a VHS tape, a manual and a hardback copy of The Richest Man in Babylon, the classic by George S. Clason.

TWMPMM & Course takes you by the hand and provides very basic information on how to interpret some of the patterns in price charts through technical analysis. Some patterns such as 1-2-3 tops and bottoms, are signals to help traders decide when to buy and sell futures contracts. A few months later, I decided to purchase TWMPMM II: an expensive set of options trading VHS tapes from the Ken Roberts Company.

I did learn a great deal about this subject but the funny this is, I never acted on those specific teachings. I spent several months updating the price charts and paper trading (following commodities that caught my eye without investing any money). Had I invested real money on some trades I would have made a lot of money on Gold and lost money on other commodities.

Price of Gold 1996 futures chart
Price of Gold 1996 futures chart

 

Price of Gold 2012 futures chart
Price of Gold 2012 futures chart- See how much it when up in price?

 

The end result was that I decided that this route to making money in the financial markets was too risky and volatile for me. The prices of commodities are subject to wild fluctuations, even with limit moves in place. This is when the price moves up or down substantially in a very short period of time. I didn’t feel assured in making investment decisions by relying solely on patterns in price charts. Also, futures trading is heavily leveraged through margin accounts. This is another thing that I didn’t feel comfortable with. You can actually lose more money than what is in your margin account through investing in futures.

Now don’t get me wrong: there is definitely money to be made in futures commodity investing. But, it is not for the faint of heart. This path to investing is not for people who are averse to risk. And you should never risk funds that you can’t afford to risk.

I don’t regret plunking down the money for those courses, because it was a fascinating introduction to the world of investing. In a way, I thought that the information in TWMPMM was just a good general overview, just scratching the surface of futures trading. It was not nearly enough for a student to become a professional trader. However, I consider the money that I spent on the courses as an investment on my education. It exposed me to a different way of thinking. The course material served as a springboard to furthering my studies of financial markets. It made me more aware of the opportunities that existed to make money.

I even got fancy and subscribed to the “Wall Street Journal” to keep current with the news in the financial markets. I think that I must have read about 3 or 4 books written by Suze Orman alone. I did also read some beginners books on investing, namely learning more about equities, such as stocks and mutual funds. I’ll get into this more in another post, but the first ever investment that I made entailed the purchase of stock and bond mutual funds from within my 401k retirement account.

Massive Changes at Bubblews

The entire look and feel of the website was revamped. Here are some of the major changes that occurred. In general the changes have made the website more enjoyable and easier to navigate.

1. The dislike button was eliminated. That’s cool, since I didn’t hate on or troll other members like that. If I don’t like someone’s post, then I just move on to another one. Some people were abusing it.

2. Members can no longer like or dislike comments.

3. Bubblews added the ability to delete comments. Yay! Members are more empowered to get rid of people who leave spam or idiotic comments.

4. They limited the ability to edit posts. The option to edit posts is only open for a short while, although I can’t be sure how long. I wanted to update some old posts but that option is no longer available.

5. It now takes about 30 days to get your money after cashing out. It used to be around 72 hours after hitting the redeem button that you would receive an e-mail notification about your payment. Then, members were supposed to receive their payments within about five business days after that e-mail. Bubblews started having problems with delayed payments to members. Hopefully, this will give them a chance to get caught up with paying their members.

6. The website moves much faster now, with fewer errors and less downtime. The 504 error is a thing of the past. It is now easier to leave comments, without double posting them.

7. It is easier to upload pictures from Pixabay. Members can search through Pixabay for free images in the public domain to put on their Bubblews posts.

8. The notifications page is improved. It is broken down into different tabs, with a tab for “likes ” received on your posts and a tab dedicated to comments left on your posts. The confusing “commented on your comment” thread in the notifications was removed.

9. They removed the ability for members to leave comments on another member’s profile page. I was happy about this, since the comments cluttered the profile page and most of the comments were spam.

10. It seems that spammers and plagiarists have dramatically decreased. I think that Bubblews staff will eventually weed out all of most of them as they continue to refine their system. The other members are taking a stand by deleting the spam and reporting members who violate the rules.

11. Many members are complaining that their earnings have decreased, while others are saying that their earnings have increased. My overall earnings per post have dropped a little. I haven’t quite figured out what I need to do to get it back up.

12. Members can no longer hog the front page of Bubblews for days at a time. Now, more members have a better shot at getting their posts on the front page of Bubblews for at least 10 minutes.

13. Bubblews removed the categories. People are compensating for this by using more tags. The “+” and dashes are used for tagging words and phrases. “&” is used to tag another member in a post or comment.

14. Some of the interlinks and tags disappeared in older posts. This is a glitch that will probably be fixed.

15. The archive wasn’t great before. Now it has gone from bad to worse. I don’t know how to easily access many of my old posts. If I run a title search with their search tool, I may or may not find some of my old posts.

16. The like icon is now a star. When you click it to like a post, the star turns yellow.

17. The bank is cute now. It displays how much earnings are currently there and how much you have to earn before the next redemption.

18. I think that their referral program is gone. I don’t see any information on the site regarding the program. I don’t have access to my referral link.

19. Some Bubblews members are reporting that they were paid some of their missing redemptions.

20. Views to posts and earnings per post aren’t as predictable. Some of my newly published posts are making less than $.50 after the first few days published. But, other posts perform much better and earn much more. It is hit or miss in trying to figure out the types of posts that will earn more money now.

Yahoo Contributor Network Shutdown and Squidoo is Merging with Hubpages

Yahoo! shutdown the Yahoo Contributor Network and Yahoo Voices the end of July 2014 and all of the published articles were deleted from their servers.  I wrote a short review about the Yahoo Contributor Network in another blog post.

Even though I wasn’t active there, I am a little upset to see them go. This was one of the first websites that allowed me to publish my content and get paid for it.

I published less than 40 articles, and continued to receive a few dollars in Performance Payments every couple of months. It’s not much, but every bit helps if you want to buy a cup of Starbucks.

I had stopped publishing for YCN over a year, ago. I developed a bit of a distaste for them after I submitted an article to them and never heard anything back (even after 10 business days). I deleted the article from YCN and published it on my personal blog instead.

There are some contributors who published hundreds and even thousands of articles on Yahoo Contributor Network. Many of them were making hundreds to thousands monthly in Upfront Payments and Performance Payments. To see all of that residual income vanish with short notice has to be devastating. Not only does this impact their income, it also impacts the amount of time that it will take for them to download those articles and come up with another plan.

The contributors are going scramble to find somewhere else to put their writing. They will do this in order to keep their residual income stream flowing.

And another one goes down in smoke… Squidoo is shutting down, too!

Squidoo announced that it is closing down. Helium is closing down in December and I hear that Zujava lost their Amazon Associates account. Suite 101 is no more. I see a recurring trend here. As the saying goes: “The only thing that is constant is change”. Many user generated content mills and revenue sharing websites have either shutdown or have problems paying their contributors.

Squidoo is a writing platform founded by Seth Godin that allowed individual authors to publish articles called “lenses”. I joined in 2010, but decided not to publish there, because I didn’t like some of their rules and standards for publishing. I lost interest in Squidoo a few years ago when I noticed how much poorly written stuff was published there. Plus, I didn’t like the way that they treated some of their publishers. Lenses (the articles published on Squidoo) seemed to be locked in an arbitrary fashion, without warning.

Squidoo was acquired by Hubpages (another publishing platform). Lensmasters (the publishers on Squidoo) with at least one featured lens are permitted to migrate their work over to Hubpages, if they wish to do so.

Squidoo was hit really hard by the Panda update, along with many other similar websites. So, the update caused a reduction in search engine traffic, which led to reduced readership and revenue. Hubpages was able to bounce back a little from the Panda update. I don’t think that Hubpages ever made a full recovery of most of its high ranking in Google and traffic. Some of the authors on Hubpages complain that they aren’t making nearly as much money as they were prior to Panda. Many of them have jumped ship due to this fact.

I am going to be honest. When you submit your content to a revenue sharing website, you are building up their internet property and adding value to their system. More good quality and relevant content and media added to a website tends to make Google happy.

The biggest takeaway that I get from this situation is that they can kick you to the curb, whenever they want. They don’t care about your bills and the amount of time that you have invested into producing content and helping their business. They probably won’t be moved if you were to scream “Murder!” and cry tears of blood about the debacle.

Just look at how much courtesy and respect that Squidoo paid to their contributors by dropping the bomb on them at such short notice. The owners of revenue sharing websites are obligated to look out for their own best interests; your interests and financial welfare take a backseat to theirs.

I won’t come down on user-generated content mills and revenue share websites too harshly; that would be like throwing the proverbial baby out with the bath water. There are some benefits to utilizing them. Revenue sharing websites are fine for building up a portfolio and earning some residual income. They are not a permanent or dependable income stream. We should never become overly dependent on them. If you are going to use them and other third-party money making systems, keep in the back of your mind that you aren’t in control.

Like I said in my video, diversify your income and your efforts. Don’t make the mistake of putting all of your eggs in one basket. Again, look at what has happened to some of the people whom have published their content on Squidoo. Some of them published anywhere from hundreds to thousands of articles there. Those articles were netting many of them hundreds to thousands of dollars per month in residual income.

Now, they are going to hustle and scramble to find a way to replace their lost income. They are going to need to figure out if they should rewrite, repurpose their content, republish it or retire it. Some platforms don’t want content that has been published elsewhere on the web- even if the content has already de-indexed in search engines. So, it may or may not be a good decision to try and put the articles up on another website.

I would love to go on about this, but I think that I have rambled about it enough and beat this topic into the ground. So, I will leave you with this: You can either stop using revenue share websites/user-generated content mills or continue to use them. The choice is yours. If you decide to continue using them, get what you can out of revenue sharing sites, but make sure that you create your own internet property and other revenue streams.

 

The Folly of Putting all of Your Business Eggs in One Basket

When it comes to business and your income, it is not wise put all of your eggs in one basket.  This occurs when you have most or all of your time, energy and money vested into one business or way to make money.   I continually read these sob stories about people that lost their livelihood (and got their feelings hurt) because, for whatever reasons, an income stream dried up on them.

Examples of things that could go awry when you put all of your eggs in one basket:

  • Your Squidoo account is banned or your lenses are locked.
  • A writing platform decides that your posts aren’t high quality and they end up getting deleted without you being notified.
  • A free blogging website determines that you have violated their terms of service agreement in some way and takes down your blog.  There goes your content, the ads, and your readership.
  • Your eBay account is suspended, because too many buyers complained that you sold items “significantly not as described”.
  • PayPal freezes the funds in your account due to “suspicious” activity or just because they want to.
  • Your AdSense account is shut down because of suspected “click fraud”.
  • A major affiliate network that you are a member of changes their terms of service agreement and you are no longer eligible to participate in the program.
  • Amazon Associates eliminates their affiliate program in your state.
  • And, worst of all:  The FTC and attorney general in your state have determined the MLM that you are “affiliated” with is making false claims about their products and defrauding investors and consumers out of their hard earned money.   The government shuts the company down, seizes the company’s assets and the company files for bankruptcy.

Just in case you haven’t figured it out yet, the laws in the United States are fickle.  They can change from one moment to the next.  Something that is completely legal today, may become a criminal offense a week from now.  What will you do if your state or federal government suddenly determines that your business model is based on “illegal activity”?

Did you notice the trend with that list?  Some of those companies can get rid of you and leave you with very little or no recourse.  What it all boils down to, is that you don’t have ownership in those systems, so you actually work as an independent contractor for them (i.e. eBay, Amazon, Etsy, Squidoo, Google).  Don’t let this happen to you!  These scenarios seem very pessimistic and far-fetched, but I can assure you that these situations occur quite frequently.

These income streams are fine if you are in the beginning- intermediate stages of entrepreneurship or you aren’t sure where or how to start out.  Many of the companies that I mentioned above are awesome places to earn some money to supplement your income and to learn some new ideas that you can implement and then later expand on.

I am not knocking them; What I am doing here is “keeping it real”. You shouldn’t get hooked on them like crack.  I have earned money through some of these venues myself.  I have learned over the years that creating your own products/services and setting up residual income streams should be the endgame.

Income streams coming through third parties aren’t that reliable in the long term.  Save your money and reinvest it into something that is yours.  As soon as you are in a position to move on then, that is what you ought to do.  I read a book by Felix Dennis called “How to Get Rich” (affiliate link).  In it he says, “Ownership isn’t the important thing-It’s the only thing”.  Much more money, freedom and flexibility come with complete ownership.

It is so much better to OWN YOUR product/service or to develop YOUR OWN business system, where your livelihood is not dependent upon another’s business model.   You have more control when you develop your own system for making money, where you call of the shots. You create the rules and you get to keep (or release) your customers if you so choose.  You also get to keep more profits, since you’re not splitting your revenues or paying exorbitant fees to a third party company.

When all is said and done, you have the option to sell the business or license your products, when you are ready to retire or move on to bigger and better ventures.  An excellent book that I recommend you to read on the topic of diversification is “Multiple Streams of Income” by Robert G. Allen (Yes, it’s an affiliate link and if you buy something through the link, I’ll make a little money off the sale).  Enough said.

Capture All of Your Great Ideas

I consider myself to be a fairly creative person; I like to write and draw to a lesser degree. There are periods where I go through dry spells and can’t come up with creative ideas for nothing.

 
But, then there are other times that ideas and inspirations seem to come at me out of nowhere. Some concepts arrive in the form of that perfect phrase or sentence for written content. Other concepts burst out in a vivid vision for a drawing or graphical image.
A few examples of some creative concepts and ideas:

 

  • Topics for YouTube videos
  •  An interesting slogan or catch phrase
  •  A niche for a website or book
  • An idea for a product or service

 

Many ideas come to me at the most unexpected times. They are often triggered by experiences through the day, like taking a walk, washing dishes, or having a conversation with a friend. It is during these times that ideas seem to flow like water from a faucet and it is hard to keep up with them. So, at those times when creativity flourishes, I like to be prepared.
I find that the best way for me to keep myself prepared is to try and have a notebook handy, most of the time. I keep a small notebook or note pad with me in my purse, when I am on the go. Each time that I observe something interesting or unusual, I write it down in my notebook and then refer to it later.

 
I usually sleep with a notebook and pen on my nightstand, near my bed. This is so that I will be ready to write down any dreams or creative bursts of inspiration that I receive during sleep and upon awakening. Sometimes, my ideas will come to me in fragments or stream of consciousness. Those initial ideas are incomplete and don’t make sense, so that I do brainstorming later on to build upon those initial ideas.

 
I don’t know what it is about me, but I get some of my best ideas when I am near water. It never fails. When it starts raining, I suddenly develop the spirit to make a YouTube video. When I am showering, I get a flood of ideas. Sadly, many of the ideas are lost by the time I dry off and get dressed. So, I am seriously considering the purchase of a water proof notepad and pen. When those ideas hit me while doing the dishes or showering, I can write them down without any concern for losing them.

 
Another thing that I do, is use my smartphone to make recordings. I used to have an old school microcassette recorder from my college days, but it conked out on me. So now I use voice recorder apps and there are a few good ones that I can think of off the top of my head. One is the Smart Voice Recorder App, available for download on Android smartphones at the Google Playstore. The other app is the Evernote app for Android and iPhones. The Evernote app also comes with a memo for writing and some others cool features.

 

Other useful tools for capturing great ideas:

 
Post it notes
Whiteboards and erasible markers
Waterproof notepads and pens

 
Sometimes we discount our ideas as trivial and meaningless. Most people think that their ideas don’t count unless they are a stroke of genius, perfect masterpieces or completely original. You would probably be surprised to know that there is a veritable goldmine in the most mundane and ordinary ideas. This may come across as cliche, but you never know when you will come up with that multi-million dollar idea. Don’t let your awesome ideas slip away!

Is Bubblews a scam?

Lately, I have been reading some really negative reviews about Bubblews. I wrote a blog post about Bubblews a few months ago, which you can read later. Most of the complaints eminate from members who either weren’t paid or had their account deleted. You’ve got your people who love and fully support Bubblews and your people who hate Bubblews with a passion. I sort of see myself in the middle, since I haven’t been burned by them. I won’t get into a knock-down, drag-out debate with any of these polar opposites. I think that they both bring relevant and valid points to the discussion.

 

Is Bubblews a scam?
I don’t see Bubblews as a scam website, but rather a system fraught with several flaws. Here’s some of the things that I’ve noticed in my time there:

 
Spammers on steroids– There are too many members leaving self promoting messages in comments. It seems that for every spammer that they get rid of, ten more come out of the wood work. Users can flag spammy posts and comments, but it takes up a lot of time and resources for staff to eliminate these spammers.

 
Bland and boring dashboard- It basically allows you to upload text and a few pictures. There is not much else you can do there, like add HTML tags or embed YouTube videos.

There’s no control on moderating comments

 
Poor quality submissions- Bubblews does not edit posts. So anyone can submit immediately after passing a CAPTCHA test. There are many examples published there of worthless drivel, riddled with spelling and grammatical errors. You can easily decipher that many posts are written by people who aren’t Native speakers of English.

 
It is not a venue for serious and professional writers. Bubblews is very lighthearted and casual (which is both positive and negative). Some of the members don’t accept criticism very well.

 
The fact that there aren’t any standards, brings down the overall quality of the website. Some of the crap posted there can’t possibly bring in truly targeted traffic from search engines. If Bubblews wants to increase its reputation in the eyes of advertisers and search engines, it should purge many of the poor quality posts.

 
Too many plagiarists– Bubblews is really good about getting rid of these people once they are discovered. At the same time, they need some sort of software for detecting copied content and blocking the content from submission. Copied content doesn’t sit very well with major advertising networks, like Google Adsense.

 
Compensation system is nebulous– Bubblews is direct in stating how much members are paid for posts submitted there. Bubblews pays a penny per unique page view, like, comment, or share to each post. I don’t understand how they’ve calculated that this compensation is a 50/50 split of advertising revenue between Bubblews and the member.
Lackluster member support- Many of the members complain that Bubblews staff does not respond to their inquiries regarding missed or delayed payments. According to the complaints, when they do respond, it is often vague. Some of the members whose accounts were deleted have claimed that they weren’t given clear reasons why.

 
504 errors- Most of the time there aren’t any issues, but Bubblews experiences too much downtime. It is really frustrating to log on to your account and attempt to post a comment and then get an error message. Obviously, downtime results in lost page views and advertising revenue. I think Bubblews administrators need to change their hosting service or get help from an IT company.

 
I could say more about my observations, but I don’t want to put you to sleep.

 

Most of the posts that I submitted to Bubblews were written in 20 minutes or less, with little or no research required. Many of the writings that I submitted there consist of my opinion about current events, things that I see on TV, or random ramblings about my personal experiences. In other words, I don’t see Bubblews as a platform where I would devote copious amounts of time researching and drafting articles. I always proofread the articles for errors and try to make my submissions interesting or funny. However, I won’t waste time submitting my best content there.

 
I don’t invest much time there, so I wouldn’t go bezerk if they deleted my account or failed to pay me. I would join the masses of people complaining about Bubblews and spread the word about their misdeeds, though.

Bubblews payment proof
Bubblews payment proof

 
I won’t bitch, moan and gripe about Bubblews because they have allowed me to earn some extra pocket change for something that I would probably do anyway. There are people in emerging nations who see Bubblews as a chance for them to come up and make a decent wages (by their standards). The CEO is saying that big changes are coming to Bubblews which will make people like it better. So, I won’t be too critical of them.

 
My activities are limited mostly to commenting on the posts of my strongest connections. I will continue to submit posts once in a blue moon, when I am in the mood. I will take what I can from the experience and move on when I feel the need to. People who consider joining should, proceed with caution.

Yes, You Can Make Money on YouTube

I joined YouTube several years ago, but didn’t start making and uploading videos, until 2012. The reason being is that I was afraid of speaking on camera, and was afraid of rejection. I learned to overcome much of my fears and decided to take a chance with it. I am happy that I did, since I have enjoyed the learning experience and interactions.

 

At this point, I do not make enough money on YouTube to have a full-time income, but there are plenty of people who do. Take for instance YouTubbers like, Ray William Johnson, Jenna Marbles, and NiggaHigga. These people have channels that attract millions of subscribers and generate millions of views daily. So, I think that it is pretty safe to assume that the they are earning six figures or better from YouTube. By the way, I use the term “YouTubber”. This is a person that creates and uploads YouTube videos and/or watches videos and actively participates on YouTube.

 

Top Ways That People Earn Money on YouTube:

 

  • The Google AdSense Program: This is an advertising program set up by Google, which allows the video creator to partner with YouTube. Partners can monetize their YouTube channel by allowing ads to be placed on their videos. Sometimes clickable ads are overlaid on the video or appear in the sidebar of the video. Sometimes, instream video ads play before or during the actual YouTube video. Each time that someone views or clicks on the ads, partners earn money in their AdSense account. The amount that partners earn depends on different factors including, the eCPM (effective Cost Per Mil) and CPC (Cost Per Click).

 

  • Affiliate Marketing: You can do a product review or suggest products to your audience. By adding affiliate links to your video (or in the description box), you may earn a commission when someone clicks thru the link and buys the product. Some of the most popular affiliate programs to join are Amazon Associates, Commission Junction, Viglinks, and Click Bank. This money making method works best for people who have a huge amount of viewers on their channel.

 

  • Sponsorships  YouTubbers who have many subscribers, are popular and have influence. Therefore, companies will sometimes approach YouTubbers that they feel are great at generating buzz and promoting products. They will pay these people to feature or mention a product during their video presentation.

 

  • Networks: By partnering with a network, like Machinima or Maker Studios you are paid a certain amount of money per thousand views on YouTube. Some people benefit from joining a network because they get much more exposure and are promoted by the network. If you choose to go this route, be careful as you are required to sign a contract.

 

  • Sell Your Own Products: This may be the best way (most lucrative) to earn money on YouTube. This is because you have a greater control over your earning potential. You create your own product or service to market to your viewers. You direct the viewers back to your own website or platform so that they can buy your products. There is a description box located below the video. A link can be placed in this space to your website. You can also watermark your videos with your own logo or website address. So YouTube videos can function as an excellent, free marketing tool.

 

  • YouTube Paid Subscriptions: YouTube subscribers are required to pay a fee to the channel on to watch videos, which aren’t made available to the general public. Most of the channels are informational and instructional in nature.

 

Now, if you decide to upload videos to YouTube, make sure that you carefully read their policies and terms of service before doing so. You don’t want to end up getting kicked off the website due to unknowingly violating any of their terms. Make sure that you are submitting your own videos and not anyone else’s, to avoid copyright infringement claims and strikes.

 
Don’t expect to make any money right away. It will probably take a good 6- 12 months of consistent, good quality videos in your catalog in order to start seeing any earnings in your Adsense account. The earnings will be minimal in the beginning stages;  perhaps a few pennies here and there. But, in time, as you build up a following and produce more videos, your earnings from Adsense and other related income streams will increase.

© Copyright 2014 Susan Broadbelt