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Friday, October 21, 2005

Can You Earn An Honest Living on the Internet Part III - Information: Just the Facts, Please

To answer the question in the post title, I say "yes".

Bloggers like Darren Rowse (http://www.problogger.net/) have proven it, with solid content and a very generous, helpful spirit that results in high advertising revenue for him. Not to put him on a pedestal, because I doubt he'd like it, but he is living proof that earning a living on the Internet can be done honestly. Jason Calacanis, founder of the hugely successful Weblogsinc.com (now sold for about US$25 million), also showed the potential for blog revenue. However, I don't use his blog network as an example because Jason needed 100+ bloggers (originally working at $4/post, although their payment model has now been modified) to get to his ad revenue levels (pro-rated at close to $1 million/year).

Darren, on the other hand, has reached his level of about US$15,000/month ad revenue on his own, through three years of hard work. Although, don't misunderstand me, as I am not at all saying that Jason didn't earn an honest living through his blog network - just not on his own, which is my writing focus. (There are others like Darren, but he is the one most in the limelight lately.)

But blogging isn't the only way to earning a decent, honest living on the Internet, although it is difficult to find other legitimate opportunities.

I've made it my business to find real internet opportunities for different types of people - philosophers, entrepreneurs, artistic types, etc. It's an on-going process for me. My conclusion to date, although I have no figures to back me up, is that the following products seem to sell well on the Internet: hosting services, web page templates, web-design-in-a-box, scams to teach you how to "make as much as you want", workshops to teach you something you'll probably never do, and more products and services that most people likely aren't interested in.

It's not all negative, though. Information in general can sell well. People use the Internet to find both products and information. The Internet makes it easy to distribute information to niche audiences and make it profitable - something that's always easy with traditional print publishing. Find the right niches and you can earn a decent living. In fact, there are rumours that some people are quietly earning five-figure incomes per month. That's per month; and they're only putting in a regular work week.

However, these people aren't working 3 or 4 hours a day. Anyone who believes they can make 5- or 6-figure incomes on the Internet with just a few hours of work a week deserves to be tricked. Sure, that might happen after a year or two of solid sweat equity to get started. But most people get mighty bored with free time and if they are earning good money from their hard work, they are more than likely to start new projects to earn even more money. It appears to be like an addiction for these people.

They start a few websites, build them up to a point where these sites enjoy a steady income. And then, seeing their hard work pays off, they move on to new projects, new websites. Their old projects continue to earn money in the meantime, and probably require no maintenance after some point.

Some of the research I've done on the higher income earners is that they have a target of starting 2 new websites per month. But they work hard to build up each website with real content. When I first started seriously researching Internet Marketing late last year, I read one article mentioning a computer programmer who employs 4 or 5 people to build and promote his websites. I don't remember the exact details, but his business pulls in something like US$180,000/month. You read that right. But apparently this guy runs over 100 websites to generate such income. (Sorry, but I also don't know the quality of his content.)

Some Internet publishers believe it's a numbers game. What's easier earnings-wise? To run one website that consistently earns $2000/month, or to run 10 websites that consistently earn $200/month each? I suppose the latter, if you do the initial hard work. Or cheat. Where is the information they are publishing coming from? Can a human being generate that much real content? Is the information they're publishing of any value beyond tricking people to visiting their websites? (I'm hoping to answer these questions for you long-term, as I keep incubating other people's blog projects.)

For the opportunities I'm talking about, the information has to benefit someone. If your website is auto-generated and has 1000s of pages of useless content, you are still going to rank high in the search engines from volume and keywords alone. But this does not qualify in my books as an honest endeavour because it breaks the cardinal rule of the universe and of prosperity: every transaction must be win-win-win (win for you, win for the person on the other end of the transaction, and a win for the world/universe in some manner, however nebulous the means).

That said, I think that the greatest potential for honest income on the Internet comes from teaching, from passing on your knowledge, whether it's via blog posts, ezine articles, or e-books. There used to be good money designing websites or selling Internet software, but that's more for organizations (ad agencies, software publishers) than individual entrepreneurs. And even that is changing, with all the free templates and free CMS (Content Management System) software that lets non-technical, non-designer bloggers create and maintain passable, even attractive websites with minimal effort.

If you are reading this blog, you are likely looking for Internet opportunities and for a career, or just a way to supplement your earnings. If you plan to publish information, keep in mind that some topics are more valuable than others. However, in times of transition and indecision, I always try to live by the advice of Dr. Marsha Sinetar, from her book "Do What You Love, The Money Will Follow" - a book I read over again every few years.

Please feel free to refute what I'm saying. Or suggest some more ways to earn an honest, decent living on the Internet. This is an open-ended invitation.

(c) Copyright 2005-present, Raj Kumar Dash, http://blogspinner.blogspot.com

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