WAHM-IT Course by Elizabeth, Cate, Erin, and Jennifer - HTML preview
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Case Study #5 If At First You Don’t Succeed... Try Again!
Living in Tennessee, USA, with her husband and three children, Joan Linwood has journeyed through several business ventures on her road to her real passion, a site about the best California beaches.Tell us about your website, Joan. I’ve owned www.best-california-beach.com since June 2004.What kind of education and work experience did you have before building your website? I have a BS in plant science (ornamental horticulture) from UC Davis. I worked for 7 years as a draftsman/designer for a landscape architect in southern California. I quit when my first child was born.What was your motivation for starting an online business? About 5 years ago I realized that living on one income wasn’t going to cut it, not in the long term. So I started to look around for a business I could run from home.
I started network marketing, which was a really not a good thing for an introvert like myself to do. I failed spectacularly and ran up some debt. By that time, I was interested in working on the Internet, and had dabbled in it with my network marketing business.
An online business is perfect for someone like myself, especially since I’d rather write than talk. So when I discovered SBI!, I decided to take that route. I hadn’t even thought of creating my own website before then, because the prospect seemed too daunting.
Again, however, I chose poorly and focused my web site on a very competitive niche for which I had little knowledge – home-based business. I continued with that for much longer than I should have, before abandoning it and choosing a better niche.How did you come up with your idea for a website?
After I realized that home business was not a good theme for me, I started brainstorming other topics. One evening, as I was ogling my coffee-table book on California beach houses and dreaming of getting back to the coast, it came to me. Why not build a site about the California coast? I’d set a goal to get back there a long time ago, so why not make that my theme?
I already knew that other travel sites have been successful, and when I ran the numbers, it panned out. However, I though maybe it’d be better to choose a locale closer to home, so I checked out the numbers for the Smoky Mountains. They were good, though not as strong as California beaches, and my heart was really set on the beaches.
After working on my California Beach site for over a year, I found myself frustrated because I hadn’t been able to get back to California yet. It’s not easy building a site about a place thousands of miles away. You can’t just dash out to do some research and take photos. So I decided it was time to start that Tennessee site I’d considered before. My son’s interest in photography was one of the deciding factors, along with the fact that I won’t be able to get back to California until this summer. The new site is in the works, but I’m not sure when we’ll actually launch it.How many hours per week do you work on your site? It varies considerably. Some weeks I do absolutely nothing because I have other priorities to attend to. Other weeks I may spend as much as 8 hours a day.How do you make money from your site?
Most of my income is coming from Google AdSense. I also use affiliate programs, but it takes more work to promote those, and right now I’m still more focused on building content and building traffic.What is your average monthly income?
I’m averaging about $175/month. I thought I was going to hit the $300/month milestone, but then fall came and my income dropped. Gee, I should have seen that coming, given my niche.How long was it before you found success? And please define what “success” means to you.
Success is making steady progress toward your goals. I set incremental goals for myself, such as getting to 30 pages, getting 500 visitors a month, getting 1,000 visitors, getting a first check, making $300/month consistently, and so on. It’s important to celebrate the small achievements, because that's what leads to big success.It took me nearly a year before I got that first check, which is to me the first big success milestone.What convinced you to purchase SBI!?
In promoting my network marketing business, I was frustrated because I could not build my own website. I was interested, but the learning curve seemed way too steep. SBI! promised to eliminate that learning curve by taking care of all the tech stuff. A little light went on, and I said, “Hey, I can do this!”Are your children involved with your website?
They’re not involved at the moment, but my younger son has developed an interest in photography, which I plan to encourage by having him help with my new site. I’ve already purchased another subscription (the recent two-site deal) and am planning a site on east Tennessee. He’ll help with the pictures, while I’ll write the content. (I might also have him write some content as a home-school project.)If you could go back, what would you do differently with your website(s)?
That’s the beauty of a website, you can always go back and change things around. I’m beginning to reorganize the information now, breaking up large pages into smaller ones. I think one mistake I made was worrying too much about using good keywords, and I was unwilling to build pages based on low demand keywords. This focus led to some awkward phrasing and clumsy organization. I now realize that it’s far more important to break up the information so it’s easy for visitors to find and so that pages are clean and easy to navigate.The one thing you can’t easily change, however, is the domain name, so it pays to take extra time choosing it. I’m not entirely pleased with mine, but it’ll do.Joan, how do you “do it all”?
My children are older, so childcare isn’t a major issue. I recently put my youngest child (11) in public school. She has Down syndrome, and it was just getting too overwhelming to home-school her. My other two are teenagers, so they’re able to help out with the housework, which, frankly, we don't take all that seriously. They’re also able to do their schoolwork with only minimal oversight.
For meals, I use a lot of convenience foods. When I cook from scratch, I’ll often make a large batch so that I can freeze a second meal. Laundry is easy. I never buy anything that needs ironing or dry cleaning. I use a timer to remind me to get laundry out of the dryer before the machine stops and clothes get wrinkled. That way, I can keep working without thinking about it.Do you have more pearls of wisdom to share with other mothers?
I think a lot of people are like me, and start out building long pages, which take forever to complete. This leads to a lot of frustration, because your site grows very slowly. My advice is to start out building short pages. If a topic is worthy of at least 125 words, make a separate web page for it, even if the keywords are low demand. Your site will grow more quickly, your visitors can find information more easily, and you’ll be happier and less frustrated. There’s a real psychological boost when you can quickly create a lot of pages.