In this episode of the Digital Publishing Podcast (which you can find a full transcript of below), I cover 5 topics from making money from things you’re already doing to products and services I pay a monthly fee for.
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You can also listen to the episode online by clicking the play button on the player below this. (If you don’t see the player, click here.) It’s about 18 minutes long.
- 1:48 – 1. Documenting projects for profit
- 7:02 – 2. Legacy projects
- 9:06 – 3. My recurring expenses
- 12:03 – 4. YouTube channel URLs
- 13:11 – 5. Three web design pet peeves
- 15:40 – Pick of the week
DPP026: Documenting Projects for Profit, My Recurring Expenses, and 3 More Ideas
Hey everyone, I’m Tristan Higbee, and before we start, I want to say that there will be no new episode of the podcast next week. When this episode that you’re listening to goes live, I’ll be flying to Houston from Cancun, after having lived in Mexico for the last 8+ months. And then next Thursday, when next week’s episode would come out, I’ll be flying from Houston to Tbilisi, Georgia, via Amsterdam and Munich, and I have a 9-hour layover in Munich. So between being back in the States for only a few days and flying literally to the other side of the world, I won’t have time to record a new episode of the podcast, but there WILL be a new one the week after that, assuming my internet works in Georgia.
And now onto the show! If this is your first time listening, this podcsast is all about the things I see and would like to see in the world of digital publishing, from blogging to ebooks to membership sites and more, plus things related to internet business and online marketing. At the end of the podcast I’ll mention my pick of the week, so be sure to stick around for that. You can find a full transcript of each episode of the Digital Publishing Podcast at DigitalPublishingPodcast.com.
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Ok! I’ve got 5 topics to talk about today, so let’s get started.
1. Documenting projects for profit
I read an article online a couple weeks ago about a man who has eaten at more than 6,000 Chinese restaurants over the last 33 years, and he’s logged and tracked all of the restaurants in a spreadsheet.
As I read that article, all I could think about is how this guy should start a blog or write an ebook or something, or at least that’s what I would do if I were to start this kind of project. If you have a goal to do something, or if you’re doing something that is legitimately interesting, why not document the journey and maybe make a bit of money off of it? There’s an ebook called Clamcake Summer: One Man Eats Every Clamcake in Rhode Island. The guy decided to try every clam cake in Rhode Island, and then he wrote a book about it. And the best part is that it’s got 12 reviews on Amazon, most of which are 5-stars.
(And for those of you who, like me, had no idea what a clam cake was, it’s a deep-fried ball of dough with chopped clam and various other ingredients inside, and it’s common in the New England region of the US.)
When I lived in Salt Lake City, I was a regular reader of a blog called SLC Tacos (and it’s still at slctacos.com, though it doesn’t get updated much anymore). The guy behind the blog went to taco stands and taco restaurants around Salt Lake and rated and reviewed the tacos. He doesn’t have any ads on his site and it doesn’t look like he’s making money from it, but I’m sure he could partner up with one of the taco restaurants and offer coupons or something if he really wanted to.
Then there’s A.J Jacobs, the guy who read the Encyclopedia Britannica from A to Z in a year and wrote a book about it. There are multiple books written by people who have gone to games at every major league baseball stadium and written about it (here’s the only one I could find). Even if you’re doing something like building a backyard greenhouse, document the process and you might end up being able to turn it into a how-to ebook (and you wouldn’t be the first). Even if you don’t want to end up selling the ebook, you could give it away as a PDF report.
I know that tons of people have started blogs about things like minimalism or simplicity, and the blog is a way to document what they’ve learned or what they’re doing. Several of these bloggers have gone on to write books or ebooks about their experiences. One that comes to mind is the guy behind the 100 things challenge. He created a blog about living with a hundred things and then wrote a book about it. Or No Impact Man, the guy who decided to see if he could live in New York for a year without causing any negative environmental impact. He started with a blog that turned into a book, documentary, and even a non profit.
There’s a tech journalist named Paul Miller who just finished up a year of living without the internet. He wrote about his thoughts and experiences a couple times a month over at The Verge, and I would be very surprised if he DIDN’T turn those articles into a book.
When I lived in Mexico City for two months, I thought about writing a book about one thing to see or do near every one of the city’s metro stations. I thought it would be cool to explore the city that way, and I figured I might as well write an ebook about it while doing it, though it’s something I never did end up doing.
I’ve been learning the Georgian alphabet recently because I’ll be living in Georgia for a couple months coming up pretty soon here, and there aren’t very many good digital resources out there for learning the Georgian alphabet. I’ve been taking notes and stuff and I could potentially write an ebook about learning the Georgian alphabet. If not, I’ll at least write a blog post about it on my personal blog that will hopefully be helpful to others.
I think the main idea here that I’m trying to get across is that there’s a mindset you can get into, where everything you do in life can be thought of in terms of a digital product of some sort, whether that be a blog or ebook or book or video series or podcast or however you want to do it. When people tell me that they want to write an ebook but don’t know what to write about, I don’t really understand it, because in my mind, EVERYTHING could be a book. Everything is an adventure. I’ve written 40 Kindle books and could probably write hundreds more. I’ve started dozens and dozens of blogs. I’m an idea machine because I see every single thing I do in life, every new project, as a potential book or blog or blog post idea or something that other people could benefit from in some way. When you get into that mindset, it’s hard NOT to come up with tons of ideas.
2. Legacy projects
I’ve been thinking recently about the kind of legacy I want to leave. This is kind of a weird thing for me to think about, because I’m a pretty healthy 27-year-old wand don’t plan on dying anytime soon. But regardless, thinking about the legacy I want to leave has led me to look at the projects I’m doing and figure out where those things fit in with the bigger picture of my life. What value do these things really provide to people?
Someone posted to Hacker News this week a project he’s been working on, called Dave Conservatoire. He billed it as the Khan Academy for music. For those who don’t know, Khan Academy is an educational website and non-profit that started out as a guy recording YouTube videos that teach things like algebra and geometry, and now it’s a big non-profit that has instructional videos on all sorts of things. And this Dave Conservatoire site is one man’s project to essentially educate everyone about music for free. You could create a Khan Academy-style site for any subject you know a lot about.
These two examples happen to be free but at least in my mind, a legacy project doesn’t have to be. I plan on growing Osmosio, which is my soon-to-be-launched membership site about all things digital publishing, into a big business that helps a lot of people and that I can be proud of. That’s a fantastic legacy to leave.
So like I said, thinking about legacy projects has made me take a step back and reevaluate what I’m doing, and I’d really recommend you do the same. If you’re spending the time working on something, why not spend the time working on something that really is awesome, instead of just another lame niche site or something. Build a resource that people want to go to or read or whatever instead of something you need to trick people into looking at.
3. My recurring expenses
A friend of mine said last week that he’d be interested in learning about what my recurring expenses are. I think this is a good thing to share because when I first started getting serious about making a living online, I paid monthly for SEO tools and private forums and all sorts of things that I now realize I didn’t need. Hopefully by sharing my recurring monthly expenses, I can stop some other people from spending more money than they have to.
I spend $29 a month for AWeber, which is my email newsletter provider of choice. I spend $9.95 a month on HostGator hosting, and that’s currently good enough for all of my websites. I spend $15 a month for Libsyn, which is the company I use to host the files for my podcast. I spend $9.99 a month for 100 gigs of Dropbox storage, which I use to back up my computer.
And that’s it for monthly recurring expenses. I do also have a few yearly expenses, like Evernote Premium ($45/year), Amazon Prime ($79/year), and Hotspot Shield, which is the VPN service I use, for $32 a year.
If you divide up the yearly things into monthly payments and add those to the other monthly payments, I pay $76.94 a month. That’s it. Those are nearly all of my recurring payments, not just the business-related ones. I don’t have Netflix or a phone plan (I just use the wi-fi to call or text), and the places I rent take care of Internet and utilities. I say that those are nearly all of my recurring monthly expenses because I do pay for one more monthly service that I’ll talk about later on in the podcast as my pick of the week, but I didn’t include that here because I just stared it last month and will be canceling it next month. I also pay literally between 20 to 30 cents a month for Amazon S3 hosting of some videos, but that’s not really enough to even be a blip on the radar.
So yep, about $77 a month for all I need for my online business and my online life in general. There are a couple other things I would consider paying a monthly fee for that I don’t now, like for educational purposes, for learning new things from a lynda.com subscription or something like that, but what I mentioned here is what I currently pay and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. You really don’t need all sorts of fancy pay-per-month software or services, and I’ve found that those things are usually more of a distraction than anything else anyway.
4. YouTube channel URLs
I feel pretty dumb about what I’ll be talking about next. It’s something that I feel like I should have known a long time ago and that probably everyone else already knows but that I just found out about today.
So when you sign up for a YouTube account, your own channel there on YouTube is normally at youtube.com/user/WHATEVER, whatever your username is. So the ESPN channel on YouTube, for example, is at YouTube.com/user/espn. If you Google “YouTube ESPN”, that’s what comes up. But you can actually take out the /user part, and just send people to youtube.com/espn or whatever your account is. You don’t need that /user part in there. Just YouTube.com and then the name of your channel.
Again, this is probably something that everyone else already knows, but I was really excited to figure that out today, and I think it’s a good thing to know about.
5. Three web design pet peeves
I’m about to talk about three things that I’ve seen a lot of people do on their websites and blogs that I think are pretty terrible. Now, I’m not a web designer, but I do think I can tell when something is terrible, and these are three things that I think should be obvious to everyone but apparently are not. In an audio podcast I can’t show you visual examples of these three things, but I will in the show notes for this episode, which you can find at digitalpublishingpodcast.com.
The first pet peeve is gray text on a white background, especially light gray text. Gray text on a light background is hard to read, plain and simple. There’s not enough contrast. And I’m not the only one that feels this way—go to ContrastRebellion.com and see what I mean.
My second web design pet peeve is small text. Have you noticed that a lot of the new simple, beautiful websites and blogs that are popping up have large text? That’s because 1) it looks good, 2) it’s easy to read, and 3) it gets people to stay on your site longer because it’s easy to read and they’ll keep reading. There’s no reason to have 11 point text on your website. It’s just ridiculous. I’ve found myself fairly often recently just turning away from websites with small text because I don’t even want to deal with that.
My third web design pet peeve is small images. Not all small images are bad, of course. But if the images are an integral part of your page or blog post—as opposed to just an aesthetic garnish—then make them big. There’s this travel blog I read occasionally that actually hits all three of my pet peeves. It’s a travel blog, so images are pretty important, but all of the images are only 300 pixels wide. That’s just not big enough if you’re trying to show something with your images. Because you can’t see the images very well, they become uninteresting.
These three things are all pretty easily fixable. Please fix them if you can. I’ll be a less angry surfer of the internet, and your audience will appreciate it.
Pick of the week
And that brings us to my pick of the week. This is where I pick one useful thing to share, and it can be an app, a website, a podcast, or just about anything else. My pick this week is Boingo [link]. This is something that’s really great for people who travel a lot, though other people might find it useful too. This is the thing I alluded to earlier that I also pay a monthly fee for. Boingo is a worldwide wi-fi service, and it’s kind of hard to explain, so bear with me here as I try to explain what exactly that means and how I use it. They have different plans for different devices and locations—you can get plans for laptops and mobile devices in certain regions of the world. I signed up for the Boingo Mobile plan. For $7.95 a month, I get wi-fi access on my iPhone at 600,000 locations around the world.
So it’s essentially an app that is a database of a ton of different free and open wi-fi hotspots that your phone or other device can easily connect to, PLUS Boingo has partnerships with a bunch of hotspot areas that are normally password-protected that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to access. So it goes beyond the normal free-wifi-finder apps.
And as I said earlier, I don’t have a mobile phone plan, I just use wifi. And because there are several Boingo-compatible wi-fi hotspots here in Cozumel, I can still text and use Facebook and browse the web in a bunch of different places in town. It’s not even close to being universal coverage all over the city, but there are still plenty of spots. Using the wifi, I’ve Facetimed with my parents from the city’s main square and from the beach, for example.
I’ve only been a Boingo customer for about a month and I’ll only be one for another month or so because there are only like 3 or 4 wifi hotspots in Tbilisi, so the service won’t be of much use to me. But the service is also fantastic for using in places like airports and bus stations. It’s worth getting just for using in airports if you fly a lot. You can check out the service and the different plans at Boingo.com and search for and view the wifi hotspots in any city around the world by going to wifi.boingo.com.
And that’s all for episode 26 of the Digital Publishing Podcast. Be sure to check out digitalpublishingpodcast.com for complete transcriptions and other blog posts there at the blog.
Please don’t hesitate to email me any question you might have regarding digital publishing. I love talking about this stuff, and I’d love to help you out. You can follow me on Twitter by going to twitter.digitalpublishingpodcast.com. That will redirect you to my Twitter account, since my name is a bit tricky to spell. And again and as always, I’d really appreciate it if you went into iTunes and rated and reviewed this podcast, and thanks for listening.