Friday, November 22, 2013

How to Not Get Paid

I recently concluded business with an internet hosting company, and was trying to pay the last payment of my contract with them, when I ran into a huge problem. They took payments only by credit card, debit card, or Paypal--but the Paypal account had to have a credit card associated with it. I did not have any of these things, and I unsuccessfully spent the better part of an hour on the phone trying to find a way to pay them my last payment.

So, when you are setting up ways to accept payments, remember that not everyone has the same situation you do. Some people, trying to straighten out identity theft, temporarily disable credit and debit cards. Others may be in a situation where even a bank account may be a problem for them. Others, worried about identity theft, want to limit their exposure by paying cash.

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Man Sweeping up Money
Always try to be as flexible as possible when allowing customers to pay you. Cash, checks, credit cards, PayPal (not necessarily linked to a credit or debit card), bank transfer, cashier's checks, money orders: these are all perfectly common forms of payment.

At best, you want to ask your customers how they would like to pay you. A listening ear, and understanding their concerns, will help you to be a better resource for them.

And the end of my story? The company decided that it was too much trouble to collect the $2.97 from me, because my situation didn't allow me to use any of their acceptable forms of payment. So they cancelled the invoice, and, in the process, used at least $30 of labor.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Learn a Graphics Program!

One of the skills I have found most useful in generating passive income is to learn at least a little graphics editing. Admittedly, you don't have to invest in Adobe Photoshop to learn to do at least something; you can even use a free program like the GIMP. But whatever program you choose, you should have at least some basic graphics editing skills.

It is really not necessary to invest a ton of money in graphics programs, at least until you develop some skills with the free programs. Most graphics programs have a lot of similarity in their interfaces.

Why? For one reason, it makes designing products for POD sites like Zazzle a lot easier. Take a look at this graphic I created:

Word Choice: Peak or Peek Mug
Word Choice: Peak or Peek Mug by cheatsheet
Make a unique personalized coffee mug online at Zazzle.

This goes with my Zujava article on homophones and how to distinguish between words that are commonly confused. When you get an idea like this, it's difficult to describe to a graphics designer the exact idea you want, and you have to pay them something to do it. Admittedly, if you're using someone on fiverr, then that amount may be only five dollars, but you have the time you are investing to find the person, negotiate the job, and then approve or decline the job they do, as well as the time involved in leaving feedback, bookmarking the person (and remembering to go back to them next time). I created this (after a significant learning curve doing other graphic designs) in about five minutes, and had it posted for sale quite soon afterwards. Admittedly, it's not great art--but it doesn't have to be. This graphic gets the point across, and for what it is, it works just fine.

So get over your fear of complex graphics, watch some cool YouTube videos on how to create different looks, and play around with graphics programs. Your POD stores will thank you!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Why You Should be Using Listmania!

Many people I talk to don't realize all the great features in Amazon. One feature I almost never see used is Listmania, but if you are an Amazon affiliate, you should be using this feature regularly.

Listmania is simple enough; you simply group together a bunch of Amazon products and put them into a list. For any article, this feature is a real find. If you are writing a how-to article, make a list of supplies the reader will need to accomplish the task, and link to it (using the "link to this page" link on the Site Stripe). (You can get to these lists by editing your profile.) If you are writing about attracting toads to your garden, compare toad houses in your list. It really doesn't matter what you are writing about; just create a list, drop a link in the article with your affiliate tag, and you've gotten another reader to Amazon.

Your lists can be informative, amusing, satirical, or whatever suits your writing style and personality. With 2,000 characters of comment for each item on your list, and numerous items per list, this is your chance to really show your readers how committed you are to your subject.

Just to see some examples, take a look at these lists I created for various purposes:
Henna hair dyes
Wow! Buttons

As you can see, as long as you can find Amazon products, you can put them into a list and generate more affiliate sales.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Business Update

One of the reasons I quit posting so much here was that I was working on building my new business, Upstart Technology. The company consists of two people: myself and a software developer. Since I'm the business person, I end up doing everything except writing the code: building and maintaining web sites, dealing with intellectual property, designing business cards, shooting videos, writing content, and, in general, my role is to be the chief cook and bottle washer, so he is free to do only what he does best--write incredibly good software.
Pop Ink - CSA...
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And after four short months, our first product is ready for beta test! If you have an iDevice (something that has Apple's logo on it) with a touchscreen, and a printer, you can have free access to the beta testing products, and you'll the be first to know about our new products, too! Simply join our mailing list and you will be up to date on everything happening in the company.


If there's one thing I have learned about writing sites, it's that you are judged on the following factors:
  • the quality of your topics
  • the quality of your writing
  • your ability to follow the rules
So I heard about this writing site with the strange name, called Zujava (pronounced Zoo (like the place where they keep animals) and Java, like the programming language or the slang word for coffee, or the location). Mostly what I heard is that they are slow to approve new writers.

Zujava wants you to write three posts (here they're called "leaves") before you can publish. Those three posts have to be approved before they will be visible, and before you can publish any more. Okay, fair enough. With all the wait times I heard everyone complaining about, I figured it would be months before I got approved, but I did work very hard on putting together some substantial posts on issues I care about. I read the rules quite carefully, and finally was ready to submit my leaves for review.

Well, imagine my shock when I got up from the computer, got a cup of tea, and headed back after a few moments to check my email. I was already approved! For a moment I couldn't believe it, but indeed I had been approved in less than half an hour!
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"Surprise! High-fibre ice cream!" - ...
Tom Cheney

So, it just goes to show. Follow the rules. Write good-quality content with original ideas on interesting topics. If you're not getting approved, review your work before you blame the site. And then you just might surprise yourself, too!

Sign up for Simple online publishing.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


If you're into the online writing scene, you may have heard about Bubblews. I'm certainly no expert on making gazillions of dollars, but what I have noticed about Bubblews is that it's certainly easy to write posts on there. If you have been posting all kinds of random thoughts on facebook, why not post on Bubblews instead and earn some cash? I have started doing that and with ten posts, have earned almost $5.00.

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Clear Bubbles in Descending Size Risi...
Considering the posts must be only 400 characters (not words) each, it seems simple enough. And if you want your facebook friends to see your posts, you have only to post the link, and most will follow. You will get paid per view, and if they sign up to comment, you will get paid for comments, too!

As with every site, make sure to read and thoroughly understand the rules of the site, including how you get paid. Post only content (including images!) you have created yourself or have written permission to post. Bubblews has rules that are unique to that site, so read carefully, or you won't get paid, and you certainly won't get any sympathy from me!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Details, Details, Details

So, last month, I decided I needed some mobile apps. I then thought if I needed them, other people would, too, so I formed a company to develop and market them. I hired the best developer I could find, who has worked as a trainer for developers for Google, Apple and Intuit, among others, and put him to work. Little did I know how complex all this would be.

We started with development for iPhone and iPad, and Apple has this huge list of requirements, from a dozen icon app sizes to how you specify your legal entity and your banking information, to how your app is described in the App store, to which graphics you are allowed to use. This is in addition to the business plan, setting up a YouTube brand channel, a Google+ profile, and whatever else I have already done that I forgot about.

I also had a meeting with my business consultant, Sean Duncan, who confirmed that I was on the right track, and made sure I had addressed several possibilities that business owners often overlook. (Fortunately I attended one of his seminars years back, and remembered to write down almost every word.)

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"And I'm sure no one will mind if we ...
Kim Warp
I have been recruiting people who would actually use our apps to film commercials for our first product, and getting into the whole management mindset. Since my own management style is extremely hands-off, I have had to ask a ton of questions of my developer about what I need to do to keep him at his best, and it's been a real eye-opener.

And last but not least, I have been networking, networking, networking! I've been out there promoting my new company tirelessly. Fortunately, I have had a fantastic response from everyone I have talked with, so with a little luck and a whole lot more hard work, I hope to be actually selling my first app next month.

The takeaway: It's a whole heck of a lot harder and much more involved than you think it is going to be.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Look What Followed Me Home!

Okay, not really.

I flew halfway across the country just about a month ago to attend a seminar and bounce an idea off a friend of mine. I came home with a tech company as a souvenir. No kidding.

I had had ideas for software for a long time, and with the gift of an iPad from a longtime friend, I thought that these ideas would make great mobile applications, too. So I started my new company, Upstart Technology, with what amounted to the change in my couch cushions. That is, $16 for a DBA, $5 to open a business savings account at the Credit Union, and $10 each for a couple of domain names. $41 in total. I hired the same friend who gave me the iPad to write the programs for a share of the profits.

Unfortunately, starting a business isn't all like this . . .
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Woman with champagne in her 'in' box,...
Richard Cline
Starting up a business correctly is far more work than anyone realizes, except the people who have correctly started businesses before. Business plans, trademarks, patents, business structures, contracts, and many, many other decisions have to be made before you ever see your first dollar of return. I've been working on this about thirty hours per week, in addition to running my three part-time businesses, and so I've not had that much time (or news) to post until now.

One of the best decisions I've made so far is to split my company into divisions. I got this idea after watching many, many episodes of Shark Tank, which is a real business education in itself. (Entrepreneurs are too emotionally invested in their companies; they don't have business plans to allow for growth; they don't want to give up enough control to the investors--because, after all, you want the investors to have a large enough stake in the company that they care about the company's success; they don't have a clear idea of where their business is going; they can't clearly explain their product; and many more errors.)

The reason for splitting the company into divisions is clear. By having separate divisions, if someday I decide to divest that part of the company, it's easy to specify what is for sale. If I want investors for just one division, again, I can simply specify that division. I can keep our products separate so it doesn't just look like a disorganized mishmash of stuff, and we can have separate logos for each division, which means that our promotional products can be specialized easily and promote each division, rather than trying to find that one promotional product that somehow symbolizes a company with diverse products. And finally, it's easier to see which division is making the most profit, so that I can continue to invest my time, money, and energy most profitably.

Watch here for further updates!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Squidoo Redux

If there's one thing I hate, it's having to do work over and over again.

And in the case of Squidoo, I've just about reached my limit.

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First, they locked lenses without warning, and donated all unpaid proceeds to charity (so they say, but we'll take them at their word). There was no indication of what was wrong, so I put the locked lens on the back burner until I heard what the problem was. Unfortunately, some time later, when I logged into my account, *poof* the lens was deleted, without warning.

As my lenses get locked, which I am sure they will be, I am moving them elsewhere. Squidoo was fun, and I liked the platform, but I am not willing to lose work if I happen to go on vacation or have a crisis to deal with. Some of those posts will be moved here, some elsewhere . . . but I can no longer recommend Squidoo as a place to write.

If you have a locked lens, be sure to edit it and post it elsewhere immediately, before your lens disappears!