Keeping Your Day Job?

August 24th, 2008 · No Comments

Not so fast...

Not so fast…

One of the greatest things about a home-based business is that you can pretty much work from anywere–as long as you have internet and phone access (which these days is…well…anywhere!). It’s the new “American Dream,” and all you have to do is figure out how to make it happen.

But, as we all know, starting a business takes time, and time, and time, and money. Lots of things can fail before something succeeds. So the best piece of advice that’s the hardest to heed is often, “Keep your day job.” You’re so excited about your venture, you’re spending all your free time moving it forward, you’re finally starting to see some traction, and you really want to ditch this 9-5 gig and dedicate more resources to the start-up. Me too. Here’s what I have to keep reminding myself:

Our top 5 reasons to keep your day job…even when you want nothing more but to sign that resignation letter:

  1. If you panic, your venture will suffer. Any investment takes time–and usually a series of failures–before it provides a decent return. You may even need to go back to the drawing board several times before you get it right. If you believe in your idea and have the unencumbered time to take it through its iterations, success is much more likely than if you’re forced to quit and job-hunt after one failure because you don’t have the back-up income to weather the storms. Also the same panic may drive you to monetize your work prematurely before you’ve worked out all the kinks, which may turn a growing successful idea into a failure.
  2. Emergencies happen. Even if you’ve planned like a champ, the unimaginable can happen. Your car breaks down, there are new and sudden medical bills, your spouse is laid off, anything. Having that steady income from your day job can save the day.
  3. You need health insurance. And dental insurance. And tuition reimbursement. And child care reimbursement. And transportation reimbursement. Whatever your company pays for often costs a fortune to get on your own. And the disability and sick leave shouldn’t be sneezed at as just-in-case precautions.
  4. Your company contributes to and/or matches your contribution to a retirement account. Again, why walk away from free money unless the job is seriously inhibiting your venture.
  5. You have a built-in network. Of course you won’t put posters for your off-hours business in the company cafeteria, but take a look at your business network for potential future collaborators, customers, and clients. Lots of business colleagues are part colleague/part friend; start cultivating them now–just keep it on the “down low.”

We all get carried away with the desire to throw caution to the wind–after all, how could we possibly fail?!?–but keep your head on straight. When your venture DOES succeed, it will be even sweeter.

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The Danger of Google’s Monopoly

August 23rd, 2008 · No Comments

The desperation people have re: improving their Pagerank seems to be largely unjustified from a technical standpoint. All evidence points to Pagerank being only one of many factors used in search ranking and a low one does not seem to be a death sentence. However like so many things in life, the perception that it has value gives it value. If everyone agreed gold was worthless, it would be, but instead perception makes it very valuable.

Can Google continue to

Can Google continue to

The manic pursuit of Pagerank, often at the expense of quality content, exposes some interesting aspects of Google’s dominance. Now, I’m not a Google-hater by any stretch of the imagination. The number of Google’s tools we use here should make that clear. I think they do good work and their tools are very helpful, however their methodology is often dangerous.

When it comes to Pagerank for example, they are intentionally vague on the way it works. Just make good content and Pagerank will follow, they tell us. While this makes sense in theory, in practice, anyone can defend why their content is “good.” However, if their motivations do not line up with what Google considers “optimal,” then there exists a disconnect that the webmaster is punished for.

Since Google is largely a monopoly, their influence on the net is huge. Moreover, as they try to combat things like spam pages, they increasingly create rules about what a “good web page” should be. I may be only speaking for myself, but I don’t think we’re to the point where we know authoritatively what constitutes a “good” web page, and I’m not sure such a day will ever come. But when Google is the “master” of the game, we all make web sites that conform to Google’s idea of “right.” This could potentially be stifling to innovation.

Basically, because Google controls much of the web, we have to make sites that will maximize us in Google’s eyes. Consequently most of the most popular websites will all be very similar. Someone with a dramatic innovation may not be able to get any “airtime” for that innovation because it does not yet fit Google’s model of a good page.

This may potentially leave room for a competitor to Google. Cuil’s less than impressive launch still showed us that the market is downright anxious for someone to show up and give Google some competition. Perhaps this is because, in the long run, people are reluctant to let Google dictate the web’s future. Google’s monopoly may in fact be a danger to everyone, including itself.

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The Monetization Stigma

August 22nd, 2008 · No Comments

The Internet community has an interesting principle. If something is trying to make money, that something is terrible. The only exception to that are giant corporations. It’s fine if Google wants to make a buck, but if someone puts Adsense on their site to pay for their hosting bills, it immediately compromises the integrity of their work.

Is It Wrong To Want To Get Paid?

Is It Wrong To Want To Get Paid?

Now obviously there are justifiable reasons for the stigma associated with site monetization. If I go to two sites and one has no advertising, it’s more likely that the advertising-less site is done out of love and isn’t a spam site. It’s also more likely however that the proprietor will lose interest, decide it’s too costly, or disappear for any number of reasons.

Although some hesitancy is justified, there seems to be a stigma above and beyond the initial skepticism against sites trying to “get paid.” If a site has been running for quite a while and adds advertising to its pages, many times the users will be angry with this decision. Somehow their content is less worth reading now that the creator is making money. Either that or they are horrified by the idea of having advertising cross their vision.

The interesting side-effect of this anti-monetization bias is that “serious” content developers are going to suffer a penalty against an amateur. If there is a penalty for trying to get paid for your work, those that would like to make a serious play at making a quality site are going to have to overcome an additional hurdle that someone “toying” with their site doesn’t. Thus in many cases the inferior site may “win out” just because it doesn’t have advertising.

While we feel this may be a dangerous principle, we are fairly loathe to monetize our sites before they are popular anyway. When you have low traffic levels, the income will be trivial anyway, so you’re not giving up much to keep the “good press.” Why try to scrape out a few bucks if you’re just going to have to use it on advertising because you’ve added another barrier to entry? Identifying when to monetize is a decision for another day, but for now we see no rush to try to monetize our endeavors.

The only exception is affiliate programs for products we’re going to recommend. We figure if we’re going to link to them anyway, we might as well get some benefit out of it. As points out, these can be a long term investment that pays off in the long run. We don’t want to go back and add them later in the future. If people hate us for having affiliate links, so be it.

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