Category Archives: Money Making

Craigslist and Crossfit

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There are many places for you to sell your stuff. For years, Saturday mornings were for garage sales and flea markets. People always made sure to have cash on hand for that special find. You were restricted to local fads and fashion. If a particular item you wanted wasn't available in your area you were out of luck until the whole family jumped in the station wagon and you all took off for grandma's house. You gave yourself plenty of time to chase after those cardboard signs on the side of the road. You were hunting in new territory after all.

Flea markets were the best because all of those garage sales came to one place. The vendors did all of the work for you and brought those treasures down to local drive in. The fun was in the bargaining, the back and forth. Of course, there were always antique stores if you were rolling in it. They have everything all cleaned up and presentable, and you pay for that service all the way.

All of these methods were great, but left a big hole in your heart when you couldn't find the last piece to your full set of Garbage Pail Kids cards. After searching high and low, your collection still was not presentable to the world. Enter online auctions. Yahoo and eBay started out as fierce competitors. I actually preferred Yahoo for a long time. You could get better deals hands down. But eBay grew in popularity and simply had a much greater inventory. Yahoo slowly started to fade away as eBay became more and more popular.

You started by buying all of those things you had been searching for, and when your collection was either complete, or you were out of money, whichever came first, you decided, “Hey, I could do this! In fact, I could make a ton of money selling my sock monkey collection. Then I would have enough to really buy every Matchbox car ever made!” You posted your first item for sale. The pictures were crappy, taken with a 1.5 megapixel digital camera onto a floppy disk. You charged too little for shipping and realized it was a royal pain to guess the weight of the package without knowing where you were sending it yet.

But you learned and technology got better. You verified your Paypal account and didn't even realize that when eBay bought Paypal, you were getting double charged by the same company. Ebay's rates kept slowly creeping up, so you had to find things with high margins just to make a profit. It was great that there is pretty much a buyer for everything you have to sell somewhere in the world. There's always someone who wants to pay for your junk. You no longer have to waste entire Saturdays. But man, you wished you could actually keep more of what you were making. You realized you could just charge a ton for shipping to make up for your losses, until eBay caught on to that scheme and started charging you a percentage of shipping costs as well.

The big things were the killer. High shipping costs and high auction prices drove up eBay's percentage. Enter Craigslist. So you've once again limited yourself to one geographic area. But because you are online, your customer base is everyone in that area, not just the motivated people who are willing to wake up at the crack of dawn on weekends. You are still advertising for millions of people if you live in a populated area. And there are no fees. There are no Paypal processing fees or frozen funds because of a dispute. It's back to the old days of cash and carry.

Now enter the creep factor. You have no idea who you are meeting. Are they honest? Should you tell them where you live or meet in a public place? What if the item you are selling is too big to take to a public place? Do you want to give total strangers your phone number and address? The whole system is built on trust and unfortunatley the world is full of untrustworthy people. It's amazing actually that Craigslist has flourished and grown so much. Despite the drawbacks and uncertainty, people are adamant to look for the good and trust others. That's an awesome thing in this world.

On the other hand, you have to resign yourself to the fact people have no manners. They send rude emails. They don't show up for appointments. They try to talk you down in price even after you've agreed and driven halfway to meet them. But then the next guy shows up on time, pays without complaint, and thanks you. All is right again in Craigslist land and you go ahead and do it again.

I have begun a little side business selling jump boxes for plyo metric and Crossfit workouts. Because people want different sizes, I take orders and when it is done I email them back and set up a time for pick up. Unfortunately I have found that Craigslist buyers often have cash burning a hole in their pocket when they initially contact me. They agree on a price and the time it will take, but a week later when the box is done and I text them back, suddenly they don't respond. Or they do and say they are no longer interested. That money they had last week is long gone. Well now I have an unsold jump box that cost me time and money to build and no buyer. I have to go back and try to sell that particular size, hoping someone else wants it. And with Craigslist I can't really ask them to give me a deposit up front to keep them honest. There is no rating system that gives them confidence in my honesty. People choose to trust on Craigslist, but not enough to give me money in advance. I'm stuck selling for a customer who may or may not follow through.

It's frustrating, but I don't know that there is a solution. It seems things have gone full circle. I've got something in my garage I want to get rid of and I need to find someone local willing to buy it. Maybe I should put out a garage sale sign out on the corner.

 

 

So You Want to Write a Book, Just Like Everybody Else

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It seems everyone has aspirations to write a book. Does that mean everyone has something totally interesting and unique to say that the world needs to hear? Ummm, I think not. If the comments section of blogs and news sites are any indication, there are people who should never be allowed to type anything readable by the general public, and not just because of atrocious grammar and spelling. Some people are just ignorant. Of the people who claim they want to write a book, how many of those actually sit down and take the time to write the first chapter, or even the first page? Not many.

Have you ever been to a library and just wandered through the aisles trying to take in the sheer number of books on the shelves? Maybe your local public library isn't that impressive, but think of a university library. There are hundreds if not thousands of books on the shelves that have never been checked out. And it is probably getting worse instead of better. There is no need to check out that obscure book for a school paper when the same information is easily found on the Internet. Even if you can surmount the odds of getting your brilliant book accepted by a publisher, you and your editor may be the only two people who ever read it. Oh, and your mom. She'll read it just because you wrote it.

What are the odds of writing the Great American Novel? Let me put it in a bit of perspective. Take all of the people who claim they want to write a book and put them in a room. Now only those who actually start writing can move on to the next room. Huge drop! Now only those that actually write more than a chapter or two can move on, then only those who actually finish. From there take those who have the guts to show their work to someone, be it a publisher or just a friend. Your room gets even smaller still. Now here is where you can choose the traditional path of shotgunning your manuscript to every publisher you can find an address for or you can decide to go it on your own. That's right, self-publish.

That takes what amounts to a tiny percentage of the starting crowds and divides them even further. For the sake of this article, we'll travel down the self-publishing route. But don't get too excited. The self-publishing room is much more crowded. It's easier and allows you to publish your work, even if it sucks. There is no professional quality control or editor deciding if your book is marketable. It may just be the worst thing ever written and you can still publish. A very small percentage of the room will have the capital to self-publish a physical book. We'll let those hoity toity types go off into their gilded room. The rest of us will be milling about aimlessly in the self-published ebook room.

There was a time when ebooks were just a fad. Experts and bloggers predicted ebook readers would be the garage sale items of tomorrow. But with some powerful companies standing behind the ebook like Amazon, Apple, and Barnes and Noble their popularity has only grown. Those companies have also seen the importance of allowing their books to be read on multiple platforms, like ebook readers, tablets and computers. Gradually, e-readers have become a staple, recognized and accepted by the general population. They are easy enough to be used by grandma and hip enough to be used by the cool kids, or at least the cool kids who want people to know they read.

So what are your options in self-publishing your ebook? They are many, but I'll focus on the Barnes and Noble Nook store and the Amazon Kindle store. For both, it's actually a very simple process.

Each store has a similar process. You upload your ebook file and they convert it, B&N to an ePub file and Amazon to their proprietary Kindle format. You enter in your title and synopsis and upload your book cover. You enter all of your personal information into your account so they can send you any money you earn and also send you tax information at the end of the year. At first I uploaded my book to both, but it is now only in the Kindle store.

I'll tell you why. Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) offers some benefits if you commit to only sell your book on Amazon, which is called KDP Select. They allow you to add your book to the Kindle Lending Library so that anyone with the popular Prime membership can borrow your book for free or buy it and lend it to their friends. You don't directly make money when someone borrows your book, but at first the important thing is to just get people to read it. If it is good and stands on its own, they will recommend it to friends and hopefully spread the word that yours is the book to read on the beach this summer. And with KDP Select, you get a piece of the KDP Select Global Fund, which basically means you get paid a percentage of the fund each month based on the number of times people borrowed your book. It is not a direct royalty per book sold, but rather a piece of the larger pie.

With KDP Select you can also manage five promotional days per quarter. You can choose which days you want your ebook to be free and Amazon automatically adjusts the price on those days. It is a great way to once again get people to read your book. I've found, at least in my own experience, that there are downsides to free books. People tend to get all of the free books they can just to add to their collection, but don't necessarily read them. There is much greater chance someone will read a book they had to pay for.

If so, what is the optimum price point? $.99? $1.99? $5.99? That I am still trying to figure out. I can say there is a pyschological effect when charging a higher price. People tend to think it is of greater quality if it costs more, (thinks cars or clothes) but they are unwilling to gamble on an unknown author above a certain price. Maybe $5.00 is that magic number. I don't know. You can change the cost, so feel free to test things out at different price points to see what happens.

How did I end up writing a novel? Good question, although I don't really have a great answer. I was sitting in a hotel room on an extended business trip with my laptop and I opened Word and started to type. It was really that simple. I had no plot in mind, no synopsis, none of things you learn to do in school. I started to write and it just began to flow from my fingertips. The story just came out. I started writing everyday and it just grew and grew. Now I've scared you all off from ever reading my book.

“If he didn't work for months on his plot line and character development, I'm never going to read it,” she said with her nose firmly and snootily pointing towards the sky.

Guess what, the process is not the same for everyone. My book may not appeal to you or it may be your favorite book ever. You'll never know until you try. Although I had friends and family read it to help me edit, I know there are still some small things that need editing. With KDP, I can upload a newer version and it will be pushed out to everyone who has purchased the book so they can download the latest version. It is almost impossible to catch all of your own mistakes and I have found that going back a year later, when things are not so fresh in my mind, I have found mistakes that I missed multiple times before. It's about time for me to go through the entire book and make corrections. They are small and insignificant to the story, but I want my book to look professional.

Here's my chance to throw in a pitch for my book. It's called “The Flaming Grenade.” There is the normal version which I would rate at PG-13 lite and a Teen version which is a solid PG. I created the teen version so I could comfortably let my kids read it. I am pretty conservative in what I allow the kids to read, and I would let an 11-12 yr old read the teen version. The book has action, adventure, travel, love, suspense, history, and a little sci-fi/tech. Something for everyone!

For extra incentive to my blog readers, I have set my promotion period for next week, 05-09Aug13, so you can grab it for free. If you are itching to start sooner, which I recommend, you can always go ahead and buy it!

Read my book, start writing yours, and don't forget to leave positive reviews on Amazon!! Let me know what you think in the comments.

 

So You Want to Make Money Online

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You gets ads in your email inbox all the time telling you how much money you could make online. You see guests on the daytime talk shows you watch while filling out resumes. They talk about how they make $10,000 a day online and you can too. You’ve read blog entries and tried websites. You’ve taken surveys online and have some great ideas for YouTube videos that you are sure will go viral. Well, I’m here to exhort you to enthusiastically pinch yourself awake and get a life. Can you make money online? Absolutely! Will it be quick or easy? Not a chance.

If you were starting your own business, you wouldn’t expect to show up on your first day, unlock the door to your newly rented office spaces, and have a line of customers around the block. You wouldn’t print your own diploma, put it in a nice frame and start seeing sick patients! OK, so maybe you would, but I’m hoping the majority of my audience is made up of better stuff. So why do people think going online is any different? Why do people think it takes less effort to be successful online? It’s like the Internet makes people stupid.

I am here to tell you that it takes time, energy, and hard work to make money online just like it does in real life. I am going to dedicate a series of posts to online money-making ideas because I dabble in a few. I don’t expect to make big money and I haven’t really put in the time or investment to do so. I do it more for a little extra cash now and then. Some of them could be bigger money makers if I really invested the time, but I have a good stable job and I don’t depend on my online activities to pay the bills. If I can make a few bucks doing what I enjoy, then why not!?

I will dedicate the first entry to my Zazzle store. Zazzle.com is a website where you can submit your own designs and they will print those designs on a multitude of different items to include shirts, hats, bags, stickers, key chains, iPhone cases, speakers, coffee mugs, plates, clocks, etc, etc; you get the idea. You take your designs and manipulate them on the Zazzle template specific to each item and then post your creation for sale in your own Zazzle store. You can design and post each item separately or do a bulk creation. There are pros and cons to each. Separate creation takes time. You have to create the template for each item, choose the color, write the title, write the description, pick a store category, pick a Zazzle category, and choose tags. But each item is uniquely designed to look its best. With bulk creation, you get your design onto a lot of products quickly, but your image may not be positioned where you want it and the colors or text may not be just right. I’ve done both and greatly prefer individual creation despite the added time commitment.

You earn money by getting paid a percentage of the cost of the item. You can even choose your percentage. For example, you can increase your profits by electing to receive a higher percentage. However, the cost of the item will go up, thus potentially reducing the number of sales. Zazzle takes its cut no matter what, as it should.

The trick is to find a unique design that has wide appeal. Create a niche product so that anyone searching for your tags will be taken to your store. For example, one of my best-selling designs is of Sicily. There are a few other sellers of Sicilian themed items on Zazzle, but I spent a long time in Photoshop creating a unique and high quality graphic. Sicily may not be one of the most common search terms on Zazzle, but whenever it is typed in, my designs pop up close to the top.

Zazzle items are high quality and worth their cost. There is real money-making potential. They add new product lines all the time and it takes time to keep up. If you want your design on every available product you are going to spend hours and hours. Add a second or third design and compound your time accordingly. Zazzle submits a payment as soon as you reach the minimum threshold of $50. You will then get the money deposited by the 15th of the following month. You can also choose to keep the money in your Zazzle account or spend it on Zazzle products. Zazzle sales go up dramatically during the Christmas holiday and there are smaller peaks for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Halloween, and other special occasions.

As a member you get frequent email promotions for great discounts. I have used my earnings and discount codes to buy some awesome gifts.

I’ve had a store on Zazzle for about 4 years and have made around $1500. I have, in spurts, worked on and created a few graphics, but really haven’t consistently invested that much time into my store. I’ve also spent very little time promoting my store through connections with other Zazzle retailers or through social media or websites. I’ve selected a more passive role in just letting users find my store through search terms. If I can make fifteen hundred bucks doing essentially nothing, think what I could do if I really started promoting my store!

Check out my Zazzle store, search through the products they have available in other stores, and try your hand at creating a product to sell. Who knows, with a lot of work and time, you may just beat the odds!

Tell me what you think in the comments.


See other gifts available on Zazzle.