A Glimpse Into My Side Business Wanderings: Simple Websites

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Sometimes I am truly amazed by the internet. I can get an idea on a Friday night while talking with friends, go home, buy a domain name, create a website, upload it to a server, and have it live to the entire world before morning. I don’t need to buy any licenses, line up manufacturers, pick up raw materials, or hire any employees. Sure, I may have to wait a day for some DNS servers to resolve, and I will spend many more hours working on it later, but overall the instant gratification is great.

I’ve alluded in that past that part of my side business involves making websites for local clients, as well as miscellaneous websites on a variety of (mostly non-financial) topics that interest me. I get paid for the design work, as well and hosting and maintenance. Some of my own websites are profitable, and some are complete flops. But it’s fun and if you already have hosting set up for another website already, the only additional costs are my time and $9 at Godaddy (currently only $7 with coupon code ‘hash3’). To be perfectly honest, I’m not terribly good at graphic design or even web design.

Here’s the thing: I’m sure there’s some topic out there that you know about much more than the average person – venison recipes? making your own furniture? old Toyota truck? homeschooling your kids? That knowledge and passion are the most important things you need start your own website, not HTML skills.

Sorry for the rambling; I would write more, but the sun is going to rise soon and I can’t think straight anymore…

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  1. I will have to disagree with you on this. Making websites is not all that easy, especially if you want to do it right (ie according to the W3C standards, cross-browser compatible, and universally accessible). I really hate all the WYSIWYG editors since the html code they produce is 95% garbage!

    Another good example I use is Flash – you can do many cool things with it, but the technology is a security nightmare! Furthermore, it takes forever to load on slower connections (yes, a lot of people are still using those). I have Flash disabled in Firefox and if the website is made so that I cannot do anything without using flash, I will not use it unless I really, really, REALLY need to.

    While it is true that anyone can throw something together without any knowledge of how stuff works or supposed to work online (myspace), you can say the same about just anything else out there. You can build an airplane in your garage out of a piece of plywood from Home Depot. However it does not mean that it will actually fly and even less likely to be approved by the FAA.

  2. Dima, I’ve found that using a decent CMS will take care of the W3C stuff for you. Once you start hitting WYSIWYG, there’s a curve, but nothing too difficult. Honestly, it’s not like most bloggers need to know _All_ the ins and outs 🙂

    Unlike the playwood airplane, a website can usually go from lousy to perfect with a bunch of incremental changes (css fixups, validation, etc). incremental changes won’t get you an eventual 747 🙂

    I’ve become a huge fan of the “Get it out there and then tweak it” methodology lately myself. No so good for airplanes, not too bad for websites.

  3. ahh, theres the problem with making these sites. You get addicted to them and have no time to sleep 😉

    Do you think you’ll have time to manage all of these sites once you start you job?

  4. I used to build/maintain websites by hand. While it was enjoyable to an extent, the vast improvement of CMS software in recent years has led to switch over most of my hand-built ones.

    Lately I’ve become interested in starting an e-Commerce site for some side income. Funny I should see this post, since I just posted my first article in a series on enabling WordPress for e-Commerce.

  5. You’re right on — easy businesses like this with low overhead make great side businesses.

    Btw, there are tons of designers, site creators and site hosters that are using our service to bill their clients and get paid online. If you don’t have a good way to track this today, I encourage you to take a look at SimplifyThis.com, which is an intuitive, web-based application that lets you easily invoice your clients by email and get paid faster online.

  6. Yeah, I agree with Chris. If you’re building sites from the ground-up, then you’re going to be worrying about all that nonsense to make it compliant. But if you just use a CSS and switch out templates, then it’s pretty darn easy.

  7. Ted Valentine says

    To be perfectly honest, I?m not terribly good at graphic design or even web design.

    To be perfectly honest, many of the sites that pay for high dollar graphic and web design is far too clunky, overly busy, and void of real content.

    You are good at writing about personal finances with intelligence and sensibility.

  8. I’m afraid the online world is nothing like the FAA. I realize that serious web designers care about being compliant and clean code. I am not a serious web designer. No large corporation is going to be knocking on my door. More like the owners of the Taco place next door.

    Still, this post is written from a money-making/side business standpoint, and as such I’d be happy with a plane made out of toilet paper if it made me $100/month with zero chance of killing someone 🙂 MySpace is awfully ugly, but got sold for $580 million.

    CMS’s are cool – Joomla, Mambo, WordPress… You can also just make your own website templates and cut-n-paste from there.

    In the end, the cliche is true: it’s about the content. I read tons of sites that use the most basic templates, even give browser errors, but they offer me value so I keep coming back. I bet many of the pros read them as well, even though it kills them a little inside 😉

  9. ibenaija says

    Talking about enterpreneurship and the Web; does anyone know a good, simple solution for “deploying” a community site like hi5, myspace, or facebook?

  10. I know nothing about designing a website from the ground up, but for simplicity’s sake, a great WordPress theme with some basic adjustments can yield some pretty good results for a beginner, and you really can hook it up with godaddy in a day or two and be up and running.

    I do agree with the addiction and the sleep though.

  11. “Do you think you?ll have time to manage all of these sites once you start you job?”

    Dennis, I’ve already started 🙂 The nice thing is that I can spend as little or as much time on my own pet sites as I like. Of course, some need constant attention or the traffic tends to slow down.

  12. Jonathan,

    Just out of curiosity do you think you can tell us how much you make a month off this site? What on this site makes you money? You have ads, book reviews, and “refer a friend” links to open accounts and it seems like all these would produce at least a few hundred a month. I only ask because I often think about opening a website with the goal of making a little side money.

  13. In addition to the stuff you listed, if there happens to be a affiliate/referral program for a product that I am writing about, then I try to sign up for it. For example, if you go through the Godaddy link above and buy a domain, I get something like $1. But I actually do use Godaddy solely to buy and manage all my domain names, and currently own something like 40 domain names through them right now. Their site is really clunky if you don’t customize your account’s Quick Checkout settings, but if you call them up they actually do answer the phone quickly and have helpful customer service.

    Nope, I don’t reveal specific numbers, only in aggregate in my net worth numbers. I think I reveal enough as it is, and having everything together kind of obfuscates our job salaries as well to give us a bit of privacy. But back to the point of my post – if you want to start a site, on any topic, I say go for it. Expecting a big income from it is not realistic, but it can be fun and is easily profitable since the upfront costs are so low. If you measure it on a per-hour basis like many people like to do, it’s probably not the best investment. But I don’t like to break things down like that if I can do it in my free time. Sitting a home doing it on a Friday night is not the same as driving to work on a set schedule, especially if you are already salaried anyways.

  14. Just wondering who you use for hosting? Or was wondering if you knew any good cheap, or even free hosts that would be worth checking out? I would assume you use the same host for all your sites then?

  15. I think he is hosted by http://gnax.net/, but i may be wrong..I found the server ip address on the website whois report, then did a whois of the ip address and got Global Net Access, LLC, it could be the web hosts own host 🙂

  16. Jonathan, I agree 100% on your post. I had an idea for a site a year or two ago that I got two friends to help me with the design and implementation. It looked awesome, but content was lacking and it tanked. Fortunately, that was a good learning experience for me. My latest website idea, http://www.justlexington.com, I am doing in straight HTML and I’ll admit it looks fairly basic, but the content is there and I think it is going to get some attention…

    Good post!

  17. I agree with Jonathan , the most instant rewarding experiences in my life is The website development . you get an idea and register a domain and within hours the website is up and running. I have more than 30 domains registered at http://www.1and1.com for $5.99/yr. the cheapest registration fee i know so far. One of site for your bay area is http://www.PaloAltoClassifieds.com. thanks

  18. As an avid long time web surfer I wish fewer people had your opinions about web design. I am constantly amazed at how little some people actually know or care.

    When I visit a new site, I can sum up how serious the person or business is within 5-10 seconds just by looking at the quality of the design. (not so much with blogs). This site a great help in many ways, but could really be kept up more. The length of most of the posts are reminiscent of a news magazine or a 2 minute talk show segment. There’s a morsel of information, but not much.

    I do not advocate setting up your own to diseminate your wisdom on a given subject unless you are planning to make it a full-time job. There are too many ‘skim the surface’ sites out there as it is. I don’t want my sites to be like magazines, but like books.

  19. want to see the power of “side-business”. Take plentyoffish.com. I just saw the founder of this site speak.

    He has 0 (ZERO) employees, works 1-2 hours a day, and rakes in about $450K a month from Google AdSense.

    The site started off as his project so that he could learn how to make and code the website.

    Now that’s a side business!!!!

  20. Richard Lindo says

    Making websites are easy, but what are you going to do with all of them?

    If you are going to promote all of them that might be time consuming.

    I do like your blog it has helpful content.

  21. I own about ten websites, some are active and some not. What I want to know is how do people manage all this stuff. Domain names, email addresses, which articles have been sent per website to where etc etc?? Do you use some software? a spreadsheet or what?

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