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I Started Investing 3 Years Ago, Best Decision I Ever Made

I Started Investing 3 Years Ago, Best Decision I Ever Made

THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS. PLEASE READ OUR DISCLOSURE BELOW FOR MORE INFO.

In the beginning of 2015 I paid off my credit card debt for the first time and started to learn about investing.

It was terrifying, but so totally worth it!

How I Perceived Investing As A Kid

Up until 3 years ago (I was 28), I knew NOTHING about investing. To me, investing was some insane, chaotic spree that made rich people rich and the middle class poor. I didn’t know how it worked, but I knew tons of people who lost money during the recession.

If you’ve ever watched any movie that talks about Wall Street or Investing, it’ll have your brain swimming in confusion trying to understand it. Were they just trying to make it look hard and impressive? (Yes).

I was terrified of investing, I just shut down anytime someone talked about investing and assumed they were a financial genius if they owned stock. Someone who had enough money to pay their bills, live their life and put something extra away investing for retirement was a financial god to me.

I Started to Learn About Money On My Own

Like I said before, at the beginning of 2015 (3 years ago) I paid off my credit card debt after paying countless $70 monthly payments. So once I paid it off, I wanted to use that $70 for something else, something reasonable.

I will admit my company did have a financial planner come into our office and talk about our 401(k) plan. While the company plan was pretty awful, the financial planner did a great job at terrifying me to death.

I will always remember their words “Running out of money in retirement is worse than death”

Well f*&k, that was more terrifying than Halloween. So I started to learn more about money and how it worked.

I started reading finance books like “Total Money Make Over” by Dave Ramsey. I consumed it in a day.

I started listening to finance podcasts. Not the hardcore stock analysis ones, but the more Investing for Dummies type of podcasts like “Listen, Money, Matters”. I LOVED that podcasts and in my mind, being surrounded by those announcers talking about money and finance as a regular thing, I began thinking of money in a different way.

After reading books and listening podcasts. I started to view money not as static thing to sit in my bank account, but more as income streams.

Understanding how much money I had in my bank account mattered less than how much I had coming in each month. That’s why investing became a fascination because it’s one of the most common income streams for people.

I Tried Investing $100 To See What Happens

On the podcast “Listen, Money, Matters” they raved about the investing app “Betterment” (Adam uses Betterment and did a review). They brought the Betterment team on the podcast and explained it and how it’s meant for people who know nothing about investing but want to start. That was me!

I remember how nervous I was signing up. I had to put in my info and social security number. I was convinced that I would immediately lose all my money straight away and because they knew my social security number, the IRS would start to hunt me down.

This was a legit fear I had.

Since I had so much anxiety, I only invested $100 to see what happened. I invested in a “moderate risk” portfolio which they automatically invested for me. All I did was put in $100 and waited to see what happens.

They say not to check it daily, but I did. Oh my goodness, for the first week I checked it hourly. I wanted to see EXACTLY how the stock market worked. After a week I limited myself to daily. So for 5 months, I checked my Betterment account every day, scruitinizing everything that happened.

However, I found that my money fluctuated. One day it went down to $99 then up to $102 and slowly kept rising. This helped me understand how the market moved (at least during those 5 months), how it worked and it slowly became less mysterious.

In fact, I started to notice little things like every once in a while, I would receive extra lumps of change in my account. Just a few pennies, but they were dividends. I received money just from owning certain stocks. I couldn’t tell which stocks with Betterment because it doesn’t show that amount of micro detail, but it was a great feeling.

Then I started to invest more and look at other stockbrokers (companies which you need to invest) like the Robinhood App (I still use Robinhood, here’s my full review on how it works). With Robinhood I could start to pick my individual stocks and it was amazing! I chose stocks that were on the safe side such as Apple, Realty Income and Johnson & Johnson that were well known and established. I knew if these companies tanked, there was something seriously wrong with our economy, so I felt comfortable.

I Wasn’t Addicted, But I Was Obsessed

After I learned how the stock market worked, I felt comfortable but wanted to see more gains than the couple of cents I had been earning. So I could have gone in two different directions. I could have started to invest in risky stocks for bigger gains (don’t recommend) or find new ways to earn money so I could buy more stocks. I did the latter.

Now I write articles online for money, use interest checking accounts, sell stock photos, sell things on Craigslist, use a cashback credit card and more to earn extra money each month and invest it!

Today, It Absolutely Was Worth It.

I’m not advocating for a certain investing approach, but I do want you to see money as income streams rather than a lump sum. It absolutely changed my life.

Before I was happy with $2,500 in my bank account. It was more than any of my friends had. I now keep $4,000 in both my checking and savings account as an Emergency Fund and invest the extra money each month in my investment portfolio.

Knowing I have the extra money and extra streams of income each month gives me SO MUCH more confidence to know I’ll be OK if an emergency comes up or I want to go on a vacation. That piece of mind is one of the greatest feelings ever.

How the $88,000 debt payoff journey helped me to transform

How the $88,000 debt payoff journey helped me to transform

Today’s post is contributed by Amy Nickson, a passionate writer on finance. Amy is a professional blogger who has started her own blog and also works as a contributor for the Oak View Law Group. Please share your opinions by commenting below.

The debt payoff journey was the turning point of my life. Once I was a reckless spender; the debt payoff journey helped me to become a financially responsible person.

Read my story to know my debt journey

The year 2011 wash ruthless; my mom was diagnosed with liver cancer, which took her life after 6 months of struggling. In addition to this, I started getting creditors’ calls that made me realize about my high credit card debt, which was a double shock for me.

Being a single mom, my mother earned our bread, showered love and compassion on me and treated me as a most delicate possession.

She never wanted me to see hurt or sad. She had given me a credit card and told me to use for convenience. I started living a lavish life (planning trips, visiting Starbucks, partying, shopping, and hanging around with friends) with my boyfriend.

My boyfriend wanted me to buy a good car. I soon took out an auto loan to buy a costly car without giving it a second thought.

After college, I started working and earning. But, most of the money went out on leading extravagant lifestyle. As a result, I fell into costly credit card debts.

How I paid $51000 credit card debts that I mostly incurred during my college days

I had no clue where to start; what to do with $88,000 debts including $51,000 credit card debt and $37000 student loan debt, and a car loan.

I was not in a normal state of mind; my mom wasn’t there to support me, not even my boyfriend who influenced me to live a lavish life.

The settlement story

A few weeks later, I called John, my friend and a financial advisor.

After knowing all the issues, he advised me to settle the debts, especially the highest interest rate debt. A few months later, I got rid of the higher interest credit card debt ($16000).

The cost of the debt settlement was too high for me. I decided to pay the rest of the credit card debts on my own.

How debt snowball method worked as a savior

I contacted John for the second time to know how to pay off the debts on my own. He explained me the debt snowball method and suggested me to consider a side hustle to save quite a bit so that I can make some extra debt payments.

As per the guidance, I started paying some extra to the smallest amount of debt while paying the minimum to the rest of the debts. Since I had to manage the living cost on my own, I thought this could be the easiest way for me to get out of debt. Following the same method (debt snowball), I paid off the $35000 credit card debts within 3.5 years.

How I started freelance blogging

I had interest in writing projects. So, I tried to search online to find out blogging related freelance jobs. Soon, I started getting small to big projects. Freelance jobs are well paying. For instance, Wallet Squirrel makes $35 per article on Seeking Alpha.

Honestly, the side income helped me quite a bit to make extra payments on my credit card debts.

After paying off the debts on my own and earning extra, I felt a sense of accomplishment and started working on the other debts enthusiastically.

How I paid $37000 student loan debt

The student loan debt payoff journey was relatively smooth, because the credit card debt journey had taught me to live a frugal lifestyle. I started following the extreme money-saving strategies to pay off my student loan. I paid a little extra than the minimum payments. I followed the same until I paid off the entire loan. After 3 years, I was also free from my student loan.

Financial lessons I learned from my debt-ridden past

To be very honest, the intense financial situation helped me to become financially disciplined. I have learned to live life staying within my means. Since I grew up in a lavish way, I never realized the importance of living a disciplined financial life.

However, thankfully, the bad time helped me to learn how to set aside money and advantages of living a debt free life.

Here are some useful tips that will help you to avoid debts and get rid of them fast:

1. Budgeting is the key to avoid

I realized that without following a budget, it is impossible to keep finance in order. I had no idea how to manage monthly bills along with those credit card payments.

John told me to follow a budget where I include debt payments as the main expenses including other necessary expenses like grocery, utility, transport, etc.

By doing so, I noticed an improvement in my money managing skills. Dealing with bills became easier. And trust me, you never experience financial difficulties if you honestly follow a budget.

2. Cut down junk expenses to set aside money

I truly felt restless and unprotected when the situation needed to save every dollar. But, you have to set aside money if you want to get rid of debts.

To do so, you need to cut down unnecessary expenses like eating out, partying, clubbing, subscribing to unwanted things, etc.

I did the same and was able to save some extra dollar so that I could make extra debt payments.

3. Live within your means

Living a lavish life leads to debts. If you spend more than you earn, you will soon fall into debts.

After college, I started earning but I went overindulged and used to spend more than I earned. Most of the time, I used credit cards randomly, which was enough to accumulate huge credit card debts. Extravagant lifestyle only welcomes debt; so, you need to live within your means.

How can you do so?

  • Eat homemade food as much as possible. Try a PBJ.
  • Carry a water bottle and lunch from home.
  • Skip expensive morning latte from Starbucks. You can make your own coffee that tastes same as Starbucks at home.
  • Plan short trips instead of long and expensive gateways.
  • Practice home exercise and yoga instead of paying a big amount for a gym.
  • Shop grocery when you need and also reduce wasting food.

4. Make your credit card bill payments on time

You should deal with your credit cards responsibly. You shouldn’t buy an item, using a credit card, that you can’t afford; because making credit card bill payment within the stipulated time is very important.

If you avoid paying credit card bills on time, you will shorty fall into costly credit card debts.

5. Save money as much as possible

I took out an auto loan and bought an expensive car, which was a fatal mistake. To pay off the auto loan, I sold the car. Later, I bought a small car with cash. It took quite a bit of time to save money for the car, but buying a car with cash is actually a win-win deal.

6. Consider a side hustle

You should boost your income to get rid of debts fast. Earning some extra, like these extra ways to make money, will allow you to make extra debt payments. You can also be able to save a certain amount, which is a good way to avoid falling into further debts. I started part-time blogging to earn some extra. I had a full-time job, but the income was not upto the mark; the extra income helped me to pay off the credit card debt fast.

7. Get rid of junks to get out of debts

You should remove all the junks. Try to remove junk expenses and junk goods. By doing so, you can easily save money that you can use for debt payments.

8. Choose the right debt payoff strategy

I have mentioned earlier that I couldn’t continue with the debt settlement program due to its high cost. I didn’t have a well-paid job; so, I gave up. But enrolling in a debt settlement program helped me to pay off the highest interest debt fast.

Though a settlement program is a good debt repayment option, it is a costly one. It will also impact your credit score since you are not paying the total debt.

On the other hand, DIY debt repayment options are also effective. You can choose either debt snowball or debt avalanche to get rid of the debt on your own. You don’t need to pay money to a third party debt relief company.

Lastly, I should agree that living a debt free life is amazing. At least you can sleep peacefully without worrying about creditors’ calls. The debt payoff journey made me more mature and complete. Thank you for reading my debt payoff journey patiently.

How I Started An Amazon Affiliate Website To Start Making Money

How I Started an Amazon Affiliate Website to Start Making MoneyHow I started an Amazon Affiliate Website to start making money

THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS. PLEASE READ OUR DISCLOSURE BELOW FOR MORE INFO.

Recently I’ve committed to building an epic Amazon Affiliate Website in a new competition we’re calling the Epic Niche Site Battle. A contest over a year to see who can build a better niche website. The competition started January 1st, 2018 and this is the entire outline of how I plan to create an awesome Amazon Affiliate Website under $300.

Step 1 – Find a Niche

What do I want my website to do or sell? Do I want to be an entertainment website where people go to be happy and find cool stuff, or do I want to be an authority website where people visit to learn words of wisdom from someone who knows more than them? Or do I want to create another blog that shares silly stories?

There are a lot of choices here, but I wanted to do an entertainment website. I like being fun and frankly if it’s going to be another website to manage. I NEED this to be fun!

Specifically, I chose to niche down to a fun, witty and entertaining website on Holidays. I like holidays because people spend money (or at least expected to spend money) during these times of the year. So I’m going to create an entertainment website based on the traditional things people buy for the holidays. Cool right!

Cost – $0 to think of cool niche ideas.

Step 2 – Find a Clever Domain Name

This part takes time, give yourself plenty of time, like 3 months to come up with a clever domain name for your website. Usually, you want your website/business name or purpose to be reflected in the domain name. You want this to be memorable, easy to type, shorter is better and capable of building a brand around.

I spent 3 months thinking about a domain name. Yes, the Epic Niche Site Battle started 10 days ago, but I could still think of my website beforehand. To think about my holiday website, I came up with over 237 different domain names, slowly fine-tuning them, and emphasizing keywords that made sense to my brand. Those 237 domain names were just the ones that were available when I researched them on GoDaddy.com, there were hundreds more I tried that were unavailable. I went a little insane finding the right domain name.

This is how I felt…..

Eventually, I find a domain name that I absolutely loved! This is personally important to me because if I don’t like it, I won’t be motivated to work on it every week. If you’re not passionate about something, you WILL quit halfway through when the going gets tough. I don’t plan to quit.

Cost – $12 Domain Name + $12 Domain Privacy
*Always buy domain privacy, otherwise you’ll get calls/emails daily from companies trying to sell your new website different services. It’s like telemarketers on steroids.

Step 3 – Create A Fun Logo

This doesn’t seem like a big deal, but I’m a graphic kind of guy and I NEED an awesome logo to rally behind. Honestly, I started to think about how the website logo will look when researching domain names. I wanted to create more than just a name in a silly font, I want to create a whole brand.

Once I had my domain name chosen, I started to research different creative logos on websites like Logopond.com and in Google Search Images. I typed in my keywords and compared what other company logos looked like. I started from there and fine-tuned until I had something that looked different, creative, but familiar.

I had about 5 pages of tiny thumbnail logos sketched out.

I needed and created something that looked professional. I used Adobe Illustrator to create it myself, but you could hire a freelance graphic designer off Upwork.com of Fiverr.com. It just depends how much money you want to spend. I personally hate spending money, so the more I can do myself, the better.

Cost – $0 if you do it yourself, I did.

Step 4 – Claim Your Social Platforms

Right before I create a website, I go through and start claiming all my social media platforms for the new company name. Chances are that if your domain name is unique enough, it should be available. If not, at least a similar enough name should be.

I’m currently going through and claiming a Gmail account for my new company (people trust Gmail), along with a Facebook Page, Pinterest Page, Instagram, and Twitter Profile. I’m doing this now so I at least have all of these claimed in the digital world.

I will use the graphic I created for my logo, as the profile photo for the new social media accounts. =P

You may not need/use all of these in the beginning, but having them for safekeeping is a nice reassurance moving forward.

Cost – $0 for the basic accounts.

Step 5 – Set Up Your Initial Website

I personally use WordPress for all my websites. It’s frankly easy to use, flexible and I like the simplicity. This new website will also be on WordPress. Most websites are.

Setting up a website is easier than you think. I personally use Bluehost (you can use whoever you want) to set up all my websites because they have a 1-click button that sets up a WordPress website for you, if that’s scary, here is a detailed post on how to start a blog written for some friends. Let me know in the comments if you have any questions. We’re happy to help!

Full disclosure, I use Bluehost for all my websites. I’m a big fan. If you want to learn more or use Bluehost, I would LOVE if you used my Bluehost Affiliate Code to check it out. It really means a lot to us!

Cost – $202.32 for 2 years of Bluehost hosting.

*You can absolutely do only 1 year, but there is a better discount the longer you go. I also paid for the Site Backup Pro (in case I accidentally delete something) and SiteLock Security (in case my website gets hacked). Overall $202.32 for two years is pretty awesome! If your website hasn’t made that back in 2 years, we should chat.

Step 6 – Find The Right WordPress Theme

So I went to the same place I buy all my WordPress themes (Themeforest) and searched their hundreds of demo WordPress Themes to find the right one that made sense for my Amazon Affiliate Website. This is the style and look your website will have. I needed a clean looking blog (it’s great for SEO) and I needed a warm looking homepage. I found something flexible and looked professional after a couple hours searching.

I’m a big fan of websites that look professional. If your website looks like it was made by a 5th grader, it will be instantly judged and people will feel uncomfortable. Take the time to give your website a nice look upfront and it will pay dividends for the success of your website. WordPress themes are a great way to give your Amazon Affiliate Website a professional look for a cheap price tag.

All you do with your WordPress Theme is hit “Upload Theme” once you create your WordPress website. It’ll then give you the look and feel of what you saw in the demo theme from Themeforest.

Cost – $60 for a WordPress theme from Themeforest.

Step 7 – Add these WordPress Plugins to Improve your site

There is an infinite number of plugins you can add to your site, but the more you do, the slower your site can run and Google hates slow sites, read Adam’s experience here with decreasing website load times. Here are 6 free plug-ins I add to all of my WordPress Amazon Affiliate Websites to keep them fast, looking good and efficient.

  • Akismet Anti-Spam – Frankly getting spammy comments suck and make your website look crappy. Akismet is one of the most popular plugins to protect your Amazon Affiliate Website from spam. Or turn comments completely off to eliminate spam if you don’t want a comment section.
  • Compress JPEG & PNG Images – This is a plugin we use to automatically reduce the file size of our images. Having smaller file sizes keep your website load times quicker since the web pages don’t have as much to download.
  • Google XML Sitemaps – This helps Google bookmark your website. The plugin does everything automatically. It basically creates a roadmap for Google’s crawl bots to quickly index your site.
  • WP Fastest Cache – Cache plugins help your website load faster and this is one of the best. We’ve tried a couple different cache plugins, but keep coming back to this one.
  • Yoast SEO – One of the most popular free SEO plugins. This will tell you how well your page/post is optimized to be search friendly. I live by this plugin!
  • Viglink – This is an affiliate marketing plugin that’s associated with my Viglink Account (Here’s my experience with Viglink). If anyone clicks on a product on my website, Viglink will track this and I get a commission if they buy something. You can use Amazon Associates for your Affiliate Marketing, but I like Viglink because it has partnerships with 2,000 different stores including Amazon. Viglink is how I plan to make money with my new Amazon Affiliate Website. Here is my personal affiliate link if you want to learn more about Viglink and how it works.

Cost – $0 for all of these plugins.

Step 8 – Create Your Initial Pages

I want my website to be easily manageable, so I’m going to initially set up my Amazon Affiliate Website to be pretty simple. I’m having essentially 3 pages.

These pages are:

  • Homepage where I’ll sell products
  • Blog to write engaging SEO posts
  • About Me/Contact Page

I thought about separating the About Me and Contact Page, but they essentially are the same thing, I’ll have a contact form on my About Me page. In my head, the website is more manageable with 3 different pages (plus future blog posts).

I’m currently setting up these 3 pages and loading the homepage with products to sell for the upcoming holiday. Once these 3 pages are done, you’re website is almost done.

Cost – $0, just takes time.

Step 9 – Write AWESOME Blog Posts (4-5 for Launch)

In most cases, your website will be found by SEO or Search Engine Optimization blog posts. You’ll likely market your website in other ways, but most times blogs are found on Google, Bing or Yahoo. Here is Wallet Squirrel’s SEO strategy.

This is where the hard work comes! Every one of my blog posts must follow the 5 rules I discovered during my research on 50 Amazon Affiliate Website Examples Making Money in a Niche. There were the 5 important variables when investigating blog posts on these successful Amazon Affiliate Websites.

  1. Use Specific Keywords – The more specific the keyword is, the better it’ll likely rank in Google
  2. Review Posts are Popular – Before someone buys something, they want to know what others think of it. So if I have an opportunity to review something for a post, people may use my review post to click through to the product they’re thinking of buying.
  3. Content Is King – Most successful blog posts that rank well have between 1,500 – 3,000 words.
  4. Mix High & Low Priced Items – Don’t have a blog post with affiliate links to all high priced or all low priced products. Keep a diversity of price ranges and don’t overwhelm the reader with products to buy. Provide honest reviews and recommendations.
  5. Get People to the Amazon Store as Quick as Possible – The goal of an Amazon Affiliate Website is to get people to the store as quick as possible. Amazon does a great job at convincing people to buy their stuff, let them do the work and collect your affiliate commissions.

Lastly, always do your research and NEVER suggest/promote products you dislike or don’t agree with just for money. People will ALWAYS see through that.

I’m trying to create 4-5 awesome blog posts for my initial launch. Don’t worry about publishing these all at once. This just gives Google more time to crawl these pages and bookmark them for future Google Searches. After that, I’ll create a new post weekly or bi-weekly. Honestly whatever feels better with my time constraints. Either way, quality blog posts are better with Amazon Affiliate Websites.

Cost – $0 unless you pay someone else to write articles for you, but I write all my articles myself.

Step 10 – Launch Your Amazon Affiliate Website & Market It

After I finish my 3 website pages and 4-5 blog posts. I’ll be ready to launch my website!

This involves more than making it visible to the world. You need to get people to the website. Here are some ideas on how to promote your website and increase web traffic.

  • If you have an Email List, email them on the new website!
  • Create a social media campaign on your social media accounts about the launch. Add lots of hashtags if you don’t have a large following. Also, share with your friends and family, they’ll be likely to share because most people want you to succeed.
  • Post to Facebook Groups asking them for feedback on your new website. Maybe they’ll have ideas on how to make it better. You may even get a few new followers.
  • Submit the URL of your new Amazon Affiliate Website to different News Aggregators like StumbleUpon.com.
  • Try syndicating some of your blog posts to syndication sites, especially if they’re good posts. This may help you tap new audiences.
  • Create an infographic and share with different graphics platforms like Slideshare, Flikr, and other bloggers.
  • Reach out to Bloggers and/or News outlets if your new website or blog posts match their content.
  • Reach out to companies you mention in your blog posts.

Cost – $0 You don’t have to spend anything on marketing the website if you don’t want to. Find free ways to promote your website before resorting to paying for a press release or PR companies. Don’t ever try to pay for links to your website, Google may penalize you for this.

Step 11 – Repeat Writing New Blog Posts and Marketing

Remember the old shampoo commercials of rinse and repeat? That’s how Amazon Affiliate Websites work. Your goal is to attract as many visitors as possible, help them, and send them onward to Amazon to buy a product.

The more you write new content and market your website, the more visitors you’ll bring in and the more products you’ll sell.

Total Cost to Start an Amazon Affiliate Website – $274.32

Conclusion

I just laid out my entire Amazon Affiliate Website template for you to copy. If you follow this outline and track my progress, you’ll find some success for your new website.

I’m currently in Step 8, setting up my Amazon Affiliate Website now. It’s going really well! I should be at Step 9 or Step 10 by the end of January, having only spent $274.32 total. That should easily be made back in the next couple of months, I’ll continue to track and post my progress!

Leave me a comment on how your website is doing and I’ll continue to leave updates on how the Epic Niche Site Battle is going!

Teespring Review: Make Money Designing Custom T-Shirts

Teespring Review - Make Money Designing Custom T-Shirts

Teespring Review: Make Money Designing Custom T-Shirts

This is the second time I ever tried Teespring, but my first time writing a Teespring Review. As a designer, this is a fun way to earn extra money designing fun tee shirts and other gear. You essentially design funny/clever t-shirts and then market them to be sold.

What is TeeSpring?

Teespring is a website where you can design custom tee shirts and other apparel such as hoodies, socks, mugs etc. using their proprietary online design software. Once you create a custom design, you can share a link with your friends who can buy your t-shirt design.

The difference between Teespring and other custom t-shirt design places is the shirts aren’t actually made until you have a minimum order.

This way you don’t have to buy a bunch of shirts you aren’t sure are going to sell or not. Thus filling your garage full of crappy shirts. All you do is create the design and TeeSpring handles all the orders, payments and shipping once a minimum amount of shirts are sold.

Yes, Teespring Pays You!

The biggest bonus to Teespring (and why I wanted to write this Teespring Review) is that once you get the minimum amount of orders and the shirts are sent out. You as the designer get a cut of the profits for creating the design!

Teespring handles all the heavy work, but since you are the one that created the shirt design and marketed it, you get a portion of the money made. Of course, Teespring takes their share, but you get yours too.

It’s a unique sidehuslte if you’re a creative type that can create some clever t-shirts and market them.

How Does Teespring work?

Head over to Teespring.com and hit “Start Designing”. It’ll ask you to create an account with them. It’s just the basic name, email, and password. They don’t ask for any payment information when your first setting up an account or first creating a shirt design.

You’ll then be asked to “Pick Your Canvas”. They have a number of options since they originally started. You can create unique/clever designs on a wide variety of items including:

  • Canvas Prints
  • Beach Towels
  • Phone Cases
  • Wall Tapestry
  • Posters (12″x24″) & (24″x36″)
  • Flags
  • Indoor Pillows
  • Socks
  • Apparel
  • Stickers
  • Tote Bags
  • Mugs

I am going to focus on t-shirts for this Teespring Review since that’s what made them famous. So I selected apparel. This takes you immediately to their proprietary design software where you can create a completely unique t-shirt design from scratch. You really just jump right in.

It’s a bit intimidating, I just created a basic word print to go with the design. I obviously didn’t get too crazy, but you have a lot of options of what you can do including uploading your own custom designs.

It’s a really good program. If you don’t have any design software to create a t-shirt design on your own like Adobe Illustrator, I’d definitely recommend checking out Teespring’s online designer. This is what it looks like.

Once you finish a design, Teespring will let you set the price for how much you want to sell the shirt for. You can set the price for whatever you want. Maybe you have a clever design and people want a shirt made by you, so you could set your price at $50. It’s not smart, but you could.

Luckily Teesprings has a recommended sell price.

In addition to what you set the price at, Teespring will show you how much of a profit you’ll make based on how many shirts you sell and the price you set them at. So simple economics, the higher price you set and the more you sell, the more profit you’ll make. In the Teespring Review example below, if 7 shirts are purchased, I would make $70 or $7 per shirt if I sell for $23.99.

Once you set the price you create a profile on your new shirt design with campaign name, t-shirt description and create a custom URL for people to visit. Take some time with this. Giving your campaign/shirt description a clever description can really help sell your shirt to people on the fence of buying.

If you want to check out the t-shirt design I did for this Teespring Review, go to Teespring.com/i-am-a-blogger-teeshirt where you’ll have the option to buy. It’s very basic. I like to set the bar low for you to create your own amazing shirt design!

That’s it. Now anyone can see your shirt and buy it. The biggest thing from here is sending the link to your friends, post on your blog or share to your social network to buy the new shirt.

A big strategy I’ve seen people try, is create a clever t-shirt idea for a specific niche of people like the famous “Don’t worry I’m a ______” tagline and create facebook ads. To give an example, I’ve seen “Don’t worry I’m a Nurse” and people created specific facebook ads for people who listed their occupation as “Nurse”. I believe it’s been really successful.

Teespring Review Pros

  • You only have to create the design, Teespring will handle the creating/paying/shipping info on their end. This is a huge space saver from the days you had to store tee shirt inventory in your garage.
  • You get paid per t-shirt. You can set your own price for your designs and that profit goes to you. So if you LOVE creating tee shirts, you can make quite a bit of money.
  • Their design software is pretty easy to use.

Teespring Review Cons

  • Even if you create the best t-shirt design ever, you have to market it completely on your own. Meaning you have to email it to all your friends or create Facebook ads to drive traffic to Teespring’s website for people to buy your t-shirt. You’re basically selling Teespring’s t-shirts for them.
  • You have a limited space on the front and back of the shirt for your design. This makes it easier for Teespring to create the t-shirts, but you can’t get super creative creating unique sleeve designs or anything like that.
  • Time Limit for your designs. Once you create the design you have nearly 6 days to sell your design or it’s taken down. That’s not a lot of time.

Teespring Review Conclusions

I like the idea of Teespring. It allows you to quickly create a custom t-shirt design to share with all your friends for them to buy. However, it doesn’t seem to be set up for a permanent side hustle. There are a lot of better/easier ways to earn more money.

Once you create the t-shirt design, it takes A LOT of effort and marketing dollars to get those shirts to sell. So unless you have a particular network of people who are willing to buy a specific t-shirt, I wouldn’t recommend this as a permanent side hustle.

We’re Starting the Epic Niche Site Battle!

“Let’s do this!” is how I responded to a LinkedIn message from Barnabas of TheDadWallet.com & SerialBoss.com.

Back in May, Barnabas reached out to Wallet Squirrel following up on all our talk about building a niche website. He’s been wanting to do the same thing and he suggested we do something like Pat Flynn’s Niche Site Duel and compete to see who could make the better niche website.

F*#k, I freaked out. This is the first time I’m going against a real blogger and sharing every step of the process. What if my ideas suck?

Although terrified, I REALLY want to do this. I want to build something awesome with everything I’ve learned the last year. So I accepted the challenge of what we’re calling the “Epic Niche Site Battle”!

Niche Site, What Is That?

In an older post, I gave 50 Examples of Amazon Affiliate Websites. Essentially a niche site is a website that caters to a particular narrow group of people with a common interest. For example, people who own large fish tanks could be a particular niche. You could totally have a website about that!

You can also monetize these niche websites and have them make money for you. I’ll admit, that’s my motivation to start this. I’m hoping to build a passive income with this new website and use that money to buy more dividend stocks.

How the Competition Works

Barnabas and I sat down (via Google Hangouts) to lay out how the competition works.

Duration: We are giving each other 1 year to build & grow our niche sites. Starting on January 1st of 2018 we’re starting our site and giving comprehensive reports quarterly on both our blogs (walletsquirrel.com & serialboss.com). We each may add additional posts, but we have to share all of our stats every three months. Whoever has better key metrics at the end of the year wins.

What We’re Competing On: We’re both building niche sites to help us grow our incomes, so making money is key but not the only factor. We are tracking 4 key metrics we both felt were vital to the success of a niche website.

Updates: We’ll share our updates quarterly with January 4th as our first post. Damn that’s soon!

  • First Update – March 29th
  • Second Update – July 5th
  • Third Update – September 7th
  • Last Update – December 6th

Rules: The only rules we came up with were:

  1. No one else can help us. I can’t have my buddy Adam helping me or hire any Virtual Assistants. The same goes for him. It’s just him and I each bootstrapping a website from scratch.
  2. Paid Advertising must be deducted from profits. I don’t plan on using a lot of Paid Advertising since I’m poor and don’t want to spend money, but I may try $50 in Facebook Ads to see/track if it helps.

That’s it. All else is fair to build the ultimate niche website!

Full Transparency: We’re sharing EVERYTHING (good times and bad) except the domain names. We want to be as transparent as possible since we want to help others build niche websites and show how it’s done, but we’ve both heard horror stories of people using similar domain names and stealing traffic from new sites after the keyword research has been done.

I may share my domain name at the end of the competition, once established, but it’s up to Barnabas to share his or not. For now, we’ll call our respective sites the Wallet Squirrel Niche Site and the Serial Boss Niche Site.

My Previous Niche Site Experience

So far my previous niche site experience leaves room for improvement. In the past I’ve built 4 unsuccessful niche websites, but each one got better.

That’s right, I’ve built 4 awful niche sites in the past. It’s time to build something awesome!

Starting when I was 24 I built my first niche site reviewing online universities, it was called Top5OnlineUniversities.com. It was awful because I wrote generic school descriptions and only made money with AdSense. I hated myself for building something so lame. So I quit after a year.

At age 25 I built a website called LanguageMindMaps.com (it’s not up anymore). I wanted to use my graphic design talent to create mind maps of typical conversations in different languages to help people visually learn new languages. It was better looking but I had no way to really monetize it and knew nothing about marketing. It failed because no one was searching for the term language mind maps.

At age 26 I built a deodorant niche website that started doing well for the keyword search, but it lacked ways to monetize the website. Plus I wasn’t exactly thrilled to tell people I had a website on deodorant. So since I wasn’t excited to market it, I lost interest and it died.

At age 27 Adam (of Wallet Squirrel) and I built a Halloween Costume website. This was something that looked cool, had great keyword research and did really well. However, it was just a seasonal website so the rest of the year I lacked interest in maintaining it since it only turned a profit once a year. That lack of motivation destroyed me and I game up. By the time Halloween came around again we didn’t have the keyword strength and lost tons of traffic. It’s slowly been dying.

Now! I plan to build something that’s graphically cool, that I’m excited to share with other people, has awesome keyword strength with a topic I can write about throughout the year. These are the guiding factors for my new niche site.

Strategies

It was pretty funny when we shared our initial strategies, they were very different approaches. So we’ll get to see two common strategies in action.

I wanted to go with a traditional affiliate site where the purpose is to rank high for a particular keyword then get my audience from my niche website to a product as fast as possible. When people use my tracking codes, I get a portion of the sale if they buy anything. So my strategy is to gain traffic through keyword targeting and quickly get them to a product site quickly. The idea being the more people I get to a product site, the more products that will sell.

Barnabas with SerialBoss has a bit different strategy. He plans to make most his income from Google AdSense rather than affiliate sales. So he is focusing on ranking highly in Google in a particular niche and gain revenue through visual AdSense ads.

Overall: I anticipate I may make more money first, but he is playing the long game by trying to become the premier expert in a particular niche field. If he can rank highly for one particular keyword, it’s easier to start expanding into other similar keywords and significantly grow his traffic.

So It Begins

I’m currently in the pregame phase. I’ve built a few niche sites in the past, but none have been overly successful. I really have no idea what I’m going to do. I know I’m going to build an affiliate niche website and it’s going to follow rules I stated above from past lessons learned, but I don’t know exactly what it will be yet. I don’t even have a domain name in mind.

So I’m currently rapidly typing domain names into GoDaddy.com to see what’s available and sounds good. Rapidly strategizing in my head because on January 1st we’re going fulling speed!

Does anyone want to join?

The main Epic Niche Site Battle is between Barnabas and I, but anyone is welcome to join in. Does anyone want to join us building a completely new niche website in January? Sign up for my email newsletter below to follow the action!

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Side Hustle Spotlight: How This Teacher Brings Aerial Imagery to Life

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Side Hustle Spotlight

We are going to start a new series that spotlights side hustles from various people from around the nation, beginning with aerial imagery. This series will hopefully shine some light on new ways for you to make some extra income that Andrew and I do not have the resources or talent to try out.

A Full-Time Teacher, Coach, Husband, and Father Brings Aerial Imagery to Life

Today we will talk with Mr. Haskovec, the co-founder of WHaerial Imagery.

I know Mr. Haskovec through my years in high school as he was my American history teacher about 15 years ago. Wow! I cannot believe it has been that long!

And, yes, I still find it strange to call Mr. Haskovec by his whole name after so many years. 😀

Somehow, this full-time teacher, coach, husband, and father has found time to start this aerial imagery side hustle.

Who Is WHaerial?

WHaerial imagery is a drone photography and videography business located in Northeastern Iowa. They provide customers with new marketing perspectives and opportunities. A recent project that Wayne completed was for a golf course in Waverly, Iowa. The video shows off the course from a unique perspective that traditional photography and videography cannot.

Aerial imagery has really started to boom over the last five years as the technology becomes cheaper. There continues to be more and more creative ways to capture different industries using drones. We have started to see this in the real estate business as drones are able to show off properties very well.

WHaerial has only just begun this side hustle but is already publishing some great work! Let’s see how Wayne and his business partner got started, what it took to get into the field, and what are the challenges of drone photography.

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1. What do you hope comes out of this side hustle?

Well, to be honest, and upfront….this is a first time endeavor. I am hoping that this start-up will blossom into something that lends itself to more opportunities down the road. The goal is to grow this aerial imagery business into something that will provide not only extra revenue but opportunities to expand. My partner and I decided to officially start a business that features a fully insured and licensed drone company.

There are thousands of drones out and about, but many are not licensed or insured to fly commercially. We are hoping to provide that security and opportunities to our future customers in the Cedar Valley of Iowa.

2. What motivated you to start this venture?

Just over a year ago, I was able to fly one of the first Phantom 4 drones in our area. I immediately fell in love with the creativity and technology packaged in such a small device. The opportunity to capture never seen before areas of my family’s property turned into an absolute passion for me.

As I became better at piloting the drone, I decided to purchase my own drone.

The purchase soon turned into a serious hobby. I was able to show friends and family how unique the drone perspective was. Soon I was capturing images and video and including those creative pieces onto my social media. The excitement and fun I was having made me realize that I could potentially jump into a market of professional aerial imagery. It was a pretty easy to convince myself that I should go ahead get certified, and make money doing something I enjoy.

3. What did it take to get up and running for professional aerial imagery?

My partner and I laid out all of the potential assets we had, which included the two drones that I currently owned. I also invested $150 in taking the FAA certification exam at a local community college that allows for such testing. The insurance and fees for creating our LLC have completed our initial startup costs.

Obviously, there will be more costs down the road….but our hope is to get off the ground (no pun intended) running. In terms of being able to pilot the drone….anyone can do it. The trick, however, is doing it the right way. Making sure you take the time to follow protocol in pre-flight and flight. I have spent the past year getting better at making turns manually without jagged video.

Experience is the name of the game!

4. What is your weekly time commitment to the business?

As of now, it is hard to speculate what future weeks will look like. As of now, we are just waiting on making sure all of our paperwork is in order. My estimation is that once we get into the swing of things, we will be looking at 10-12 hours of pure droning and video editing.

In addition, time will be spent on social media helping to promote our product. Without a doubt, that number per week will increase. With that growth, we are hoping to enlist more certified pilots into WHaerial.

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5. How are you going about to getting work?

Social Media! Between Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter….we hope to boost sales dramatically as we begin to actively search for projects.

We also have several connections within our area in the real estate and agriculture realms but are going to be diving deeper. As we build our numbers via social media, we hope to showcase our work on our website. Our most recent project has been highlighted through the use of Facebook.

The opportunities to connect and grow are limitless in the world we live in today.

6. What challenges have you run into so far?

I believe one of the biggest challenges we will have is staying ahead of the curve. Even though there are droning/aerial image companies out there, we are hoping to get a foot up on the competition in our area.

The other issue that potentially could create some difficulties is the expense in keeping our equipment up and running. The drones that we operate can take 20-megapixel photos along with 4K video. Continuing to stay current and state of the art in the world of droning will be something that will be continuing to fuel our company.

7. Do you have any advice for anyone looking to get into aerial imagery?

My biggest piece of advice is to read all manuals before flying! Know your drone inside and out, and account for your surroundings. Helping the drone community to look as professional as possible, will allow more opportunities to drone in the future!

8. Shameless plug

Head over to one of, or all of, WHaerial’s social media and give them a follow! Personally, I really enjoy the Instagram account! There are some pretty aerials of the Iowa countryside.

Our company page is located on:
Facebook: @WHaerial
Twitter: WhAerial
Instagram: whaerial
Email: whaerialimagery@gmail.com

Conclusion

If aerial imagery sounds like an awesomely fun side hustle, go for it! If you are interested, I would follow Mr. Haskovec’s advice of getting your FAA license as well insurance. This might be the difference as to why a customer chooses you over another company.

Also, do not forget to practice flying your drone, a lot! You will want to create high-quality videos for customers which will require you to fly the drone smoothly as you film.

If aerial imagery is not your thing but you are still looking to earn some extra money and need some ideas on how to do that, then check out our Ways to Make Money page. Here Andrew and I provide 70, yes 70, ways you can make money outside of your 9 to 5 job. We even test these out for you so you can easily figure out what side hustle is best for you.

 

Ultimate Lottery Guide – What to do if you Win the Lottery

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Ultimate Lottery Guide – What to do if you Win the Lottery

After the recent big lottery wins, people have been searching for what to do if you win the lottery. The odds are only 1 in 175 million, but it has to happen to someone right. Everyone imagines it and it’s fun to think about, but if it actually happens, here’s what to do according to the Ultimate Lottery Guide.

1. Sign your Ticket

Many people buy Lottery Tickets and stash them in their wallet or purse knowing that it’s their lottery ticket. However, a Lottery Ticket is only owned by whoever has signed the actual ticket. So ALWAYS sign your tickets when you get them. It confirms ownership and the ticket must be signed in order to claim the lottery winnings anyways.

2. Tell No One

It’s big and wonderful news, but you need to think ahead to all the potential long lost relatives, friends and random people that may soon be sitting in your front yard wanting to be your best friend. You don’t want to be the bad person telling everyone “no” so avoid the awkwardness and tell no one. In 1984, Lottery Winner Mike Wittkowski received more than 1,000 letters at his home from strangers trying to tug at his heartstrings to receive money.

It might be fun initially to have 15 minutes of fame, but you may regret it months or years later when people you never met are ringing your doorbell. Stay quiet about it and don’t tell anyone until you come up with a plan with your financial team. The plan should deal with how to handle friends/family/strangers request for money and how to deal with the sudden fame/money.

3. Take Your Time

There is no rush to turn in your ticket during all the hype, you have between 90 days to 1 year from the day of the drawing to turn in your ticket. Each state is a bit different so check them out. You have some time to take a breath, let the hype die down, and get your team of financial experts together before you claim your prize.

  • Powerball, you have 90 days to 1 year to claim your prize depending on the state via Powerball’s website.
  • Mega Millions, you have 180 days to 1 year to claim your prize depending on the state via Mega Millions website.

4. Seek Financial Advice & Hire Finance Professionals

Hiring the right professionals will help you collect the most money from your lottery winnings, help understand tax rules and take care of the gritty details so you don’t have to. Like will you take the lump sum of cash or 30-year annuity? Consider these financial professionals for your finance team.

  • Financial Planner – They will help you set up a plan for your new wealth. They’ll help you understand the benefits of taking the lump sum versus annuity and they will work with you to set up your goals, analyze your assets and set up a budget so you can make the most out of your money and not blow it. A study of lottery winners in Florida found 70% of winners spent all of their lottery winners within 5 years of winning. Don’t be one of these people, consult with a financial planner. To find a good Financial Planner check out the CFP (Certified Financial Planner) Board for a list of Certified Financial Planners in your area.
  • Tax Attorney -There will be a lot of tax (state taxes/federal taxes/gift taxes/corporate taxes and other taxes) issues that come up about Lottery Winnings. Hire a good lawyer to help you with this. To find a good lawyer, check out the reviews on LegalZoom, RocketLawyer, LawTrades and Avvo for lawyers in your area that are highly recommended and have experience handling large sums of money.

    To give you an idea, the government will withhold 25% of your winnings before you even touch it. Then, of course, you’ll have to pay State Taxes as well. Maybe even Municipal Taxes depending where you live. The rest is paid at tax time where the IRS will tax you in the top income bracket at 39.6% (source). In the end, you’ll be taxed nearly 40% on those initial winnings depending on your state.

  • Accountant – This is the person who will have a good idea how much of the lottery winnings you’ll need to set aside to pay off all the taxes. They will help plan throughout the year on the best ways to mitigate taxes and keep the most of your money. Plus with that amount of money, you’ll want someone handling all your taxes for you. To find a good Accountant, check your local Society of Certified Public Accountants directory to find a certified Accountant to help with your needs.
  • Estate Attorney – They will help you with structuring and protecting your assets. They assist people in drafting and implementing legal documents, such as wills and trusts. It’s good to have a plan for your assets in the event of your death. Who will your money go to and/or should a trust be set up for your heirs. As mentioned with finding a good Tax Attorney, check out the reviews on LegalZoom, RocketLawyer, LawTrades and Avvo for lawyers experienced with wills, trusts and large sums of money.

5. Claim your Prize – Anonymously

Here’s the deal, Big Lottery wants to promote you and share with the world that a real, regular person won the lottery. Often times state law mandates sharing your name with the public. However, you can claim your prize anonymously a couple of different ways.

  • 6 States allow you to remain anonymous – Delaware, Kansas, Maryland, North Dakota, Ohio and South Carolina.
  • 4 States allow a trust to claim your prize – Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont will allow a trust, usually, a trustee (typically a lawyer) to claim the prize without disclosing the name of the lottery winner.
  • 2 States allow you to remain anonymous IF – Illinois and Oregon have made exceptions to making lottery winners names public if the winners demonstrate a high risk of harm by revealing their name.

If you’re not in one of these states that allow you to claim your lottery winnings anonymously. Do what this guy did and hold the check over your head when you receive the lottery winnings.

What To Do If You Win The Lottery - Cover Your Face

You can also sign your first name with your first initial to make it harder for people to track you down.

You may also want to get off social media like shut down all your accounts if you win the lottery. This may sound extreme, but keep in mind that people will start searching for you online, going through all photos, friends, where you work and personal details. They may try to stake out at your favorite bar or harass your friends to meet you.

6. Create a middle man for money request

If people hear about your new winnings, you’ll likely have people from all over asking for money. Addressing all of these can be overwhelming and potentially depressing. Consider setting up a middle man to say “no” for you.

When a long lost friend comes out of the blue asking for money, or with a really great investment idea. Send them to your “middle man”, usually a lawyer, who could review all potential investments for you. You can say that they are better at investing than you, which may be true. So they can say “no” and you don’t have to feel bad telling your friend or anyone no. This will save your sanity and emotions from being the bad guy and help not waste your time/money on bad investments.

7. Pay Off All Your Debt

If you do anything with your money first, it should be paying off all your debt. You are entering a new phase of your life and it should be started off debt free.

Even if you go broke in a couple years, you’ll least have all your debt paid off to pick up your life where you started off.

8. Avoid Sudden Lifestyle Changes

While you shouldn’t be doing anything until you can physically hold the money, even after that you should avoid sudden lifestyle changes for the first 6 months. Buying that Ferrari or Land Rover, second house for your entire family, extravagant vacations can all feel like a nice reward for all your hard work, but these impulse buys could quickly deplete your lottery winnings.

Consider instead renting an apartment in that cool neighborhood you want to live in or doing an exotic car rental for a day to try different sports cars. It’ll take you awhile to understand what you want. Find out what really makes you happy before you go on a spending spree and work with your financial planner to set a budget for frivolous things to buy so that you’re still maintaining a nice nest egg for your family in the future.

9. Live within a budget

Ideally, you should only be spending the interest you’ve made off the lottery winnings. If you do this, you’ll never run out of money. The annual interest of a $100M or more lottery winnings will be more than enough to live off of the rest of your life. Especially with a good financial planner.

Otherwise, work with your Financial Planner to set up a budget live within and understand how long your money will last with your current spending habits.

10. Protect your Assets

Consider getting Liability Insurance to help with potential lawsuits against you. With your newfound money, you will be a target for anyone wanting your money. Liability insurance will help for trip-and-fall lawsuits, personal injury claims against you like libel and slander, and freak accidents. This provides an additional layer of security.

Want to Take Stock Photos like a Pro? 7 Tips You Must Know

Want to Take Stock Photos like a Pro? 7 Tips You Must Know

We have had a lot of questions revolving around stock photos after Andrew posted his How I made $1.88 Selling Stock in 10 Days article.  One question we have seen a lot is, how do you take a good stock photo? Or, why aren’t any of my photos selling? I thought this was a great opportunity for another article on stock photography.

This article is intended to answer those two questions so you can start making some true passive income through stock photography.

Either if you are looking to just get started or you are an already established stock photographer, these tips can help you get started or improve your sales. If you are struggling with sales, one or more of these tips could be the reason as to why.

1. What’s Trending

You could have the best photograph in the world but if it is about a particular subject that is not in high demand, you will not get many sells.

Selling stock photos is a lot like selling anything else. Let’s say a sporting goods store is looking to sell a new high tech soccer ball that tracks metrics for the player. The retailer will not imediately go out to start manufacturing a million new soccer balls. First, they start off with some market research to see if there is a demand for the new soccer ball.

You need to do the same thing for the subject matter that your stock photo is going to target.

Luckily, both Shutterstock and iStockPhoto both display trending searches on their home pages. These lists will help you start to get some ideas on what people are searching for and purchasing.

finding trending stock photo ideas

2. Is Your Target Market Over Saturated?

An oversaturated market is easy to find within the stock photography world. These are usually the easiest photographs to capture such as clouds, flowers, animals, and so on.

If you try to make money off of stock photos that focus on one of these then you are not going to make any money. Your photograph is going to get buried under the already established cloud photographs.

Instead, find niches under these broad categories. Maybe, you could specialize in cloudscapes during major thunderstorms. Or you could specialize in animals who are playing in the water.

Finding a niche can be tricky but is not impossible.

I start by thinking about a broad category then work my way down to a more granular niche. I think of it as a breadcrumb such as – Animals -> Playing -> Water -> Swimming -> Diving Underwater -> Photo Idea: Take a photo from underneath the waters surface looking up at the animal.

3. Be Unique

Now, after all of your research, you should know what subject your photographs should focus on. Now it is time to go take some photos.

I want these new photos to really pop out on the page for your potential buyers. This is not going to happen if you use the same point of view (POV) as all of the other photographers.

Within each subject matter you chose, take a look at your competition and how they framed their photos. While you are researching start thinking how you can make your stock photo more unique than the competition.

As an example, take a look at these photos of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis on Shutterstock. Notice that the top five are all taken from basically the same POV. Even though these are very pretty photos, they are all essentially the same. When I was in St. Louis, I wanted to take a photo of the Gateway Arch from a different POV. The hotel I happened to be staying in had a high vantage point that looked over the monument. Taking advantage of this unique overlook, I was able to take the fifth photo that comes up in the Shutterstock search results.

Do not follow the crowds for your stock photography. Make your own trends. Be Unique.

4. Image Size

Make sure your images meet the guidelines of Shutterstock or iStockPhoto. The bigger the resolution your image is, the better. That way your photo can be offered for as many possible sizes for your potential buyers.

Shutterstock requires that your stock photography uploads be at least 4 megapixels in size. They accept either JPEGs or TIFFs.

iStockPhoto (also GettyImages) require the photograph to be at least 3 megapixels in size. They allow you to upload as big as 256 megapixels! The biggest thing they stress is no upsizing of your stock photos. This can really decrease the quality of the photograph.

5. Editing

This goes a long with what is trending. As you are researching about what you should take a photo of, you should also be studying the trending styles to mimic.

I know, I said you should make your photo unique. I was talking about being unique the way you frame and shoot your photo. Editing is different.

The way your photos look after editing should have a particular look and feel that the market demands. This might require you to reedit and resubmit your stock photos after the trends change.

editing your stock photo

6. Tagging

Your stock photos need to be found amongst all of the other millions of photographs uploaded. Using the proper tags will help your photos be found by potential customers.

When tagging, try to be as thorough as possible so your photo covers a wide footprint. Do not just put ‘dog’, ‘brown’, ‘animal’ as your only tags. The photo will never be found. Try to be as broad and detailed as possible such as: ‘dog’, ‘brown’, ‘animal’, ‘happy’, ‘running’, ‘grass’, ‘tennis ball’, ‘chocolate lab’, ‘playful’, ‘playing’, ‘sunny day’.

If you are struggling with coming up with tags. Research what others have used. I have done this for every stock photograph I have uploaded.

7. Be Honest With Yourself

This one can be tough on people but is something that needs to be asked. Is your photo really worth paying money for? Do you really think that your photograph is good enough that someone would use for a marketing piece?

If your answer is yes, then go ahead and upload.

If your answer is no, that is fine! Instead of being sad, think about how you can improve your photograph. Think how you can go back out, reshoot it, and make it better. This happens to me all of the time! I will go out and take a photograph thinking it is amazing. When I get back home to take a look at it on my computer screen discovering that the photo looks horrendous!

This happens to me all of the time! I will go out and take a photograph thinking it is amazing. When I get back home to take a look at it on my computer screen discovering that the photo looks horrendous!

When in doubt. Ask someone you know and who will be honest with you if they would buy the photo.

stock photo of silly food

No matter how delicious your food was, do not worry about uploading every single dinner you have taken.

Conclusion

One big pattern you should see within this article is research!

Do your research before you decide to take a photo so you can figure out if it is actually in demand or not. Do your research so you take unique photos. Do your research so you can make trendy edits. And finally, do your research so you can make the proper tags.

Not only do these tips apply to stock photography but they will apply to earning money through several different avenues with your photography. Learn about these other avenues to earn more money in my 5 Simple Ways – How to Sell Photos Online article.

Domain Flipping: Make Money Buying and Selling Domain Names

Domain Flipping: Make Money Buying and Selling Domain Names

THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS. PLEASE READ OUR DISCLOSURE BELOW FOR MORE INFO.

There’s an entire underground world on the internet of people buying and selling domain names, it’s called Domain Flipping. Thing is, anyone can do it and make money. Think of it like flipping real estate, but instead, you’re flipping website domains.

What is Domain Flipping?

Similar to real estate flipping. You are flipping website domains. These are the addresses you type into your internet browsers that direct you to the website you’re looking for. These are the addresses that end with (.com), (.org), (.biz), (.net) and so on. In total there are about 280 different domain extensions.

Domain Flipping is buying these addresses for a low price and then selling it for a higher price.

Crazy Domain Flipping Success Stories

If you’re curious about how much people have made while buying and selling domain names or domain flipping, here are some examples of success stories that have hit the news.

Page Howe once owned the domain name “Seniors(.com)”. He originally purchased the domain name for $100,000, which is a lot mind you, most domains sell for $12. He later sold “Seniors(.com)” for $1.8 Million or $1.5 Million after his broker commissions.

In a similar fashion, Page Howe also owned the domain name Guy(.com) and he sold that a few months later for $1 million. If he bought that for the average $12 for a domain name, he made an 83,333% profit buying and selling domain names.

Here are some other crazy sales in the millions

  • Cameras(.com) was sold in 2006 for $1,500,000
  • DataRecovery(.com) was sold in 2008 for $1,659,000
  • Computer(.com) was sold in 2007 for $2,100,000
  • CreditCards(.com) was sold in 2004 for $2,750,000
  • Candy(.com) was sold in 2009 for $3,000,000
  • Toys(.com) was sold in 2009 for $5,100,000
  • Business(.com) was reported to have sold in 1999 for $7,500,000
  • Hotels(.com) was sold in 2001 for $11,000,000

What these success stories have in common

All these success stories have one major thing in common, they are typically one, generic word. There is a HUGE advantage in having a small, easy to remember domain name. If you’re a company that sells cameras, having the domain name Camera(.com) is beneficial. You’re in a prime marketing spot online for people to looking to buy a camera.

Think about these common word website domains as the New York Times Square of real estate in the digital domain world. You’re buying these website domains because people are familiar with those words. The more common a word or phrase is, the more valuable it can be.

Currently, the (.com) domain extensions are the most popular, but like I mentioned. There are 280 different types of domain extensions possible. Most people though associate a web address with a (.com) extension. So I will focus on these.

In the future, other well-known extensions like (.co) will become more popular but we’re not there yet. If you’re looking to buy a domain and sell it, you’ll likely want a (.com) extension.

Here’s How To Start Domain Flipping (I tried it)

Looking at some of these success stories, I wanted to give it a try.

I likely couldn’t find any one-word domain names (most are taken) but I could find a couple popular phrases that have an available domain name.

Here’s how I started.

Step 1 – Find Popular Phrases

To find popular phrases I opened up the Google Keyword Planner. This free tool by Google, allows you to find out how often a word or phrase is searched in Google. A phrase like “Yoga Mat’ has on average, about 10K – 100k monthly searches. That’s A LOT. However a more niche phrase like “Good Yoga Mats” only has 100 – 1K monthly searches. These seem similar, but I wanted to focus on the exact popular phrase that people are searching for.

The more searches your popular phrase gets, the more valuable your exact domain name could be. Try finding popular phrases with the Google Keyword Planner.

Google Keyword Planner for buying and selling domain names

Words/Phrases to consider:

Choose Niches that make money: People will buy a website domain if they think they can use it to make money. So buying popular phrases/words that could be associated with selling something like computers(.com) or hotels(.com) could be used by a company to sell computers or hotel reservations. However, something like Warof1812(.com) may not have the same business potential.

Local Domain Names: Something like TireRepair(.com) may be taken but you should also look into DenverTireRepair(.com). Sometimes local cities have high search rates that may have an available domain. It’s definitely decreasing your audience the more you niche down, but your chances of having an available domain increases.

Future Potential: Think about what’s next in the world and see if you can buy the name first. Do you know rocket powered sneakers are the next big thing? Try buying the domain name RocketPoweredSneakers(.com) and sell it when it’s at the peak of popularity. It’s currently available, I checked, you can buy it now.

Current Craze: When PokémonGo was HUGE last year, my domain flipping friends (Matt of Handshakin.com is one) were all about buying domains like PokeStopNearMe(.com) and other related domains associated with the PokémonGo craziness. It’s like the day trading of the domain world. You’re buying domains during the hype and hope to sell them for a higher price quickly before the hype fades.

Date Names: Do you like to think about future events like the 2030 Olympics? Think about buying the domain 2030OlympicStadium(.com) or other Date Names that could be a hot item to buy when the date gets closer.

Avoid Trademarks: You do need to be careful from a legal standpoint. If you choose a name that too close to a trademark name like McDonaldsBurgersSuck(.com) it could result in a lawsuit that could force you to give them the name for free. In general, I try to avoid buying and selling domain names close to a trademark name.

Step 2 – Filter Popular Phrases with available domain names

Once I did a search of any phrase, I would immediately download the results from the Google Keyword Planner and export the list to excel. Usually, you could only download around 750 results from the Google Keyword Planner at a time.

I would copy and paste those phrases that had above one thousand searches a month into GoDaddy’s Bulk Search Option to see how many of those phrases are available. It’s great you can search up to 500 phrases at a time to see if there is a (.com) domain extension available.

GoDaddy Bulk Search find finding the right domains for Domain Flipping

Now I used GoDaddy because it’s a simple and easy way to search for available domains, but it’s definitely not the only game in town. I use my hosting service, Bluehost, to actually buy my domains, to keep them all in one place.

I repeated Step 1 & Step 2 a lot, like 5 hours on Sunday to find popular phrases that have high monthly searches or future potential.

In the end, I had a small list of available domains with how often they’re searched for online. The longer you do this, the larger your list could be of popular phrases of available domain names to buy.

  • Domain Name
  • IHateCold(.com)
  • ReallyFunnyJoke(.com)
  • ThisExists(.com)
  • FunnyOfficeGifts(.com)
  • BoredDefinition(.com)
  • CharityDefinition(.com)
  • OfficeBoredom(.com)
  • WaysToEarnMoneyFast(.com)
  • ThingsThatAreBlack(.com)
  • Average Monthly Searches
  • 100 – 1k
  • 10k – 100k
  • 100 – 1k
  • 1k – 10k
  • 10k – 100k
  • 10k – 100k
  • 10 – 100
  • 1k – 10k
  • 1k – 10k

Step 3 – Buy your Domain with the most potential

After veting my list for a while, I knew I only had a budget to buy 2 domain names. So I limited my selection to the very best.

The two domain names I bought were:

  1. ReallyGoodJoke.com – The phrase alone “Really Good Joke” has between 10k – 100k average monthly searches, this is the highest searched name I found. Meaning that people are regularly looking for a really good joke. So having the domain name that matches exactly this search, will be very valuable.
  2. IHateCold.com – This phrase only had 100 – 1k monthly searches but I think it’s a phrase that has winter sports gear potential. Typically when people are buying cold weather gear they are thinking “I hate the cold” and if a business capitalizes on that feeling with this domain name, it could be profitable.

Sad Fact: I bought both of these for $11.99 but that’s only a 1 year license to own these. So it’s more like leasing. You have to renew your ownership of domains every year. So holding both of these domain names for 10 years will cost a total of $260.

The two domains I bought for my first Domain Flipping experiment.

Step 4 – Market Your Domain Names for Sale

Just because you bought the domain name, people aren’t magically going to email you offering millions of dollars for your domain. You have to let people know you have it for sale and how it can benefit them.

My next steps:

  1. Parking the Domain Name: When you park a domain name, every time someone enters IHateCold(.com) into their web browsers, a page with a few ads and sales info is shown. So you’re letting the visitor know that the domain is for sale and you make a few cents on the ads displayed for views. There are several domain parking services for when their buying and selling domain names, but I’ll go into that in another post.
  2. Contact Potential Buying Companies: With my domain IHateCold(.com) I will email the marketing teams of some of the large winter clothing companies and let them know of the available domain to buy and a few potential slogans they could use with the domain name. This is a very “I’m here to help you” scenario that I’m curious to see how it plays out. They’ll have to learn about the domain name for sale somehow, right?
  3. Wait for people to contact me: When I bought my two domains, I didn’t pay the extra $12 for Domain Privacy, learn about Domain Privacy here, so anyone can look up the owner of IHateCold(.com) and ReallyFunnyJoke(.com) in the ICANN WHOIS Database. It can tell you whoever owns any website unless that domain owner pays for domain privacy. So if someone was really interested in any of my websites, they could look me up and shoot me an email about their interest.
  4. Auction: There are numerous auction sites where people buy domain names. Just because they didn’t think about the potential name IHateCold(.com) before doesn’t mean when they see it in an auction, they won’t buy it. You may make a few bucks just because you thought of a creative name they didn’t think of.

If you’re looking to Auction a name, here are some popular sites you can auction your new domain name.

Usually, these auction sites take 20% – 30% of the sale. They take so much because they are providing the audience that is actively looking for buying and selling domain names. Otherwise, it’d take forever to sell a name.

Don’t expect to sell your domain right away, it sometimes takes months or years to sell a domain name. Sometimes not at all. Not many people make buying and selling domain names a full time business. For most domain buyers and sellers, it’s a part time job.

A lot of people who are regularly buying and selling domain names have a portfolio of hundreds of domain names. A sale of a website name for $6,000 might sound like a lot, but often times it only pays for their library of domain names they’re paying an annual subscription to hold.

In the end, a domain name is only as valuable as the price a buyer is willing to buy it.

Conclusion on Domain Flipping

We covered a lot, what is domain flipping, some crazy success stories and step by step guide to buying and selling domain names. This is something you could totally start right now as another way to make money.

I’ll be honest I’m just excited to own a couple of website domains, they’re my own little piece of the internet. I’ll likely hold onto these for a couple of years if I can’t sell them right away.

The fun part of this is the potential to discover those hidden gems like hotels(.com) and sell it for $11M down the road. It’s not likely to happen for the domains I have, but I now know the process. I can be on the lookout for website domains in upcoming trends. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Get a free share of stock from Robinhood for New Signups & Referrals

Robinhood App now offers a free share of stock for New Signups & Referrals

Robinhood App the free stock trading app that I’ve used for my portfolio and reviewed last year has a new promotion making some unique headlines. Now for every person you get to sign up with the broker Robinhood, both you and the person who signed up, get a free share of stock.

What Stocks Do You Get?

It appears to be a randomized assortment of stocks from the messages posted on social media. Robinhood states that the stocks range in value from $3 – $150, so you could technically get a share of Apple (AAPL) randomly if you sign up now, or you help a friend signup.

What Are Your Chances of Getting $175?

Depends, how lucky are you? Like REALLY lucky. You have a 1% chance of getting a stock valued at $175. Reading the fine print on their website you’re most likely to get a $2.50-$10 stock.

Here are your chances for a free share of stock when you sign up.

  • 98% of getting a stock valued at $0.50-$10
  • 1% of getting a stock valued at $10-$50
  • 1% of getting a stock valued at $50-$200

Thanks to Social Media, we have an idea what it looks like.

So get all your friends to sign up?

For everyone you get to sign up, both you and your new sign up friend get a free share of stock. All you need to do is use the referral code that Robinhood gives you.

If you’ve been with Robinhood for a while, this is the same referral code you’ve always had. Now there are just perks for you to refer a friend to Robinhood.

Here click on my referral code (http://share.robinhood.com/andrewk48) to see what it looks like. You don’t have to sign up.

However, if you’re someone like Kim Kardashian who can get ONE MILLION people to sign up, you won’t get $1M free shares of stock. You’ll be capped at $500 worth of stocks no matter how many people you refer. Lame I know.

Is this promotion available to anyone with Robinhood?

It started off a few months ago. I was NOT one of the early testers for this. However earlier this week I saw on my Robinhood App that I’m NOW able to this. I’m not sure what changed. If everyone is able to do this now or what (I’m not special). They must have just opened this up to a much wider pool of users.

If you’re curious if this works with your Robinhood referral code. Go to your app and if you can’t find “Free Stocks” in your sub menu. You’re not in the program yet. Maybe send the Robinhood App people a tweet (@RobinhoodApp) and say “Hey, can I join this super cool referral club like @WalletSquirrel”. I’ll retweet for you.

 

Should you feel comfortable referring friends to Robinhood?

If it helps, I refer all my friends to start investing with Robinhood. It’s a great broker to start off with (one I personally use) because there are $0 fees to start buying stocks and all of their securities customers are insured up to $500,000 by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC).

Also keep in mind that Robinhood recently raised $110M in Series C round of fundraising, which they’re valued at $1.3 Billion. Some of the investors working with Robinhood are Google Ventures.

These guys are growing and they have the support of some major players in the game.

This promotion makes Robinhood worth considering

If you’ve ever considered the stock market, you should do some research on Robinhood because not only are you going to get free trades while using their app, you’ll start off with a free share of stock that could be Apple.

This isn’t on our list of ways to make money, but maybe it should be.