Procedure/workflow: How did you organize your time and work for independent projects?
May 2, 2012 1:35 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for anecdotes about how people organized their work to launch a successful website or project independently.

Yes, I have done a search but I am really not finding what I need.

I was a good student in my youth and I was a homemaker and homeschooling mom for a long time. Then I had an entry level job at a Fortune 500 company for five years. None of that really gives me a workflow model for developing my websites. I have several websites I want to develop. I have recently gotten some feedback and other support and implemented some of the suggestions, but I am currently waiting on other people for some things (not a criticism of them) and feeling directionless. Surely there are things I can be working on productively until they get back to me.

My sites grew out of audience interest. Initially they began as emails on a parenting list. After repeating myself two dozen times, I would take one of the better emails and edit it for publication to my website, or sometimes if something got a really big reaction out of people I would edit it and post it. But that wasn't a business model. It wasn't even intended to be. I have to find a means to organize my thoughts, develop my sites, work on not just posting but also promoting and monetizing my work. And I am at a loss as to how to work all that out.

posted by Michele in California to Work & Money (18 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: A List Apart is for web design/development professionals and has years of articles on all topics. Notice tags like Project Management and Workflow.
posted by XMLicious at 1:45 PM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Well, first off, what is your goal? Do you want to make money? Selling things, affiliates, advertising? Do you want the site to bring in followers for other things you do? I am not seeing anywhere in your post why you want to do this. That is the first step.
posted by Vaike at 3:23 PM on May 2, 2012

Response by poster: I want to make money online because I have an incurable medical condition which makes a regular job problematic. I am currently unemployed, thus I have time on my hands to develop my websites. There is ongoing interest in my health site, so another goal is to serve the need behind that interest.
posted by Michele in California at 3:41 PM on May 2, 2012

I am not seeing anywhere in your post why you want to do this.

She did mention wanting to monetize her work in the original post.

First of all, do you have Google Analytics or some other analytics package set up? You need to be familiar with the current traffic behavior on your sites and monitor it continuously, so that you know whether or not your approaches to promotion are paying off.
posted by XMLicious at 4:09 PM on May 2, 2012

Response by poster: I do have google analytics. Any suggestions on how to use the information effectively? I need more traffic. When there is traffic, it makes a little money. The health site I have seems to not be sticky.

posted by Michele in California at 4:11 PM on May 2, 2012

I should emphasize that I'm a technical guy, not a marketing guy, and it's been a couple of years since I've even done anything with Google Analytics.

Are you familiar with "Custom Campaigns"? That's a feature that allows you to hand out slightly different links each time you try a different tactic to promote the site, so that Google can tell the difference and separately track which tactics are resulting in visits.

Concerning broader issues and general approaches to building a business, have you identified your competitors so that you can kind of spy on them to see what they're doing?
posted by XMLicious at 4:31 PM on May 2, 2012

Response by poster: I hate the "competitors" question (and you aren't the first to ask) because I do not know how to answer it. I have a form of cystic fibrosis, as does my 24 year old son. We have gotten ourselves well, which dotors say cannot be done. People don't want my health site to die because it is unique and compelling, yet I do not know how to get traffic, figure out what to talk about, etc. I have other projects I would also like to develop but it is the health site that inspires what online support I do get.

Now that I have some time on my hands, I am trying to figure out how to effectively develop one or more of my projects. But the competitos question stumps me. On the one hand, competitors include doctors, pharmaceutical companies, free email lists, and the CF Foundation. On the other hand, current wisdom says people like me simply do not get well. So in some sense there isn't anyone doing what I am doing.
posted by Michele in California at 5:15 PM on May 2, 2012

Well, if not your competitors, maybe look at web sites doing the same sort of thing: focusing on a particular way to deal with a particular health condition.

Maybe another good step would be to profile and analyze the audience for your web site, to try to get an idea of what you can concretely say about them, how you would promote the site to them, and how you could make money while addressing their interests and needs. Here's a relevant article on A List Apart, for example.
posted by XMLicious at 5:47 PM on May 2, 2012

The most successful people I know who make money off their blogs usually use their blogs as a platform for something else, like their ebooks. Could you package some of your blog content as an ebook to sell to your audience?
posted by Hawk V at 6:55 PM on May 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: XMLicious: Thanks for the article link. I will check it out.

Re ebook: You are at least the third person to suggest that. It is definitely something I have tried to look at and will look at further. If you can recommend any relted resources or articles, that would be great.

posted by Michele in California at 7:09 PM on May 2, 2012

This is a blog I've been linking to often for the past couple of days, but Baggage Reclaim is an example of the kind of blog that makes money off the author's ebooks. I'm not sure how much money she's earning from her books, but judging from the number of comments in her blog, she has quite the following.

Leo Babauta of Zen Habits is another a famous blogger who has made money from his ebooks.

I don't know of any good "how to make money out of your blog by selling ebooks" articles, but finding examples of people who seem to be doing it alright and learning from them is probably your best bet.
posted by Hawk V at 7:27 PM on May 2, 2012

Response by poster: Oh, so sorry to be unclear. I am still looking for more basic info, like how to create an ebook at all. It has been suggested I should turn the archive part of my health site into an ebook. Supposedly it can readily be turned into a pdf. But I am not finding it easy to do.

Anyway, thanks for the reply.
posted by Michele in California at 7:33 PM on May 2, 2012

I looked it up, and apparently about 30,000 people in the US have cystic fibrosis. Even if you can get every single one of them (or a relative of each one) to buy your e-book, you're only making 30,000 sales. This is not an issue that people like Leo Babauta have - he writes on extremely broad reaching general topics that apply to nearly everyone. If he gets one percent of his potential US audience to buy his book, he sells a million copies. If you get one percent of your audience, you get 300 sales. This is an important pout to consider. If your site/book isn't interesting outside of the community around cystic fibrosis, you won't sell very much.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 8:29 PM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Yes, I am aware of those numbers. First, an online audience is not restricted to the U.S. Second, the diagnosis I have is "atypical CF". This is a newer diagnosis. I have seen estimates that there could be a few hundred thousand Americans who qualify for a diagnosis of some form of CF but just have never been ID'd. Third, I learned a lot of what I know from alternative med folks treating other conditions with similar issues. So I have no reason to believe the principles involved apply only to people with CF, much less only to Americans with a formal diagnosis of "classical" CF.

FWIW, I am somewhat reluctant to make an ebook. I am pretty idealistic and would like the information to remain free to the public and find some other means to monetize it. But so far I have not succceeded in monetizing it and multiple people have suggested I do an ebook. If you have any ideas on an effective means to monetize it while keeping the information free to the public, I am all ears

posted by Michele in California at 10:26 AM on May 3, 2012

Could you do something like referrals/promotion of alternative medicine practitioners and allow them to be guest bloggers, etc. for a fee?

Though, I would think there may be legal shoals to skirt the closer you get to making money off of particular treatments or goods or services, no matter what you do.
posted by XMLicious at 11:32 AM on May 3, 2012

Response by poster: I have no idea if I could or not. I am currently trying to get educated about what my options are. I knew someone with a site with traffic who bitched endlessly about it not making money but painted themselves into an idealistic corner, scorning both donations and anything "commercial". I am trying to avoid the same mistake. Unlike that person, I am willing to take donations, plus spurts of recent traffic suggest that I can make some money on ads if I can get traffic.

Maybe for now I need to focus on figuring out how to get traffic. On the upside, I have gotten a smidgeon SEO feedback today. So maybe that will actually help.

posted by Michele in California at 1:41 PM on May 3, 2012

Best answer: For how to make ebooks, I recommend Smashwords for multi-format distribution, and publishing through Amazon directly for being available on Amazon.

You can ask the ebook geeks at the MobileRead forums for technical specifics. These are the places to start digging.

Many bloggers-ebook-authors have most of their material on their blog for free, but the ebook is the well-edited final copy, or a more robust version of the topics they cover in their blog posts.
posted by Hawk V at 3:56 PM on May 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the feedback. Due to my medical condition (and lack of housing), I can be kind of slow to get my act together. I have downloaded Evernote, done some reading, am working on getting some publicity. There is still room for improvement but that is mostly a matter of time, I think.

Take care.
posted by Michele in California at 3:55 PM on June 2, 2012

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