Forget a job - what about going it alone?

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I have been giving serious thought to putting my efforts into building an
independent web development business instead of continuing the job hunt.
Frankly, if I put as much time INTO a business as I am on the job hunt, I'd
probably have a cash flow by now :)

I would like to get your guys' input on it - given that there are people
here on both sides of that situation (freelance / employed), and I would
also like to get some opinions on the state of the competition.

I'm thinking that in doing this, joining the local Chamber of Commerce is a
good idea - especially given that ours has a few thousand members and is one
of the most active in southern California (last member count actually showed
Riverside Chamber ahead of the Los Angeles Chamber in membership)

First, let me preface with a reference to an Inc. article that places
Riverside / San Bernardino as the #2 ranked place in the country for
business: (it's way down the page -
look for Riverside or "Inland Empire")

And the chamber website is here: /

You can look through their site, or I have compiled a collection of links to
people who offer web design services and are Chamber members:

I've divided the list into three sections: The people who are listed under
"Web Site Design", those listed under "Internet / Web Services", and ones
who offer web design but do other stuff (i.e. networking, general business
consulting, etc.)

Frankly, I only see a couple of them who look to be any serious competition
at all. Would you agree with that assessment?

For comparison, here are some samples of my work: / /

If the link isn't broken (this one is being moved off its current server to
one that works better): /

and you guys have seen my "breakout" game: /

I'll be getting a couple others up soon, and OF COURSE I would get a domain
and have my own website, rather than the dslextreme site.

I know you can't assess my personality & determination, or how well I can do
in the business environment. But based on work samples, do you think I have
a chance to make an ok living (call it about $5k/month) against this

TIA for the input, guys!

Re: Forget a job - what about going it alone?

Although it's 2005, the internet is still in its infancy. I have held
my day-job for the past five years only because there has been hardly
any paying customers for web development services. Things are starting
to pick up this year though.

I can't imaging anyone who makes a full-time living of the internet. If
such people exist, please tell me what their secret is?

My advice is to find a day job that you are over-qualified for so you
can work on your business on the job. As long as you are doing your job
well nobody will care or take notice. Life is too short and you have to
take some risks.

Start working for free for non-profits as a volunteer. I find lots of
neat projects through . After a year or two of that
then you can think about developing your own widgets to sell. By then
you will have a good idea of what people want.

This is just what I think, I am sure others will have different

It has taken me three years just to break even with my expenses. So
5k/year is still a year or so down the road. The good news is I know
once I hit 5k/year there will be no stopping the train. In a couple of
years you could easily be a multi-millionaire if you listen to your
customers. You'll never get that working for someone else!

Good luck!

Re: Forget a job - what about going it alone? wrote:

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Going out and making sales.

I actually was doing better as a full-time web developer a couple years ago.
Things have flattened out somewhat.

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Bullshit. Someone taking your advice is likely to get fired. They're not
paying you to do someone else's work, they're paying you to do their work.

-- - Apple Valley, CA - - 888.480.4NET (4638)
Steven J. Sobol, Geek In Charge / / PGP: 0xE3AE35ED

"The wisdom of a fool won't set you free"
     --New Order, "Bizarre Love Triangle"

Re: Forget a job - what about going it alone?

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That's why the bigger companies can employ multiple web developers - they
also have a sales force to do exactly that.

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I've been hearing that, too. But I think as much as business is booming in
the area (that Inc. magazine article was encouraging), this might be a good
time to try to build something like this.

Also, I have made decent money in the past doing this - just not quite that
level. Enough to live on, in California, though...

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Thanks for saying what I was thinking. I've done that once before, and even
though I was better & more efficient at my job than the other guy doing the
same job, I was let go because of my "extracurricular activities". A mistake
I don't care to repeat...

Re: Forget a job - what about going it alone?

 From the relative comfort of the Posted via Supernews,  
new connection to news:alt.www.webmaster and said:

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The question is "Do /you/ think you can turn $5k/month?"  btw:  is that  
turnover or profit?

Seems like a big number for a standing start operation.  Do you have a  
plan?  a real one?

Whatever you do - do something.

Re: Forget a job - what about going it alone?

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Obviously, it's not the starting point - call it a one-year goal.

As for a plan, do you mean an actual official Business Plan, or just a
detailed plan of any sort? ATM, I have a solid general plan & I'm spending
the week working out the details.

Actually, though, I think including a dollar amount was the wrong question
anyways - Allow me to ask a different question, as this is the relevant

Based on the work of my local competitors and the samples you've seen of my
work, where would you say I rank among them? Let's suppose YOU were given
the specific task of choosing the three best designers from the Riverside
Chamber members to recommend for building your company's website (no, you
can't do it yourself for this question :) ), would I be among those three
you recommend? If not, what do I need to do to get into that top 3 list?

Maybe that is a better question to ask...

Re: Forget a job - what about going it alone?

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If you go the freelance route you'll find that your job description is going
to break down to something like 80% sales and only 20% of actual web
design/programming... and that will be the key:  if you can't do sales then
you aren't going to get much (if any) work.

Alot of people that go the freelance route usually come up with one of two
business plans:    "I will set up a portfolio website and join the local
chamber of commerce and then wait for the jobs to roll in" or "I will do
free websites for companies and/or charities until I build up a solid
portfolio and the jobs start coming in"

Neither of those really work.

The first problem is that neither of those really address the main issue,
which is sales.  In the case of the former you are hoping that people will
just call you or find your site on the net and that doesn't happen all to
often.  For the latter you are doing sales, but you are selling people on
"free" work instead of jobs that actually make money... and all finding
"free jobs" does is take away your time to look for and work on paying jobs.

The second problem is that most companies and small business don't care
about your portfolio.  They don't care much about what you did for somebody
else... they want to know what you can do for them and how much its going to
cost.  For all the freelance work I did in the past for small businesses in
my area not once did anybody ever ask to see my portfolio.

The third problem is that the old saying "it takes money to make money"
keeps cropping up.  If you want people to come to you (instead of you having
to go to them) then you need to market and advertise your services and get
your name out there.  This can be expensive and require financial
commitments you might not be able to make at this time... but when you do
make money off a contract you should be funneling some of it back into the
company to go towards advertising and marketing.

Some of my reccomendations:

1) Stop and think about your business.  Once you have a solid idea of your
web design business in mind, seperate your business plan from it and put it
in the context of other businesses.  The business plan/model you've come up
with... would it work if you were a roofing company?  A freelance
    You might be thinking "what I am planning to do is totally different
from installing roofing or carpet for a living" but their needs
(operatioins, making sales, marketing/promoting the business) are pretty
much the same as yours.  You won't find many plumbers, no matter how new
they are to the trade, offering to do work for free to build up a client
base... or just joining the chamber of commerce and hoping somebody is going
to call them.

2) You need to determine where your sales will come from and how you are
going to make them.  If you hate doing things like cold calling businesses
or going door to door to peddle your services then you are going to need to
market and advertise your services.  So you need to figure out what you can
do, what you can afford and what works for you/your area/your customer base.
This means doing some research, and not just the "So I go to Google and type
in...." kind, but actual research: check out your local yellow pages, listen
to ads on the radio, look into bulk email/faxing/mailing services, check out
the classifieds in local papers, look at ads in local papers, etc.

3) If you want to work for free and/or expand your portfolio you should
maybe think about being your own best client.  Got some free time while you
wait for people to get back to you about jobs?  Instead sitting around and
watching TV all day, why not develop some of your own projects that will
allow you to hone your skills, get experience and maybe make a few bucks at
    You don't need to aim for "the next big 'dot com' company" or something
that is going to make you millions overnight... but you can do up a bunch of
small to medium websites and put up ads for other companies (either finding
companies to advertise on your site or using services like adsense or
commision junction) and putting up ads for your own web design services as

Hopefully that helps abit... I will include an excerpt from a previous post
I made about tips for finding work, making sales and marketing/advertising
your business below

Another long winded post by,

From: Re: job
Posted:  November 4, 2004

Here are some of my tips that I hope are better than "work for free!"

1) Go to your local corner store and buy a newspaper, or if you don't have
50 cents go to the library and read a copy there.   Look through the paper
and find businesses that have an ad but no website listed.  Go home and give
them a call and offer a website.
    Newspaper advertising can be very expensive... if they can afford
hundreds or thousands of dollars for an ad that runs for one day, odds are
pretty good they can afford a few bucks for a website.

2) Yellow Pages, Part 1:  Grab a copy of the yellow pages and flip it open
to any section and start calling.  Lets say you can call 10 businesses an
hour... if you put in a 5 day thats 50 businesses.  If you get just 1% of
the people you call interested you should have a job within 2 days

3) Yellow Pages, Part 2: Grab a copy of the yellow pages and flip through
and look for places with a generic email address, like "hotmail", "aol" or
"yahoo".  Give them a call or send them an email... these are places that
have some idea that the internet can be good for their business and maybe
they just need a website now.

4) Yellow Pages, Part 3: Grab a copy of the yellow pages and flip through
and look for places with an ad that is not bigger than a business card, but
not just a plain text listing.  These are going to be smaller businesses
(but not too small) that aren't quite in "the big leagues" yet and probably
looking for an edge on their competition still.

5) Yellow Pages, Part 4: Grab a copy of the yellow pages and flip through
and look for places with big ads and no website listed.  These guys are
obviously doing well (they can afford a big or full page ad, something that
can cost thousands of dollars a month).  They obviously have money and a
$1-2K website is probably not going to dent their advertising budget much,
if at all.

6) Yellow Pages, Part 5: Grab a copy of the yellow pages and flip through
and look for a section with alot of businesses in it.  Research that
business type and learn what you can about it and then make specialised
pitches to the business (instead of just cold calling them up, you are
making a directed sales pitch to them and using their lingo)

7) "It takes money to make money", Part 1: Get an ad in the yellow pages.
Even if its a small one for $5-10 a month its a start.  When I was starting
out I bought a $400/month ad in the yellow pages and the ad worked... it
took about 5 weeks for the ad to be out and then after that we started
getting work regularly from people who saw our ad.

8) "It takes money to make money", Part 2: Try a direct mail campaign...
select a business category and write up a detailed letter/advert for that
field and mail it to the place of business.  This can add up as you have to
pay for stamps (printing is cheap, you can get printing for pennies a page
at you local Staples or Kinko's).  But for around $100 you should be able to
mail about 200 businesses... if you get just 1 to bite and sign you on then
you just paid for the mailout and are going to make a few bucks on the side.

9) "It takes money to make money", Part 3: If you have a few bucks to spend
right now you can also do a direct fax/email campaign.  There are quite a
few companies out there and most of them maintain detailed lists for sending
out junk emails and junk faxes... the costs typically run around $500-1000
for this, but it does get your message out there to alot of businesses.
    And yes, there are alot of people who will tell you that doing this can
be a bad thing because it can piss people off and all that... but one way to
look at it is:  If you send a junk fax to 1000 restaurants in your area and
they don't hire you for your service, have you really lost out on anything?
They aren't going to bar you from coming in... you aren't "BIG" enough so
that word of mouth badmouthing isn't going to kill your business... and you
are a virtual business, so if you do get some flack for this you just have
to start promoting a new URL (technically you could even set up a
temporary website to handle calls/contact from a campaign like
this... if your company is "ABC Websites" and you have a solid name
in the community and a yellow pages ad you can spend $10 on a
domain and set up "CBA Websites" where the content mirrors your main
site's content with just a change in the company nameso that if you lose
the domain name or get some backlash it won't affect your 'real' business
site or its reputation.)

10) "It takes money to make money", Part 4: Be creative and look for other
things you can do... example: I do an online ordering system for
restaurants... I built the system and now I sell it.  Next year I am going
to a convention for pizzaria owners across the USA... The cost for a booth
at the tradeshow part of the convention is only $1200 and they are expecting
up to 20,000 owners to show up for this thing... in other words, if I get
0.01% (1/100th of a percent) of attendees to signup for my system, the
convention will have pretty much paid for itself.

11) Build something and market it to your target market.  When I started off
in web design I was doing websites for anybody who came along... I went
through the phone book and picked out what looked like a very competitive
market: "Catering".  I cold called up about 20 businesses and for the most
part got the same response from each one: they were interested in an online
booking/menu system, but they didn't really want to pay $2500 for it, or
couldn't afford it.
    So, nobody would hire me to build the system... so I hired myself and
built it.  When it was done, I teamed up with a friend who does graphic
design and then I went out and phoned up all the companies that said no
before and told them "how would you like that system I mentioned before...
for only $500?".  I'd sell the system I built, my partner would slap a
template over it customized for the business (their logo, colors, etc) and
we split the $500 even.  Took about a month and we'd sold 60 of them to
catering companies in both Canada and the US (again, its the day and age of
the internet, who says we have to stick to our market?)
[My big goof here was that we didn't host the sites... we sent everybody to
this one hosting company in Vancouver who gave us $20 for each business we
signed up to their service... which they then charged them $10 a month
hosting... in other words we made about $15,000 off selling the system, but
missed out on $600/mo hosting by not doing a reseller account up somewhere
or hosting them ourselves]
    Over the years I was making alot more doing this (building a site
engine) and selling it cheap than I was freelancing (its alot easier to sell
a site for $500 than it is for $5000... you just have to be able to sell the
$500 to 10 people to make your $5000).  Some of the things I did was:
catering system (they can put menus and prices up, book events, etc),
courier company system (they can take online pickup orders, track orders,
bill users, etc), hotel booking system (book and reserve rooms, check
rates), travel agent system (didn't have online booking... instead the
agents could go in to the admin section and set up prices, deals, discounts
and specials every day as prices change and link to the site from their
newspaper and yellowpages ads).  Eventually I settled on "Online Ordering
System for Restaurants" and thats pretty much all I do nowadays (there is
1.3 Million restaurants in North America... that is a HUGE potential
customer base)

Re: Forget a job - what about going it alone?

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Understood going it. Only 80% sales, though? I was expecting more like 90%

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You don't just join the chamber - you get out & network. Our chamber has at
least two meetings every week that are networking oppurtunities, as well as
a bunch of committees & the like. For Chamber membership to work, you get
involved in those & get out there so that people KNOW you. People tend to do
business with those they know, rather than strangers, if the option is

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OK - I get that. The key, though, is in not assuming people are going to
come to you - you have to go out to them.

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I find that rather interesting, actually. I can't imagine hiring anyone
without seeing a sample of what they've done/can do.

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I sure hope I didn't give the impression that I thought that. Honestly, I
made a decent living doing video production for some time, and was doing
some web design along with that. I had to get out of it when some setbacks
forced me to sell my equipment - and it's a LOT more expensive to be
competitive with video production than with web design :)


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That's a thought...

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My wife used to be an office manager - she feels that going by in person &
dropping off a brochure is more likely to get the attention - OTW, I'm
starting now...

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My only problem with this is wouldn't it be considered spam to send them an
unsolicited email offering services like that?


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Just a note on direct fax: It is a violation of the Federal
Telecommunications Act & you can be subject to civil penalties of $500 per
fax sent if you send unsolicited faxes. That $500 can go up to $1500 if it
can be shown that you "intentionally" sent the fax.

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But if ten of those restaurants decide to sue you, you're out up to $15,000

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I like that idea - and I have enough knowledge of a couple different
industries to do just that. I'll let you know how it turns out!

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I've thought about doing just that sort of thing. Sounds like it's time to
stop thinking about it!

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Do you recommend hosting your clients (or at least HANDLING their hosting)
yourself in general? Again - for the same reason...

BTW - thanks for the ideas - I'm going to go through them seriously & see
what I can make work.

Re: Forget a job - what about going it alone?

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Alot of people say more like 90%... I'm not trying to be exact, ofcourse,
but just so many people come through here thinking that "freelance web
design" is 99% webdesign and programming and 1% goofing off and forget about
the sales aspect of it all.  Infact, most web design schools never even
really touch upon the whole sales thing... they show you how to make web
pages and how build a database and how to program a dynamic page... but they
never say anything about how you are going to get the jobs.

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This along with what you said after this say that you have a good idea of
what you are doing.  What I was more talking about was an "in general"
comment.  I knew quite a few web designers who had the motto of "build a
portfolio site and the jobs will come" and then 3 months later they were
broke and working at McDonald's or StarBucks and whining about how the IT
market was dead while I had more jobs than I could deal with.  Same applied
to the Chamber of Commerce (or Board of Trade) concept... they thought all
they had to do was join the chamber and then sit at home and watch tv and
eat chips all day and wait for those calls to roll in.

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In some cases this does come up... I guess it depends on who you are talking
to.  When I was doing mostly freelance I was pretty much looking for anybody
who would hire me and so most of them just cared about the price.

You are going to find alot of variety out there in clients... to some they
will see your work as "nothing" and at no cost to you... so they might say
"build me a website" and then after a week they do the "I changed my mind...
oh well I guess its all ok, you aren't out anything" because they don't
value your time that you've put into the job.  Others will see you as they
do the guy they hired to install carpet or shelving in their store:  they
assume you know what you are doing and so hire you based on your word and
how they feel about you after they've met you (much like they would a carpet
installer... they don't ask "so who else have you installed carpet for?  do
you have photos of your work?")

I guess I shouldn't really say "no portfolio was needed" because usually
what I would do is meet up with somebody and often I would do a mockup to
show them what their site would look like and then we would sit down and
talk about it... .that doesn't show them what I had done in the past, but
more shows them what I can do for them... and is similar in concept to the

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Like I was saying above... my comment was an "in general" comment.  You'd be
surprised at some of the people that come through here with the idea that
web design is 1% perspiration and 99% buying a nerf gun.

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Most ISPs label spam as bulk and unsolicited email.  If you send a single
email out a person and the email is tailored to them then most ISPs, and
customers, should have no problem with this.

Instead of saying "Get a website now!" you could say something more along
the lines of explaining who you are, why you are emailing them, and what you
can do for them.  So instead of just "get a website!" you could go into more
detail and explain what you can do for them *specifically* and explain your
services and how it might be of benefit to their business.

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In the US thats true.  I'm up in Canada and so US laws don't apply (which is
why there are so many bulk fax companies that send to the US located up
here... same with email).

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Whether you are big or small I would reccomend you have some hand in the

You might start off with just a reseller account and then move up to your
own server and then full on doing your own hosting, depending on how many
clients you have (or end up with).

The key here is that it all adds up in time... Using numbers just pulled out
of the air for easy math:  say you had a reseller account that you had to
pay $5 per month for each website you host and you had 25 clients that you
charge $15 per month to host their sites... that means you are billing your
customers $375 per month in hosting and paying $125 to the hosting company
each month... netting you a profit of $250 per month for doing almost
nothing (the hosting company does most of the work like looking after the
servers, etc).  If you balooned up to 100 clients you might instead move to
getting your own server set up with a host... isntead of paying $5 per
website you would pay one flat fee of maybe $200 a month (as an example) at
which point you would be billing your clients $1500 a month and paying the
host $200 a month and netting $1300 a month in profit (basically each month
you make the equivelant of a small web job for doing almost nothing)

Off the start doing the odd job here and there it might take awhile to get
up to 100 sites... but if you did some kind of web package that you were
reselling cheap it might take only a few months to get to that point. Doing
that you make alot less "per job" but you make more in the long run off the
hosting aspect of the website (thats the whole business model for my online
ordering for restaurants system I do... I don't care so much about the setup
fee or that I am selling it for alot less than what its work... its all
about getting them up on the system where I can slowly make a few bucks off
them each month)


Re: Forget a job - what about going it alone?

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Just for clarification - if a US-based company hires a Canadian company to
send bulk faxes on their behalf, the US company can still be held liable.
Under the law, both the actual sender and the beneficiary (the company that
hires an intermediate sender) are liable.

And that's per fax, BTW, so if you sent 5 unsolicited faxes to the same
company, you could be sued for $7500 - and they could file a separate case
for each one...

Re: Forget a job - what about going it alone?

Auggie wrote:

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Only 1% goofing off? Man, are they fools! I spend far too much of my
time goofing off (reading slashdot, posting to usenet, checking my
account balance online, playing with my 5 month old son...)

I'm pretty lucky myself though; I have to do virtually no sales work
because I generally get excellent referrals from people and they lead
to mostly larger projects and ongoing relationships.

[rest of message snipped]

Chris Hope | |

Re: Forget a job - what about going it alone?

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Of course, the goal is to get to that point - where you get most, if not
all, of your new business from referrals. When I was doing well in the video
business, I did practically NO marketing - it was all referral.

Re: Forget a job - what about going it alone?

On Thu, 02 Jun 2005 09:18:13 +1200, Chris Hope

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Playing with a 5 month old is NOT goofing off!  It's the most
productive use of your time you will ever find.


Re: Forget a job - what about going it alone?

MGW wrote:

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I wouldn't disagree with you there, and having a child has been the most
rewarding thing I have ever experienced in my life.

Chris Hope | |

Re: Forget a job - what about going it alone?

On Thu, 02 Jun 2005 11:45:32 +1200, Chris Hope

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And the best part of working from home is the time you get to spend
with your child!  Even if I worked with my door closed, I'd hear if
something fun was going on in the other room and come out to see what
it was and join in.  And if you think the first 5 months have been
fun, just wait - it keeps getting better :-)


Re: Forget a job - what about going it alone?

MGW wrote:

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I feel so lucky compared to most dads who have to go to work somewhere
else and miss out on so much stuff when their babies are growing up.
I'm exactly like you - I hear something happening and go out and see
what's going on :)

Chris Hope | |

Re: Forget a job - what about going it alone?

On Thu, 2 Jun 2005, Chris Hope wrote:

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OK, he may be a bit too young for it now, but in a couple of years....

One Canadian author (actually, more of a story teller who has his stories
in print) whose books are very popular with children (of all ages[1]) is
Robert Munsch.  His books include _The_Paper_Bag_Princess_ which turns
clichéd fairy tales upside down (instead of the Prince using brawn to
rescue the Princess, the Princess uses her brain to rescue the Prince
and instead of them getting married and living happily ever after,
*[DELETED DUE TO SPOILAGE]*) and _Zoom!_ about a little girl who gets a
new power wheelchair to try out and ends up getting a ticket for speeding.

Besides providing information on ordering his books in printed form,
his web site at: /
also includes links for downloading audio files of him telling his
stories.  It might be worthwhile to grab these audio files now (in case
the author gets hit by a drunk driver next month or something and the
site disappears).  I'm sure your son will love them when he gets older.
(You might love them now.  Remember, "Growing older is mandatory; growing
up is optional.")

[1] I sometimes tell people that I'm "sixty-three, going on twelve" or,
    when talking about Robert Munsch's books, "sixty-three, going on six".
Can you Change:    N  O  V  A  Halifax     to    N  O  V  A  Halifax :)
                  :)  S  C  O  T  I  A  .           S  C  O  T  I  A  .
in 34 moves?  Try
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Re: Forget a job - what about going it alone?

Norman L. DeForest wrote:

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There's a second hand clothes store in my city called the Paper Bag
Princess and I always wondered where they got the name from. They even
have a story drawn out on the walls where she saves the prince. And
there I was thinking they'd made it all up themselves...

Chris Hope | |

Re: Forget a job - what about going it alone?

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I was about to congratulate you on giving out some great advice till I
hit this part. Junk faxes and spam? Shame on you.

Re: Forget a job - what about going it alone?

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I know alot of people, especially in these parts, don't like the whole
concept of spam and junk mail and such... but I included it because it does
work and for some businesses it might be the only way they can advertise and
market their service in a cost effective manner.

My personal views on spam is that there is really 2 distinct kinds: the bulk
and generic stuff sent to everybody (IE: "Buy prescription drugs online!")
and the stuff sent to business as a legitimate advertisement of
goods/services (IE: sending an email to businesses (not an individual or
just using a generic bulk mailing list) advertising an ecommerce solution
for their static website).

And no, not everybody shares my views on bulk emailing, but from what I have
found is that the business community is alot more receptive to
advertisements for goods/services they could actually use than the average
joe is for a "Buy Viagra!" email sent to 5 million people.

But it might make more sense if we look at it like a problem I have here:

I do online ordering for restaurants... there is around 1,000,000
restaurants in the US and Canada... how can I promote my service to these
restaurants in an efficient and cost effective manner?

1) Advertise in a trade magazine.
    The problem here is there aren't that many trade magazines out there and
the ones that do exist often charge quite abit for ad space.  Even a small
ad can cost $750-1000 for a single run per 5,000 circulation and usually
your ad ends up in a page clumped with other ads.

2) Call them on the phone.
    Though it might sound nice and personal this isn't a viable option.
Problem is you can't call during busy/peak times at the restaurant (11am to
2pm... 5pm to 8pm)... then when you factor in long distance charges and the
time and manpower involved this option isn't feasible.

3) Send information in the mail.
    I've sent out nice glossy brochures in the mail before (see below) the
problem is that unless you do an enormous print and mailing the costs can be
quite high on a "per unit" basis (to print and mail 250 brochures could cost
you $300-400 or more... with the price going down the more you do... but
still one of the more expensive options) and there is no guarantee anybody
actually gets it or reads it for the cost you are putting into it.

4) Bulk fax.
    Bulk faxing can be cheap... with prices as low as $100-300 to fax 10,000
businesses.  The biggest problem here is that it costs them money (fax toner
and paper) to receive the fax and so chances are you'll get more complaints

5) Conventions.
    Personally I like going to conventions... the biggest problem is that
they are very expensive (flying there, hotel costs, booth costs, promotional
product you are giving away, staff costs (if any), etc) and usually will
cost thousands of dolllars and you really have no idea until after its done
how many people will show up, if anybody will be interested in your service
or even how the organizers run the trade show part of the convention.

6) Bulk email.
    Bulk email is the cheapest way to go...  free if you research your own
email list you don't have to buy one and can pretty much do it from your own
email services (depending on the ISP).  If you use a bulk emailing service
it is still a very cheap way to get your ad out there.  The problem here is
that people don't like getting spam and you might get people complaining to
you or your ISP.

Thats whats coming off the top of my head... if you have any more
suggestions let me know.

I have used all of the above methods for marketing/promoting my service to
restaurant owners...  these are the results I've had with them:

1) Advertise in a trade magazine.
    I took out a business card sized ad in a trade magazine that was
published quarterly.  The ad garnered a couple of calls and resulted in 1
sale.  Cost to run the ad: $650.  With this ad, 1 restaurant signed up for
the service.

2) Call them on the phone.
    In the early days this was our bread and butter.  We made the sales
pitch on the phone and would even go to the restaurants to demo the system
live and in person.  Cost to phone people: $0.  Over 120 restaurants signed
up for the service using this method.
    This method did work, but was very time consuming (calling them, waiting
on call backs, doing live demonstrations, etc) and we've stopped doing it
for those reasons.

3) Send information in the mail.
    Did up a nice little 10 page booklet with screenshots and everything.
Mailed these out to almost 450 restaurants.  Cost to print and mail the
booklets: $800.  0 restaurants signed up for my service using this method.
    We had one guy call and say he was interested, but he never did sign up
no matter how much we prodded him or what we offered him for a deal.

4) Bulk fax.
    I sent out bulk faxes using my own fax lists and from my home phone.
Our one page ad was faxed to 750 restaurants.  Cost to send the faxes: $21
(long distance charges).  12 restaurants signed up for the service using
this method.
    Number of people that called to lodge a complaint: 1.  Number of people
who called to say "please remove me from your fax list": 2

5) Conventions.
    In the past 12 months I've been to 1 major convention and 2 smaller
    The major convention was in Las Vegas and had 2,500 attendees and ran
for 5 days.  Total cost for the convention (including hotel, airfare, booth,
etc): $19,000+.  We signed up around 430 restaurants at the convention.
    Alternativly... I went to a small convention in California last fall
with about 500 attendees and it ran for 2 days.  Total cost for the
convention: $7,000.  45 restaurants signed up at this convention.
    I also went to a conventon in Quebec earlier this year with about 350
attendees and it ran for 2 days.  Total cost for the convention: $3000.  2
restaurants signed up at this convention.

6) Bulk email.
    About 2 weeks ago I sent out bulk email ads (or "spam" if you prefer) to
175 restaurant owners.  Out of this 84 restaurants signed up to the service
so far.  Cost to send the bulk email: $0.  Number of reports to "SpamCop":
0.  Number of people who emailed us back to ask not to be spammed again or
to complain about our email: 0.
    In January... I sent out a spam email to a single restaurant owner.  Out
of that he signed up all 428 of his restaurants to my service.
    Last August/September I sent out a bulk email ad/spam to 5,000
restaurant owners.  Out of that I had 1,700 restaurants sign up to the
service.  Cost to send the bulk email was $500.  Number of complaints to
"SpamCop": 1.  Number of complaints sent directly to us: 1.  Number of
people who emailed us asking "who are you guys?": 1.

The magazine ad and direct mail campaign were total busts, but the others
all worked to some degree... with the bulk emails working the best (my
travel mug/pen set promotion was the worst move I made... cost me over
$3,000 and I got 1 restaurant out of it).

Yes... people hate spam.  But it works.  I'm not going to waste money
advertising in trade magazines and hoping people sign up... I'm not going to
spend $1,000,000 to send a flyer for my service to every restaurant in North
America...  and it would take 1,000 people one month to call every
restaurant in North America up, so I'm not going to do that either.

Instead I have paid $500 to do another bulk email campaign to 11,000+
restaurant owners and that goes out in the next 7-10 days.
The math is pretty simple:  if I get 4 restaurants to sign up I will make
that $500 cost back just in the setup fees I charge.  If 1 restaurant signs
up I will make that $500 back in about 8-10 months in what I charge in
monthly and transaction fees.

So I have to stand by what I said... yes, people hate spam and spamming can
get you a hostile result and draw the ire of many (especially around here
and in the web design community in general) but it does work and is often
the most cost effective.  I'd say take a look at other newsgroups: around
here if somebody posts an ad (or even has a long signature in an OT post)
they can get alot of heat about it or even a report to SpamCop for their
posts... but in other groups people treat ads differently and in some they
are welcomed (and I don't just mean the .ads groups) if they are informative
and on topic (an ad for drugs or porn gets the same results no matter where
you go... email or usenet)

That original post I made is a few months old... maybe I'll go in there and
touch up the whole "spam" and "junk fax" section abit for the next time I
haul it out.


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