Start an Online Advertising Agency?

There are times when idea people get in their own way. Or, they at least need to take a step back and see what it is they really are thinking. Pulling it all together, from a distance. This happens to me. This has happened to me, today.

I’ve been making a web directory. But, I keep changing my mind about details, adjusting for new ideas and just generally fumbling around – knowing what I want but not getting it done.

Then, while looking at another site, I understood that I’ve been misleading myself. I don’t want a web directory, I want an online advertising agency. I want to be my own public relations business, online.

The funny thing is… although I feel like a fraud, I actually do have the background for it. Corporate Communications (my college education) included PR, writing and publishing. In actual experience I have been online since 1996 building my own sites, maintaining, managing, promoting, writing and publishing other sites. I’ve been doing it all, all along. But, mostly for myself or as a contracted employee (contributor) for others.

Am I rushing into this? Quite likely, I tend to jump in when I think I have a good idea, before I have the plan all sorted out.

But, it does feel right. It is what I’ve been trying to build without really putting a label on it.

From Entrepreneur:

Online Advertising Agency

Startup Costs: Under $2,000
Home Based: Can be operated from home.
Part Time: Can be operated part-time.
Franchises Available? No
Online Operation? Yes

Not only will you be providing a valuable service for site visitors, but you will also be establishing your own potentially successful business. The business concept is very straightforward. Start by designing a website that features information about various advertising mediums including rates, contact information and any special promotions or discounts in terms of advertising rates. Business owners who visit the site simply locate the type of advertising that suits their marketing program and budgets. Income is earned by charging the advertising companies a fee to be listed on the site, as well as by selling advertising space featured on the site.

I think I have start up costs covered, one way or another. I know how to put things together, free, online. I’ve been working that way for twenty years.

Resources for Starting an Online Advertising Agency:

I’d start with an ad exchange. I already have all the links saved to become a directory. This would be a simple way to build the directory, see which sites want to be part of exchanging ads (which would help me eliminate those who are not active, don’t want to mess with code to make ads for themselves, etc.). The sites which want to exchange ads would have a fancier spot in the directory of links. I can give them an image, a larger description, and so on. All of that I can do with what I have now.

The next step would be finding outside advertisers from related businesses which would pay for ads (without being part of the ad exchange network). I’m not really confident/ bold when it comes to approaching people to ask for anything, but it could be done. I might even find someone to help me at that point.

That’s how I see it, for myself.

I do have the niche – urban exploration.

I have found a few ad exchange software possibilities, for free, just having a quick look this afternoon. I may be missing something but I am wondering where the people at Entrepreneur found a need for $2,000 start up costs? I guess I will find out along the way.

Software (RTB – Real-Time Bidder):

How to Write Your Own Advice Column

Writing an advice column sounds fun and easy. Until you think about being responsible for the thoughts and actions of the person who takes your advice. Then it gets a little scary. None of us are omnipotent, all knowing. After all, how often do you take your own advice?

If you want to be an advice writer (and you don’t have some kind of background in therapy, psychology or anything else to particularly give you credentials) you can break into advice writing by doing it yourself. Start your own advice column.

Writing your own advice column will take a lot of promotion of yourself and the column you write. Be prepared to put yourself out there, especially if you tend to be the quiet type versus the social butterfly. If you really have a hard time with the social side then round up a friend to be your PR (public relations) person. You’re going to need friends to get you started in other ways too. Who do you think will be writing those first letters for your advice?

Finding a Niche for your Advice Column

These days, when there are already lots of advice columnists, you will need something to make yourself different. This can be your witty sense of humour, but it might be simpler to start out with a theme. I especially like the idea which started Dead Advice (though the site is now dormant).

Think about your own background, the things which interest you and consider a topic which you can sustain over a long time. Something you can keep fresh and have new opinions and ideas about for a long lasting column. You might focus on people fresh from divorce – if you have experience in that area. You might focus on new Mothers – if you have been a new Mother yourself. You might give advice to Grandparents, from the perspective of a new Mother.

Perhaps your advice is less personal and intimate, career oriented or more about how to do things than writing about feelings and emotions. You might write advice for people who work in office cubicles, customer service, online craft sellers, freelance writers, musicians, inventors, dog lovers, figure skaters, tourists, fast food vendors, beauty school drop-outs, any career, business or hobby. There are endless genres and topics and circles of people which you would be suitable to give advice.

If you really aren’t sure what niche you could fill, think about the last time you gave someone advice. Who did you give the advice to? What was the situation? What made you feel competent to give the advice you gave at the time?

When Giving Advice…

Read the question carefully, more than once. Understand what is really being asked under the emotions, the frustration or negative feelings expressed. As you begin your reply work in the original question, repeating back the information in order to make clear communication.

Stay focused on the main question, the point of the advice asked for. Don’t wander off topic into your own personal issues or agenda. You don’t need to judge your readers, lecture them or over explain things and make them feel belittled or stupid. Give them options for moving forward, whatever the problem may have been. Give them empathy and ideas, stay optimistic rather than discouraging them.

Give the reader different view points, a fresh perspective and help them see solutions which they may have been too close to the issue to see themselves. Show your readers the skills they have (and may have forgotten, or taken for granted) which could help solve the problem. Often people just need someone telling them to focus on what they do have, rather than what they don’t have. To look for what they want to find, rather than focusing on the things they don’t like.

If you don’t know the answer, or the question is somehow more than you can handle, don’t just answer it anyway, hoping for the best. Write back to the reader, explain that they are asking too much from an advice column but also, offer them other resources where they can get trained/ skilled help.

Get Writing It!

When you know what you are going to write, it’s time to decide how you will write it. This is the same for any writer in any topic. Should you choose a newsletter, a weblog? What about a podcast? Maybe you want to create a zine (an independent print publication)? The format should be something that will work for you. Consider the ups and downs of each and decide which of them you can work with and distribute to readers/ listeners.

At first you will have to begin your advice column with letters you write yourself for advice, or get family and friends to take this seriously and write the letters for you. Unless you are trying to write a humourous advice column, don’t start out with tacky, soap opera sounding advice requests. Begin as you mean to go on, as they say.

As you answer the advice you will find your voice, your tone, your personality and your perspective. Try at least a few practice letters before you begin to publish anything. Having your niche isn’t enough, now you need to find your style too. Are you practical and sensible, witty, sharp, or even abrasive? Is your column going to be snarky, for the point of making fun of people or genuine and sincere?

Whatever voice and style you choose, make sure you can maintain it for the long haul. You also want to develop loyal readers. People who will make up your fan base and stick with you each week, or as often as you publish. In order to find readers who stick with you and believe in your advice you need to be both visible and predictable as a publisher. Pick a publishing schedule and stick to it. If you need to be away, announce it first and give a return date. Answer comments from readers on your posts or in your forums, contact forms, etc. Try to answer every reader comment in less than a week and give readers an expected response time when they leave comments. Respond quickly and give them the feeling of having your personal attention and being someone you wanted to reply to.

Don’t forget to actually ask readers to send in their questions for your advice. Never assume people will understand this without being given instructions. Use a contact form in your blog for people to send you questions. Or, give them an email address which you have created just for the advice column. (You can set up a new email address on Gmail or another web account for free). Give instructions for asking advice in the top of the newsletter/ site and give the instructions again at the end of your site/ newsletter. (Don’t use the same text – write it differently for people who didn’t understand the first instructions for whatever reason).

Treat your readers well, promote your column and give good, authentic advice from a real human being – those are the important things for publishing your own advice column. Good luck and have fun with it.

28 Ideas to Avoid Blog Burnout: Keep it Fresh

Ideas to Save You from Blogging Burn Out

Burnout happens when we have too much to do, too much we are trying to do and we lose that time we need to recharge our own batteries. The best way to help yourself is to bring back the creative impulse and inspiration which you started out with. Also, to realize you have limits and can’t do everything all the time.

  • Set priorities. Decide what you really want to work on and what you can set aside or just don’t have the time and energy to work on.
  • Focus on what you get back (in return) from the work you are doing. What gives you the most satisfaction, or a decent pay in money? Limit anything that doesn’t give you something back and get rid of things that are just draining you.
  • Take a break, a real break. Some bloggers are working more than full time hours, every day of the week. No wonder they get burnt out.
  • Put time into offline activities. Not only do you recharge your batteries with a change of scenery but you will pick up all kinds of ideas and new topics to write about.
  • Change of format. If you tend to work with mainly text make a change and work with images. Create a post with hand drawn doodles or a digital photograph you took yourself.
  • Treat yourself to a new blog layout. Put your sidebar on the other side of the blog. It sounds simple and silly but you see your site in a new way with one small change.
  • Go for a bigger blog change and create a new header. Put your own face on it.
  • Give yourself a new blog theme, even a paid/ premium theme if you can spare the cost.
  • Rework all your categories and/ tags. Whittle them down to just a few. Free yourself from category and tag clutter.
  • Consider discontinuing extra blogs if you have more than one. Or, start a spin-off blog to post extra content to but give yourself an easy posting schedule.
  • Use scheduled posts so you can keep a few posts ready to publish those days you want to get away from the computer.
  • Exchange guest posts with another blogger you trust to deliver great content.
  • Brainstorm for new topic and side theme ideas relevant to your blog. Stay focused but combine ideas to create something new.
  • Use online forums and email lists to keep in touch with others who share your interests and will (more than likely) give you new and fresh ideas to write about.
  • Plan a series of posts on a theme. Give yourself a bigger project which gives you a goal to work towards.
  • Writers often keep an idea journal, a way to store ideas at the time you have them.
  • Get to bed at a regular time, keep a schedule you can live with.
  • Come up with a new plan for promoting your blog. Be your own PR person – don’t think like a blogger or SEO guru.
  • If you have a tight posting schedule, reconsider. Write a longer post with more information, something you actually feel is worth the time you take to write it. Give yourself quality to sign your name to rather than quantity.
  • Let yourself have the occasional personal day, and don’t feel you owe anyone an explanation.
  • Review other blogs. What are other bloggers doing right or what could they improve on. Offer them your thoughts, in a constructive feedback way.
  • Pick someone relevant and interesting to interview for your blog.
  • Look over your blog stats, what are the type of posts people are reading? Could you find a new area to branch out into from your blog statistics?
  • Change your blogging style to try get more comments and feedback from readers. Find out what works for other bloggers who get a lot of comments.
  • Don’t try to be perfect. You can always come back to a post and rewrite it, revise it, add to it or link to it as your original thoughts on the topic when you write a new post.
  • Write several short blog posts. Just share a quick idea or thought and don’t put a lot of time into elaborating on it.
  • Follow readers who comment in your blog. See what they are writing about and leave them comments too.
  • Take a day to immerse yourself in the topic you blog about. Use Google search, your local library, and any other sources for information and grab every nugget of new information you can.

 

Know What Type of Blogger you Are

Figure out what type of blogger you are and work with it.

Are you blogging to create something, to be informative, or do you want to find fame and fortune?

Know what you want to get out of blogging and go back to that. Don’t try to change who you are to suit your blog.

Write a mission statement for your blog and keep that in mind when you make decisions about what you will post and why you will post it. This also works for other aspects of your blog such as the format you use, the amount and type of ads you will run, the layout of the blog and how much navigation and social networking you will use.

Home Staging as a Career

Home staging also known as home redesigning and real estate enhancement is about setting up a home to appeal to real estate buyers. The home staging service can be used by home builders, real estate agents or the individual home owner. Home staging is like public relations for the home selling market.

Home staging plays up the good features, adds some overall polish, curb appeal and downplays the less appealing or unattractive features. Unlike interior decorating, the home stager wants to make the house appeal to new buyers with all sorts of styles and preferences. Part of that is making the home neutral, removing signs of the current owner so that a new owner feels they could just step into the home and belong there right away.

Staging a home involves knowing current design styles and elements, organizing, decluttering, cleaning and repairs. Then you get into staging each room by rearranging furniture, adding accessories like paintings, flowers or throw pillows. Overall, the staging gives the home an ambience, including smell and other details people will take for granted or only notice when they are not done well. Before the job is done, the outside needs to be considered, the landscaping and the first impression the house gives before anyone even gets inside. The idea isn’t to go out and buy new furniture or begin a home renovation, instead home staging takes what is already there and makes it work.

The ups and downs of the real estate market are an important issue to anyone working in the housing industry, including those in home staging. Are homes selling? If sales are quick and easy a home stager will have to work harder to find clients or find those who really need the service. If home sales slow down there will be a demand for home staging, landscaping, renovating and other such services. If home sales trickle down there may be a bigger need for home staging services but the problem will be finding homes which are likely to sell and give the home stager credit for a job well done. In bad times home staging may not be the best career. Especially, if the home stager (trying to win a job or just be helpful) agrees to take payment when the house sells rather than when the job is done.

Resources:
The International Association of Home Staging Professionals
Professional Stagers Network Association
Canadian Certified Staging Professionals

Canoe.ca: Home Stagers Set the Scene

Home staging guru Barb Schwarz coined the term “home staging” from her background in theatre. The house, she reasons, is a stage upon which an ASP arranges the right props — furniture, artwork, sounds and scents — to engage an audience. The critics are the real estate agents and the audience is the buyers.

FabJob: Become a Home Stager
Entrepreneur: Start a Home Redesign Business
About.com: Home Buying/Selling: Home Staging and Staging a House
Househunting.ca: Home Staging Mistakes

How to Ask for What you Want

This is quoted from the John Chow blog:

It’s All About Posture and Control

In the PR business, perception is everything and service will always go to the site or blog that the PR rep perceived as better for the show. If you come across as unsure of yourself or on the verge of begging, you can bet your bottom dollar you won’t be getting an invite. The last thing a PR rep wants to deal with is an inexperienced newbie at her show.

It’s all about posture and control. If you wanted to be treated like a somebody, then you have act like a somebody. While it might seem the best way to go about asking for something is to be really nice about it, in real life, being nice usually puts you in last place. This is not to say that you should be a mean bitch. That would be stupid. What it does mean is you should project an image of good posture and control.

When I want something, I assume the position that I am going to get it. Instead of asking, can you, would you or could you, I like to say I require, send it to, put the following names on the party list. People like to see confidences. It’s a natural magnate. An email that display it will always be put in front of an email that is timid.

I do everything wrong when I ask for something in a professional situation. I start by feeling I am asking for a favour. In fact, anything which gives back promotion is not someone doing you a favour, it’s an exchange of favours. Ignore the scale or how you feel about asking. I have to get better at this myself. I should find something I want and start practicing, especially in a situation where I would not be crushed if I am turned down. When you have less invested in it you can give yourself more room to ask in a better way, you’re already starting with a better mind set than feeling you need to ask nice/ beg for it because you really NEED it or MUST have it.

More posts about asking for what you want:

Get-It-Done-Guy: How to Ask for What you Want

Ask Politely and Be Willing to Hear “No”

When asking for help, do so politely, confidently, and humbly, and let them know they can refuse your request—that way they won’t feel pressured. Don’t expect them to say “yes,” but don’t expect them not to. “Please sir, may I have some more gruel?” asked Oliver Twist. If a scrawny orphan boy can ask, so can you. If they say “no,” thank them and go ask someone else.

In fact, expect people to say “no.” That way, if they say “no,” they’re just doing what you expect. It makes you feel powerful, like you’re already Emperor of the World. If they say “yes,” then you can be pleasantly surprised. Of course, if they say “yes,” they were violating your expectations, and as Emperor, you may have to execute them as an example. But such are the sacrifices that come with great power.

Asking for Help Makes the Relationship Stronger

We’re trained to think that asking for help is “using up a silver bullet.” Is it? Unless you constantly ask and abuse someone’s generosity, you’re giving someone the gift of doing you a favor. Think of the times you’ve helped someone else. It feels pretty good. The only time it’s unpleasant to ask for something is when someone says “yes” when they mean “no.” That’s why it’s important to let people know they can say “no” in the first place. You don’t want them to feel pressured.

Your relationship will get stronger when the people you ask for help become interested in helping you and you in turn show appreciation and gratitude for their help. Which brings us to the last step, which is sending a hand-written thank you card.

When you want something, ask. Be polite, and be willing to hear “no” for an answer. Don’t hold it against them if they say “no”, and write a hand-written thank you when they say “yes.”

Respect Rx: Do you Ask for What you Want?

Ask yourself for all those juicy little things you ever wanted. Ask for full-blown permission to be yourself. Ask for all those giganctico dreams you want to live out. Ask yourself to love your body and whole entire you. ASK. And say YES.

Then please do branch out from there to asking for what you want (by way of support or changing your life and world for the better) from your loves, family, employer, Congresswoman, and fellow (wo)man…And if you ask, and the answer is No, go around the corner and ask someone else.

Even better, just say YES to yourself. The results/goodies/rewards/love/acknowledgement/respect you want will show up if your request is from the heart and harmless to others. In other words, you can sprinkle your own magic fairy dust on yourself. Just say Yes and ride off into the sunset already.

Asking for what I want has never failed me. But I have, at times, failed to ask.

WITI: How to Ask for What you Want

How to Become a Better Asker

Here are five tools and techniques to increase your asking acumen:

1. Write down what you want

Here is one technique that can help in situations where you are not clear about what you want. While several other techniques also exist for gaining clarity, many require enlisting the perspective of another objective individual who can guide you through the discovery process, whereas this is a technique you can try all on your own. I have personally witnessed its power many times as I observed the following unusual phenomenon in my coaching practice: When I first have a complimentary introductory phone call with a perspective client and I ask them what they want to accomplish through coaching they verbally describe one set of objectives. If they subsequently sign up as a coaching client I email them a “Welcome Package” that asks them to write down the three short-term and three long-term objectives they want to achieve in our coaching – and what I frequently get back is a significantly different list! This happens not 10% or 20% of the time; it happens over 80% of the time. There is something profound that happens when people take the time and energy to think things through enough to commit them to writing – and the level of clarity is greatly enhanced. So next time you find yourself feeling vague about what you want to ask for, try writing it down first. Even if you subsequently decide to “say it in words” the very process of addressing it first in writing will likely lead to greater specificity and ease in your communications.

2. Get an outside perspective

I you are being held back by your own limited perspective of what you see as possible or of how others will react to you, then seek out someone who can help you see things from another viewpoint, brainstorm options, and role play possible interactions.

3. Stop hoping for “mind readers”

If you believe “You shouldn’t have to ask,” or if your requests are “indirect” and overly subtle, then realize that what you are doing is putting your future in the hands of “mind readers.” You are acting as if those around you can figure out what you want and then supply an appropriate response. By taking such an approach you relinquish your ability to control your own destiny and significantly lessen your chances of getting what you really want.

4. Re-think the concept of “respect”

Believing that asking for what you want is “selfish” is a reasoning distortion often born of a lack of respect for yourself and others. It seems fairly obvious that a lack of self respect can make you feel unworthy or less important than others and cause you to subordinate your own needs and “not ask.” What is less obvious is that not being comfortable asking for what you want can also arise from a lack of respect for others. More specifically, not asking can occur when you don’t respect others enough to share your honest thoughts and desires with them, or you don’t respect their ability to say “No” to you when they want to, or stick up for themselves in the situation. Rather than setting yourself up as the ultimate authority over who’s needs are the most important, or who can handle what in an interchange, try adopting the perspective that each person has the right and responsibly to honesty and straightforwardly express their needs and desires and negotiate an equitable solution.

5. Learn the skills for asking in a way that others can hear non-defensively

If you find yourself fearing how others will respond to what you ask for, or accumulating a history of receiving bad reactions to your requests, then most likely you are missing some key phrasing skills that will allow you to ask questions in a way that doesn’t push other people’s buttons. The good news is that these skills are learnable. For example, a simple but effective way to ask someone to do what you want in a neutral non-offensive way even in a potentially controversial area (e.g., to stop smoking or drinking in your presence or to stop making hurtful comments about your weight) is to simply say, “I ask that you…” – followed by what you want to ask for. Find an “effective communication” class, book or coach to help you grow your communication toolkit and your ability to ask for what you want will expand enormously.

The Bottom Line

Being able to ask for what you want, and to ask in an effective way that increases the chances you will get it, is a crucial life skill. It requires that you know what you want, are comfortable articulating what you want, and have the communication skills necessary to do so. If you don’t take control to say what you want you will be left at the mercy of others who will likely be more than happy to tell you what you need and what is best for you.

Women’s Health: Get What you Want: How to Make the Big Ask

Here are a few things I’ve learned about asking: The minute you’re afraid to ask for something is when you should do it. It’s nice to offer something in return, even if it’s just a compliment or a kind gesture. It also helps to take a few deep breaths and imagine the worst possible outcome. Usually, it’s simply getting a no, which is not exactly life threatening. Whether the result is life changing or disappointing, asking is always a significant accomplishment. Because if you ask me, it’s the questions in life—not the answers—that really count.

Psychology Today: Wander Woman: Strong, Smart Women: Ask for What you Want at Work

Spinning Perception

Tim Horton’s says you save ten cents on their coffee refills if you use the plastic mugs instead of the paper cups. They could have said you pay ten cents for the paper cups each time. But it sounds better to save ten cents than to be charged an extra ten cents.

My sister opened a business a few years ago. Her initial price for admission and birthday parties had to go up when she had a better idea of her expenses after being open a month. I told her to say it had been an introductory price for the new business, a sale price, but now the business was going back to charging the standard rate. (As if that was the plan all along). She really liked the idea versus just raising her price and explaining that she had to charge more. Instead, she let customers think she had been giving them a deal (which she had, just not intentionally).

Public relations and putting a different spin on things is always interesting to me. You can format or frame an idea in a different way and completely change the outlook of others. Does it mean people are gullible? No, I think it just means there is more than one way to look at things, like being optimistic or pessimistic.

“Subliminal perception is a subject that virtually no one wants to believe exists, and — if it does exist — they much less believe that it has any practical application. . . . The techniques are in widespread use by media, advertising and public relations agencies, industrial and commercial corporations, and by the Federal government itself.” – Wilson Bryan Key

“Public-relations specialists make flower arrangements of the facts, placing them so that the wilted and less attractive petals are hidden by sturdy blooms” – Alan Harrington