5 Awesome Online Businesses and WHY They’re So Successful
Due to my recent string of bad earning months, I’ve found myself looking for a new direction to where I want to go with my online business. Most of my ideas revolve around creating website content (i.e. traditional blogging for a given niche), but I’m open to exploring other options.
This downturn in my online business has led me to research and explore other online businesses that are currently finding a lot of success. I’m not looking to become a copycat of any sort, but I do think that you can look at any successful business and take away at least a few gems of information that can help you build or improve your own business.
So, I present to you, five online businesses that I’ve decided to take a close look at, and really get to the heart of why they’re so successful.
1) Pinch of Yum (Food Blog)
I stumbled upon Pinch of Yum probably close to a year ago when I was starting up my own food blog. Normally, food blogs don’t facinate me. You visit the site, grab whatever recipe you want to try, and you move on.
At its core, Pinch of Yum is just like any other food/recipe blog – there is a good variety of recipes, the food blogger (Lindsay) posts frequently, and there are some very well-done photos. What makes this blog different than other similar blogs is that she and her husband treat the blog like a business, and it shows.
How it Makes Money
Fortunately, Pinch of Yum publishes monthly income reports, so we can really dig into its income sources. Last month, the blog grossed over $11,000, which to me seems pretty incredible for a food blog that was started within the past few years.
- Self-Created Product: At the head of all the income is money earned from a food photography eBook that Lindsay created – in July, the book brought in $4,614. Every recipe she creates is a subtle advertisement for her book, because her pictures are so amazing (and they leave you wondering: “How can I take food pictures like that?” if you’re a food blogger yourself). Because of this, it’s really the perfect product for her blog.
- Advertisements: Through a mix of Adsense, BlogHer, and other advertisement sources, she earns nearly $5,000 from advertisements alone. That’s a hefty sum, and it reflects how much traffic the site receives (last month the site received just over 650,000 visits).
- Affiliate Income: One thing I found fascinating about Pinch of Yum is that it actually has a component very similar to your average “make money online” blog – they have a section of the site that teaches you how to create your own food blog. With this, comes affiliate income from hosting, WordPress themes, etc. This accounted for approximately $1,400 of the income they earned in July.
Why It’s Successful
Most really successful businesses have a USP (unique selling proposition) that sets them apart from other similar businesses. In this case, I really think Pinch of Yum’s success spawns from the blogger’s consistency (publishing high quality posts 4+ times a week) as well as her personality and the quality of her pictures.
The truth is, most people who read her recipes (myself included), never wind up actually making them. So why are they so popular? Some people really like pictures of food, and these are high quality pictures that make your mouth drool. In addition to that, Lindsay’s writing style is enjoyable to read (something you would usually never even care about on a recipe), as she often adds little stories along with the basic recipe instructions.
Key Takeaway: Being persistent (and consistent) with your content and injecting your personality can really go a long way.
2) Tom from Leaving Work Behind (Freelance Writing)
Leaving Work Behind is much more similar to my blog here, in that it focuses on making money online – either through blogging, freelance writing, or other means. In this situation, I’m going to focus more on the blogger than the blog itself.
What really interests me about Tom is his success with writing. As I’ve considered my options for what I can do for my online business, freelance writing is one thing I may dabble in. I wouldn’t say I have a passion for writing, but I’ve been told by many people that my writing style is fairly smooth and enjoyable (although I’m sure that’s up for debate!). If I can get into the habit of writing more often, and look to write about topics I enjoy, I think this may be a viable path for me.
How He Makes Money
Tom makes money from a variety of sources, and below you can see a screenshot from his site where he breaks down his monthly income:
Although he hasn’t done too well with his niche/authority sites, he’s done very well with affiliate sales, selling his own information product, and freelance writing. Freelance writing is what I want to focus on here, because I think this is his greatest strength as an online business owner.
From what I understand from Tom’s monthly income reports, his effective hourly rate from freelance writing is somewhere in the neighborhood of $150/hour. That’s incredible! With the income he’s been generating from freelance writing alone, he has only needed to write for 2-3 hours per day. That allows him to spend the rest of his time on other projects.
Why He’s Successful
Although you might think his success comes from being some kind of “gifted” writer, that’s simply not it (he openly admits to not being very good at English, and having no prior professional writing experience).
While Tom certainly is a very capable writer, and he’s really good at writing interesting articles, I think his success comes from his hustle and the relationships he builds. Reading through his income reports and other blog posts, it’s very clear that he’s an extremely hard and dedicated worker.
He has the kind of work ethic where, if he takes on a project, you just know he will find some level of success. While he has had his share of failures, they have only served to teach him something new, which he can take into his next venture and increase the likelihood of success.
Relationships are also key – because he has forged relationships with many big time sites (such as Flippa and WooThemes), he’s created a never-ending stream of freelance writing work, from clients who continue to utilize his services.
Each existing relationship can be leveraged to a new one, and what you’re left with is a snowball effect of demand for your services. This is what allows Tom to increase the price of his services and ultimately find greater success.
Key Takeaway: There’s no substitute for hard work and strong relationships.
3) Spencer’s “Survival Knife Guide” Website (Amazon Niche Site)
The reason I wanted to include his “Best Survival Knife Guide” website (BestSurvivalKnifeGuide.com) on this list was because I wanted to show at least one example of how niche sites can still be effective, successful, and profitable. Among other successful projects, Spencer has done really well with this site, and has been very transparent about how he built the site and what kind of income it currently brings in.
For those who haven’t visited the site, BestSurvivalKnifeGuide.com is a site that reviews a lot of different survival knives and related products. Spencer found a really knowledgeable writer to create these articles, and it seems to have worked out really well.
How it Makes Money
Plain and simple, the primary way that this site earns an income is through Amazon’s affiliate program. Each knife review contains a link to the relevant product page on Amazon, and as you probably know, if the person who clicks on the link purchases anything on Amazon within 24 hours of clicking, the commission goes to the person whose linked they clicked.
Here are the site’s most recent Amazon earnings (for the month of August):
$743.85 is awesome for a niche site that basically has all the work outsourced. I should also point out that the site’s income has been steadily increasing over the past 6 months, so it’s very likely the trend will continue.
Why It’s Successful
Needless to say, the reason this site is so successful is because it ranks in the top spot on Google for the targeted keyword “best survival knife”, and also ranks well for many other long tail keywords.
How can you rank for so many keywords? The short answer: Create lots of content. Each article you write has the potential to rank for multiple long tail keywords, so it only makes sense that more content = potentially more visibility within the search engines.
Obviously, you don’t want to just throw up content that’s poorly written (or spun/copied), because that’s not going to get you anywhere in the long run. There’s definitely a balance to strike between quality and quantity, but to the extent possible, you should try to create as much content as you can without sacrificing quality (and this is where outsourcing comes in handy).
Key Takeaway: Lots of content can often lead to ranking for more keywords, which leads to more traffic and income.
4) GameMaker Blog (Designing Video Games Online)
This one’s a little off the beaten path, but because I wanted to present a fairly diverse set of online businesses that are successful, I decided to explore it.
GameMaker Blog is an information source for those who are involved with GameMaker Studio, a popular video game development tool that allows you to create games for various app platforms (such as the Apple App Store and Google Play) as well as games that can run within a web browser.
The owner of GameMaker Blog, Matthew Bowden, currently makes a living by developing video games on this platform. You’re probably thinking: “Good for this guy – but I can’t do this, I’m not a computer programmer.”
The fact is, he doesn’t have a degree or any formal training in computer programming. He’s just a guy with a passion for gaming, and using GameMaker Studio, taught himself how to create games that he could eventually sell or monetize.
How He Makes Money
Most of the money he makes now comes from advertisements within the games he develops. One notable success that Matthew had back in July was a game he created in 48 hours – and it went on to earn him over $2,000 within a week.
He also sells an information product (eBook) where he goes into specific detail about how he develops games, and explains how others can do what he does. I haven’t read it, but I suspect you still need to be somewhat technically savvy to get into this type of work.
Why He’s Successful
You’re probably wondering why I even bothered discussing this online business, seeing as how it’s probably one of the more difficult ones to replicate.
I think a lot of people give up too early in the online business creation process because they don’t believe they have a certain skill or expertise required to be successful. It’s the reason many people don’t ever even attempt to start a blog or create an information product.
In many cases, people underestimate their capacity to self-teach. If you don’t know something, research it. If you can’t do something, work at it until you can. Breaking through this imaginary barrier may seem scary at first, but once you get to the other side, you wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.
Matthew is successful because he found something he was interested in, taught himself how to do it, and turned that self-taught skill into a successful online business.
Key Takeway: If “not knowing” something is holding you back, don’t let it. Give yourself the chance to actually learn something new.
5) Entrepreneur on Fire (Podcasting)
Although podcasts are nothing new in today’s internet world, it’s still amazing how people can find ways to innovate. I first heard about Entrepreneur On Fire when it was featured on a Smart Passive Income podcast, and was absolutely blown away at what this guy (John Lee Dumas) did with his podcast.
Entrepreneur on Fire is a daily podcast that features entrepreneurs from all walks of life, and highlights how their businesses work, how they became successful, and whatever other interesting topics come up. But let me step back and focus on the word “daily.”
The fact that one man can produce an in-depth, interesting, daily podcast is incredible, and it’s one of the reasons Entrepreneur on Fire became such a quick success.
How it Makes Money
John currently makes a 5-figure income (per month!) from his podcast, mostly through advertisements played or read throughout the podcast episodes. I believe that, in most cases, he’s paid from the sponsors based on the number of downloads a particular episode has. So, as his podcasts become more and more popular, his income will continue to rapidly grow.
The podcast’s site also has a number of affiliate links, so I’m sure he makes a fair amount of income from people clicking through those links and making purchases.
Why It’s Successful
As I already touched upon, one of the biggest reasons this podcast caught fire (pardon the pun) is that John hit the ground running hard. To put out a podcast seven days a week is extremely ambitious, especially when you hear about how he does it.
John batch-records his podcasts all on one day of the week – that’s seven (or sometimes eight) recordings produced in one day. Even though he works his ass off during this one day, it frees him up for the rest of the week to do other important tasks, like promote his podcast and be a guest on other popular podcasts.
Much like Pinch of Yum, consistency and persistence pays off big time here. But even more powerful than simply working hard is working smart. By grouping similar tasks in a specified period of time (i.e. “batching”), he’s more efficient and can accomplish a lot more.
Key Takeaway: Work smarter, not harder. Use batching to create efficiencies and free up valuable time.
Hopefully you’ve been able to takeaway some valuable lessons from these five successful online businesses – I know I have. It’s funny; whenever you really boil down why someone is successful, it almost always turns out to be something so simple.
Most of us know what it takes to succeed, but the challenge often comes with execution (followed by distraction).
What do you think about these online businesses, and what are some successful ones that you’ve learned from? Leave a comment below!
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