Recently I checked out Amazon Mechanical Turk briefly; selecting a task that I thought wouldn’t take long — transcription of a 5-minute mp3. I accepted the ‘hit’, downloaded the mp3 and got to work. An hour later of listening over and over to a recording of some people who mostly said ‘uhhh, ‘ahhm’, ‘errr’ and ‘like’, I was finished. The pay on offer was $1.70, but my hit hasn’t even been approved yet.
OK, I understand that you have to gain experience and be very selective with MTurk, but so far I’m not inspired!
So I’ve formulated a multi-pronged plan, which I may or may not stick to.
Since the main commercial skill I have is computer programming (alas — if only there was a huge demand for people who could identify wild plants, what a time I’d have!), I’m going to see if I can make a living teaching it online.
I’ve been looking into some relevant free technology, and I reckon that by using Skype, WordPress chat plugins and stuff like DropBox (free-ish software that can keep two folders synchronised via the Internet on separate computers), I can effectively teach programming online.
After all, I earn good money doing programming without any really relevant qualifications at all. Offices and other people’s code projects drive me mad, but these things clearly don’t bother everyone. So maybe I can find people who want to earn excellent cash doing programming for a living and teach them how to do it — and how to get jobs and so on.
I can try to get customers in Budapest, but since most people there are badly-paid and don’t speak English, online seems a better bet. I don’t want to pay for advertising, but it should be possible to get traffic via search engines. The site you’re looking at now, Fascinating Experiments, has averaged twenty visitors a day so far since I started it a month and a half ago. At first most of those visitors came from social bookmarking sites (see my article here). But now I’m getting increasing numbers of visitors from Google — 13 yesterday.
This is with no SEO (search engine optimization – the art of getting listed in search results) whatsoever; I just write articles off the top of my head, and only now and then when I’ve got time. So I figure that if I worked full-time writing short articles targeted around key phrases for a blog, I ought to be able to get many more than 20 visitors a day after a couple of months.
The Importance of Targeted Traffic
My experience so far with this blog has made me realise that you need targeted traffic if you want to sell people stuff. For instance, I couldn’t sell you anything because I have no idea why you’re here. You might have clicked through from one of my other articles, or be interested in blogging, or idly browsing or whatever. I have no way of knowing. On the other hand if I had a blog purely about cats, I could probably sell you some cat stuff now and then. You know, toys, treats — that kind of thing.
To actually make a living by putting other people’s adverts on your blog, you’d need a lot of traffic, but if you’re selling things directly, you can get by with a lot less traffic. For instance I once sold a couple of paintings off a site I’d made to sell my own art, even though the site got practically no traffic. But the traffic it did get was from people who really wanted to buy paintings. Similarly, a language teacher can acquire clients successfully though a language site, even if the traffic to that site is very low — my Dutch teacher has done exactly that (or at least he got one customer that way!).
That’s why I’ve started Cave of Programming. I plan to write several articles a day, targeted carefully around keywords selected from the Google keyword tool. You can use this tool to find key phrases related to a given topic where there’s good monthly search volume for that phrase, but low competition from other websites.
By applying some basic SEO principles (use keywords in your URL, use key phrases in your headings, etc), I hope to get good traffic to my programming site. I’m also thinking of writing a little computer game and giving it away, just to promote my site and to provide material for a game programming tutorial. I figure I can also put a screen capture video of the game being played on YouTube.
In order to get better search result placement for my site, I’ll make sure that each article answers whatever question led the person who searched for it to do the search in the first place; that way there’s more chance of them linking to my site, which will bump me up on the Google results page.
Of course, all the pages on my programming site will link to a ‘squeeze’ page (horrible term!) where I attempt to persuade people to take lessons with me.
Then all I need to do is to persuade a small percentage of the people who visit my site to sign up for lessons with me. How hard can it be?
Failing that, I’m curious about whether there’s much mileage in teaching people English. My experiences so far of attempting to learn Hungarian have made me realise that there is a ferocious demand for English language tuition. But on the other hand, many of the people trying to learn English are not exactly well off financially, or at least not in Hungary. But who knows ….
Then as a last resort I’ll be back to programming for cash. Aarghh! Please no more …