by Gary North
Here are two links. I dare you to click them. I double-dog dare you. Here's why.
There is no need to get depressed over the trade deficit, the Federal deficit, and rising interest rates. Get depressed about something important.
If you are middle aged, or approaching middle age — I consider age 58 as middle aged — you see what's happening to you in the mirror every day. Depressing. But, you console yourself: it's happening to everyone your age. Comparatively speaking, you're hanging in there. Oh, yeah?
Guys. . . . Guys. . . . Come on, guys. Back to reality. Now it's your turn. If you are at work, wait until you get home to click the next link, unless you have a pair of earphones hidden in your desk. To get the full effect of this video link, it takes desktop speakers. If you crank up the sound at work, people will know you are NOT analyzing a spreadsheet.
So, you think you're still in pretty good shape for a guy your age. Oh, yeah?
Note: Click the Windows Media option on the screen's left. Real Player locks up. I don't blame it. The video locked me up, too.
As soon as I viewed each of these items, I thought to myself, "Others deserve to be miserable. I must share this." You may want to do the same. There is nothing like the EMAIL THIS button to share a little misery.
GET YOURSELF A BLOG
I have written about blogging earlier. If you have not started a blog site, you are walking away from money. For a copy of my earlier report, send a blank email to receive it by instant-reply autoresponder.
To encourage you to get started, let me tantalize you a bit. I have begun the production of a series of free 2-minute videos on how to read and interpret Federal Reserve charts. I will let you know here when the first one is ready. These video guides will help you to do your own economic analyses. You will be able to see what the FED is doing. It's a lot easier to see this in a chart than in a row of numbers.
I am also going to let you download them for free to post on your blog site. They will serve as hooks to get people to come back to your blog site.
Why am I going to do this? Because, at the end of each video, I will include this link, where people can subscribe to Gary North's Reality Check.
Because my letter is free, I think a lot of people will subscribe. I will use your blog site to promote my newsletter. But the promotional tools — highly informative instructional videos — will be valuable for your site's visitors. That's good for you, good for them, and will be good for me.
This is a variant of a marketing strategy that I adopted in the late 1970s for promoting my fee-based newsletter, Remnant Review. I would write a long, information-filled report: sometime 24 pages. Then, in the last two pages, I would ask the reader to subscribe. It was useful information. I found that people who were interested in a report's topic would read all of it. A few of them would subscribe. In 1979, I wrote an 8-page report that got me 20,000 new subscribers at $60 each (1979 dollars). I decided to do it again. And again.
So, I have a vested interested in seeing your blog site become popular. I will do what I can to help.
There are many uses for a blog site. Let's consider some of the basic ones. Create a separate site for each goal. Remember: they are usually free to set up, or close to it.
PHOTO ALBUM BLOG
This is like an on-line family scrapbook. It won't make you any money, but it will provide experience for you in creating a nice-looking blog site.
Blog software lets you upload digital photos. You can do this with a scanner. Scanners are selling for $50 these days.
With a digital camera, you can skip the scanner.
Most families have a pile of old photos, sometimes sorted, maybe with a "what this is" memo on the back of each photo: date, event. The trouble is, if you paste the photo to a scrapbook page, you can't read the memo. So, you have to write the memo under each photo. This fills up a scrapbook fast.
Why not do this online? Then you can share the pages with each family member.
Encourage your kids to do the same. They can start when they are subteens. Blog sites are free of charge. Just add time!
Now that I am a grandparent, I get to do what grandparents for a century have done: whine, "You never send us any photos of the baby." This makes up for all of the "no pictures" complaints from our days as new parents. Keep the tradition going. Spread a little misery, I say.
A photo blog by your kids eliminates the opportunity for you to whine about no pictures. That's the downside.
HIGH SCHOOL PROJECT BLOG
If you are an adult, and you want to help your teenager academically, start a blog site of your own. Learn how to do this. Then teach your child how to do it.
If I still had teenagers at home, I would require them to create a blog site. As to what kind, it would not matter. The best way to improve your ability to write is to write.
A wise student would not use the site as a "dear diary" site, which is what most teenage blog sites seem to be. I would explain to my children that their site could become a tool for impressing college admissions committees. This requires an academic focus: some narrow niche in which a student develops real expertise.
Maybe the site could be a current events site. It could be a hobby site. It could be a research site. The point is, the self-discipline required to design and maintain a blog site pays off over years of effort. A blogger's writing skills improve.
Did you know that colleges offer credit for students' high school specialized projects that prove that the student knows something of value at a college level? These are called "portfolio" courses. I know of one 18-year-old who earned his bachelor's degree from an accredited college in six months for $5,000 by doing nothing but taking CLEP exams ($50 each) and writing portfolio course manuals. He got into the college graduates' job market three and a half years early: figure $40,000 a year extra income. I have written a manual on how to do this: seven loopholes. One of the loopholes that I recommend is the one he used, which I discuss in detail. Families can save anywhere from $10,000 to $100,000 (after tax money) if their children adopt one or more of these loopholes.
If you have a hobby, start taking pictures, preferably with a digital camera. Take pictures of your artistry. But don't stop there.
Visitors care about themselves, not about you. They see you as a means to their ends. Don't fight this impulse. Convert it into money.
Give a visitor something of value whenever he visits your site. Divide the site into completed projects. "Look what I did!" Then add step-by-step "how to" images and commentary. "You can do it, too!"
Instead of archives based on monthly dates, which are too vague to be action-oriented, convert the archives into a project list. This retains value. Visitors can find out how to do specific projects.
Think about the future potential for an informative hobby blog. You can sign up for Google's AdSense option. Google's system will post ads down the right hand side of each blog page. It will share revenues with you. If you have various pages, each with a different set of words on the page, Google will match your words with highly targeted ads. For information, click here.
Or, even more profitable, produce a series of how-to videos of your own. Buy a camcorder. They are getting cheap. Use Google's Froogle to find good deals.
Spend the extra money to buy a 4-year service contract from Mack. Shop for a video sales company that sells a Mack contract for under $80. Sometimes these are priced at $200. Don't pay this much. As for a camcorder, I like the Panasonic PV-GS series (65 or 150). I have had success with this firm: DigitalFotoClub.com. If you order by phone, ask for Mike (ext. 827).
Make a video of each project as you work on it. Use a lavalier "necktie" microphone ($25 to $50) that plugs directly into the camcorder. This is a crucial feature for the camcorder to have: an external microphone plug. Narrate what you're doing as you're doing it. If you goof up verbally, do a voice-over in final editing.
You can sell a DVD of each project. Or you can set up a website where people can download videos.
Don't do all this immediately. Take your time. Just get the video "footage" (the old language of film) stored on your computer. You can edit the raw footage later on. The editing software keeps getting cheaper and easier to use.
If you had videos of five projects, and you sold each project for (say) $25, you could do quite well. A DVD can be sent out the door by UPS for $5, total cost. Any time you can get a 5-to-one mark-up, do it.
If they download it after paying (you will need shopping cart software), it costs you nothing extra. That's even better.
Design your hobby blog to have its right-hand side (25%, minimum) blank. Use this space for Google ads for or your own video ads.
Make a hobby of producing information videos. Then make a nice little side business out of this new hobby.
Even if you don't have a hobby, I'll bet you have a friend who does. Do a 51-49 joint venture. You keep 51%. You must always hold the hammer.
If nothing else, you can produce a how-to video and manual on how to produce a how-to video and manual.
By the way, a nice feature about this hobby-video strategy is that you can buy all of your hobby equipment and write off the depreciation, year by year, as a business expense. Set up a separate business bank account. Deposit money into it. Keep the sales receipts. But, eventually, you will have to sell something. The IRS will want to see that the expenses finally make you some money.
JOB HUNTING BLOG
The goal here is to create a blog that will impress a future employer that you know what you're doing. You have become an expert.
For this, I advise using a pseudonym. You don't want to go job shopping under your real name. Your existing employer may find out.
The site should be quite specific. It must reflect your hoped-for career move. It can serve as an on-line filing cabinet. It can serve as a soapbox for good and bad practices in your career niche. It can serve as a review service: a review of reviews.
A future employer, coming to your site, will instantly get the impression that you know what you are talking about.
Why would he come to your site? Because you create a link to it in their resumés when you go on-line to use Monster.com or one of the other job matching services. Google offers a useful service: a page with links to dozens of these job-matching sites.
Survey some of these sites. See how they structure their resumés. Plan your blog site accordingly.
Yahoo has a useful service: Hot Jobs. It lets companies post job offers.
Your resumé must describe your capabilities in specific, benefits-laden terms for the prospective employer. Don't say, "I did this. Then I did that." Say, "I can do this for you. I've done similar work before, such as. . . ."
Then you must include a link to your blog site. Before you provide the link, tell the employer why this site will help him or someone on his staff to make more money, save time, or whatever. Don't say, "Visit my blog site." Say, "My blog site can save your company a lot of money, whether you hire me or not." If he sees it and concludes that you're right, it can save him money even if he doesn't hire you, he will want to hire you.
For some good tips on getting a better job, click here.
To these, add: "Design a blog site to get a specific kind of job."
LOCAL BUSINESS BLOG
If you run a small business, you need a blog site.
The site will establish you as a local expert.
Offer a Q&A option. It should become a place where customers can ask questions. If someone trusts you enough to act on your advice, he is likely to spend money with your company when it comes time to go shopping for that sort of item or service.
Put your blog site's address on your business card. Program your point of sale computer to put it on every sales receipt. Put it in the window. Put it in classified ads.
Show people how to get things done. Save them time. Save them money. Get them dependent on your site as a source of information.
Offer special time-limited discounts to visitors of the blog site. This gets them coming back. They love a deal.
Update it regularly. This is the secret of traffic growth. Keep offering new information.
So, you are interested in one narrow topic. You go to websites to read them. You may even subscribe to Google Alert, which sends you pages every day on your favorite topic.
First, you should download Copernic Desktop Search.
Second, you should use the "Save As" option under "File" to save important documents to your hard drive. So, if they disappear from the web (dead links), you still have original copies. You may even want to use Furl to save them online, in case you lose your hard drive and neglected to make back-ups.
Third, start your blog. At first, it may include only links to pages. You can add commentary later, after you get the hang of it.
Lew Rockwell started a blog in 1999, long before they were called blogs. He sent out a page of links to friends. Word spread. Today, his site is one of the most popular political-economic sites on the web. It has become by far the dominant libertarian site. The blog allowed him to take over intellectual leadership of the libertarian movement. He did this on a shoestring budget.
As a side benefit, his other site, Mises.org, became the web's most widely visited site on economic theory. No other site comes close. Mises.org piggybacked on top of LewRockwell.com. This promotion of Mises.org cost the Mises Institute's donors nothing. As LRC grew, Mises.org grew. This built up readership and donations for the Mises Institute, which is Rockwell's primary responsibility. Yet he did not plan all this. It just developed. This is the process of spontaneous creation in action. Nothing in history has matched the Web for creative, undesigned spontaneous creation. Take advantage of this.
Take a look at the Archives option of LewRockwell.com. It's a link on the left-hand side of the home page. Click it. Here is the way to do archives: by topic, not by date.
Toward the bottom of the list of options on the Archives page is "LRC Ebooks." Click it. You'll see a link to my book: "Mises on Money." I wrote it in five part-time days — one of my more productive efforts, hour for hour.
Rockwell has recently created a blog option, where people can post comments. The link is in the upper right-hand corner of the LRC home page. Take a look at the blogs. He created this only after the main site had over 20 million hits a month. It is a more traditional blog: lots of commentary, plus reader feedback. But posting is by invitation only. Otherwise, the quality of the posts would collapse. Readers do not want to spend time reading posts by ill-informed people, unless the posts are in the form of questions, and the blog site's editor answers them.
I recommend a Q&A blog option. If people can get specific advice from you, consider offering it. You don't want to attract ranters. You may want to attract people with questions. This is especially true on a hobby site where you sell how-to videos.
The value of a Q&A site is high. People want answers. They face difficult decisions. If they can get help from someone they trust, they will be appreciative. They may even buy something.
A blog is a great tool. If you have not begun one, you are walking away from money. One way or another, not having your own blog site will hurt you if you don't have a full-scale website.
I know: "I'll think about it tomorrow." To which I respond: "Fiddle-dee-dee."
To maximize its value, your blog site should be part of an overall career plan . . . usually. But Lew Rockwell had no plan, and yet his originally simple blog site became the tool by which he became the dominant force in his niche market.
It is better to have a bad blog site and learn to improve it than to have no blog site at all.
The estimate is that 40,000 blog sites are coming on line every day. You're falling behind by just sitting still.
Here are two free blog-site creation sites:
Nothing happens until something moves. Move!
And now, some good news. A few of the scenes in the 58-year-old guy's video were done by a younger stand-in. This may not make you feel a lot better, but it's not quite so bad as you thought.
May 21, 2005
Copyright © 2005 LewRockwell.com