The Very First Step to Building a Lifestyle Business Around a Hobby

Stranger: “You’re pretty meticulous about all of those photos you’re taking, are you a professional?”

Me: “Me? Ha, no way. I do run a photography website though.”

Stranger: “Oh really, so people pay you for your prints?”

Me: “Nope. I review photo software.”

Stranger: “Oh, so you don’t make any money with it. I get paid for my photos”

I didn’t have the heart to tell this person that my photography site has probably made more than they ever will off of their prints.

There are all kinds of lifestyle businesses out there.

  • The Brick and Mortar – If you move to Brazil and start your own hang gliding outfit you’re doing what you love, and have built a brick and mortar lifestyle business.
  • The Enabler – This is how I got started. If you’re doing SEO or copywriting simply because you like the freedom it affords, but don’t necessarily love the work, you’ve built an enabling business, because it enables you to do the stuff you do like.  Most Location Rebels start with this type of business.
  • The Passion – This is what people often think of when they think of a lifestyle business. “Follow your passion, build a business around what you love!” Yeah that’s cliched advice, but when done properly, this can be the best kind of business to own.

Today we’re going to talk exactly about how to get started with that last one.  More specifically we’re going to look at the very first steps you should take to build a business around a hobby or other passion.

I’ve personally started a few of these. Some successful, others not so much.  However I’ve finally found a formula for this type of business that seems to work really well, and you may be surprised by what’s involved.

Hint: Step #1 is not start a blog.

Want to know what it is? Great, read on young grasshopper.

The First Step to a Hobby Based Business

So if you’ve been reading this site for awhile, you might think I’d say “Get hosting, buy a domain, install WordPress – as a first step. While that is a great step to take, I don’t think it’s the best first step for this type of business.

So what is?

Start a Facebook page.

But why?

The single most difficult roadblock you’ll encounter when starting a business like this is traffic. You know there are thousands if not millions of people out there who have the same interests as you, but finding them during your first year can seem like nothing short of an impossibility.

With Facebook you have a giant percentage of the global population who use it, are active and engaged, and you can find them based on their interests.

I discovered this recently while trying to figure out exactly how to launch Breaking Eighty.  I have a pretty big audience here, but the fact remains, most people on this site could care less about golf – so I was more or less starting from scratch.

I found that by following the path outlined below I not only had huge engagement numbers right off the bat, but I was adding social proof, and growing the community much faster than I ever did with Location 180.

So, want to know exactly how to do this? Awesome, let’s jump in.

How to Leverage Facebook for Your Lifestyle Business

Step 1: Decide On a Name, Secure Brand Assets

So before you do anything, you should choose a name for your business.  We go over this in more detail inside Location Rebel, but whatever you choose, you’ll want to make sure you secure as much of the following as possible:

  • Domain
  • Facebook URL
  • Twitter
  • You Tube
  • Instagram
  • Any other social accounts you may use

By locking this down early, you’ll be able to make sure your branding is consistent as your site grows.

Step #2: Setup the Facebook Page

There’s a good chance you’ve done this before, but we’re going to do it one more time.  It doesn’t need to be perfect, but there are a few key things we’re going to want to make sure we cover:

  • Beautiful Cover Photo – This should be eye catching, and idealy have branding.  Check out the Location 180 cover photo for an example.
  • Concise About Paragraph – Tell me what this page is all about as clearly and concisely as possible. You only have a few seconds to hook people, so spend some time with this.
  • Relevant Profile Photo – On top of an eye-catching cover photo you should also make your user photo relevant as well.  With Breaking Eighty I used a beautiful landscape shot of a golf course, then used a photo of me playing a hole for the profile photo.

There will be more to do later on, but this sets up the basics for your new lifestyle business.

Step #3: Start Posting Three Times a Day

Trust me, we’re getting to the important part, but we’ve gotta cover the basics first.

Right now, no one will be coming to your site, and that’s cool. But when people do start showing up, you want to prove that it’s a page worthy of their “like”.

This is easier than you think. Spend 45 minutes at the beginning of the week and schedule all of your updates.  Then as you see any interaction you can comment and moderate, but you’ll only need to curate content once a week.

 Step #4: Fire up Some Facebook Ads

This is where things get interesting.

I’ve never spent much time with Facebook ads. They seemed confusing, and I didn’t totally see the benefit.

Now I’m a believer.

You should have no trouble finding a $50 ad voucher somewhere on the internet – most hosting accounts will give you one if you haven’t ever used Facebook ads before.

Why are we doing this?

The whole purpose of the Facebook ads in this case is to get people to like your page. It’s much easier to get someone to like a Facebook page around a topic they’re interested in, than it is to get them to commit to following a new blog.

When trying to get attention for your new lifestyle business, we want to go for the lowest barrier of entry possible.

So how do you find the right people?  Keep it simple.

Action Item: Make a list of potential “interests” people might have related to your business, the more you can niche down the better. For example, with Breaking Eighty my list looked like this: golf, pga tour, golfing, sunriver golf resort, champions tour, lpga tour.

Obviously “golf” is about as broad as it gets, but for this test it worked pretty well.

I then created a series of three ads and tested different combinations. I took the one that performed the best, and then tested it with three different photos.

Trust me, this is about as unscientific as it gets.  Once you get into the Facebook ads manager, it’s pretty clear how to do this.

What I found shocked me.  With no effort at all most of my ads were costing me about $.25 per like.  After just a little bit of optimization, I was at $.09/like.

I was spending $10/day.

My first $50 in free money was enough to get me used to the system and do some tests.  Then once I got it dialed in I was getting about 80-100+ new likes for every $10 I was spending.

When you’re constantly adding new people this way, and putting out high quality content on your niche 3 times a day, the interaction numbers become huge.

A good rule of thumb with fan pages like this is you want at least 10% of your audience engaged. So if you have 1,000 fans, you’d like to see “100 people talking about this”

For the first few weeks of this fan page, we were seeing numbers like “1,036 fans, 436 talking about this”, then with WDS I dropped the ball a little bit on keeping things going.

People want to find good resources for their hobbies.  Finding these people can be tough however, and that’s why ads are so valuable – they speed up the process.

Step #5: Create Landing Page on Domain

Ok, so you’ve got a new Facebook page with high quality content, good user interaction, and new people coming in everyday.

That’s great, but we want to start a business here, so what’s next?

The most valuable tool you have as a business person or marketer online is your email list.  So the next logical step is to start building that up.

You might be thinking, shouldn’t I start a blog or website?!

You could, but if you start it too early, you may not have the momentum to really push the project to the level you’d like to see it at.  I started Breaking Eighty earlier than I probably should have.  That said, I did it more for the lifestyle reasons than the business reasons.

I wanted a place where I could write about the golf courses I played, so I put it up, and consciously told myself it was worth it, even if the site growth was slower.

Luckily with the combination of WordPress and Launch Effect you can very easily create a landing page that will allow you to start collecting email addresses.

Note: To do this properly, you should sign up for Aweber.  This is much more valuable than simply collecting email addresses into spreadsheet.

For the full tutorial on how to setup this type of landing page, take a look at “How to Build Your First Online Asset in 48 Hours.”

Step #6: Send Traffic from Facebook to Landing Page

You slowly want to start introducing the idea of the website to your Facebook fans.

Your landing page should give people a compelling reason to want to sign up.  This could be the promise of a free gift, early access to something other people won’t be able to see, or some kind of offer unique to your niche.

That said, spend some time on it. Include a BIG, GORGEOUS photo and make sure you think about the copy on the page.

Three times a week, post about your landing page in your Facebook group. This will get them familiar with what’s coming, and entice them to want to sign up.

Step #7: Give Away Something AWESOME for Free.

Within a month or so, you should have prepared something really valuable for the people who have signed up.

For Location Rebel, I created “Location Rebel Arsenal: All the Tools You Need to Work from Anywhere.”

For HDR Software I created “Make Your Photos Not Suck: 50 Tips to Improve Your HDR Photography.”

For Breaking Eighty I created “Breaking Eighty Arsenal: 80+ Resources for When You’re Not on the Course”

If you’re into building a business that allows you to travel, photography, or golf, these are incredible free resources that you’ll gladly give your email address for.

With a lifestyle business, you’ve gotta capture attention, entertain, and provide value – this is one of the best ways to do it.

For more help on exactly how to do this check out “How to Build a Killer List Building Offer (Even if You Have No Product to Sell).”

BONUS: Build Email List with Facebook Ads

When you’re just starting out I recommend following the steps above and simply focusing on getting as many likes as possible. However, if you use Aweber you can setup a new tab and send your ads directly there.

Here’s an example of what I’m testing right now.

You most likely won’t convert as many likes, but you will start building your email list in the process, which is always a good thing.

You’re Well on Your Way…

Simple enough, right?

The whole purpose of this strategy is to get you the proper base for building a business around an interest or hobby.

You start providing value via the medium with the lowest barrier to entry, and then slowly get them integrated into your ecosystem.

Once you’ve got their email address you can do just about anything you want. You can launch a more full-fledged content based website or blog. You can create paid products and market it to them. You can get feedback from the list on what they’d actually like to see.

The options are really unlimited.

In a future post, we’ll look at more advanced strategies for how to monetize your new lifestyle business, but as with anything, you’ve gotta start with the basics first.

Have you done something similar? Anything you’d like to add? Tell us about it in the comments!

David Anderson July 17, 2013 at 9:48 am

Sean,

The past month I’ve been so wrapped up on setting up my blog, but worrying about traffic and actually getting started.

It wasn’t until yesterday I came up with the idea to start with FB instead. The fact you posted this article the next day is not only a coincidence, but a great value statement and support for me to keep going forward. Thanks for the tips. This helps out a lot!

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Sean July 17, 2013 at 9:54 am

Talk about good timing! Yeah, I’ve found it much easier to grow the audience via Facebook and then slowly ease them into the blog. Still not without some struggles, but overall it’s worked really well.

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David Anderson July 19, 2013 at 6:58 am

So I took your advice and launched facebook.com/purehabit which links to pure-habit.com (still under contstruction) This is my ginny pig to another site I’m working on.

Already getting some good feedback and taking the steps one day at a time. I’ll keep you posted on the results.

Do you have any additional sources or recommendations on generating free traffic on FB? The Ads definitely sound great and affordable, but I’d like to combine it with as many other strategies as possible to see what works.

Mike Charalambous July 17, 2013 at 10:07 am

Awesome post. Though I’m really just commenting to say – excellent that you stopped procrastinating and got started; it’s often the hardest part.

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David Anderson July 23, 2013 at 8:25 am

Mike,

Thanks for the support. This post really helped me get the feel of attracting consumers, driving traffic, and also makes starting an online business a little less intimidating.

It’s pretty exciting so far!

Leigh July 17, 2013 at 9:57 am

The thing I love about your articles and the advice is how simple you explain it so it’s easy to implement. This is a type of business I’d love to create in the future so I’ll be using this and some of your other articles as a blueprint.

Do you think that writing articles and submitting them to ezines is a good way to generate traffic for these kinds of businesses or better to just focus on facebook and other social media outlets?

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Sebastian July 17, 2013 at 10:20 am

great blog sean!

Can you talk a bit more about the conversion from facebook like to email subscription? How much did you paid average for one subscription?

Do you think that the paid facebook likes have better conversions than ppc direct to a landing page / website?

sebastian

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Sean July 17, 2013 at 10:36 am

Right now with the test I’m doing with ads, it’s costing about $1 per email. Not bad, but I think with some optimization it could be better.

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Pat July 17, 2013 at 10:29 am

Hi Sean. Thanks for the article.
Would the list building methods work in Mailchimp as well? Or do you really recommend Aweber?
Thanks for all the work you did at WDS. It was my first time and a totally amazing event. Damn- what a closing party :)

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Sean July 17, 2013 at 10:35 am

Pat, I assume Mailchimp has a similar integration with Facebook. Or you can always create an html version of the opt in, and then just put it in an iframe in a FB tab.

I’ve used Mailchimp with some clients, and personally just don’t like it. I think AWeber is more full featured, and makes things easier. Mailchimp is free, but you cant do autoresponders with the free account. So if you’re serious about email marketing, I’d pay the $19 up front and go with Aweber.

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Jimmy July 17, 2013 at 11:22 am

great article on building up a Facebook page, however not quite sure how this is a business. What son you sell or how do you make money off of this following?

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Sean July 19, 2013 at 11:23 am

Once you’ve got the audience, there are all sorts of ways to turn it into a business. Could be affiliate offers, your own products, or depending on how big you get, advertisements.

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FERNANDO July 17, 2013 at 11:29 am

I was wondering now you why started saying, “don’t start a Blog”! that’s a shocking thing to hear Sean, after being a fan of your initial idea and started my side business doing SEO, Copy writing and Web designing work. This is the craziest thing to hear ;)

However I like your new Idea, I did it exactly when I was starting my first web services business: https://www.facebook.com/FuturistBusiness
Facebook Ads are good, but starting with your closest contacts with a giveaway is the key to drive them to your Landing page or Blog. Giving a free eBook or I offered to do free website design for anyone who brings me 20+ likes :) Because initially the numbers matter to kick up and others to like the page. Just another example of a page I did for my personal brand, which I got the likes of more than 50% of my friends by personally inviting and it’s example of a dry page: https://www.facebook.com/FernandoBizBlog where there is no interaction after. So getting the audience who are really looking for what you offer and passionate about is the key, so Facebook Ads is a great start for anyone and it’s easy ones you know how to split test the ads till you convert the investments.
**I invite you guys to join the pages I shared above if you are on location180 and read this comment.

Once again thanks for the the most amazing post I read about on this blog, “How to become a SEO Freelancer in 48 hours” which triggered me to start FERNANDO BIZ and Online Marketing HQ as a educational hub for online marketing and tips on how to make money online.

Looking forward for the nest posts.

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Paula @ Vintage Kitchen July 17, 2013 at 1:07 pm

I wonder how much content you had ready when you made the transition from the fb and launch pages to the actual site. Is it important to have a lot of posts from the start? Do you start to build your fb and email audience after you know you have a big fat amount of posts ready?

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Jeff July 17, 2013 at 1:25 pm

Thanks Sean for another awesome post! This really is a great first step for a lot of people. Many know how to use Facebook but starting a regular blog, doing SEO, and getting traffic can be tricky for beginners.

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derek July 17, 2013 at 2:19 pm

Great post Sean!

“If you want to catch fish, go where the fish are.” Social media engagement is so huge. The sales for the company I work for have grown consistently each month since we put our social icons on our homepage header and became more active on Facebook and Twitter.

These sites add a ton of authority and credibility to your business when used correctly. Thanks for this post! It’s a good reminder that the people come first in a business and it’s about creating value.

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Sam July 17, 2013 at 11:04 pm

Great post as usual Sean – really informative :0)

I was wondering what platform you use to schedule your FB posts, whether you use hootsuite or something similar or just the inbuilt scheduler?

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Sean July 18, 2013 at 7:59 am

Buffer is a good option, but I recommend using FBs built in scheduler. They actually weight posts higher that are done through that. Fewer people see them if done through a third party app.

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Sean July 19, 2013 at 11:21 am

Personally I use the built in scheduler. My community manager for Breaking Eighty, Liz, uses Buffer to schedule stuff. We’re actually doing tests right now to see if one is better than the other in terms of getting people to see your posts.

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Troy Swezey in Las Vegas July 25, 2013 at 1:06 pm

Thanks Sean. That is exactly the question I had. I did not know they have a built in scheduler. That must just be on fan pages?

Navid Moazzez July 18, 2013 at 12:46 am

Hey Sean,

This is really an awesome post! I’m definitely going to experiment with facebook more for my main site and for the next project I get into I will start with a facebook page right away instead of a blog so I get som initial interaction and followers.

As always, you provide so much great information and valuable resources in your articles. Keep up the amazing work you do :)

Navid

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Roy Moss July 18, 2013 at 5:27 am

Hi Sean!

Excellent article! When you say posting 3 times a day, what content do you suggest posting? Do you share content from other sites that are relevant to your audience or do you focus solely on content you produce yourself?

Roy

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Sean July 19, 2013 at 11:20 am

When I think about a fan page, I think regardless of the brand behind it, the ones that are most successful are the ones that share information the audience will be interested in.

So I’ll share stuff from all kinds of places. That said I’ve found questions, quotes, and beautiful photos are the things that seem to generate the most interest.

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Sid Owsley August 9, 2013 at 12:08 pm

Thanks for asking that question Roy. I was about to ask the same. I already have a blog and just started a FB page. Getting the likes and interaction is what I am having a challenge with now.

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Utsav July 18, 2013 at 5:34 am

This article’s come at a perfect time. I was just contemplating how to go about promoting a new product, as it’s very different from what my current website offers.

Thanks Sean!

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Jason July 18, 2013 at 4:33 pm

I have been thinking of doing something like this to help me decide which of my three ideas I should go with. Do you think doing this process times three and seeing which page grows fastest / has the best engagement would be a worthwhile use of resources?

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Sean July 19, 2013 at 11:18 am

Personally, I’d just select the one you’re a) most interested in or b) think has the most potential and run with that. Otherwise you end up with a bunch of pages in FB purgatory. You might have a few fans, but aren’t doing anything with the pages. Rather than spread yourself to thin in the beginning, really pursue one, and if it doesnt work out, try a different one.

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Jason July 19, 2013 at 7:47 pm

Thanks, I think I will do that

Caelan Huntress July 18, 2013 at 8:37 pm

Excellent strategy. I had never thought of starting with the Facebook page before; it makes perfect sense!

Build the community, hone your voice, and THEN develop your product. I’m going to resurrect some dead projects with this strategy.

Thanks, Sean!

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Sean July 19, 2013 at 11:17 am

It’s worked pretty well for me! Let me know how those old projects go :)

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Harry July 19, 2013 at 2:05 am

Hey Sean – thanks for the article, that’s a really interesting one! I’ve been dithering about for far too long and haven’t fully committed to starting something and really going for it – this could be the boost I need to properly get started!

One quick question for you – how do you approach dealing with Facebook URLs? Facebook seems to require you to enter your phone number to actually register the URL, and if you’ve used that number before, it doesn’t seem to let you use it again. I’ve run into problems with this, and I’d love to know how you approach this, especially as you’ve got multiple businesses / pages (Location 180, Location Rebel, HDR Software and now the new golf site too…)

Thanks again for the article – would love to hear your thoughts!

Harry

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Sean July 19, 2013 at 11:16 am

Harry I’ve never had an issue with the whole phone number thing. You should be able to register as many pages as you want for your different projects.

What I have seen is you have to have at least 25 or 40 (cant remember which) likes before you can register a unique url. So it’s really important to get to that number via friends/family/blog readers etc. as the stock one they give you is pretty horrendous.

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Scott Nelson July 19, 2013 at 6:51 am

You’ve labeled it! ‘Enabler’ and ‘Passion’, great! – I always say that what I’m working on at the moment is merely a gateway. A gateway to quitting my (now part-time job), a gateway to living location independent, and a gateway for building a business around my passion.

I think you have to be really lucky to be able to skip the enabler part of this journey and jump straight into your passion. Sometimes it’s better in the long run to take the less risky option (the enabler), knowing that ultimately one day it allow you to work with your passion.

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Sita Gabriel July 20, 2013 at 11:07 am

Nice post, it gives me inspiration. Thanks!

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Rich Mercado July 21, 2013 at 6:33 pm

Awesome. Awesome. AWESOME….. So many light bulbs going off .

Thanks Sean!

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Naomi July 22, 2013 at 12:10 am

Thanks Sean, This post was very helpful for me. I love your emails and often click through to read your posts but this is the first time I’m commenting. I’m starting up a business to launch next year and, even though it’s not exactly a hobby business, I got a lot of good ideas from this post.
Thanks again.

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Kevin Cole July 25, 2013 at 9:23 am

Damn, this is a really good idea. Facebook would most definitely have a low barrier to entry. I’m sure 99% of the key players in the golf community are there as well.

A good friend of mine who runs a yoga studio swears by FB ads.

I know you’re going to be doing mostly affiliate reviews, but have you thought about selling products on FB as well?

I’ve never done it personally, but I’d be very curious as to how well it converts.

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Angela July 25, 2013 at 9:24 pm

Hi Sean! I love this idea. It makes a lot of sense, and I’d been completely neglecting Facebook (to my detriment). So I decided to try out a few ads, and I had some real success for relatively little money spent. I started playing with this on Monday with only 22 Page likes and today (Thursday), I’m up to 107 page likes and one individual post I promoted had over 200 likes (and resulting in 39 page likes). Time will tell whether it will ultimately result in real engagement and email subscribers, but thanks for the great post and out-of-the-box idea!

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Utsav July 26, 2013 at 4:03 am

I had a similar success rate, over 2000 likes in 2 days, after committing US$ 20 per day for the ad campaign, for my page on travel to Goa, Goan Flavour. It was pretty cool, and has definitely lead to more traffic, though I am also concerned about actual engagement. Great idea, nonetheless.

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Tate July 26, 2013 at 1:45 pm

Sean, this is a great article. I have to commend you as your articles this year have been nothing short of outstanding. I have commenced with the facebook ads and have gained about 175 likes in 2 days. I have no idea if that is good or not but whatever, better than nothing. My cost per like is somewhere around .16.

Here’s one thing I’ve noticed. If you start this process, you will find that you are super motivated to actually build your site and start collecting emails. The reason is because you don’t want to waste the fact that new users are showing up to your facebook page.

Anyway, cheers!

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Scott Powers July 26, 2013 at 2:02 pm

Thanks so much for this post Sean! I really appreciate all the information you share with us on this site, and also how you convey it in a clear and easy-to-follow way.

Much gratitude!

Scott

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Karol Gajda July 31, 2013 at 12:45 am

After reading this I decided to run Facebook ads for a small event I’m doing in town.

A quick tip: Don’t let Facebook “optimize for likes.” I was paying over $1 PER CLICK and not getting any likes. I think what they meant was “optimize for Facebook profits.” I started bidding myself and am now paying 22 cents per like. Still have some optimization to do, but this is much better. :)

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Tim Moon August 6, 2013 at 8:46 am

Oh man, for some reason I never noticed that you could schedule posts. You just saved me a junk load of time. Thanks!

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Sid Owsley August 9, 2013 at 12:23 pm

Thanks for posting this article Sean. Now I have a roadmap and a plan for every project I start. Could you elaborate more on the content curation process, meaning be more specific on what you do once a week for 45 minutes to curate content schedule post.

-Thanks

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T.W. Anderson @ Marginal Boundaries August 17, 2013 at 12:26 pm

Great stuff.

We are working on a new niche site right now with some of the followers from Marginal Boundaries, and will be utilizing this combined with some other stuff that has worked for us over the years. Building up the hype prior to the actual launch is a vital part of getting the brand going in the early days.

Thanks for sharing!

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Dilpreet Bhatia September 2, 2013 at 2:44 am

Awesome Start!! Hv been doing things in a random manner till now. I think its time to bring it all together….!!

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John September 17, 2013 at 7:42 pm

Sean,

I just started reading your blog a week or so ago. I find most of your posts quite insightful. I’ve already started taking action on some of them, just not in the sequence you suggest in this post. :(

I renamed and relaunched my blog late last week. I will now set up a FB page. Oh well. I write my blog posts almost as much for my benefit as for others so its not wasted effort. Nevertheless, I need to use your recommendations here so I can then really monetize my blog. If interested you can check out my blog here: http://johnwshaffer.com.

Thanks for your insights. – JWS

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Ryan October 27, 2013 at 1:36 pm

All of the smaller aspects truly bring clarity to the bigger picture in building an online business. The more passionate you are the more you learn. From the get go I have been plugging away with a smile on my face. I love connecting with others and masterminding to find better ideas, and collaborate and impact the community. It’s so much better than getting paid!

Ryan

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Peter Santenello November 6, 2013 at 3:02 pm

Hi Sean,

I stumbled upon this one a bit late but I’m so fired up that I found it! Step #4 is just what I needed to read, and provides a ton of value to what I’m working on. Thanks for spreading the startup gospel.

Best,
Peter

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Jeffery December 15, 2013 at 12:38 am

Hey Sean!

Thank you for the great post!

I have a question for you, what do you think about purchasing facebook likes?(Since I’m guessing people are more likely to like a page that already has a substantial amount of likes) Is it a yes or a no go?

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Enzo May 7, 2014 at 1:03 am

Hello,

Just stumbled upon this while I’ve been looking around to start making money with something I love being busy with. I’m busy with cars daily, more as in the Japanese car culture. You think I can build something around that?

Thanks,

Hope you are still around here.

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