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2014 Earnings Report

That’s right, folks! An entire year of earnings all rolled up into one glorious post! I wouldn’t have a clue what I’ve spent in 2014 so lets just forget that side of things doesn’t exist.

I ditched my popular monthly earnings and spending reports back in March 2013 when I’d earned an impressive $6,500. That was one of my best months ever and income around then was still pretty consistent but I wasn’t enjoying writing the updates as much as I used to. I didn’t feel like, month on month, I was really doing anything different that was worth reporting. I was just sitting back and watching the magic internet money roll in without me having much of a constructive role in earning it. I also saw the writing on the wall with Google crackdowns and the end of link sales and article marketing as a viable (albeit shady) income source. Truth be told, I wanted to jump ship before I found myself reporting embarrassingly low earnings. So I decided to stop the reports and haven’t thought much about it sense then.

Actually, I haven’t thought much about this blog at all since then. I’ve had a smattering of posts but my attention has been on other time-consuming projects and Nerdy Nomad has been treated badly. The poor little guy. But, between life in Rwanda, travel, volunteering, and earning online, I think I have an interesting thing or two to say and I think it would be super sad to let this blog die a slow and neglected death.

So I’m back! Starting with a complete 12 month look at 2014′s earnings. I’ll be a little less specific about certain things (lumping Adsense, link sales, and affiliate sales into one category) because I don’t put any effort each month into improving these things so there’s nothing to report. I’ll keep ebook sales separate because, though I haven’t put much effort into it so far, I intend on focusing more on increasing sales in the coming months. I’ll also offer a more concise breakdown of the Africa website and map side of things because that’s where most of my efforts go these days.

Ok so, here we go… 2014 giant earnings report coming at you!

Adsense, Link and Affiliate Sales, and Article Marketing

Earned in 2014: $10,647

When you compare this total for 2014 with my total for March 2013 alone (at almost $6,500), it’s pretty easy to see that things have taken a turn for the worse. Adsense still chugs along as it always has and affiliate sales are still as neglected as ever, but paid articles and links have dropped off drastically since Google started to seriously crack down last year. But it doesn’t seem like this method for earning is going away completely and I can still count on a few deals each month.

Volunteering eBook

International Volunteering Guide

Earned in 2014: $1,062

Adding my ebook, The Underground Guide to International Volunteering, to Amazon hasn’t had the miraculous results I was hoping for. I’d expected that joining what is essentially a massive search engine for book buying with a good product and ranking well (I had been on the first page when people search for ‘volunteering’ in the books section but it seems I’ve falled to the thid page now) would lead to a nice boost in sales. But it seems like there’s more to it than that and I’ve got some work cut out for me. I haven’t put any focus on this just yet but I’m hopeful that with a bit of work I’ll be able to boost sales.

I also haven’t spent much time at all reaching out to potential affiliates. I know there are a lot of things I could be doing to get the book ‘out there’ and I have a lot of work cut out for me. The affiliate sale commission is appealing and the book is good but I need to reconnect with people who might be interested in promoting my ebook and also search out new site owners. There’s a lot of work still to do and I was silly to think that just putting a new edit out there into the world would lead to magical sales.

Living in Kigali

Living in Kigali

Earned in 2014: $6,276

My Kigali website is what gives me the most satisfaction to work on and being approached by businesses wanting to advertise seems to fit in well with my ‘wait to be contacted’ style of doing business. Maybe I’d have a lot more in ad sales were I more ‘salesy’ and wiling to approach the big money clients (like airlines and telecom companies, for example) and ask for more money per ad. But I like working with small business owners in Kigali, having a personal relationship, and I’m happy with my policy of only partnering with people I would actually recommend. It means I can feel like I’m adding value each tme I write about my advertising partners, rather than just bombarding my loyal readers with spam.

So far things are going really well and I’m nearly at capacity for my ad space. I’m charging $80 for each square ad (although some are currently barters and some are a bit less), $150 for the banner ad at the top (which will likely go up to $250 when I get a better offer), and $140 for the half banners (I only have one but would like two). That gives me the possibility of earning $1,330 (800+250+140+140) before taxes which is a decent amount to live on in Kigali.

I want to be able to sustain myself on my Kigali website, spending only what I earn and stashing any other income away in my savings account. I don’t want to jinx it but my advertisers have been loyal so far and they seem to see a lot of value in advertising on my website. I’m going into 2015 with 12 advertisers and $860 per month in earnings and I hope that this will continue to increase as the site gets more and more popular.

Living in Kampala

living in kampala

Earned in 2014: Around $300

Earnings for my Kampala site are a bit tricky to keep track of since I’m not the one in charge of the books. I do the nerd stuff and my partner in Kampala takes care of the finances and the deals. This one is a bit deceptive because, while we’ve earned a bit, we’ve also dumped a whole bunch of money into this site over the years and are very much in the red. Unlike my Kigali site, we have to pay content writers (since my partner is too busy and I don’t know Kampala very well) and there have been some costs with initial setup and Facebook promotion, too. But we’re on our way and hoping to go from red to black this year.

The Map – Kigali

2014 Wrap - Map

Earned in 2014: $1,321

This is my big risk! I’ve shelled out well over $10,000 (post with details coming soon) and a lot of time hard work in an effort to finally take my map of Kigali idea from my head and put it onto paper and into people’s hands. It’s been a three year labour of love and there was no way I wasn’t going to print something, no matter what the cost. But I might have bitten off more than I can chew and will be collecting 5,500 maps in London in January.

I’m giving myself a year before a reprint (the city is changing so quickly so even that might be too long) and I think unloading that many maps in 12 months is totally doable. I’ve already pre-sold about 200 to individuals and another 580 (with some payments coming in 2015 that haven’t been reported) to businesses around town who will act as wholesalers. So I’m off to a good start! I’ve got 12 businesses on board to sell the maps without me even trying that hard. It helps that I’ve created a lot of goodwill over the years through my website. Promoting businesses for free seems to be paying off for me now! Plus people have been hearing about this map for years and the final product is pretty sexy and useful, so it’s an easy sell.

If everything goes as planned (a big ‘if’) then this map thing could turn into a nice little money-maker. I’ve covered about half of my expenses with an Indiegogo campaign and should earn between $5 and $6 profit per map sold. With 5,500 maps, that adds up to a nice chunk of money. But the key will be actually selling them!

I haven’t included the pre-sales to individuals as part of my 2014 earnings since they’ve come as part of my Indiegogo campaign but once that’s done, all sales will be reported here. I’m reporting the amount paid to me and not factoring in my costs, so take that into consideration. This could either earn me a nice chunk of money in 2015 or go horribly wrong and see me living with boxes of maps in my house until the end of time. I hope it’s the former…

Total Earnings for 2014

Totaling up all of my little projects gets me to a grand total of $19,606 in earnings for 2014. Again, it’s a huge drop from the glory days of old but it’s a step in the right direction as far as diversifying goes. I’m moving towards projects that I can be proud of and it’s still early days and I’m excited what 2015 holds.

Happy New Year everyone!

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2014 Yearly Wrap Up

2014 Wrap - Lebanon

I’m excited! My three major projects of the past year (an update to The Underground Guide to International Volunteering, Eating in Kigali, and The Map – Kigali) have finally been finished and I’ve got a whole lot more spare time on my hands these days. I’m not really even sure what to do with myself since finishing the map. I seem to spend a disturbing amount of time staring blankly at my computer screen. Oh, and I’m reading more books. I guess that’s a good thing.

But one thing I think I’ve decided is that it’s time to get this sad, neglected blog up and running again. The best way I can think to kick things off is with a 2014 year in review style post. Since I didn’t do one last year and since it’s a great way to summarize what I’ve done as well as what I intend on getting up to in the coming year. They’re fun for me to write and hopefully fun for you to read!

Oh and my earnings reports are coming back in 2015. Yippee! I’m not going to be quite as specific and have more of a focus on my Africa-related businesses, but I think you’ll still find it quite interesting. I really love that I’ve been able to move away from the shady link sales side of things and towards a revenue model on websites that I’m proud of and, though I’m not earning nearly as much these days, I think the potential is there to grow. Holding myself accountable by publishing earnings reports is a great way to motivate myself to keep working hard and increasing sales. So… keep a lookout for the first report in awhile during the first week of January.

Ok so on with my 2014 yearly wrap up. (Let’s just forget about 2013… I didn’t do much, anyway!)

2014 Travels

  • Rwanda - I spent this year living in Kigali and taking occasional trips abroad and to the lake.
  • Nairobi - My parents visited Rwanda and we went to Nairobi for four days. They went on a safari and I hung out with a friend who was living in South Sudan.
  • Norway - I spent a week hanging out with a couple of friends in Oslo and on an island about three hours away.
  • Scotland - I hung out with my family and attempted to do a cycle trip which didn’t quite go as planned but I did get to do a bit of exploring by bike.
  • Beirut - I visited my Norwegian friend who moved here in July and we ate a lot of hummus.

Things I Learned in 2014

My closest friend in Kigali left after four and a half years and I learned that people leaving doesn’t start to suck any less the more it happens. It’s not something I think I’ll ever get used to and I really do think it makes me a bit apprehensive about meeting new people, for better or for worse.

But I also know that making close friends who leave means that it gives me places to visit! I was able to take advantage of that with Norway and Beirut and hopefully I’ll get a few more visits in in 2015. I’m always eager to host friends in Rwanda and, while parting ways isn’t enjoyable, it’s just the beginning of something a bit different.

I’ve also figured out that buying a bicycle is easier said than done. Holy crap… buying a touring bike was a three week ordeal in Scotland. First I got one I didn’t end up liking (you have to order them into the store in order to give them a test ride) which wasted a week. Then I waited another week only to be told the bike arrived damaged. Then, finally, three weeks later I had my hands on the bike I wanted but by this point I’d wasted so much time that I didn’t get to do the trip I wanted. Instead I headed up to Oban (a few hours north of Glasgow) and spent a few days riding around the area using my aunt’s cabin as a base. It was nice, but it wasn’t the touring trip I was hoping to do. Related… I learned that I really love biking and I’m hoping to take a longish trip soon.

2014 Wrap - Bike

I learned that I don’t like fly fishing. At all.

And that the lemonade in Lebanon is the best in the world.

It was also really great getting a chance to hang out with my parents and family in Scotland for so long this year. My parents visited Rwanda for six weeks in February and I spent another five weeks in July and August with them in Scotland. It was nice to have some hanging out time and to be able to show them my life in Rwanda, finally.

2014 Wrap - Family

As far as work goes, 2014 saw a definitive shift away from paid links and other scammy website behaviour and towards earning a more honest living (at least one I’m more proud of) with my Kigali and Kampala websites. Both sites are earning an income from advertisers and, I think, there’s still a lot of room for growth. It’s nice to create a community of real people that eventually attracts businesses that are trying to reach them. It’s not about climbing Google’s rankings, it’s about making an actual connection with potential customers, and I really like that.

So I guess I’ve learned that this model works! I’ve also learned that it’s a lot of work. My advertisers need to continue to see value from their investment so I can’t just forget about the sites for a year (a la this blog) and expect that they won’t be pissed off. But I’ve really enjoyed all of the connections I’ve made with my advertisers. They’re all businesses I can highly recommend and I think, so far, everyone is happy.

Following on from that, 2014 has shown me how influential my Kigali website actually is! It’s kind of crazy… these days it seems like anyone I meet who finds out that I run the website takes a few moments to shower me in praise and to tell me how much the site has helped them. Plus I sometimes get feedback about how customers come to find certain businesses or events, with my site being the key reason. It’s really nice to feel like my site has been helpful to so many people and it makes me want to continue to grow it.

2014 Wrap - Map

I’ve also learned the ins and outs of map making. Plus, in the process, I taught myself the basics of InDesign and Illustrator in which makes me happy. I’ve been mystified by both programs for years and now I can actually do a few things with them and look forward to learning even more. Plus I’ve run my first ever Indiegogo campaign and it’s been a success. Although my goal really is to raise closer to GBP5,000… I just got nervous so set a lower target. But I’m slowly making my way there and it’s been a nice experience overall.

2015 Travel Plans

Though I still love living in Kigali, I can feel myself getting a bit restless. I’m not sure if I’m just the type of person who will alternate between waves of contentedness at home on the back porch and wanting to sell all of my stuff and take off. I still haven’t rediscovered the travel bug (at least not backpacking for the sake of it) but I am a big fan of travelling for work, for events, and to visit friends and I think that’s what this year has in store for me.

  • London, UK - I’ll be in London from January 19th to 23rd for a super short trip to collect 5,500 maps, mail out about 300 as part of my Indiegogo campaign perks, and then bring the rest back with me in 10 boxes. I’m a bit anxious about how all of this will go down but physically going to London is cheaper and easier than having these maps shipped. Yep… shipping to Rwanda is expensive.
  • Addis Ababa, Ethiopia - I’ve already set up Living in Addis Ababa as my third website in my growing little empire. I’ve been once before and really love the city. It’s a wonderful combination of safe, crazy, and it has great food and coffee. So I’m giving myself an excuse to get to know this great city and intend on spending a couple of weeks there at some point in February. I’d hope to have the forum ready and the beginnings of the website by the time I return from this trip. I’ll also do a bit of research to see if a map is a feasible idea here, as well.
  • Kampala, Uganda - My second site is Living in Kampala and, while it’s been on the go for over two years, it’s never really caught on quite the same way as my Kigali site has. Which is weird since there are far more expats in Kampala. So my plan is to spend about three weeks there maybe in March or April to stockpile about 15 restaurant review articles, research the possibility of a map, and to get to know the city a bit better so I can be more hands on and hopefully make the site more interesting and successful.
  • Cyprus - I’ve been interested in bicycle touring for awhile now but haven’t had a good opportunity to really give it a try. Rwanda is depressing in April so I might try to sneak away with my bike. It looks like Cyprus is good that time of year (ie. not horribly rainy or cold) so I might head there for a couple of weeks of exploring by bike. Lebanon is a cheap and quick flight away so if my friend is still living there I might pop over for a few days.
  • Quebec & Ontario, Canada - My brother is getting married! In August. In the Niagara Falls area of Canada. I’ll nee to be home for most of August but I’m thinking about tacking on another month or two for some biking. A friend of mine lives in Montreal and Quebec has a pretty extensive network of bike trails (and my French could use a lot of work…) so that might make a good travel spot.
  • Brisbane, Australia - A friend of mine is getting married in Australia! So this is when I seriously look at my bank account and decide what I can actually afford to do. I don’t really need to be in Kigali to run the website so I might consider taking some time away from Rwanda as part of a larger trip that continues on after Australia. Or maybe I’ll just head to Oz for a bit and then head back to Africa afterwards. We’ll see… I guess it depends on how many maps I can sell!

Goals for 2015

Ah… it’s funny to see my Africa travel site mentioned several years in a row as one of my goals. I might just leave that off of the list… I totally forgot it even existed! Here are a few more realistic goal for the coming year.

  • Living in Kigali – I’m really happy with how far this site as come over the years. I’m earning around $1,000 from advertising without too much effort on my part in sales. I really need to start producing more consistent content, though. I’d like to be writing at least two articles a month along with a newsletter. This isn’t a crazy difficult target. I’d also like to reach out to advertisers to find some creative ways to work together. Whether it be offering coupons or events promotion or something else. I think there are some other unexplored opportunities for earning.
  • Create a Living in Kigali & Map App - I don’t know the first thing about creating an app but I have a lot of good contacts who can point me in the right direction. I’ve already downloaded other useful city guide-style apps to see what I like and what I don’t like. I’d love to package all of the information on my website and also the map to create an app that I’ll sell for a few bucks. This would involve a lot of guidance from me in creating the app’s flow and look and the content, and I think that might take a lot more time than I expect. But it’s on my to-do list for sure! The beauty of this is that once I get the structure set up for one city, it will be easy to duplicate for others.
  • Sell The Map – Kigali - After over three years of work, my map of Kigali is finally finished! It’s at the printer’s now and I won’t be truly relaxed until I have it in my hands, but the work is done and now it’s about selling it. I’ve got about 4,700 of these things left to sell but I’ve got a whole city full of potential buyers and I’ve given myself between 10 months and a year to sell this many. At that point the plan is to reprint. This whole process has been kind of fun so I’m looking forward to moving into sales mode and recouping some cash.
  • Living in Kampala - My partner and I have started to make a bit of an income from this site but we still don’t have consistent writers and I think the overall quality of the site could be improved. I really want to work hard at getting the forum, Facebook page, and events calendar going so that we can climb up off of this 200 visits a day mark that we seem to have been stuck on for over a year.
  • Create Other Maps - I’ve loved the whole process of making the Kigali map and so now I’m thinking of other cities to branch out into. The logical one would be Kampala because we already have the website but I hear there might already be a good map for that city. I was also encouraged to think about a map of Musanze which is a small city in Rwanda. It’s the tourism centre and the place people stay when they go see the gorillas. It would be a much smaller project and I’ll do a bit of research into whether it would work or not. I want to do another map and I plan to decide which one at some point in early 2015.
  • Living in Addis - I’ve been sitting on a few ‘Living in …’ domain names and I think it’s finally time to roll out another site with Addis Ababa as my target. No other decent site exists to help new arrivals and I think it’ll be fairly easy to get a foothold in Addis. Plus it gives me a great excuse to visit! Making this site successful will mean finding writers and/or a partner within the next six months or so (anyone know anyone in Addis?) but there’s still a lot I can do before that point so I’ll spend a few weeks there doing just that.
  • Learn GIS Mapping – Anyone who’s seriously into maps will be able to tell you what GIS software is. At this stage, I still don’t really have a clue. It’s the industry standard for creating maps. Or so I’m told. There are lots of different software packages and I’d really love to dedicate some time to learning a bit more about this. The advantage would be (or so I’m told) that I could hook all of my mapping projects together and have a more accurate end result. So, from what I understand, I could use the software to expand on my physical map and create an app and also then use the same data for my website. So that all of the map info is in one central location and then I can use that to update them all, in whichever style I want. This all seems magical and I don’t know if I know what I’m talking about, but I’d like to learn more, at the very least.

I think all of these are pretty manageable goals, especially given my sudden free time as the map project comes to a close. I’m excited to continually be moving in a creative direction with most of my projects and I really hope that my Africa websites continue to grow. Most of my efforts in the first half of this year will go into map sales and increasing traffic to my Kampala website. Hopefully everything goes as planned!

I’ll chime in again in early January with a 2014 earnings wrap and then from there on I’ll have something for you each month. My earnings have changed quite a lot since last I wrote about them and I hope you’ll find things interesting.

Happy holidays all and I’m looking forward to getting back into the swing o things over here on Nerdy Nomad!

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Five Reasons for My Successful Indiegogo Campaign

The Map - Kigali

Just under a month in and with 33 days left to go I’m at 114% of my target and pushing towards raising a total of GBP6,000 which would be 200% of my goal. It’ll be tough but I feel like with another month of hard work, I’ll get there!

Running a crowd funding campaign is something that’s totally new to me and I was certainly a bit apprehensive about trying this in an effort to raise funds. I did a lot of reading before I kicked off my campaign, coming across ‘Top 10 Things to Do…’ type lists and reading about people’s successes and failures.

There are a few possibly less obvious reasons for why I think my campaign has been successful and I wanted to share them.

1. Have Paypal as a Payment Option - One of the reasons I chose to go with Indiegogo instead of Kickstarter is Paypal. Indiegogo have an option to pay using Paypal, Kickstarter do not. I’ve always created websites with myself in mind as a target audience and I know what my own personal experience has been when attempting to fund campaigns. I often attempt to support the crowd funding efforts of friends but don’t have my creditcard handy and wish that Paypal is an option. When I see it isn’t, I often stop the donation process with the serious intention of returning later to make a contribution but I rarely do. I know this about myself and I expect there are a lot of people out there like me. So, knowing this, I wanted to give options for payment beyond creditcards and having Paypal has been great and has been used by about a quarter of people. Sure, there’s no way of knowing how many of those would have used a creditcard if they weren’t given Paypal as an option, but I think having another payment choice has meant an increase in my contributions.

2. Avoiding Amazon Payments - Another reason I avoided Kickstarter is their weird attachment to Amazon for payments. Ok… so I know that for people living in North America (and maybe Europe, too?), Amazon is huge and virtually anyone who does things online is going to have an account. I guess this would make making a payment pretty easy. But for us overseas people, it’s not the case. I do have an Amazon account but who knows what the password is. Having a new password sent is an extra step I can’t be bothered with and I wouldn’t want to do this to potential contributors. Plus many people won’t even have an Amazon account so asking them to set one up just to contribute to my campaign is madness. MADNESS! I think this is a case of knowing your market. I know that most of my contributors are going to be living in Rwanda and I doubt they’re likely to be as hooked up with Amazon as people outside of Rwanda. So in order to make sure the payment process is as easy as possible, I chose Indiegogo.

3. Having an Existing Community - This is HUGE! My guess is that, for someone to run a successful crowd sourcing campaign, they’d have to spend just as much (if not more) time before the campaign actually starts on generating buzz, creating mailing lists, and reaching out to potential contributors. Starting a campaign sold without a small army of already interested people would, I think, be very difficult. Fortunately for me, I’ve built up a large and very dedicated Kigali community over the past four years. I have a popular website that sees around 700 visits per day and I have a Facebook page that has over 27,000 followers. People are engaged, they like the website, they trust me and value my opinion, and they’ve been very supportive of my project from the start. Reaching out to this community has been easy for me and, as someone who is very supportive of my community (promoting businesses, events, other cool things), now I’m able to reap the rewards as they make an effort to support me back.

4 Making a Great Product is Key - This map has been in demand for years. It fills a hole in the market and does so with quality that goes far beyond what people might expect. It’s tricky to convey how high quality the map will be, but I think people are getting the idea with the multiple images I’ve been sharing. It really is a product I know a lot of people will love so it’s easy to continually put the word out. Having an actual product that people want to get their hands on is another reason raising funds has been pretty easy for me, so far. I’m able to use the Indiegogo campaign as a way of taking pre-orders… so it’s not money for nothing. The perk is an actual product that people want to get their hands on and it’s far easier to get contributions when I’m using the platform basically to sell the maps.

5. Have a Few Promotional Approaches - It’s not enough to just harass your friends and family or even, in my case, my large and engaged community. I think having a few other tricks up my sleeve will help me achieve my funding goal and go far beyond it. This part hasn’t been tested just yet but I’ve cleared 100% fairly easily (Facebook posts to my Kigali page, more Facebook posts to friends and family, one newsletter email to 1,200 people, about 20 individual emails to the Kigali business community, and a post about the campaign on my website). I’ve exhausted these avenues for now but I’m not at a loss for what to do next. I’ll bust out some paid Facebook promotion this week, promote my recently finished cartoon image, add another perk, stick some posters up offline posters, and then continue with more of the usual things that have gotten me this far. If my only avenue for getting support were constantly emailing family, friends, and website readers, I think I’d be struggling.

I’ve found raising money on Indiegogo to be a really enjoyable and fairly easy experience. Although I should say that, in order to really cover my costs, I’d like to raise GBP5,000. I was a bit nervous so set my fundraising goal artificially low. But it looks like I’m powering on to my actual goal without too much trouble.

I think that these five things are the main reasons for my success. You can spend all the time in the world on a video or crafting your page but I’m pretty sure that my weird, pointless cartoon video hasn’t hindered me at all because of my already engaged community. That’s the main thing. If you don’t already have a loyal community to tap into, that’s when you’re going to have to get really creative because you’ll need to find a way to attract people who otherwise wouldn’t be paying any attention to you. I think that’s the hard part. Lucky for me, I’ve got a pre-made audience who like me and who have been waiting for this product for a long time.

I’ve loved this process! I’m only half way through my campaign and I’m excited to see how far I can push it. It’s even better for me because it’s shown me that the map is anticipated and that makes me excited for when I actually have it printed and have to actually sell them!

Exciting times!

0

Launching an Indiegogo Crowd Funding Campaign

The Map

If there’s anyone still reading my sadly neglected blog, then hello to you! I’ve been a bad blogger who’s been busy with a zillion things who hasn’t made time for this site. Lame, I know. But I’ve got a good post for you now, I think.

As longtime readers will know, I’ve been working on a printed tourist-style map of Kigali, Rwanda, where I’ve lived for the past four years. I’ve been working on it for over three years, off and on. I’ve alternated between extreme motivation and extreme discouragement and how much work I had ahead of me. But I’ve been going strong on the project for the past six months and I’ll be ready to send it off to the printers in about a month.

But this is sort of a risky project. I have no idea how many to print, how much to sell it for, or anything, really. Plus, word on the street is that some other folks are making another (way less sexy) map as we speak. So that sort of sucks. But I believe in the product I’m making and I think it’ll sell itself because of how incredibly useful it’ll be with the added bonus of it looking great, too. A practical souvenir! But getting this thing printed will cost a lot up front and it would be great to mitigate the risk a bit. So that’s where crowd funding comes in! The idea is to get enough together to be able to print and ship the first run with maybe a bit extra to make an app too.

I launched my Indiegogo campaign yesterday morning and it’s off to a pretty amazing start, I have to say! I thought it might be interesting to write about my experiences so far, what I expect, why I’ve made some of the decisions I have, and then keep you updated as the campaign progresses. So, here goes…

My Hopes for the Campaign

I’ve hoping to raise a minimum of £3,000 but, in reality, I need to raise closer to £5,000 to print this thing without too many worries. But besides hoping to raise a substantial amount of start up money, I thought a crowd funding campaign would also act as a great way to gauge interest in the project. I’d like the campaign to act as a way to pre-order The Map, so if I can’t manage to ‘sell’ any during my Indiegogo campaign then I’ll probably re-think my demand estimates and print fewer. Likewise, if things take off and I pre-sell loads of maps, I’d be encouraged to print more. So I’m hoping for cash money to get started and also for an indication of the popularity of the project.

I decided on a very long 60 day campaign because of the pre-order aspect of this project. There are always a lot of new arrivals in January and, with the program running until January 10th and expected delivery a week or so later, I’m hoping to get some last-minute funding through orders from these folks.

Why I Think This Will Succeed

Running a crowd funding campaign is hard work! Before starting I did a bunch of research and got a whole bunch of lists of what to do and what not to do. A common piece of advice was to treat the campaign like a full time job. I’m lucky because I’m in a position to do just that! So that’s one positive thing right from the start.

The most important reason is that I have an existing and engaged community through my Living in Kigali site who have been anticipating this product for a while. I’ve been talking about it for years, occasionally posting updates of the design work I’ve done, and anytime a friend or new acquaintance asks me what I’m working on, the answer is always ‘The Map’. I was talking last night to a guy who runs Impact Hub in Westminster who gave a good piece of advice for success: ‘You need to bring your existing community to your crowd funding campaign.’ This makes perfect sense to me and, while I think campaigns can be successful without this, having a Facebook page of 25,000+ people and a popular website aimed squarely at my campaign’s target market is what, I hope, will make this process enjoyable rather than like pulling teeth.

Why Indiegogo and not Kickstarter?

This was an interesting question for me! One that I had to give a lot of thought to. Kickstarter was my first choice, mainly because of that site’s popularity and I like that it’s only for creative projects. They’ve also got a good system set up for adding shipping costs and it would have made a better choice since their shipping section allows for a bit more flexibility that would have come in handy since I’ll have lots of people collecting the map. Plus they’ve got an all or nothing model and, believe it or not, that’s what I would have preferred to use.

Indiegogo’s shipping section is quite limiting and the site’s audience is much smaller than Kickstarter’s, but I chose to go with them for one very  important reason: ease of paying. Kickstarter asks users to login to an Amazon account to be able to pay. It seems like pretty much everyone has an Amazon account these days… except for my target audience. My campaign is aimed at people living in Rwanda… not a place so well-served by Amazon. Sure, many people will have had accounts before they moved to Rwanda but the threat of forgotten passwords was enough of a deterrent for me to choose to avoid this hassle.

Indiegogo is a bit more straightforward – you can pay with credit cards and Paypal, and this is the key, for me. I’ve always done things with myself in mind as the target market and this is no different. I know how many times I’ve been about to donate to a campaign like mine but didn’t have a credit card handy. I was frustrated that Paypal wasn’t an option and abandoned the idea altogether. Seeing that Indiegogo offered Paypal as a payment method sold me on the immediately. Plus I like their interface a bit better and, possibly because the projects at Indiegogo aren’t of as high a quality (or possibly because my project it truly super and amazingly wonderful) it seems to be trending in the design category after less than 24 hours. I have no idea how useful that is, but it cant be bad!

Plans to Get the Word Out

I launched the campaign yesterday and within 24 hours had already reach 25% of my funding goal. About 5% of that was me putting my own money in to get the ball rolling, however. And with my actual goal being closer to £5,000, I’m still a long way off but it’s a pretty great start and I’m feeling very encouraged!

Pre-Launch - I’ve been posting updates about my map periodically over the years with more of a focus on the actual design and content work I’ve been doing. I only recently decided on crowd funding, so that wasn’t mentioned at all until recently. A couple of weeks before the launch I posted about my upcoming campaign on Facebook, telling my readers there to expect it as a way to both pre-order The Map and also to support me. I also warned them about it… that I’d likely be posting a lot in the coming weeks and to be prepared. I have a very positive relationship with my readers so it was well received. I did this again a few days before launching. I also went through old emails to my Living in Kigali website and compiled three lists. One of friends that I have in Kigali (who are also mostly connected n Facebook), one of businesses that I have a relationship with or who I’ve promoted or helped in some way over the years, and one giant list of anyone who has ever contacted about anything to do with Kigali who might owe me one, so to speak. I haven’t done anything yet with these lists but expect to soon.

  • Day 1 - The first day was nerve wracking! I put a lot of work into the campaign and there’s a lot of stress that the whole thing will fall flat on its face. So I was nervous! Day 1 saw me send a post to my Facebook friends (about 600 people, maybe 150 to 200 of those who are in Kigali or have lived here) with the video and a link to the campaign. Shortly after that I posted a similar thing to my Living in Kigali Facebook page with just over 25,000 readers. I then paid £13 to boost that post for a week and within 24 hours it’s reached nearly 20,000 people. Or so the Facebook stats say. I raised 25% of my goal doing just these few things.
  • Day 2 - I want to keep the momentum going and I’m hoping to raise half of my funds at least within the first week. I’ve just sat down to work so first things first, this post on Nerdy Nomad. After, I’ll add an image to the top of the sidebar on Living in Kigali that links to the campaign and I’ll also publish a post about the map, its progress, the Indiegogo campaign, and lots of images. At the moment there’s no way to go from the site to the Indiegogo page so I think these two additions should bring in a good number of steady sales. There are a lot of people who find the site purely through Google and have no idea about the Facebook page until later, so this is a good way to reach them.
  • Day 3 - I’ll likely send emails out to those lists I compiled before the campaign started. I have great relationships with a lot of people and businesses in the city and I’m going to make an effort to do as many personal emails as possible for those people who I think I’ve been especially good to over the years. I’ll also approach people who are part of large networks or groups and ask them to pass the link along to their people.
  • Day 4 - I have a newsletter with around 1,200 people subscribed so I’ll craft something and send it out to them. Many of these people will have already left the city, I think, so it could be a good way to reach people who might want a nice souvenir of their time here. Or it might just be sending a message to people I’ve already reached. I’m not sure! I also might ad a referrals contest of some sort to the Indiegogo campaign and publicise it on Facebook.
  • Day 5 - I’ll probably do another naggy post on Facebook to see if I can rope a few more friends and family into donating. This was never a part of my overall plan but I’ve got a few perks that might be of interest to people who don’t care about maps of obscure African cities, so it might get a few more contributions and every little bit helps!
  • Day 6 - I’ve written an article for Living in Kigali which is similar in style to one that went mini-viral on my Kampala site. I’ll post this and boost in on Facebook (doing pretty much the same as with the Kampala article) and add some Indiegogo info at the top of the article so that, if lots of people see it as I hope, many might be tempted to check out the Indiegogo campaign page, too.
  • Day 7 - I’ll probably work at reaching out to a few bloggers, map making websites, and forums. I don’t think I’ll spend too much time on this but it could be a way to reach new people, especially in the maps crowd.
  • Onwards - I guess those are most of my plans… after the first week’s push I’ll likely just keep reminding people about the campaign through Facebook. I’ll be working on the map still for the next month so there will be reasons to update people on Facebook that will have information that isn’t just me nagging and reminding. I might also approach some business owner friends to see if they might want to stick up a poster or something with a link to the website. Kind of a ‘get your map here’ sort of a thing.

Surprises So Far

First up, I’m surprised at how quickly things have gone in the first 24 hours! It’s far more than I expected! But I also know that these campaigns tend to do very well early on and then towards the end. So with a 60 day campaign, especially one spanning Xmas, there could be a lot of slow days in between so getting out of the gates quickly is essential for me. So far, so good!

Setting up the perks can be tricky and I’m surprised at how popular the ‘Be on The Map’ perk has been. I have another friend committed to a spot which means only one left after one day. It’s a fun perk and I’m happy that people are into the idea but I wasn’t expecting to sell all of those to be honest. The idea for the cartoon print came a few days before I launched the campaign and ‘The Map and The Print’ perk at £18 has been a popular choice so far. So I’m glad I added it in there! Once I finalise the cartoon print I think it’ll be really cool and I’ll start to promote that a bit more on my Facebook page and I think that will be quite well-received.

Conclusions

It’s far too early to say whether I’ll exceed my £3,000 goal and sneak my way up tot he £5,000 I need but I think things are off to a wonderful start and I’m hopeful! I think putting in a few weeks of research time before launching a campaign is good advice and I’m happy I familiarised myself with things before starting the process.

I also realise how good of a position I’m in to run one of these crowd funding campaigns. It helps immensely to already have a loyal and engaged ‘crowd’ who are anticipating the product. It’s the sort of things that sells itself, especially since nothing of its kind already exists, and I know how good I have it. I would think seriously about going down this funding road if I didn’t already have these pieces in place. It would be a lot more difficult although not impossible, I don’t think. When you have a good product that people want, it’s just a matter of getting the word out. I’m lucky to already have the means to do that easily and I think that that’s what will be the difference between stressing and struggling the whole way and having an enjoyable experience.

The Pitch

And yes, I know I’ve been crap lately (something that will change!) but I’m going to give you guys the same line I gave to my Kigali site readers: If you’ve been helped or entertained by Nerdy Nomad over the years, I hope you’ll consider either making a contribution (for some cool perks!) or sharing the campaign around. Things are off to a great start but I’ll need a lot of help to accomplish my goals.

I’m really proud of the map that I’ll be putting out there into the world and I hope you’ll help me reach my goals so I can make it a viable reality!

Here’s the campaign link again: http://igg.me/at/mapofkigali

Thanks!

2

My eBook Promotion Strategy

Well… I’m done. The Underground Guide to International Volunteering is wrapped up into nice PDF and Kindle packages and it’s out there in the world. Now what? Sadly, it’s not flying off of the shelves. I’ve sold three copies of the Kindle version (two to friends) and the PDF isn’t doing much better.

But it’s ok because I haven’t actually tried to sell it yet. After finishing the book I was sick of thinking about the thing and took a week away from it. I stuck it up on Amazon and made a half-assed attempt at building a book website (which is mostly done but not really) and then I started working on other things.

But the time has come to make a reasonable attempt at selling something I worked so hard on for so long. Fortunately I think it’s a good resource that a lot of people will get a lot of use out of. Now it’s just a matter of putting the book in front of those people’s eyeballs and hoping for the best.

Kindle Marketing

I’m completely new to the world of eReaders. I only bought my Kindle a few months ago and, while I’m in love with it, the Amazon Kindle marketplace isn’t something I know a lot about. But I see the potential in having a Kindle version of my book up on the Amazon marketplace. It’s used by millions of people and is essentially a search engine for people who are already looking to buy a book. The trick is having my book rank for the relevant keywords and to figure out a good price, among other things.

I went into the world of Kindle pretty blind but picked up Making a Killing on Kindle along the way and I have a bit of hope. It sounds like a scammy book, promising ridiculous things. I don’t want to make a killing… I just want to sell a couple of books a day. I’ve got a good product and, based on the competition, it’s not unreasonable for people looking for volunteering info to pick it up. It does have a nice cover, after all!

The book is a step by step guide to using Amazon’s Kindle marketplace to your advantage. It doesn’t advocate blogging, Twitter, Facebook, or any social media, really. It makes sense… learn how to rank your book and do the rest of it right (reviews etc) and you’ve already got your book in front of people who are poised to buy. Why would they be searching on Amazon if they didn’t want to buy something? Well… lots of reasons, I suppose, but the point is that these are the people you want your book in front of. Especially when a sale can be a single click away.

I’ve been working through the book and it all makes a lot of sense. I’m not seeing any success so far but I haven’t done much besides upload it and choose a price. There’s a lot more to perfecting things and I’m looking forward to tinkering with everything and seeing how this works out.

So for Kindle… it’s not really a promotion strategy as much as it’s a strategy for getting the most out of the Kindle marketplace and Amazon interface. I’m going to try to have all of the steps followed by the end of next week… so it’ll be interesting if things improve or if it’ll be a big fail.

PDF Version

The area that I’m more familiar with is promoting the book online through other people’s blogs and websites. This worked reasonably well for me the first time around in 2009 and this time there are far more quality blogs to contact and I’ve added an affiliate programme.

The idea is to send off as many emails as possible to blogs and websites that seem like  a good fit for my eBook. I’ll start with the people who’ve already written about the original version – only about 30 people. I need to get in touch with them first to ask taht they change the charity information. A portion of the sale of the first version included a donation to a charity but this time around I’m splitting the profits with affiliates. So I want to make sure people change that so nobody is misled. Then I’ll check up to see if they want to review the new version or want a new guest post. Reviews are less work for me so they’re ideal, but I’m very happy to put together guest posts.

The next step is to contact new people who have blogs or websites with an audience that might be interested in a book like this. This means scouring the Internet and making a huge list. So far, after a bit of scouring, I’ve got a list of about 120 sites to work through. I’m taking a very personalised approach, first reading their blog for awhile to get a feel for their site (to see if it’s a good fit) and then writing a personal email saying why I think my ebook would be a good fit, explaining the affiliate program, and saying that I’m open to suggestions on how we could work together. I’m not in any huge rush to find zillions of partners all at once (I want it to be a slow release sort of approach) so I think this personal touch works well.

It’s been ages since I’ve read blogs. I spend so much time online that I don’t really read much from my computer. So I need to get back into the world of travel blogging. It’s actually been pretty fun to catch up with bloggers I used to follow and to see how the industry has evolved and what sorts of new sites are out there. It’s great to make new contacts and it means that Nerdy Nomad might get back on some people’s radars as well.

So the idea here is to reach out to good blogs and website to find partners willing to sell my ebook either through a review, a guest post from me, a link in the sidebar, or a shout out in a newsletter or social media. It’s a long, time-consuming process but the good part is that, once I form partnerships, these links stay out there in the Internet world for people to continually find. I was selling 5 to 10 of the old version of my ebook without having done any promotion for about three years. It’s because those links are out there and people interested in volunteering will find them. My idea this time around is to space out the posts but to also continue looking for new partners over the years, rather than doing it for six months and then stopping.

Who knows if it’ll work! But if I can sell 10 ebooks a month without doing much of anything, then I’m hopeful that being a bit more aggressive will bump that number up a lot. Hopefully combined with Kindle I’ll be able to bring in my goal of a consistent $300 per month. I don’t think that’s being too ambitious… so lets see how it goes!

I also bought my first ad over on Almost Fearless. It shows up in the sidebar of their internal pages. Good investment? Who knows! But it wasn’t expensive and their readership is large and I think they’re the type that could be into volunteering.

Email me and info@internationalvolunteeringguide.com with your website or blog address and if it looks like a good fit, I’ll send you a review copy. Or we can discuss a guest post. If you’d like to join up as an affiliate, here’s all the info: http://www.internationalvolunteeringguide.com/affiliate-programme

As always, I’ll keep you updated!

7

Volunteering Ebook = Updated!

Yay! YAY! It’s done! After several months of work on what was supposed to be an update but ended up turning into a rewrite, my second version of The Underground Guide to International Volunteering is done and ready to be shipped out into the world. Well, in PDF form, at least.

The thing has gone from 60 pages to just over 100 and I’ve added a tonne of new information, anecdotes, interviews, photos, and I’ve increased my recommended free and cheap volunteering opportunities from around 25 up to 80. I’ve been keeping a list of recommended places over the past four years and I’ve finally added them into the ebook. Places that I’ve come across in my travels or been recommended by other travellers, with a major focus on Africa. I’ve got some excellent interviews including a guy who supervises volunteers, a 75 year old couple who travel and volunteer for six months out of the year, and a dude who runs an orphanage in Africa.

It’s taken me a lot longer than expected but I’m proud of this new version! It’s funny how a simple edit to include a few more volunteering suggestions has turned into nearly doubling the size of the thing, but there you have it! I think I’ve been inspired a bit by the potential I see in self publishing for e-readers. I think there’s a great opportunity out there to reach a lot of people through Amazon’s Kindle marketplace alone, and that’s pretty much the only e-reader I know anything about. If you can produce a good book, set a good price, and figure out how to promote it within Amazon, then I think there’s a lot more potential for sales. Much more than flogging a PDF ebook on my website alone, which is what I’ve been doing so far.

Up until now I’ve been selling about 5 to 10 PDF versions of my ebook without doing anything at all. When I launched the ebook way back in March 2014 I did a little campaign of writing guest posts and soliciting reviews. So I guess I the ebook is out there on other people’s sites as well, but really that’s small potatoes compared with being able to have my book pop up on Amazon when people are actually searching for a book on volunteering. Plus I’m introducing an affiliate program (if you have a travel blog, you can join the affiliate program here) with a 50% share in the sale, so I’m hoping that will encourage a few more people to get on board and add the ebook somewhere on their site.

I’m not really sure what to expect with this new version but it’s part of my new earnings plan since paid links and guest posts are on their way out. So it’s one piece of the puzzle and I think it could potentially be a big one. I’m keeping my expectations modest. If I can earn around $100 a month on my old ebook without doing anything or having an affiliate program or having it on Kindle then I feel like I could reasonably hope for $300+ per month in sales. That would mean getting a lot of affiliates on board and figuring out how to market on Kindle. The Kindle version is nearly ready to go so once I get that version online, I’ll start posting about my experiences there. I’ve picked up a couple of ‘how to’ ebooks about selling on Kindle so I have a few ideas to try out and I’m excited to get started.

The Kindle stuff isn’t quite as straightforward as just busting out a PDF. That, I know how to do… Kindle is very new to me as a user and I don’t know anything about it as a publisher. But I’m learning! I bought How to Make a Killing on Kindle which seems to be the standard for information on selling your book on the Amazon platform. Plus I’m using a formatting guide from Smashwords which, so far, seems pretty straighforward. The formatting is almost done and then I’ll have to tackle the uploading part which will take a bit more research because, as the moment, I’m clueless. But the whole process seems very logical and, with a bit of time and patience, it’s not something a person really needs to outsource. At least, that’s what I’ve found so far. I could be ripping my hair out in a couple of days when I get to the uploading and troubleshooting stage.

I’m hoping to get the Kindle version up by early next work and I’ll start exploring the Amazon platform at that point. There’s a bit to it… it’s not only about putting a good book online on Amazon, there are some tricks and tips to getting your book seen and I’m looking forward to experimenting with them. One thing I think I’ll need to do is have a new cover designed. Something that’ll work better on a small, grey scale Kindle screen. So, still a bit to do before I launch on Kindle and that’s where I’ll really see the sales, I think. So I’m anxious to get it up there.

This stage is also a bit scary because I’ve been working on the new version for months now and it’s a pretty important piece to my new income puzzle. I’m nervous that I’ll put it out there and won’t really see much of an increase in sales. Which will make me lose faith in my second book idea for a Kigali-specific guide. In my mind I know I’m producing good books that will be very useful for their target markets but there are always the fears that maybe the markets are too small, or maybe I won’t be able to figure out how to get the book really ‘out there’, or maybe it’s not something that people will even like or find useful, despite the positive feedback I’ve been getting. I think that the writing part is half the work and this is where the fun and potentially frustrating promotion stage has to start and that’s not something I’m particularly experienced in. My strategy has always been to make something useful and let the quality speak for itself… but there’s a lot more to it and I’ll need to tap into my inner promoter to really be successful with this and that makes me nervous.

But it’s also exciting to try new things and I’m looking forward to learning! At the very least, I’ll learn how to format files for Kindle which is kind of cool. Cool for geeks, I mean. Do any of you have experience publishing for Kindle? Tips welcome!

Ok so that’s all from me! If you’d like a review copy of the ebook, please email me at info@internationalvolunteeringguide.com with your blog’s URL and I’ll check it out and send you a copy.

If you’ve bought the old version of my ebook, send me an email to info@internationalvolunteeringguide.com with the email address you used for the purchase (so I can verify) and I’ll send you the new version.