Freelancing – Network Building – Part 1

When I am asked by other Freelancers how I think they can best improve their advertising network, or their web site, or how to deal with the many topics they cover, I inform them of a few options. Since this is also common knowledge, I feel it might be nice to share it with others who are freelancing and might have the same questions. Because as a web developer / designer and/or graphic artist you might wish to optimize and improve your advertising income as an additional revenue stream.

You can imagine someone who has a business, including freelancers, has a personal and probably a business web site. For example some social network profiles and perhaps a special page for a portfolio. But don’t forget your customers. They have published work, they have their own contacts and their own advertising programs. Normally people try to tap into this and make individual custom deals with their customers to benefit each other. This, of course, is a great way to generate additional income and build your own branding, etc. But you’re not thinking out of the box just yet.

A quick little example:  you have your own four web sites.

A simple way to drive traffic to each other is via cross-linking. You put your personal site link on your portfolio site. And your portfolio site on your business site, etc. But obviously you are not using your customers’ web sites. You can ask them individually if they are interested in sharing a link back to your site(s); and while some might have an objection with this, others might not.

But neither them nor you are making direct income from any of this.

Now imagine asking them to put your adsense on their site, and you’re also putting it on your own sites (adsense is just one example, there are others you can use of course). Anyway, they might say yes or no, depending if you can offer them a discount for the work you do for them, etc. But still. A small site with your ads won’t generate any significant hits and clicks; and there’s a loss in revenue here.

Now here is the out of the box moment: Reverse the situation. You become a customer, and you use your customers, and you share the revenue with the customers. Build a network. An advertising network that works in your benefit and the benefit of the people involved.

If you create Facebook apps, that’s a web site right there. You can build a community around it and become basically one of your own customers. Your portfolio can demo it, your business site can show it off as live example, and such. You can do the same for your other services and what not. MySpace designs, web site layout, personal blog with tutorials on how you do certain things, or a blog theme (free) download site, etc. These sites can sustain themselves; they’re instantly viral, they build branding; and they’re there with advertisements to help you generate income. Additionally your own site could have or not have ads, depending on how professional you wish your business site to look.

So without doing anything but the initial investment of running low traffic sites on your already hired server, you don’t have to do much, but enjoy the impressions, statistics building and revenue building through the clicks.  For some people this might be enough to cover the costs of keeping these sites up and running, for others it might be more than plenty and their own income stream, for most it will be just a bit of income, not really worth it.  The keywords are low and don’t mean a lot. They won’t earn a lot per ad click.

Don’t forget that on the side line here, you might gain more customers in the long run for your business, those who found you via the viral sites, or who checked you out and like the way you do business. So a $5 per year site can end you with a $2500 customer. Don’t underestimate this. I will discuss this in part 2 of network building for freelancers; at a later date.

But let’s not digress too much. What’s next? You now have your personal-, business-, blogs-, social-, and your viral sites. And you’re cross-linking to each other and building your branding, building you personal small network, and you’re growing in your advertising income. Why? Because your one adsense code is on all these sites and normally if you had 1 or 2 sites, and a few cents per site, now that is ten sites; that’s a potential tenfold increase. I am sure you see the potential here.  Of course .. we’re not going to build a thousand or more sites, to shoot this sky high. There is shooting for the stars, and then there’s just being unrealistic. That would be the latter.

Instead, what we will do is bypass that problem and let the ‘Social’ and the ‘Internet’ be our tools and grow an advertising network that benefits those who participate and of course .. you.

Via say Google Adsense / Adwords you can build a partner program to which you grant domains to be a partner and participate in displaying your adsense code,  your channels, on their sites. A quick example:

You offer a theme on your business site. The Terms of Services include that the theme can be cheaper, or they can opt-in to participate in the Google Adsense Partner Program. That even their smaller site that would normally get a cent per click, can now get keywords and such that are worth fifty cents per click. They get a cut from this profit, as well as you. Your adsense will show on their site, you won’t have to run those sites. The customer makes you money. And your customer makes money by getting into business with you. And more than they would if they would put their own adsense on their site. Why? Because they’re partner of what is now a network with not just five sites, but potential to grow to a hundred, or a thousand, or ‘unlimited’. So even advertisements with high click rates that would normally only show on high ranking and high traffic sites, are now shown on the smaller sites too. Benefiting everybody.

So instead of you doing the work for growing your own network, the customers now help you grow it for you. Helping you build your stats, clicks, impressions, and what not. Growing you a separate revenue stream that helps you build a budget to invest in to let’s say marketing and branding of your business. The viral effect is that this can help you grow it even further via word of mouth, via people twittering that they’ve earned their traffic and revenue because of becoming a customer of you. Or they simply add more sites to their own network, using your services and products to help set things up, again using your partner program.

Over time you can even start looking into your statistics and see which sites are companies and which of those are growing and have potential to grow, and offer to acquire them and have them become part of your property and grow the ad network internally a lot bigger/quicker.  But that would be a totally different blog entry. I won’t go into that right now.

I will also not go into another part of network building for freelancers, this blog is longer than expected already as it is, consider this part 1 and part 2 will be up soon enough. Come back to check out part 2 soon!

And in the meantime please drop your comments and thoughts as a reply to this blog to let me know what you think.

(Thank you Chi for pointing out some typing errors)