Build a Litecoin Mining Rig (to Literally Make Money Online)

Litecoin LogoIf you’ve followed this site for any length of time you realize that I enjoy using the internet to make money. Mostly, I’ve done this by building affiliate sites (by selling products through affiliate networks, or individual products). It’s always made me some money. But never has the opportunity to actually mint money arisen, until the advent of cryptocurrencies.

By now, you probably know what a cryptocurrency is, because Bitcoin (the most famous form of digital money) has been in the news lately. Financial news sources, major news networks, and mainstream business pundits have all commented on BTC in the last month. This is due to the recent wider adoption of Bitcoin by consumers and merchants – and also due to the massive and somewhat surprising rise in the value of Bitcoin. (About $1000 as of this writing.)

Well, the ship has sailed on the opportunity to mine Bitcoin. But you can still cash in on its notoriety and it’s value by mining other digital coin. For the purposes of this article (and ongoing experiment) I will be mining Litecoin (LTC). I’ll update you, dear readers, on my progress – including how much I end up with as profit (in USD). But the first step in this endeavor is to build a Litecoin mining rig. Interested? I hope so.

This first part is where all the risk lies, but with the price of LTC higher than ever it can be profitable in a short time to mine LTC. The first thing we need to do is to build our “mining rig”. Just like gold miner have rigs, cryptocurrency miners have computer rigs that do the work for them. (Our mining rig is being built with Litecoin in mind, but we can use it to mine other currencies as well.) The mining rig doesn’t have to look fancy, nor does it have to have to be like other computers in any way. What we’re going for is maximum mining power and minimum power consumption.

Another important consideration is keeping the rig’s temperature within a safe range (so as to not burn out our components). Oh yeah – and since we’re investing a lot of money in the rig, we want to make our investment back as soon as we can. Since it was Black Friday weekend, I took advantage of some of the sales. It was difficult to find the exact components I wanted, but I ended up (pretty much) with what I planned on buying.

4-GPU Litecoin Mining Rig

4-GPU Litecoin Mining Rig

The most important component for a rig is undoubtedly the GPU (Graphics Processing Unit). You probably call them graphics cards or video cards. For a miner, they’re the thing that does all the calculations. Some cards are better than others at making the calculations necessary to mine Litecoins. There are a few comparison charts online (such as this one) that will help you see the rate of kH/s, power consumption, etc. I decided to go with a card slightly higher than middle of the road cards, and I was searching for a deal as well. I had my eye on the 280x. After searching all the usual sites (Amazon, Tiger Direct, Newegg) I eventually found a deal on a Sapphire Radeon TOXIC R9 280X. I got three of them.

TigerDirect

I then ordered a motherboard with four PCI express slots. (I plan on adding another 280x board in the near future, to maximize the processing power of my mining rig.) The processor I got was a really basic Sempron 145, and I added 4GB RAM. (I probably would be fine with just 2GB in fact.) The CPU doesn’t do the mining work; the real work is done by the graphics cards. So if it looks like I skimped on the motherboard and processor…I did. I just need something basic to control the GPUs.

There is no hard drive in my system. For one thing, I don’t want to deal with even more power consumption. Secondly, this system is only doing one specific task and can be run off USB. So I am using a spare 8GB USB stick I have to put the Linux OS and mining program on.

I also ordered some powered risers (to connect the 280x cards to the mobo) and a couple of big cooling fans.

Last but not least, I needed at least one high-quality power supply. Instead of one, I ordered two power supplies. I wanted to make sure to get quality PSUs, and also to have enough power for all the stuff I’m running. (I wanted 1300 watts, and ended up doing it by getting two 650watt supplies.)

Parts List

Sapphire Radeon TOXIC R9 280X (Three of these)

GIGABYTE GA-990FXA-UD3 AM3+ AMD 990FX SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX AMD Motherboard

AMD Sempron Processor Model 145 2.8GHz Socket AM3, Retail

Crucial 4GB Single DDR3 1333 MT/s (PC3-10600) CL9 Unbuffered UDIMM 240-Pin Desktop Memory Module CT51264BA1339

PCIe 16x to 16x Powered Flexible Riser Extender Cable with Molex (Bitcoin Mining / Gaming) (Three of these)

Corsair Enthusiast Series 650-Watt 80 Plus Bronze Certified Power Supply Compatible with Core i3, i5, i7 and platforms – TX650

Thermaltake Mobile Fan II External USB Cooling Fan – Us

You can put all this into an actual computer case – but you don’t have to. I plan on setting this rig up in my garage on a table, and using a plain old dish-drying rack to hold the GPUs, and set the motherboard underneath. Once I get it set up and mining, my plan is to let the rig run for 24/7. According to my calculations (taking into consideration all my costs, the likely hashrate my rig will have with all three of the 280x GPUs, and the current price of Litecoin) my investment will be paid off in about a month.

Litecoin Miner on Dishrack

Litecoin Miner on Dishrack


Until I get all the parts in near the end of next week, all I can do is wait. Unfortunately I joined the LTC rush kind of late – and a lot of other people had the same idea judging from all the sold-out mining cards online. But I believe there’s still a lot of opportunity not only in Litecoin but also in other cryptocurrencies.

In future posts I’ll explore that some more, and will also share my mining progress. Next post, I’ll detail the actual build and setup of my Litecoin mining rig. By next post, if you order the same items I ordered, you will be able to follow my step-by-step instructions and have a working Litecoin miner with no effort.

Improving a Thin Affiliate Site Part 3: Tips & Best Practices

In Improving a Thin Affiliate Site Part 1 we talked about link cloaking and how to make your affiliate site less of an obvious affiliate site. In Improving a Thin Affiliate Site Part 2 we looked at how to improve your content by changing stock descriptions, adding content, and hosting images yourself (among other things). In this last installment I want to throw out a few more tips that will help you have a better affiliate site than all your competitors.

Tip 1: Interlink

You ever want to spend some time link building that will really pay off? Well, forget about buying the latest tools or paying for the newest thing on the BST sub-forum. Save your money and spend a little of your time. Instead of paying for worthless outside links, pay attention to your own site and link your pages together. Thin affiliate sites don’t improve by just buying links or any other form of laziness.

If you’re honest, you’ll admit that you’ve probably never given this much attention (if any) and you’ll also admit that it seems so…boring. Well, you can either waste time with thousands of suspicious-looking comment backlinks or you can do something that will affect the quality and strength of your site from not only a SEO perspective but from a user-friendliness perspective. Don’t believe it will do you some good? Well, I got the idea from Wikipedia – the kings of interlinking. Bottom line is that it’s immensely important, and it will help your site. Do it.

How to approach it? I suggest that you put all your pages into rough categories and interlink the pages within those categories, to start with. That’s an obvious way to do it. If you want to challenge yourself a bit more you can attack the interlinking by keywords that you want to emphasize. However you do it, you might wish to link the less-popular and weaker pages from the stronger ones in order to prop them up.

If you use WordPress (and who doesn’t these days?) you will find a handful of plugins to do this for you, somewhat automatically. I’ve tried this approach but since I’m a speed freak (and the DB was filling up fast) I have since stuck to good ‘ol manual interlinking the way my great-grandfather used to do it in the Old Country. Manually placing static links makes the computer do less, which makes things go faster. Which brings me to the next thing…

Tip 2: Watch Your Speed

SEO Page SpeedI tell my wife this all the time. “Watch your speed!” Because I want her to slow down. Does your town have any mobile speed traps? My town does; they’re the devil. I hate getting tickets in the mail! I watch my speed like a hawk.

On my sites, too. Except I want the speed to be as fast as possible on my sites. How do I accomplish fast speeds? By making the computer do less – as a general rule.

I cannot give you a comprehensive how-to on speeding up sites, but I can give you a few pointers. I hope you’ll do some of your own research to fill in the blanks.

First of all, get a baseline measurement of your site speed. You want to see where you’re starting so you can impress your friends with how many milliseconds you end up shaving off page load times. (Girls love guys who play guitar almost as much as guys with fast-loading affiliate sites.)

You can use browser-based tools to do this (like PageSpeed by Google) or web-based tools like GTMetrix and Pingdom. Run the tests a few times, record your speeds, and get to work.

Your basic goals should be to reduce page load time and increase speed by making your pages smaller in size, implementing caching, and possibly serving media via a CDN. For sites with lots of images (such as an ecommerce site or an affiliate site with a catalog of products) a content delivery network makes a lot of sense. For a site like this one (which is text-heavy, with few images) not so much.

Remember that WordPress plugins are convenient, but many times they are unnecessary and use resources. A few times, I’ve uninstalled a plugin and replaced its functionality with some PHP code or added a hook directly to the functions file. Other times, I realized I didn’t need the plugin to be active constantly – or active ever (so I uninstalled it). Keep your site lean and mean.

Tip 3: Speak in Tongues

Provide your content in multiple languages, and you’ll be a step beyond most of your competition. The way to decide which languages has everything to do with the regions in which there’s interest in your products. You can find out this information by using the (free) Adwords keyword tool and simply doing a few searches. Find out where else you can possibly get customers – and provide your content in the language they speak there.

You can do this with plugins that auto-translate. It’s usually good enough – you will get customers that understand that you’re in N. America and probably don’t speak their language natively. But they want the item(s) you sell and they “get” what your site means. (For a business with the resources, of course, it is way more professional to actually provide human-translated pages tailored to the target audience. But we’re talking about the average affiliate here.)

Tip 4: Be an Expert

If at all possible, you need to add informational articles, tutorials, infographics, apps, tools, daily tips, a free e-book, YouTube video demonstrations, or some other type of material to your site. You may think this piece of advice would have applied under our last lesson on expanding your content but it really doesn’t apply there; what I am talking about will not only expand your initial meager “thin” content, but it will position you as the expert in your niche.

Do you think people listen to experts? Sure they do. Just ask your mom or sister or the lady at work who purchased the latest diet book or herbal tea or health drink…because Dr. Oz mentioned it on his show. I’m not advocating Dr. Oz’s supposed expertise but I know for sure that he’s positioned as an expert in most people’s minds.

What about not-so-famous experts? There are tons of them, and they sell tons of products (whether the products are theirs, or other people’s). You probably have heard of Jenna Marbles, Hickok45, FPSRussia, or Auto-Tune the News on YouTube. (And there are even bigger channels than theirs.) All of them name or show a product at some point in their videos. All of them have fans and influence. The one that is positioned as a bona-fide expert (of the ones I named) is Hickok45 however – people look up his reviews to see what he thinks, and they buy the things he shows off and recommends. And why not? It’s the same thing we do by reading Amazon reviews or reading Consumer Reports.

If my cousin buys certain brands of fertilizer and soil because of his favorite YouTube garden expert, I guarantee someone is out there equally as interested in whatever you’re selling…and will buy what you tell them. If they see you as an expert, that is. The cool thing is that to be an expert you don’t need to produce tons of videos or be wild and crazy: you just need to provide useful information in an accessible format. So if you make 3 or 5 or 10 videos about your products and either review them, demonstrate them, explain them, or give advice on them – you’ll be in the running.

Tip 5: Block Bad Bots

Back to techie stuff here. I hate scrapers, crawlers, and snoops. So I block almost all bots and I throw in Russia and China for good measure. Yes, I throw in a few .htaccess rules to actually bounce the undesirable IPs away from me. I’m not going to get a sale from outside the US in my case, so I really don’t care about foreign traffic – and when I see tons of visits from places I don’t sell to I block them. I do my best to block all the backlink-monitoring services as well. Do you think I really care about my latest ahrefs or SEOmoz link profile report? (I don’t.) But, since my competitors might care, I would rather give those tools less to report.

Tip 6: Build a List

girl-silhouetteIf you saw a gorgeous girl shopping in the grocery store or supermarket, and you knew you were unlikely to ever see her again, wouldn’t it make sense to just take the chance and introduce yourself? Wouldn’t you want to meet her? Sure – it might be awkward or even a bit embarrassing to just boldly go up to her like that, but what have you got to lose? Well, there have obviously been books written on how to do that as well as numerous seminars and an entire culture of PUAs has been created. Which is funny to me, because I see the same thing in IM.

We have numerous ebooks, seminars, conferences, programs, courses, etc about how to get customers and it reminds me of the PUA community. Guess what? A nice-looking man who has basic social skills should be easily able to make conversation with any woman, and get her number. And a reasonably well-coded website, with good information and a desirable product should be able to get a visitor to provide them their email address.

But, just like the guy who is too scared to just come out of his shell and talk to a girl, the vast majority of affiliates never attempt to build a list. They will not ask the visitor for that email address. I’m not sure why, other than the supposed trouble it takes to set up something like that. (Wait, what’s that? There’s the OptinSkin plugin? It makes it simple?) Maybe it’s took expensive (wait – MailChimp offers a free option that any internet marketer could use until they get the hang of things and build a big list?). OK so price and complexity aren’t really objections.

Maybe affiliate sites don’t want to look spammy or cheap. Well, fine – offer something to the visitors who are willing to sign up. You’ll never get those email addresses if you don’t ask! And if you offer something cool in return, your visitors might actually enjoy being on your list.

Without a list, you’re throwing away all the traffic on one-time sales. That’s not what we’re here to do. If that seems wrong, think of it this way: by simply sending all your visitors to buy something from your merchant, all you are doing is building their business for them. You’re building nothing of your own.

So that wraps it up. We’ve had three lessons on different ways to improve a thin affiliate site. I wrote these posts to educate anyone who wants to know how to do that – because very little has specifically been written on the subject. Heck, even the agency Conductor a kinda-well-known SEO agency did a “Ask Me Anything” on Reddit recently, and they ignored the question. So I went ahead and told you way more than the SEO agency AMA ever would, even if you paid them, and I didn’t even charge you. (How do ya like that?)

Improving a Thin Affiliate Site Part 2: Beef Up Your Content

In part 1 of Improving a Thin Affiliate Site, we looked at a very specific topic: cloaking your outbound affiliate links. I hope you’ve taken care of any problems or oversights you may have had. Now that all the holes are plugged with your aff links, let’s make your site a bit more beefy. You won’t be so thin when you’re done!

Images

The vast majority of merchants provide images (usually in a datafeed, sometimes in a zip file) for their affiliates. Most affiliates will use them as-is, and stop there. You won’t. You want to be different. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Watermark the images. You may not be allowed to do this by your merchant depending on their terms, but if you can, watermark the top or bottom with YOUR site’s URL. One of my sites was getting a lot of hotlinking of my images. I don’t mind so much; all my images have my site URL on them.
  2. Self-host the images. You probably figured that part out by now. Don’t just hotlink to the merchant’s image. For all your affiliate images, download them first and host them yourself. I have done this and also used a caching plugin to cache the merchant’s images on my server; the effect is the same in regards to search engine indexing. I prefer actually downloading the images, however, so I can re-name them (with keyword-rich filenames) and watermark them as well.
  3. Add more images. The best case scenario is for you to take your own pics and have images no one else has. At least two affiliates I know of do this – and they have profitable, successful sites. Is it a lot of work? Sure it is. The majority of the time they have to buy the product themselves, as well. But their sites are definitely NOT “thin” – and that’s what you want to learn about, right? If you can’t take your own pics, try to source other pics of the same products. Sometimes, you can get additional pics off the merchant’s site. While these aren’t totally unique, if you take the effort to manually download additional pics from the merchant, you can be sure you’ve gone a step further than most of your fellow affiliates.

Text Content

When I talk about content, I am referring to any text that is provided to you for product titles and descriptions. Again, you probably realize that most affiliate use the content sent to them and stop there. So, how can you differentiate yourself and make your site “thicker” but also more unique? Here’s how:

  1. Rewrite the stock descriptions. By all means, keep the content the merchant gives you. But change wording, complete sentences that are left wanting, expand on ideas given, and possibly reformat information. For example, take a list and turn it into a set of bullet points. Add a few ideas of your own. Reword things and re-order things. It does take work, but it will be worth it when you look back at your site and you see that it’s totally different than anything anyone else has.
  2. Add more content to each of your product descriptions. Depending on your niche and type of product, this additional content could consist of additional product specifications, product uses, a sample recipe, a testimonial, a blurb about the item (“As seen worn by Jennifer Lawrence!” or something), even a joke, an interesting story, or a quote (relevant to the product, of course). This is where you can get creative. I did this technique with a t-shirt site I’ve run for years. Since each shirt had a funny graphic or a sometimes-obscure joke, I posted an explanation of what each shirt meant, underneath the standard product description. It definitely helped with traffic, ranking, and sales – and I quickly saw a couple of competing sites begin to do the same thing.
  3. Link to or embed other content. Depending on your niche of course, this may not work. But for most retail products, there are YouTube videos, PDFs (manuals for instance) and product reviews you could include. I like videos because they make my page contain something interesting and useful – and keep visitors on the page for longer if they take the time to play the video. I do not prefer to link out – but on the occasion when I’ve done so, I’ve made sure to open the link in a new tab.

Now, I want to address an issue specifically related to text content. Spun content, in my opinion, has no place on an affiliate website. If your site is aimed towards people, you need to take the time to write for them. My thought is that visitors can plainly see when a site is spun and are much less likely to buy from you.

If you’ve followed along with me so far, your site should not only look better to the search engines but also to humans. (We sometimes seem to neglect them, don’t we?) In part 3, we will look at a few additional improvements you can make to your now hopefully less thin affiliate site.

Improving a Thin Affiliate Site Part 1: Sanitize Your Outbound Affiliate Links

An ever-present worry of affiliate site owners is to find ways to get out of being what’s called a “thin affiliate” site. A thin affiliate site is one that is thin on a lot of things – other than the product being sold. If an affiliate site looks like all the other affiliate sites selling the same product – it’s a thin affiliate site. It an affiliate site contains the exact same product descriptions and images as the merchant site – it’s a thin affiliate site.

Why should visitors go to a thin affiliate site, over the merchant site? Why should a search engine rank any thin affiliate site higher than another? Why is a thin affiliate site even necessary, if it offers nothing more than the merchant offers?

Hopefully you see why being a thin affiliate is something to be avoided. I’m here to tell you how to fix your affiliate site so that it isn’t quite so “thin”. In this first part, I will be looking at just one aspect of an affiliate site, and how to clean it up. We will begin with your site’s outbound affiliate links. You don’t want the links to your merchant to be either ugly or obvious. So you need to fix that, first of all. Here are a few ways to do so.

Cloak the Affiliate Links

Simply put, this means hide the fact that they are affiliate links, at least so that it’s not immediately obvious. This means that you cannot simply place the affiliate-network-provided link on your sales page or your product page as-is. You need to set things up so that the affiliate link is your visitors destination, but what they click on is a link on your domain. Anyone who does a bit of digging (i.e. a Google manual reviewer, a competitor, or a curious visitor to your site) will be able to figure out what’s up. But the average user won’t, and a search engine spider won’t care. So how do you do this?

Using htaccess and a redirect script is one way to do it. Low-overhead, low-maintenance – nice and clean. You set up a rewrite rule along with a small PHP script, and it takes care of the links. This works best when you don’t have a variety of different link formats (in my opinion). On one of my sites I have a variety of products from one merchant – so I really only need one rewrite rule.

The URL my visitors see are constructed in the following format: http://mysite.com/go/product-name.html

When they click on the URL, a rewrite rule sends the pertinent part of the URL – in this case, “product-name”, to a script called go.php. That script takes “product-name” and places it into the affiliate URL. (The merchant’s URLs all are formatted the same way, they just differ in the product-name portion.)

To the user, the redirect process is transparent and quick. Before they know it, they’re at the merchant’s product page and my affiliate ID has been placed in a cookie. If they buy from the merchant, I get credit with the affiliate network.

There are various plugins for different CMSs that do this same thing. If you use WordPress, you can use the Pretty Link plugin, SoftWarp’s WP Shorties, or a number of other plugins. The SEO Ultimate plugin even contains a Link Mask Generator feature if you want to use that.

No matter how you accomplish affiliate link cloaking, make sure to give the URLs a pathname that isn’t obviously for affiliate purposes (i.e. affiliate, or buy). (In fact, don’t even use “go” – it’s overused!)

Don’t Use Affiliate Links at All

If you’re making your site for human visitors, only they need to see your affiliate links, right? Right. As long as your potential buyers can see and click something that brings them to the merchant link it doesn’t matter what the bots see (or don’t see). In the past, some methods have been to use Javascript links or specifically to use a form and form submit link (with an onlick submit). I’m not sure how this will work now, since search engines can and do read both JS and forms – but it will probably prevent your affiliate links from being indexed.

Discount Your Affiliate Links

The way to tell the search engines you don’t value those links is to put rel=”nofollow” on them. There’s no reason you should have any of your affiliate links “followed”, cloaked or not. So put that on all of them!

These tips should improve your links on your affiliate site, if you haven’t already done these things. Next, we want to make your site less “thin” by beefing it up. We’ll pay attention to your sites content. Specifically, images, original content, and merchant content.

WordAi Review – The Best Spinner I’ve Ever Used

If you’ve read DIY Dollars for any length of time, you’re aware that I’m heavily involved in affiliate marketing. I’ve created multiple PHP apps to aid my online moneymaking efforts, and I’ve also used a lot of SEO tools, marketing tools, and online services. Over the years, if something came out that looked appealing, I usually tried it or bought it.

One of the utilities that has been an ever-present need over the years has been a good spinner. Because of the difficulty in writing (or rewriting) content, spinning content is just a fact of life in the internet marketing and SEO world. Even in this post-Penguin world, spintax is still a fact of life. And the use of spun content isn’t going away anytime soon.

Some apps, such as LFE (Link Farm Evolution) integrated spintax within their functions. Other software, such as BlogSense, integrate their own “auto-spin” feature. Other apps allow you to plug in your login or use the API for external services like The Best Spinner.

While all of these have been useful to me in the past, I’ve never been fully satisfied with the results. Until I found a very different spinner called WordAI.

I first heard of WordAi in a Skype chat group I’m a part of – a Skype chat group comprised mostly of SEOs and marketers. (We all got together as a result of being part of Guerilla’s awesome series of free webinars that he held during spring/summer 2012.) WordAI was recommended to me by a member there – and I soon learned that other SEOs who I’d heard of (and respected) used WordAI as part of their own custom apps. So I tried it. Consider this my “WordAi Review”.

WordAi is a software as a service – in other words, there’s no installable desktop app. I like this for two reasons: 1) I use a Mac, and for me to use TheBestSpinner I have to boot into WinXP using VirtualBox. It’s a bit inconvenient. A web app allows me to work through my browser. 2) I need to integrate spinning functions through API calls, so I can spin content from within some custom apps.

Those are two reasons I use WordAI. But there are two more reasons I’m sold on it. And these two reasons are why I think that WordAi is truly “the best spinner”.

First, WordAi automatically spins the content I send it. In other words, I don’t need to feed it spintax – I can just input an article (or a sentence, or a paragraph) and it will return spun content. (It also outputs good ‘ol spintax-formatted content, and it also can output a zip file containing spun content.)

Second, WordAi returns intelligently-spun content. Of course, no spun content is perfect – and I’ve never seen spun content that was as good as totally original content that a good (human) writer created. But WordAi’s results are pretty impressive – better than anything else I’ve ever come across. Not only is it more than adequate for my auto-blogs (yes, I still have some that are benefitting me) but the content makes sense – enough sense that it can pass a human review. Why? Because WordAi (that “AI” as in “artificial intelligence”) doesn’t just replace synonyms: it actually “reads” content, “understands” it, and then rewrites the content.

Based on my experience, I have to say that WordAi is not only a great spinner but it’s the best spinner I’ve ever come across. After reviewing WordAi and using it in the real world, I heartily recommend it.

If you need good spun content, and if you want to give WordAi a try, there’s no better time than now: there’s a free trial (for 3 days) available through this link. Try it free for 3 days, and let me know how you liked it! (After trying it, if you know of a better spinner, let us know what it is and why.)

The 3 Things You Need Most to Promote Yourself

Everyone who is trying to make it on their own runs into the same problem sooner or later: getting the word out about themselves. If you provide a service, you need the people who need your service to learn who you are and remember your name. If you sell something, you know there are people who need your product…but not enough of them have heard about you. Without advertising and announcing who you are, you can’t get sales.

In today’s world of social media, mass communication, smartphones, and instant news, one might think that solving this problem would be easy. Well, different tools are indeed available these days but the problem is the same as it ever was. You have some technological advantages over people in past decades, but you need to do many of the same things. Here are three of the most important.

Make a Good Website

There’s no excuse for not placing a landing page online. It takes no more than a couple of hours at most, and it serves not only as your online presence but also as your base of operations. How will people contact you? Via your site. How will they find you online? By finding your site on a search engine. How will you capture leads? By your prospects signing up at your site. It’s a necessary basis for building the rest of your promo methodology.

Don’t waste time designing and coding a site right away. Buy decent hosting, install WordPress, and put up a ready-made template. A portfolio or landing page template will work well. (This one is a good example. And this is a great temporary launch theme. Get the idea?) High quality, stylish templates aren’t expensive – usually they cost between $25 and $40.

Get Some Awesome Business Cards

You don’t need to be a designer (or even have a title) to make business cards. Many online card printers provide some very nice designs (Moo.com, I’m thinking of you!) that are ready for you to use just as they are. Put your name, your website, your cell number, and maybe your PO box on the card…and you’re good to go. I got some cards from moo.com last month, and not only were they cheap but the order process was absolutely painless. The best part? Everyone seems to actually like the cards – they were impressed. (And not just my mom.)

Have Something to Give Away

This depends not only on the nature of your business (and your budget) but who your potential customers are. For most businesses, you can’t go wrong with some cheap promotional items like pens. (They can be expensive or very affordable, depending on what kind you want.) I’ve seen more creative giveaways as well – like small crocheted characters given away by an Etsy seller. If you sold pies, I’d tell you to give away samples…you get the idea. Pick something that your customers can take away, use, or experience and you’ll be remembered.

So those are the three things I recommend. Do you have any additional ideas? Please share your thoughts!

3 Reasons You Should Be a Creator – Instead of Just a Worker!

No matter who says it can’t be done, there are a LOT of small business owners who “DID build that” – all over the world. The DIY, self-made/home-made way of doing things might not be as visible as it was fifty years ago, but it’s alive and well. Lots of people make things and repair things with their own hands.

The questions is: why? If anyone can go to Wal-Mart and buy a plastic lawn chair, why on earth would anyone need to build a wooden Adirondack by hand? Well, there are a few reasons. And in this post I’m especially speaking to two groups of readers: the under/unemployed and the consumers who are their neighbors and friends.

I think being a creator – a person who makes things – is essential. It’s especially vital for people who suddenly have a lot of “free time” or were unwillingly given an unpaid vacation. When you get laid off (or just can’t find a good job) there’s a good chance you’ll do what the average under/unemployed person does with that extra time: nothing.

Don’t be like that. Here’s why you need to start creating stuff:

1. It will make you feel important. If you’ve ever made something with your bare hands – or fixed something in your garage – you know the feeling. It’s the feeling of accomplishment and achievement that only comes by self-directing “doing”. When you make homemade soap, or write a book, or harvest vegetables out of your backyard garden, or restore an old bicycle you found in the garbage…well, you can’t help but feel proud of what you did. Do unemployed people need to feel like that on a regular basis? Obviously. And that feeling doesn’t come from just watching TV all day and looking at the internet.

2. It will contribute to others. Most people would rather have a hand-made item or a quality crafted good than to have something made cheaply (that will break easily) from a dollar store. (That doesn’t go for every commodity item out there, but in many cases that’s the truth.) It’s nice to use quality handmade soap. Locally-produced honey or jam is often better (in taste as well as in ingredients!) than commercial stuff. And I already mentioned the Adirondack chair: the plastic stuff just has no character, and is made to be disposable. When you (as a creator) make an item and either sell it or barter it, the recipient benefits. They get something that has meaning instead of a mass-produced item. They can say they bought a local good from a person they know. That’s cool!

3. It will help support you. Last, you can get something tangible in return. Bartering is a valid and legal way to help support yourself – it’s been the way things have been done for most of history. When you make something and sell it for more money than the raw materials cost you, that’s called profit. Do that a whole lot of times and you might see a big profit. Do it less times, and you might just supplement your income. Either way, creating things can put food on the table and either pay the bills or alleviate some bills. “Creating” is an activity that pays better than TV-watching, no matter how you look at it.

So just because you’re being told to not create (“you didn’t build that!”) doesn’t mean you have to sit around and do nothing. All of us have nothing but opportunities: chances to learn new skills, hone existing skills, and become better individuals. Take advantage of your time and opportunities. Make something this week.

Why You Need to Make It On Your Own

From LewRockwell.com, I recently found the article Real Wealth, Gold, and Why Government May Want You on Food Stamps. Here’s an excerpt that really jumped out at me:

The bread lines of yesterday are the Food Stamps of today. In the 1950s Russian people stood in bread lines for hours. It was the best way to control the people and keep them from overthrowing the government. Hungry and tired from standing in bread lines, they would never pose much of a threat to the government.

While I see the logic and the helpfulness of something like unemployment (or even food stamps!) I think it needs to be something only taken as a very temporary measure. Avoid it as much as possible, and if you must take assistance from the gov’t, get off as soon as possible.

Sucking from the gov’t teat makes a person dependent, weak, and complacent. Stay independent, stay free…make it on your own.

I’ve Just Lost My Job: Now What Should I Do?

If you’ve ever had the experience of losing your job, you know that sinking feeling – followed by the realization that you have nothing to do the rest of the day. Next comes the question of “what do I do NOW?” and wondering what your next step will be. Well, I had that exact same scenario recently – because I just lost my job!

In the beginning of DIY Dollars, I wrote about entreprenuerial topics such as how to make money for your self, how to generate income without a job, how to start a business, and how to profit from online marketing. I always had a genuine interest in those topics, but eventually the perfect job came along: it paid well, it allowed me to work remotely, and it focused on my main interest which was SEO. So I took the job (and as you can see from this site’s post history) effectively abandoned blogging. Well, now I’m back.

The last week is what I jokingly refer to as my “week off”: I was freshly unemployed, and a not-so-proud member of this nation’s biggest-ever crowd of jobless. But this is a new week, and I have some big plans. Like the kid in Home Alone, I slapped my cheeks with aftershave, and screamed “NOW what should I do?”. And here’s the answer.

Get Unemployment
This is step one. I know – unemployment doesn’t amount to much money. One week of unemployment payments equals about what I used to make in a day. But every bit of income will help, so I’ll take what I can get while I need it.

Tell Everyone
Losing one’s job is nothing to be ashamed of, unless you did something stupid and got yourself fired. But these days, many people are losing their job due to reasons such as company downsizing, outsourcing, or cuts due to low profits. It happens, and like Omar used to say (in The Wire) “it’s all in the game.” So don’t be bashful; let everyone know. If they know, they can tell you if they hear about work you might be interested in.

Send Resumes
Get busy, immediately, applying for jobs. You have to do this in order to get unemployment benefits anyway – but you need to find work. No matter what the economy is doing, there are jobs out there – you just need to find them. People still need other people to provide services. So get on Craigslist, Monster, CareerBuilder, look in your local paper, and respond to ads. It will not only possibly get you a new job but it will make you feel like you’re doing something worthwhile with your time.

Work Freelance
If you’re of the same mind as me, you’ve had an LLC long before you ever lost your job. (I’ve had one for a few years that I’ve rarely used for any sort of business.) Having an LLC will allow you to get contract work with some of the larger companies, but if you don’t have an official “business” you can still find freelance gigs working as an individual. There are local companies, individuals, and organizations that need someone to do short-term work, and if you have the right skills you can respond and at least do one project. That, in turn, can earn you money and possibly get you a job. Plus, you need to stay busy.

Create Something
Right now I’m working on a book, which I plan on publishing for the Kindle. Maybe you are an artist. Or maybe you bake. Whatever it is you can do – create something. If you don’t know where your creative powers lie, then make a website and write a blog. Please, just create something. Don’t leave this work having contributed nothing other than some labor in exchange for a paycheck. Make something during the time you otherwise would be working for someone else.

These simple actions might not seem like much, but to me they’re my framework until I figure out my “real” plan. These things will keep me doing something useful, and will allow me to not waste my days, now that I’m unemployed. I look at life right now as full of opportunity – who knows what will happen? Probably something awesome. (At least, that’s what I like to think.)

I hope things are awesome for you, too. And for those of you who are in the same situation as me, I hope these simple words will help you during this time.

Cash-Only Jobs and Underground Ways to Make Cash in 2012

I’ve written here before about the underground economy, “dirty” cheap ways to start a business, and also cash-only jobs. And don’t forget the secret that Mark Cuban told me when I asked him what the secret to success really was. Those were perhaps good posts at the time, but it’s interesting that the climate in the USA has changed a bit – making the things I wrote four years ago even more applicable today. There is now more of a need to make extra cash due to the economy, and there’s also mainstream awareness of the need that people have for cash-only jobs and work that pays “under the table”.

Money Hand Holding Bankroll Girls February 08, 20117As one very obvious example of this new mindset that Americans are beginning to have, I’m seeing that “regular” people are increasingly becoming part of the “prepper” movement. Self-reliance now seems to be everywhere I look and on everyone’s mind. (Everyone who reads a newspaper or watches the news, that is.) I hear ads for survival seeds on the radio. I see commercials about buying and selling gold on TV. I read articles about surging gun and ammo sales. I see news reports about people who are building bunkers and buying land to make survival retreats. I see shows like Doomsday Preppers and The Colony gaining popularity. Modern cities are seeing an increase on urban farming, “guerilla gardening”, keeping beehives to make honey, and backyard chicken raising. And books like Patriots and movies such as Hunger Games (which was originally a book) aren’t relegated to literature tables at gun shows – they’re sold at your local Barnes & Noble – and are totally mainstream. We’re not at the point of The Road or The Book of Eli just yet, but with gas prices rising as quickly as they are, I won’t be surprised if I see Mad Max rolling down the street someday soon.

My point is this: the reality is that in 2012 things are looking scary. It’s no secret that our currency is (possibly very soon) on the verge of collapse. Unemployment is high, the future is uncertain, and we know that things can change very fast. Because of that, you probably want to have a few options available to you – other than your 9 to 5 office job that may go “poof” one day. If that were to happen, what would your options be?

I want to give you a few. You need some options to at least think about your next move.

These are low-investment, easy-learning-curve ways to supplement your current existing income. They also lean towards putting something on your table, in your home larder, or otherwise add to and build up your resources. I hope these suggestions inspire you and give you some ideas.

Beekeeping
The initial investment is low – maybe a few hundred dollars. The learning curve isn’t too high either, and there are numerous books and many beekeeping websites that can teach you what you need to know. You don’t need a lot of land (your backyard might be enough). The supplies can be built or ordered in a kit - both for cheap. But the payoff can be big: bees pollinate plants which can benefit your garden (and you should have a garden, by the way), and bees make honey – which is expensive, healthy, and delicious. Urban beekeeping is more and more accepted these days, and you might even find a local Meetup group of beekeepers. Of course, you will be able to harvest totally organic honey. What to do with it? Jar it and use it, or (if your bees produce enough) sell it. Most cities have farmer’s markets which are perfect venues to sell or barter goods. If you become very knowledgeable and proficient, you can expand this into a beehive removal service or related business.

Vermiculture
What is vermiculture? Worm-raising. Sounds gross, perhaps. But worms are amazing creatures – highly useful, very beneficial for soil and gardening, and easy to raise. You can very easily raise worms in nothing more than a plastic storage bin kept in your backyard. Feed them scraps – fruit cores, bread crusts, potato peels – and they will turn it into amazingly healthy fertilizer. You will be amazed at what one handful of worms can do. How to use them? Raise a lot of them, and you could sell bait. You can sell the fertilizer. You can of course use the fertilizer in your garden as well. No one should ever throw organic matter into the garbage. Worms allow you to compost that valuable biomass and put it back into the earth.

Lawn Care
This one is obvious, but I had to mention it. A lawncare business can take up your weekends but earn you a lot of extra cash when you need it. The equipment you need is minimal: a lawnmower and weed wacker. Get your equipment at the pawn shop, print up some flyers, and get to work. It will be cash money in your pocket, whenever you work. If you build up a regular clientele, you will have a regular influx of cash in your hands.

Wine Making/Homebrewing
In most localities you cannot sell home-brewed alcohol (such as beer or wine). But you can often barter it. Of course you can also consume it (as I am right now with home-made Apfelwien), and you can give it as gifts. Homemade Apfelwein is very easy and very good (such as the celebrated Edwort’s Apfelwein recipe), and only requires about $30 to $50 in equipment. Get your bottles free from FreeCycle or Craigslist – or save your own beer bottles. For something very simple like Apfelwein you just need applejuice, corn sugar, and brewer’s yeast (I use Montrachet) and a five gallon container. Five gallons goes a long way. It’s especially economical when it costs just a few bucks to make each time. Beer is fairly easy as well, and you can order everything in an easy beer brewing kit or buy supplies locally if your town has a home-brew shop.

Soap Making
The very best soap you will ever use (I promise) is soap you make at home with all natural ingredients. I don’t even like Dove or Ivory anymore – I use homemade peppermint soap. It’s very simple to make (it’s made of vegetable oils and lye) and you don’t need special equipment. I used a hand-mixer, a big cooking pot, and shoe boxes for the soap forms. You can make a bunch at a time and it will last the whole year. It’s a perfect item to sell. You can ship it easily as well, in case you wanted to sell on eBay or your own website. There are many instructional videos and soapmaking websites to show you how to make the soap, and you can probably find all the ingredients at your local grocery store except for the food-grade lye (which you can order here – the same place I use for my supplies).

Gardening
Our vegetable gardenIt used to be that every household had a garden next to their kitchen. Victory gardens were once common. Gardening gave way to supermarket shopping…but now backyard gardening is making a comeback. People now appreciate the taste of homegrown vegetables and fruit, they’re more educated about the harmful GMO crops in stores, and of course they appreciate benefit of gardening and growing your own food. I am starting to see more people planting things they can eat as opposed to things that are merely ornamental.

On a small scale, you can supplement your food needs. On a larger scale, you can eliminate your dependence on the grocery store. On an even larger scale, you’ve got a farmer’s market or roadside stand business. Again, you will largely deal in cash. All you need is dirt, some fertilizer (remember the worms), and some good seeds. I recommend heirloom, non-GMO (meaning, non-genetically-modified or non-transgenic) seeds from a reputable supplier.

Canning
This is a general topic, because you can can almost any food. Again, think of both feeding yourself and a possible farmer’s market table where you sell the canned goods you produce. By canning, I mean old-time canning in glass Mason jars. Nowadays you can buy all the supplies at Wal-Mart, and you can even order BPA-free lids for your cans. (This is a good idea, as BPA is present in every store-bought can, and BPA is extremely harmful.) I’ve made canned pickled okra, kumquat marmalade, pickles, and will can or pickle everything else my garden produces this year. Tomato sauce for instance. The online resources to teach you what to do are numerous, and the supplies are readily available. You just need to do it. Before you know it, you could have a table selling salsa, pickles, jams or preserves, and whatever else you can think of – all for cash on the table. If you’re not aiming to make money from it, you can store it and feed your family healthy, delicious, BPA- and preservative-free foods year-round.

There are numerous small businesses you can start in short order that can provide you with cash.Need to raise a grand in a month? You can do that with some of these ideas. I haven’t even mentioned some of the other possibilities such as being a weekend Mover or doing House Painting (which is a very easy-to-start business with a low investment, and is always an in-demand service).

Whatever situation you’re in, and however bleak the economy might seem, you should always know that you have options. You can hold on to your dignity and go make some money for yourself. You don’t have to stand in line or sign up for a government hand out. You can make it – the opportunities are out there.

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