“Food and travelling are my two passions, so I began writing about them in my blog. After I had penned my experiences in Borneo, I received an invitation from the government of Malaysia, which asked me to visit the country along with some journalists and highlighting it as a luxury destination,” says 55-yearold Khare. The same year he joined a friend’s travel & tour company in Mumbai.In 2007, Khare’s casual writing became serious business when he did some work for Cox & Kings and his blogs were bought by travel and food magazines and portals. “You need to offer novelty in your blogs.I have written about the cuisine of the Bedouins of Africa as well as how to cook food in banana leaves,” says Khare. Currently, he writes eight blogs a week and earns Rs 50,000 a month from his articles.Once you find your literary footing, it may be better to have your own Website and domain name. This gives you a specific identity, and if you submit your blog’s URL to search engines, it will become more noticeable on the Net. Each search engine has Webmaster tools that can guide you through this process. The charges for a domain name usually range from Rs 300-1,000 a year. The main source of income for most bloggers is Google AdSense, which places contextual ads on Websites.
As important as your writing skill is your ability to network, a point that both Khare and Thota emphasise. “Before you begin to post your views, you need to create a community. You should go to various meets and events to develop contacts,” says Thota.Though writing seems easy at first glance, if you want to earn money from it, you will have to work hard. Professional bloggers put in about 2-5 hours every day and constantly strive to write on topics that provide updated information. You need to be regular and prompt in answering your readers’ queries.If you have honed your skills and are confident about what you write, you could even publish a book a la Anupam Mukerji, who became famous for his blog, the Fake IPL Player, written cheekily about the IPL’s second season. In March last year, he published a book, The Gamechanger. However, if no publisher seems interested in the physical realm, don’t despair. You can write a virtual bestseller.Ebooks are in high demand across the world and many people are writing exclusively for this segment. In June this year, crime novelist John Locke became the first independent author to sell more than 1 million e-books through Kindle’s ( Amazon) direct publishing programme, under which you do not need an agent or a publisher. Each e-book was sold for $0.99 (Rs 48), of which Locke pocketed 35 cents (Rs 17).
JOBS: Photography, singing or playing music, video content development, designing, voice-over options, editing and film-making
SKILLS: Expertise in any of the arts as well as good marketing, advertising and networking skills
INCOME: You may have to start for free, but sky is the limit once you establish yourself
Graphic designers, animators and Website developers have been using the Net to market their skills for years. However, the virtual world seemed to be limited to the artists who were technically empowered. What changed the status quo and provided the greatest impetus to the creativity of amateur artists was the launch of YouTube. Suddenly, you didn’t need to have any expertise to be famous. Even a three-minute video clip shot with a pocket camcorder could get a million viewers, enough for serious professionals to wake up and take note of this medium.If you couldn’t make it to a reality show or a music company’s illustrious office, you could compose your own songs and play it on YouTube. Gather enough eyeballs and the music industry would be beating a path to your home. Whether it was a favourite recipe, learning salsa or repairing a hard disk drive, you could make and market original content, and more importantly, earn money from it.Hitendra Merchant joined this bandwagon in 2008 only as a means to get viewers for his online portal, desimad.com, which he had launched a year previously. However, within 5-6 months, he began receiving a sizeable income through the YouTube Partner Programme (YPP). The YPP lets you host YouTube channels and pays you from the ads that it puts up there. Realising the potential of this medium, he started various channels (similar to a Facebook page) on YouTube.Merchant’s 11-year experience across various media and entertainment companies, including Times Music, Nimbus, Idream Production and Saregama India, helped him with both ventures. “I started desimad.com to create spoofs of various developments in the country. I launched the portal only after I found a venture capitalist to back me,” says the 39-year-old Merchant.He hired scriptwriters, animators and voice-over artists to produce the spoofs. “I wasn’t receiving enough traffic, so I decided to put up a video on YouTube, along with a banner for desimad.com, in the hope that people would like the video and visit the site,” he adds. “I added more channels such as those on Bollywood and Hollywood by approaching stringers and paparazzi to provide me with exclusive content,” says Merchant, who now has 30 channels on YouTube and 25 fulltime employees.Exclusivity is essential as you won’t get paid for copied or plagiarised content. The YPP pays about 55% of the revenue earned from the channel to the content developer and the balance to YouTube. Merchant’s channels receive 25 lakh viewers a day and has a turnover of Rs 45 lakh a month.An area that amateur photographers are leveraging is microstock photography, where you can sell your photographs and get paid according to the number of times they are downloaded. Some of the popular sites are iStockphoto, Fotolia and Shutterstock.For instance, you can contribute photos for free on Shutterstock and can earn $0.25-28 (Rs 12-1,361) per image download. To attract potential customers, you must add keywords, titles and descriptions to your photos, which can be time consuming if you upload the pictures on various sites. The bigger your portfolio, the more you will earn. However, you will need to upload hundreds of photos for making a substantial income
Virtual bazaarJOBS: Online enterprise
SKILLS: Guts, gumption and marketing savvy
INCOME: Whatever you want
Shakil Thasariya began collecting autographs as a 13-year-old schoolboy, when the former President APJ Abdul Kalam gave him one in 2003. A year later, he discovered that his passion could be profitable when he sold 10 autographs to an antique dealer for Rs 4,000. However, finding buyers in his hometown, Rajkot, Gujarat, wasn’t easy.The perfect avenue: eBay. The portal opened up access to a wider and more keen clientele. He made quite a few successful sales and also got in touch with a lot of autograph dealers in the US and Europe. “This business of selling autographs is based on trust, especially if you are doing so online. To have a credible long-term reputation, I offer my clients a 100% money-back guarantee if they discover that my autographs are fake,” says Thasariya, who earns about Rs 7,000 a month by selling 7-8 autographs.
The online medium is a perfect platform for small entrepreneurs or start-ups, who cannot afford to rent office space or shop. However, maintaining a Website also requires work and money. A free and easily manageable platform is social networking sites, most notably Facebook. Say Nikita Fernandes and Vinisha Dugar: “We were already members of Facebook and had a wide circle of friends, so when we decided to launch our own business, Fishing Hook, using the site was a logical choice. Besides, managing a dedicated Website would become too difficult to handle.”The two Mumbai-based friends launched their business in July last year. The 23-year-olds outsource fashion accessories from China and Hong Kong, put up their photographs on Facebook and then sell these in India. Within three months, they had lamost 500 fans on their page and were generating orders worth about Rs 10,000, of which Rs 3,000 was their profit margin.
Initially, they would deliver the products themselves and collect cash from customers. However, as their clientele grew in other cities, they began to courier the products and charge Rs 100 as shipping charges. The payment mode also changed to online bank transfers.In September this year, they joined hands with an e-commerce portal, Ebagsfull.com, where they have put their products on display. Today, their Facebook page has nearly 2,100 fans and their client base has expanded to Delhi, Pune, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Kolkata.Like Thasariya, Fernandes and Dugar, there are hundreds of online sellers who are leveraging the World Wide Web to create wealth. And this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
TIPS FOR ONLINE SELLERS
You can find a buyer for virtually everything in the online bazaar, be it your own creation or junk you want to get rid of. Here are a few steps to help you hone your selling skills.Provide all information: Give a detailed description of the product you want to sell and include photographs that have been taken from various angles. Also, provide information about yourself or your company. A contact number, address or e-mail ID help the buyer get in touch with you as well as confirm authentication, which builds confidence in the buyer.Fix the price: If you’re selling an original product, you can fix the price you want, though you need to be realistic. Value for money is the second aspect that online buyers are looking for, convenience being the first. To determine the right selling price for a used item, you should research on auction sites to find the cost of similar products before fixing a minimum price.Check details: Before you auction/sell the product, determine how you will handle shipping. Who will pay for it-you or the buyer? When will you ship it-after receiving the payment or while it is still in process? You will need to commit a delivery date and stick to it. Do you need to insure the product? Who will pay for this?Payment procedure: You need to figure out the best method for receiving money. Are you comfortable using an online gateway, such as Paypal, or will you prefer a cheque or online transfer? On the site, you should state a return policy and how you will handle complaints if they arise within a fixed time period.
Update/upgrade: Continuously update the information and photographs. Either stick to one profile picture, such as a logo, or keep changing it. The updated profile picture will ensure that your company is regularly featured on your clients’ page. Ask questions to get inputs from customers from time to time.
The fraudulent amount doesn’t seem big for such cases, but when you multiply it with the number of people conned, it’s translates into a massive scam. Most online jobs that seem too good or easy are often disguised con jobs. “There is no free lunch in the professional world. So don’t expect to get an easy job, wherein you can make money without working hard or adding value,” says K Ganesh, founder, TutorVista.com. How can you identify whether the online job offer is genuine? Here are a few things you need to keep in mind.