Building on a budget

Studying about websites and building them was always going to be done on a shoestring budget for me because I didn’t have any spare money.

Many of the sites I own serve different purposes and have various roles in the whole portfolio to help share traffic or convert traffic to better paying sites and I work in a variety of genres. Today I would like to recap on how one large site was started on a shoestring budget as that is where most if us start.

To take an example I will pick my tattoo website which in itself covers a lot of income streams and can show you how a fairly large website can be developed on brain rather than bucks. Choosing the tattoo genre was a case of me looking through the top 100 keyword searches and looking for something that was going to last and not be a short term craze, I also had to look to add value and find an angle that would make my site better than what was there and give a reason for repeat traffic.

Looking quickly at income you can clearly see that the site has adsense integrated, the site also sells access to the tattoo designs for a yearly fee (subscription model)

I also sourced professional translators that can offer a variety of languages like Hebrew, Arabic, Sanskrit, Hindi, Gujarati, Telugu, Tamil, Chinese & Japanese. Celebrities have helped propel the desire for names & quotes into different languages and I spotted that a few years ago and saw a potential market, the cream here is once a name or phrase is translated I have it on file which then gets requested again and again!

So that’s electronic sales or e-sales covered. Also in the translation area I offer an affiliate program for other webmaster to re-sell my service.

So we have
Subscriptions which are re-occurring,
An affiliate program,
Adsense income
Electronic sales of translations

How do you get a site that large without spending big?
Content, it has grown over quite a few years through finding other people who can add content & therefore value be it visitors or seeking out tattoo artists, the library subscription area has over 2400 images that 3 main artists have submitted for free, in return for a share of all new subscription money, that’s over 2400 pages with adsense on them, that’s a lot of free content!

The Rate My Tattoo area offers user submission & interaction which users love and add to their favourites, there are hundreds/thousands of pages there all created by the visitors. This type of area gets linked back from myspace and stumbledupon etc, good clean content available for free and satisfies the searcher, in my experience you need to satisfy visitors with good free content to get that referral traffic afterwards.

Do not underestimate the power of people spreading the word, we have all seen what sites like Stumbleupon/DIGG can do to your traffic but taking it right back down to grass roots I constantly get emails from people who have been referred the old fashioned way, by their friends or family with word of mouth.

Am I a coder
No, I used rentacoder initially to get a script made for me, the script for the library area & rate my tattoo area, was a custom made script for $100.

Am I a tattoo artist
No, I can’t draw unfortunately.

Am I a tattoo fan
Well, yeah, I enjoy looking at the art, but I don’t have any tattoos

How much was spent on the site
Around $100 at the start on the script

So what does a site like that make income wise
That site earns $2000 per week for me.

So should you start a tattoo website
Although the traffic is goods the CPC is awful, I started a tattoo website mainly because it was one of the top 100 keywords searched for year after year, until decent tattoo products are invented for now the adsense CPC isn’t worth the effort unless you can be more inventive by offering products & services like I have done branching heavily into translations.

Now older & wiser I would recommend using the lessons I have learned along with the methods I applied but probably in a better and more profitable niche. User submitted content if it is personal to them offers a great reason for returning to the website.

Lessons learned
Don’t choose a hyphenated domain name, seemed like a good idea at the time
Look to add value or a special service to the topic you choose
Look at a variety of income streams & traffic sources for stability
Give a good reason for your visitors to return especially if you use adsense

I’ll talk more in time about the lessons I have learnt along the way in relation to pricing, hosting and more but it is a good example of how one good idea can be started, grown and developed into a very good income website and importantly on a very limited budget.

About Scott Jones

Scott hails from the north east of Scotland and started earning online at the end of 2000 building websites for local businesses during which time he won an award from Lord Alan Sugar for Excellence in Enterprise. After having quite a bit of success with domaining Scott mainly runs educational evergreen websites which generate over 3 million visitors per month but is always on the lookout for a fresh thinking out of the box way to turn a buck. Follow on Twitter.


  1. I can draw, but have no business sense. Hopefully you guys will help me turn a profit this year.

  2. Iain if you do custom sketch drawings there is probably plenty of work I could send your way.

  3. That would be cool, although it’s not always to everyone’s cup of tea. Someone once described my work as Toy Story gone Bad!

    Signing up to tattoos by design now.

  4. Mark Gordon says:

    I am currently a webmaster for a county government Parks and Recreation, but would love to start doing something like this on my own time. However, I do not know what type of content management system to use. Do you use a CMS or do you use a Blogging Software? How do you actually start your website off the ground?



  5. Reading this has opened my eyes a little more. Thank you. My problem is just coming up with an idea. I am a technology person and alway think that everyone can already do what I can do, but I know that this is not true. One day, hopefully soon, something good will pop into my head that will finally help pay some of my bills.

  6. Mark, I went to Rentacoder and asked someone to create a script to run the site on which cost me $100, there are a lot more CMS & scripts freely available now which helps when starting up. is always a good place to search.

  7. Thanks for another great article. You state: “Don’t choose a hyphenated domain name” and I read somewhere else “avoid hyphenated names like the plague”.

    Are they that bad? Why?

  8. When I first registered my hyphen domain it was commonly accepted that hyphens somehow separated the keywords and helped the search engines for your rankings, that was many years ago and the only purpose its serves now is to be problematic when orally trying to tell someone your website address, just no need for hyphens nowadays Steve so more a pain than actually bad, having a hyphen or two does not harm you though or stop you ranking well today.

  9. “So what does a site like that make income wise
    That site earns $2000 per week for me.”

    Ouch! Incredible, how does that income break down?

  10. Its a rather unique and insight blog posting
    Thank you
    Its amazing the tools that are available to the average person of marketer in these days of computerization
    What would of been available , only a short time ago , only to major enterprises with huge resources such as large international businesses and government , are now available to the average person
    The logistics of business were more than prohibitive
    Simple things like an IBM selectric typewriter , business logos and letterhead, a physical office with a secretary were just the start of the impediment to start any business
    Now these can be done in a basement with a pc and simple inkjet or color laser printer
    Yet few realize this - even though scams such as Nigerian letters abound
    On top of that you were able to source out additional resources to complete the job inexpensively and on a budget

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