An Update and Introducing Conference Calendar

Hello strangers, I’ve had a somewhat hectic few months hence the lack of updates. I’ve been emailed and tweeted at on numerous occasions for an update on what I’ve up to so here it is:

So far this year I’ve spent over a month out of the country or just away from home. I was in Las Vegas for 8 days (way too long), been to New York twice, Amsterdam, Cyprus and I’ve lost count the number of days I’ve spent in London. Majority of these were for conferences and business meetings. Cyprus was a holiday, which helped me get caught up on reading and recharge batteries. I spoke at a4u in Amsterdam and I will publish my slides with a bit of narrative here in the future (the post has been started).

I also have a few more trips planned for this year, next month I’m off to Montana for a week on business and pleasure, I’ll be attending Think Visibilty in Leeds in September and then flying off to San Diego for Think Tank. There’ll also likely be a few more trips to come

Current Projects
My portfolio of sites continues to grow, with a few acquisitions and new sites launched. Coolest Gadgets is still my busiest site and usually most profitable, though I have certainly seen a dip in revenue which I’m putting down to people not spending as much on gadgets at the moment. I’m combatting this by experimenting with different stream, diversifying and building more traffic. I’m also playing with a fair few different affiliate schemes on various sites and platforms.

New Business Partner
I’ve entered into business with a good friend Shannon Poole. Shannon specializes in marketing and is a great compliment to my skill set. We are both somewhat conference junkies which led to our first project which is approaching final stages now:

The aim of the site is to provide all the information you require to find and attend relevant conferences. Top level categories include Internet Marketing, Technology conferences, Business and more are being added on a daily basis.

I’m happy with the way it’s progressing, however this is a long term project and I don’t expect instant results. I’d love to hear any feedback and ideas you have that you think could improve the site.

The Flexibility of WordPress
I’ve been doing a fair amount of work with WordPress. Conference Calendar is not a blog but I’ve still developed it using WordPress. I’d like to share more about this in a future post but to show the sort of things we’ve done without modifying ANY of the core WordPress code:

- A very customised post page showing a conference details.
- There are 3 different views for what would normally be standard archive pages: Details (the normalish archive), Monthly View and Annual Conference View.
- As usual there is a whole load of automation and re-use of information.

Some of this was done using standard plug-ins, other bits a combination of plug-ins and custom code. I could get really techie here but I’ll leave that for a future post (I promised it won’t take as long).

Anyway I’d love to hear some feedback, I’ve missed you guys! I still twitter (maybe too much) at @alcarlton and I got the FaceBook vanity URL, did everybody get the ones they wanted?.

Think Visibility and Other News

It’s been something of an eventful few weeks on the business front, so I’ll summarise stuff that I currently have going on.

New York Trip
I spent a very long and enjoyable weekend in New York discussing plans for a new business in a totally different niche for me. Domains are registered, artwork and theme are in progress, now waiting on content before official launch. I will do a case study on this in the near future.

Think Visibility
Last weekend I spoke at Think Visibilty, an absolutely amazing mini conference organised by The Hodge. Tickets cost £30 and I think every attendee would agree that was awesome value for money. I won’t do a full review here as many people have beaten me to it, check out posts by:

The next Think Visibility conference is already taking shape and a venue is booked in Leeds on September 12th 2009, so make a note in your diary as you don’t want to miss it (I will announce when tickets are available (hopefully with an affiliate link 🙂 )).

Congrats again Dom you did a sublime job organising your first conference.

Added Another Blog to the Portfolio
I was approached by an old friend to see if I wanted to buy one of his blogs, after a bit of bartering and a price I could not say no to, I am now the proud owner of Due to an NDA I cannot go into exact details but it gets between 5K and 10K visitors per day and is a great addition to my tech network.

Earnings Disclosure
I’ve been asked by a number of people to post another earnings breakdown report. Generally I don’t mind sharing this sort of info but things that are going on in my life at the moment I’d be foolish to document my earnings. Suffice to say I’m doing okay and re-investing heavily into other sites and ventures. I am also enjoying the continual slide of sterling against the dollar (though I did suffer when in NYC). I am now heading to the bank to pay in a backlog of US$ checks, including Christmas commissions 🙂 .

Have a great week everybody!

Why Twitter (and a way to get new followers)

I’ve been actively using Twitter for the best part of 6 months. I think, like most people, I didn’t really see the reason of it at first. What’s the point of sending “tweets” of up to 140 characters saying what you’re doing?

However I’ve become a total convert and now use it on a daily basis to keep in touch friends, find out what they’re doing, etc. I meet a fair people at conferences and I’m normally a nightmare at keeping in touch with people (do you email old friends, like err ever), especially when people are in different time zones.

This year I expect Twitter to go totally main stream, think how texting is the standard way for teenagers to keep intouch, Twitter is that and more. It’s already being mentioned in mainstream media and I expect will continue snowballing in popularity through the year.

One of the important elements with Twitter is connecting both with existing friends and like minded people, so I want to copy borrow an idea from Duct Tape Marketing.

Add your comment to this post and keeping in the spirit of twitter tell us about you or your business in 140 characters or so and give people a reason to also click on your twitter ID to follow you. (Make sure you add your twitter ID in the appropriate comment form box.

You can follow Scott at MrScottJones myself at AlCarlton. If you’re new to Twitter and follow us make sure you send us a message so that we can follow you back. Have fun!

Inspirational Failures

I speak to a lot of Internet marketers and entrepreneurs and one thing that comes out time and time again is the number of failures. I’ll happily admitting having more failed businesses than I do successful ones. I own more websites that make less than $1 a day than sites that earn over $100. I have more failed relationships than happy ones. Most people do.

The GREAT thing about failed ventures is what you learn along the way and can take into your next more successful ventures. So if you’re struggling at the moment, appreciate the education.

I watched this video the other day and found it REALLY humbling, if you’re struggling to move on with something check it out.

As always your comments and thoughts are appreciated.

25 Things

I got tagged on Facebook (befriend here) with 25 things, don’t normally do much on FB but thought this would be fun, so sharing here too as if it gets any SE traffic want it here and not there.

1. I used to run a market stall selling ethnic clothing, jewellery and dope paraphernalia

2. In my younger years I played drums and was into glam rock (even sometimes dressed the part)

3. I get secretly emotional when watching films, actually shed a tear when I watched Seven Pounds.

4. I was totally anti-mobile phone for years, I now carry two.

5. I got fired from my first two jobs and in all honesty should have been fired from my last (and final) job.

6. I used to have zero financial intelligence and racked up a serious amount of credit card debt. It got to the point where my parents were advised to disown me if they wanted to get a loan.

7. My daughter Alicia was born whilst I was at University and I spent my final year looking after her, studying from home and creating my first website (which is still live and earning $1 a day now).

8. I am a loyal friend and will do anything to help somebody but when crossed I hold a grudge for an unhealthily long time.

9. I never give vouchers or cash as gifts as think the thought is far more important.

10. My proudest moment of 2008 was inviting a homeless guy called Keith to eat with me and then buying him a room for the night.

11. I support Newcastle United which never fails to cause me pain

12. I want to learn to ski, had one lesson so far and it hurt

13. I read all 3 books of Lord of the Rings in two days.

14. I’ve electrocuted myself twice, both times I survived

15. I dislike sun, pool and beach holidays.

16. I quit smoking about 5 years ago, was on holiday at the time and was embarrassed by parents smoking over their kids, 20-a-day habit kicked.

17. I co-own the most popular budgerigar forum in the world; I know jack shit about budgies.

18. I’m a fan of spicy food though often regret that the next day

19. I own 2 cars and 2 watches, my watches are worth more than my cars

20. I used to play in both a pool and bowling league, my top bowling score is 242 and I’ve cleared from the break on 3 occasions (never in a match mind)

21. I once paid a prostitute to go away and leave me alone (in Ghana)

22. I’ve been arrested twice and cautioned once.

23. I was at the Brazilian Grand Prix, when Lewis Hamiliton lost, decided not to go the next year, duh!

24. I can be brutally honest and am not the most tactful of people.

25. If I am over changed in a shop I will always tell them.

If anybody moans that this post is not about making money then yeah it’s not but this blog is Self Made Minds, we’ve never pertained to be a “Make Money Online” site. If anybody else does one of these let us know and we’ll link up.

Losing and Finding My Motivation

For most people that know me this post is going to come as something of a shock, for a few it won’t. In 2008 I lost my motivation, BIG time.

I’ve been pondering writing this post for about a week, in fact I’ve started it twice and deleted it (once on purpose, once accidently (fuckwit)). So what caused the loss, combination of things really. Moving away from friends, not needing to work and relationship issues which wouldn’t be fair of me to share on a public site. End of the day it was entirely my fault and I’ll take full responsibility for that.

As you’d expect losing motivation has consequences, businesses just ticked over rather than expanding (thank fuck I’m a TOTAL advocate of automation and outsourcing), I drank too much and piled on a shed load of weight, wasted £500 on gym fees and never went once, house is something of a shit hole with odd jobs being neglected for the past year or so and other issues which again wouldn’t be fair sharing publicly.

On the positive side I knew it was happening and knew I needed to do something about it. I attended Elite Retreat which helped and led to me attending Think Tank which helped more. Also did the a4u speaking gig and various other talks and meets. All really helped and I made some great friends in 2008 which I hope and expect will be friends for life.

The final piece in me re-finding my motivation was my recent trip to Vegas. I lost a fair bit in Vegas, cash, naivety, morals, brain and liver cells BUT more importantly I hooked up with some brilliant friends (you know who you are), saw some amazing sights and became really REALLY motivated again.

So what next? Starting to get fit again (lost about a stone since Christmas) business is expanding, just launched the UK version of Coolest Gadgets which is going to be big. Flying to New York at the end of the month to meet up with a fantastic friend and start another business in a totally TOTALLY different niche and have a list ideas that will be acted upon.

Need to thank Scott for being an amazing business partner, friend and posting here when I haven’t been. I’ll be back posting more frequently from now on (won’t post pad but trying a lot of new things here so will have more stuff to share).

Al’s back. Funny thing is last year was my most profitable to date, you’ve just got to love Internet marketing.

Sometimes it Pays to Bite thy Tongue

At times we all get let down and or pissed off by people, whether their friends, work colleagues, family, employees, whoever. However how we handle the problem can make a massive difference to the outcome.

As an example I twice had a similar problem with writers. The first had been writing for me for over a year, she was great at her job until she disappeared on holiday for 2 weeks giving me 30 minutes notice to find cover. As you can imagine I was some what peeved and justifiably so in my opinion. However I handled the situation really badly. When her contract came up for renewal (or she got back from holiday), I simply terminated it and in the process lost both a good writer and friend.

In hindsight, we should have virtually sat down, discussed the problem and agreed what would happen in the future; instead I had a 10 minute hissy fit and that was that.

Next example was also with a writer, this one went off “sick” for 6 weeks, after 4 weeks I saw he was working on another site. I spoke to him on IM knowing he was working for this other site and likely wouldn’t be back, my initial thoughts were to tell him exactly what I thought of him (which would involved words like unprofessional, ungrateful, two faced tosser), however this time I bit my tongue (which did take a lot of doing).

He left my employment for pastures new but we kept on good terms (however if he ever asks for his job back that will be an interesting conversation) and when asked he helps out promoting posts (he’s a prolific twitterer with a following).

The lesson I learnt from this is that the 10 minutes of satisfaction you get from slamming somebody and telling them exactly what you think is nothing compared what you can gain in the future by being civil and biting the tongue. So even if you know you’re in the right and they are in the wrong, take 3 deep breaths and think of what’s best for the future.

Anybody else got good or bad examples when they should of kept their mouth shut?

UK Mini Conference - Think Visibility

I’ve enjoyed doing a few speaking gigs this year and intend to do more next year, the first of which is going to be Think Visibility organised by my good friend Dom AKA The Hodge.

Think Visibility is in Leeds on 7th March 2009.

Think Visibility is a one-day mini conference with a focus on the areas of web development and marketing which are usually left behind in the creation process:
SEO, PPC, Monetisation, Blogging, Accessibility and Usability.

Tickets for the conference are limited (~150) and cost £30 which is an absolute bargain. There are 32 great speakers, I won’t mention them all but there are certainly names people in the industry will instantly recognise, like Dave Naylor, Patrick Altoft, Tim Nash, Peter Cooper, the list goes on (check out the speaker bios here ).

There will be plenty of knowledge to pick up on the day itself and even more at the after party afterwards (this is the best time to learn the less public stuff and network like crazy). If you’re in the UK and a regular or a conference virgin this is no brainer to attend. IMHO there are only two things wrong with it, it’s too cheap and there are too many speakers but that can only benefit the networking for everybody.

Hope to see you all at Think Visibility.

A $10K+ Automation Example

It’s my super busy time of the year and I’m trying to make the most of the Xmas shopping season. I outsource most of the content creation on Coolest Gadget and have a great team of writers however I still post each week with the coolest gadget of the week contest and for the past few weeks have been producing various gifts guides. I didn’t want to outsource either task but needed to make them a bit less time intensive, so a bit of automation was called for.

Previously with the gift guides I’d created a template in notepad, then for each product I’d copy and paste the relevant details in (myltiple times). I’d also save the image locally, resize it and then upload via the WordPress “Add Media” button. This was both time consuming and error prone. As I come from a coding background should know there’s a better way than copy and pasting.

So to ease the job I’ve created a WP Plugin where I can specify a set of common fields and then a template.

So for the Product details template that I use on my gift guides I’ll need to enter 6 fields and these will then be automagically populated into the template. Most of the fields are used multiple times (the affiliate URL is used 5 times 🙂 ) but only needs to be entered (or pasted) once. Thus reducing errors.

The next image shows the data entry form that’s created, it’s ugly but functional.

When the data entry form is submitted the template is filled and the image is copied over to my server and resized to the dimensions specified in the field type. Producing the code for the blog post:

The plug-in is very rough and designed for inhouse use only but I wanted to share the details as an example of how automation can save a lot of time and errors. Previously it would take me half a day or so to knock a gift guide together, it now takes about 30 minutes (just finding the products and copying the relevant fields) and they are all laid out exactly the same and easier for readers to follow and optimised (the product name is relevantly used 4 times in each post). I also added the functionality to save and load different templates so will now use it every week when posting CGOTW contests.

If you find yourself repeating the same actions over and over is there a way you can automate it, either by using something that’s already out there, coding it yourself or outsourcing the coding to somebody else. With this example it has easily paid for itself time wise (in hindsight I should of coded it 6 months ago) and the gift guides created with it have already generated $10K+ in commissions.

I’m not releasing this plug-in publicly as yet but if you have a need for it, leave a comment explaining why and I’ll see what I can do. I’d also be very happy to hear other ideas on things that can be automated, as I must admit I really enjoyed getting my hands dirty coding for a change.

Blog Blazers Winners are…

Firstly happy Thanksgiving everyone. I’m in the UK but as most of my business is in the US I celebrate US holidays too, it also provides a good reason for my daughter and I to head out for a meal this evening.

I’ve now taken delivery of a stack of the Blog Blazers books, so it’s time to dish out the prizes from our comment contest.
Originally I was going to give 10 away but I’ve received a few more than expected, so will be sending out 18 (hmm not sure what the postage on that little lot will be). I’ll divide them equally between tweeters and commenters, which also means if you sent me a tweet ( you’ll get a book 🙂 .

So the following twitters will recieve a copy of Blog Blazers:

  • adrianacopacean
  • sciencebase
  • sumesh
  • s2999
  • mtheodoulou
  • ryanajarrett
  • justinbcook
  • jdevalk
  • jgderuvo

Thanks to everyone who left a comment, unfortunately I cannot send a copy to all but the following will all get a copy:

Something I would like to learn from reading everyones story is how to identify my own strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes I tend to focus on things I like but may not be best suited for or of any entertainment or use to my readers. I would imagine that out of 40 bloggers someone else has struggled with the same thing.
Plus I love to read how people ended up doing what they do.

I would like to learn how to make loads of money, drive a fast car and have lots of geeky looking groupies.

Matt Apple
I’d like to learn what probloggers think is the primary difference between blogs that make it and blogs that don’t.

All the bloggers in the list are authority bloggers and have achieved a status where the readers listen when they’ve got to speak!
I’d like to learn how these people kept going when there wasn’t any success to be seen and any money to keep inspirations.

John Essex
There are many things I would like to learn from the book. There are the practical ideas such as mistakes to avoid, how to write better content and how to get more visitors. Then there are the more personal things such as how to stay motivated, how to pick yourself up and recover when things go wrong, how to be inspired and how to be creative. There is also curiosity, what are these bloggers like in the real world, what makes them tick, what do they do for fun and what are their backgrounds? Then finally, I would like to learn that these great bloggers are normal people just like the rest of us and with some hard work and dedication, we too can be great bloggers.

sounds a bit al pacino (or actually was it robert de niro who harped on about ‘motivation’?) but i’d like to learn how to motivate myself to get more stuff done.
the people on that list (yourself included) have great ideas AND are ‘doers‘. i have dozens of great ideas, but I just sit on most of them - or stick a big barrier in my way by overcomplicating them.
i’d like to pick up some of that trait of getting more done.
that’s it! not much to ask!

Chris Guthrie
The single most important thing to me is the story that shows a key turning point in each blogger’s life that allowed them to do it full time.
Now I’m not entirely familiar with all of the bloggers on the list but I would have to assume that most of these bloggers do it on a full time basis.
If I can take key points away from their journey and incorporate them into my own - than I believe I stand a chance to be more successful than I have been so far. I love to read books like this so even if I don’t win one for free I may pick it up anyway

Shaded from test
Good morning its 4.54 I’m Matt and this is your favourite answer for the day (I hope
What I would like most to achieve from reading Blog Blazers would be valuable insight concerning online entrepernerial endevours. I’m 20 years old and after stumbling across I have become seriously interested in the domain game, kicking myself for not being clever enough to buy more when I was 11 Now ‘online realestate’ blogs and other internet businesses have me enthralled I just want to tap into all the knowledge and pick all the great minds I can . Let this book make me savvy! I want to learn of realistic success from these webcommandors. You may just help inspire the next Hansup Yoon from Zuneboards.

Adriana Copaceanu
Al, first of all, congratulations on being included. I would love a copy of Blog Blazers so I can learn how to be successful in my blogging endeavors. I only recently started to see some success in my main blog, and learning from others who’ve “been there, done that” would be a great help, and an absolute honor. Thanks.

If you are on the list please get in touch and send my your full International mailing address, please format it in such a way that the postman will understand (I can’t always recognise Zips and States in other countries).

Thanks to everybody commented, if you didn’t win you’ve still given me ideas for future posts which will hopefully provide the info you were after.