The self-employed person is always and never available.
Always because technically they can take whatever day or week off that they want to. They do not have a boss to ask time off from.
Never available because there’s always something that must be done.
Both attributes I like. Obviously, the freedom to take time off whenever I want is a huge perk.
However, always having something to do is a great aspect of the “job” because I always have something I can do to grow my biz. There’s no ceiling which is motivational.
Most people don’t start an online business so they always have something to do.
Most people do like the idea of being able to take time off whenever they want to. Who can blame them?
Any self-employed person can afford a day or week off here and there (for the most part).
However, what about taking 3, 6 or 12+ months off?
Is this possible with niche sites?
It is and it isn’t.
The short answer is I could get away with working much less and still have a viable business. However, it would not be prudent to totally walk away at my current stage for 6+ months.
I would probably not suffer much of an income drop if I took 3 months off (other than the usual seasonal volatility I’d experience anyway) barring some unforeseen disaster.
I believe 6 months would be a little more difficult. Same with 12 months.
The key is not to quit working but to set up systems that MORE OR LESS run on their own. However, “run on their own” doesn’t mean I disappear and do nothing. The prudent approach would be to check in on things regularly.
Moreover, there are still some tasks only I do for my niche sites.
If these tasks aren’t done regularly, the process would grind to a halt.
The takeaway here isn’t that you can set up a business where you do nothing.
The takeaway is to set up a business that doesn’t require too much work or frees you up to pursue other opportunities (which for me is being able to spend more time on fatstacksblog.com which is mostly handled by yours truly).
You should always check in with your team and sites to ensure quality standards are maintained. In all likelihood, your team will have questions as well. My team asks me questions quite a bit (which I encourage). I waste no time answering because I don’t want to halt production.
The other takeaway is that niche sites can be a great source of reasonably stable income. I love this about this type of business.
There are many online business models you can pursue, but many are volatile.
If you sell courses, you earn during launches and special promotions. In between those events, sales are usually slow.
If you sell services, your income rises and falls according to your client list. If a big client leaves, your income takes a big hit.
What tasks do I do to run my niche sites?
There aren’t many and most are not time-consuming, but the following is what I do:
- Keyword research and article topic generation (monthly – usually throughout the month in short sessions)
- Content quality checks (weekly)
- Reply to my team’s inquiries (weekly)
- Payroll (twice monthly)
- Set a monthly content budget and order content (monthly)
- Social media posting – streamlined with MeetEdgar (weekly) and Tailwind (monthly or quarterly)
- Ad optimization (quarterly)
- Site infrastructure work (monthly or quarterly)
- Test new article types and other tinkering (monthly or quarterly)
- Write content (monthly – once in a while I write an article that I want to write on my niche sites).
I spend the most time on keyword research and content quality checks.
Content quality checks involve giving detailed feedback to my writers and making revision requests. This can be a time-consuming process, but it’s critically important. I’m constantly training my team of writers to improve their work and workflow. I also train them on new types of content (something I continually experiment with).
I also do not hand over the keys to the kingdom… access to serious sums of money (i.e. Paypal, ad networks, affiliate networks) unless there are user account options with limited access capability. That means I handle these accounts.
Could I outsource EVERYTHING?
Yes, I believe everything could be outsourced, but that would require even higher level employees which would cost quite a bit more money.
I’d still be reluctant to hand over the keys to the kingdom unless there was a way to issue payments, etc. without putting large sums of money at risk. I’m sure there are ways to do this, but for now I’m content with handling payroll, ad accounts and affiliate accounts.
There’s freedom in staying lean
Whenever I think about delegating more work, I keep in mind the freedom of a lower overhead and staying lean.
More overhead means more pressure to earn.
While niche sites aren’t terribly volatile, they have ups and downs. I don’t relish having months with zero profit or in the red because I have too much overhead.
It’s a balancing act. You want to delegate as much as possible without compromising the health of your business or having to lay people off on a recurring basis. It’s not fun laying people off. They count on you. I prefer to hire slowly and deliberately to avoid having to let people go due to slowdowns.
How did I start building a team?
It’s been a long, slow, learning process.
I’m not a natural manager.
As soon as revenue permitted, I started by outsourcing content to content agencies. This is a natural starting point for content site.
I then hired one VA to help with a variety of tasks – mostly content formatting. She’s still with me many years later and is very integral to my entire niche site business.
As I added more sites and increased daily content production, I added more VAs and increased my content budget.
Somewhere along the way, I hired a dedicated graphics person (which is a real luxury I appreciate weekly – the amount of time I messed around with graphics over the years is absurd).
I built the team one step at a time. Sometimes it was one step forward, two or three steps backward.
I don’t keep people on if they aren’t very good or don’t work the required hours. I give raises to the people that stick around and are talented.
I’m small potatoes compared to many other content publishers. I don’t mind. I prefer for now to stay lean and minimize overhead.
When did I start hiring and outsourcing?
As soon as I was making more than I needed to live on, I started outsourcing. That amount varies for everyone so there isn’t a magic number.
If you’re single living in a low-cost region, that amount can be very low. If you have a family and live in San Francisco, that amount will be obscenely high.
Review your expenses regularly
I have a spreadsheet and note down every expense each month. In addition, to help prepare my monthly income reports, they help me keep an eye on what I need and what I don’t need.
I used to ignore my monthly expenses. Last year I went on a cost-cutting tirade and eliminated a lot of waste (recurring cost software, domains I was never going to use, etc.). The recurring costs can add up fast.
By putting together monthly Profit & Loss statements, you stay on top of your business and can make better decisions. It’s easy to assume you’re making more than you are because you forget about the expenses. As an optimist, I tend to remember income received but forget about expenses incurred.
Am I going to take 3, 6 or 12 months off?
At some point, I may, but I have no immediate plans to do so other than the usual 1 to 2-week family vacations.
I enjoy doing this work. I work reasonable hours (pretty much regular business hours) so I don’t tire of it.
I’m also working to grow my business which requires a more hands-on approach (especially with growing fatstacksblog.com).
However, who’s to say I may not decide one day to walk away for an extended period of time.
It could happen. Who knows? It’s nice having the option.
Jon runs the place around here. He pontificates about launching and growing online publishing businesses, aka blogs that make a few bucks. His pride and joy is the email newsletter he publishes.
Hyperbole? Maybe, but go check it out to see what some readers say.
In all seriousness, Jon is the founder and owner of a digital media company that publishes a variety of web properties visited and beloved by millions of readers monthly. Fatstacks is where he shares a glimpse into his digital publishing business.