Formulate a Business Plan
A business plan is not a formal document for your mission or objectives. It is simply your plan to make money in this business. It helps you fully form your ideas, see problems and kinks before they arise, and keep your focus on the main goal.
Having a simple outline of what you plan to do and how you plan to do it can save you headaches and prevent issues that can bog you down when you should be cranking your product out.
There is nothing wrong with checking the hottest keyword topics, building a network of sites around them, and then figuring out what you'll do next. But before you build the next empire about Britney Spears, you may want to consider a few things:
- Revenue Possibilities
- Time Involved
- Traffic Potential and Sources
- Management and Maintenance
Most affiliates and general webmasters know there are high traffic topics out there that don't generate visits that are worth much. Sometimes just the cost of hosting bandwidth outweighs the income. Britney sites are an extreme example of this, but some topics may not be quite so obvious.
Know What to Expect
If you know where you are going with a project, you should have realistic expectations of the results. Anything above and beyond that is a bonus. Going into your project knowing your bare minimum of success allows you to prioritize or nuke as necessary.
Know How You Will Get There
If you see an opportunity, there may be several ways to exploit it. Knowing how you plan to do this and evaluating alternatives will help you have strong fallback options. Don't start something and then waffle on what to do next - know what you will accomplish, step by step.
The Plan is Not Written in Stone
The plan is your mature idea before you start, and it should be open to evolve. As you build or grow a project, nuke parts of it or any ideas that just don't work. Try new ideas that make sense when they reveal themselves. Do not get emotional or personal with this. If something fails, don't kill yourself trying to make it work. Invest that time in something else with better potential. Realize before you start, part of your plan probably sucks or is just plain wrong. You just don't know what part yet. Figuring out what part, and nuking it as early as possible will be to your benefit.
A few examples of things to consider:
Be better than the next guy.
So you see a niche where all the sites in the serps suck. You say, "Hey, I can kill that!" What are you going to do that is different? I don't care if your site is going to be better looking. Rcjordan is living proof that ugly sells (but he ranks, too). You need to have something that will set your site apart from the rest, something big. Sure, you might be able to beat their ranking, but to stay on top you need to be better than the competition.
What will this cost? Server fees, programming expenses, copy writing, promotion, ppc, the list goes on. Know how much cash this is going to take, and be eager to spend it.
How much time will you spend on this? Will the project have different phases? Set a date for each to be complete. Be realistic, give yourself enough time to accomplish the tasks without being too liberal. You can bump dates later, and this will keep you motivated to get things done.
Is this an evergreen project? Will you need to babysit it daily once complete? Be sure you will want to maintain whatever you start. Sites that have obviously been abandoned draw an immediate back button.
How will you grow the project and continue to dominate? If you succeed, you'll eventually have several other webmasters copying exactly what you do. I have seen this every time I dominate a niche. Be ready for it. Don't let it tick you off, have a plan of counterattack at the ready.
Does potential future growth include a lateral or vertical direction? Know whether you will only build on this specific topic or if you'll possibly branch out to similar but separate themes and domains. Take this into consideration for structure and design.
Show me the money.
How are you going to generate revenue? Are there solid affiliate programs that fit well? Are ppc bids high enough for you to do well with contextual? You better know where the checks will be coming from.
Don't worry if you don't have specifics for all the answers. For instance, you may know there is money in electronic products, but you don't know which category may be the best for you. You can build an electronics site with many different categories. If one or more succeed better than the rest, then you know where to go next.
The main idea of a business plan is that you have thought the thing through. You know the possible positives and negatives, have a general idea of where you're going and how you'll get there. A little brain work on the front end can benefit you exponentially on the back end.