While The Minimal Minute itself may seem very simple and clean, there was a lot of work that went into getting it set up. Tons of research, tests, informal polls, shower thoughts, service trials, and so on. In the end I made some hard (and easy) decisions. So let me take you on the journey that led to here. You'll no doubt learn a few things along the way. (I'm listening to very cinematic music right now, so my writing style may swell to very a grandiose flow. Bear with me.)
Hmm. Well I couldn't resist having you, the readers, join me on this epic journey, so I have added a little Spotify player for you to listen to while you read. Yes, I have nerd in me and no, I'm not ashamed. These are all beautifully orchestrated video game songs. All the gamers out there will get some gushing nostalgia from it. Everyone else will still be able to enjoy its beauty regardless.
Anyway, let us start.
Back when Tech TV was still a thing, I would watch The Screen Savers religiously. Their tips, inside knowledge, and entertaining reviews made me even more invested in this whole tech craze. One guy in particular caught my attention, Kevin Rose. He went on to found Digg.com and a number of other startups. At one point, he befriended Timothy Ferris and they started a show called "The Random Show" on YouTube. Nothing crazy, just the two of them talking about tech news, tea, entrepreneurship, and everything in between. They were an inspiration for me to achieve more than just a day job. Then Tim went on to write the best-selling book, The 4-Hour Workweek. The book was all about building a business or product or service that, once set up, could provide passive income with as little active effort as possible. The ideas always stuck with me, but I never committed to making anything.
Fast forward many years and now I've been at the same job in advertising for almost eight years now. At my job, I have become half IT guy, half hyperorganized artist. More recently, financial enthusiast also entered the arena. This assortment of skills (technical knowledge, creative problem solving, and efficient living) started to spread to people around me. I was offering advice in tech, art, and finances very frequently. Even at work I would often post in the Google Hangout "Eddy's Pro Tip of the Day:" because I got such a positive rush for helping people with these tiny little bits of info. Several times I would post these bits on Facebook to glowing replies.
With this new year approaching, I felt the annual urge to "really switch things up" with my New Year's resolutions. In all the thinking of goals and personal challenges, I decided that I wanted to join the blogger community. I had been following a handful of really helpful blogs about money, tech, and art, so I figured I had nothing to lose (and everything to share)! In comes Squarespace.
As a longtime user of Squarespace (coupon code here!), I was very familiar with their website building tools. The templates are gorgeous and the customization is simple and easy to use. If you want to really dig in, you can switch up any and all of the CSS as you please. So within a couple hours, I had a perfectly-tuned website just how I wanted. Really clean. Really simple. Most websites are littered with ads, links, banners, and distraction. Being a minimalist, I obviously wanted a minimal website. And thus The Minimal Minute was born.
It took days of research and brainstorming to pick a name I liked. Most names with "minimalist" are already taken. The Minimalists. Minimal Living. The Minimalist Mom. Miss Minimalist. Becoming Minimalist. You name it, it exists. I had to take a step back and think about how I wanted the website to feel. Should it feel like a blog? A magazine? Newspaper? A zine? In the end, I found myself really liking the title, The New York Times. Or The Chicago Tribune. They sounded elegant and trustworthy. The "Minute" in The Minimal Minute implies that the information here is quick, concise, and timely. When I start making more videos, I may try to limit each to just a minute in length.
I almost went with The Minimalist Minute, which would probably perform better in the Google PageRank for having "Minimalist" as a keyword, but I didn't understand SEO much last month and I liked the way The Minimal Minute sounded. It rolls of the tongue more easily. I also think it looks nice - go ahead and scroll up to the top and tell me that doesn't look nice.
Great. Now I have this blank canvas to type on and see if anyone reads it. I quickly hit a weird snag, though; I put too much energy into trying to make it profitable. Enter Amazon.
As you can see, my second post ever was a list of Christmas gift ideas, each with a link to Amazon. I thought this was the perfect plan! I would heavily promote this post, people would come and read, then buy product, making me filthy rich! The way affiliate links work is that if you click through a link and then end up buying something, I get a small percentage of that sale as commission. It's a very common method of advertising that is as unobtrusive as possible. If you scroll to the bottom of the page, you can read the disclaimer explaining that I'm part of the program. I could plaster big ads all over my site and probably make a lot more cash, but that would go against the reason I made this site in the first place. So affiliate links it is. If you're upset that I claim to save you money while suggesting to spend money, you have a valid point, but I will only ever link to products and services that I have personally used and feel confident recommending. That's why I created the Gear page. In it, I have a bunch of stuff that I find extremely useful that others might be able to benefit from.
With this subtle method of monetization in place, I had a new hurdle. Building an audience. When any blog starts, there are no readers. Well, other than your mom and girlfriend. To get readers, you need killer content, marketing, and badass content. Yes, content is king. But let's focus on the marketing. How do we tell people about the blog?
The obvious first step is to create a Facebook page for your website. The benefit of this is manyfold. For one, you already have maybe 1,000 people you can push your articles to. Even better, you can have them like your page to build credibility for strangers to feel better about liking the page. Every like that your page gets is one more "subscriber" to your content. You only have so many friends to invite to like your page, though. And you will not likely convince them to convince their friends to like your page. If you figure that one out, let me know! To get more likes, and therefore more readers, you may need to pay for some sort of advertising. I recently ran an ad on Facebook for a few days. You get to choose up to six photos to use so you can see the stats on each and disable the duds. Over five days I spent $47 and got 67 page likes. This is about average for most Facebook ads. You should expect to pay close to one dollar per like. While this may sound like a huge waste of money, building your initial audience is paramount. The sooner you grow an audience, the faster that audience will start to grow by itself. All it takes is a few post shares by the right people to really propel an article.
It's a pretty exciting thing when a post gets a few shares and a dozen or so likes. Behind the scenes, I can see the statistics on each post and see how many people it "reached," meaning how many feeds it appeared in. This doesn't mean that many people read the post, but there are stats for that too.
In addition to the behemoth, I also made a Twitter and Google+ profile to cover my bases and appear more developed. For now, these aren't too active other than posting the articles, but once the audience grows, there will be more of a conversation on all three platforms.
See how nice those look. Click them! They are functional.
Now that we have a steady stream of readers, we want to capture a few even closer. These are going to be our power users. To do this, we must provide enough value to them so they offer their email address into a subscription box. Email may seem like a dying medium when it comes to social sharing, but a much higher percentage of email are read then Facebook posts. If someone's not on Facebook when you submit a post, they might miss it. Forever. Emails are a constant that you have much more control over. They sit in inboxes until opened.
Once we get all these email addresses, what are we supposed to do with them? This is where MailChimp comes in. It's a free service that you can feed email addresses directly from your subscribe form. With these email lists created, you can easily create HTML emails to be sent out to everyone on your list. You can even automate them so they get sent on a schedule and use your site's RSS feed as a source. This is what I'm using right now to send my weekly updates!
See how nice that looks? So elegant.
At this point, we have a solid website, affiliate marketing, social media marketing, email collection, and plenty of stuff to write about. Now it's time to keep writing, promoting, and living life.
Hopefully you enjoyed this lengthy post. I glossed over a lot of the technical details to focus more on the story of it all. If you have any questions about this whole process, feel free to leave them in the comments below! I'll most likely dive deeper into each topic covered in their own posts in the future.