Niche Market Idea

3 simple ways to Determine if a Niche Market Idea is Profitable

Having a niche market idea does not necessarily mean it will make you any money. You have to do some research to figure out if your niche is profitable or not. There is no need spending time and money building a business just to find, at the end that your niche is not profitable.

In this post, I will go through some ways you can start using today to determine if your niche market is profitable.

Determine if your Niche Market Idea is Profitable.

Although you can use Google planner for finding niche marketing Ideas, it is not as powerful in that respect when compared to determining the demand and profitability of a niche market. I will show you how ..


Login to your Google account- Google Keyword Planner. Now if you’ve never used this tool before you will need to create a free account.

During the process of your account creation, you may be asked to provide your credit card info. Your credit card info is just for formality, You will not be charged for using the service.

Now after logging in, go where it says “Search for new keywords using a phrase, website category” and click on that.

After clicking a drop down box will appear. Insert your niche market keyword or phrase as shown in the first step below

Setting up the keyword planner

Next, you would want to adjust the search criteria. In this case, I had it targeting those searching on Google, who speak English and are from the United States. Just below you would find the Get Idea blue button. Click on that… let Google do its thing.

Keyword results

Under the keyword Idea tab, you will be presented with some data. The Average monthly searches column is the number of times people have searched for the exact keyword based on the date range and targeting settings that you’ve selected.

For example, use the phrase “Make Money Online” as the keyword idea. It had an average monthly search of 60,500. That means 60,500 people in the United States within last month actually searched on Google using the phrase “make money online”.

That 60,500 people is the demand for “Make Money Online”. Next is the suggested bid column. A suggested bid is calculated by looking at the costs-per-click (CPCs) that advertisers are paying for a keyword, taking into account the location and Search Network settings you’ve selected.

Why will advertisers pay? Simple because they know there is money to be made in the niche. Hence, a great tool to find if a niche is profitable.


Google Search Result Listing is also a tool you can use to determine if your niche market idea is profitable. Head to the Google search box and enter your search term, which in this case will be your niche market keyword idea and then hit the search blue button on the right.

Google Search Results

On February 19, 2016, Google announced permanent changes to its ad layout in its desktop search results on Google and its search partners. There is no more Google Ads at the right sidebar of the Google search result page. Ads appear more often now above and below the organic search results.

Anyway, the point here is after making your search and you find ads being displayed, that is a strong sign that there is money to be made in that niche market. The lack of PPC advertisers suggests that this key phrase isn’t particularly lucrative.


Although the App revolution started only a few years back, this form of marketing is growing like wildfire with no signs of going off anytime soon.

Mobile apps provide a much practical and faster alternative to mobile browsing. With web browsing, you are required to launch your web browser, enter the URL you want to visit and wait for the site to load…..With Apps, it takes a matter of seconds to launch a mobile App since the info is all stored in your mobile. (Can be used offline).

That make it a very powerful marketing platform.

If you can find Books or Apps being sold in your niche, that is a strong sign of profitability in your niche.

Here is how to find Books and Apps in your niche market.
Head over again to the Google search engine tool. Search using your niche keyword. After the result page appears just below the search bar there are several options. Click on the “More” option as shown in the image below. A drop down box will pop-up with another set of options now you will find the option to search for books and Apps.

Do not be surprised to find Apps in weird niches…Have fun!

A Simple Test To Know If A Niche Is Profitable with Eben Pagan

Forums are very powerful in terms of being a marketing tool. You can use forums to research the problems people in your niche are looking for, It is used as a traffic generation tool etc. Because forums are packed full with active members, that means people are passionate about the topic and willing to discuss it and ask questions in the niche.

Where there is demand there is money to be made will help you easily find a forum in your niche. You can also use the search string “niche + forum” on Google.

Niche Market Idea

To better understand why using your competitors as a good gauge for profitability, you would want to ask yourself the question. Why would someone create a website or a blog, spending time energy and money to manage it?

Here is my take; To generate money for private or a particular course.

Competition is healthy. If others are going through the effort of providing people in their niche with info, products, and services, that’s a strong sign that there is money in the niche market idea.

On social media, you will want to check out if there are lots of Groups in your niche on Facebook and Twitter. Simply searching on either platform will bring up groups and fan pages based on your niche keyword idea.

Sites like Offervault also allow you to search for affiliate programs within your niche. Here are other websites providing varieties of products in a vast number of niches ranging from physical products to electronic. Amazon, Ebay, Clickbank, JVZoo, and Kindle marketplace for E-books too.

So if during your niche marketing research you find a high demand of people searching your niche keyword idea, high suggest Adwords bids, products on sale targeting your niche, people paying for advertisement and a lot of social activity on that topic then you are on the right track of a profitable niche market idea.

How to Make Money on Instagram with Content Locking

Today you’re going to learn how to make money on Instagram through the use of mobile content locking as a part of our series on social media marketing. Making money with the clever use of social networks isn’t something new, people have been doing it for years through MySpace, Facebook, Pinterest and countless other websites and apps where a large congregation of users gather.

Instagram’s been rapidly rising in popularity and has become the most active mobile social network over the past few years, this makes mobile content locking very profitable since most Instagram users are on a mobile device or tablet.

If you don’t know what content locking is, don’t worry! We’ll explain it below.

How to make money on Instagram – what do I need?

  • An Instagram page with at least 30,000 followers.
  • A content locker (you’ll learn how to create one below.)

How much money can I make?

It depends on the number of followers your page has and how active they are, so amounts can vary a lot between pages.

A page with 50,000 followers could make anywhere from $20 to $80 every day, you can only imagine how much a page with hundreds of thousands or even millions of followers can make.

How to Make Money on Instagram – What is Content Locking?

Content Locking is a popular form of CPA (Cost Per Action) marketing. Perhaps you’ve seen it on Instagram before, where in order to access a specific web page, app or giveaway, you must download a free application or complete some kind of survey.

It’s called Cost Per Action marketing because every time someone downloads your free app or completes your survey, an advertiser will pay you money.

Mobile Content Locker Example

As you can see, this Instagram user has monetized his Shoutout giveaway using a mobile content locker. Now, in order to learn exactly how to make money on Instagram, you first have to learn how to create a content locker.

How to Make Money on Instagram – Joining a CPA Network

The first step in making money on Instagram is to create a mobile content locker, and to do that we have to apply to a mobile CPA network. There are many different networks you can join, but you must be careful as a lot of them have a bad reputation and some of them don’t even pay you.

There are a few great networks though and the best one by far to make money on Instagram at the moment is OGMobi (You can use this page to apply and get accepted faster.)

When registering through the link above, state that you’re going to be driving traffic through Instagram, and enter the link to your Instagram pages, you can choose the first option ($100-$1000) in the Monthly Revenue question since you don’t know exactly how much you’ll be making.

Using the link above to apply and entering the correct information will get you accepted much faster, so don’t leave anything out.

You’re half way to learning how to make money on Instagram, now let’s create a content locker!

How to Create a Mobile Content Locker

After you’ve been accepted to the CPA network above, log into the members section and select Incentive Tools -> Mobile Locker from the menu sidebar.

This will take you to the locker page where you can create a new mobile locker, which is essential to make money on Instagram.

Creating a Mobile Locker

You can specify a completion URL to send users to a specific page after they’ve downloaded an app. You can also specify the number of apps that have to be downloaded in order to unlock the content. There are a few themes and colors which you can change but I’ll leave those for you to experiment with.

Our Brand New Mobile Locker

Your content locker is done! Every time someone downloads an app from your locker, you’ll earn anywhere from $0.20 to $1.

All you need now is a landing page to promote. It’s highly recommended that you use a landing page instead of the direct link to your locker because this will result in more conversions and will keep your Instagram account from getting banned.

If you’re already familiar with content locking and have content to lock, you can go ahead and start promoting. If not, stay tuned in the next few days for part 2 of our How to Make Money on Instagram guide on the Ebrandz Blog, which will teach you how to create a landing page and lock it with your new content locker.

If you aren’t that creative and want to skip the landing page creation process, the awesome staff from OGMobi frequently give away free landing pages to it’s members, so apply to the network using this page, use correct information and ask nicely about landing pages, I’m sure they’ll help you out.

Facebook Auto Poster click

Facebook Auto Poster Benefits For Affiliate Marketing

Will a Facebook auto poster benefit the average affiliate marketer?

Process automation through a Facebook auto poster is one of the most important things that an affiliate marketer can implement into their business.

And if an affiliate marketer wants to run a massive advertising campaign on Facebook, without paying per click, then you will most certainly need a Facebook group poster like Ebrandz Dashboard to do the job.

A Facebook poster will streamline any affiliates marketing and advertising which could substantially improve the profitability of your business.

There are lots of Facebook auto posters out there but none can match the superior functionalities offered by Ebrandz Reviews, this is the best Facebook auto poster that you can use to post to Facebook groups.

A Closer Look at The Facebook Auto Poster

King Poster offers an unparalleled way of publishing status messages, links, images and even YouTube videos to unlimited Facebook Groups.

Here’s a few notable features that you can enjoy from the Ebrandz Facebook Auto Poster:

  • Configurable delay between consecutive posts
  • Schedule posts ahead of time, as far as six months from current date
  • Complete customization for posting links in pages and groups.
  • Change title, caption, message and other aspects of the link.
  • Compatible with latest Facebook API.
  • Supports automatically pausing user’s posting process for specified time, after a configurable number of posts.

If you’re dead set on improving your profitability and driving tons of traffic to your affiliate marketing offers, then you need to be more visible Facebook and you have to automate your advertising on Facebook.

Two important benefits affiliate marketers can get from a Facebook group auto poster:

Reduced Manpower Costs

Posting to multiple Facebook groups is not simple. If you are doing it manually, then your posting tasks will eat up a lot of your valuable time. To avoid this, the first thing that you might do is hire someone who will post the ads. And if you really want to reach the billion users of Facebook, then you will probably need multiple accounts, lots of groups and several assistants that will work daily just to post your ads.

This would be an expensive proposition for any affiliate because you have to pay those people who will post the ads. You can eliminate this problem and substantially reduce your expenses by using a Facebook group auto poster that can perform autoposting work.

More Visibility for Your Affiliate Offers

Manual posting of ads on Facebook groups is severely handicapped by the natural limitation of a human to post to Facebook in the quickest time possible. That is because a human poster will browse individual groups, maybe read other posts, then write the ad, and post it. This process of posting just a single ad can take as much 15 minutes.

But if you use a Facebook auto poster like Ebrandz, you will be able to saturate targeted Facebook groups in just a few clicks of the mouse. The entire process can be accomplished in a matter of seconds. So, just imagine the significant edge that you can have over other affiliate marketers if you can quickly post your ads to all or a selection of your Facebook groups. You can certainly dominate your market niche because your ads will become more visible.


Automating your Facebook advertising and marketing processes is probably the ultimate affiliate solution to improving your sales performance and increasing the profitability of your business.

Try our new dashboard and services by contacting us today!

gears to WordPress Affiliate Marketing Plugins

19 WordPress Affiliate Marketing Plugins That Will Boost Your Revenue

When it comes to affiliate marketing, everyone wants to generate more sales and commissions. And it is only possible if you know how to convert your visitors.

There are many WordPress plugins used for affiliate marketing. These plugins help in optimizing your site properly so that you generate more commissions.

In this article, I will share with you 19 affiliate marketing plugins you should use on your WordPress site.

    Provide an affiliate system for sellers and shops with the Affiliates plugin for WordPress. It integrates with many e-commerce plugins.

It provides real time statistics of your referrals. You can get as many affiliates as you want in this plugin. An affiliate can sign up easily with or without an account.

This plugin is for those who want to add an affiliate marketing system on their website or e-commerce store.

    Just like the Affiliates plugin, Affiliates Manager also lets you manage your affiliate marketing program. It seamlessly integrates with the top e-commerce platforms, provides real-time reports, lets you set payout rates and manage adjustments.

You can track unlimited number of affiliates with this plugin. It also offers you the feature to create unlimited banner ads and text links.

So, if you run an e-commerce store, this plugin will help you manage your affiliate program for free.

    Display Amazon links with the help of this plugin. The links are tagged with your Amazon Associate ID. All you need to do is to pick the category and this plugin will show good products coming out today.

You can filter unwanted products, design your own layout of products, design custom buttons and much more. Watch this video to understand how this plugin works.

    Create your own store with this plugin. You can display Amazon products without worrying about duplicate content.

It also shows you statistics of your products. One really cool feature about this plugin is the On Site Cart feature that lets customer to add multiple products and checkout which will double up your commissions.

The plugin is SEO optimized so you need not worry about the headlines, title tags and description. With their bulk import option, you can import multiple products at a time and save time.

It really helps in boosting your Amazon conversions without causing any problems.

    Quickly add Amazon links to your posts and pages with Amazon Link plugin. It lets you add text links, thumbnail links, images and even Amazon flash widgets.

Moreover, these links can be localized based on the nationality of the site visitor. The plugin is easy to set up.

    Want to display Amazon products on your post? Start using Amazon Product in a Post plugin to add products to any page or post. This plugin is similar to Amazon Link.

You can add your own review of the product. It allows you to add unlimited number of products on a page or post. The product can be added at top, bottom or inside the content.

    An alternative to the previous two plugins, AmazonSimpleAdmin lets you integrate Amazon products on your website in different styles.

You can design your own product template and add them using shortcodes. The plugin doesn’t slow down your website.

The premium version of this plugin offers customizable templates, email notifications, bestseller lists and much more.

    Great plugin for affiliate marketers who review products and want to display rich snippets. It displays a review box which consists of the product name, type, reviewer name, price, star rating and finally a short review.

This plugin is great not only for affiliate marketers but also for those who review products on their website.

  1. Pretty Links
    Shorten your ugly looking affiliate links with Pretty Links. It lets you create links within the post editor so you don’t have to waste your time.

Apart from shortening links, it also helps in adding links to your content. You can replace any keyword with a pretty Link.

It also lets you control no follow attribute, helps in setting up redirects and also lets you send users to different destination URL’s based on their location.

You can track your links and find out the impressions, clicks and CTR.

A free version of this plugin is also available but it does not provide many features we discussed.

    Easily cloak your links, assign categories and track them with Easy Affiliate Links plugin. Similar to Better Links Pro, it’s a free alternative you can use to manage all your affiliate links.

    Take control of your affiliate links with EasyAzon plugin. Set links to open in a new window, add a no-follow attribute, display product popup, cloak affiliate links and localize affiliate links based on nationality.

All you can do with the help of this plugin. This plugin is used by almost all affiliate marketers because it helps in boosting your commissions.

The free version of this plugin has limited features and that’s why I recommend you to buy the pro version which is worth the money.

    PG Simple Affiliate Shop will help you create a store for your affiliate products. It lets you add simple reviews and product banners that will help you generate more commissions.

You can add testimonials, images, descriptions of the products you are promoting. You can drag and drop products in any order and also categorize them.

With the help of Yoast SEO plugin, you can improve the search visibility of the products you are promoting on your shop.

    Shorten your affiliate links with Pretty Link Lite. This free WordPress plugin lets you create short links using your own domain name.

You can track hit to your links and find out where they came from. You can set redirects, no-follow your links and do much more with this plugin.

It lets you download the hit details of your links in CSV format. Also you can exclude stats from some specific addresses. The pro version of this plugin is also available that provides more features.

    This plugin by one of my blogger friends Jitendra Vaswani will change the way you promote affiliate products.

This plugin lets you create eye-catching product reviews for your website. It will help you increase your search engine traffic and boost your CTR by implement rich snippets.

The best feature of this plugin is the sidebar recommendation widget that lets you show products on your sidebar.

Moreover, you can create recommendations at the end of your post to generate more sales. The plugin is very affordable and will surely help you boost your affiliate revenue.

    Monetize the product links in your website by turning them into affiliate links. Register at the Skimlinks and you can earn more commission.

Once you register you will get access to so many affiliate programs without signing up for each one individually.

So you don’t need to worry about so many affiliate programs. You can manage everything at one place with SkimLinks.

    ThristyAffiliates is another affiliate management and link cloaking plugin for WordPress. It helps you create, add and manage all your affiliate links hassle-free.

Inserting affiliate links in your posts and pages is also very easy with this plugin without even leaving the post editor screen.

It offers do-follow and no-follow options for links. It also provides the option to open links in a new window.

With the pro version of this plugin, you get stats of your links, geo target your visitors and also automatically create affiliate links on your website.

    This is a referral plugin for WordPress with PayPal MassPay. You will get real time reporting, email notifications, statistics, unlimited referrals and affiliates and built-in shortcodes.

With this plugin, you can easily add an affiliate marketing management system to your website. But if you’re looking for a free alternative, then Affiliates Manager is a good plugin for you.

    Specify the keywords and this plugin will automatically display affiliate links in your content for that keyword.

You can display links from Amazon, Clickbank, Shareasale, Ebay, Commission Junction and other networks.

You will also have options to add a no-follow attribute to your affiliate links. A great feature of this plugin is that it lets you specify the number links displayed per article.

    A free alternative to SchemaNinja, this plugin will help you create reviews. The plugin supports Google Rich Snippets so it will help you boost your CTR.

You can choose a star, percentage or a point rating for your reviews. It also includes a tabbed widget you can add to display recent reviews.

There are unlimited color options so you can design the review box the way you want. Here is a quick introduction video of this plugin.

If you want a free review plugin, then this is a great option for you. And if you’re considering spending some money then go for SchemaNinja.

Take a look at the Ebrandz WordPress Website Maintenance Review Packages we offer to get more great ideas to optimize your website!

Plan A Plan B Plan C Ready for A/B Testing

How to Determine if Your Business Website is Ready for A/B Testing

Putting together an effective website can be quite an undertaking. And, tweaking that website to be its most optimal can take up plenty of time, effort and sometimes money. When you’re wanting to see how effective different features are on your website, you’ll want to use A/B testing to narrow down and maximize your website’s optimal features to ensure you’re maximizing conversions and getting the most out of each visitor to your site.

But, before you start investing that time, effort or money into split testing your website, first figure out if it’s even at the stage where testing would be of any benefit. Keep in mind that testing too early could yield false results, which could steer you in the completely wrong direction when making changes to your website.

Ensure that you’ve got these things covered before you start venturing into A/B testing.

Make sure the Traffic is coming in

If there’s not much traffic coming through to your site, there isn’t really much use for A/B testing at all. First and foremost, you’ll need to ensure that you’ve got the visitors to get any sort of accurate A/B testing results.

One of the most effective ways to boost traffic flow to your website is by using the perfect keywords. With Google Trends, you can easily observe how search queries change, in order to determine which ones are best.

If you’re curious about how the actual search engines are looking at your website, our SEO Service Reviews can give you a stripped down look at your website, so you can use the keyword search information to change things that need improvement. And, all you’ve got to do is enter in the URL to get this info, so no downloading, registering, or anything else.

How your site is seen by search engines will determine its ranking, so check out where exactly your website lands in the rankings with Rank Checker. When you know where you rank, you’ll get a better picture of what could be improved to boost your rankings which, in turn, will help boost the traffic landing on your site.

Ensure you’ve got enough ‘test-able’ content

You may be looking to complete some A/B testing, but the content in your website may not necessitate this type of testing. If your site is a little light in the content, or doesn’t have many conversion points, doing A/B testing may be ineffective. By focusing on getting the content beefed up, you’ll have more to draw from with your testing, get more accurate results and be able to make more effective changes.

Start building up your content with the help of Ebrandz Dashboard, which lets you create a website that’s accessible across a range of devices. That means it’ll be more easily accessed by your visitors, no matter where they’re trying to view your website from.

If building your content through an HTML5 builder is more to your liking, SquareSpace can assist in you in creating a beautiful website in just minutes. Use the free trial to see if it’s the right tool for you, before venturing to the paid options.

For super eye-catching designs, create your website through Wix, where the HTML5-based website builder can help you boost up your site with content that’s beautifully presented. You’ll be able to try it out for free, with some limited features, but you’ll get a wide range of options with the paid service.

Provide interesting and original content

The simple fact is, you can’t just copy and paste content from your competitors and expect to see the same results. Different websites attract different audiences, that each need to be catered to in their own way. In most cases, using the exact same content just won’t fly with the audience it’s not targeted towards. And, trying to do A/B testing with this will just yield you bad results and be a waste of time.

The content you’re including on your website should be both interesting and original. It’s got to be directed right at the audience you’re aiming for, in order to be effective and get the conversions you want. First, to get your target audience interested, you’ve got to attract them with a great headline, and the headline analyzer at CoSchedule can help you write better, more appealing headlines.

Seek out some assistance in creating original and relevant content by using online writing services, like TextBroker. They’ve got a team of expert writers working for them, so your project will be paired up with someone who’s a professional in that exact field.

Once you’ve got your interesting and original content, you can get an idea of its level of readability by using the Hemingway App. Make sure your content is on par with the reading level of your target audience, so you can make the most out of it.

And, finally, tailor your overall design towards your audience with the help of Canva. Even if you’re not a professional designer, you’ll be able to create a beautiful website with stunning graphics and effects to dazzle your visitors.

Ensure it all works as it should

Now, before you start going through all of this A/B testing to try optimizing your website, you’ve got to make sure that it’s completely functional. If you’ve never done a full usability test, it’s an absolute must prior to thinking about doing any A/B split tests.

Your results won’t be accurate if your users are leaving your site because of usability issues. It’s unbelievable, but even just a one second delay in the load time of your site could reduce your conversion rate by up to 7%. Finding and fixing these usability problems can and should be done before any A/B testing, to make sure you’re getting the most accurate information for optimizing your website.

Before you start A/B testing, a good way of improving the overall usability of your site is by finding out what’s making visitors leave. A click tracking tool, like CrazyEgg, can give you the ability to map out this data and see details about each click on a page. But, like other click trackers, you won’t know what drove them to click on each item.

A/B testing is an effective way to optimize your website and increase the conversions of each visitor. But, before you go ahead and start testing, make sure that your site is ready to be tested, so you’ll get the most accurate results and be able to make the necessary changes to your website.

man running up money to master affiliate marketing

3 Ways to Master Affiliate Marketing

Here at Ebrandz Reviews, we want to share some of the insights we like to share with affiliate marketing strategies…

Concept #1: What to Promote

You need to constantly make sure that you’re promoting an item that you genuinely think will be effective. It’s likewise always to keep in mind that when beginning, you must focus on promoting just a couple of items. You need to take pleasure in and think in exactly what you pick to promote, otherwise, you’re extremely most likely to end up being tired with attempting to promote something you do not care about.

Now that you comprehend ways to pick your items, now you require the very best sources for discovering terrific items to offer.

Here are a few of the most popular affiliate networks:

When looking for items it’s essential to discover those which aren’t constantly the most popular, however discovering the ones which you like, that have high conversion rates, which is a ratio that identifies the typical quantity of item views that in fact turn into a sale. State an item has a 20:1 conversion.

Concept # 2: Where to promote

Now that you understand exactly what to promote, you require to understand where. Tips and techniques, and items from so called marketing experts work some of the time, however, clearly if thousands of individuals are following their standards, you’re going to have a lot of difficult competitors, particularly attempting to promote with Google Adwords.

You just have to discover simply a couple of locations to promote in. Promoting with the public, and offline, is one of the finest methods. Exactly what would you believe if you discovered a business card simply sitting up in front of you in a urinal? And you’re going to wonder what it’s about.

Simply be sure that when you promote, you do it in a non-threatening way. It’d likewise be handy to check out locations or chat spaces on these websites that are associated to exactly what you’re promoting. If you have a music item, go to music blog sites, posts, and websites that are appropriate to your item.

Concept # 3: How to promote.

Understanding how to promote efficiently is definitively the specifying element for success. The fact or being, is that many of exactly what you check out has an ulterior intention, many of these make loan items are simply owned to make the online marketer loan, not to assist anybody as they should.

The only thing to be stated, due to the fact that everybody is promoted in a different way, is to be special. There are online marketers, whether simply starting or experienced, that comprehend how making more loan than many all the rest, merely due to the fact that they’re owned, they care about their items, understand that their items work, and they have the tools and details needed to be successful.

Learn Our Exact Method of Generating 6 and 7 Figures in this Business by contacting us today!

email marketing advice included with image of emails flowing into computer devices

Solid Email Marketing Advice For The New Business Owner

Email marketing has so many attractive features that make it a great way to reach customers and to bring them to your business. Email marketing can be inexpensive, lucrative and can even help the environment by saving paper. Whatever your reason for choosing email marketing, you will find useful information about it in the article below.

When emailing your customers, an excellent suggestion is to follow up with lower prices. For example, you could link a phrase that says, “Grab it,” onto the email. In addition, the end of this email could include a phrase that says, “Become a member in order to have lower prices on our products.”

Try to make your email as personal as possible. As is the case with any type of marketing effort, a customer is more likely to engage in a business transaction with you once you establish a personal relationship. As an example, you can recall why a customer signed up within your email.

If you have a client who has a birthday, make sure that you send a follow up email that includes a happy birthday message on it. Include a request on the email that tells this person to go to a particular place. The ending can include a link that tells him or her that it is possible to become a subscriber by clicking on it.

Use a number of different resources to learn everything that you possibly can about how to successfully utilize email marketing. You may find many books online and in libraries. You may also be able to find workshops in your area that will help you learn more about email marketing.

Do not use dollar signs in either the subject or the body of your emails, unless you are using just one to denote a specific amount of currency. This will strike many recipients as being spam my behavior, and many spam filters will automatically trash emails that include character strings like “$$$.”

Remember that your email list is meant to increase your business profits. Each email that subscribers receive should move them closer to making a purchase. This can be done by writing emails that give information on new products or promotions on old ones.

Make sure that your email subscribers know exactly what to expect from you. An excellent way to do this is to make your first email to every new subscriber a default informational message. You should lay out what sort of content you intend to send them, and also indicate the frequency of messages they can expect from you.

Do what you can to make your email go into your customers’ inboxes. You must work to get your email to pass ISPs and not get tagged as spam messages. If they get tagged as spam messages, your recipient may never see them. Check with customers to see if they are getting your emails, or if they’re no longer interested.

If you use images in your email newsletters, put text to the right of the images. Research shows that customers are far more likely to click on a link or button that is placed to the left of an image than one that is placed anywhere else on the page.

Have a strong call to action in your email marketing campaign and position it to be seen. You shouldn’t make it difficult for your email readers to know exactly what you want from them. If it’s too hard to figure out, then your email will most likely be quickly deleted. Instead, offer a clear call to action and deliver it in a way that can’t be missed.

Make it easy to unsubscribe. Make the unsubscribe link clearly visible in your email, allowing someone to stop getting email marketing. This way you are less likely to get reported for sending spam. Also, if someone has unsubscribed, don’t make the mistake of continuing to send them email: that is likely to cause them to complain.

No doubt email marketing works on so many levels. It can be one of the most cost-effective ways to reach out to the largest amount of people all over the world. Take the advice and techniques that are offered in the article above to help you design an email marketing plan that works for you and your business.

mobile phone with ecommerce capabilities to showcase Magento Security Best Practices

Top 20 Magento Security Best Practices

Magento is the most-used e-commerce store front software, and is thus presents an attractive target to cyber-criminals. Sometimes, hackers attempt to steal personal customer data, misuse credit cards or perpetrate identify theft. Other times, they simply want to deface a site by hacking into it or to take it down with a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack.

Even though Magento is a relatively secure system and is frequently patched, it is critical that you (or your Magento site administrator) invest time and effort in order to ensure that your Magento security is as robust as possible.

To this end, we are pleased to present the following top 20 list of “security best practices” for Magento websites.

Keep your Magento software up to date

While frequently needing to update the software can be annoying to some users, it is very important to always run the latest available version. This is because new weaknesses and “exploits” are continuously being discovered, and the Magento development team is responsible to promptly address every new threat by patching their software.

To ensure that hackers are unable to use known threats against your site, it is important to always be running the latest version.

Maintain regular backups

In the worst-case scenario that a hacker was able to penetrate your store and delete or vandalize data, you want to be able to quickly return the system to its previous state. In order to do this, you need to have an up-to-date backup. Note that having backups is also valuable in case you accidentally delete files, make a configuration change that “breaks” part of the site, or install a new extension that causes problems.

Magento’s Admin Panel makes this easy with its built-in functionality to create backups and to restore the system to previous versions, when necessary. You can find these features in System > Tools > Backups. Note that there are three types of backups: System Backup, Database and Media Backup, and Database Backup. Learn about what each one contains and develop a backup schedule that makes the most sense for your store and each kind of data you maintain.

It is also important to store your backups in one or more physical locations away from your Magento installation – so that even in a “doomsday” scenario where your entire hosting environment goes up in smoke, you will still be able to quickly resurrect your site from the backup. Options may include a cloud hosting provider and a hard drive in your home or office.

Use up-to-date antivirus software

Trojans, traditional email- or network-borne viruses and other types of malware are still choice tools used by hackers and data thieves. These nefarious software programs can steal your data and transmit it to hackers, they can send spam to your customer list, they can capture your screens and your keystrokes (gaining access to your passwords and accounts), they can inject dangerous or spammy links into your site and they can erase data from your site or database.

Your best line of defense against these critical threats is to keep your reliable anti-virus software constantly up-to-date. All anti-virus software can be set to update itself automatically; this setting is recommended because the anti-virus vendors continuously update their threat databases as new malware is discovered.

Implement a strong password policy

You would be surprised how easy it is for hackers to gain complete access to your Magento environment by obtaining your password through the use of brute-force and dictionary-based password-cracking software. On the other hand, it is also very easy to defeat these systems by making sure that your passwords are too complex to be cracked using the computer power available to hackers today.

We suggest immediately going into to Admin Panel > System > My Account to implement a strong password policy like this:

  • Passwords must be at least 10 characters in length.
  • Passwords must contain at least two alphabetical characters.
  • Passwords must contain both lower-case and upper-case letters.
  • Passwords must contain at least two numerical digits.
  • Passwords must contain at least two special characters (such as & ^ % * $).
  • Passwords may not contain any words in the dictionary or any commonly-used IT login names (e.g., admin, administrator).
  • Passwords may not contain any personal information (such as names or birthdates).

Other important password-related best practices include:

  • Passwords may not be used for more than one account.
  • Passwords may not be stored anywhere on your computer or in the cloud.
  • Passwords must be changed immediately after outside developers, writers and designers have completed their work.
  • You can go even further than having a strong password by making sure that hackers cannot easily guess your admin panel or other system usernames. Common user names such as admin and administrator give hackers a huge head start on worming their way into your system.

Therefore, we recommend going into to Admin Panel > System > My Account in order to change all usernames to unusual names that will be easy for you and your team to remember, but that will be very difficult for a hacker to guess.

Lock down the admin password reset email address

As you may know, Magento allows users to recover a forgotten administrator password by sending an email to the address associated with the account and providing ways to reset the Magento admin password. This is a potentially very weak link in your Magento security posture: anyone who can access that email account can initiate a password reset and gain access to your entire Magento store.

Therefore, it is critical to ensure that your Magento admin email address is not publicly known or listed anywhere. Do not use your own email address, or any email address associated with your store. Ideally, you should create a unique email account used exclusively for Magento administration. This address should not be shared with anyone else, it should use a complex, non-guessable address and it should reside on a different server than your regular email server – so that if your mail server is compromised, your Magento installation will remain secure.

Create a custom path for the Admin Panel

Because the standard URL for a Magento store’s Admin Panel is, it is a simple manner for a hacker to reach your Admin Panel and begin trying to log in using brute-force or dictionary-based attacks.

Therefore, an easy way to increase your security posture is to change the path at which your Admin Panel is located to something that others will have a hard time guessing. This kind of thing is sometimes called, “security through obscurity.”

To make this change, open the /app/etc/local.xml file (it’s in your Magento installation directory) in a text editor and find this line:

Change “admin” to something complex and non-guessable, using only numbers and letters, such as Mng52314.”

(Note that you never want to change the “Admin Base URL” parameter in the Admin section of your configuration, as this will actually make your Admin Panel inaccessible.)

After making this change, refresh the Magento cache. Do this by logging into the server and running this command in the Magento installation root directory:

rm -rf var/cache/*

Using the above example, you will now be able to access your Admin Panel at

Use encrypted connections (SSL)

Whenever information is exchanged between a website and a browser, there exists the possibility that a third party is intercepting that information. This is a particularly significant vulnerability when it comes to login pages: every time you enter your username and password at an unencrypted website, a hacker could potentially be “eavesdropping” on the line and capturing your credentials for nefarious purposes.

Webpages with a URL beginning http://… are running without encryption. A URL starting with https://… indicates that the site is using Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) for encrypted connections.

Fortunately, it is a simple matter to implement this important security mechanism for your Magento store. In the Admin Panel, go to System > Configuration > General > Web > Secure. In that section, make the following three changes:

  • Change the Base URL setting from “http” to “https”
  • Set Use secure URLs in Frontend to Yes
  • Set Use secure URLs in Admin to Yes

Besides adding an extra layer of protection to your site, using encrypted connections will give your (observant) customers more peace of mind shopping at your store. Also, note that PCI mandates the use of HTTPS/SSL encryption.

Use only secure FTP (SFTP)

Similar to the previous point, it is important to require encrypted connections to your site’s FTP server. This is known as Secure FTP (SFTP). A common means of breaking into a Magento store is by intercepting the unencrypted (plain text) FTP credentials and using them to log in to the server. Once a hacker has FTP access to your server, he can pretty much do anything he wants.

To turn on SFTP for your store, go to FTP Settings and select SFTP.

Restrict access via particular IP addresses/ranges

If your team members exclusively access the Magento Admin Panel from specific computers or networks (such as an office or a number of home offices), you should definitely configure your server to prevent access to the Admin Panel from any other IP address. This is a very strong security measure.

You can do this by editing your server’s .htaccess file to list the permitted IP addresses or using the Apache directive LocationMatch. Alternatively, you can install a Magento extension that manages IP-based access for you.

Additionally, if your customer base is limited to one or more particular countries, you can completely block IP addresses from all other countries. Since many hackers operate from countries in which you may have no customers (or potential customers), this is another very strong protection to implement. On the other hand, keep in mind that doing this may limit the ability of some legitimate customers – including repeat customers who may be traveling – from using the store. You’ll need to weigh the pros and cons of this approach and decide accordingly.

Implement two-factor authentication

Magento’s built-in administrative access requires the entry of a single set of credentials, namely username and password. Two-factor authentication takes this one step further by restricting access until two different forms of identification are provided to the system.

Two-factor authentication addresses a major weakness of relying on a user name/password combination alone: it makes it far more difficult for a hacker to discover credentials and thus gain access to the database. Hackers use various techniques to obtain privileged user credentials, such as brute-force password-guessing and social engineering techniques (such as phishing). However, when two-factor authentication is implemented, having only a set of user credentials becomes worthless to the hacker, because the hacker would also need physical access to your computer or smartphone.

Because two-factor authentication is not built in to Magento, you will have to install a Magento extension that provides this functionality. There are two types currently available: one ensures that only trusted devices (such as your team’s laptops and smartphones) are allowed to connect, and the other is based on a random code that is generated anew every 30 seconds (an app on your smartphone provides the code that you need to log in each time).

With two-factor authentication implemented, it would be almost impossible for a hacker to log in to your Magento administration interface.

Disable directory indexing

On most webservers, “directory indexing” is turned on by default. This means that anyone can manually enter the URL of a directory in your site to see a list of the files contained in that directory (unless there is a “default document” in that directory). Giving a hacker access to lists of files can only make his life easier.

To configure your webserver to respond with an error message instead of the list of files in a folder, simply add the “Options -Indexes” line to your server’s .htaccess file. Alternatively, ensure that there is a default document in every directory.

Harden your file permissions

When sensitive files on your webserver have “write” permissions set for anyone else other than the site administrators, it becomes one step easier for a hacker to access your server and vandalize your store’s files. Therefore, it is important to make sure that all sensitive files and directories are not writable by anyone other than the administrators.

To do this, you need to change file permissions to 644 and directory permissions to 775. Any files or directories with permissions of 777 or 666 are problematic, and should be changed.

How to change file and directories permissions differs slightly among servers and hosts, so refer to your environment’s documentation for the best way to find and change file/directory permissions.

Harden your file permissions

When sensitive files on your webserver have “write” permissions set for anyone else other than the site administrators, it becomes one step easier for a hacker to access your server and vandalize your store’s files. Therefore, it is important to make sure that all sensitive files and directories are not writable by anyone other than the administrators.

To do this, you need to change file permissions to 644 and directory permissions to 775. Any files or directories with permissions of 777 or 666 are problematic, and should be changed.

How to change file and directories permissions differs slightly among servers and hosts, so refer to your environment’s documentation for the best way to find and change file/directory permissions.

Secure the Local.xml file

Local.xml is a sensitive configuration file that stores key information that Magento uses to access your database. This file contains database connection details to your store and the encryption key used to secure your data. It’s located in your /app/etc/ folder and, if compromised, hackers would have access to much of your customer data. They could also use it to cause caching problems with your server resulting in store downtime.

In older installations, the local.xml file is still often publicly accessible. Even in new installations, this file could be publicly accessible if the Apache server doesn’t have AllowOverrides enabled in the /app/etc/ directory. It is important to ensure that local.xml is not publicly accessible!

An additional step to secure local.xml is to set this file’s permissions to 600 (-rw), making it more difficult for outsiders to access the file.

Disable dangerous PHP commands

Unsecured PHP code is another important security hole you need to address. Hackers who manage to execute certain PHP commands on your server may be able to take complete control of your server. You should disable these commands in your PHP configuration file, php.ini. The syntax for doing this is:

disable_functions = proc_open,phpinfo,show_source,system,shell_exec,passthru,exec,popen

Lock down Your Magento Connect Manager

Magento Connect Manager simplifies the installation process for third-party party extensions, but it is also used by hackers as an entry point for brute force attacks. If you look at your log file, you may be shocked to discover how many pageviews are recorded for

There are three ways to mitigate this risk:

Change the default Connect Manager path from /downloader to something that only you know.
Restrict access to the Connect Manager path modifying .htaccess to only allow your team’s IP addresses to access this path.
Completely disallow access to the path (e.g., using an .htacess “Disallow from all” directive). When you want to use Magento Connect Manager, temporarily remove this directive.

Only use trusted Magento extensions

Your security perimeter is only as strong as its weakest point. When extensions are installed in Magento, any vulnerability in any extension may provide a hacker with all that is needed to breach your site. It is therefore very important to only install reputable Magento extensions. These include extensions which have been around for a while and which are used by many other sites

So, if you are considering installation a particular extension, make sure to check out the extension’s reviews, ratings and popularity score in Magento Connect. Also, make sure to keep all your extensions up to date when new versions are released; just like with Magento itself, new versions of extensions may contain fixes which close recently-discovered security vulnerabilities.

Deploy an SQL injection firewall

The most prevalent database breach method today is known as SQL injection, and SQL injection attacks against e-commerce sites are twice as common as against other websites! These attacks involve entering malicious SQL queries into forms on webpages that can sometimes result in the form returning sensitive information that the hacker can then use to breach the site.

While Magento contains built-in facilities to try prevent SQL injection attacks, third-party application firewalls and proxy servers dedicated to this line of defense will always be stronger. These products filter all traffic going into and out of the database, allowing them to identify and prevent malicious attacks by comparing every query’s structure with a constantly-updated signature bank of known attacks. These systems prevent suspicious or dangerous queries from ever reaching the database.

Invest in VPS, dedicated or cloud hosting

Small Magento deployments are almost always implemented using inexpensive shared hosting services. While this may make sense when getting started, shared hosting environments are much less secure than dedicated server options. This is because breaches in another site sharing the same server have the potential of giving hackers access to your site as well. Another downside of shared hosting is that “resource hogging” by one site on the server can dramatically impact the performance of all the other sites on that server.

For these reasons, consider moving your Magento store to a virtual private server (VPS) or a dedicated hosted server.

Of course, if you’re store is large and you expect extreme spikes of traffic at times, you should consider moving your site to a cloud hosting environment. The big advantage of the cloud is “elasticity” – your server can be configured to automatically get access to more memory, CPU and bandwidth as necessary to smoothly handle these spikes. This is something you cannot do with a standard dedicated server or VPS. Of course, you need to make sure that the cloud hosting provider’s security measures are up to snuff.

Regularly review activity logs

It is a good idea to frequently inspect you web server logs for suspicious activity. You want to be aware if there are large volumes of repeated attempts to access particular pages or system areas of your site. How you respond depends on the type of activity you observe: you could change the default paths of administrative areas that are being attacked (as described above), you could block the IP addresses of these attacks (also as described above), you could inform your hosting provider and you could hire a security professional to further explore what implications the suspicious activities might represent.

A more efficient way of keeping any eye on your log files is to install a Magento extension that alerts you about unusual, suspicious or dangerous activities, such as repeated failed login attempts to the Admin Panel, connections from unusual geographic regions and patterns of attempted access that might indicate hacking attempts.

Get a professional security review

Whether or not you invest the time and effort to address everything else described in this document, it might be a good idea to retain the services of a professional security expert experienced with Magento installations. These consultants have vast experience with the vulnerabilities and common attack vectors related to Magento sites, and webservers in general. They also have tools that can test if the code running on your server exposes any security vulnerabilities (such as SQL injection and cross-site scripting), and how resilient a site is to hacking and denial-of-service attacks.

After their evaluation of your site, they will be able to advise regarding (and/or actually implement) all the best practices that will ensure that your Magento site is a secure as possible. For maximum protection, you should have this process, known as “hardening,” performed once or twice a year – because new vulnerabilities and attack vectors are being discovered all the time.

shaking hands for consulting retainers

How to offer retainers, the holy grail of consulting

Most freelancers burn through clients faster than King Arthur loses knights (especially if you’re enjoying the Monty Python version).

A thriving consulting business needs a constant stream of new clients, after all. You write proposals regularly to try and keep new projects coming in. If you’re doing really well, maybe you can line up several projects in advance.

Freelancing sites, books, and courses (many of them very, very good and written by my friends) advise you on how to optimize lead finding. Build an onboarding process, like Paul Jarvis teaches. If you refine your pitching practices, like Brennan Dunn does, you can raise your rates and write fewer proposals. Or, simply consider how you email with clients, like Robert Williams advises.

This is great advice and you should follow it.

However, no matter how efficient you are, earning that constant stream of new work gets exhausting sometimes: writing cold call emails, responding to job board posts, and answering referral emails. You end up booking only a fraction of proposals, and you never quite have enough leads for next month.

There’s a different way to consistently earn freelance work, without needing a constant stream of new clients.

Instead of trying to book single, one-off projects, pick your favorite clients and guide them towards ongoing work and a long-term relationship.

Start offering retainers to the people you enjoy working with most. Your quest is not so dangerous as you might expect. Here are some tips to avoid the killer rabbits, black knights, and bridges of death that await you in finding the holy grail of consulting.

Why try retainers? Retainers in practice: a short story.

I restarted my design consulting business 10 months ago (although I’ve been a professional designer for over a decade).

As I started looking for clients, I quickly tired of the lead-finding slog. The first couple of months, I’d managed to work with some phenomenal clients who rehired me, and slowly (and densely) started to realize that they had ongoing challenges.

I assumed that the ongoing work wouldn’t be desirable. Usually, it entails making little textual website updates once a month or monitoring Google Analytics. That sounded like the exact opposite of the kind of business I wanted to build.

But as I listened to what my clients were saying, I realized their challenges were deeper than tedious maintenance work. In some cases, maybe a client didn’t really understand how to use the assets I’d just made for them. Or, they had aspects of the business they really just didn’t want to have to think about.

I had a crazy idea: what if I pitched them on retainers? I could be the solution to those long-term frustrations my clients were describing. These needs didn’t fit neatly into a one-off project, and were happening on a regular basis. A retainer just made sense for them.

A retainer would be great for me too. If I could count on small projects each month from a handful of clients, I wouldn’t need so many new leads.

So, I did a ton of research on how retainers are structured and how to sell them, and broached the topic with my clients informally. What I learned would inform the biggest success of my consulting business to date.

Here’s what landing several retainers did for my business. My total monthly income for retainers is equivalent to a low salary, and is more than enough to pay my monthly bills. My retainers free up the time I would have spent looking for new leads. The impact has been so significant that I can work on my own products and even accept one additional large project every month. Often times, my retainer clients hire me for larger one-off projects (when that happens, I simply credit the retainer fee towards the larger project).

My consulting income is consistent. It’s also higher than before I had retainer clients.

Even better, I get to work with my favorite clients; the people who value and respect my work and the ones who pay me on time. I even have one client who often pays the retainer fee before I’ve even invoiced them!

Most people think retainers are a con job, and they usually are

Back when I mentioned retainers to each client, I was wary of the word, “retainer”, and didn’t speak it until much later. What I did say was something like: “It seems like you have some ongoing needs for design support. How can I help you with that? Is there a way I could support your goals on a monthly basis?”

Of course, once each client began to see the value of a long-term partnership, the term reared its ugly head, and some of the reactions were severe. “What if I don’t use all the hours I paid you for in a month?” “How many hours do I get?” “Can you give me a discount on your rate?”

Few people in our industry offer retainers because they have a bad reputation. Clients expect a “use it or lose it” allotment of hours that they purchase in advance at a discount. Some consultants might try to sell those blocks of hours and hope they go unused, which means free money.

I don’t blame clients for being suspicious, because a “use it or lose it” block of hours really is a complete con job. It’s unethical. I would never feel right about billing for hours I didn’t work, and I’m sure you wouldn’t either. Plus, scamming your clients isn’t a great way to get referrals when you do need them.

So, with this negative reputation in mind, I set out to make a totally different type of retainer. Here’s how I did it.

(Note: maybe this is bad reputation is why many consultants are using the term “productized consulting”, some of which are just highly structured retainer agreements.)

Offer retainers only to clients you’ve already worked with

In my business, a retainer starts out as a regular old project. I design or write something for a client and deliver it.

That first one-off project is critical; I get to evaluate the client, and they get to evaluate me. We figure out how well we really work together. Further, I get additional chances to learn about the client’s business and what struggles they’re having. After the project ends, if everything went well, I use those insights to pitch a retainer.

Never pitch a retainer to a new client for three reasons:

You wouldn’t know what kind of work to offer on retainer. Only the experience of actually working with them, side-by-side, provides that knowledge. I haven’t been able to get enough out of interviews, questionnaires, or any other qualifying method. The client isn’t always aware of ongoing challenges, or doesn’t expect you could help solve them. So, you need to see these things happening.
You don’t want to get trapped working with a client who doesn’t follow your advice or who you don’t like. No matter how hard you try to ask clever questions to weed out difficult clients, when you start a real project, there are always surprises. Use fixed-length projects to qualify clients for retainers.

A new client won’t trust you and will say no every time. You need to build some trust and prove you do good work during a real project before a client will commit to recurring work.
Selling retainers is all about earning your client’s trust first.

Pricing: no discounts or counting hours

During the pitch process, the question of rates will naturally arise. It’s also the most difficult part of selling a retainer.

What do you do when the client calculates an hourly rate and asks for a discount?

First, talk about profits instead of rates

Never negotiate your rates. You deserve to be paid fairly for your time and experience. I know from first-hand experience that this kind of refusal is difficult; it’s confrontational and a little scary. You feel pressured to slash your rates or lose the client.

Stay strong. You can survive this part of the negotiation. It all starts with a single sentence:

“I sincerely appreciate the opportunity to work with you, but I can’t negotiate the rate.”

I use that same sentence every time a client asks for a discount. It explains that I value the relationship while also politely refusing to offer a discount.

Immediately following that, I’ll write about the results the monthly work can deliver. If it’s uncertain, I suggest we crunch some numbers before signing a retainer, so that the potential for profit is clear.

Note that I’m completely redirecting the conversation. Instead of falling into the trap of talking about hours, rates, and discounts, I change the topic to talk about what the client wants to get out of hiring me in the first place: profit.

The client isn’t considering a retainer because they have money to burn. It’s about achieving a business goal. So, remind them of that, and position your monthly services as an investment they can put towards achieving that goal.

(Of course, you have to sign the retainer too, which means you have to help them make real progress, or they’ll fire you!)

Second, remind your client of the value

Negotiating a discount and counting hours steers the conversation away from the value you provide every month.

I realize that this value thing might sound like complete doublespeak. The easiest way of figuring out the value is simple math: how much did I pay for this? How much did I earn? If I could pay less, I’d earn more. That’s more value.

Some people will find the value argument to be disingenuous—that it’s just a different form of the same old con; instead of “use it or lose it” hours, these critics might think I’m just trying to jack up my rates under the guise of “value”.

Profit is value. However, profit, while powerful, is only one part of the value you can provide to a client. The other side is simply removing frustration. The ongoing, long-term structure that a retainer provides is arguably more suited to being a problem solver than a one-off project could be. You can observe problems growing and changing over time and adapt your solutions. You get more than one chance.

Removing frustration is a key part in pricing your retainers, because it allows you to steer away from the idea of hours. Frustration is difficult to quantify into hours, but easy to compare to a price. By focusing on frustration, can also demonstrate that you’re more concerned with being helpful than you are about rates.

Set a flat monthly fee

I set a flat monthly fee on my retainers. My clients trust me to tell them when they ask for too much retainer work in a given month and when we need to talk about additional fees or make cuts to the scope. I do this all without counting hours.

Does that sound insane and impossible? It’s not. Since you’ve already worked with the client, you have an expectation about how projects will flow.

It’s also about setting expectations with the client and wording contracts clearly. Each of my retainers includes a “small monthly project” which can take “up to X days of work”, in addition to extra deliverables that are less about hours and more about value (which is advice I followed from Brennan Dunn’s book).

My retainer contract states:

“I’ll advise you on how to get the best value each month and I will act in good faith to use the time efficiently. Further, I will notify you if I expect the monthly project to be especially short and recommend how we can accomplish the most together each month.”

I clarify how overages work like this:

“I will notify you before we agree upon the monthly project if it will require extra work beyond the scope of this agreement. I will also provide a written estimate for the overages. I will not complete extra work without your permission.”

These statements help my clients to be comfortable with the scope of the retainer without requiring an allotment of hours.

Of course, you have to earn that trust by delivering great work and results. Retainers aren’t for you if you just want to sit on the beach.

The first month of a new retainer, I work very very hard to prove my value. Retainers are about the long term, and if you invest some work into them up front, it pays off.

Provide ongoing value, not just a deliverable

So often with consulting, we fall into the trap of thinking we just make a product or a thing. With retainers especially (but also with your regular projects), it’s so important to focus upon value.

I keep mentioning value. Everyone writes about value these days (especially value pricing). What does value mean? It means you’re earning your keep. It means you are making your client money and making her life easier.

With a retainer, your client will invest a significant budget over the long term and will expect a lot more from you than just a Photoshop file or a few lines of code. They want results and peace of mind in addition to output.

So, when you pitch a retainer, hone in on the stickiest, most obnoxious aspects of your client’s business. What is the day-to-day? What tasks are they not keeping up with? Where are you best positioned to make them a boatload of cash?

For example, one of my retainer clients has an aspect of marketing they just don’t want to manage, so I took it over for them completely. Another needs me to keep her accountable to follow the plan we set in our first project. I’ve also handled other recurring work in retainers, like: running a monthly newsletter, managing ad campaigns, and designing new marketing and product assets each month.

Listen to your client. Then, write a nice proposal about how they can pay you every month to make their pain disappear, only to find it replaced by stacks of cash. That, my friend, is value. They’ll hire you on the spot.

Tailor your retainer services to each client

Each of your clients are unique. They have a specific audience, product, and voice. Match your retainer pitch to this.

However, it’s not just about adapting your pitch. You need to adapt your self and your services.

I learned pretty quickly after restarting my consulting biz that clients weren’t just buying a pretty design. They want an outcome, regardless of how much work or complexity is required to achieve one. When finding people with the right skills to hire can be so difficult, I handle every aspect of the project personally and make that outcome happen.

So, to book retainers, stop thinking of yourself as a designer, coder, marketer, writer, or whatever. You need to be a partner. Diversify the services you offer. Be the go-to person. Be the one consultant they’ve ever met who will steer every aspect of the project like it’s magic.

You can do it. If you don’t write, start practicing on your own portfolio site. If you can’t design, pick up some basics so you can advise your client.

Being a generalist has brought me more retainer work than being a designer. Not because anyone out there is looking to hire a generalist, but because it allows me to adapt my services to each client.

By being adaptable, I can do a better job of solving my client’s problems and I can work with a wider variety of clients than if I were a specialist.

That said, if you aren’t convinced about diversifying your skillset and the type of work needs to stay the same, at the very least consider how you can tailor your work each month to meet the client’s needs. Even if you’re essentially still doing the same thing, you can also deliver a monthly report, teach them a new marketing tactic, or provide another artifact that goes a bit deeper than the usual deliverables.

Contractual requirements

That doesn’t even begin to cover all the possible ways a retainer can turn into a trainwreck. I’ve also written up several other requirements that I put in place to avoid issues. I discuss these with clients so they aren’t surprised when they see the contract.

2 weeks advance notice required for booking monthly project

I’m not on call. All retainer projects are scheduled as normal, but with a smaller lead time than I usually require because I already know to reserve a slot for that client. The result is that I end up rearranging my schedule occasionally, but everything still fits. Also, no one is expecting me to make a website update at 3am on a Saturday.

My contract states that I am allowed to waive this requirement if my availability changes, and I often do. I even encourage clients to ask if something urgent comes up.

However, it’s important to set the expectation that availability works just the same as with normal projects.

30 day notice required to cancel retainer on either end

At first, a client might worry they will pay for a month and then I could walk away without doing work. (Having worked with the client previously reduces this concern.) The 30 day notice to cancel the retainer contract is there so they know I’m on the hook for the work and that I’m not going to walk away and keep the fee on a contractual loophole. Also, they can rely on me and have a longer-term plan in place.

The 30-day notice also protects me. In the same way, I don’t want to do work and not get paid. So the client is on the hook too.

Last, I depend on my retainers for my livelihood. Because I spend less time each month looking for new clients, losing the retainer would be more of a concern than a one-off project would be. The 30-day notice gives me time to prepare and make up for the loss of income if the relationship ends.

Planned billing: when to send invoices and when payment is due each month

Paying invoices is a major hassle for many clients. It’s part of why we consultants so often get paid late.

So, in my retainer contract, I detail the invoicing and payment process, including dates, to ease the headache of paying me each month. I want the retainer to be pain-free and smooth. Nailing down how transactions happen is a big part of this, as no one likes dealing with missed payments or unexpected invoices.

No rollover work or hours

I don’t allow projects or time to “roll over” to the next month (like mobile phone minutes used to). I realize that this sounds like a “use it or lose it” setup, but I don’t require it in hopes of getting free money. Instead, it’s to encourage the client to keep me busy. I don’t want the work to fizzle out and the client to cancel the retainer. It’s in my interest to keep the work consistent so the retainer doesn’t fall into question.

Trial month: cancel anytime, without notice, in the first month. (But no refunds.)

For a client, signing a retainer is a bit scary. They’re making a big commitment, and investing a lot into it. To alleviate that fear, I offer a trial month on my retainers. During the first month, either of us can cancel at any time, effectively waiving the 30-day notice that’s normally required.

This allows client to feel good about making the commitment. They aren’t stuck with me until they’ve seen how it will go, and if they don’t like the results for the first month, they aren’t stuck with me.

Similarly, I can cut and run if a client turns out to be difficult despite our previous project and every other indication.

However, it’s important to note that my contract requires that even in the event of someone cancelling during the trial month, both that month’s fee and monthly project are still due. Both parties still need to make good on the agreement for that month, then it ends.

Get off the lead-finding treadmill

By jumping from one client to the next, so many of us are leaving client needs unmet. Stop abandoning your clients!

Now, I’ll acknowledge that for many of us, the appeal to working for yourself is the constant newness. You get to meet new people and find new challenges regularly.

As a designer, so often I just want to dig into a cool new design style or come up with a new brand from scratch. I don’t often get to do that for my retainer clients.

However, having retainers doesn’t replace those fun, new projects completely. But you know what it does replace? Crawling job boards. It also provides a more reliable income while only occupying part of my time, so that I can still take on exciting new challenges every month.

Of course, I couldn’t end this article without preaching at you again for just a moment:

Who says new is more fun, anyway? Working through challenge after challenge with retainer clients and seeing their success grow is one of the most fulfilling experiences of my career. It’s definitely more substantial than the fleeting coolness of designing a new logo.

How many of us consultants can say we helped even a single client’s business in a truly substantial way? This doesn’t often happen in a single drive-by project. But a long-term client relationship can become a major achievement.

This is how you can do the best work of your career (and you won’t need even a single holy hand grenade).

affiliate posts with bullhorn

Type Of Affiliate Posts That Make Sales

Being an affiliate marketer, I used to try writing various type of affiliate posts and see what works the best.

Today, I am going to share some of the best posts that you can write to drive the most conversions.

Coupon Posts

Coupon posts worked the best for me. It’s not necessary that you need a coupon for that. Suppose that HostGator has a default discount of 50% for all user. But you can rank your post for Hostgator coupon and send the user from your link to the default discount page. Obviously, don’t try this with Hostgator as it’s very difficult to rank.

Alternatives posts

I used to drive a good revenue through these posts. I looked for the drawbacks for the best products in my niche and I look for the similar products which doesn’t have those drawbacks. Suppose XYZ has some kind of drawback and people are not willing to buy that product due to that product so, I looked for similar product having the similar features but not those drawbacks and write a post targeting ‘Best XYZ altnernatives’ keywords and that really worked for me. But you really need to research the keywords before writing the post.

List post

Lists posts are not easy to rank nowadays, but if you go for less competitive keywords for the post promoting products with high commissions, you can drive a good revenue from it. I promoted a lot of WordPress themes and plugins through list posts which drove me a good revenue.

And to be successful in Affiliate Marketing, you need to learn scarcity marketing.

So, these were the 3 best affiliate posts which worked for me. What kind of affiliate posts are working for you?