Is Your Online Business Opportunity an Ad Pack Ponzi Scheme?

Lately, it seems that there are multiple online and work-at-home opportunities that operate as ad pack Ponzi schemes. These schemes do not make you any money. In fact, you end up losing a good chunk of your own cash because you must “invest” in this system by buying advertising.

While you may know what a Ponzi scheme is about, you may not know about ad packs and how they fit into this plan. So…

What is an ad pack?

Advertising packages, or ad packs, are bundles of banner, video, text and other ads that are sold for a discrete amount of money (e.g., $50). After you buy this advertising bundle, you can use it to advertise your own goods and services on the vendor website or family of websites.

In many cases, your purchased ad pack gives you only a fraction of the total money you paid in the form of ads. For example, if you pay $50 for a single ad pack, that pack may only provide you with $11 worth of ads. The remaining money, meanwhile, is said to “mature” over time, like a certificate of deposit (CD).

Traffic Monsoon (TM) is one example of a platform that sells ad packs. In exchange for making a purchase through TM, you unlock a sharing position with the site. As such, you earn money from any revenues generated through TM. With TM paying out 110% currently, your $50 ad pack can theoretically become $55 when it matures.

This all sounds good, except that most ad pack Ponzi schemes have no idea when their ad packs will mature and pay out that 110% or 150% or 200%. So, you are encouraged to keep buying the ad packs, but no one can tell you when you’ll see your payout.

You’re performing tasks (i.e., clicks)

The other action that most ad pack Ponzi schemes encourage is the clicking of ads shown on the vendor website. Most schemes actually require that you watch a set of ads on a daily basis. The ads must be seen completely to the end or else you aren’t credited. Generally, the ads run about 10 seconds.

It’s not difficult to figure out that the “traffic” being sold by the ad pack Ponzi scheme is coming from none other than its own subscribers and members. In essence, you are paying money to view and/or click on your own ads.

You’re paying membership dues

Many ad pack Ponzi schemes don’t just sit back and hope you’ll buy an ad pack (or three) every day. No, many such schemes also expect you to become a paid member of their community.

Membership plans can cost anywhere from $10 to even $50/month. Once you’ve become a paid member, you share in the revenue streams of your referrals and friends. You also share in their product sales. And speaking of products…

There are no products!

Although you’re encouraged to purchase ad packs and post them on the platform in the hopes that someone will see your ads and buy from them, the site itself offers no actual products of its own. So, how does it really make money?

The answer is referrals.

You are asked to find and sign up members under you who will kick up their product revenues to you. These new members will also buy additional ad packs and membership plans. With this money, the Ponzi scheme will be able to pay off at least some of the older members’ matured ad packs.

Some ad pack Ponzi schemes have large matrix setups that kick up member earnings in elaborate ways. GlobalAdShare is one such Ponzi scheme.

GlobalAdShare

When a business offers no real products of its own, and when its revenues are solely generated through recruitment of new members, such a setup is termed a Ponzi scheme.

However, many of today’s ad pack Ponzi schemes get away with their fraud by announcing that they are selling advertising.

How can you recognize ad pack Ponzi schemes?

It’s important that you not be fooled by ad pack Ponzi schemes, which will only drain you of your money and time. How can immediately recognize such a scheme?

1. Buying ad packs is emphasized.

The site may make bold claims about how it’s legit, or has $0 debt, or some other irrelevant detail. But at the heart of its message will be the insistence that you buy ad packs, and often.

2. Clicking on ads is emphasized.

The only way you’ll see any kind of traffic going to your purchased ads is if others click on them. So, you’ll be told to click on ads that other members have purchased and placed. Whether you buy the advertised products, and whether they’re even a good match for you, are completely irrelevant details.

3. Referrals are strongly emphasized.

You’re not going to make money from your product sales. The only way you’ll make any money is if you refer others and then collect a commission from their signing up with the program.

Bottom line: Don’t sign up with ad pack Ponzi schemes

If you listen for these three telltale signs of an ad pack Ponzi scheme, you’ll steer clear of this scam and obvious attempt to make you part with your money.

Make Money this Summer by Being a Camp Counselor

How would you like to go camping this summer, meet new people, find easy childcare for your kids, and make money at the same time?

This is all possible if you become a camp counselor.

According to the American Camping Association (ACA), summer camp enrollment is increasing by 10% every year. Many camps have been in operation for over 100 years; for example, the famed Camp Dudley has been around since 1885. Also, while many camp counselors work full-time, almost 30% are part-timers during the summer (or other seasonal) months.

If you’re worried about being stuck alone in the woods with a bunker full of screaming 4-year-olds, fear not. Camps are typically staffed with at least three counselors, two of whom are full-time counselors. Also, there are many camps that are intended for young adults, not youngsters. You can also choose to work at day-only or overnight camps.

How much money do camp counselors make?

The ACA reports that, on average, seasonal camp counselors earn the following:

  • Camp counselor: $225-$250/week
  • Head counselor: $300-$330/week

Who are camp counselors?

Many kids who go to summer camp eventually return to that camp as a counselor. Other counselors might be elementary education teachers-in-training, pastors, or Boy/Girl Scout leaders.

A good majority of camp counselors are under 30 years of age; many are college students looking to make some extra money and/or secure free room and board until the start of the school year. Other counselors have young children of their own attending the camp, and become counselors as a way to keep tabs on their kids while earning a paycheck.

So, if you got youngsters at home and are wondering what to do with them this summer, becoming a camp counselor could be one way to affordably send your kids to camp- and even enjoy camp with them.

What do camp counselors do?

Generally speaking, camp counselors plan and manage camp activities, maintain a regular daily schedule, answer questions and resolve issues, ensure personal and group safety, and perform select administrative duties (e.g., distributing mail).

On a more detailed level, a camp counselor’s day may involve the following chain of events:

8am: Wake up all campers and ensure all campers have breakfast.
10 am: Coordinate a trail hike/group swim.
12 pm: Ensure all campers have lunch.
1 pm: Manage an arts and crafts/sewing/carving/music session.
3 pm: Attend staff meeting to plan upcoming event.
4 pm: Organize and manage camp archery competition.
5 pm: Fill out daytime camp log and punch out.

If you are trained in a particular activity or proficient in a hobby- for example, astronomy- you will probably be called upon to organize and lead a night of stargazing. Alternately, you might wish to organize a night of stargazing that is based on your personal talent for locating certain constellations.

What kinds of summer camps are there?

You might choose to work in summer camps that are organized around a given theme. To this end, you might try out the following camps:

Academic: These camps accept honors and gifted students for outdoor fun as well as rigorous scholastic studies. To qualify, you should have subject matter expertise in at least one school subject, such as math, robotics, biology, etc.

Themed: There are camps organized around activities such as running, yoga, sewing, music, etc. To be considered for a themed camp, you’ll need to be proficient in its main activity.

Scout: It goes without saying that the Girl and Boy Scouts have camps. But if you’re a Scout member, you already know that fact.

Special needs: Children with physical and/or mental disabilities require extra staff and activity considerations and may be a good fit for you if you have additional certifications to work with special needs children.

Where can you find summer camp counselor jobs?

The ACA lists many summer and seasonal camps nationwide on its Find A Camp database. This is a great place to start if you want to select a certain type of camp (e.g., daytime only). Once you have selected your preferred camps, make some calls and find out from the staff if there are seasonal counselor openings.

Here are some other online resources:

Camp Channel: Here’s you’ll find a job board that lists all kinds of positions available at camps across the country, from sports coaches to swim instructors to camp nurses.

Camp Page: Summer camp jobs are listed by American state and Canadian provinces here, along with in-depth job descriptions and salaries.

CoolWorks: You can browse various job openings here throughout the country. The site also provides you with detailed information about employers and their application process.

Glassdoor: Here you are presented with a plethora of summer camp information, including hourly/seasonal pay, employee reviews, and current job openings.

Summer Job Finder: This site advertises multiple summer job opportunities, including those in camp counseling.

The Bottom Line

If you’re looking to make extra cash this summer and “park” your youngsters in a safe place, summer counselor positions enable you to do that. You’ll apply your skills, meet new faces, and collect a stipend. Do a good job, and you’ll most likely be invited the following summer at a minimum 4% raise.

Is Martin Wilson’s Zip Nada Zilch Worth Your Time?

How would you like to make $80-$100 several times each day without having to sell anything or pay money up-front?

That’s the claim put forward by Martin Wilson, who offers a free online income opportunity called Zip Nada Zilch (ZNZ). The opportunity itself is listed through the URL Cash2Flow.

Once I clicked on the URL, I watched the following video where Martin introduces ZNZ, an income-generating system that is not only free to join, but which supposedly generates multiple daily payments of $80-$100.

znz

Even better, this system requires no selling or network marketing- yet somehow directs multiple payments from third-party product sales into your Paypal account. This is shown by Martin several times in the following introductory sales video:

znz1

So, how exactly does ZNZ make you $80-$100 multiple times per day?

How ZNZ works

When you sign up to ZNZ, you are encouraged to sign up to sales offers and trials provided by merchants like Intuit, Direct TV, GoDaddy, etc. Once you sign up to a sufficient number of these offers and trials, you qualify as an Internet-based referral agent for ZNZ.

What does this mean?

It means that you can now access and use the ZNZ portal to make referral commissions by getting other people to sign up for ZNZ-presented offers. To this end, you receive a referral link and access to marketing videos. You can also create a free website through ZNZ to market the business and its affiliated merchants.

You are encouraged to post your referral link on your personal website, blog and social media network, and to even email that link to your subscribers.

There are two commission earning levels in ZNZ:

ZNZ One: At this level, you make a $20 commission from every person who signs up through your link and fills out merchant offers.

ZNZ BigCash: At this level, you make $60-$80 commissions from your sign-ups.

The ZNZ One level is fairly easy to achieve- you simply complete several free trial offers through ZNZ and you qualify to make those $20 referral commissions.

The ZNZ BigCash level requires an up-front investment of about $10 to complete a sufficient number of paid trial offers in order to qualify for higher referral commissions.

In effect, ZNZ operates as a high level affiliate marketing network. As one of its members, you promote ZNZ offers to people via social media, your website, etc. When those people sign up to ZNZ using one of your affiliate links, you collect a commission.

Is ZNZ worth your time (and money)?

Affiliate marketing is a viable way to make money both actively and passively. There are also many upon many products that can be promoted through affiliate marketing, including products that you yourself make and offer.

Unfortunately, ZNZ has limited potential as a long-term affiliate marketing system, and here are my reasons why:

The products hold limited value.

Many affiliate products have significant inherent value in and of themselves, so selling them as an affiliate is rather easy. You can publish a case study, for example, on how an educational program helped someone achieve success.

With ZNZ, however, the products are things like subscriptions to cable or hosting or video services. While ZNZ products aren’t junk, you won’t be creating quality content around them either. That means you’ll also have a lower possibility of ranking well in online searches.

You must complete sales offers.

To become a commission-earning member with ZNZ, you must complete free and/or paid trial offers that you would normally not fill out. You must then convince other subscribers to also fill out these offers.

If you want to avoid being charged, you must track when you signed up for your offers and cancel them before your trial period ends.

Compare this with being a subscribed member to a single affiliate product that you can test at will and interview others about regarding their experiences.

You don’t control the product offers.

Martin explains several times in his instructional videos that ZNZ’s offers change over time. This is bad for you as an affiliate because any content you create for the products is bound to become null and void after a period of time. Likewise, because ZNZ depends on third party entities for affiliate offers and earnings, it’s highly likely that one day, this site could fold up and close without notice.

The free website isn’t versatile.

It’s true that you get a free website through ZNZ- however, the website template cannot be customized and is of low quality. That means that online traffic will be tricky to generate and direct. Likewise, how will you generate landing pages, call-to-actions, etc. with a website that can’t be customized?

The Bottom Line: ZNZ just isn’t worth the hassle.

ZNZ is not a scam- but it’s also not worth the time investment as a major affiliate network. There’s limited product marketing potential, limited optimization for search engines, and limited versatility in sales messages. You are better off investing your time and money with other affiliate marketing platforms.

How to Prepare for Retirement as a Freelancer

Being a freelancer offers you many benefits, including a flexible work schedule, the option to work from home, and a range of interesting projects that excite rather than bore you.

However, there are some detractions to the freelance lifestyle, including not planning and saving for retirement.

Many employed workers are given the benefit of a 401(k) or other retirement savings plans, which provide them with employer contributions and other incentives to set aside money for retirement. Freelancers doesn’t have that benefit, so they often end up spending the majority of their earnings on bills, education expenses, etc. Likewise, because freelancer earnings are more volatile than those of employees, it’s hard to maintain a set retirement allotment.

As a freelancer, how do you prepare for your own retirement? Here are some steps:

Retirement planning for freelancers

1. Understand the “3-legged stool” of retirement.

Retirement funding is typically derived from three sources, which are often referred to as the “3-legged stool.” These sources are personal savings/investments, Social Security and group employer-managed retirement plans. Freelancers typically only have two legs of that stool because they are not employed. Many freelancers have little or no savings, giving them only one leg to stand on- and that’s assuming they have paid enough self-employment tax to collect Social Security and Medicare payouts.

2. Generate a freelancer-managed retirement plan.

Luckily, you don’t need an employer to generate a comparable retirement plan. As a freelancer, you can choose from the following programs to build up that third leg of your retirement:

Simplified employee pension (SEP)-IRA

If you have your own LLC or are otherwise incorporated as a company, you can create and contribute to a SEP-IRA. Per IRS regulations, this type of retirement plan allows you to contribute either up to 25% of your gross income or $53,000 per year.

The advantage of SEP-IRAs is that they can be set up for free, and the only fees you’ll pay is for the trades. Keep in mind that these plans do penalize you (at a 10% fee) for early withdrawal of your savings, which is defined as before the age of 59 1/2. Because the SEP-IRA accepts your gross earnings, you’ll also eventually be taxed on your withdrawals.

Individual 401(k)

As a freelancer, you are your own employer and employee. As such, you can contribute to your own personal 401(k) retirement plan twice- once as yourself (i.e., the employee), and once more as an employer. This has the advantage of enabling you to quickly build up your retirement account.

The IRS states that freelancers can contribute up to $18,000 of their net earnings to an individual 401(k) as employees; freelancers who are at least 50 years of age can contribute an additional $6,000. Furthermore, as their own employers, freelancers can additionally contribute up to 25% of their net earnings.

This reduces your yearly taxes considerably. If you are incorporated, you can also write off your retirement contributions as a business expense.

Keep in mind that, just like with the SEP-IRA, you will be taxed on your eventual withdrawals; also, withdrawals that occur before the age of 59 1/2 will incur a 10% penalty fee.

Roth IRA

Being possibly the most freelancer-friendly retirement account, the Roth IRA takes into account the fact that freelancers often have unstable income and/or need access to cash now. For these reasons alone, you should definitely consider setting up a Roth IRA as your retirement savings account.

To qualify for a Roth in 2016, your adjusted gross income (AGI) must be under $132,000 (or $194,000 if married and filing jointly). You can contribute up to $5,500 per year, or up to $6,500 per year if you’re over 50 years of age.

Because you make post-tax contributions into this account, you are not taxed on your eventual withdrawals from a Roth IRA. Also, you can actually withdraw money from your Roth IRA at any time prior to reaching age 59 1/2 without a penalty– provided you only withdraw from the principal amount. So, if you are suddenly strapped for cash, you have a convenient emergency stash of money that you can access.

Dividend stock plan

While it’s not the typical program you think about when considering a retirement savings account, creating and regularly investing in a dividend stock plan is one additional strategy that you can use to fund your retirement. There are some major freelancer-friendly advantages to such a plan, namely:

You can collect an additional “income” from dividends- or not. Dividend stocks pay quarterly or monthly dividends that you can use to supplement your freelance income when times are tough. During the times when your freelance income covers your living expenses, you can simply re-invest your dividends into more dividend-bearing stock.

You can withdraw the principal and/or earnings at any time. Unlike most retirement savings accounts, your dividend stock plan enables you to cash out some or all of your savings at any time. So, if you have a major financial catastrophe, you can fall back on your stock plan and use it to bail you out of trouble.

Dividend stocks are generally less volatile than traditional growth stocks- but they are not impervious to losing value at least during short-term spans (1-5 years) of time. Thus, you should research which stocks you plan to purchase and understand that you may incur losses at least during the short-term.

What if you still don’t have a retirement plan at age 50+?

If you are a freelancer who is 50 years of age of older, it can seem futile to start planning your retirement now. However, keep in mind that most freelance careers go beyond traditional retirement age and many freelancers work well into their 70’s (or beyond). This is often because, for a freelancer, the lines between passion and paycheck are blurred. Also, because many freelancers work from home, it’s much easier to just take your career with you after you move somewhere sunnier/warmer/cheaper.

So, even if you are older, you can still plan for your retirement and use various IRS “catch-up” rules to grow your nest egg. The key is to start the process and not procrastinate further.

If all else fails and you are still struggling to make ends meet during your retirement years, there are additional ways to make money.

How to Become an Online Adjunct Instructor or Professor

If you have an undergraduate or advanced degree, you should consider putting your subject matter expertise to work as an online adjunct professor or instructor.

Why?

Online adjuncts teach students from remote locations, such as their homes, and are not required to show up at work. This not only saves them on travel costs, but it also permits them greater schedule flexibility. Online adjunct teachers avoid administrative duties such as department meetings and are not subject to publication requirements.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the job growth outlook for adjunct professors and instructors will be at least 19% until 2022. Many large schools make use of adjuncts to keep up with their growing student population- in many cases, these adjuncts are based remotely and teach via the Internet and/or VPN (virtual private network).

How do you get started as an online adjunct instructor?

You can search for and apply to jobs listed through several different online career sites. The best ones for online adjuncts include the following:

HigherEdJobs- This site easily lists several hundred online-only jobs for adjunct teachers. To find these jobs, click on the online/remote option on the site or use the advanced search feature to narrow your search by subject area and location.

HigherEdJobs

Adjunct Professor Online– This site uses an RSS feed to list new online faculty positions. In the right-hand column of the site is a searchable job board. Use keywords such as “online teaching” to narrow the search results.

Adjunct Professor Online

Inside Higher Ed– This resource lists several dozen post-secondary online teaching jobs through its careers area. Just use the advanced search feature to filter your search for online/remote jobs. You can also create job alerts so that you’re notified the moment a new job is posted.

Get Educated– This site has a dedicated online teaching jobs and instructor positions job board that is updated twice a week. You can also create a free ad that lists your qualifications and experience- these ads are routinely scanned by recruiters when new positions become available.

get educated

Major universities such as University of Phoenix, ITT Tech, Western Governors University, and American Public University frequently list open positions for online adjunct faculty on their own job boards. You can find these positions by filtering your search results using keywords like “work at home,” “remote,” and “telecommute.”

Finally, don’t forget to use job search engines such as Indeed, Monster, and SimplyHired when looking for online faculty positions. The paid job board, FlexJobs, also lists online teaching positions.

How much do online teaching positions pay?

The pay scale for adjunct professors that teach online isn’t too shabby. The typical minimum for any semester-long course is $1,250, and some university semesters are defined as only four weeks long. Graduate courses pay more than baccalaureate courses, and highly specialized courses like advertising or nursing pay more than general courses like English.

The following schools offer these pay rates:

  • University of Phoenix: $1,300-$1,600 for a 5-week semester
  • DeVry University: $2,900 for an 8-week semester
  • National American University: $1,400 for a 10-week semester
  • Upper Iowa University: $2,200 for an 8-week semester

The equivalent per hour earning rate is $55-$70, as shown in this example online teaching position listed on Indeed.

esl

Some online schools pay per “head,” so the more students you teach, the more money you’ll make. Other schools pay you depending on how many students actually finish your course.  Conversely, online colleges may pay you a flat fee for your class, and then a bonus if a majority of your students finish it without dropping out.

Obviously, it pays to apply to several institutions in order to strike the best value for your teaching efforts.

What equipment will you need to teach online?

Typically, the schools that you apply to will already have software in place that will help you create your online course material and teach. If you’re camera-shy, you needn’t worry about being “taped” because the majority of your lessons will take place through video screen-sharing of your computer whiteboard, not your face and/or body.

Unless you are generating a completely new course from scratch, most schools will supply you with a course syllabus, lessons, textbook and even student study guides and homework materials. You will not only be encouraged, but even required, to contact fellow faculty for advice and discussion about lesson plans and student exams.

So, your absolute requirement is to have a fast Internet connection at home and a relatively new computer. As for the software, it is typically accessed via a VPN connection to the online university’s network.

Make even more money with online instruction

Once you become adept at teaching an online course, you can create your own personalized version of its subject matter and offer it through several online schools simultaneously. For example, a Spanish 101 course will go through the same fundamentals of language learning in almost every classroom. If you are able to select your own textbook, you might even be able to offer the exact same lessons in the same sequence.

While online universities and colleges offer students the benefits of being accredited by the U.S. Department of Education, there are other online schools that students often go to for basic instruction without accreditation. These places include Coursera, Linda, NimbleMind, and Udemy- all of which offer online courses for sale. Price your course affordably and you could easily make a side income from these sites. This post explains the basics of teaching your own online course.

How to Make Extra Money By Selling Food from Your Garden

If you are thinking about planting, or have already planted, your vegetable garden this year, you can also make a side income by selling your extra produce to others. Several online websites cater to “entrepreneur gardeners” who are interested in selling or bartering off their excess produce.

The Farmer’s Garden

Once you complete your free registration with The Farmer’s Garden, you can use the site to post classified ads of your excess garden produce, homemade goods or gardening tools. Payments occur in person or through off-site third-party sites such as Paypal.

The Farmer’s Garden can also be used to post ads of your unused garden plot. This might be worthwhile if you can no longer garden but would still like to enjoy fresh produce from your own land.

the farmers garden

Zukeeni

On this site, gardeners can register themselves by inputting their names, addresses, and the produce they wish to sell. There are also fields to fill in regarding produce quantity, desired price, and selling time range. Much like Craigslist, you create individual listings for your goods and fill in specified areas with pricing, amount, and other information.

Zukeeni

Payments and transaction locations are set between you and your buyer. Zukeeni does offer Venmo as an online payment option, however. Venmo is kind of like Paypal and can be linked to your bank account.

Zukeeni also offers lots of useful advice and tools to gardeners about what to plant for their geographic region (and when), non-chemical fertilizers and pesticides, watering schedules, planting layouts, and more.

Keep in mind that Zukeeni requires that all sold food be raised organically; i.e., without the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Prepared foods like jams and canned sauces need to comply with state and local food selling laws.

Craigslist

Craigslist has definitely gained a reputation for harboring unsavory characters that you would not want showing up to your house. Having said that, if you still wish to use this online marketplace, you can team up with a buddy and meet potential buyers of your garden produce either at your home or elsewhere in town. The benefit of this approach is that you’ll encounter a much larger customer base that will purchase your homegrown and homemade goods. Just be careful.

Nextdoor

This site isn’t a gardening site per se; rather, it’s a neighborhood site that helps neighbors communicate with one another about area events, crime and job opportunities. You can learn if your neighborhood subscribes to Nextdoor by searching here.

If your neighborhood does subscribe to Nextdoor, you can create postings that advertise your ultra local produce and offer it in exchange for money or other services (such as lawn mowing while you’re away on vacation).

What’s great about Nextdoor is that you’re more likely to get trustworthy clientele that pay you on the spot and even advertise your produce to others through word-of-mouth. You also won’t have to travel far to deliver your goods- in fact, your next door neighbor might just come to your doorstep to buy your tomatoes or cucumbers.

Co-op grocery stores

Many cities and towns feature co-op businesses, including grocery stores, that are operated by member shareholders. If you are a member of a co-op grocery, you can probably sell your excess garden produce to the store. For more information on getting started, you may wish to read the following guide.

Keep in mind that, if you do get accepted as a seller in your local co-op, some rules and regulations may apply to what you can sell and in what quantities. Many co-ops require that sold produce is raised organically. Other co-ops require large amounts of produce at set intervals, so you’ll need more than just an extra bag of carrots to get started.

How to make more even money with your garden produce.

Unless you have a sizable garden, you won’t make much cash from your unwanted/extra produce. However, you can make a steady, year-long income if you capitalize on your extra produce and turn it into jams, jellies and sauces first. For example, a bag of heirloom tomatoes may fetch you just $10; however, once those heirlooms are transformed into marinara sauce, you could get $10-$20/jar.

You will need to read up on your state’s cottage laws before you start selling prepared foods. However, most states allow a given amount of home-prepared foods to be sold to the public without the need for health department inspections and/or commercial kitchen use.

If you don’t want to bother with food preparation, you can also earn more money by offering something to the public that’s not seen in most grocery stores. For example, the common Roma tomato is a dime a dozen in August. However, heirloom Black Crim tomatoes are hardly, if ever, available at the grocery store. If you plant just these tomatoes and sell them even in August, you are bound to find many interested parties.

Making money from your garden

In summary, keeping a garden can actually be a profitable venture if you select produce that’s in demand and that’s typically not available at area grocery stores. There are several online sites that enable you to sell your produce and other goods. With some forethought and planning, your garden can actually make you a decent side income during the summer months.

How to Start Your Own Meals-to-Go Business

If you like to cook and are adept at finding grocery deals (and stocking up on them), starting a meals-to-go business may be the ideal way for you to repurpose excess food and make money.

Families are busy these days and rarely have time to cook healthy and nutritious meals.

As a result, meals-to-go businesses have popped up and offer all kinds of meal offerings complete with home delivery. Many meals-to-go businesses even offer dairy-free, gluten-free, Paleo and other dietary options.

You can cash in on this trend by opening your own meals-to-go business right in your neighborhood, town or city. By doing so, you will access a wide client base without having to spend too much time and effort on shipping and/or delivery.

Starting out locally will also keep you abreast of any customer or other issues, which can be dealt with quickly when your customer happens to be your neighbor.

So, how do you begin?

1. Visit your state/county health department.

Before you begin dreaming of recipes and dishes to prepare, find out where your state or county health department will permit you to prepare your meals at home. Many municipalities will not allow for food made in a home kitchen to be sold to consumers.

In such a case, you’ll need to find a suitable test kitchen, which may be located in a church, a restaurant (when it’s closed to the public), or even a community center. You can negotiate a given rate per hour for the use of the commercial kitchen and add this charge to your food cost.

Many commercial kitchens can be gotten fairly cheaply if they are used during non-operational or off-peak hours. What this means is that you will find yourself cooking and baking in the late hours of the night or on Mondays (when many dining establishments take their day off).

Some states and cities have so-called Cottage Food laws. If you live in such a municipality, you’re in luck. Cottage Food laws allow food vendors to prepare food in their own home kitchen for purchase by the public. For example, here is the website that lists California’s Cottage Food laws.

There are limitations on which foods are considered non-hazardous when prepared in a home kitchen, most often, “safe” foods are baked goods like cakes and breads and not meat or vegetables. This could limit your menu severely, and is one more reason why you should at least look up commercials kitchens and their costs.

2. Obtain your licenses.

You will need a business license to get your meals-to-go business started, as well as a sales tax license and probably a food handler’s license.

You should also incorporate your business as an LLC at the very least. Having the LLC designation protects you from personal financial ruin in the event that someone sues you for negligence or harm. The likelihood of a lawsuit is likely if you’re delivering food to customers who may have unknown allergies and/or food sensitivities, or may simply come down with a case of food poisoning and blame it on you.

3. Create a business plan.

When it comes to the food business, you need to generate a business plan. Why? Having a business plan gives you a defined idea of how much you’ll need to spend to get your business off the ground and operational. You’ll know how many clients are needed to make a profit. You’ll better understand your grocery purchases and what price points are feasible for stocking up.

Your planned investments, revenues, expenses and profits should all be outlined in your business plan. At the end of the day, your business plan should provide you with a monthly estimate of investment costs, recurring expenses, and expected sales.

A business plan also helps you secure current and/or future funding. If your business becomes a huge success, you’ll want a business plan for your investors, partners and employees.

4. Analyze your competitors and pick your niche.

To differentiate yourself from the crowd of other meals-to-go businesses, you should first size up your competition. Who is already selling ready-made meals to your area neighbors, coworkers and friends? What do these competing businesses offer and at what price? How do these companies handle complaints, returns and refunds?

Obtaining some counterintelligence will benefit your own business greatly when you start accumulating customers and dealing with various pricing, product and other issues. You’ll be better equipped to understand which refund requests are reasonable and which aren’t, for example.

Having some counterintelligence will also enable you to pick your niche, whether that be gluten-free, Paleo, low sodium, or some other meal niche. By picking a niche, you’ll be able to attract a smaller but more motivated customer base. Such customers have the potential to become very loyal to your business, which means bigger (and recurring)sales in the long run.

5. Start marketing your business.

Admittedly, this step will take a good amount of time to master and benefit from. However, there are many ways in which you can market your meals-to-go business- and many of these methods are absolutely free. Some free or almost free methods include the following:

  • Creating a website.
  • Generating social media pages and announcements.
  • Posting flyers and leaving business cards.
  • Presenting cooking demonstrations at community/senior centers.

More expensive methods for promoting your business include these:

  • Catering small community events/meetings.
  • Obtaining a Google AdWords account and using it to post ads.
  • Listing your business in the local newspaper.
  • Generating sponsored ads on the radio or TV.

6. Track costs versus profits.

Don’t get so wrapped up in business investments and inventory purchases that you overlook how much you’re spending. It’s imperative that you carefully measure your debts and capital investments so you know how much to charge your customers.

While high-end meals-to-go can easily cost $30 for two persons, this money can end up easily spent on groceries, kitchen tabs, marketing collateral, and the like. Thus, you must keep a tight lid on any and all expenditures.

The Bottom Line

It’s exciting to start a meals-to-go home business; many individuals who start such a business end up retiring from their day jobs to pursue it full-time. Whether or not you choose to retire is up to you. However, if you plan your investments and expenditures just right, you will be able to choose many options for your future. Good luck!

I’ve Tried That Reviews Copywriting Academy by Ray Edwards

Copywriting is by far the most lucrative form of writing there is. Aside from authoring a best-selling novel, your best bet for making money with writing and becoming a six-figure writer is to become adept at copywriting.

And it’s not just professional copywriters who copywrite. If you’ve ever written a letter to a friend inviting him to dinner, or if you’ve ever written your boss her asking for a raise, you’ve engaged in copywriting.

In a nutshell, copywriting attempts to exchange one object of value for another- and that object need not necessarily be money. The process of selling, which is what copywriting attempts to do, can involve physical objects, services or time. You can even sell people- consider how the profile pages of online dating sites are essentially sales pages for the advertised good (i.e., the person).

However, just because you know how to write doesn’t mean you know how to copywrite. That’s because copywriting follows a defined pattern of presentation and persuasion, and so the most talented copywriters often require years of training and on-the-job experience.

Luckily, you can quickly advance in the field of copywriting if you understand its principles and train with recognized leaders in the field.

Enter Ray Edwards, an accomplished copywriter with years of experience in the field of effective copywriting. Ray has recently launched Copywriting Academy, which promises to train novice and even advanced copywriters in the art of writing successful copy.

Ray had granted I’ve Tried That complimentary access to the program. I recently went through and reviewed Ray’s course, which is divided into eight lessons as well as additional bonuses and coaching calls. As an established copywriter myself, I still found Ray’s material to be educational and informative. I provide a synopsis of each of his lessons below.

Copywriting Academy- Writing Words that Sell

Module 1: The Quickstart

Lesson 1: Objectives for this Module

What is copywriting? Why is copywriting so important? How do you structure a sales message? These are the questions that Ray asks in this initial video. He also prepares you to write your first sales page- and one that’ll actually make you money from the get-go.

Lesson 2: Why is Copywriting so Important?

Selling is all around us, whether we’re aware of it or not. There’s always a sale taking place, whether it’s your kids trying to convince you to stay up later or your spouse convincing you to take a vacation at a particular destination. Even if no money changes hands, selling is everywhere.

Copywriting isn’t just about selling stuff; it’s about the art of persuasion. Writing to sell just takes the art of persuasion and puts it into words.

Lesson 3: How to Structure a Sales Message

Ray introduces the P.A.S.T.O.R. acronym, which stands for the following phases of creating a sales message:

P= Problem (identify the customer’s problem/pain)
A= Amplify (the consequences of not solving the problem)
S= Story (descriptor of how you came upon the problem’s solution)
T= Testimony (how your solution worked for others)
O= Offer (focus on the promised transformation, not deliverables)
R= Response (how to order or buy)

Ray also shows a worksheet that takes you through the process of creating a PASTOR sales page. He provides an example of how one might structure a sales page to sell a copywriting workshop.

Lesson 4: Structure a Sales Message

Ray provides a second example of how one might sell a smoothie recipe book using the PASTOR template. He starts with the problem, amplifies it, then provides the solution (the smoothie), and finally wraps up his second example with a way to sell this product.

Copywriting Academy Lesson 4

Module 2: Irresistible Offers

Lesson 1: Session Objectives

‘Making an offer you can’t refuse’ is key to creating an offer that sells. What an offer really is, why offers are so important, and how to structure an offer are the key concepts that Ray presents.

Ray follows up with several examples of how accomplished copywriters created irresistible offers.

Lesson 2: The 9 Kinds of Offers

Ray introduces the advantages and disadvantages of the nine main types of sales offers. They are the following:

  1. The hard offer (Here’s what we offer; buy now.)
  2. The soft offer (e.g., Send no money now.)
  3. The charter offer (first-time product is offered at special/reduced rate)
  4. Limited supply offer (keep your word)
  5. Limited time offer (again, keep your word)
  6. Application offer (an elite offer where customers must first apply to obtain offer)
  7. Payment plan offer (makes the high price more palatable)
  8. One-time offer (often an up-sell or cross-sell)
  9. Negative option offer (i.e., subscription plan and controversial)

Ray then discusses which offer to present to customers based on their level of awareness. There are four levels of awareness, and each one requires a different offer.

Lesson 3: The 6-Step System for Writing an Offer

There are six steps involved in writing an effective offer. They are Who, What, When, Where, Why and How.

Who: Who is your buyer, and who are you that you qualify to present this offer to your customer?
What: What are you actually selling, and what will the product do for the customer?
When: When will the copy run, and when will prospects be most likely to buy?
Where: Where will prospects come from to your copy- from an email, webinar, etc.? Where will your copy live, and where will your product be located?
Why: Why is this product a good fit for your customers?
How: How will your product transform the lives of your customers? And how will they pay you?

Ray presents the three power moves for a stronger offers: Clear offer, clear copy, clear results. He also advises proofreading your copy by actually reading it out loud, and preferably, to another human being.

Lesson 4: Write Your Offer!

It’s homework time: Ray provides you with Your Powerful Offer Checklist in Pages format for Mac, PDF, and MS Word. Herein, you assess your offer and its transformational benefit, the awareness stage of your customer, and which offer you plan to use. Ray’s checklist also has you go through the 6-step system for writing an offer.

Before you become too intimidated by the homework, Ray fills out his own checklist using the example of debt reduction. He provides short and sweet fill-in-the-blank answers and shows you exactly how you might fill out this form.

Module 3: Persuasion Blueprint

Lesson 1: The PASTOR Framework

Ray goes into greater detail regarding the PASTOR framework introduced in Module 1. He discusses how every sellable item, even art, fashion or a vacation, solves a problem. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is introduced as the psychological basis of selling even “luxury” goods.

Ray also discusses how helping consumers avoid undesirable consequences can also be viewed as satisfying their needs.

Lesson 2: The Buyer’s Journey

Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero’s Journey” is used as the backdrop for explaining how a copywriter must create a universal story and temporarily suspend (customer) disbelief. Ray presents several examples of universal stories portraying a hero and his journey (e.g., Batman, The Lord of the Rings). One such hero is Luke Skywalker, who is helped by his wise guide, Yoda. Ray emphasizes that copywriters often envision themselves as the hero of their story; however, this is incorrect.

Ray Edwards Training ‎1

Obviously, if your customer views herself as the hero, she will more likely heed your wise advice and buy your product.

Ray offers all the stages of the buyer’s journey as a downloadable and printable poster in the members’ area.

Lesson 3: How PASTOR and The “Buyer’s Journey” Work Together

Ray describes how the PASTOR format and the Buyer’s Journey fit each other using this illustration:

Ray Edwards Training ‎2

Lesson 4: The Sales Copy Template

Ray presents his long-awaited sales copy template, which he states can be “used to sell a product where people aspire to an outcome that so far has escaped them.” Ray then spends roughly 15 minutes going over his template and filling it in with example copy.

This lesson concludes with homework wherein you are asked to go over this lesson a second time and fill in the template using your own copy for your own product. Ray also asks that you take a break (for a day, or even a week) and later re-write your copy in order to see it with a fresh eye.

Lesson 5: The Sales Copy Checklist

Before you head off to do your homework, Ray offers a 21-point checklist for you to use so that you don’t forget any critical features of your message. Here are just some of these points:

Ray Edwards Training ‎3

Module 4: Headlines and Subheads

Lesson 1: The Importance of Headlines and Subheads

Ray emphasizes that a good sales page has both effective headlines and subheads (sub-headlines). A good headline (and subhead) not only grabs the reader’s attention, it also gets him to read the next sentence. Good headlines are on target, emotional, novel, and unexpected.

Lesson 2: Different Kinds of Headlines and Subheads

Headlines introduce the overall topic of the copy, and the subheads stop the reader from getting lost in the copy by segmenting it. Ray advises keeping headlines short yet emotional, and to make sure they cultivate curiosity in the reader. He also notes that the best headlines seduce the reader and ask leading questions. Several different examples of excellent headlines are provided.

Lesson 3: 21 Proven Headline Templates

As advertised, Ray provides 21 different headline templates that you can take and run with while creating your own copy. Some example headline templates include the “How to,” the “Top 10 Reasons,” the “Amazing Secrets,” the “Which Mistakes,” and the “Hidden Truth” headlines.

Lesson 4: Cool Tools & One Ninja Trick

If you’re still at a loss about how to create good headlines, there are online tools to help you out. Ray first takes you to HubSpot’s Blog Topic Generator and shows you how to use it to generate “blog topicy” headline ideas.

Ray Edwards Training ‎4

Other headline generators include Portent’s Content Idea Generator. Ray also shows you how to locate magazine covers and adapt their headlines to your marketing purposes.

Homework for this lesson includes creating 100 headlines using the provided templates.

Module 5: Fascination Factor

Lesson 1: The Magnetic Selling Power of Persuasion Points

Persuasion points that compel people to buy your product are an absolute necessity in successful copywriting and are termed fascination factors by Ray. They also often appear as bullet point copy. Some example fascination factors include the following:

  • What never to eat on an airplane.
  • Should you give up your web page in exchange for a Facebook fan page?
  • The three items you should never include in a book proposal.

Lesson 2: Styles of Persuasion Points

In this lesson, Ray introduces three types of persuasion points, namely:

  • Blind persuasion fascination (completely hides the secret)
  • Giveaway fascination (gives the reader something that immediately helps)
  • Hybrid fascination (gives a partial explanation)

Lesson 3: 21 Persuasion Point Templates

If you’re lost on how to create your own “fascinations,” Ray has 21 templates that you can follow. This uses the same template approach as that seen for generating headlines in Module 4. Here is just one sample of Ray’s fascination templates:

Ray Edwards Training 5

Module 6: Resistance Removal

Lesson 1: The Importance of Guarantees

It’s not enough that you understand your customers, have fully illustrated your product and its benefits, generated powerful fascinations, and wrote magnetic headings and subheads.

No, it’s not enough if you don’t remove the buyer’s fears.

After all, it’s in the buyer’s best interest to not believe your claims and your story. The buyer risks losing his money, feeling hassled and/or stressed, looking foolish, etc.

How do you overcome fear in your buyer? By taking on as much of the risk as possible. This is the reason why X-day money-back guarantees exist.

However, Ray goes way beyond the basic money-back guarantee by describing his unique “Ray’s Way” 10-part guarantee and how you can implement it when selling your own goods and services.

Lesson 2: How to Transform a Weak Guarantee

Ray shows you, step-by-step, how to create a strong guarantee designed to close deals. Or, as he calls it:

Ray Edwards Training 6

Ray goes through an example of a very weak cosmetic dentistry guarantee and changes it into a very bold statement of confidence via “Ray’s Way” 10-part guarantee.

Lesson 3: How to Create “Tipping Point” Bonuses

Psychologically, tipping point bonuses exist to motivate people to buy. In Ray’s words, “Bonuses serve as hesitation busters.”

What makes a good bonus?

  • It’s related to the main product(s).
  • It makes the rest of the product easier (or even unnecessary).
  • Is valuable enough in its own right.

Module 7: Closing the Deal

Lesson 1: Closing Copy: What It Is and Is Not

The purpose of the close is to ask for the sale, obviously. Here is where you recap the offer, repeat why the customer needs to make the purchase, and to remind the customer of the guarantee and the bonuses. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you want to obtain a yes or no answer.

You must also ask for the sale. This is very important and one of the biggest failures of a good majority of sales copy.

Lesson 2: Closing Templates

Ray presents five closing templates that help generate the final step of the process- the sale. Here is one such template:

Ray Edwards Training 7

Ray then assigns homework, asking that you draft your own closing copy for your already (and mostly complete) draft sales letter.

Module 8: Inbox Magic

Lesson 1: The Power of Email Copy

Email is not dead. In fact, email is still the #1 way to sell online.

Why does email work even in the era of social media and apps? Because it’s personal, it’s ever-present, and because it’s easy to use. Ray emphasizes that, even in today’s world of social media and mobile apps, there is no substitute for tried-and-tested email copy.

Lesson 2: 21 Keys to Emails that Sell

Ray goes over the 21 basics of email marketing, including obtaining subscriber permission when building a list, using a reputable email delivery service, giving people a reason to opt-in, and so on. These keys are intended as an introductory approach to selling via email and not being considered a spammer.

Lesson 3: Email Sequences for Maximum Sales

What sequence of emails should you send? Which sequences are the best? Ray introduces the 3 main types of email campaigns, including live campaign sequences (written as the event is happening), automated campaign sequences (sent via auto-responder), and general broadcasts (one-off emails sent to all).

Major differences between each email campaign are noted, and several resources are noted for additional information. Ray says it goes beyond the scope of this course to talk more about how each email campaign should be set up and run.

But wait…there are bonuses!

It wouldn’t be right if Ray didn’t offer some bonuses to Copywriting Academy members after talking at length about bonuses and how they can create a tipping point for a purchase. So, the following bonuses are offered, but they are by no means the only bonuses available in Copywriting Academy.

Bonus Module 1: The Six Figure Second Income

Ray spends over an hour going over how you can prepare yourself psychologically and otherwise for a career in copywriting. He summarizes the difficulties inherent in being a freelance copywriter and how to overcome them using Ray’s 7 pillars of success.

Bonus Module 2: License to Steal

Swipe files provide an easy-to-follow template for creating copy quickly and easily. Ray goes over how you can successfully implement swipe files to generate great copy. He also provides you with six of his own swipe files for your personal use and repurposing.

Bonus Module 3: Rapid Copywriting

Ray demonstrates how to perform rapid copywriting in real-time via the Dictate software using an example swipe file.

Bonus Module 4: The Ultimate Copy Templates

You are presented with a 200+ page “Ultimate Copywriting Templates Workbook,” which Ray was going to release on its own but decided to include as yet another bonus in the Copywriting Academy course.

Q&A Sessions

Ray provides at least 15 Q&A/coaching call recordings where members ask a range of questions, including the following:

  • Will the course cover how to get clients if we choose to do freelance work?
  • How can I improve my headlines/persuasion points (individual examples follow)?
  • How to know when your copy is good versus average or bad (by % response rate).

The most recent recorded coaching call was published last month, and I suspect that additional calls will be posted as they occur.

What I liked about Copywriting Academy

  • Several learning styles. The course is offered in several formats- audio, video, slides and transcript. In the video component of this course, you’re not stuck looking at Ray’s face the entire time (if ever); no, Ray provides notes and examples in his video files, which help you take effective notes.
  • Lots of real-world examples. Ray presents several examples from copywriters who nailed their sales letters and offers. These examples are explained in detail so you can easily imitate them, if need be.
  • Professional format. You won’t find any hastily edited video clips or transcripts filled with spelling/grammar errors here. No, Ray takes the time and makes the effort to create a professionally produced and presented set of lessons, bonuses, and coaching calls. Ray also presents his videos via a fluid, smooth and at times humorous voice.
  • Beyond the basics training. I’ve been copywriting for many years now, yet I still learned a lot of stuff from this course.

What I didn’t like about Copywriting Academy

  • One-off structure. The course goes into great detail about creating a sales page but not how to string a set of sales pages together to create an ongoing story. If you are running an email campaign, you need more than just one sales letter or email to get your customers to buy your product. Ray briefly touches on email sequences in his last module, but this subject matter needs a lot more material and examples.
  • Geared towards B2C selling. If you’re focused on business-to-business (B2B) and not business-to-consumer (B2C) copywriting, Copywriting Academy will not answer all your questions about creating effective copy. In fact, all the sales letters and other examples that Ray provides are only appropriate for B2C commerce. B2B commerce involves a longer sales cycle and the generation of technical reports, white papers, and customer testimonials as guarantees. B2B copywriting also takes a more objective to illustrating a product’s benefits and would rarely use personal stories or discuss feelings.

The Bottom Line

I found Ray’s Copywriting Academy to be a solid and in-depth approach to the art and science of copywriting. Enough material, homework exercises, and bonuses are provided to keep the student busy for weeks. Additional resources (e.g., books) are recommended for those who wish to delve into a niche topic or copywriting approach.

For the novice and even the advanced copywriter, Ray provides fresh and educational approaches to improving both the quality and speed of one’s copywriting process.

Should You Trust Davison Inventions with Your Big Idea?

If you have ever had an idea for an invention, you’ve probably had an online encounter or three with Davison Inventions. This company has operated under several different names since 1989, including the following:

Davison Inventing Method
Davison & Associates Inc.
Davison Design and Development, Inc.
Manufacturer’s Support Services, Inc.
Davison International
Davison Innovations

What is Davison Inventions?

Davison is an inventor services company that advertises that it will help develop and market your invention idea to manufacturing companies for eventual distribution of the actualized product to stores. Davison provides a number of invention services, including patent research, patent filing, product development/design, manufacturer research, commercial/retailer match, and royalty negotiation.

Here is an example email I recently received from Davison:

davison1

If you go to the company’s website, you’ll find the following information displayed:

Davison

For an aspiring inventor who is struggling to get her product to market, Davison sounds like a good idea. The company offers to help with the invention patenting process, find manufacturers to create the product, and even negotiate with area stores to stock and sell the finalized product. Davison even features several videos highlighting inventors who turned their ideas into store products.

So, why would you not trust this company to help you realize your big idea?

The problem with Davison Inventions

Unfortunately, the company has been criticized numerous times by burnt inventors, who state that they paid thousands of dollars to work with Davison and saw nothing come of their collaboration. Online complaints include the following:

complaint2
complaint
complaint1

To be fair, Davison has faithfully replied to and addressed many of these online complaints. However, there are many upon many such complaints, and far more than would be normal for a standard invention help service. Searching online, one finds many scam and review sites listing complaints about Davison.

Back in 2006, the complaints reached a crisis level and the FTC became involved. The FTC case against Davison, as well as its resolution, is posted here.

My personal experience with Davison

A while back, I submitted a product idea of my own to Davison. The product in question was what I called a “Human-Powered TV.” This product converted energy generated by an exercising human into voltage that could be used to power a device such as a TV.

Davison emailed me immediately after I made my submission. Keep in mind that I had not yet paid any money to the company at this point in time.

davison2

I found it heartening that Davison had addressed its involvement with the FTC and had provided at least an acknowledgment of its many critics.

I replied to their email and emphasized my concern about paying thousands of dollars for services that might result in me getting no closer to a realized product than when I’d first begun putting my idea to paper. I also asked why Davison had hundreds of online complaints about its services.

Within a day, I received a rebuttal email that addressed some of my concerns. Here is an excerpt:

davison3

While this is a great rebuttal to some of my concerns, it doesn’t completely answer why there are so many complaints about Davison even on third party review sites. Shouldn’t such review sites be populated with all kinds of reviews- negative, neutral and positive?

I eventually had a phone call with one of Davison’s agents; however, at this point in time, I decided to ask other key questions. For starters, I asked which specific companies would be approached about my invention idea.

My Davison agent, to his credit, provided me with actual names of existing manufacturing companies. He did not say if these companies had been approached about my specific invention, however.

We then discussed whether Davison had ever blatantly refused to develop any invention idea. This topic came up because one of the criticisms about this company is that it will claim any and every invention idea has potential and is worthy of being marketed. I also asked how my invention had been deemed worthy of being developed.

Davison’s agent was more vague about answering this particular question, stating that it would be up to the manufacturers to decide.

The agent then gave me a ballpark figure for moving forward with my invention. I would need to pay  $600 to initiate a patent search on my idea. Prototyping would run another $5K-$8K. There was also a “marketing package” that would require development and cost $1K-$2K.

I replied that I would “need to think about it” and the conversation ended there. I received a few more emails and voicemails from the Davison agent, but after a month had passed, they ended.

Why did I not pursue a collaboration with Davison?

Sloppy research

Davison presented me with a good pep talk for filing an invention patent and building a prototype. Everything sounded great until I happened to do an online search for human-powered devices, including TVs. Without too much effort, I quickly discovered that human-powered electronic devices had not only already been introduced, but even sold.

Had Davison chosen to do even five minutes on pre-research on my behalf, we would’ve known that my invention idea was a bust.

So, had I agreed to pay for a patent search, I would’ve already been out $600, and for information that was freely available through Google.

Numerous complaints

Although every company has its share of negative reviews, the many complaints against Davison are worrisome. Likewise, there are no review sites or former Davison clients providing positive reviews about this company.

There is also the FTC filed lawsuit to consider, wherein Davison was named as one of 11 companies involved in an invention scam.

High cost of commitment

Davison asks for several thousand dollars up-front for services that may or may not result in a marketable product- or even a product at all. Meanwhile, there are far cheaper ways to build your prototype, including using an area hackerspace. You might also fund your invention idea by using crowdsourcing sites like Kickstarter or submitting your idea to a business pitch contest.

Summary

While it’s challenging to call Davison Inventions an outright scam, there is enough evidence and negative customer feedback that you are well advised to be wary when dealing with this company. If you do plan to work with Davison, don’t invest any capital that you need for essentials like food, utilities or your mortgage. Finally, keep in mind that seeing any invention pay off is a gamble no matter who is handling the marketing and negotiations.

Our Review of Work At Home EDU/WAH EDU

Work at Home EDU, or WAH EDU, starts out innocently enough, promising to teach you how to succeed in your “online business” through a “complete educational program.”

As you scroll down the WAH EDU sales page, you learn that you’ll be provided with 100 HD videos that teach you the “basics of an internet business.” You also get “general videos” about the internet marketing mindset, “basic videos” about linking strategy, and an introduction to the “fundamentals of an online business.”

The sales page notes that much of this information is ideally suited for those who are new to internet marketing and making money online. The sales page also mentions how the videos “cover more advanced techniques.”

At the very bottom of this form, you find a link to a checkout page. There, you are asked to pay $97 for 3 months of access to WAH EDU. Interestingly, the checkout page provides you with a 2-month satisfaction guarantee within your 3-month access subscription- however, you have just 30 days from the date of purchase to get a refund.

Why am I emphasizing how many times WAH EDU uses the terms “basic,” “general,” and so on?

Because it is my belief that WAH EDU provides you with a very generalized and dare I say, generic, education about how to make money online through Internet marketing. This education is available for free through other work-at-home and online marketing blogs and websites.

It’s also my belief that WAH EDU carefully crafts its sales page language to later market additional products to you as cross-sells and up-sells. It does this because it knows its basic information on Internet marketing will be insufficient to get you started at actually making money online.

WAH EDU: The tip of the scam iceberg

Here is the current iteration of the WAH EDU sales page, which incidentally looks a lot like the now defunct sales pages from WAH University, Online Home Careers University, and Work at Home EDU:

WAH EDU

The copy used on this page is fairly generic and simply promises to train you in the basic of Internet marketing, whatever that is. The page eventually notes that advanced concepts will include items such as social media, social bookmarking, article and video marketing, SEO, PPC, and media buying.

You also get unlimited support by phone and email, and a free subscription to a newsletter.

All this looks fine until you start to do some digging into the history of this sales page, which has been online since at least May of 2011. Using an archive tool like Wayback Machine and digging into the history of WAH EDU, I found out that there is a lot more going on with this site than first meets the eye.

1. Questionable refund policy

The WAH EDU refund policy states that it has a “rock solid” refund policy of either 60 days or 30 days.

WAH EDU refund 1

The policy also makes this one eyebrow-raising statement:

WAH EDU refund

When a refund policy tells me that customer service is going to contact me for “any additional details,” that makes me a bit suspect- especially when the initial refund page states that it has a “No Questions Asked” guarantee.

If I use the Wayback Machine to elaborate on these discrepancies, I find out that earlier WAH EDU refund policies noted that the refund would occur only if the member had used the provided materials in accordance with certain WAH EDU policies and procedures.

That doesn’t sound like a Rock Solid money-back guarantee to me.

There are also these comments to think about, provided by WAH EDU members who wanted to get a refund:

refund

refund2

2. Up-sells/cross-sells

WAH EDU’s current Terms & Conditions page gives a very vague statement about how or whether it plans to inundate you with other sales offers. The old T&C page from early 2015 shows the following script, however:

WAH EDU1

Going through online forums, past WAH EDU members ad the following to say about how much they really ended up paying for the program:

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3. False news/spokespeople/testimonials

When you use the Wayback Machine to its full capacity, you can find links to pages that WAH EDU tried to rewrite and bury years ago- but never quite succeeded in doing so. These pages are filled with fake news and news videos, fake spokepeople that have their photos derived from stock image sites, and fake promises of big earnings.

For example, Michelle Robinson is touted as one of the satisfied customers of WAH EDU. Interestingly, this woman’s photo matches the photo provided for Bobbie Robinson of Work at Home Institute and Michelle Withrow of Work at Home EDU. The photo in question is derived from iStockphoto.

work_at_home_university_istock_image

There is also a list of news sites that have supposedly featured this program:

wahedu.com _ Refund Policy

However, this exact same sticker has been used on other scam work-at-home sites, including Work at Home EDU. As for the actual news, there is no way you can find it and the sticker itself has no link.

The fake promises of big earnings clearly conflict with the disclaimer areas of the site, which state the following:

guarantee

Work At Home EDU

Last but not least, WAH EDU has resorted to using “buy now!” sales tactics in order to hurry potential customers along in the sales process before they get a chance to consider their actual purchase:

wah edu sales

The Bottom Line

WAH EDU is just another iteration of “work-at-home” sites such as Work at Home University, Work at Home EDU, Online Home Careers University, etc. The scammers operate out of Houston, at least according to the “support” phone number provided on the checkout page. However, that support line is merely a cover so that you call it and become inundated with cross-sell and up-sell products.

My advice is to steer clear of WAH EDU and its various other versions.

How to Start an Online Interior Design Business at Home

Do you have an eye for interior design and enjoy redecorating and/or rearranging rooms? Are you good with Photoshop or already use it to create new room designs and finishes? Then you may have what it takes to be an e-interior designer and operate your own interior design business from home.

Online interior design is a growing trend because it offers clients an economical approach to redecorating and refurbishing rooms. Instead of committing to someone for a full range of services that can run into tens of thousands of dollars, the client works with an online interior designer who provides a master plan that can be implemented slowly and as finances allow.

E-interior design is also more convenient because the client works with digital files and room suggestions and doesn’t travel to showrooms or supply stores. Many e-interior designers offer online suggestion boards for furniture pieces and color palettes, as well as purchasing lists from recommended suppliers. This enables the client to be actively involved in the selection process right from home- and so be more aware of how the money is being spent.

How to get started as an online interior designer.

Know the difference between interior designer vs. interior decorator.

If you already have a degree in interior design and are certified in the field, you can call yourself an interior designer and set up your business as such. If you do not have an actual degree, you will need to check your state or province licensing regulations. Currently, 27 states (including Puerto Rico and Washington, DC) and 7 provinces require a combination of education, experience and/or NCIDQ exam completion to use the title ‘interior designer.’

However, you can get around this regulation if you call yourself an interior decorator or an interior home staging expert. Interior decorators, as opposed to designers, can only decorate and beautify an interior space. They cannot change the room structure (e.g., by adding/removing a wall) or layout (e.g., drawing a floor plan). While interior designers often work with contractors and architects, interior decorators usually only work with clients and furnishings suppliers.

Incorporate your business and get licensed.

Before you start advertising your services and working with clients, find out whether your city or county requires a business license. If you plan on working with retailers and buying goods at wholesale for resale to clients, you’ll probably need a seller’s permit and a sales tax license.

Interior design and interior decoration are two types of businesses where you are best served by incorporating as an LLC at the very least. Doing so protects you from personal asset liability should you end up in court.

Finally, if you plan to employ people, you’ll need a federal employer identification number (EIN) too.

Obtain a PhotoShop license and set up your website with examples.

Now the fun begins! Purchase a yearly license to use Photoshop® 7 or later for creating design and decorational elements within residential, business, recreational and other spaces. You can learn to use this program by taking online courses through Lynda.com or by reading books like Photoshop for Interior Designers.

The PhotoShop program will take some time to learn and effectively use; however, because this will be your main tool for planning, drawing and showcasing client spaces, it’s a good idea to take the time to master it.

Once you feel somewhat proficient, use PhotoShop to generate some example spaces that you could see designing and/or redecorating. Consider the spaces you already know well or live in- how would you switch them up to be more modern, ergonomic, functional, or just different? All these examples can be uploaded to your website and used to catch the attention of potential clients.

Start small and advertise.

Unless you know someone who really likes your interior design or decorating work, it’s unlikely that you’ll land a contract right away. However, you can start advertising right away with your website, social media accounts, and even flyers posted around town. This way, you can reach just about anyone, from a college freshman moving into a dorm to a small business operating out of a leased building or office.

What can you advertise? How about a package deal complete with a table or board filled with possible furnishings, materials and decor, plus a product source list with items and prices? Add to that a color palette and fabric guide, top it off with a floor plan showing where the furniture and lighting would go, and you have a good start for anyone looking for design and/or decoration ideas.

Be sure to join organizations such as the International Interior Design Association and the American Society of Interior Designers. Having a network of members to converse with will help you find clients and scale up your online business much faster than going it alone.

Team up with area suppliers.

Being an online interior designer or interior decorator enables you to make money not only from your clients but from the suppliers that you will be promoting in your product source lists. Along these lines, you should contact those suppliers and negotiate your commission rates with the owners beforehand. After all, if you’re going to be acting as their salesperson, you should make a salesperson’s commission.

Because this is all happening online and your clients are probably going to order their furnishings online, you may wish to obtain referral codes in addition to standard commission rates for in-store purchases. You can then insert the codes into any product listings you provide.

Alternately, you might consider ordering the furnishings for your clients as part of your services; this not only lessens their workload, but it helps ensure that your suppliers know exactly who is promoting their products.

The Bottom Line

Interior design and interior decoration have gotten a bad rap in some circles due to their high costs and astronomical markups. Perhaps this is part of the reason why e-interior design and decoration have taken off. Because the services are more transparent, and the furnishings listings can be easily checked with what’s offered at area retailers, clients are less likely to experience “sticker shock” and can implement design and decoration changes as their budgets permit.

For the e-interior designer or decorator, this means that there are expanding opportunities to work with clients, including those clients that live in rural locations and/or don’t have large budgets.

By going online, you can reach out to various clients and work within their budget “comfort zones” to design/decorate anything from a studio apartment to a 50-room business building. These clients can slowly but surely become the backbone of your business through referrals to their friends and associates and through increased commission revenue from your vendors.

How to Use Quora to Your Affiliate Marketing Advantage

I love getting my daily Quora Digest newsletter because the emails are filled with answers to intriguing questions such as the following:

Quora questions

As you can see, Quora differentiates itself from Wikipedia because the questions and answers are a bit…unexpected. Maybe a bit on the weird or improper side.

Quora was the brainchild of a Faceboom ex-CTO and began its public life in June of 2010. The site operated fairly quietly until it happened to get its moment of fame from a mention in TechCrunch. While this information is self-reported by Quora itself and may or may not be true, the platform does get an estimated 1.5 million worldwide viewers each month.

What is Quora?

Quora is a knowledge center akin to Wikipedia and AskJeeves…except that it’s also a social platform akin to Facebook, Google+ and the old version of Helium. Users can ask questions via the platform, and other users can answer them. Good and informative answers are “Upvoted” and rise to the top of the site; some are even featured in the Quora Digest, a daily newsletter that is sent out to users.

In addition to upvotes, Quora enables downvotes, follows, shares and comments. In 2013, Quora enabled its users to become authors by adding a blog platform.

There is no anonymity on Quora, at least for its users. When you ask or answer a question, you are acknowledged online. Note the following answer submitted by Chris Elliott:

Quora answers

So, why is Quora a place that you, an affiliate (or other) marketer, should be taking advantage of? Because the platform offers several major opportunities that should not be overlooked. Here they are…

1. Authority

As an affiliate marketer, one of your major challenges is to establish yourself as an expert in your niche. You audience isn’t interested in someone who is a newbie.

That’s where Quora comes in. It’s fairly easy to become a Quora member- you simply provide your name, email and desired password on the site. You can also have Quora link to your Facebook, Google or Twitter account and import the information from there.

That done, you are provided with a profile page that can be filled out to include your bio, including your occupation, education, geographic residences over time, etc. You can also add your areas of expertise.

knowitall

Based on the topics you select, you will be offered the opportunity to follow users in your niche. Quora will also have you personalize your news feed and go through several layers of specifying exactly which notifications you wish to receive.

Once your profile is complete, you can build your authority on Quora by searching for and answering questions within your niche. You might also want to blog about niche-related topics. As your answers are posted, users will either upvote, downvote, comment on or share the content.

Because each of your answers will feature your profile photo and bio, a good answer from you in your specific niche will build your authority and number of followers. If you post your affiliate website URL or other information on Quora, users will eventually go there for more information. Which leads to…

2. Traffic

Arguably, one of the biggest issues that affiliate marketers face is how to generate traffic to their blogs, websites and product pages. Using Quora, you can list your websites and affiliate pages directly inside your bio by editing it:

quora description

Doing so invites users to visit your sites to learn more about your niche topic and products- and about you.

Quora is also getting noticed by Google. When I performed the following query on Google, a Quora-generated answer came up as the second search result:

Google love

To encourage traffic streams to your Quora profile (and beyond), you can easily embellish your profile with a host of goodies including your linked social media accounts, blog posts, outside content and posts, and even repurposed articles.

However, the bread-and-butter of your traffic generation is going to be the in-depth and carefully researched answers that you post to questions presented within your niche. Overall, you should seek out those questions that have few or no answers posted yet. You’ll get more traffic from those answers simply because you’ll be one of the few ‘answerers’ on that page.

Try to seek out and answer fresh questions that have a lot of upvotes on them. Once you do, you can answer them and then link back to your own Quora blog or website for more information. After all, the end goal of generating all that traffic is to direct it back to you.

3. Content

Content generation is relatively easy for someone who has a fresh blog or website and a head full of great ideas. Six months down the road, those great ideas have been exhausted and the impetus to keep blogging is long dissipated.

That’s when Quora excels. Because the site enables you to input questions and have them pre-filled with suggestions (much like Google search) prior to the completion of your inquiry, you can obtain lots of content ideas.

To start generating content ideas from Quora, start typing a question that contains some targeted keywords into the search area of the site. Then, focus on finding related questions that are getting lots of upvotes and attention and use them as launch points for adding content to both your own website(s) and your Quora blog.

Here is an example search I performed by asking how to make a cup of coffee:

quora coffee chat

If I had a blog focused on coffee, there are several related questions here I could use as an article-generator.

Quora isn’t like its oft-compared-to cousin Wikipedia. Whereas the latter features objective, heavily edited and reviewed content, Quora maintains a first-person collection of personal anecdotes, opinions, jokes and even biases. As a result, the content you read is more likely to be a true representation of user (and your customer) sentiment.

It’s also much easier to become a Quora contributor than a Wikipedia contributor, and to use Quora to subtly promote your business.

The Bottom Line

Quora is an emerging player in the quality content landscape that also incorporates key aspects of a social media platform. Therefore, you should consider taking advantage of Quora for your marketing efforts. At the very least, you’ll learn some interesting facts and end up engaging with a community of niche experts who’ll give you additional ideas on how to grow your affiliate marketing efforts.