Make your passion your profession. Find out what you really want to do, figure out the best way to make that profitable, and devise a plan to put things in motion.Danny Sandrik, www.vinylrecordmemories.com
Are you pondering a career change? Considering “doing something online” to make some extra income? Or perhaps you are approaching retirement and looking for a way to keep your mind active (and well, a little boost to that retirement budget would be welcome, too)?
Whatever your situation, Danny Sandrik’s story may just be the trigger to finally get you started. It will for sure change the way you look at your hobbies and passions.
For Danny, the seed to putting his vinyl record memories online was planted by his wife. What started as a pure hobby is gradually turning into a real business. How this came about, and why Danny firmly believes that any passion can generate money, will come to light in our interview.
1) Danny, after a false start with your first online business, you hit it off with your second one. What made the difference?
For me, the answer is simple… passion. It’s the passion for my current site that continues to drive me. Lack of passion is why my first site never had a chance.
People can disagree on the passion part and provide fair and honest opinions, and that’s okay. My take is: If you have to look for what you’re passionate about, then you’re probably not passionate about it at all.
What made the difference with my second site? Choosing the right niche. You can define success in your own terms and create your own personal path to success. But with Solo Build It! (SBI!) you don’t do it alone. I followed SBI! and my heart and simply took my hobby and created a website about my passion. Before I built my first page it instantly became a lot easier for me.
I will admit that it may take me longer to do certain techie things, but having a passion and doing what I love, and SBI! there to guide me every step of the way, also means I don’t treat it like work.
Being a one man publisher simply means I sometimes get overloaded with fun.
Because there will be hard times and setbacks when building any kind of business, whether online or offline. But if you love what you do, it will be much easier to keep moving forward until you reach the goals you’ve set for yourself.
2) How did you decide about your niche, vinyl records? How did you know it was the right topic for you and had great business potential?
Actually it was my wife. She looked at all the vinyl record albums I had displayed on the walls and said, “Danny, have you ever considered selling your albums on eBay and letting others enjoy them just as you have over the years. We sure could use the extra money.”
I thought about it for a while, a short while. I knew as I got older my priorities had changed. I became more realistic, maybe about what is really important.
For me, the caring and sharing had become most important. So I decided to see if I could find a way to put my vinyl record collection online for others to enjoy. But I had a problem. I didn’t like the idea of selling my collection on eBay for such low prices. And I really didn’t want to sell them at all at that point.
However, if I could somehow be creative enough I believed the money would eventually come. I also needed a plan and I didn’t have one. SBI! provided the Action Guide and showed me the way to develop a plan. SBI!’s Brainstorm It! tool gave me some good keyword numbers for my niche, but I was still not sure on the direction.
Danny needed a creative solution. A plan. He turned to Solo Build It!. Its step-by-step Action Guide helped him set out a roadmap. He did some initial keyword brainstorming (more on that later), but there was one big question to answer first…
How was I going to compete with all the established sites already online selling vinyl records? I had to do something different.
I decided to build a website based on something I enjoyed doing, something I had a real passion for, my hobby, my collection of vinyl records, some well over 50 years old.
The basic plan was set but it would take another two years before I would generate enough traffic to even consider trying to sell my vinyl records online.
SBI! provided me with an opportunity to step back in time as I began to write stories about what it was like growing up in three special decades, the fifties, sixties and seventies. I had the knowledge and Solo Build It! gave me the tools to compete online. The ideas for pages began to flow and the excitement grew with every page I wrote.
I can’t tell anyone how often this may happen, but how many can say that building a website about your “passion” would end up taking you back more than 50 years to relive the times with those you never knew but grew up with?
My vinyl record collection was an easy choice for me and I was comfortable with the direction it would eventually lead me.
It is. Take a look at the many solopreneurs who succeeded and keep succeeding with SBI!. Like Danny, you need to ask yourself: “What can I do differently? How can I set myself apart from the big guys?”
In every industry, no matter how competitive, there’s an angle, a niche where you can shine, where you can build your “Brand of One.” Solo Build It! provides the guidance and the tools to help you carve out that Goldilocks “just right” niche.
3) Tell us about your philosophy regarding content. How do you know what your prospective customers are looking for? Where does this information come from?
It all started with keyword research, using SBI!’s Brainstorm It!. I had to do something different as I didn’t want to compete with Amazon, the music industry or the recording industry based on just an artist’s name, or the name of a song. The competition would have been insurmountable.
I had to use selected keywords that would be “winnable” in the search engines. A keyword is not necessarily a single word. People type in a phrase or a description, a combination of several words.
As an example, I discovered one particular keyword early on using Brainstorm It! that was nearly 100 times better in demand than it was in supply. That means that a good number of people were searching for that phrase, but there weren’t so many other sites already writing about it.
I used that higher-demand keyword for one of my main pages. I then supplemented this higher-demand topic with pages based on what’s known as “long-tail” keywords. A long-tail keyword is a more specific topic or a subtopic of the main term. Usually fewer people create content about this topic, but also fewer people search for that term.
This strategy proved to be a favorable choice for many of my pages later on, as I now have many of my pages listed on the first page of Google’s search results for my keywords.
As a rule of thumb, the more words a keyword has, the fewer people use it. For example, “travel” is a very general keyword with millions of searches per day. “Traveling with kids” is already more specific. And “traveling by car with small kids” would get us into the “long-tail” keywords area that Danny mentioned.
Now, when you decide to write about a certain keyword (or topic), wouldn’t it be great to know how many people search for it (“demand”) and how many other sites talk already about that topic (“supply”)? That’s where SBI!’s Brainstorm It! tool comes in.
You “feed” the tool with a “seed word,” for example “travel” or “travel with kids,” and it will bring back up up to 800 keywords that either have that term in it or are related. It will also tell you the demand and supply numbers for each keyword.
The keywords revealed by Brainstorm It! will build the foundation for your site’s content structure. The second most important content source will be… you! Back over to Danny, and his vinyl record memories.
My second biggest content source are my memories!
For example, I dedicated pages to individuals who did not always get their name into the spotlight as they were background players, session players, etc. Visitors write and tell me how much they enjoy stories about these hidden gems.
I like to write what I know and remember about all the great entertainers I grew up with in the 50s, 60s and 70s.
I still have their vinyl record albums filled with content on the back of the albums. Rewriting this information and using my voice makes it easier to add fact based content to my pages.
But I don’t stop at the facts. Anyone could write about the facts. My stories tell the reader where I was when a certain song was playing: cruisin’ the drive-in restaurants with friends, the girl I was with and all the great memories that none of those online mega-sites would know or care to write about. I was there! I lived it!
They are the memories of countless others who grew up in this wonderful time in history. I was hoping they would also enjoy reading about those great times and maybe share their story with me, giving me more ideas for content.
I also contact newspaper editors after I read a story they may have written on oldies groups who lived in their area. I ask them to look at my website, especially my “About Me” page. I want them to learn about me and feel comfortable.
A professional looking template design through SBI! made it easier to get their email permission for added content. Hard to impress someone with a cheap looking site.
I didn’t have an “About Me” page for a long time until reading how those in the SBI! forums said what a difference it could make. I have received information from people based on them reading my “About Me” page.
And then it began to happen…
Within the first two years oldies groups and artists began to find my site and would contact me about the page I had dedicated to their group, or an artist they once knew back in the day. Sons and daughters of those groups and artists would also contact me.
They trusted me. They began to send additional content that no one else online would have: personal notes, family history, recording contracts, show posters, etc. DJs and record producers continue to send me facts about artists and groups from the past.
One DJ gave me permission to use his recorded interviews and photos for added content. It has truly been a “Back to The Future” experience for me all over again.
Additional content comes from some of my newsletter subscribers who also provide me with ideas for content. I take their suggestions on their favorite song and turn them into pages based on their real-life experiences from the times they grew up.
He found his answer. The pages Danny writes contain far more than facts. They reflect his personal memories of those times in the 50s, 60s and 70s. They tell the story of an artist, a group or a song in a way that no one else tells it.
That’s the kind of unique, valuable content that makes you stand out from the crowd. It’s the kind of content that attracts the right visitors. Some of them will become your customers. Others will provide you with more content and ideas on what else to write about. And some of them may even turn into good friends, no matter where they live.
4) Although you started www.vinylrecordmemories.com as a hobby site, you do make an income from it. Can you explain how?
Yes, my site began as a hobby and currently remains my hobby but I have also made some money. Even though this is my second time around with SBI!, I built my current site as a hobby and not as a business.
In the beginning I did have a challenge. I had to choose between making money or pursuing my passion. My wife and I are retired and do have incomes, so passion won out at the start. Other than affiliate programs, I had not yet figured out how to monetize my site properly, and after a few years I faced a new family challenge.
My adult daughter asked her mother a simple but important question. “Mom, what if something happens? What am I going to do with all dad’s stuff, all these records, the turntables, equipment, etc.?”
My wife goes with me to estate sales and she sees adult children sell their deceased parents vinyl records to someone like me for whatever they can get. I have purchased dozens to hundreds for $1.00 or less and my wife saw this first-hand and understands my daughter’s concerns.
My thinking was different and probably a selfish one — build a website and tell my stories about my record albums with a promise to sell them in the future. So I began a slow follow-through on my promise to sell my vinyl record collection.
I do believe that any passion can generate money. It depends on how creative you are in coming up with a product. In my case it was hard goods vs digital products. I did not have the traffic to sell large volumes of digital music products. I continued on the hobby site path and was failing to get serious about actually building a business. This, of course, proved to have a negative effect on my traffic.
In Solo Build It!’s large article collection around monetization I discovered Ken Evoy’s “Make It!” series. This series describes how to develop and sell your own hard goods, from idea generation to production and marketing. It gave me a new outlook on how, and “if” I could sell my vinyl records for some extra income.
Ken points out some basics for selling hard goods…
You must, of course, first build targeted traffic to your site. If you don’t do that, it doesn’t matter how fantastic your product is. So Make It! is for you if…
- you have at least 100 visitors per day (fewer if you develop a very high-profit product), and/or
- you plan to use other ways to reach potential customers (e.g., buying ads, using email marketing aggressively).
My site receives about 400 unique visitors per day. I’m sure this is a laughable amount to most SBIers. Many receive thousands and even tens of thousands of uniques per day. I applaud the talented SBIers who have put in the work and truly deserve those traffic results for their efforts.
However, with help from the SBI! forums and an article by an SBIer I was able to come up with a hard goods product I already had. For years I have framed my album covers to hang on my hobby room walls. I already had a website about vinyl records. Why not see if visitors are willing to buy them? I began to devise a plan.
I purchase the album frames from a local hobby shop in packages of 3 when they are on sale at 50% off, which is about every three weeks. This gives me a base price for my albums. Then I add the frame cost and shipping charges for one album. Shipping is free with the purchase of two albums. That proved to be a good selling point.
I would only ship via USPS as they provide a special “Regional Rate” box with reduced shipping charges. The boxes are sent to me free, I print the postage and USPS picks up the package for shipment.
The calculation below makes it clear why you need your own product…
I have a musical affiliate account with Amazon. I would have to sell nearly 1500 downloads on Amazon to match my one sale of two albums. I have been an Amazon affiliate for several years and have never sold that amount.
Having your own product gives you control and a much higher net profit.
Danny started Vinyl Record Memories with a hobby mindset. He thought he had to choose between hobby and business, rather than combine the two. This was largely due to the fact that he wasn’t ready to sell his records. Once this changed, he put on his “monetization” hat and figured out a creative way to make an income with his hobby site.
Danny brings up two important points when it comes to monetization. The first one is traffic. Without targeted traffic (i.e., people visiting your site who are interested in what you have to offer), you won’t earn an income, no matter how fantastic your product is. As an SBI! member, he’s in good hands when it comes to generating targeted traffic. Recent head-to-head comparisons showed that SBI! members are up to 115X more likely to build high-traffic websites than users of other platforms.
The second consideration is how to monetize. Danny had started out with offering music downloads from Amazon as an affiliate. However, the profit margins for Amazon associates (another term for affiliates) are tiny.
So he looked for a more profitable income stream. With the help of “Make It!” (the ultimate article series about developing your very own products, both digital and physical), he realized that — with some modifications — he already had a product to sell: framed album covers.
If one sale of your own products earns you as much money as 1,500 downloads from Amazon, which road would you rather take? Yes, selling your own products is more work. But the financial gains are worth it.
5) You don’t seem to use social media to promote Vinyl Record Memories. Why did you decide to not be on social media?
Privacy is the biggest concern. I even have a paid-for private email service I prefer as it has no ads. It is strictly email service.
I do believe social media is something I need to consider. I see how comfortable many SBIers are on social media and how much additional traffic they receive due to their social media presence. It is definitely an area I need to improve as an additional way to promote and sell my product.
To help our members create this type of social media presence, we are publishing and constantly updating “Social Media Action Guides” for the main platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and YouTube). There’s too much — and often outdated — information about social media marketing on the Web.
Our Action Guides take the best information, add unique insights from winning marketers and present it in a logical, step-by-step format. All you have to do is follow along!
6) You say that without Solo Build It!, your website and business wouldn’t have been possible. Can you tell us more about that?
Over the years I have been able to create a website with no technical experience or knowledge. SBI! eliminated all the hoops that I would have had to jump through to be competitive with the online music world, a world where lots of money and big names (I had neither) sit at the top of the search engines.
Every six weeks when I update and check my search engine rankings, I have between 38-45 pages listed at #1 and many others in the top ten listed with both Google and Bing. With my niche SBI! has made it possible for me to be noticed, even in a music world light years ahead.
A tight niche with a unique angle can separate you from the big boys, and at least get you noticed, and maybe even give you a shot at #1. I have many stories that prove how the little guy can still get noticed. And anyone can do it simply by giving SBI! a chance to be your guide.
Here are a few of my “Not Possible Without Solo Build It!” stories…
This first one was really heartwarming because of who the man was (record producer and audio engineer Tom Sokira) and the timeline involved. I was beyond words how I felt after reading his email.
I don’t usually contact doo wop article authors as I rarely find much of value in the articles, but your article struck me as sincere, genuine and respectful.
The group was “The Five Satins” and the song was “In The Still of The Night” from 1956. With keywords and phrases that visitors type into the search engines, the page often sits at #1 with Google and Bing. How do I discover those keywords and phrases? With SBI!’s Brainstorm It! tool.
Without my article about the group and the help from SBI! there is no way Tom would have found me. He read the story I wrote about his role in producing this iconic song from more than 60 years ago and took the time to contact me.
I have been contacted by no fewer than 5 DJs. A DJ on the West Coast contacted me 3 years ago and told me how much he enjoyed my site. I often place a “Meet so-and-so” in my Newsletter and write a review on individual backgrounds.
For this DJ I placed a free ad in my newsletter and also on some of my pages as his program mirrored my site and I viewed it as a benefit to my visitors. I asked for nothing in return.
However, to my surprise his producer noticed the free ad and allowed the DJ to talk about my site in 20-30 second spots each hour on his three-hour show — at no expense to me. We have exchanged many stories about our music passion and although we have never met, we are “good buddies” who share our love of the oldies music.
This would not have happened without SBI! holding my hand every step of the way; the SBI! forums are a major part of that help.
Record producers, a recording engineer and a Hollywood attorney have contacted me about articles I have written about people who touched their lives. The Hollywood attorney found my page on the “Duke of Earl” and said her dad was CEO of Vee-Jay records when the song was released. She also said she met The Beatles when she was around 9 years old when they recorded their first album at Vee-Jay.
On my “Royal Teens” page, I added a photo of a painting done by group co-founder Tom Austin (1959 song “Short Shorts”), added a link to his web page, then contacted him for permission to use the photo. He read the page, saw the link, said he believed I was sincere and authorized use of his painting on “my site only.”
The other co-founder of the same group was none other than Bob Gaudio, who also co-founded “The Four Seasons” with Frankie Valli, and wrote most of their hit songs. A Broadway play and movie were made about the group titled, “Jersey Boys.” Obtaining a positive response from Tom would not have been possible without my SBI! page.
The son of the woman who wrote the song “Darling Lorraine” and the son of the man who wrote and performed “You Were Mine” both contacted me and gave me information no one else online would have known, including copies of recording contracts from the 50s.
Both found my pages, appreciated what I did for their parents, and contributed content to the articles I wrote. SBI! pages made this possible using proper keywords generated with SBI!’s tools.
I have been contacted and talked via phone with two brothers who grew up with Conway Twitty. One became his road manager. A music industry representative from Canada working for Bear Family Records of Germany found my page referencing the two brothers and contacted me. He requested the phone number for the brothers as he was writing liner notes for an unreleased Conway Twitty CD.
After approval from one of the brothers to give out his phone number I was able to help with the request. This also would not have happened without SBI! right by my side, guiding me as I built pages discovered by those working in the recording industry.
Danny credits a lot of this success to SBI!’s tools and guidance. While everyone here in the Solo Build It! team loves to hear that, it’s only partly true. Yes, SBI! provides comprehensive, step-by-step training and all the tools you need to apply what you learn.
However, SBI! only works if you put in the work! And for that, Danny gets all the credit.
7) What has been your biggest challenge so far as a solopreneur?
Monetization for sure. I have sold some Framed Album Cover Art over the past couple of years but have yet to to establish an online sales page. I have a sales page draft in my account, but have not yet turned it into a live page.
Not sure my traffic is high enough to make me many sales, but I may open up the page this year and see where it leads.
I have made some money through my newsletter as I do have some dedicated subscribers. Word of mouth from those who know me does tend to make for a friendly sale. SBI! talks about this in the Action Guide. Once your visitor trusts you everything else comes a lot easier.
My email marketing needs to be stronger and SBI! and the forums give lots of help and suggestions in this area.
I have sold to some contractors by chance; one netted six sales for an easy high net profit, however that was a “one of” situation. The high profit and easy sale did stimulate my thinking; a dedicated sales page would at least be available for newsletter subscribers and others to view.
We often hear from SBIers (as we call our members) that they feel uncomfortable about “asking for the money.” However, if you follow SBI!’s proven Content Traffic PREsell process, you’ll arrive at the fourth stage — Monetization — automatically. There’s no need for pushy sales strategies. Your visitors trust you. Why should they not love what you have to offer?
When it comes to writing your “sales page,” try this tip: imagine you’re talking to a friend. How can your product make her life a little easier, help her solve a problem or fulfill a desire? In other words, your sales copy isn’t about selling. It’s an authentic product review with the aim of helping your customers find a solution to a problem, or fulfill a need.
8) What do you enjoy most about being an online business owner? How has it changed you, your life, your family?
I look back and remember when I worked for companies, there was not a lot of creativity in the jobs. Being your own boss working from home changes the way you think.
I look back on the Make It! series and the good advice I received. When you have a creative idea (my Framed Album Cover Art) and a passion for doing something about that idea you can just do it without having to take it up through a chain of command. And you have complete control over your product.
I enjoy interacting with my website visitors and newsletter subscribers. Several have become good “online” friends and have been with me for years. Some have even purchased my Framed Album Cover Art. That is a big plus and has made it possible for added sales on a friendly basis.
Although my wife and I are retired, everyone can use extra income. We are not well off and savings are not where I predicted at this point in our lives.
My site helps keep my mind alert and it’s fun for me. My wife sees that and she’s happy for me. However, she continues to remind me that if I fail to sell my collection, our grown children may just dump them in a corner, not knowing what to do with them.
My small vinyl record sales do pay for my SBI! subscription, my video costs and my paid-for email service with a little extra. I’m aware that putting together some serious plans for the sale of my vinyl record collection is closing in on me and I need to do more to reach that goal.
In addition, a website / online business never gets “old.” There are always new things to try, new challenges to tackle and new goals to reach.
9) And finally… What’s your top tip for someone who is just starting a solopreneur career?
Find a niche, stick with what you know. That’s basic, but if I may add…
If you found SBI! to start a business, make your passion your profession. Find out what you really want to do, figure out the best way to make that profitable, and devise a plan to put things in motion. SBI! makes it possible for you to do that.
There are no silver bullets to creating the business and life you envision. If you have the vision and commitment, Solo Build It! will guide you through both the planning and the execution.
I believe the SBI! forums will be a critical part of your success. Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you are — people who share your vision, your commitment, and your ethics. Those are the very people you will find in the SBI! Forums. They’re people who are dedicated to helping each other.
If you’re eager to become a solopreneur, follow one path. Pay attention and read through the Action Guide and build your site the correct way from the beginning.
My outlook is pretty basic. I’m happy and comfortable with where I’m at with my site. I’ve found a way around the traffic issue that can help make some money. However, for family reasons I have already explained, I need to do much better. And I can count on SBI! and the forums to help me when needed.
5 Key Takeaways for the Solopreneur
- Don’t underestimate the power of passion when you decide about your niche. It can be the crucial factor to make or break your long-term success.
- You never know where an idea may lead unless you examine it from all sides. Think outside the box; creative solutions will find their way to you.
- In every industry, no matter how competitive, there’s an angle, a niche where you can shine, where you can build your “Brand of One.”
- Are you serious about earning an income from your site? Change your mindset from hobby to business!
- Remember that your “sales copy” isn’t about selling. Approach it as an authentic product review with the aim of helping your customers find a solution to a problem, or meet a need, or fulfill a desire.
“Make your passion into a profession” — that’s Danny’s advice to his fellow solopreneurs. Do you agree with him? Should you turn your passion into a profession? Or should a hobby stay just that, a hobby? Let us know in a comment!