It’s not easy running a successful small business. As the owner, you have to wear many hats – and some don’t fit as well as others.
At Low End Mac, I’m the publisher, senior editor, proofreader, designer, fact checker, link checker, researcher, analyst, and sometimes a writer as well. That’s more than enough. I don’t have time to sell ads on the site, but I’ve contracted with the very capable staff of Backbeat Media to handle that. I don’t have the time to collect press releases and news articles, and Charles W. Moore has done a great job of compiling our weekly news roundups for many years. And I’m a terrible bookkeeper, a job that my wife Waverly has taken over and performed very well since we married.
My business philosophy is to focus on what you do well and find others to cover the rest. Work to your strengths; let others work in your weak areas.
I’m not much for marketing, and I’m very grateful to Backbeat Media for marketing Low End Mac to prospective advertisers. On the other side, we have a lot of good content that we promote to our known audience (regular visitors, people on our Facebook page, those who subscribe to our RSS feed, and followers on Twitter, but I generally don’t know where else we should be sharing our new (and sometimes historical) content.
Combine all of that with a bad economy that has forced me to work a part-time job for two-and-a-half years now, and we’ve got less new content (I have less time to invest in the site), less site traffic, less purchasing being done through affiliate links (which pay a small commission), and declining ad rates – even Google has seen a 30% drop there over the past year.
On top of all that, we’ve lost a couple of affiliate programs this year, including the online Apple Store, which as a very significant loss for us. We used to be able to earn a small commission when you bought new or refurbished Macs, iPhones, iPads, and iPods through links on Low End Mac. It added up, and that loss combined with other factors has really hit us hard.
It’s not easy to admit that Low End Mac is hurting a lot. June was our lowest income month in over seven years, and July was even worse. Through July, our income has been down 22% compared with last year, and 2011 was down 8% from 2010 and 16.5% from 2008.
Things should pick up, but at this point I have no choice but to seek full time employment until such time as site income allows me to do Low End Mac full time again.
Two things need to happen: We need cash flow, and we need to move to a content management system (such as WordPress), which I’ll address in another article.
In the past we’ve flirted with site memberships that let people pay for the privilege of viewing the site without the display ads, but that didn’t fly. I don’t want to go the premium content route and publish articles that only certain readers can access. And I certainly don’t want to set up a paywall that requires regular site visitors pay a fee to access older content or more than a certain number of pages per week or month.
I want our content to remain free for all.
I need to make a living, and there have been times when I have done painful things like raid my IRAs because the business couldn’t pay me. There are months when I can’t take more than one or two weekly paychecks from Low End Mac. Until that turns around, I can’t even consider this being my full time job.
We’re asking for your help. We’re not begging. We’re not going to guilt you. We’re simply laying out the facts in black and white, leaving it up to you to decide what to do.
If you think Low End Mac has helped you, please consider making a donation. If one of our articles or price trackers has saved you money in some way, or if you’ve sold some old Mac gear via LEM Swap, or if our hardware profiles and articles have helped you choose or sell gear on eBay or Craigslist, or if we’ve warned you off of a purchase you were considering – if we’ve helped make you a more savvy Mac, iPhone, or iPad consumer, and if you have the financial freedom to do so, here’s the opportunity to help us as we’ve helped you.
Consider this the website equivalent of busking, where a musician plays music and gives you the opportunity to throw some money in a hat or instrument case.
We were in a similar boat 11 years ago, and our readers came through with flying colors, sending in over $3,000 to help us stay afloat. It didn’t keep me from having to find a part-time job, but it helped a lot.
This time I’m hoping we can do better. I’ve come to realize that while we definitely need a big cash infusion right now, we would also benefit from ongoing financial support, so if you want to give on a monthly basis, that’s an option. We’ve been receiving donations now and again for years, and now we’re making it part of our business model.
We used several options for receiving donations last time around. This time we’re going to simplify things and provide three options:
- A new option is Chase QuickPay, which requires that you have a US bank account and either a mobile phone number or a valid email address. You can send money using the Web or with the Chase Mobile iOS app (Android and Blackberry apps also available). Reference the email address firstname.lastname@example.org (praying it won’t get spammed), and Chase will notify you when we have received your donation. And unlike PayPal, there are no fees. (Because we use Chase bank, you do not need to have a Chase account to use QuickPay.)
- Another new option we learned about from a reader is Dwolla, which is a one-to-one payment system. Money can transfer directly between Dwolla accounts, between bank accounts, and between a Dwolla account and a bank account. Money transfers in a flash (it takes 3-4 business days to move PayPal funds to your bank account). Dwolla is free for transactions under $10; there is a 25¢ fee for transactions $10 and above – a bit more than Chase, but cheaper than PayPal, which takes one-third of a $1 donation. My Dwolla ID is 812-572-0170.
- The most popular option is always PayPal, which makes it easy for almost anyone with a credit card or bank account almost anywhere in the world to send money. If you click the Donate button on the right, you can decide how large a donation you want to send – and if you want to provide ongoing monthly support. Subscription payments are ongoing until you cancel them.
- The fourth option is to mail us a personal/business check, certified check, or money order. Please make it out to Cobweb Publishing Inc. and send it to 215 Ivanhoe Ave NE, Grand Rapids Twp, MI 49546.
Thank you for reading this. Thank you for making Low End Mac a resource you visit regularly. And thank you in advance for your support of Low End Mac.