I've been my own boss for over 20 years now, so there was nobody to fire. And nobody to blame but myself if I wasn't making the kind of money I wanted to make.
This story is going to really reveal how old I am! In the late 80s, I was working as a freelance word processing temp. This was back in the days of standalone word processors. I have always loved technology, even when I was working on a word processor that had no monitor (!!) and recorded to a dual-tape system (yes, analog tapes stuck into the console). I was an expert on several systems and got tired of working for temping agencies who paid me $12/hour (and no benefits) when they were charging the clients $25. I called the companies that sold these systems and got a list of their local customers and contacted them directly to farm out my services as a word processor/transcriptionist and I charged $20 an hour. Still no benefits.
Day care for the one child I had at the time became a problem so I decided to go for broke. I asked my biggest client (an insurance company) if they would send me work if I had a home office. They would. I paid $7K for a standalone word processor that had dual 5-1/4" floppy drives and no additional drive space or memory. My husband was sure he'd never see that money again. I made it back in the first two weeks. I paid $2K for my first PC, fired it up - and was shocked to find a C prompt. What the hell do you do with THAT? I bought WordPerfect 5.1 and learned how to use it, eventually writing articles for the Novell WordPerfect newsletter, for which I received a coffee mug that declared my expertise. (Note for the future: Don't write articles you don't get paid for!) I noticed at the insurance company that 60% of the volume came from workers' compensation, so I marketed my services to that community and added attorneys, investigators and vocational rehabilitation counselors to my client base. I got tired of looking up spelling for the medical terms, so I took a medical terminology class at the local votech - where a light bulb came on. Doctors and hospitals dictate every single day. Here was a recurring source of steady revenue! Itís a difficult field to break into but not impossible and my typing speed got me my first hospital job and the training I needed.
I was fascinated by the "information superhighway" I kept hearing about. I bought a top-of-the-line modem (24.4K baud rate - 56K baud rate wasn't even available then) and a shell account and learned how to navigate the internet in its infancy. At that time, there were no GUI accounts except AOL (ick) and Prodigy (ick). I bought a book on navigating the internet (which I still have) and it devotes exactly two pages to the "worldwide web," because it didn't really exist at the time. However, a techie friend of mine kept telling me to buy generic domain names because they would be valuable one day. OK - but at the time, reg fees were $35 a year. I decided that was too expensive, so I didn't. Stupid me! Yes, I've kicked myself about a million times, every time I think about it.
Eventually, everything in the transcription business went digital and then to the internet. While this made doing business much easier - no more picking up analog tapes and delivering printed reports - it also opened the doors for cheap overseas competition. India and surrounding countries went crazy on the "gold rush" of BPO, which included medical transcription. They did a crappy job, but they were cheap. Medical transcription became a digital sweatshop. Because the work is charged on a production basis and is difficult to measure, cheating on billable unit counts and lying about what constitutes a billable unit is so commonplace that honest competitors have little chance of getting business. (The largest company in the world was delisted from NASDAQ a couple years ago due to failure to file quarterly returns as a result of charges of fraudulent billing. They're still losing millions in the lawsuits.) It was not a good business to be in but it's what I was good at and it's what I knew, so I kept at it.
Fast forward to 2005 or thereabouts. I had signed a very large teaching hospital and was making really good money. Returning from a trip to Portland to settle my son in a condo we'd bought for him to live in while he goes to school, I picked up Business 2.0 to read on the trip home. In it was the now-famous article on the domaining business (and I kicked myself yet again). As reg fees had dropped, I registered my company name back in 1998 and I had picked up several industry-related domain names just because I could. I got home and started researching keywords, domain names, etc. - and buying domain names. Monetization still eluded me because I NEVER click through on ads and for some reason, it didn't occur to me that ads are there because other people DO click through on them. I don't consider myself a stupid person but I have to admit in this regard I've been somewhat dense. Although I own domain names in other niches, mostly based on keywords research, the ones I developed were in the medical transcription industry and I went straight to the people who sell to that industry to sell ad space and sponsorship on the sites. They seem happy to pay for ads on every industry-related site I can put up and generate traffic to, so Iím happy to keep putting them up. The users seem to like not having to look at Google ads or Linkshare banners.
Several months ago, I did an analysis of the top job site for the industry and calculated the owner is making at least $7K a month off a CGI script and site that hasnít been updated since it went up in 1998. I have a competitive site in development to launch November 1, went to an industry meeting and lined up employers to list their jobs, a couple advertisers Ė and anticipate starting to generate similar revenue in early 2008. If it goes well, Iíll replicate the model for two other healthcare-related job niches (currently under-served and very expensive) for which I already own keyword-related domain names.
This week we finished up the teaching hospital contract, which is the last large medical transcription contract I had. This now frees me up to develop the domains I have, work on tweaking the sites that are already up and increase revenue. I'm making some money but not as much as I want to and not as much as I am sure I can.
I am inspired by the people Iíve met (virtually speaking) here and at other forums. I am looking forward to a new direction in a medium I love. I am confident that I will soon move out of the ďgrayĒ member group Ė my goal, as always, is to be a member of the top-earning group!