Secrets to Starting a Successful Freebie Site
This guest post has been written by Gary Argent who is the co-owner and UK freebies-finding aficionado at Gratisfaction UK
As I tend to do every October I found myself watching the new season of the BBC’s Apprentice the other night, and my attention was immediately grabbed at the beginning of the episode, when Sir Alan burst into the boardroom to ask “Did you know that 25% of all new startups fail within the first 24 months?” Straight away it occurred to me that my once hobby, free stuff website Gratisfaction UK (www.gratisfaction.co.uk) was now well into it’s third year! Originally just a speculative conversation with my brother over the dinner table about starting up a website for freebies, had made it to a point of maturity that thousands of small businesses never get to (and judging by the quality of Sir Alan’s candidates on the Apprentice, has probably been more successful than some of Lord Sugar’s ventures!). To anyone reading this who runs their own website, you’ll probably agree that it tends to take over your life – so it comes as no surprise to find that we are already in year three.
So at this point as we hurtle towards the end of year three, we thought it wise to take stock of what Gratisfaction UK LLP has done since we created the site in 2014. One thing is for sure, we haven’t got everything right from the outset but we’ve learned some valuable lessons thus far. So here’s our 5 suggestions on how to make a success of your fledgling business.
1) Concentrate on what you are good at and on what gets results
The first year or so for us was tough. There are only two of us and we certainly tried to bite off more than we could chew at the beginning. We thought we could get every offer going published on our site but in reality that was never going to happen. Don’t spread yourselves too thin and don’t waste time on parts of the business that aren’t making you money or adding value for your readers. Gratisfaction UK now operates in a much more streamlined way and we put all of our efforts into just publishing freebies for the UK audience. Our goal of providing the free offers, bargains and vouchers has now shifted to focussing solely on making sure we get the offers out to our users faster than our competitors. It’s always a good idea to take a step back, look at what you are doing with your time and to ask yourself some harsh questions. Where can your time be spent more productively? What offers convert best? How can I use my time more productively to focus on them without undermining the rest of the service?
2) Allow plenty of time for social media.
Creating good content is one thing but getting clicks and conversions is a totally different ball game! Until your site is established and starts to show results from Google searches, you must count on social media to increase traffic. It’s wise to figure out which platforms are the best fit for your area of interest and then concentrate on building that. Facebook works great for us and we’ve worked hard to engage with this audience. You’ll be surprised how things snowball on social media so long as you consistently produce output that your fans want. Always be conscious of your audience on social media and listen to feedback and suggestions. We’ve mixed things up by posting videos on Facebook which seem to be well received and we’ve discovered that the use of nicer looking, higher resolution images convert well on Pinterest. Use social media analytics to get a better handle on what is working best for you.
3) Keep your books in order from day one
Once you start earning make sure you speak to an Accountant and get organised with bookkeeping. Keep hold of any expenses records, receipts and expenses. Always ask for invoices from anyone you do business with – you’ll be thankful once you have to work out tax. It’s also a good idea to take advantage of all the free advice out there too. We were anxious about getting things right but HMRC offer lots of free webinars (https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/hmrc-webinars-email-alerts-and-videos) which they repeat throughout the year, which have helped us immeasurably when it comes to filing our returns.
4) Accept that friend request
It may seem like trivial advice but we recommend that as you develop your business, keep in contact with new people as you come across them. There’s a lot you can learn from other people who are in the same line of work as you and it’s surprising how happy people are to help you out. Running a website can sometimes be quite a solitary existence too, so developing relationships with people in your industry can prevent you from going a little bit crazy!
5) Move with the times and never say no to new opportunities
In the same way that you should keep doors open with the people you meet along the way, we’d also recommend that you seize new opportunities with both hands. A significant element of our business of late, involves promoting new products to consumers as they become established in the marketplace. Being able to anticipate what’s coming and being able to respond to changing consumer patterns has been a key to our early success.
I hope that some of these observations from our first couple of years in business help you to realise your potential. I also hope that the only time you hear the words “You’re fired” is when you are tuning in to the latest episode of The Apprentice.
Good luck everyone.