Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
My name is Abhishek Ghosh and I am the founder of the blog called The Customize Windows. Presently, the blog provides information to help the readers around software and electronics-related How-to guides and Do it Yourself projects.
The websites have been in existence for over a decade now and currently make 30 thousand dollars per year.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I have been playing with basic electronics since I was a kid as there was a small lab in our house for playing with chemistry, physics, and electronics. BBC BASIC is the first programming language I learned.
In the year 2008, we moved to our owned apartment in Kolkata to renovate our 250-year-old country house and for the growth of my medical career. Teak export is our original family business.
Money-making is indeed a factor that all of us are forced to remember.
I loved how many people operate great blogs. Christopher Heng’s TheFreeCountry, Darren Rowse’s ProBlogger inspired me to share my knowledge of tweaking Microsoft Windows. In 2010, I started a website named Customize Windows hosted on Microsoft Office Live platform for publishing guides on customizing PCs. At that time I was studying for competitive exams and could allocate 2-3 hours per day behind the website. This was the website: Customize Windows (archive.org)
End of 2010, I met Ankur Mittal (he was an engineering student and blogger at that time). It was he whose help and tips drove The Customize Windows in today's basic shape.
The Customize Windows maintains transparency about content. Our goal is to help the readers to complete the project and learn some meaningful theories to create their projects. Every guide of the website is carefully tested and their need is completely natural.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
As I have said before, I used Office Live for small businesses as the platform. I tried to "design" it a lot but it was not "hackable". Ankur introduced me to self-hosted WordPress. I had to register a domain name and the option of the name was "Customize Windows" since the readers of the previous website got used to the name. thecustomizewindows.com was available for registration and that is the history of the origin of the website's name.
For the initial years, everything on the website was created by me. As the website is partially on How-to guides for the Windows users (as, the tutorials on Windows 7 Right Click Menu customization) and a novice webmaster faces (such as 500 internal server error thrown by a WordPress installation), the experiences had value as content. The initial financial investment was minimal as I did all the work. Till this time, Google AdSense, Lake Quincy Media (now Developers Media), and a few affiliates were the main sources of earning.
Soon I was influenced by the designing and coding style of Brian Gardner (founder of StudioPress). I started to increase theoretical discussions on various topics related to web designing, software development, digital photography, and so on. Later, I decided to hire staff to start a content marketing service who will also look after the technical part of the blog partially because I had to invest more time in reading the theories. Later our wonderful staff worked a lot to attract direct advertisers.
Describe the process of launching the business.
The initial launch of the website was basic as I have mentioned before. There were experiments and minor bugs. 11 years back, the web technologies were relatively less complex as compared to today. We have slowly optimized and improved the website. At the time there weren't many great resources for step-by-step optimization.
During the initial years, the earning was not more than $500 per month. I started to add more theoretical discussions (apart from the How-To guides), the income started to grow since the direct advertisers found the website interesting. We looked to expand our scope as the audience did. The work and responsibilities grew too. That's the point where we started a real business with content. It took eight years to stabilize the earning of the website to $2500 per month. Of course, we are still learning how to deliver valuable content to the readers.
Today we have to discuss a topic with our staff to make sure that a piece of code released by us does not become a headache to a young sysadmin.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Initially, it is easy to get ideas for content creation in our niches such as Windows 7, Android, Web designing, basic electronics. It is somewhat like conducting a class on electronics or computers.
We started to enter the topics on cloud computing, big data, software engineering with theoretical discussions. Now, one can not talk about an advanced BLE project before explaining the basics of BLE. The need for theoretical discussions naturally increased. Many of the readers find us via search engines and we retain some of them intending to give them what they want.
Now there are various tools for helping content creation. The software finds out what people are searching for. As the website is designed for the developers and makers, it is not difficult to capture the leads of valuable visitors. The open-source projects naturally promote these kinds of blogs. If a fix is working, that easily gets mentioned by the Q&A sites. These days we maintain a schedule of publications, with an aim of one article publication per day. For the cornerstone articles, we have one copy editor, one staff for formatting for the front-end, and a graphics designer for graphical presentation.
Our blog is unique around some ideas, artistic presentation by infographics style art, and distribution of code/snippets. We believe that our natural style (which is reflected through some popular pins like that on clamp multimeter, or manual modes of a DSLR camera) helped us to move ahead.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Our target is to entertain the interested non-engineer readers of the 18 to 35 years age group. We believe that we are on the correct path; the website is running silently satisfying the readers every year who are of our niches or maybe finding a solution to a problem.
Although often the best-performing articles change over time, some of our articles remained popular either for a better graphical presentation (like that with Clamp Multimeter: How To Use For Dummies) or for fixing errors on a server (like in the case of WordPress XML-RPC Attack & Fake PHP5-FPM Error).
People often ask about SEO services. We never used any paid SEO service simply because we could not afford it. The links from the high authority sites towards our some how-to guides were natural.
Presently, we are working behind our content marketing business and have plans for educational products.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Definitely. I have learned a lot from my past and I am always learning! Operating a blog teaches a lot. I have mentioned some of my learning in the past. Money-making is indeed a factor that all of us are forced to remember.
For content marketing, we have to work with efficient engineers and managers from different companies, who find us from Google search or the internal list of their network. Their minor and major input helped me a lot.
I believe that the biggest thing to learn is consistently hard work.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
We use social media such as Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter primarily to alert followers to new posts and also to get discussions. We use tools like Moz for research on the popularity of topics.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I already mentioned Cristopher Heng's thefreecountry.com, which was helpful to build the idea on how to create useful content, sites of Brian Gardner (founder of StudioPress) helped around designing and of course people like Darren Rowse is an inspiration for almost all the bloggers.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
Do the work you like.
Every person in the maker space is extremely hardworking, talented, and unique. Making money from a blog is a labor-intensive process. I do not know any famous blogger who has skills lesser than mine. A blog itself has no promised return of investment. Operating a blog ownself is a self-test of the capability of handling business with physical products.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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