Today I want to share with you a discovery that I've used to help build my practice, a discovery that I think will benefit many of my readers. It's called Google AdWords, a service offered by Google that allows anyone to test business ideas for a minimal amount of money. Here's how it works: you first open an account linked to a credit card, then you create a short ad with a roughly 20 character headline and 50 characters of copy (for example, my ad's headline is simply Career Counseling; the text of the ad reads "Harvard MBA & successful biz exec will help guide you to a new career"). You then create a list of key phrases that when typed into a search engine will prompt your ad to appear. My list includes such phrases as "life coach," "change careers." and "career guidance."
Your ad will appear in a box above or to the side of the Google listings that come up for that keyword(s). You are only charged when a viewer clicks on your ad. You can specify the maximum amount per click you wish to pay as well as your total budget for this advertising. and AdWords will give you guidance as to where to set the budgets in order to optimize your ad's positioning on the page (higher per-click budgets and higher total budgets get better placement).
What I really like about AdWords is that you can target a very narrow geographic area in which to test your ad. For example, you could specify "Falls Church" and your ad would only appear to viewers registered in Falls Church. This allows you to set a high budget per click (insuring better positioning for your ad) without spending a boatload. You can also test out different ads to see which one has the highest "clickthrough rate" (clickthrough rate is the measurement of the percentage of people who are potentially exposed to the ad - exposed meaning the ad has appeared on the page that they're viewing - who click on the ad. Your goal is to get the highest clickthrough rate possible, since that means the ad is more appealing than one with a lower clickthrough rate.
The biggest drawback to Adwords in my view is the user-unfriendly path you need to take to create a beginning ad. I find the AdWords site far too complex - but then again, I'm no techie.
AdWords allows you to inexpensively test the income potential of services you might offer: tutoring, image consulting, peronal shopping, sports coaching, nutritional counseling, knitting lessons, dog walking, party planning. The list is endless. Even if the service that you offer is not unique (let's say you're testing out the idea of being a personal trainer) you can create an ad that helps you stand out from the crowd, perhaps by offering an unusual angle to the service ("Personal Training for Women 60+") or by creating an intriguing headline ("Take 10 Years Off Your Body").
Of course I'm not recommending that you should quit your job tomorrow and jump into a whole new career world with AdWords, but I am suggesting that AdWords provides an affordable way to test new career directions "on the side." Thanks to the internet, if you have a good idea, or a better way of expressing that idea than others, you can generate significant income without a huge investment of time or money, allowing you to test market your way into a new career direction.
If you're not particularly adept at creating powerful ads (and most people aren't), I'll be happy to help you.