Nov 28th 2016

An experimental referral link business

I've had this idea running in my head for a while - what if I made a simple-to-maintain website that offered gift suggestions across a few categories. If those gift links were all referral links, and if I published across social media platforms, could I eventually over time start building an audience, and some passive referral income?

I'm doubtful that I could make any money doing this, but I imagine that once it's setup, I could keep the effort involved low enough to be worth a try.

That's why I'm writing this post, at the start of my experiment, to catalog what I'm doing. I'm hoping at the very least to learn a few things about this kind of social media use and about referral networks.

So far I've come up with the concept for the site: it'll all be gifts that are physically small in size. The smallness makes it convenient for someone looking for cheaper shipping, and for "lighter" gifts, like for a hostess gift or a work colleague. I've decided to post at least one gift per day (scheduled) across seven categories. I've setup free accounts for gmail and various social media platforms, and designed a logo to use as a profile icon in each. I've setup a free trial account with Hootsuite, which might simplify the scheduling of posts.

What's left is to build a site with a CMS that's nicely setup for these kinds of posts, and templates that provide a good experience for deep linking into specific gift posts, as well as browsing by category. I'm also considering setting up a mailing list to send out weekly round ups of the posts, for anyone who prefers to get the content that way. A free MailChimp account should work well for this for quite a long time because the threshold for number of subscribers before you have to pay is quite high.

I'm trying to keep my costs low, but I will make a small investment to get it going. I could use free static hosting, but that would require a bit more manual work than I'd like, and also more setup time. So I'm repurposing a shared hosting account at A Small Orange for the project. This is technically my first expense at $50/year or $4.17/month. I will also be using the CMS Kirby, which has a one-time license fee of $89. I could use Wordpress and skip that cost, but I believe I can get my site up and running faster with Kirby, there's less plumbing in the Kirby setup process.

To get my bearings, and to start building an inventory of posts, I'll keep things simple and just use Amazon referral links. There are a lot of other systems out there, which I hope to incorporate once I have a proper site running.