When I was 13 I watched wrestling every Monday night. That is also the year my mother brought home our first family computer. My uncle showed me how to use the Yahoo! Search tool, and I was surprised to find out that most of the outcomes for the Monday Matches were pre-determined, and posted as spoilers on the internet. Even more shocking was that all of the Thursday show’s matches were pre-recorded directly after the Monday show, and every single outcome could be known 3 days in advance. It was searching these wrestling sites that introduced me to fantasy wrestling. I started fantasy baseball teams, and forgot about them by mid-season, but fantasy wrestling was different. There was a thriving community of different websites that competed directly with each other out of reach of espn.com or even the WWF. Even more surprising was the level of graphic design and internet innovation included in those sites. It was in designing my first fantasy wrestling site that I learned to script html, integrate logos and add in cgi based features such as message boards and top-site lists. I ended up running a fairly successful site that netted me a couple hundred bucks a year until my interest waned and I moved on to other hobbies. I did pick up a lot of lessons from that time, and if I wasn’t so young and dumb I would have capitalized further on the large volume of traffic that visited my various sites every day. I didn’t set out to make money, but because I was doing something I enjoyed the potential arose naturally. You don’t have to know html these days to design your website. Many webhosts offer design tools that will get you up and running. Designers will do a cheap web shell which you can install a new board RSS feed script on to post new content. It will archive your articles for you, and allow you to set up accounts so other people can add to your content stream without gaining access to the site itself. Programs such as Microsoft FrontPage and Macromedia Dreamweaver will allow you to design your own website with no scripting knowledge at all. You will have to do some research and learn some new skills, but it will be easier than you think, and easier than it used to be. Do what you like The first step is to choose something you enjoy. Unless you are advanced in several scripting languages, you aren’t going to make the next breakthrough in search algorithms. You are going to want to focus on a content driven site that has some interactive features. They whole idea is to draw in a community that visits your site often and advertises it for you. If you have something that people want to bring their friends in to, then you are essentially using Facebook’s primary strategy. For example, if you like cooking you will want to exhibit cooking articles and a recipe guide. Also, you will want to include a message board as well as some features where people could send recipes they like to friend’s e-mail, and submit their own. When someone can interact with your content and rate it, they feel more involved and important. One of the keys to my website’s success is that I always made my sites a networking platform for similar sites as well. While my cooking site would have recipes and its own community, I would also implement a Top Sites list for similar websites, and various other tools for cooking websites to network within mine. Follow these rules Now that we have the recipe for your cooking website (I’m going to stick to this example for clarity), there are a few simple rules that you must adhere to. 1. Get a domain name. Cheap hosting is fine, but you will need some web space that is free of banners, and a domain name. You will have to spend some money, how much is entirely up to you. No one will take your community seriously if the address to find it is longer than the address to a post office in china. 2. Design your site professionally and simply. Navigation should be straightforward, and you should try to avoid gimmicks as well as too much flash. I know that you think having a snake trail the mouse and REO speedwagon songs playing when you visit the site is cool, but no one else will. 3. Content must be relevant, accurate, and present. A website with a bunch of broken links will not hold anyone’s attention very long. Those under construction signs aggravate people on roadways, but net surfers will just avoid them altogether. 4. Network. If you build it, they won’t necessarily come. You are going to have to do some inventive advertising. Not only would I network on relevant sites and social networking applications, I would physically place flyers for my cooking website at wine stores, libraries and maybe even some restaurants. You will have to start somewhere, and you have to start small. Consistent effort will pay off, and your leads will start to pay off exponentially. Where’s my money? Now you have a fail proof plan to get your website up and running, and avoid the most detrimental mistakes that are common to personally owned startup websites. You’ve already spent some money on a host and domain, so it’s time to start generating income. For this step, you are going to have to know your audience. There are several ways to capitalize off of your website, and different demographics are most likely to get you paid in different ways. You can sell a product you developed on the internet. Maybe a startup cookware company or barbecue sauce needs an advertising outlet with international reach. A partnership of those sorts can be exploited by creating a barbecue only cooking website. Most likely you are going to either make money off selling items from sponsors, or by simply offering your hits up as a direct advertising outlet. If the people who visit your cooking site are well to do, and they often prepare the recipes they are going to need some ingredients and utensils. Directing them to a pre-made Amazon store that you own and get a commission from is the ideal setup for taking advantage of such an opportunity. If you cater to a younger crowd, or people who merely print the recipes and partake in discussion, they probably aren’t going to buy from your sponsors. This is when a partnership with Google’s ad sense would be the most advantageous route. The most lucrative websites will take advantage of all possible income streams, look to generate new ones, and invent different opportunities for themselves as they grow. Now that you know how to make a startup website capable of creating revenue, and focused on a subject you are passionate about, there is no excuse for you not to get started. By following these simple steps you will have taken the first steps to becoming an Internet mogul. Maybe even the first step to financial independence or a cushy retirement. At the very least, you will enjoy the work you put in it, and it will make enough cash to pay to keep it running for a while. Enthusiasts always make the best webmasters!