Making Money From Content - Case Study: 'Moving to Spain'

making-money-from-content-case-studyWhen Jim was made redundant at the age of 52, he and his wife, Jenny, had some difficult decisions to make.

They had always planned on retiring to Spain where they owned a holiday house, but at 52 Jim’s pension was insufficient to support them for the rest of their lives. The choice was either to get another job, which was going to be tricky at his age, or find something they could do in Spain to earn some regular income.

A chance meeting gave them an interesting option, which would eventually change their lives.

They were visiting the International Living Show in London, where they met the sales director from a big Spanish building company that specialised in building holiday homes for British expats.

They got talking and Jim explained their dilemma about moving to Spain, while needing to earn an income.

The sales director mentioned that they were always looking for people to help sell their properties. They paid a commission of 1% of the price of a home for introductions that lead to a sale.  Their properties typically sold for between 300,000 and 500,000 Euros, so commission would be between 3,000 and 5,000 Euros per sale.

Jim reckoned one sale a month would be enough to sustain them in Spain. How difficult could that be? He got very excited about the idea.

But when push came to shove, he lost his nerve and started to look for a job in England.

Interviews proved difficult to get. Jobs were impossible.

Three months later . . . nothing.

No one seemed to want a 52-year-old bank manager.

In the end the decision to move Spain to try to sell houses was forced upon them.

Moving To Spain

They sold their home in the UK and headed for the sun.

Jim met with the sales director and signed up to their referral program.

They settled into their house in Spain very quickly. They had been coming to the area for twelve years so they knew their way around. They also both spoke good Spanish which helped reduce the culture shock.

Jim started to focus his mind on how he was going to promote homes to British clients whilst he was based in Spain. The only logical way he could think of was via the Internet.

He commissioned a site to be built, got lots of photos from the building company and wrote some informative descriptions about each house.

He launched………….

……………and then sat back and waited

…………………………………………………and waited

……………………………………………………………………and waited.

Ten weeks later, not a single lead.

Jim started feeling very nervous and uncomfortable about their situation.

He started to buy books about Internet marketing and online business. He read blogs and even flew back to the UK to attend an Internet marketing course.

One of the common threads that ran through all the information he read was the importance of having content on a website that the search engines could find, index and list on the results pages. The search results enabled people to find his site and thus traffic would grow.

Creating Content, Building Traffic

So Jim bought all the guide books for his area of Spain and started writing articles about the beaches, restaurants, climate, lifestyle, buying a house, moving to Spain . . . and whatever else he could think of.

What started as a chore became an obsessive passion.

He drove around the area with his camera taking pictures of the good, the bad and the ugly.

He called his site Honest Jims Guide to Spain.

As if by magic people started to arrive on his site and week by week the numbers grew. It wasn’t instant and it wasn’t fast, but every month the figures were better than the month before.

Then one day he received an email about one of the houses on his site.

It was his first genuine lead.

He phoned the prospect and agreed to meet him. One thing led to another and just less than six months after the website went live he received his first commission cheque for just less than 4,000 Euros.

Not a lot for six months work, but a start . . . and a huge relief.

In the meantime Jim had started an email newsletter. He sent out a mix of reviews of local restaurants, announced upcoming events, commented on the joys and challenges of life in Spain and occasionally mentioned the houses he had for sale.

By the end of the first year his site was getting 10,000 visitors a month and had 1,552 people signed up to his email newsletter . . . but he still had only made one house sale.

He had to find another way to make money from the site.

Making Money

He decided the quickest route to revenue would be advertising and sponsorship.

By now the site had lots of different categories, including:

  • Finding a Property
  • Buying a House
  • Moving to Spain
  • Banking in Spain
  • Finding Workmen
  • Spanish Law v English Law
  • Local Restaurants
  • Shopping
  • Buying a Car
  • Buying a Boat
  • Swimming pools
  • Dealing with Your Utilities

He decided to try and get a sponsor for each category.

His first port of call was the Spanish building company. More out of pity than good commercial sense, they agreed to sponsor the Finding a Property category for 1,000 Euros for the year.

Next Jim visited a bunch of mortgage brokers and persuaded one of them to sponsor the Buying a House category for the same amount.

After a few months of letters, phone calls, emails and grovelling he had secured 8,000 Euros in sponsorship and advertising. He also managed to sell one more house. Eleven thousand Euros in two months was like winning the lottery.

Who Are Your Customers?

Six months later traffic to the site had doubled and so had the email newsletter list. Jim ran a survey to try and find out who his most loyal visitors were. To his surprise 90% of his newsletter readers were expats already living in his local town. Not, as he thought, Brits thinking about moving to Spain.

So he decided to change the emphasis of his site.

He wanted it to become a community site for local expats. It would have very local content, useful to local people.

He also decided to create a special premium subscription area, where local expats could exchange experiences, interact and make friends. He set the price at 3 Euros a month or 24 Euros a year.

He managed to get an interview on the local English language radio station, where he promoted his new service. Like getting traffic to the site in the early days, membership sign ups were slow, but once it built some momentum it accelerated rapidly. Within a year he had 1,500 paying members.

During the second 12 months of the site's existence it made over 50,000 Euros; a very reasonable income in Spain.

The online premium community developed quickly with members contributing a lot of the content. The obvious next step was to start arranging offline social events for members. These events became very popular. Jim charged an entry fee and soon restaurants and bars were queuing up to pay Jim to host the parties.

Jim became a regular contributor to the local radio station and wrote a column for the local English newspapers. People started stopping him in the street for a chat. Even the local mayor regularly invited him to dinner.

From bank manager in small-town England to minor celebrity in coastal Spain. How lives and careers can change!


Jim's story is a really good example about how total commitment and dedication to creating content and serving a niche audience can pay great dividends.

Jim started his site with limited knowledge of the Internet and no idea about online marketing, but through hard work and perseverance he has built a business and lifestyle that provides him with more pleasure and a greater sense of achievement than anything else he has done in his life.

The steps Jim took to build his successful site were:

  • he built a professional looking site
  • he continually reassessed who his core audience were
  • he focused on what his audience wanted
  • he created regular, valuable and highly personalised content
  • he took time to understand online marketing and how the search engines drive traffic
  • he continually reviewed where his money was being made
  • he continually looked for new ways of making money
  • he mixed with his community, so he built credibility, authority and trust

As Jim says, "If a 52 year old ex-bank manager, with no technical experience can build an online business, anyone can!"

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