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10 Ways for Alpaca Farmers to Make Money Over the Internet
By Jay Reeder, Apple Mountain Alpacas
(Published in Alpaca Magazine, Winter 2016 edition)
As an alpaca farmer, you get to work every day with the world’s oldest livestock, continuing a proud tradition that goes back thousands of years. While breeding goals haven’t changed much over the years, American alpaca farmers live in a world that bears little resemblance to the one known by breeders from days gone by. This brave new world offers alpaca breeders and fiber artists alike with a variety of unique ways to monetize their skills and experience.
There has never been a more exciting time to raise alpacas and there have never been more opportunities to create revenue from those activities. The internet has made the world a smaller place and at the same time it has created opportunities in almost every industry, including the alpaca industry. Not only can breeders share knowledge, assist one another, and stay abreast of industry developments, but each and every day they are discovering new revenue streams to support their alpaca related activities. This article will briefly explore 10 new ways for alpaca breeders to make money over the internet. Some will be opportunities the reader has heard about before, while others may be completely new. In either case, the opportunities are immense, untapped, and ready to be developed as an additional revenue stream for your farm or fiber business.
1. Etsy / Web Store
Whether you create your own web storefront or use a service like Etsy, selling products over the internet can be an excellent revenue stream for your farm or fiber business. Etsy is an online marketplace, similar to an online flea market, where people sell handmade items, vintage goods and craft supplies you can’t find anywhere else. Etsy makes selling those products easy for anyone.
Recent news stories highlighted an Etsy store for ThreeBirdsNest that earned 70k per month and started by selling headbands and accessories. In NY, LeiLei Secor started selling on Etsy at 16 and by the age of 19 had made over 100k selling handmade jewelry for her store DesignedByLei. She used her Etsy store to put herself through college.
Costs: $0.20/listing, 3.5% of sale, and for CC payments addl. $0.25+3% of sale
Average Etsy seller makes $3400/yr
For generations, alpaca breeders and fiber artists have passed down their skills and knowledge as both teacher and mentor. Even relatively new breeders can teach their lifestyle to those who are interested in learning what alpaca ownership is all about. These days, many people are looking for opportunities to pay for classes or experiences, and they often look for those opportunities on the internet.
Udemy is a web portal that describes itself as the world’s online learning marketplace, where 10 million+ students are taking courses in everything from programming to yoga to photography–and much, much more. With only a simple web camera and basic computer skills, anyone can record a class and teach multitudes. All with just a little interaction, on your schedule, from the comfort of your home.
There are real opportunities to create revenue streams by teaching people. Victor Bastos started a class on web development and earned 325k in one year. David Nightingale started a class on B&W photography and earned 35k in just three months.
Cost: 50% of fees you set (they keep 50% for marketing, hosting, billing)
Average instructor earns $8000/yr, 1 in 4 earned > $10,000
Classes can be 1 hour+ series broken into 5-10 minute pieces.
3. Self-Publish Book for Amazon Kindle
Who wouldn’t like to be a published author? These days, that dream can be realized by just about anyone with a computer and a story to tell. Amazon has done more than overturn traditional booksellers; they’ve also democratized book publishing for the masses. Today, books can be authored, published, and distributed from the comfort of your home at zero cost.
Steve Gillman lives in Colorado and spends much of his time exploring the mountains. He took a break from his adventures and took a few days writing a short e-book on ultralight backpacking that was published as a Kindle e-book on Amazon. For less than a week’s work, he started earning $350/mo and even though sales slowed, in a year he had earned over 2k.
Other authors have created significant revenue streams by publishing Kindle e-books on Amazon. Mark Dawson regularly makes six figures per year. He makes as much as 450k/yr from books he wrote on the train during his 4-hour commute to his job in London. Another author, Hugh Howey, has many months where he earns six figure paychecks from e-books he published on Amazon. In his previous job as Yacht captain, he longed for a stable yearly salary that he now makes monthly.
Cost: 30% of sales if priced between $3-$10, 65% if priced $10 or higher.
Almost 10,000 authors earn > 10k/yr – ½ earn > 25k/yr – ¼ earn > 50k/yr
Whatever your skill or talent, there are others out there looking for someone with those skills. Fiverr is a site that will connect them with you, handling the financial transactions as well. Fiverr describes itself as a global online marketplace offering tasks and services, beginning at a cost of $5 per job performed, from which it gets its name. Each job is called a “Gig” and can be priced at $25, $50, or $100.
Many people earn a living through work done through Fiverr. Charmaine Pocek started writing resumes through Fiverr and now earns 38k-48k per month. Levi Newman does work as a copywriter through Fiverr and earns 10k-15k/month. Many others earn primary and secondary revenue streams on Fiverr through work of almost every kind.
Cost: 20% of revenues earned
As an alpaca breeder you get to live and experience some of the most beautiful scenes in nature. Many who don’t get to share those experiences would love to purchase your photos in the form of framed prints or other products. Digital photography and the internet have made this easier than ever before.
Pixels.com is the world's largest online art site. On Pixels.com, you'll find beautiful works of art and print-on-demand products (e.g. canvas prints, throw pillows, t-shirts, etc.) which have been created by living artists and photographers from all over the world. Many people love alpacas or knitting and are looking for a one-of-a-kind gift that could be created using your photos. On Instaprints.com, you can create and sell those same products... based on your own personal photos! Instaprints will sell, produce, and drop-ship the custom items directly. You just take the photos and receive a check in the mail.
Cost: Base fee varies per item
greeting cards, framed prints, art prints, acrylic prints, metal prints, canvas prints, iphone cases and galaxy cases, t-shirts, onesies, throw pillow, shower curtains, etc.
Set your own price for “one of a kind” items (ex: cookie cutter)
The internet has automated many things, but people will always need face to face interactions… especially when learning from teachers and mentors. Skype is for doing things together, whenever you’re apart. Skype’s text, voice and video make it simple to share experiences with the people that matter to you, wherever they are.
Sites like Samespeak will actually pay you $10 for every 30 minute session coaching conversational English with people around the world. Meanwhile, many attend or participate in virtual live seminars, remote coaching, virtual tours, and even virtual assessments over skype. Modern technology makes it so simple that you can even skype from your cell phone in a pasture. This is one opportunity where you charge and bill customers on your own, so you set your rates.
YouTube is officially the world’s 2nd largest search engine. It allows billions of people to discover, watch and share originally-created videos and many use it in place of google when searching for answers to questions. With the ubiquity of smart phones, YouTube videos are being watched in school, at work, and at home every day.
Google will automatically place advertisements around those YouTube videos, with the author receiving a portion of the ad revenue, and those ad revenues can add up to a lot of money. One YouTube channel that shows videos of someone opening Disney toys, called DisneyCollectorBR, regularly makes between 1.4 and 21 million a year. Another YouTube channel that tracks 18-year-old Bethany Mota describing her shopping “haul” makes millions a year as well. Many others earn six figures per year from their YouTube videos.
8. Blog (WordPress)
One of the more well-known ways to create an additional revenue stream on the internet is blogging, and the software that has become synonymous with that opportunity is known as WordPress. Open source WordPress is the most popular online publishing platform, currently powering more than 26% of the web. Many bloggers will write articles and stories made available to readers for free and they earn money through advertisements, affiliate marketing, or product placement.
One blog, ThePrarieHomestead.com, makes money on advertising, selling essential oils, and even through paid mentoring on how to create a profitable blog. More than 75 thousand people have signed up to receive her homesteading newsletter. Other sites such as payphone-project.com have been featured on national television and make money selling advertising for as much as $1000/mo per ad.
Cost: Free (hosting varies ~$10/mo)
Market your products/services
Many of the opportunities in this article are purely online, but Groupon is an online opportunity that helps you create revenue streams in the real world. Groupon is a global e-commerce marketplace connecting millions of subscribers with local merchants by offering activities, travel, goods and services in more than 28 countries. Its primary purpose for alpaca farmers would be to drive and facilitate agri-tourism.
The USDA census in 2007 found that over 23,000 farms earn an average of 25k/year on agritourism. According to a recent NYT article, California has 700 farms that average 50k/year. This is happening and it’s happening on regular working farms. People want to have new experiences and they’ll pay for it. The more raw and real the better. I know of several alpaca farms that make 50k/year from groupon tours (and they make even more from farm store purchases).
Cost: 50% of event reservation (you keep all of farm store revenue)
10. Web/Mobile Niche App
When people have questions, these days they reach for their smartphone. One opportunity that many are monetizing is the creation of simple web or mobile apps that help people. The tools are out there to make this possible for anyone. Tools like Buildfire will convert a website to a mobile app, putting information at people’s fingertips.
Find a need and fill it. Your mobile app could be a directory of suppliers, fiber festivals, or a curation of other farms and businesses.
Cost: Buildfire is $39/mo
These 10 ideas are just a few of the many exciting ways in which alpaca breeders can make money over the internet, without ever leaving the farm. Every day there are new opportunities being created. Right now people are earning revenue through Kickstarter, Facebook, and a multitude of other sites. Whatever the channel, there are a few tips to keep in mind as you develop your internet opportunity.
Build a following you can communicate with for free (your Tribe)
Email, Facebook, Blog, Youtube
Send email newsletters or announcements to keep your tribe engaged
Network online and in-person
Join associations and sponsor for inexpensive SEO boost
Stay motivated and get new ideas from online communities like unsettle.org