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Mark mailing Avian Aqua MisersIn November when I quit my salaried job with health insurance and retirement benefits, I was terrified.  Everyone was already saying that the economy was going to hell in a handbasket, and folks were clinging to their jobs like life rafts.  Four months later, our income is nearly as high as it was last year (granted, never very high working for a nonprofit) and my stress level has gone down by about 80%.

Mark and I now firmly believe that the way to sail through uncertain financial times is to work for yourself, diversify your income base, and become more self sufficient so that your expenses go down over time.  As a result, we have a finger in a bunch of pies --- web design, graphic design, videography, photography, grant-writing, ecological consulting, and our beloved Avian Aqua Miser.  (The photo here is Mark mailing a premade unit and a bunch of do it yourself kits.)

For everything except the Avian Aqua Miser, we operate entirely by word of mouth --- I'm nearing the point where I'll have to turn folks away after just a few months of building up a client base.  But the Avian Aqua Miser is a very new type of income source for me.  It's a physical product which requires hundreds of different customers --- word of mouth won't get us very far there.

Avian Aqua Miser: Automatic chicken watererAnd so I've started to learn a little bit about advertising.  Three and a half months ago when we went live with our automatic chicken waterer, we blew $450 on a banner ad at the Backyard Chickens Forum.  When the ad expired this month, we had barely broken even, so we decided to try a slightly different method.  I set up a Google Adwords account and started customizing.  A couple of weeks in, we've gone from spending 50% of our gross income on advertising (terrible!) to 13% (passable, but I plan to keep improving.)

I also decided to try some of the tricks for free publicity that I learned during my nonprofit days.  I wrote up an article about the making of the Avian Aqua Miser and submitted it to Backyard Poultry Magazine.  Mark and I danced around the kitchen hugging each other when we got an email back that the magazine would print our article in their June/July issue.  Free advertising doesn't get any better than that!

The moral of the story?  Mark was right --- we can make a living doing things which feed our souls.  I'm glad I didn't let fear keep me in a job which had gone from a passion to a pain.

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comment 1
Congratulations you guys! I'll be looking for your article!
Comment by Fostermamas Sun Mar 29 20:04:50 2009
backyard poultry news

hey what great news/ good job/ wow wonderful

lov ya

Comment by roseanell mom Mon Mar 30 08:04:37 2009
comment 2
Thank you!
Comment by anna Mon Mar 30 09:09:50 2009
comment 4
Thank you so much! It's good to have you rooting for us!
Comment by anna Mon Mar 30 09:11:45 2009
Aqua Miser
Congratulations! That's really great for you! I'll have to pick up the magazine when it's out. =)
Comment by Karen Sun Apr 5 01:25:14 2009
comment 6
Thanks, Karen! We're thrilled, as you can tell. :-)
Comment by anna Sun Apr 5 09:27:53 2009
comment 7

Hey if you guys want some tips on SEO for your Aqua Miser pages just let me know. I do that for a living and am pretty darned good at it. Just search for "living off grid", "off grid", "off grid real estate" etc... proof is in the pudding.

Or, as you know, I do this full time for Gaiam. I'd be happy to help if you have any questions. Best place to start is to find out what people are searching for: if you haven't already.



PS: We got our first chickens today! I only purchased two of them to start, both 1-year-old and laying well. I have a Rhode Island and a Barred Rock. Tonight I'm tasting my second batch of cheddar after letting it age for a month, and am going to start on my first batch of yogurt. My wife is drying some windfall fruit we found on sale and making her own lip balm. This weekend I'm going in hunt for a swarm to fill the Top Bar beehive I built a couple of weeks ago. And we still live in Denver - imagine what fun we'll be having when we finally make it out there to Virginia!

Speaking of which, we're flying into Roanoke on April 23rd and will be looking all weekend. We have places to see all around, including Christiansburg, Hillsville, Galax, Meadows of Dan, Wytheville, Abingdon, Marion and maybe even down there by you if we feel up for it after two days of looking.

Take care and keep up the great blogging!

Comment by Everett Mon Apr 6 22:23:09 2009
comment 8

Wow, Everett, you all are busy! Your hens sound like a very good start --- very wise to start small. I'm impressed with your cheddar --- I've never tried that, though yogurt is an old standby here.

Thanks also for your advertising suggestion. I'd love to pick your brain, but am not sure where exactly to start with questions. But when I think of them, I may email you! Thanks!

Comment by anna Tue Apr 7 19:28:33 2009

One very unique homestead, $1,500 per acre, the opportunity of a lifetime