Tagged: handwriting

Launching WritingWorkbooks.com

Since I wrote about my Dot Com Lifestyle, I’ve had people me asking exactly what I do for a living, and I even found my name mentioned along with mega-bloggers Darren Rowse, Steve Pavlina and John Chow, in author A. Dawn’s Personal Finance Journal! 😯

The latest project
I promised to keep you all informed about my latest website, Writing Workbooks, which I’ve been building with my mum. It’s full of handwriting practice workbooks which cover popular elementary school topics such as dinosaurs, the Titanic, hot air balloons and bears to name just a few. My mum was a primary school teacher for years so it made sense to lean on her for the content, and she’s very excited about signing up for Adsense and earning her first online income. Apparently though, she’s not in it for the money, she’s in it for the fame and groupies!


My thought processes

This isn’t a tutorial, so not everything I do can be applied to you own projects, but let me explain some of the things I try to aim for when making a new site.

Stick with the same niche

First, I usually choose a topic similar to one I’ve done before. That gives you an instant stream of visitors because you can direct your current traffic to your new site. I now have seven websites in the children’s education niche which attracted around 140,000 visitors last month. If those people aren’t interested in the content, they have three main choices: click the back button, click through to one of my other sites, or leave through an ad. I try carefully to keep visitors within my circle of sites as that increases the chances of them either bookmarking one of them, or earning me a few cents.

Squeeze the niche

Once I’ve got my topic, I “squeeze the niche”. That’s my term for targeting every page to your desired audience. The visitors I want are searching for “writing workbooks” or a variation on that, so I need to rank highly for that search term in Google and co. I registered the domain name writingworkbooks.com because most people who link to the site will use the title as their anchor text. The words used in incoming links are really important, and that’s why it’s common for people to rank highly for the name of their site. I’ve also used related keywords in the titles of every page on the site. This should show that the whole site is based on the same topic, which should give it more weight in search engine results.

Build it and leave it

Next, and this was mentioned before, I rarely build a website that requires ongoing work. This blog and JapanSoc always need some kind of contribution (especially spam busting!), but my other sites are finished. I think it defeats the purpose of running an internet business if you actually have to work. That’s not what the Dot Com Lifestyle is about! Ideally, you’ll make sites that take a few weeks to make and promote, but then you can leave them online to earn a passive income. That gives you time to spend with your family, or work on new projects to build up your online workforce.

Launch day

Finally, it’s time to launch. I actually had the site online over a month ago to give it time to get indexed by the search engines, and I made a sitemap and submitted it to Google through Webmaster Tools. Today, I linked all my other educational sites to this one, and put the word out on a number of education-related social bookmarking sites as well as Digg, StumbleUpon and Del.icio.us. That should spark a flurry of interest, and with a bit of luck the teachers and parents who will benefit most from WritingWorkbooks.com will bookmark it, link to it and discuss it in forums.

Where do we go from here?

I’ve nearly finished my contribution to the site, so I’m going to leave it up to my mum to promote it in her signature on teacher forums. Quite honestly, after typing up 800 handwriting worksheets, we are both suffering from Repetitive Strain Injury and could use a break… until the next project begins.

Ramsay Ramblings 5/6/2008

There are lots of little things to talk about this week, so here’s another dose of Ramsay Ramblings!

May 5th was Children’s Day

Mami and I have a little boy, and this year was his first Children’s Day. Thomas wrote all about Koinobori, Japanese Carp Streamers, so I’ll skip the detail and get to the photos:

Japanese Carp Streamers - Koinobori

Our Koinobori – Japanese Carp Streamers

Children\'s Day Kintarou Cake

A Kintarou cake

Mochi rice cakes wrapped in kashiwa

Kawashi-mochi – rice cakes wrapped in oak leaves

Rikuto enjoying his first Children\'s Day

Rikuto celebrates his first Children’s Day at the park

Those bloomin’ berks at Bloomberg published the suicide gas recipe

Of all the dumb things I’ve seen, Bloomberg published the “recipe” to the poisonous concoction of household cleaning chemicals that people have been using to kill themselves in Japan lately. Shane kicked up a storm and we all pitched in. In the end, Bloomberg edited the dangerous parts of the article, so hooray for us! πŸ˜€

Making a start on WritingWorkbooks.com

I had a good response to the post about my dot com lifestyle, and was encouraged to talk more about what I do for a living. It seems I’ve inspired a few people to earn some money online, including my mum, so I’ve started some behind-the-scenes work on a joint project with her, taking advantage of her experience as a primary school teacher.

The idea is to make a large number of handwriting practice workbooks for children, each book based on an elementary school subject, such as dinosaurs and weather. Each page of each book will have a traceable general knowledge fact about a chosen school subject, and the books will of course be for free.

I already have a website in the “handwriting” niche, so WritingWorkbooks.com should complement it well. My mum is the perfect partner since she knows so much about the curriculum and knows exactly what teachers and parents need for their children.

In picking this topic for a site, I considered:

  1. Do I know enough about the topic? – Including my mum, yes.
  2. Will people find it useful? – My mum thinks so.
  3. Will it cost me anything? – $10 for the domain name. I already have the $100 fonts.
  4. Will it need ongoing work? – Not after it’s finished.
  5. How will I monetize it? – Probably with Adsense. Decide later.

The beauty of a site like this is that it requires no maintenance. A blog always needs new material, but sites like this can be built and left alone. That leaves you free to build more and more. That’s why I don’t worry too much about its earnings potential. Once you’ve got your starting costs back, it’s pure, passive income.

Jason got hitched! Congratulations!

Jason Irwin, has tied the knot. He had a long-distance relationship for nearly two years with his bride-to-be, Reiko, but after a succession of trips between Canada and Japan, they finally live together as husband and wife in the same city as me, Kakamigahara. In a related post, Jason poses the interesting question, is the distinction between the online world and reality fading?

Ramsay, Mark 1 launches into cyberspace

Speaking of online relationships, my brother, Mark, has discovered the internet for the first time. He is a complete newbie, so I’m helping him learn all the basics (left-click, right-click, drag and drop) before he joins me on our joint project, VirtualTripping.com. He’s already taken to the net like a duck to water, managing to watch 652 YouTube videos in his first four days online! It should be fun blogging with him on VT, so swing by and join the Ramsay brothers as we send blog “post” cards from Google Earth.

ESL Writing Wizard – 5000 worksheets!

In the autumn of 2005 I launched the ESL Writing Wizard and the following spring I added the ability for teachers and parents to ‘publish’ the worksheets they made. While they have the option to make their worksheets public, many of them have. Today, I’m proud to announce that the site has reached a landmark figure of 5,000 published worksheets.

ESL Writing Wizard

I started the ESL Writing Wizard when I was working on the curriculum for an international kindergarten. A big part of the curriuculum was teaching the alphabet, phonics, reading and eventually writing. That’s where the need for this kind of website came in. Daily writing practice was essential in the kindy, but it was a huge chore for the teachers to make handwriting worksheets by hand. There were other similar free websites that could generate practice sheets, but none offered the flexibility that I thought the teachers needed.

Creating the site was a much bigger project than I had anticipated. I had to get my hands dirty doing some behind the scenes Perl programming and it was the first time I tied a website to a database. Following feedback from the people who used the Writing Wizard in its early days, I eventually implemented the two most popular handwriting styles taught in the U.S, Zaner-Bloser and D’Nealian. Also, Susan from internet4classrooms helped me iron out some bugs and spread the word…

We are on our way to a training session for preschool teachers and would love to show your site to them. Is there anyway it could be fixed by Monday? I do not know if I will have email access there, as we are training in Bermuda and a lot of the hotels there are not made for business but for pleasure.

Now, The ESL Writing Wizard attracts a thousand visitors a day from all over the world.

Visitors to the Writing Wizard

From its origins as a tool to help out some hardworking teachers at an international kindergarten, the ESL Writing Wizard has grown into the largest website of its kind, helping children across the globe to improve their handwriting skills, from the Ivory Coast to Iceland, from Oman to Jamaica, and from Japan to the U.S.A.

Happy 5000th, and many more.

5000 worksheets

Mortgage refused at the last minute.

December 20th should have been a historic day in our lives. The day we officially purchased and took ownership of our first house. However, what should have been a time of celebration turned out to be one of the worst days of our lives as Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ Bank decided to screw us over by declining our request for a loan despite approving it two months previously.

The paperwork had all been completed and submitted to UFJ back in October, and was approved in mid-November. My wife and I, along with the seller, Mr. W, and two representatives from the real estate agency attended the meeting at UFJ on December 20th for what should have been a formality – receive loan, pay Mr. W, get keys.

After just 15 minutes, the meeting ended and a two hour argument ensued. Why? Because some of the application form for mortgage insurance was completed with my wife’s handwriting, not my own. Yep, we were refused a 20 million yen loan because of a difference in handwriting.

Sure enough, in the small print, it said that the form must be filled in by the applicant, so I have to accept some responsibility. I had filled in the important parts (painstakingly done in Japanese characters), while I had let Mami, my wife and guarantor for the loan, fill in the more trivial details.

The next two hours were horrible. The realization that arranging for the gas, electricity, water and phone to be disconnected in our apartment and subsequently connected in the house; the air conditioners to be taken out and reinstalled; the van I’d booked to move all our stuff; and the date that had been set to return the keys to our apartment. All of this would need undoing asap. I threw a wobbly and had to leave the building, punching and kicking the inside of the elevator on my way out.

I was in a state of total disbelief and after my wife called me back, I just ranted on about how ridiculous it was to deny the loan because of a difference in handwriting, despite agreeing with the information my wife had written and having stamped it with my official Japanese seal (equivalent of a signature).

By this time the bank manager had joined us and would do nothing other than ask me to rewrite the application there and then, and resubmit it. This would delay the process by five days. Obviously this didn’t help at all since that would leave us homeless – or at least without water, electricty and gas!

I wasn’t the only one furious at this, but for different reasons. Ms. U from the real estate agency was demanding cancellation fees from the bank and threatening court action. Not because of our handwriting error, but because UFJ themselves had not noticed the difference in handwriting when the papers were submitted in October and had already approved the loan, therefore UFJ should have been held responsible for the ‘error’.

Mr. W, the seller, who had taken the day off work to come to the bank, expecting to leave with 20 million yen, was equally baffled. He had arrived with the biggest smile on his face and shook my hand vigorously when we met in the lobby. I’ll never forget how that smile dropped like an A-bomb when he realized he’d be leaving empty handed.

What really made me mad was the bank manager’s incessant “Hmm, hmm, hmm, I’m awfully sorry, hmm, hmm, hmm, I’m awfully sorry” without making any attempt whatsoever to convince the loan company that the information on the application form was actually correct.

So, how did it all end? Well, Mr. W very kindly agreed to hand over the keys to his house despite not getting a penny of the money he was owed. I filled in the application form again (deliberately taking as long as possible to annoy the bank manager who had to wait), and we rescheduled the meeting for Christmas Day.

Thanks to Mr. W giving us the keys, we were able to continue as planned without having to reschedule the gas man and the rest. Christmas Day rolled around and we went back to the bank for a relatively smooth meeting in which Mr. W got his money, and Mami and I left as official homeowners.

Incidentally, the UFJ guy who we submitted all the documents to back in October was absent from both meetings. Both Mami and I hope he gets a good kick in the Christmas chestnuts for a mistake that caused us and others a lot of unnecessary stress.