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A few ideas and comments...
I was very impressed by your back story! I am always in awe of "polyglots" (people who speak multiple languages). I wish I was one! (But I’m not...)
Anyway, I’m definitely a potential customer of your business... (Yes, I even bought Benny Lewis’s book in the past. I've read it - just haven't really put it into practice, yet...!)
The first question I would ask is, is there a market for this? I think that there probably is...
Another question is, what is your "toll position" with this business? That is, what is it you have which makes it harder for a competitor to copy you?
One "natural" toll position you would have would be the copyright on your articles. I would recommend proceeding in a way where your articles are copyrighted by you, and that it is made obvious that you own the copyright on all the articles (in the multiple languages). If you are paying people to translate articles, that also means that the fact you will own the final copyright, even of the translations, would have to spelled out in the "work for hire" contract you hire your translators under.
Another "toll position" you could have would be a customer and/or prospect list. That is, I would encourage you to start an "opt-in" email list, of people who are interested in what you are doing. You could send them updates regarding new articles, new features on the website, etc. This also gives you a "pool" of interested people you can promote to. It’s another valuable "toll position" because nobody will be able to access that list of people except for you. (Make sure you comply with the "CAN/SPAM" law - you can Google it.)
You can also build lists of prospects on Facebook or Twitter, however, I would still not neglect an email list. The reason why is that an email list is 100% fully in your control, whereas lists of people on Facebook or Twitter are not... For example, I've read that Facebook charges you extra to be able to reach a greater percentage of your "fans" on Facebook! In this case, Facebook is the one in control - not you. Having said that, they can also be potentially valuable marketing tools, too, though I would always aim at eventually getting people on your email list, if possible.
At the moment, you ask for donations. I think you will probably need other ways of making a profit from your efforts. One way is to make it a membership website, where people pay some sort of fee to access the articles (possibly a recurring fee). You could make some articles available for free as a "sample," but then they would have to be paying members to access the rest of the articles. Membership websites are a proven model which work.
Another potential model is to try make it free but advertising-supported. Personally, I would probably go with the membership website model.
You might want to think about strategic partnerships (either for now, or for later on). That is, there are other businesses who also serve language-learners, who you could work with in a "win/win" way. For example, it’s possible that a company that provides language teaching products could promote you, and you also promote them. Another idea is to promote the offerings of others on a commission basis, or you could sell advertising on your website directly to these companies. There are a lot of other language-based businesses who do not directly compete with you, who you could work with in a mutually beneficial way.
I like Glenn’s idea of being able to optionally view the two articles side-by-side. I "simulated" this myself with your website by opening an article in French in one browser window (I studied French in school), and the same article in English in another window, and placing the articles side-by-side on my computer desktop. I think I did find it more beneficial reading the article this way, because if I stumbled on a word in French, I could easily move my eyes over to the English version, and learn something instantaneously...
Another idea could be to provide "grades" of difficulty in reading, so people can read articles close to their level. (I know you have "floors" but it is unclear to me if these are just graded in terms of length, or also in terms of the difficulty of the vocabulary.)
Anyway, those are some ideas.
What you need is to have a clear vision in your head of what you want it all to look like in the end. I think having this clear vision is very important! Then, work towards that vision!
Regarding marketing - who already has the people that you potentially want as customers? Is there a way you can reach those people - probably with the cooperation of other businesses in a "win/win" way? One approach is to have an affiliate program which others can use to promote your business (in return for a commission when you get a paying customer through them) - you then have to directly market your affiliate program to the right people and businesses. If you have the right people promoting your business as affiliates, it can be a very powerful marketing tool for you (and it's "win/win" for everyone). Advertising is, of course, another option. If you advertise, you need to find out your "cost per conversion" - so you can work out if the advertising is making you money, or losing you money.
I hope that helps...
Please keep me informed on what happens. If you do start an email list, as a potential customer, I'd love to be on it!
Last edited by Dien Rice : June 25, 2013 at 05:30 PM.
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