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It is only now that I can think seriously about going full time.....
Generally, as I launch a new site it can take literally half an hour of setting up AdWords to get orders/enquiries coming in. As for a decent income, this can take longer as you try and reduce bid amounts and increase conversions.
As I said above, SEO can take time to produce results, but this usually pulls in more traffic than PPC. Once you have repeat orders coming in, plus new business, and then the repeat orders from that business, you should set to make a decent profit.
Having said, the overall prospects of the sector we are in looks very grim and we will try to expand into other areas. I firmly believe the products you sell are as important as traffic to your website. If those you are carrying don't sell, perhaps it is time to look at other opportunities.
Derek-Why do you think hiring a webdesigner increased your sales?...better web design?
Three years ago we added a number of information pages to lure more visitors to our site. Ironically, one of them is currently page rank 1 on Google for its particular search phrase; it's the third most requested page on our website and gets about 1000 visits per month. But like you, I don't know how many of those 1000 visitors click through to the store section or buy anything.
On two of the information pages I display some of our merchandise with a link to the page where the item can be bought. On the other information pages, which give history, background and styles (with pictures) of the kind of merchandise we sell, I have a block of links at the bottom "Shop for red wigits," etc., that will take the visitor to our store pages.
One curious thing I've noticed about the items shown on these information pages: We rarely sell the merchandise shown as merchandise, but almost every single item shown as an example of a style of wigit sold within six months!
Although we're not seasonal as you are, we get almost half of our sales in the last quarter.
I agree with Sem4u--use PPC. Can you afford magazine advertising? It helps keep your name in front of potential customers. People keep magazines for donkey's years and who knows when they'll run across your ad again looking for an favorite article?
I agree that you should try and get more visitors through PPC. However, you must be careful especially in a low season.
Using my business as an example. I want to be able to do it fulltime, then how much net profit do I need to generate per month to deem worthy of doing it fulltime? Say I am a one man operation and would need $5000/mth net profit to be able to get by comfortably. Figure out your cost, profit margin and determine how many orders you need a month to be able to net the profit.
To reach your magical goal, you will very soon realize that it usually all comes down to, how to sell more at a higher margin and a lower cost?
On the other hand, my subscription based system (for others in my industry) took about 18 months, and it honestly has not done as well as I hoped, but that is because of the competition that the site has.
Currently I'm planning a new system that is sure to lead me to global domination! ;o) Seriously though, it's a similar idea with a new approach. I think that because it is going to be different it should get some attention. I'm going to estimate a time to 'success' of around 8 months, but I'll let you know.
If you want the greatest possible profit in the short term, then by all means go for multiple sites. Perhaps, one for an individual niche and even one for each country you sell to. However, this could cause you problems in the long term when your business build up. In our case, we were forced to merged 2 separate sites into a single site. Whatever you do, it is best that you use the same customer and product database for all your sites.