Make Your Own Local Business Directory

If you’re the kind of person who’s good at talking to people and making connections, then creating a website that advertises online for local businesses might just be your ticket out of the 9 – 5 grind.

You’ll be developing contacts in your own neighborhood and helping your community’s economic growth – all in your back yard. Plus, it’s all profitable for you, too.

The beauty of advertising local businesses online is that you can do it virtually anywhere. When I moved my family to Costa Rica, specifically the Central Valley region, I was struck by how many local bars, restaurants, B&Bs, hotels, ice cream shops, and other “hospitality” businesses did not have an online presence, even though they cater to web-savvy tourists.

So I’ve decided to start an online directory, specializing in these sorts of businesses in the Central Valley of Costa Rica. I’ll keep you posted as I get further along.


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With a directory like this, you make money by selling space on the site to businesses. It’s much cheaper than building out a website or taking the time to maintain a web presence, so many will be happy to pay your fee.

And you don’t have to cater to tourists in Costa Rica by any means. There are dozens of niches your directory could cover. But make sure you specialize in something, don’t try to be the Yellow Pages with entries for every single business.

There are many options when it comes to picking a niche. You could pick one type of service provider or a variety of related services and/or limit yourself to a particular geographic area.

For example, you could list only house painters and drywall contractors in Orlando, Florida. Or independent coffee houses in Chicago. Or fishing boat charters in the Florida Keys.

…So How Do You Make Money Advertising a Cafe?

You’re not creating this directory as a community service, after all. So where does money come into play here?

As I alluded to, you sell cheap advertising. And how do you make money with cheap advertising?

The one-word answer is: bulk. In order for your directory of local business and services to turn you a tidy profit, I suggest approaching as many businesses as possible.

The best way to do that is by phone. Review the print or online Yellow Pages and just start calling – or emailing – all the businesses that fit into the niche of your directory.

In your email or on the phone sell the benefit of advertising on your website: increased exposure, which will bring in more leads to their business and more customers.

Be professional, prepared, and thorough.

Ask as many questions about their business or service as possible before bringing out the sales pitch. This gives the impression that not only are you interested in their business but you also believe it would be a perfect fit for your advertising website.

Also, remind them that their own web presence can be expensive and difficult to maintain. But you’re service will do it for them for a very reasonable fee.

When the customer is sufficiently interested, get into the details: banner placements, monthly rates, maybe even a coupon that visitors to your site can redeem at their location after finding their business on your site. Stress that the added exposure their business gains from your website will pay-off in the long term.

More on fees in just a bit…

By the way, finding businesses for your directory is not all cold calling. Be sure to reach out to service providers or business owners that you patronize or your friends have recommended.

You should also ask around wherever you live and find the best plumbers, the best electricians, the best contractors and roofers, etc. and approach them in the same way I describe below.

Tell them you’ve heard great things about their company and you would love to prominently advertise them on your website. Heck, maybe you’re a foodie like me and would love to provide a directory of the best restaurants in your town – who knows, once your site grows, don’t be surprised when free meal vouchers show up in the mail!

Another example: If you recently had your roof re-shingled a few years back, like me, dig out their business card and give them a call. Tell them you’re running a website that advertises only the best business and service-providers in the area and you would love for them to come aboard.

Getting Found by Customers – and Giving Them What They Want

To be found by web surfers in search of service providers, you’ll have to engage in some basic search engine optimization. Simply add content related to the niche of your service directory. It could be articles or a blog (how-to, tips for picking the best service provider, industry news, etc.) or videos – again, how-to videos are great here.

I’m not talking about lengthy articles or well-produced videos. You could also fill up your site with a paragraph or two touting the services of those companies you advertise.

Once you have an effective online presence, you’ll be able to add that to your sales pitch. You can explain how much traffic your website gets, and how you’re continually adding to those numbers through newsletters, direct mailings, and social media. Make it clear that you’re professional and are using the most recent technologies to get the most eyeballs on their ads.

Of course, although the content is the “hook” to bring in free web traffic, your ads and listings of businesses will be the primary focus of your directory. That’s how you make money after all. Be sure that each entry has updated contact information and a detailed explanation.

When just starting out, you’ll have to test a variety of price points to see what your clients will pay. You could try a flat, one-time fee, a yearly rate, or a monthly rate. As your directory matures, has regular web traffic, and is a trusted source for consumers, you can charge more and more.

Here are some guidelines…

Smaller banner ads on the margins of your website will cost your customers in the lower range. Placing a banner ad at the top of your page, however, commands a much higher price. Let me put it to you this way: the easier the ad is to see, the more it’s going to cost to display.

By the way, because your clients won’t have their own website, you’ll probably just have to link to their entry on the basic business listing, which should be text-only with contact info. For some clients this will be all they’ll want. So make sure to mention this “budget” option when selling them on advertising with you.

Some companies may have computer-ready banners and logos. But most won’t. So offer to handle the graphic design for them for a fee. Unless you know design yourself, hire a low-cost designer through a service like

The Result

Reach out to enough companies and pretty soon you’ll be juggling advertisers. And you’ll be making a tidy extra income with a simple website. Sure it’s work at the beginning when creating content and pitching a listing to new clients. But soon enough it’ll take you just a few hours a week to maintain.

As with anything the key to success is to be fair to your customers. That’s the best guarantee to get return business.


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How would you like to retire today?  Sounds impossible, I know.

The solution could be found inside a plain manila folder that many of us have.  It’s probably stuck in some drawer in your office or on a shelf in your closet.

This is definitely worth digging up as it could be your key to permanent vacation.

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Best of luck!

John Hollister

PS. Now you’re ready to start your own directory for businesses like plumbers, electricians, and yes, Costa Rican coffee shops. But here are a few resources to give you some inspiration in creating the best website you can! One of the best ways to get started is to model success – feel free to get inspiration from the sites below.


Great Examples of Service Provider Directories – the largest Internet review site around

Getting Your Own Directory Off the Ground – go here if you want to register your own domain name

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