For a long time, I was held back by fears and self-doubt. I didn’t think I was good enough to truly go after what I wanted.
It stopped me for years, until one cold day in December I said enough, and I started.
In the beginning, all I wanted to do was follow my passion.
I had no plans of building my own business, but as time passed and things evolved, I started thinking, “what if?”
What if I could start an internet business doing what I truly loved and work from home?
At that time I was already making a living online through other websites. I enjoyed what I was doing, but I knew I could do better.
We’re in an age where anyone can learn how to start an online business around something they enjoy, if they have enough determination and the right knowledge.
Are you one of them?
What is an Online Business?
An online business works like any other business. It doesn’t change just because it’s online.
You still need to create something people want to pay for in the form of products, services, courses, workshops, or even books.
You need to find the intersection between what you’re passionate about, what you’re good at (or what you want to become good at), and what people want.
It’s not enough to just do what you love.
That’s the first step, but if you want to build a business, there has to be a demand for what you have to offer.
Now, there are many different types of online business models.
The business model I focus on, and that I teach, is often called an information business, where you sell your knowledge and expertise.
You don’t have to be an expert to do this. You just have to know more than the people you’re teaching.
Why Start an Online Business?
The reason I started an online business was because I felt compelled to do so.
I don’t recommend you build a business if your heart isn’t in it. It takes a lot of hard work to build a profitable and solid business.
If you do it right, the rewards are fantastic. You can live anywhere, have more control of your time and do more of what you enjoy in life.
And if you build a business around something you enjoy, it’s even better.
This is more evident in my life now than ever before, because I just had a baby boy with my girlfriend in December 2011.
I get to see him grow up. I don’t have to miss a second of his youth because I work from home.
The Drawbacks of Running an Online Business
Building and running an online business takes a lot of hard work, time and dedication.
That’s why I recommend you don’t quit your day job right away. Instead, work on your online business on the side and when it takes off, you can reconsider.
You will be your own boss, which means you have to take responsibility for your results. You have to find ways to solve your own problems, and you have to know when to ask for help.
Most people are still in the mindset of relying on others, but if you want to succeed, you have to take full responsibility.
You have to constantly improve what you do, and take massive action despite your fears. To me, this isn’t a drawback, but I realize that for some it is, so I included it.
Running an online business has helped me grow in many ways, because I have to constantly figure out new problems and face my fears if I want to keep moving forward.
Not always fun, but I love it.
How Much Does it Cost to Start an Online Business?
I get this question a lot, so let’s put it to rest.
The below costs are for an information business. If you want to start an e-commerce store, you’re in the wrong place, because that’s not what I do.
The start-up costs for an online business that focuses on selling information are very low. I have left out tax or legal costs, because those differ from country to country, so you’ll need to talk to someone about that.
I’ve organized the following costs by priority, since they are not all needed when starting out.
1. Hosting (Cost: ~$7-19/mo): You need a website, and you need somewhere to put that website, which naturally means you need a webhost. There are two options. You can go with a self-hosted solution like HostGator, or a service that helps you with the tech stuff, like WP Unboxed, which I use for this site.
2. Email Marketing Service (Cost: $19/mo): If you want to make money online, you absolutely need to build an email list. It may not make sense right now, but it’s essential. If you skip it, you’ll be sorry, so make sure you build your list, and pick the best service provider.
3. Payment Processor (Cost: None Upfront): The standard payment processor that I use is PayPal. But you also have other solutions, such as FastSpring, which help you get set-up and deal with customer support. Payment processors don’t cost anything upfront, but they charge a fee out of each transaction you make, which is usually between 4-12% depending on who you use.
4. Shopping Cart (Cost $5/mo): A simple shopping cart for your products and services that I recommend is E-Junkie. If you decided to go with FastSpring as your payment processor, they also have a shopping cart, so you wouldn’t need E-Junkie.
5. Design (Cost: Depends): I never recommend my clients start with a fancy design. You can get a very good looking website for cheap if you go for simplicity. The price depends on who you work with, what you need, and so on. In the beginning, a premium WordPress theme and a nice logo is more than enough.
As you can see, the cost varies depending on how you want to do things and what you want to start with, but you often don’t have to spend more than $50 to get started.
The two most important parts are hosting and an high-quality email marketing service, the rest can come later.
What You Need to Have in Place Before You Start
Before you do anything, you have to find the intersection between your passion and what people are willing to pay for.
To do this, look for markets where there already is competition. Don’t search for untapped niches, because there’s often a reason why they are untapped.
Don’t run away from competition, because competition equals customers.
What I see most people do is make excuses because they don’t have original ideas and whatever else they may come up with.
However, most of the reasons you think you can’t start a business are probably lies. You can learn how to start an online business if you want to.
You just need to get a few things right before you do.
You have to find the intersection, and then you have to learn to stand out, because when there’s competition, you have to do something to get attention.
I go into all of this in more depth in my Find Your Niche Workshop.
The 6 Skills You Will Need to Cultivate to Succeed
While I think anyone can start a successful online business around their passion, I don’t think it’s right for everyone.
If you don’t feel like doing this then don’t. There are better things for you out there. But you haven’t read this far to give up now, have you?
There are a few skills you need to have, or need to cultivate, in order to succeed as an online entrepreneur.
Here they are, in no particular order:
1. Content Creation: You have to get good at creating content. That could mean writing, recording podcasts, or even creating videos. It is how you will attract new readers and what will help build trust and likeability.
2. Mindset: You have to cultivate a mindset of ruthless determination. When you do, you’ll not only succeed in business, but you’ll also dramatically improve your life. You’ll bump into a lot of problems, and you’ll want to give up, but those that succeed keep going, and they don’t let anything hold them back.
3. Delegation: You have to learn to delegate what you’re not good at. Design and technical stuff frustrates me, so I pay someone to take care of them. It doesn’t have to be expensive if you’re smart. It’s all about finding ways to make things easy for you, so you can focus on your strengths.
3. Pragmatism: You have to be practical in business. If you’re not getting the results you want, something has to change. Leave your ego at the door. Forget about what might work and learn what does work. Learn from people who get results.
4. Failure: You will fail, a lot. You will fall flat on your face. You will wish you had a steady paycheck. The more you can fail and learn, the faster you will gain experience. Failure doesn’t mean you’re not good enough. It just means you’re learning, which is essential to success.
5. Action: While I think learning is great, there comes a time when it becomes irrelevant. At some point you have to stop buying courses and reading more books. You have to apply what you’ve learned to get real results. You have to take action. You have to constantly ask yourself what you can DO with what you’ve GOT.
6. Focus: Perhaps most important of all, you have to learn to focus on the right things to get the right results. This is a business. This is YOUR business. You’re not here to play around. You’re here to create value and sell that value to the right people. Learn what tasks bring in revenue, make customers happy and make your life better, then perfect those.
There’s probably a lot I’ve left out of this list, but these six points are what came up for me when I thought back to what I had to learn when starting out.
How Does an Online Business Make Money?
When you’re building an online business, what you’re really doing is building a platform (more on that below).
When you have a platform, you get opportunities to make money, so if you’re patient and build a big platform, you’ll be saying no more than yes.
With all that said, there are a few standard ways to make money with an information business, here’s a brief overview of the most popular ones:
1. Digital Products & Courses: Ebooks, guides, online courses, membership sites and audio books are all great ways to create value for people. Once created, they don’t require much maintenance on your part, and the profit margins are excellent, because there’s no storage, shipping and so on.
2. Affiliate Marketing: Affiliate marketing means selling other people’s products for a commission. You can get anywhere between 5-100% for a sale you refer. It’s an easy way to start making money with your business, and it’s an excellent way to complement your products and services.
3. Services: Coaching, consulting and group coaching packages are popular in some markets. It all depends on what your customers and clients want. Services usually mean you have to trade dollars for hours, but they give you valuable insight into your customers’ struggles.
4. Books: Self-publishing is becoming more and more popular these days, but I look at it as a complement rather than sole source of income. It’s hard to make a living selling $2.99-$4.99 Kindle books. Nonetheless, it’s a great way to introduce new people to your work.
5. Other: When you have a solid platform, you’ll come up with many other ways of making money. You can hold workshops, do public speaking, partner with others, and the list goes on and on. That’s the beauty of having an online business; when you do things right, good stuff happens, but not overnight.
The Importance of Building Your Platform
When I say platform, what I mean is that you have a website and an email list full of people that want to hear from you, and want to take action.
You can have a big audience and not have a business. It all depends on how you set everything up and the people you attract.
Having a platform gives you opportunities, because when you have people listening to you, you have something valuable.
You don’t have to interrupt people with marketing, because they already want to hear more from you. They’ve grown to know, trust and like you.
The process of building a profitable platform is an article (and a course) in and of itself, but it all comes down to solving people’s problems.
You do this by a blend of free and paid content. The free content gives people a taste of what you can do, and it leads them to the paid content (if they want to learn more).
The bottom line is that in order to build a platform, you have to make people’s lives better in one way or another, and you have to do so in a niche where people are willing to pay for your help.
How Long Does It Take to Get to $1,000/Month?
Coming up with an exact number of how long it will take you to reach $1,000 per month is hard, because it depends on several factors.
You could make $1,000 from just one consulting gig, website build or freelance contract. On the other hand, you could sell 100 copies of an ebook each month for $10 and make $1,000.
How much you make depends on your business model, experience, proof, sales effectiveness, audience size, market accessibility, and so on.
This also means that you have to optimize your sales process. Now, I know this sounds complicated, but don’t worry, you learn everything as you go, one piece at a time.
When I started, I had no idea about any of this, but I kept moving forward anyway, and that is what you need to do if you want to succeed.
As you can see, getting to $1,000 per month is highly individual, and I suggest you let it take the time it takes. Don’t expect to become an overnight success, just keep trucking along every single day.
If you want to make faster progress, find a mentor or a coach, and work with them. If you try to rush things, you’ll just end up miserable, which is not why you’re building an online business.
The Most Important Factor Most People Miss
One of the most important elements in your online business is your email list.
It’s one of the best metrics to see how you’re doing. If your email list is growing, you’re heading in the right direction.
The problem is that many people never build an email list.
It costs a few extra dollars a month, so they save money in the short-term, but what they don’t realize is that trying to save money now may end up costing them a fortune later.
Blog subscribers are all well and good, but email subscribers are more responsive and they’ve actually raised their hand to hear more from you.
They want your stuff in their inbox. They are more likely to open your emails and take action than regular blog subscribers.
In short, an email list is what will make or break your online business, so treat it like the royalty it is.
Saving money is all well and good, but not when it comes to your email list.
5 Mistakes You Should Avoid
I see my clients and customers make the same mistakes over and over again, and it’s no fun to watch.
But sometimes you just have to make mistakes in order to learn, so don’t freak out if you make mistake after mistake.
It took me about two years of failing until things started to click. Forget about becoming an overnight success and focus on the process of building your business one brick at a time.
Here are the mistakes you should avoid:
1. Spreading Yourself Too Thin. Do not start more than one business or website at a time. It may seem like you can handle it, but you can’t. The workload grows the deeper you get into the process, so you’ll burn out if you try. I know you have many ideas, but pick one and focus. Focus on one thing, and stop trying to do everything.
2. Rushing Things. There’s no rush. Yes, you want to make money as soon as possible. I understand that, but trying to go faster will just slow you down. It sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s true. Relax, let things take the time they take, and keep moving forward one step at a time.
3. Obstacles. You will be scared, worried and come up against obstacles that will make you want to throw in the towel. That’s normal, and to be expected. Whether you succeed or not is determined during your toughest moments. Will you give up, or will you keep going? This is not about talent as much as it is about your determination.
4. Get-Rich Quick. You’ll find plenty of marketers selling magical courses and pixie dust. Don’t fall for them. I say this from experience, because I’ve spent thousands buying these courses, and they do not work. What works is good old hard work and a relentless focus on business fundamentals.
5. Expectations. Beware of your expectations, because they can suck all energy out of you if things don’t go the way you expect them to. If you expect to launch your first product and make millions, you will be disappointed (in most cases). Keep your mind open and focus on small successes.
But Don’t You Need to Be Tech-Savvy?
Yes and no.
You can get people to handle most of the technical stuff. For example, I use WP Unboxed because I don’t like dealing with the technical parts of running a website and blog.
If you want a more in-depth guide on starting a blog and getting setup, read this article.
But I still have to learn how to run a blog, use my email newsletter and so on. Those are basic tasks that you have to learn.
The good news is that anyone can learn them if they are determined enough.
Don’t hide behind the excuse that you’re not tech-savvy, because if you really want this, you will find a way to move forward and learn what you need to learn.
And believe me, it’s not hard if you take everything one day at a time.
Once you’ve gotten the hang of things, you’re on autopilot, building your business and enjoying life.
So, Where Do You Go From Here?
First you bookmark this post (obviously), because you cannot digest everything you’ve just read.
Then you take the first step, which is to find a niche, or find an intersection between what you are passionate about and what other people are willing to pay for.
This is something many miss, so don’t skip it, because it could end up being costly.
However, know that no time spent learning how to build an online business is wasted, because the more mistakes you make, the better you get.
Are You Ready to Begin?
That December night changed the course of my life.
I finally decided to go after what I wanted without excuses.
I was afraid, but I decided that I had to at least try, so I did, and here I am today, getting paid to do something I truly enjoy.
And it all began with that one single step.
It’s easy to underestimate how far you can go with one single step each day, but the bottom line is that you can do what you truly enjoy.
The question is: when will you start?