I remember when I first began reading about starting an online business.
I remember the big promises.
Write an ebook.
And retire to a pearly white beach in the Caribbean.
I even spent over $10,000 on an internet marketing coach. It didn’t quite work out the way I’d expected.
Granted, I wasn’t the smartest cookie around, but then again, neither was the coach.
I spent around three years trying to crack the code, looking for secrets and shortcuts, and buying every course under the sun.
Eventually, things began to click.
But what I discovered was not what I had expected.
In this article, I’ll share what I’ve found to work. But before we do that, let’s make sure we’re on the same page.
What is an Information Product Business?
When I say information product business, I mean a business that sells information. This information can be in any format.
Here are a few examples of things you could sell:
- Audio programs
- Video courses
- Live workshops
- Speaking gigs
- Coaching packages
- Membership site(s)
The most important factor is that the information helps someone with something.
That’s the way I see it.
How to Build a Profitable Info-Business
Now, let’s have a look at what I discovered.
Below are the essential elements I’ve found to work for me, and my clients.
They aren’t shortcuts.
But if you put in the work, and you know what you’re doing, you can get a small income stream up and running within a few months.
Let’s start with número uno.
1. Attract a Following
The absolute first step is to build a following of people that want to hear from you.
It’s easy to get stuck here, because you think you need to come up with a perfect niche, or a perfect idea.
The truth is that you don’t need whatever you think you need in order to start. You need to start.
People will listen to you because of you. Because of your worldview, your story.
You don’t have to know what you’re doing when you start. All you have to do is start putting your work out there, and start telling people about it.
Scary? Of course. But so what?
When I started Wake Up Cloud, I didn’t know where I was going, or what I was doing. All I knew was that I wanted to share what I had learned in life and business.
As more readers danced to my virtual door, I began receiving feedback. I listened, and I increased the amount of value I provided.
2. Build Your List
Your #1 priority should be to build your email list.
Forget RSS subscribers, Facebook fans, Twitter followers, and building a Google+ community.
All of those things are cool, but they are rarely the 20% that will provide 80% of your results. (I’m referring to the 80/20 principle).
I was lucky, because I realized from day one that I needed to build an email list. When I launched Wake Up Cloud, I had my newsletter ready.
I had a short bonus report people received when they signed up to my list. When I wrote guest posts, I linked to my newsletter landing page, which maximized the amount of people that signed up.
My email list is what has helped me launch books, courses, coaching, and a membership site.
When you have an email list, you can do whatever you want, as long as it helps the people on your list.
Building a list is simple, it goes something like this:
1. Sign up for an email marketing service (I like Aweber)
2. Create a sign up bribe (I have my report)
3. Ask people to join your list
4. Tell people about your website and list
5. Rinse and repeat forever
If you need help with setting up your email list, check out my step-by-step tutorial here.
If you need more information on what an email list is, and how to use it, check out my in-depth resource here.
3. Start Solving Problems
In the early stages, you don’t need a product.
Focus all of your time on building your list.
Once you have 500+ subscribers, you should have a good idea of what problems your readers run into.
If you don’t, you can conduct a survey, and ask what their biggest frustration is (regarding your topic).
Remember, you’re building a real business, and a real business solves problems. It helps your readers, customers, and clients.
I enjoy making money, but I prioritize you, the reader. Without you, I couldn’t do what I do.
I often make decisions that cost me money, because they make my customers and clients happy.
I have enough money, so I don’t have to compromise. Instead, I can make people happy, and that makes me happy.
4. Conduct Tiny Experiments
One of my clients is in the fitness space. He talks about building muscle and getting fit.
He recently did a handful of free coaching calls to see what people wanted. The result? They want six pack abs.
This is all the information he needs to take the next step.
He’s the expert. He knows how to help people get visible abdominal muscles.
The next step isn’t to create a 10-module super course. Instead, he should focus on something small, a minimum viable product to test the idea.
A few examples:
- A $7 report
- A 90-minute webinar or teleseminar
- A 60-minute audio course
- A coaching package
The goal isn’t to make a lot of money right away. The goal is to test the idea.
Is this truly what his audience wants?
If people buy, he knows he’s onto something.
Another way to test your audience is to recommend an affiliate product, but I prefer using my own products. The results are better.
5. Keep Listening
So let’s say he does one of the above, and he gets a few buyers. What then?
He stays in touch. He remains curious about how he can improve his product or service.
I would personally email customers and thank them for buying, letting them know that they can email me if they ever have any questions.
I would then follow-up a few weeks later and ask how they’re doing.
I might even offer a free coaching call to learn if they’re stuck somewhere, or if they want more information.
This ensures that I build the product based on REAL feedback.
I’d also send out a survey that customers can fill out (anonymously).
So let’s say my client sent out a survey, and 70% of the people said they don’t know what, or how, to eat.
In that case, my client could add a bonus to the product, such as a 30-minute video on how to eat properly.
Then he could raise the price to reflect the added value.
But he wouldn’t stop there. He’d keep listening, following up, and adding to what he does.
6. Don’t Be Afraid of Services
As your audience grows, you may not always be able to keep up with the problems people have.
You may not be able to crank out one product a month, or add more to an existing product.
The solution then is to offer 1-on-1 coaching packages.
Sticking with our fitness example. If people want a personal dieting plan, you could work 1-on-1 with them for a few hours and create something for them. You can charge a modest fee of $30 per hour, and sell the package for $100.
Again, this isn’t about making lots of money, but about learning more about your customers and clients, and how you can help.
The more you learn about the people you help, the more value you can provide. You’re investing in yourself and your business.
As you work with more and more people, you’ll begin to spot patterns. You’ll begin to notice the same questions come up over and over again.
You can then turn these questions into information products and courses.
7. Get Help
At this stage, you should be making at least a few hundred dollars per month, probably more.
What do you do with the money you make?
Invest it back into your business.
Buy a course from someone you respect. Join a community. Work with a mentor.
The more time and money you can invest, the quicker your progress will be.
Even joining a community like my Lifestyle Liberation Academy is helpful, because you can ask unlimited questions, and you get access to training that produces results.
But make sure you work with someone you resonate with, someone who is doing what you want to do.
And make sure that what you learn is helping you move toward your goal, which is often to help more people and to increase revenue.
Knowing what to focus on is what will help you build a lifestyle business.
If you’re just starting out, focus on building your email list.
Pick a topic you want to write about, start a blog, and start building your email list.
Forget about products for now.
Forget about everything else.
Get your site and newsletter up. Start sharing what you know. And start telling people about what you do.
Think tiny steps. Micro steps.
That’s what I did, and here I am.
When your mind gets distracted, gently bring it back to the present moment, and to what matters right here, right now.
The better your focus, the quicker your results.
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I really like your idea of starting with a small product and seeing how many of your readers buy the product and what feedback and unanswered questions they have. I know I’ve gotten caught up in creating the “perfect” product that will solve every problem for my readers, but really it is just the problems that I think my readers have, and not the feedback that I’ve directly received from them. As always it seems that starting with slow and steady progress and learning from your readers is the best option.
Yes. Slow and steady is what works for me. It minimizes overwhelm and the dreaded ‘I need to get this perfect’ syndrome 😉
Really good post Henri. Seems the reverse of what many are teaching – create a product and find buyers – but it makes so much more sense.
Absolutely. There are many ways to build a business, but this is what has worked for me, and what makes the most sense. We’re here to serve our customers and clients, so you might as well listen to them.
Doesn’t mean you look to your clients to give you a blueprint for your business. It means that you listen to them as much as possible, and that you get feedback to see whether or not you’re moving in the right direction.
Thanks for the comment, John!
Marcio CS says
“Build a website. Write an ebook. And retire to a pearly white beach in the Caribbean.”
Laughed hard here 🙂
Thanks, Henri, for one more awesome text.
Hehee. Thanks dude 🙂
Alex Swallow says
Hello, I just wanted to say thanks for the fantastic resource, this article is packed full of useful links and tips, I appreciate it!
Thanks Alex! Glad you liked it.
laura sly says
Thanks for this Henri – very useful and non-fluffy!
Thanks for reading, Laura!
“You don’t have to know what you’re doing when you start. All you have to do is start putting your work out there, and start telling people about it.”
Seems so simple right? I agree that it’s about getting starting, learning along the way and stripping away (at first) all of the non-essentials. Nice post!
It is so incredibly simple, yet at the same time not all that easy. But but …
Hi Henri, I recently discovered your content through Steve Scott’s recommendation and It’s exactly on time with where I am at the moment with my life and business.
Thanks for a wisdom packed post! I definitely took a few really important takeaways.
I’m currently stuck in the thinking phase but am getting more and more motivated to take the leap!
Glad to have you in the community.
Don’t wait too long for motivation. And if you have any questions, feel free to shot me an email anytime.
Geary Morales says
More simplicity… at it’s best is profound.
That’s your talent.
P.S. I actively forward your posts to my colleagues and friends, who get it, but oftentimes just need a little shove! :-]
Geary Morales says
Henri… I meant!
Thanks for the kind words. And huge thanks for forwarding my posts to your colleagues and friends. Really appreciate it.
If you think I can ever help with anything, do let me know.
What I really like about this article is that you give examples of what you would do in a given situation based on real feedback.
I’m actually building a whole new site (starting small and taking small steps (focusing completely on my email list). Not givin’ out details just yet until my giveaway is ready, which shouldn’t be long.
Like it finally clicked for me and as you mentioned in this article:
1. Build a site
2. Set up the email list
3. Get in front of people
4. Tell them who you are and help them
5. Build that list and get feedback
6. Create something that solves a problem – based on feedback
Simple. Awesome. Creative. Fun.
Could it get better? I certainly think not.
Now I am doing it – head on!
And might I say… I’ve set up a weekly plan that allows plenty of room for feedback, improvement, always knowing where I’m going and what to do next down to the detail of something getting accomplished in a given time frame, all in WorkFlowy.
Dude, seriously, keep rocking because you give me inspiration when I read your stuff and knowing that you’re STILL killing it online with your business.
Yup, you got it, Eric. Thanks for sticking around. And thanks for taking action!
Marge Piatak says
As always you are in perfect sync with what I need relative to where I’m at. Great advice for an informed approach to my new online business. I was focusing on Product first – this makes more sense. Will let you know how I do!
Fantastic. I find this approach much easier, because you don’t have to figure everything out. You listen, you test, you tweak.
And yes, keep me in the loop. I’d love the hear how you’re doing, Marge 🙂
Miss Aussie says
Henri I absolutely love your style. You are so gentle and sincere in everything you write and everything you say in your videos. I signed up for your video newsletter today and have just watched #1. You hit the nail directly on the head with your open, honest approach to starting up a business online. I am so over the whole rah rah attitudes that populate the internet scene. Thank you so very much for being you and for sharing your success. Most importantly Henri, thank you for sharing the steps for other newbies, like myself, to follow in order to avoid the many pitfalls along that road. Well done.
Thanks. I appreciate it!
Yup, the rah-rah thing doesn’t work for me either. I’d much rather share the truth, even though it’s not always comfortable 😉
Susan Suehr says
I 100% agree with you. I am 2 months in my business and have 25 subscribers. I don’t know if that is good or bad, but that really doesn’t matter. It is building.
I would like to add to your post, from my experience & I read all Steve Scott’s books with tons of bookmarks before I started.
When I started my site initially, I went with one that did not allow me to build an email list with opt-ins and auto responders. So I quickly switched. That was my 2 month start. I did my research with the nitch I wanted to go into and knew the pain points. That helped me build 2 free products as well as 17 products I now sell on amazon. The sales are small now, but increasing. Not enough to make a living yet.
The getting in front of people for me has been the challenging part. Guest Blogging helps for sure. That is how I found you. I have a plan for 1 guest post and 1 of my own blog post at a minimum per month now. I am being very careful to make sure that my content has original perspectives even if on old pain points for others.
I would not rule out twitter though. I have gone and followed people in my nitch and then follow their followers as potential customers. I got 5 email sign ups in 2 days on my site http://changeyourbeliefsnow.com/. I started this 2 days ago and am hoping that helps me get in front of potential buyers.
You are so spot on with this.
Yes. Doesn’t really matter as long as you’re moving in the right direction. The beginning phase is the slowest. Your first 1,000 subscribers take the longest.
Twitter can be great. The problem starts when you try to master everything at once. For example, guest posting worked for me in the beginning, and still does. That’s where I spend a huge chunk of my time. And that’s where I spent 80% of my time when I went from 0 to 1,000 subscribers in 101 days.
Sounds like you’re doing fantastic. Keep rocking, Susan 🙂
Very well put Henri.
I agree — when you’re starting out, offering a service is much easier and takes less time (just set up a simple page listing your offer) than developing a product, that takes a TON of your time and effort (testing, promoting, launching to name a few!)
Plus, offering a service means you’ll invest more one-on-one time with a client. That’s in fact ideal as you start because that’s when you will have the time — later on, you’re going to get busy. 🙂
Thanks for the share!
On top of that, when you spend time with clients 1-on-1, you learn more about what problems run into, and you can help even more.
Fawaz Momoh says
I’ve been following you for 3 years now and there has never been a day I deleted your articles from my mail box. I come back to them and I still receive very insightful tips that has helped me work on my own business. This is really good.
Thanks for the kind words. I really appreciate it 🙂
Great stuff Henri, and as ever, arriving at the right time. I’ve been offline since Nov and realise as I’m reading your article that I got caught up in over thinking it all again!!
But the funny thing is – although my posts have been erratic at best, I’ve had more people sign up for the newsletter in the last couple of weeks than have done all last year!
Coincidentally (although I don’t believe in coincidences) I’ve been asking for guidance from the Universe as to what next and I seem to be getting my answer. Keep going, step by step, build your list, staying in the moment, leaving the outcome to a greater Power than Deb. As ever Henri, you’re an inspiration 🙂