“You need to brand yourself. You should be authentic. Be yourself. Focus on your passions and the money will come.”
Most online business advice is useless. You read that and then you have no idea where to go next with this. You feel even more lost because you don’t know what branding means or how being authentic will bring in any money.
What are you supposed to do with that kind of advice? I wanted to write a practical guide to making money online. This is the kind of online business article that I needed in 2007 when I spent the entire year reading useless articles and wasting time.
“I want to start an online business. I’m not sure what to do.”
I get a form of this message almost on a daily basis. Many of us love to share motivational memes about being an entrepreneur. It’s fun to ask questions and to discuss different strategies for making money. Many of us enjoy telling tales of friends who started businesses. It’s also easy to solicit successful people online for advice because it makes you feel like you’re actually accomplishing something.
That’s usually where it ends. Most of us just don’t know where to start.
There are too many delusional people out there with false confidence. There’s too much WOW and not enough HOW. I’m as practical as they come. I won’t tell you to blindly follow your passions or to believe in yourself just so that you’re going to like me.
Martin, where’s this coming from?
Ten years ago I was totally lost about starting an online business.
I attended community college first and then I transferred over to university. I had about eight months to kill because I earned extra credits in the previous summer. I wanted to spend some time to focus on my training and my future business. I had no clue how to get in shape. I also didn’t know where to start with an online business. I wish I had this article. I ended up just reading business-related articles and fumbling in the dark.
[Must read: Freelancing vs starting an online business.]
Part zero: Stop stressing about useless stuff.
“What do you think about Adwords?”
My buddy Steve recently asked me about this.
You don’t need to worry about the following if you’re just getting started:
- Passive income.
- Strategic partnerships.
- Paid advertising to sell a course you haven’t even created an outline for.
You should be focusing on the following:
- What you will offer.
- How you will stick out.
- Doing interesting things.
- Being consistent in creating content.
- What platform you will choose (YouTube, podcasting, blogging, writing books, offering services, etc.).
The world doesn’t need another blog about blogging or another life coach telling us to be inspired.
Part 1: Decide on what type of online business you want to get into.
Do you want to read articles about starting a business or do you actually want to start a business?
Here are your options:
- Creating content for yourself (Blogging).
- Creating work for others (Freelancing).
Within those two options you can go in many different directions.
Creating your own content will lead to:
- A YouTube channel. Check out Studenomics TV.
- Creating products.
- Writing books.
- Creating courses.
- Affiliate marketing (promoting products for money).
- Any service that you perform for money (creating graphics, offering meal plans, online coaching, etc.).
What’s the business that you plan on getting into? What do you see yourself doing?
There’s a huge difference between freelancing and starting an online business. It’s important that you understand this. You have to choose one to start. You can eventually have both. It’s usually easier to start freelancing so that you have guaranteed income. You need to have money coming in so that you don’t give up.
Part 2: FIGURE OUT EXACTLY HOW YOU WILL MAKE MONEY.
Stop beating around the bush and posting useless motivational quotes. If you want to post quotes all day then go have fun. At some point you have to get to work.
Most people tell you to follow your passions. They say that everything will be okay. It won’t be okay. You need some sort of plan.
The good news is that it’s okay to switch gears if you realize that you can’t make money the way you originally intended to.
I’ll use my buddy Trevor as an example…
He started doing video editing for freelance work. Then he got into transit history on the side as a hobby. He ended up getting paid more to bring his lego train set to retirement homes. He then started to make postcards of his products. He now gets paid to give presentations and sell postcards.
You need a game plan for making money. You shouldn’t expect to see the dollars rolling in after the first month or even after a few months.
For more on the money part, check out how some of the top bloggers made their first buck.
Part 3: Be ready to learn as you go.
There’s no need to research every single aspect before you launch. They say that if you’re not ashamed of your first draft, then you waited too long.
I’m always learning as I go. I’m always figuring things out. It’s important to be open to learning as you go.
Nobody has this stuff figured out.
Look at any article from 2012 about blogging or an online business. None of it really make sense. Everything’s changing on a daily basis. A new Google update or a new social media platform can change the entire game overnight.
Remember Periscope? Remember when Facebook was for your friends and just your friends? Remember when everyone was on MySpace?
We’re all trying to figure this stuff out. Nobody has all of the answers. If they did, they would be super rich. They wouldn’t be writing articles.
Just launch and figure things out as you go.
Sahil and I applied this strategy in 2015 when we launched our podcast, Do You Even Hustle. We set our launch date for November 1st and then we started taping. We didn’t know anything about getting on iTunes. We didn’t stress because we knew there was a guide out there somewhere.
Part 4: Take advantage of the amazing free information out there.
Podcasts are like a free college education. You get to listen to industry experts that are willing to reveal all of their secrets to boost downloads.
I suggest that you find podcasts in your field right now and start listening.
Also, every topic has been dissected to no end online. From Instagram accounts to 10,000 word blog posts. All of the information you could ever ask for is online.
What are the best sources of free information?
- Podcasts. You know the deal here.There’s an least an hour-long discussion out there on something that you’re interesting in.
- Blog articles. There are dozens of pieces on every possible topic.
- Books. Spend the few bucks and read more.
- Conferences. These usually come with a cost. However, you can pick up a ton of actionable advice from the presentations. Then you can meet your role models in real life. The goal should always be to turn your idols into rivals.
Most of this is free. Some of it will cost you a few bucks. Some of these investments will cost you a few hundred dollars.
Don’t be cheap. Invest your time and money today into things that will make you more money in the future. You should always be thinking about the long-term.
The trick is to consume a little and then produce. Then when you’re stuck, you consume until you’re ready to produce again. We’re living in the best period in history for free information.
Part 5: Surround yourself with like-minded folks.
“My friends just don’t understand my business.”
Many readers have brought this to my attention. Your drinking buddy likely won’t care about this new business that you’re so passionate about. This person shouldn’t be your business advisor or mentor anyway. Just stick to partying together and comparing who drank more beers. Don’t try to turn everyone into a business advisor.
You have to find people who will help you grow. You have to find people who are in the same field to work together.
Where do you start?
- There’s usually a Facebook group for every field out there.
- Look for local events on Meetup.com and similar sites.
You can then look into other options. Go to conferences, events, book signings, and make it happen.
The bottom line is that you need to be around the right people. You can’t turn your drinking buddy into your business confidant. It doesn’t work like that. I’ve tried to do business with friends and it never works .
Part 6: Test everything out. Keep on growing.
I’ve made money from tools that didn’t exist when I started blogging in 2008.
You also have to keep on launching. You have to find your platform and your message. Writing isn’t for everyone. Try out video or audio or whatever.
- Try a YouTube Channel.
- Get a decent mic and try podcasting.
- Focus on writing articles for other sites.
- Do something outrageous.
Party 7: Who really knows?
Don’t give up until you give it a decent effort. Don’t wait forever to start. We setup an Instagram account for Do You Even Hustle where we announced a launch date. I had to learn real fast how to get accepted to iTunes.
“Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.” — Andy Warhol