There is an old saying; “If you love what you are doing, you will really never do a day’s work in your life.” It’s a lovely thought for sure but in this day and age as far as most people are concerned the idea of actually doing what you truly love, making the most of your talents and passions and still being able to afford to live is more than a bit of a pipe dream. Actually making enough money to live comfortably and enjoy life a little? Now that’s crazy talk. Or is it?
The Internet, which is well past its quarter-century now, opened up all kinds of new worlds for people, including the opportunity to build an online business. This opportunity has created all kinds of wealth, prestige and opportunity for regular people, and while it’s hard work, and success is not guaranteed – business success is never guaranteed – starting an online business is still something almost anyone can do if they are up for the challenge.
In this blog, we are going to take a step-by-step look at starting an online business, drawing on things you might already know, things you probably don’t and the experiences of the Pearl Lemon Group, and its founder, Deepak Shukla, which began as an online business founded in a London basement and has grown to encompass over a dozen online and offline businesses, most of which generate six-figure revenues every year.
Using Your Talents and Passion To Make Money With an Online Business
Rather than looking for an idea from someone else, it really is perfectly possible to use the talents you already have, the passions that excite you to start your own money-making ventures and businesses online.
Choosing this route can have a number of advantages. Firstly, it will allow you to do something you really like, something that you have always wanted to do but have not had the chance to do.
Secondly, you can often follow many career ideas and turn them into a workable online business at a minimal cost. It will still require plenty of planning and more than a little hard work, but if you are following a dream, it is usually well worth it in the end.
For some, turning the skills they already use in their 9-5 into an online business is the way to go. The business itself does not have to be digital – just the operations – but if you are going to make a go of your online business, it should be something you enjoy. And if you don’t enjoy what you do right now, that will not be the case.
Running a virtual assistance agency is one way you could consider using what you already know, and do, and turning it into an online business.
Another growing trend in the global business arena is outsourcing, An increasing number of companies are turning to virtual employees to help them meet all kinds of needs, and they are hiring people to do everything from providing basic customer service to far more complicated tasks like executive administrative assistance, full-scale marketing and PR, accounting, computer programming web development and much more.
The advantages of a virtual employee to an employer are numerous. They can hire a diverse workforce from all over the world and not have to worry about finding office space for them or paying for things like holiday pay and employee taxes. For the employee, it offers the chance to gain a wide range of experience in their field and work in many different niches while potentially earning more than they used to work offline.
But what if you want to do something completely different to what you have been doing? There are a great many things you could consider doing that can be turned into profitable – but very satisfying – money-making ventures based on what you enjoy doing, rather than what pays the rent. Here are just a few ideas:
For the Sports Buff
All of your hobbies and passions pretty much revolve around sports. You play them, you watch them, you read them. You follow your favourite athletes on every social media platform they happen to post to, you can quote stat after stat for hours, you know more about the history of your favourite teams than most of the people who have played for them, and you never get bored because when one season ends that simply signals the beginning of a new one in a different sport.
Sports are your passion, but as you actually never really had any pro-level talents, how are you actually going to make any significant amounts of money out of it?
As you are a passionate sports fan yourself you will have encountered lots of others and you know, that like you, most of them devour every little titbit of information they can about their favourite teams, players and athletes, from last night’s box scores to how current athletes compare to those from the past to the kinds of things the athletes do in their downtime. ESPN can’t cover it all, and that is why niche sports blogs are so hugely popular. – says Denis Ristić, General Manager at AskGamblers.
Think you won’t be able to write? Of course, you will. You know all of those opinions you were shouting at the TV screen when you watched that last game/match/race? All the stats you were able to quote to support your arguments with your friends? Put those down on paper (or onscreen anyway), promote your work a little and the chances are that your comments section (just as is the case over at ESPN and Bleacher Report) will soon fill up with plenty of lively arguments and thus repeat visitors.
This is all great, of course, but how are you going to make any actual money? Two of the more obvious ways are via pay-per-click ad programs from providers like Google and Bing and affiliate products. However, those are not the only ways.
Need more ideas? Create a private community and charge a small fee to join it. Organise fan fests, tailgates and get-togethers. Run an unofficial fan club for your favourite stars. The possibilities are almost endless and with your passion for sports, it should rarely ever feel like a grind. Getting paid to follow sports? It’s like a sports nut’s dream come true.
For the Cook
Do you know what is one of the things that people of all ages, from all walks of life and from all over the world search for most online? Recipes. Almost everyone has to cook at some time in their lives and no one really wants to be seen as a rotten cook (it’s a reputation that can be very hard to shake) and so they search for recipes, tips, advice, or any help they can get. And yes, lots of them are willing to get up off the couch and go and take cooking classes too, paying to do so.
Catering is another option in this niche. Increasingly people are willing to pay someone else to cook for their celebrations, provide lunch to their office staff, or serve great coffee at their parties.
So if your passion in life leans towards the culinary, then the scope for making money is significant, and you won’t have to take the risk that all of those poor restaurateurs on shows like ‘Kitchen Nightmares’ have (and on that subject, Gordon Ramsay is a multi, multi-millionaire, and it’s not his charm that got him there is it?)
For the Fashionista
Everyone has to wear clothes (we really don’t have too much choice in the matter) but you are the kind of person who loves their clothes and accessories and keeping up with – and then buying – all of the latest and greatest fashion offerings is more than a chore for you, it’s a passionate hobby that has you searching the Internet, the mall and even flea markets and thrifts stores for the very best looks you can find.
But what if you could actually make money from that passion, via an online business, and maybe even score free stuff at the same time? With hard work and a little imagination, that is actually perfectly possible.
Vlogging – that’s video blogging – is a great way that a fashion fan can get started on the path to making money. Dig into that big wardrobe of yours and create fashion looks to showcase on video or in photos.
Offer tips on the best ways to wear certain looks, or the best outfit choices for certain occasions. ‘Review’ your latest clothing and accessory purchases. Track down discounts and coupons and share them with your readers and viewers. Once you get started if fashion and shopping really are your passions then you will find that the ideas just keep coming.
If you happen to be a slightly crafty person, you could also translate your passions for fashion and shopping into an Etsy store. Thousands of shoppers flock to Etsy every week, looking for unique styles that simply can’t be found anywhere else.
And they find it, everything from hand-painted sneakers to personalised t-shirts (which you can make using plain t-shirts, a computer with the right kind of paper and some imagination) to handcrafted jewellery and hair accessories.
Setting up an Etsy store is completely free, they offer lots of helpful promotion tools and the first Etsy millionaires are just being featured in the media recently, so the potential to make a lot of money from even the simplest Etsy store really is there.
For the Photographer
You are always that person in a group who loves to take photo after photo, and you always have. Your camera roll is filled with interesting shots you have captured on the go and the last time you went to a wedding your shots were as good as the professionals.
Fields like wedding photography are very, very competitive and can be very expensive to try to get into, as the average wedding photographer needs to invest thousands of dollars into both their equipment and their portfolio. But there are actually lots of other ways that a passionate amateur photographer can turn their passion for picture taking into a moneymaker and an online business.
One option is to sell your best shots to a stock photography service. As more and more people begin blogs, launch websites and promote their products and services on visual-sharing platforms like Instagram, the demand for high-quality stock photography increases.
A number of companies that offer stock photography for sale actively encourage amateur photographers to submit their work to be offered for sale. This is great for the photographer for two big reasons; they make money off their ‘snaps’ and begin to earn themselves a great reputation as a photographer in general, which can lead to all kinds of other things.
Some people are also having great success with photo blogs that capture great images within a specific niche. Do you live in an interesting/beautiful/unusual area? Then you could consider creating a ‘Daily Photo’ type blog that chronicles a different aspect of it every day. Blogs like these attract a very loyal following and many of their owners make good money off pay-per-click and affiliate ads as well as by selling prints of their best work for home framing and gift giving.
For the Music Fan
You wanted to be the next big music star, but that hasn’t quite worked out yet. Or maybe you can’t carry a tune or actually play a note yourself, but music is still your big passion and a hugely important part of your life. The simple fact is that you don’t need to be an amazing singer or a guitar virtuoso to make money from a passion for music. There is a booming release of music and an increasing career of artists. With that, artists constantly find ways to be recognized and heard in a digital landscape.
How is that possible? In lots of different ways. You could start a website or blog about your favourite bands or artists (people are always looking for any kind of scoop they can find about their favourite artists, even if it’s just who they are dating or what their dog looks like). Or you can open an online shop for cat portrait painting or other artwork and promote them. You could also create a ‘what’s on’ listing site for your area so that people know just when their favourite music artists are coming to town. You can monetize these kinds of sites not just using traditional ads from Google or Bing but by adding an Amazon store (they’re free) that offers ‘band merch’, something that is really, really big business right now.
If you do have some musical talent (maybe you are a great drummer for example) then consider sharing that talent with other people who want to learn, either in person or via a service like Skype. In fact, many musicians who are in successful bands still make extra money – and gain extra exposure – by offering lessons via online video services. Learning to play any kind of instrument is usually easier if you have a visual guide rather than a written one and that is exactly what you can offer people.
For the Writer
There are millions and millions of websites online right now, and most of them contain at least some written content. Someone has to write all of that content, and they have to write a lot of it, as in order for any website to be successful, no matter what niche it is in, it has to offer a constant stream of new and useful information.
People with a passion for writing have long made money as freelance writers, but the rise of the Internet has made doing so much easier and more efficient these days. Now a writer can be physically located in a single location (often their home) and yet provide content and work with clients from all over the world.
Getting started as a freelance writer is easier these days, too. For many ‘newbies’ the best way to start is by working with a freelance platform like Upwork or Guru. There are no fees to join (you will have to pay a small commission if you secure jobs) and membership at these sites offers you access to all kinds of writing job listings that offer a legitimate way to make money.
As you begin to earn yourself a good reputation, you can begin taking on jobs outside these platforms. Create a good-looking website to showcase your past work and set up a good billing system (there are some very good free ones) and you should be ready to go with a fledgling online content business.
You don’t always have to work for other people, either. Have you had an idea for a novel or a book for years, but know that getting it published would be an uphill struggle? Self-publishing is an affordable reality these days, and an increasing number of even bestselling books are created in this way. If your writing skills are technically very good, you can also offer online courses to teach others.
These are just a few ideas so that you get the gist of just what is meant by making money from your passions. Everyone has talents and hobbies, and there are almost always going to be people willing to pay money to tap into what you have to offer related to them.
But whatever your talent or passion, you cannot simply quit your job tomorrow and begin making money for yourself the very next day. You need a plan, and how to go about formulating that plan is exactly what we are going to cover next.
Before you can begin making a plan for your new business venture, you need to make an effort to learn how to become an entrepreneur. That is not as strange as it sounds. Working for yourself calls for far more discipline and self-motivation than most people actually realise until they come to try to do it.
Most people who plan to start an online business know that they will need some kind of business plan. But before you start planning things like what equipment you might need, where you might be able to get financial assistance from and practical things like that you need to make a plan that will help you learn the new skills and disciplines you will need to make the transition from nine to five salaried employee to successful self-employed entrepreneur.
What Does it Take to Become a Successful Entrepreneur?
In order to become a successful online business owner or entrepreneur, you certainly will need a solid set of core skills that will allow you to actually do the work. That’s where passion and hobbies come in. However, many people have similar skills but not all of them, by any means, are cut out to be entrepreneurs.
Although successful business people are all very different, even if they essentially work in the same field (think Bill Gates and Steve Jobs) there are certain characteristics that they all seem to share that anyone starting their own business needs to have or make the effort to develop.
The first thing you need to do is consider your own personal characteristics and determine whether you have, or will be able to learn, the aspects of the mindset of the typical successful entrepreneur.
- Optimism – Being able to think positively and optimistically is a must for an entrepreneur. This ability to remain positive will help you through the rough spots that you will inevitably encounter.
- Initiative – The ability to see the ‘big picture easily and problem-solve on the fly
- A Desire for Control – Do you enjoy being in charge and taking on responsibility?
- Resilience – Can you still pick yourself up and carry on when things go wrong or not quite as you planned?
- Interpersonal Skills – As a small online business owner or entrepreneur, your interpersonal skills will become more important than ever before as you deal with clients, customers, business contacts and suppliers.
- The Ability to Listen – Being able to talk and ‘sell yourself’ is certainly important for a home business owner but the ability to listen is even more important.
- Ethics – Do you believe in dealing with people with respect, fairness, integrity and truthfulness? Being perceived as honest, open and trustworthy is crucial if you want to build any kind of online business.
- Creative Thinking Skills – Once you are on your own without a manager or a ‘leader’ and all the decisions related to a business are yours alone to make, at least in the beginning, your creative thinking skills will also become more important than ever before.
- The Ability to See ‘The Big Picture – A successful entrepreneur or business owner needs to be able to see an issue from a number of different perspectives and still come up with original ideas.
- The Ability to ‘Spot a Trend’ – A business owner needs to learn how to expand their ‘reach’ by spotting trends, opportunities and ‘gaps in the market’ that they can capitalise on.
Not everyone who wants to start an online business will have all of these ‘traits’, but the good news is that they are things that can be developed, if you are willing to work at them.
Learning From Others – Finding Inspiration in Other People's Stories
If your busy schedule has prevented you from picking up a good book recently, then as you prepare to start your work as an entrepreneur running an online business, that should change. There are a lot of great books out there, written by and about people who have succeeded in starting their own successful businesses, that can provide you with a great deal of good information, ideas and inspiration.
Here are just a few great reads to consider checking out of the library, downloading to an e-reader, or listening to as an audiobook.
- The Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki – Kawasaki has started a number of very successful companies and this book is smart, straightforward and actually a good read because of Guy’s friendly writing style.
- The Thank-you Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk – This book is all about building trust and loyalty as an entrepreneur and business owner.
- The Monk and the Riddle by Randy Komisar – Randy Komisar is an angel investor who has funded a great many startups. In this book, he discusses the importance of loving what you do and turning that passion into a profitable business.
- Purple Cow by Seth Godin – Seth Godin is considered to be the ‘godfather’ of modern marketing and this book started it all. Whatever type of business you choose to start you are going to have to find a way to market it – and yourself – and reading this book is a great start.
- The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferris – Ferris’ book has become a bit of a bible in the entrepreneurial world as it provides solid examples of ways that you can work from anywhere while still getting more done in less time.
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey – Another book that has become a classic in the business world, this is all about enhancing your personal productivity and effectiveness as well.
If reading isn’t your thing, or you just don’t have the time to sit down with a book, audiobooks are just as good – and a great way to get some learning in when you have just a spare few minutes. Once you enter that world, you can also discover all the wisdom that podcasts have to offer, which is often some of the latest, most up-to-date entrepreneurial advice out there.
Learning from Others – Networking and Finding Mentors
Spending time researching and reading when getting ready to launch a business venture is great, but if you really want to succeed, you also have to begin networking.
As you are still working in your 9 to 5 job you probably do not really have the time to actually attend a great many physical events, but fortunately you can begin building a network of advisors and peers online thanks to social networking.
For a person planning to start an online business, the best site to begin looking for people to help you on is LinkedIn. There are hundreds of individual groups on LinkedIn that cover almost every niche in the world and there are a surprising number of people – including some rather senior and experienced people – in these groups that are willing to share their experiences and offer their advice, even with strangers.
In addition to using LinkedIn and similar sites to look for mentors and advice, you should not shy away from connecting with people who may, technically, become your competition once you begin working. When you see people who are achieving similar goals to your own, it can actually be a great motivator and give you another reason to keep moving forward when you reach a point in the development of your idea that seems rather daunting.
This is something that has benefitted Pearl Lemon a great deal. Participating in things like SEO forums has brought Deepak Shukla and other Pearl Lemon staffers together with folks who might be considered direct rivals, but in addition to raising the profiles of the business and its key staff, it’s also led to a lot of learning and even some new business.
Beginning to Plan
Once you have begun learning how to be a successful online business owner because you won’t just be making money from your passion, you’ll be building a business, you have to sit down and actually begin creating a simple business plan. No business, however small and in whatever niche, will succeed without one so it is a very important part of the process.
At this point, you do not need to write the kind of formal business plan that a bank or investor would expect to see (although that may very well come later) but you do need to take some of the basics from that kind of plan to create a blueprint for the work from home business that you are going to build.
The following is a very simple outline you can use to help you create your plan.
Name Your Business
Even though you are just one person, you still need to give your business a name, even if you are initially going to be working for other people as a freelancer or independent contractor.
When choosing a name, you have to think about more than just choosing something ‘cool’. The name needs to be easy to remember and easy for people to spell. It need not be relevant to what you actually do. Pearl Lemon, for instance, would not be tied just to SEO and marketing, but it is memorable, it is easy, and as the online businesses in the Pearl Lemon Group have grown in number it’s been easy to ‘stay on brand.’
And that is the key. Your online business name should be brandable, and choosing the wrong name can make a difference. When a couple of college students called Larry Page and Sergey Brin started a business in 1996 they thought about calling it ‘Backrub’ because the name was amusing. Fortunately, they changed it very early on, to Google. And there was a time when Pearl Lemon was called Purr Traffic, but fortunately, that got changed early on too…
Create a Basic Mission Statement
By now you have a good idea of just what your small business ideas entail but now you have to refine that vision. What exactly will you be doing to make money and just how will everything be implemented? Even if you only create a very simple one, having a ‘mission’ in mind will be very helpful.
Determine How Much of an Investment You Will Need to Make
There are very few online businesses and entrepreneurial ventures that require no investment at all, although many can be started at a very low cost.
This may be as simple as investing in a domain name and web hosting so that you can create that great blog you are planning or you may need to make an additional investment in equipment or supplies.
By making a list of all these things well ahead of actually leaving your job you can begin to get them all in place while you still have a steady income coming in.
Right from the beginning, you need to decide how you are going to track the money you make and the money you put back into growing your business. Even if you choose not to have employees to maximize growth, you’ll want to figure out the cheapest payment platform for freelancers you can use to avoid losing money in large payment fees. You will now become responsible for all of your own finances, including those pesky taxes, so you need a good system in place from the start. You will now become responsible for all of your own finances, including those pesky taxes, so you need a good system in place from the start.
In the past, people have relied on accounting programs like Quickbooks to help them manage their finances if they do not pay an accountant to do it for them. These are still great programs, but you may need more than they can offer.
Because the number of people diving into self-employment and entrepreneurial ventures is increasing, so are the number of tools available to help them manage it. There are a number of good offerings that offer low-cost accounting, generating online invoices, and time-tracking tools online. Having an accounting and invoicing system ‘in the cloud’ is often the best idea for solo workers, as they can be accessed from anywhere.
It is at this point you also need to begin figuring out just how much you need to make to survive. Some of your current overheads will probably be eliminated as you will no longer be travelling to a workplace, so you may find that the figure is slightly lower than you expected. You do not just want to survive though, you want to thrive, and by working out your basic expenses you will have a better idea of just what it is going to take to do that.
This is also the time to begin setting goals. You need to clearly define what you want from your business and attach specific timelines to each goal. Some of them may be easy to define, such as setting a goal to have a website up and running for a certain date, while others may be long term goals that are harder to define specifics for, like actually moving to work for yourself on a full time basis.
Conduct a SWOT Analysis
The goals you set need to be realistic. “Make $500 the first week” is not a goal that is realistic unless you can determine just how you intend to try and go about doing that! One of the ways you can help yourself determine whether or not your goals are realistic, or that you are even setting the right ones, is by conducting what is called a SWOT analysis.
SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. In completing a good SWOT analysis, you will need to look at all four categories and do so honestly, especially when it comes to the weaknesses part. Here are some basic pointers:
In this first part of the review, you will examine all of the strengths you and your new business ideas have that will help you succeed. These may include:
- Your own skills and knowledge will keep the business going.
- Contacts you have made that will be helpful to the business.
- Assets you have that will help the business (equipment, inventory etc.)
- Advantages you have over competitors.
This is often the most important part of a SWOT analysis, as long as you can be honest with yourself. No business idea is perfect and you may be facing some disadvantages. By identifying what those are right now before you begin you can begin to address just how you can plan to start overcoming these weaknesses to build a stronger business right from the start. Weaknesses to look for might include:
- Areas where additional knowledge and or research might be needed in certain areas where your skills may be a bit rusty or lacking
- A lack of technical equipment, older software
- Budget limitations
- Time limitations
This section should include all the opportunities you have identified that are the reasons for your business idea to exist in the first place. These opportunities are external to your business. They might include a market change that has made the demand for your products or services greater, or the opportunity to solve a problem or offer real value.
What threats might exist that would threaten the stability of your business? Again, these are external things that are out of your control. New regulations, new technology that might make what you offer obsolete, and the competition are always going to be a threat. In this section, list everything you can think of, even if it is a little far-fetched. Facing your fears and beginning to think about how you might handle threats to your business is all a part of the process.
Putting Your Plan Together
None of this has to be laid out formally right now. You can keep your plan as simple notes in a notebook if you like, or as documents and spreadsheets on your computer. It may even be helpful to have some of the highlights of your plan written down in poster style to hang on the wall, just to give you a little extra motivation.
Creating Your Base
Whatever you plan to do to make money from your passion in your new online business you are going to need a base to do it from and for most people, in the beginning at least, is somewhere at home.
Setting up your home office is a far more important task than some new work-from-home business owners realise at first. In order to work from home and build a business successfully, this is a project that requires careful thought and more than a little bit of effort.
There is more to setting up a home office than just creating the space itself. You need to make sure that you have everything you will need to start your work-from-home business on hand, and also that you have a plan in place to keep your business running in the event of an unforeseeable problem like a power outage or the Internet going down.
In this section of the blog, we are going to explore all the steps that you will need to work through to set up a functional home base that you can use as a real headquarters for your new business.
Set Up Your Home Office - Choosing the Physical Space
Unlike your current employer, you almost certainly do not have the budget to spend a lot of money creating your new home office or to have a consultant come in to help you decide on what the best use of the available space is. Nor do you really have the money to do a lot of remodelling work to create a brand-new space to work in. Fortunately, there are ways to create a physical office space in your home that will be workable without spending a lot of money.
In an ideal situation, you can turn an underused room in your home into your home office, but for many people that is just not something that they actually have. Therefore, you have to get a little more creative when it comes to finding a suitable space.
There are, of course, certain musts that need to be in place for any room or space in your home to function as an office. These will include:
An adequate number of electrical outlets – Whatever your idea and plan are you will probably need the minimum of a computer, a phone and a printer and all of these things need power so ensure that you choose a space that has enough electrical outlets in a convenient place is a must.
A way to ‘close the door’ – Wherever you choose to locate your home office, you need to have a way to separate your office space from the rest of your ‘home space’. Ideally, that would be a physical door, but if that is not possible, you will at least need a screen of some kind.
Enough Room to Work In – Even if your work will mainly involve being on the computer or on the phone, you will still need enough room to spread out without feeling claustrophobic or cramped.
Plenty of Light – Working from home means that you are dealing with residential lighting schemes instead of the industrial ones you might be used to. Wherever you set up your home office, you need to make sure that there is – or you can add – adequate lighting so that not only will you be able to see to work properly, but also it will not feel like you are working in a dungeon!
Setting Up a Home Office - Spaces You May Have Overlooked
If you do not have a separate room available to turn into your home office, then you are going to have to create the space almost out of nothing. Before you settle for screening off a corner of the kitchen or the living room – which is really not the best solution – see if any of these options are available to you:
Office in the closet – If you have a large closet, or even an old armoire, and your main office supplies are things like your computer, phone and printer then it is perfectly possible to turn it into a self-contained home office.
Space under the stairs – If you have a staircase in your home, there may be room in the space underneath to create a home office.
Repurpose a room – Is there a room in your home, a formal dining room for example, that you really do not use that often that could be given over to your home office?
Setting Up a Home Office - Creating a Floor-plan
Once you have decided on an actual space in your home that can be turned into your home office, make a floor-plan. The plan should detail where everything is going to go before you actually start putting things in place. If you still have things to buy, a desk for example, simply adding the basic shape and measurements will be enough for now.
If you are not so great with a pen and pencil try making your floor plan in an easy-to-use, free program like Google Sketchup. Making a floor-plan this way will allow you to visualise the space more clearly because it is in 3D and will also allow you to print out copies to take shopping with you.
Setting up a Home Office - Gathering Everything You Need
Choosing the Right Office Furniture
You may have a desk and chair that you already use casually on hand at home that you are considering using for your work purposes. As long as it is truly comfortable that is fine, but make sure that is the case. You will probably be spending a lot of time at your desk so that you are not hunched over or too cramped up is very important.
This is especially true of your chair. Investing in a real office-style chair may be a little more expensive than borrowing a chair from the dining table, but the investment is a very good one to make, especially in terms of your health.
Choosing the Right Computer
Even the most practical of businesses need a computer these days, and obviously, for an online business, it’s a must. It may be possible for you to continue to use the one you already own, but as your business will at least partially depend on it functioning correctly – and for many money-making ideas a computer is central – now may be a good time to invest in a dedicated business machine.
Why buy a business-class PC instead of a cheap model at a discount store? Mainly because you need a reliable computer that will last. Most high-end consumer machines are not even designed to last for more than a couple of years, so the extra money should pay off as a long-term investment.
Once you are running your own business, there will be no more calling down to the IT guy for troubleshooting help if you are not much of a computer ‘geek’! With this in mind, look for a computer with a good guarantee (many business models offer three years) and that offers 24/7 technical support free of charge during the warranty period.
This may also be a very good time to start learning some basics about computer maintenance for yourself. This does not have to mean taking a special class that you really do not have the time for, there are plenty of good books out there to help you gain the basic knowledge you might need.
Setting Up Your Home Office - Incidental Extras
There are probably a great many other, smaller things you will need for your business that you should try to gather together before you actually ‘launch’. Basic office supplies and an efficient way to store them, specialist equipment and software you need to run your specific business, and offline promotional items like business cards and brochures. If you can have as much of this in place before you start as possible then you will get off to a far more efficient start in your new life and your new work.
Setting Up Your First Online Business Website
By definition, an online business needs a website to serve as its base, even if you intend to offer services offline as well. This is where some people get scared, and where far too many get ripped off.
While this in itself is a larger subject, here are some basics to help you get that first, all-important flagship website off the ground:
Choosing and Buying Your Domain Name
Every website has to start with a domain name. The domain name should quickly describe what the site is about and be as easy to remember as possible. as you come up with ideas though before you get too carried away you need to make sure that the domain is actually available.
To find out, enter it in a search at a domain registrar site like GoDaddy, you don’t need to buy anything yet, but doing so will let you know if the name you want already belongs to someone else.
Once you have chosen a domain name, it is best to purchase it for at least five years. As you will discover, what search engines “think” about your site is going to be very important, and they give more ‘weight to sites that are registered for a long time rather than just 12 months.
Choosing a Hosting Company
Once you have chosen and registered your new domain name, you have to decide how and where you are going to host the site. There are a number of different large web hosting companies you can choose from as well as some that are smaller but offer slightly more personalised support and customer service, something that a new webmaster will probably find very helpful.
Many web hosts will require that you pay for at least six months of hosting in advance (although there are a few who let you pay month by month) but you should still be able to find a good package for well under $100.
When choosing a web hosting company, look at the different packages carefully before you make a decision. How much space are they offering? Can you host just one domain name on the account or a number of them? What kind of content management systems do they offer for you to actually build your website? All of these things are important considerations.
Building Your Online Business' First Website
Not so long ago, building a website called for a lot of specialist coding knowledge, and it really was rather hard for first-timers. Things have changed now though and content management systems like Joomla, WordPress and for e-commerce Shopify or BigCommerce have made it far easier for people without huge amounts of technical knowledge to create websites by themselves.
For those who do not know a content management system is an interface, you use to add, remove and change content for your website. Years ago websites were often static things that rarely ever changed but these days such sites would not be successful as in order to be found your site has to be indexed by search engines and show up in relevant searches and the best way to “please” these search engine bots is to add new content often for them to come back and crawl.
Many new webmasters these days are turning to the WordPress platform to build their sites. WordPress is a free-to-use open-source platform that really began as a blogging platform, but these days people find that they can build entire high-quality websites using it while still enjoying the advantage that it is fairly easy to learn and use. You can also refer to one of many fintech software companies specializing in web development to have everything tailored to your needs if that’s not your cup of tea.
As you research website building, you will come across a lot of information about search engine optimization. As previously mentioned, pleasing the search bots is important, so a certain amount of SEO will be required.
However, a lot of the information available on the Internet right now is either outdated or just downright wrong. As a new webmaster, your best bet is to make sure that the content you add to your website is uniquely your own and then become familiar with the Google Webmaster Guidelines, which really are the best source of information about currently accepted web practices in regard to things like content, site architecture, linking and other factors.
SEO will be an important consideration though, and getting started the right way is a must, especially if your online business will have a local element. There is a lot of good information here on the Pearl Lemon blog that will prove helpful (and is actually accurate, as SEO is a big part of what we do) and even more on deepakshukla.com.
Marketing Your New Online Business
In order to make a success of your online business, whatever it ends up being, you’ll need to market it. The fact that digital marketing is such a huge part of business marketing, in general, can be a real blessing, and occasionally something of a curse.
If you are going to make a success of your online business at the scale you are hoping for, you will need to market two things: the business and yourself.
Marketing Your Business
Digital marketing, something you will need to get very familiar with as an online business owner, is a huge and ever-growing niche, and an industry in itself of course (otherwise Pearl Lemon might never have existed.)
For someone trying to start, and then run, an online business, it’s something that is often seriously overlooked and even undervalued. Which is a huge mistake that you should not make, even if marketing is something you have never done before or even have any interest in.
Fortunately, there are a lot of great resources out there to help you get started that won’t drain what is almost certainly a limited budget if you are just getting started. Google itself is a big help – if people are going to find your online business, you’ll need Google to place it well in their search results, And blogs like ours offer a lot of good advice too.
As soon as you can, you should also consider outsourcing some of your marketing efforts. It’s a hugely time-consuming effort, and the investment in getting help usually, if you choose the right help, offers terrific ROI.
Think of a big business – Amazon, Facebook, Tesla, Virgin the list goes on and on, and you probably also think about its founder(s) even if they (like Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Microsoft’s Bill Gates) stepped aside from day to day operations a while ago (because the business is running without them).
This is certainly the case for the Pearl Lemon Group. While there are now over a dozen companies, with lots of staff, the ‘face’ of the business remains its founder. So while marketing for Pearl Lemon properties is a big focus, developing his personal brand in line with that is valuable to both Deepak personally and to the online (and now even offline) businesses he’s founded.
For example, if you are the head of an SEO agency, you should be appearing at precious industry events talking about it:
Whatever your business does, you should become its primary spokesperson in the initial stages. A trustworthy, likeable spokesperson.
This can be daunting at first, there’s no doubt about that, but even for those who don’t like public speaking, or being on camera, there are still avenues like blogging from your own website or adding articles to Medium, Quora and similar sites and participating in respected forum discussions on Reddit or industry-specific sites that will help raise your profile, promote you and your business and help establish you as an authority in your field, which is as important to Google as it will be to your future clients or customers.
Preparing Yourself to Run an Online Business
There is no doubt that you are setting off on a very exciting adventure as a new online business owner and so, like an adventurer, you’ll need to prepare yourself. Turning your money-making idea into a real, profitable online business is going to be hard work at first in many ways, so you need to be in the best possible ‘shape’ to meet the challenge.
That does not necessarily mean that you have to embark on Ironman-style training or anything very drastic like that – even though Deepak and other Pearl Lemon staffers did, but that was a personal choice- but you do need to prepare both mind and body for the road ahead.
Learning About Delayed Gratification
You may have heard the term ‘delayed gratification’ but are not quite sure exactly what it means. It is however a very important principle to follow if you want to become an entrepreneur and successfully make money from your passions and hobbies in the form of an online business.
Here’s an interesting question for you; just why do you eat? Your answer is probably because you have to. Or because the food is there and everyone else is eating too. And when do you stop eating? When there is no food left on your plate or when you feel so full that your stomach is telling you that it could not handle even a bite more.
But what if you delay the gratification that a meal offers to you until you can actually enjoy it? Doesn’t that meal taste a lot better if you have twenty minutes to enjoy it at a leisurely pace when you actually have the time to do so, rather than scoffing it down in five minutes because that is when everyone around you is taking a lunch break too? That is a very basic example of delayed gratification.
The Marshmallow Effect
The positive effects of delayed gratification were famously demonstrated in an experiment conducted by researchers at Stanford University in the 1960s. The principle was simple. A group of schoolchildren aged four and five were gathered in a room. They were offered a single marshmallow by the researchers but also given the option of getting two marshmallows if they could wait fifteen minutes to eat the treat they had already been given while the adults ‘went on an errand’, leaving the room.
Obviously, some of the children opted to eat their treat right away, but others were indeed, even at that very young age, able to wait the time that they needed to in order to get the extra snack. The most striking thing about this experiment was years in coming, though.
Revisiting the children as adults years later, researchers were able to note striking differences between the two sets of kids. Namely, the children, now adults, who had waited for their marshmallows were more likely to have graduated from high school and gone on to college, were less likely to be affected by addictions and were generally better off financially.
Entrepreneurs and Delayed Gratification
At this point, you may be wondering what all of this talk of delayed gratification means to you, a person hoping to begin a business venture of some kind that will make the best use of their passions. Well, if you look at your venture in terms of the marshmallow example, building a strong business will take hard work, patience, sacrifice and effort. But the eventual results of those efforts should be well worth waiting for; they’ll be that second marshmallow.
This delayed gratification can manifest itself in a number of ways. Sure, you really want to quit your 9 to 5 right now and maybe, a couple of months into your new business venture you are just making enough money that, technically, if you gave up your job right now you could just scrape by.
But do you want to just scrape by? Of course not. So although it will take longer to build your passion-based business by putting in a few hours a day while holding on to your day job than it might if you had eight to twelve hours a day to devote to it, by adopting the slow, steady approach you will be able to build something profitable before you take on a role as a full-time entrepreneur you will be able to enjoy being a business owner, rather than worry about where the mortgage payment is coming from this month.
Taking Care of Yourself to Take Care of Your Business
Basing a business – or any money-making venture – around your hobbies and passions relies primarily on one very important thing; you. One of the biggest reasons that people do not succeed with their online business is not because they had a bad idea, not because they did not do all the right planning, and not because they did not have the right skills. It is simply because they burn out, and returning to the 9 to 5 work routine actually seems like it would offer some relief!
So, whatever you need to do to take care of yourself that works for you, do it!
We have one more piece of guidance for someone starting out in entrepreneurship. To achieve their objectives, we would advise them to be consistent. Consistency outperforms talent because the former is unreliable and does not ensure advancement.
Only persistent hard work and effort can yield the desired outcomes. There will be many days when you want to miss a day or be lazy, but it’s crucial to keep in mind why you started your business in the first place.
And with this, we wish you luck as you start your online business. And invite you back to this blog anytime to find more help.