Lots of wanna-be entrepreneurs are wondering right now how to start an online business.
With good reason – when compared to starting an on-ground business, many online businesses are:
- Easier – to start and run
- Cheaper – not requiring huge investments in leases, employees and inventory
- Low risk – you don’t have to bet everything on your success
- Side giggable – not requiring a full-time investment of time to get started
So, how do you start an online business? What should you do first?
What I’m going to tell you here in this article is different than the advice you receive from many others, for good reason.
Most of those people either make the assumption that you’re getting money from investors to help you get started, or they’re trying to sell you something.
But what if you’re a normal person, without sugar-daddy, trust fund, or investor in the wings, who has a dream and wants to start their own online business without forking out a bunch of cash?
In other words, most everyone. Probably including you.
This advice comes from experience: experience coaching thousands of people to online business success, and pulling tens of thousands of more back from the brink of failure caused by the bad advice they’ve received from others.
So, here’s what I advise you to focus on first as you try to start your own online business:
Focus On Bringing In Income
The most important thing, that should consume almost 100% of your efforts when you’re first getting started, is to focus on bringing in income as soon as possible.
Why? Because the minute you decide you’re all-in on creating an online business, the clock starts running.
The money clock.
The one where every dollar, euro, rupiah or peso you spend puts you one step closer to running out of cash and having to go back and get a dreaded job.
At this point in your business (and life) nothing is more important than making every cent you spend work as hard as possible towards getting your business up and profitable.
As a result, many of the tactics you hear others teach simply aren’t good ideas, because they spend your precious cash stockpile without pulling their weight by bringing in income.
This is not to say you should never do those things – just not right out of the gate.
Things You Shouldn’t Focus On Right Out Of The Gate
Remember, most of these are good, but take large investments of cash and time before they start bringing in income. Thus they should be minimized when you’re just getting started.
1. Building your brand.
As much as the people who are into branding say that’s the first and most important thing you can do, brand building rarely brings in quick cash.
Of course, you will need to do the very basics of branding: deciding who you want to serve and how to help them (but don’t spend more than a day working on that, it will shift as your business grows,) coming up with a name for your product, designing a homemade logo, and deciding on a color scheme. But all of that can literally be done for free, and shouldn’t take more than a couple of days.
Leave the expensive branding agencies, trainings and consultants for later.
Remember, Amazon started with Bezos working beside a hand spray-painted sign…
2. Creating an amazing website.
You don’t need to pay someone $20,000+ to create a worthless, expensive website for you. All you need is a landing page, a thank you page, a sales page, some legal language, and a blog where you can publish articles.
You can literally create those yourself, adding your words and pictures to gorgeous pre-built templates using simple, inexpensive tools like ThriveThemes or LeadPages.
3. Spending months creating a bunch of amazing content.
Yes, content definitely helps, and you should be steadily creating some of it each week, but dropping everything and spending months creating multiple pages, videos, and Instagram posts should not be your main focus.
4. Buying a bunch of expensive technology.
Most people fall into the trap of believing that the first step in starting an online business is to commit themselves to spend hundreds, even thousands of dollars every month for all the latest greatest tools, the vast majority of which you won’t use for months. Start making money using free and inexpensive technology tools, then buy the expensive software, course portals, nice cameras and fancy computers later.
Most people who are just getting started in online business invest way too much on technology that’s way too powerful way too early in their business.
Don’t confuse the dopamine rush of buying the latest toy with business success.
5. Setting up a fancy video studio.
So many people want to go and get the fancy cameras, the editing tools, and create a spot with the perfect fireplace and orchids for their set. They spend days redesigning their entire home and make whole rooms off-limits to their kids so they can always have a perfect place to do video. Then they don’t actually shoot those videos.
That’s not your priority. People care more about what you say in your videos than what the background looks like. And they’ll never know you shot it on your phone instead of a high-end video setup.
6. Buying multiple expensive courses or high-end masterminds.
I constantly meet people who have spent $30,000-$100,000 on training from gurus yet still have nothing to sell and no way to sell it. That’s not where you should be spending your time and resources when you’re just getting going started on an online business.
7. Buying or leasing fancy offices.
No. Just don’t go there. Work from home, it works.
8. Creating your legal structure.
You don’t have to have an LLC or a Corporation right out of the gate. You can start your business the old fashioned way, then spend the money on your legal entity later on. Yes, there are advantages of having them, but those advantages really don’t start kicking in until you actually start selling stuff. Start selling stuff, then pay the lawyers.
Social media can eventually be great for you, and you should be doing things to build a highly-targeted group of potential buyers on social media. But most commonly-taught tactics build untargeted groups of people who aren’t the least bit interested in buying what you’ll want to sell. Spend your time and money on what works.
Now. Yes. You need to do some of many of those things. Yes. You need some technology. Yes. You need a little bit of a branding work. Yes. You need some content. Yes. You need some videos. Yes, you need…
But none of those are your major priority when you’re just getting started building an online business.
Don’t Fall Into This Mental Trap
I can’t finish this section without talking about the issue of mindset. I’ve seen this fact of life play out thousands of times.
Starting a business is scary. You’re putting your self-esteem on the line.
Whether you realize it consciously or not, the minute you offer something to someone, whether it’s a free report in exchange for their email address, or something you’re selling them, you risk exposing yourself to failure.
Up until that point, your online business is scary, but making an offer is like asking someone out on a date – whether they say yes or no can affect whether you feel like a failure or a success.
What most people do is to avoid making that offer as long as they can. But they need to feel like they’re making progress towards starting their online business, so they spend time and money working on all the things I mentioned above, burning through time and cash, instead of just doing the two things that are really necessary to build a business.
Two Major Priorities When Starting An Online Business
There are two things and only two things that are necessary to build an online business: work together to quickly build income.
1. Building an email list
You need a list of people who have opted-in, giving you permission to send them emails about the subject matter that you’re going to sell them products on.
2. Make offers to that list
You need to sell them something.
Some of those offers are going to be for your own products. Some of them may be affiliate products or products of other people that will pay you a commission.
But until you actually start selling something, you’ll never make real money from an online business.
Here’s the thing that almost always happens when people try to start an online business.
They get so busy building their brand, creating their fancy website, buying the technology, setting up their business entity, posting selfies of them wearing nice clothes in front of cool backgrounds so they can get likes and follows, while spending tens of thousands buying the latest butterfly offer that hits their email.
They’re spending all their time and money doing those things that don’t build a business.
Running up a huge credit card bill while they’re at it…
As a result, they don’t have the money left to be able to do things like building a list and building something that they can sell to that list.
But those are the two and the only two key priorities that you ought to be doing.
Abandon all other ships. And just work on that.
Your only job at this stage is to bring in income as quickly as possible so that you don’t have to go get a job. Everything else can wait.
What Happens When You Become 100% Focused On Building Income
If you become 100% purpose-focused on building income, all kinds of cool things start to happen.
You stop doing busywork that brings in dopamine hits from doing things that don’t really build your business.
And you start doing the things that actually bring in income.
Instead of spending 2 weeks carefully researching all the ins and outs of a technology suite that will cost you $397/month giving you capabilities you won’t use for the next 3 years…
Or posting your 18th picture of you living the lifestyle of your dreams so others who aren’t the slightest bit interested in buying from you will envy you enough to like and follow you…
You pick up the phone and call five people who really need help from you and sell them on doing some consulting or coaching with you.
I know, you don’t want to be in the business of selling time for money.
But what if you could get five people to pay you enough for consulting and coaching to pay your monthly bills.
And what if all that consulting and coaching was only costing you 10 to 20 hours a month, leaving you 140-150 hours per month to build your list and create products to sell them.
And all of a sudden, everything in your entrepreneurial journey changes.
And all of a sudden you become successful in ways you couldn’t have done so otherwise.
And then, you can afford the time and money to build out your brand, set up your LLC, create a fancy website, acquire some overpriced technology, build your social media presence, etc.
Prioritize. Bringing. In. Income.
Everything else can follow.
Have you ever made these mistakes? Let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear where you are with your experience with this. And I’d love to hear what you are focusing on right now.
This is Don Crowther saying, just go do this stuff.