Marketing Bootcamp

The 5 Basics for Building an Online Business That Actually Makes Money

The 5 Basics for Building an Online Business That Actually Makes Money
Image credit: Chris Potter | Flickr

With the boom of the Internet and social media has arisen a new category of entrepreneurship. Successful entrepreneurs such as Mark Cuban, Elon Musk, and Peter Thiel got their start with online businesses. An online business offers an unparalleled opportunity to run a business worldwide with only a laptop and Internet connection.

Starting and growing an online business, however, is easier said than done. Today, 2.5 billion people log onto the Internet. This is good in the sense of the opportunity for income, but negative in the sense that an online business has become a modern day gold rush.

Everywhere you look a new “guru” or “expert” who offers their cheat sheet or course on how they made “seven-figures” in one year. Logging into your Facebook account can be downright depressing with all the over-hyped ads. Choosing whom to learn from can be just as hard as starting an online business.

Here are five simple steps to making money from a dream or an idea you have and enjoy. You don’t need the gurus to start or grow a business that will free you to make money on your terms.

1. Focus.

When I say focus, the first thought that comes to your mind is probably “niche.” While figuring out a profitable niche is important, it’s not the end all be all. Focus means figuring out who you want to serve and how you will deliver value to that group.

It means you stop following the gurus and focus on what will help you where you are. There is an abundance of free information online, almost too much. Many entrepreneurs fall victim to information overload. I’m guessing that if you applied 10 percent of the knowledge you currently have, you would make progress building your business. Turn off the constant learning and focus on 20 percent strategies. Use a service like Unroll.me to unsubscribe from unnecessary emails lists that take all your time.

Related: The 80/20 Rule of Sales: How to Find Your Best Customers

2. Build an audience.

This is where many businesses miss the mark. You put together a beautiful website with all the right plugins, widgets and opt-in boxes. You follow all the steps, but the money doesn’t come because you have no audience.

There are many ways to build an audience and quickly:

  • Be a guest on a podcast. Every morning, Radio Guest List will deliver to your inbox a list of shows looking for your expertise.
  • Guest post on blogs. There are blogs that get millions of visitors each month. In 2012, I guest posted on 50 blogs that brought half a million visitors to my website.
  • Get exposure from large author sites. If you can be interviewed or write for sites like Entrepreneur or the Huffington Post, you get exposure to millions of potential leads and customers. Writing for these websites builds authority, grows your social media presence and leads to sales. Here is a podcast episode that walks you through how to do this.

3. Develop a monetization plan.

After you’ve started to get exposure, it’s time to implement your plan to generate income.  Your website/blog needs a content strategy that aligns with a promotion schedule. It shocks me how many coaching clients come to me without an organized plan to generate revenue. Plan what products and services you will be offering your customers. Use your exposure and content plan to sell premium offerings and build your business.

Related: Content Strategy: 4 Questions You Need to Ask

4. Test and refine.

Once you have a plan and have implemented it, study what works and what doesn’t. There is a lot of advice online, but nothing beats good old fashion testing. Try different offers, bundle various products and services, run sales from time-to-time. Once you have an offering that takes off, run it every 30 days. Refine your process and improve the parts of your plan that aren’t working.

5. Launch and scale.

By this point, you will have built “1,000 true fans” and a business that’s ripe for growth. Always launch with a bang when your promotions hit at the end of each month or quarter. This means you have affiliate partners, joint partnerships through webinars and launch bonuses. Each launch should produce serious revenue and momentum for your business. From that point, it’s a matter of reinvesting and scaling.

Starting and growing an online business is not easy. There is a lot of competition talking about the same topics as you. It takes time and tremendous focus. It takes beating self-limiting beliefs and the haters. It’s hard, but the lifestyle of true freedom it creates is priceless.

Related: 10 Things You Must Do to Grow Your Online Business in the First Year