Are you thinking about starting an online business?
I bet you are. After all, you read blogs and when the small matter of making a large income comes on the agenda what do you hear?
You hear that to make more money you should start a blog.
Even I told you to start a blog as one way to make £1,000 per month. It was fifth on the list, true but it was still there. Usually, we bloggers sell the idea of starting an online business by emphasising the (relatively) easy entry. For instance, we tell you that to start an online business will cost you very little (low level of investment) and it is so simple that anyone can do it.
While all this is true it is by far not the whole truth. Starting an online business is not all flowers and glitz. Anyone who tells you different is hiding from you the hard work, continuous learning, varied competencies, technical expertise, long hours, dedication and emotional upheaval that success on the internet requires.
If starting an online business is so easy why is the average lifespan of a website approximately 100 days? This is slightly longer than 3 months which doesn’t seem long at all.
Even assuming that you have grit and can keep a website going, what makes you think that you’ll get any traction? Do you know what the competition looks like?
I’ll tell you exactly what the competition looks like. According to some statistics I was looking at there are approximately 1 billion websites on the internet at this very moment. Okay, may be you can add or deduct several million but you get the picture.
Starting an online business demands not only persistence, ingenuity and talent but it is made harder by the fact that the internet is an extremely noisy space. It is hard to make yourself heard even if you have a rather nice voice.
Do I have your attention now? Because while starting an online business is not all flowers and glitz, you can still become an awesome blogger if you follow a number of rules; and practice, of course.
Starting an internet business is not an easy way to make money because:
- You need to become a writer who can stand her/his ground against any bestselling author.
- You need to master the craft of journalism so that your posts can, with some more work, get into the most reputable newspapers. Or large online publications.
- You need to perfect the technical aspects of running a website; e.g. you need to learn about website structure and SEO and about how networks, more specifically the World Wide Web, work. And you need to keep learning.
- You need to learn about the psychology of marketing.
Most of all, you need to bring all these strands of mastery together to create an online business powerhouse.
This can all be learned but you’ll need time and dedication.
Now, let me tell you something. I don’t want to brag but being a professor and having done two PhDs helps me little where The Money Principle is concerned. It is by far not what it could be and my failing as a blogger and internet entrepreneur is that I approach it mainly as a writer. May be the time has come for me to learn and apply the rest of it.
But I’m digressing a bit. What I want to offer you tonight is a checklist of the competencies I believe you need and some helpful resources to help you succeed.
#1. Starting an online business: becoming a writer
The other day I was telling my middle son that this is the time to be a writer. You see, when I was young it was next to impossible to make money writing if you are not a bestselling author. Even then, we joked that if you write a bestseller in the US you get a new lifestyle, if you write a bestseller in Europe you may get a new typewriter (some of you, friends, may not remember typewriters but this is what I used when I started writing).
Today business is moving on the internet and every website needs ‘content’; which is writing. Learning how to write for websites – yours or other people – is probably the most useful skill you can master at the moment; apart from coding.
Every aspect of writing is important.
Did you know that writing the title of your blog post is an art form spelling incredible success or condemning your post to an un-remarkable failure?
(You can learn how to write catchy headlines and blog titles.)
Next, you’ll have to figure out what kind of internet writer you are. There are, I reckon, three main kinds of internet writers:
The story teller. You can spot the story tellers easily on the internet. They are the ones who educate and entertain by lulling you into their stories. My favourite story teller is probably Jon Morrow. Read his post ‘On Dying, Mothers and Fighting for Your Ideas’ if you want to know about story tellers at their best.
The diarist. These are the writers who transmit ideas through their experience. There are some great examples of diarists on the internet. Probably my favourite diarist is J. Money: reading BudgetsAreSexy is like sitting down to have coffee with a treasured friend.
The analyst. These guys are the hard, cold facts writers who research, analyse and tell us what they found. An example here would be Sam from the FinancialSamurai.com; you can check out his analysis of mortgage interest rates by race in the US to know what I’m talking about.
Each of these has different writing proclivities and develops a very different style. You can settle on the one that suits you.
#2. Starting an online business: journalism and research
This is mainly about perfecting the skill of research and investigation, and developing a ‘nose’ for a story. You see, you may be a great story teller but people won’t read you if you are telling the wrong story. Or if your story has unforgivable gaps because of sloppy research and deficient information.
People will read your site and buy your products if they trust in your integrity; don’t compromise their trust by not doing your research properly.
#3. Starting an online business: technical stuff
Now I’ve reached my blogging nemesis: all this techie stuff, as a sometimes flippantly refer to it.
You see, for building and maintaining successful websites hot writing is a necessary but not sufficient condition. You need great content; you need writing that is helpful, educational and fun. You also need to understand search engines, SEO optimisation, how to analyse the data from Google Analytics and use this knowledge to make you site better etc.
Do you know what my problem is? I am perfectly able to understand the technicalities involved in optimising a website; I just find it so lacking in excitement that these tasks somehow get to the end of my ‘to-do’ list.
Do you know what I was doing before I started writing this for you? I was reading a detailed and helpful guide to internal linking. I’ve read about ‘cornerstone content before’; I know a lot about networks and their power. Still, I’ve done little to link the articles on The Money Principle in related clusters which will make it much easier for readers to understand the deeper notions behind blogs.
I’m writing this article, instead of finishing and implementing the guide to linking. May be I should start now; or get back to it when I’m finished.
Don’t be like me. Learn about the technical stuff you need to do to build and maintain a successful online business and do it; do it regularly and with care. It is boring but it pays off big time.
#4. Starting an online business: psychology and marketing
There are many great marketers out there. If you ask me where to start unravelling the psychology of marketing I’d say read Robert Cialdini’s ‘Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion’.
It is very good and very readable.
Lately starting an online business has come to be considered as speedy highway to fame and fortune. In fact, success in the network economy (on the internet) requires a unique combination of competencies, knowledge and the persistence of very determined mule. You’ll need to determine whether you are a Story Teller, a Diarist or an Analyst and hone your craft. You’ll have to learn how to do research and investigate a story; how to keep your site up-to-scratch technically; and as if this is not enough, you’d learn to comprehend people.
Are you sure you wouldn’t rather tend to people’s gardens or do their shopping?