My Success Story:
In 2014, I started an online business selling eBooks on Amazon that evolved into starting my own website to sell them and retain more of the profit. I created additional products and built a social media following that I promoted my products to while my site and content aged. Eventually my articles started ranking in Google and Google started sending me website traffic as my articles would show up near the top of the first page for different things people were searching related to my articles.
Fast forward to July 2016 and my first online business is producing $2,000 per month in net income. This is a combination of website sales and a little bit of revenue from eBook sales on Amazon. I’ve since started multiple other websites and am currently working to monetize them to add to my overall income. My goal is to have multiple streams of income that combine to total over $10,000/month in side income from online business.
Below, I will walk you step by step how to set up your online business and replicate my success. Online business is nothing new. It’s possible to make good side income and possibly full-time income if you stick with it. If you start today and work hard you can achieve success online. Step 1 is believing it’s possible and step 2 is sticking with it long enough to see results. It took 18 months before I started making over $1,000/month from my first online business.
Now that I know what works and what doesn’t I can speed up my success with my other websites and online business ventures. I can also speed up your progress helping save you headaches of trial and error. Check back this fall for a membership to my online academy where I’ll be taking in a limited number of students to mentor and help them grow their online business.
Let’s get into the 20 Step Guide now on how to start your first online business! I’m excited. Let’s go!
The Realities of Starting an Online Business
If you are like me you probably have lots of ideas come through your head that you think would be good business ideas to start a business around. I’m going to be honest and real with you though. Most of these ideas suck and would fail. While it’s tempting to want to pack up your stuff and quit your job to go pursue a business idea you have, you have to realize that it’s not realistic to achieve over night success on any idea you come up with.
Those who are successful in creating businesses have already thoroughly learned everything about their industry, niche, customers, competitors, etc. Oftentimes it’s someone who started with working for a company, learned the ins and outs, and saw how to make the business idea better so they quit and pursued their own variation while relying on their knowledge and experience.
I don’t say this to scare you away, but to keep it real. I hate seeing all the scammy gurus out there who claim you can create a website or write a short eBook, slap it online, and start pulling in 6 figures per year.
An online business is like any other business. It takes lots of time, effort, passion, consistency, reflection, improvement, and many other characteristics. Therefore, I stress how important it is to pick something you love. This is step #1 below as you’ll see in our 20 step guide shortly.
Start off asking yourself these questions.
What skills do you already have? What would your friends say you are good at? What would your friends call you about for advice on? What websites do you frequently visit and read from? What topic are these websites?
This will give you an idea of where you should focus your energy and the types of ideas you should keep and eliminate from your list. The idea you narrow down to should be something you’re passionate about, understand really well, and is already an idea that has a market of paying customers. I’d hate to see you choose an idea that ends up having 0 customers interested in paying money. It’s best to stick with industries that are already thriving and find your own variation or angle of differentiation.
Why You Should Start an Online Business
Now that we’ve shown you what to watch out for and kept it real, let’s talk about why online business is an awesome path to pursue to earn side income.
For starters, it’s a low cost business model. Wi-fi is free in today’s world. You can stop by any local Starbucks or McDonalds and bam you are connected to internet. An online business is easy to run from your phone or laptop. These are the only two pieces of technology equipment you need starting out and you likely already have one of the two if not both.
You don’t need to worry about hiring staff, paying for office rent, copier machines, and all the other overhead that comes with running a normal business. You just need your phone or laptop and connection to internet and from here your options are limitless.
You can sell your own products using a self hosted website or pay a monthly fee to a company like Shopify. It will be more expensive to use Shopify compared to running your own personal website but it may be the easier option if you don’t want to deal with any of the steps below in this guide related to creating a website.
You can write an eBook on a word document, save it as a PDF file, and upload it to Amazon’s Kindle Publishing platform to self-publish your eBook to Amazon’s store.
You can sell other people’s products as an affiliate by getting a custom link from them and agreeing on a commission for every sale you bring them.
You can sell services such as web design, graphic design, video production, SEO, Facebook ads, consulting, and many others.
The model I like best and recommend is selling information courses. People love to learn and are often using the internet for the purpose of looking up information to read. If you are knowledgeable of a specific industry, you can write several PDF documents and tutorials and publish them as a course on your personal website. People will come to your website, be persuaded to check out your course on _____ topic and purchase it.
You can use a 3rd party service like Sellfy or Paypal to handle hosting your product and handling payment exchange. It can be automated so that as soon as they click purchase, they are redirected to the download page where they can access the files you’ve uploaded. This saves you from manually having to send them to every customer.
Since you are running a business, you will likely need a website to send clients or customers to to learn more about your business and hopefully purchase whatever it is you are selling. Therefore, this 20 step guide will focus on helping you set up a website for as little as $60-$100 per year.
It blows my mind how inexpensive it is in today’s world to start your own business thanks to technology and the internet. The internet gives you more reach to potential clients and customers than ever before saving you lots of money in marketing and advertising. Thank you social media!
Alright, with all that’s been said so far in the above 2 sections, let’s finally get into the 20 step guide you’ve been waiting for. If you’d like further help with getting started online, check out my website AskNickFoy.com as I’m a consultant for online business owners and will help you get earning revenue with your business to the best of my ability.
20 Step Blueprint to Starting an Online Business
Step 1: Determine Your Passion
Write down things that interest you the most that you could build an online business around. You want your business to be fun and enjoy building it so pick something you love to talk about with other people.
You don’t have to be an expert on the subject right now, you just have to know more than someone else so that you can share your expertise with these people. List out 10 different ideas and then narrow it down until you have one or two major ideas and several fall back ideas.
Step 2: Determine How You’ll Make Money
After you’ve brainstormed several ideas that interest you in starting a business, you’ll want to determine how you’ll be able to monetize each of your business ideas. This can differentiate the ideas and give you a clearer picture as to which idea is the best to pursue based on a combination of income potential and your level of passion for it. It’s recommended you select a niche that has a big market.
For example, the fitness industry is a great market to be in if you have a passion for fitness. You can create workout videos, training guides, yoga programs, etc. as there are many angles you can approach this industry and make your own unique spin-off that gains attention.
Step 3: Research Possible Website Domain Names
Come up with different URL ideas for your website. For example, if you were writing about fitness you could search domains such as FitnessForWomen.com, FitnessForEntrepreneurs.com, and others to see if these domains are available or already taken. The first few ideas for a domain URL that you have will likely already be taken.
You can check availability by going here to Namecheap.com and entering the domain ideas in the search bar. It’s preferred that you select a domain name with a .com extension to it rather than .biz, .net, .edu, .gov, etc.
Step 4: Purchase Hosting & Your Domain Name URL
Once you’ve found a domain name URL that is available, you need to purchase it so that it’s now officially yours and no one else can purchase it. Every day thousands of domains are being purchased so be sure to secure it as soon as your confident that this is the domain name URL you want to go with for your online business. You can either purchase it on Namecheap.com or when you buy hosting you can select a domain to come with your hosting plan.
For hosting, I recommend using BlueHost as that’s who I use and so do many other online professionals for running their websites. I’ve created a video tutorial showing you step by step how to purchase hosting and download WordPress if you want to watch it here. Hosting in simple terms is renting web space on the internet for your website and is a must have if you want to have a website. Your hosting company will store all your websites databases and files for you. You can read this article to learn more about website hosting and how it works.
Step 5: Download WordPress and Log In
After purchasing hosting, you’ll log in to your BlueHost account dashboard and download WordPress to use as the platform your site runs on. It’s a super simple software for building a website and highly customizable. WordPress makes life easy as you don’t have to have any experience with websites and you don’t have to know how to code HTML.
Step 6: Configure WordPress General Settings
You also want to configure the general settings in WordPress which only takes a few minutes. For starters, you’ll give your website a name and tagline. Set your time zone, date format, and time format.
Under “Reading” you will choose if you want your blog posts to be shown on the front page or it’s own separate page. If you elect to have a custom home page and want blog articles published to a different page on your website, choose the “static page” option and then select the pages you want for your home page and your blog page.
Next, you’ll want to go to Permalinks under Settings and change the format to post name.
Step 7: Download WordPress Plugins
Plugins are like apps on a phone. They allow your website to have and do different things. Each plugin you download gives you a different feature to your website.
One plugin for example is a Yoast SEO which is a tool that checks your blog articles for search engine optimization and gives you feedback so that you can make changes to optimize your post to show up high in the Google search results. This will help you get more traffic to your website and thus more customers. See my recommended list of plugins to download.
Step 8: Select a Theme
Once you are logged in, head to the “Appearance” tab and find a free theme for your website. The theme is like the paint job or design to your car. Every website you visit will have a different theme (color scheme, layout, design, etc).
If you want your website to look professional and have lots of customization options then I recommend purchasing a professional WordPress theme from Themeforest.com or purchasing the Genesis Theme Framework. Visit the links to those websites to select a paid theme.
Step 9: Create Pages & Menu
Start designing your website by building webpages and setting up a menu that goes at the top of a website so people can navigate to different pages of your website easily. See how in this tutorial series. Your menu should typically include your Home page, About page, and a Contact page as well as whatever other pages you decide to include.
Step 10: Research Topics and Keywords to Write About
Every website needs a blog. Your blog is where you’ll post informative articles such as How To articles that show your expertise on a subject. Your blog can also share articles related to your product or service to help increase the number of customers you attract through your website.
Use a keyword research tool like Market Samurai to discover keywords that people are searching each month and the search volume. You’ll want to include these keywords in your page or article so that Google ranks your website for these keywords.
When people search a phrase in Google with these keywords, your website hopefully comes up as one of the first page search results, generating you traffic and viewers. The higher you rank for keywords in Google, the more traffic your website will get.
Step 11: Select an Email Service Provider
Now that you have a website and webpages, you’ll want to create an email list and newsletter series that people receive upon joining your email list. Email lists are very important to your online business as you need to capture the traffic coming to your website so that you can stay in touch with them and build customer loyalty for future products you launch to sell.
I recommend using ConvertKit as your email list service as they have a lot of awesome features making it easy for you to build your list and market to your list. An email list is the most important part of your online business so don’t skip this step. Check out ConvertKit today and begin optimizing your website with opt-in forms to capture peoples emails and grow your list.
Step 12: Create an Email Newsletter Series
Next you’ll want to build an email series that your email subscribers receive after joining your list. You can set your series up on automation so it sends out your emails at set intervals and is hands off for you. For example, email #1 in the series can come Day 1 that they join, and then email #2 can come 2 days later and email #3 can come 5 days after email #2 was sent, and so on.
This allows you to write the emails once, set up the sequence you want them to be sent, and then let ConvertKit do the automated work for you sending out these emails as people join your list.
Step 13: Create a Free Giveaway to Attract Email Subscribers
Once you signed up with an email provider company such as ConvertKit and created your list and newsletter series, next you need to create a free giveaway to attract people into joining your list. You offer something of value for free such as an eBook, video series, or printable and then your audience gives you their email in exchange for being able to access or download their free gift.
Overtime you’ll build up an email list to hundreds or thousands of people as more and more people subscribe to your list for the free value you are giving away in exchange for them opting in. You can create multiple email incentives that you offer on different webpages to test which one has the best results and gets the highest opt-in rate.
Step 14: Build an Opt-in Form
Now that you have a list set up within ConvertKit for new subscribers to be added to and you have a free giveaway created, next you need to create opt-in forms that appear in different places on your website.
You also want an opt-in form that pops up when someone first enters your website as well as one that pops up when someone goes to exit your website. These opt-in forms will be the forms that convey your free gift and have a form for the person to input their email and possibly name before hitting the call to action button, which can say “Get my Free Book Now,” for example. To build opt-in forms, I recommend using OptinMonster.
I recently saw an article with 60 online professionals listing their top 3 resources to building an email list and OptinMonster ranked #2 out of 20 different resources and tools. It allows you to easily customize forms and has pre-built templates that look attractive and engaging to draw in your subscribers.
Step 15: Create a Landing Page for Your Free Giveaway & Optin Form
You also want a webpage dedicated solely to your free giveaway, which is also known as a landing page. You can link to this page from various other pages on your website, social media, and YouTube video descriptions so that it funnels people to this landing page. Your landing page will be a brief about page that demonstrates what you are giving away in exchange for an opt-in and why it benefits your viewer.
Make sure to answer the question your viewer is likely asking internally: “What is in this for me?” Then place an opt-in form on this page to capture traffic. You’ll want to highlight the reasons or value being received in bullet point format. Also be sure to include a catchy headline and an image if possible.
Step 16: Write Blog Posts and Link to Your Landing Page to Drive Traffic To It
After setting up your email list, drafting your newsletter series of emails, and creating opt-in forms and pages, next you need to drive traffic to these opt-in opportunities. You can do so by creating a blog page on your website and posting blog articles each week or month on different topics related to your passion/niche.
Insert links to your landing page or embed the opt-in form into the blog posts and give a call to action so that people check out your free giveaway and potentially opt-in.
Step 17: Create a Product Launch Promotion
As you are building your email list over time, also be thinking of products or services you are going to eventually sell to your list. Create a product launch promotion, stating that you’ll be launching your product at such and such date. This will get your audience excited for the product to launch if you do a good job promoting it and why it will benefit your audience.
By stating a date for the launch, it also gives you a deadline so that you are motivated and pushed forward to completing the product before then. Without a deadline, you might never finish or procrastinate.
Be sure to plan out an effective marketing plan to build up the hype for your product launch. You can visit my blog on AskNickFoy.com and see examples of case studies where I talk about building my product launches to sell new eBooks and online courses.
Step 18: Create Your Product and Begin Selling It
Finally, create your product(s) and begin selling them on your website. Create landing pages a.k.a. sales pages for each product as well so you can clearly explain what the product is and why it is beneficial.
Don’t worry about creating a perfect product. Make a good product, launch it, and improve it later once you get feedback or discover ways to make it better. If you worry about making the perfect product, you’ll never launch and you’ll waste too much time.
If you’re struggling to determine a price to charge for your product, consider how much value you are giving away, set a fair price for the value you are giving, and do a hell of a job marketing this value to the customer so they feel the price is worthy for the value being received.
Another trick is to simply ask your customer base ahead of time by sending out an email with a survey asking for feedback as to what price range people would feel is fair to spend on an eBook, online course, or whatever type of product you are creating.
Step 19: Get Testimonials & Reviews
Once you’ve launched your product it’s important to get feed back. You want feedback in order to go back to your product and know how to fix it up so that it’s even better. You’ll also want to ask for reviews and testimonials that you can use on your sales page to give the product social proof and credibility.
People love to hear other people’s opinions when trying to decide on a purchase. I’m sure you recall a friend recommending a good restaurant they recently ate at to you and it’s caused you to go check it out and eat there yourself. Same goes with a product if people see that other people have bought the product and enjoyed it.
Step 20: Re-Invest in Your Online Business
Once you see money start coming into your business, make sure to re-invest in your business and continue growing it. You can re-invest by upgrading to better software, spending more on paid advertising, spending more on design and marketing, or even hiring a consultant to help take your business to the next level.
The best investment you can make is in yourself to further grow your knowledge, your skill set, and to increase your potential.
That concludes your 20 Step Blueprint to Starting an Online Business.
Your next move is to begin taking action. Start clicking the links above to the different resources I use and recommend and begin building your online business with them. You can also visit my resource page to see the ultimate list of all the resources I use in my online businesses and recommend you use as well.