Do you dream of being an entrepreneur and making a living from doing something you love? You’re not alone, the US, Canada, Australia and United Kingdom have the highest startup rates per 1,000 population.
As an entrepreneur, your goal is to grow a successful business, but only 1 in 12 succeeds. Growing a successful business requires an entrepreneur to balance the multiple dimensions of customers, products, team, business model, and funding.
Read our 5 secrets for starting out as an entrepreneur and making money online, they will help you follow your passion and to become a successful web entrepreneur.
Secret 1 – Do something you’re passionate about
Gary Vaynerchuk, is a best seller author and social media expert. He believes that every entrepreneur needs the passion to give them the drive to work hard and succeed. The passion means the work is something they love doing, and that passion is “contagious”. Doing something your passionate about is also the secret behind being happy.
His book Crush It is about cashing in on your passion. It is a must read for any budding entrepreneur.
Read our recent review of Crush It.
Secret 2 – Plan for success
Don’t start without a plan. Successful entrepreneurs plan for future success.
A realistic plan will greatly increase your chances of success.
Most entrepreneurs and startups fail because they waste time, effort and money building a product that not enough people want to buy. The biggest issue is a lack of proper understanding of the problem they are solving.
“A problem well stated is a problem half solved” – Charles Kettering
A plan doesn’t have to be a big complicated document; it can be on one sheet of paper as with Lean Canvas. Ash Maurya, author of Running Lean, is worth a read if you’re interested in knowing more about the actionable, entrepreneur focused Lean Canvas approach to planning.
But a plan is vital for success as it makes you consider the variables like:
- Value proposition – what is the real need you serve, who will use it (the target market niche), will they pay for it, etc
- Financial analysis – what costs are involved, how will you make money, how long before you make money
- Competitor analysis – every niche has competition. Understand the competition, and how you’re going to differentiate yourself
- Marketing analysis – how are you going to promote yourself to your target market? By understanding your target market, you can identify the most effective way to grow awareness.
Your plan can be quick to write, it should be something you use regularly, organic and frequently updated.
Secret 3 – Getting the money right
One of the most important questions is how much money do I need to get started.
The amount of cash needed (known as cash flow) depends on your initial setup costs, your weekly costs, and how long you think it will take before you’re revenue is sufficient to cover your costs.
Being an online entrepreneur has the benefit that you can keep your costs to a minimum. For example it is possible for someone to write and produce an ebook and start to sell it online for less than a few hundred dollars.
The important tips are:
- Don’t borrow too much – Ideally you’ll have enough money to get started without borrowing money that you’ll have to repay back. Consider finding way of minimising your spend.
- Don’t borrow too little – You will need enough money to market and grow your business and this generally takes more work and longer than you expect.
Once you know your cash flow, there are a few different options for raising the initial finance needed to get you started.
- Bootstrapping – dig deep into your own pockets for any cash + “sweat equity” how much unpaid work you will need to do. For example Facebook launched from a Harvard Dorm room by Zuckerberg, Dustin Moskovitz, Chris Hughes and Eduardo Saverin
- Friends and family – this is the traditional common source of financing for many startups. The advantage is that this can be quicker and easier to obtain, and you don’t necessarily have to give away a share of your business to get it. The disadvantage is that although your friends and family might be willing, they might not be able to give you the money you need
- Loans – it is hard to secure business loans from a bank without a solid business plan, a lot of documentation, and you might have to secure it with some collateral
- Crowdfunding – is becoming increasingly popular way to raise money for startups. You receive multiple small donations from many people. Two of the biggest are Kickstarter and Indiegogo
- Angel Investors – wealthy individuals who make financial investments in return for a share of the business in early stage startups that have potential for rapid growth. For example 1998, Sun Microsystems co-founder Andy Bechtolsheim gave Larry Page and Sergey Brin a check for $100,000 to support their work to found Google Inc. One of the advantages is that angel investors are often experienced entrepreneurs who can become valuable mentors. The disadvantage is that you give up shares in your business, which reduces your control and ability to make solely all the decisions.
- Venture Capital – Venture Capital firms can invest several million dollars to the growth of a young business that has established that it has proved it has potential. The advantage is that Venture firms bring management expertise and guidance with them. The disadvantage is that in return for risking their money they will want a substantial share of your business.
Secret 4 – Marketing
The goal is to first build a large engaged audience and then to monetize it.
Building an audience is one of the most important parts of starting your own business. Marketing is one of the hardest things for any entrepreneur as it takes a lot of time and effort to promote your business.
The first marketing secret is that a well designed website is critical. You want it to be visually appealing (good high quality images) and easy to navigate. Having a well designed website is an excellent way to increase sales conversion.
According to Gary Vaynerchuk in the Amazon bestseller Crush It, paying for a web designer is one of the few things that you should invest some money in from day one. It doesn’t have to be too expensive, if you’re using WordPress, there are 1000s of free and premium themes you can buy and use.
The second marketing secret is content. You might have heard the phrase “Content is King” for websites. It is a little overused these days. But it is still true when thinking about what information you have on your website or on social media. Content informs your visitor; it helps build a rapport with them; and it conveys your credentials. It can also give your visitor a lot of ideas on how they can use your product. In short content is crucial for converting a visitor into a customer.
Content is also important from the perspective of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) as it is about giving Google the right signals that show you are a valuable site that people should visit.
Here are a few content tips:
- Have empathy with your niche – put yourself in their shoes and think about what is most relevant to them. Create compelling, unique and valuable information for them. Your website is one in 750 million websites on the net so think why someone would want come back time and time again to your site
- People want to learn and discuss, not just listen – encourage feedback, comments and sharing. Make sure you promptly respond to any feedback or comments
- Tell stories that are engaging – people love stories that they can connect to and identify with.
If you’re interested in more information on content marketing, or how to turn content or a blog into a business, I recommend you visit the Copyblogger website. Copyblogger has loads of practical ebooks, webinars and articles.
The third marketing secret is use to use Social Media to build an audience. Social media can be the cheapest, fastest and most effective way to get your message out there. Social media is about building trust so it is important that you be yourself. Provide a mix of content about your business, but also relevant links to articles, other blogs, or videos on YouTube.
If you write a 500 to 1000 word blog post, you can extract four of five lines for Facebook and take two lines for Twitter. By using different elements of your post you can create as many as 8-10 different social posts spread over a week of two.
The fourth marketing secret is to build an email list. Rich, online entrepreneurs have huge email lists. Why? because email lists give them the opportunity to talk directly to prospective customers. Having fans on Twitter or Facebook is not a substitute for an email list. Your tweet on Twitter is just one of a constant stream followers receive from whoever they follow. While on Facebook your posts do not reach all of your fans unless you start to pay for them.
Add email sign up forms at the top of your site. A form on the top of your site converts 5 times better than a sign up form on the bottom. Plus, you can always ask people to subscribe to your email list at the bottom of your content pages too. If they have read down to the bottom, and they love your work, why not ask them to sign up.
One popular technique for building an email list is to offer something free in exchange for subscribing, e.g. ebooks or newsletters. If you are going to give away a book, white paper, PDF, make sure it is something of value filled with great information that will build your trust and credibility with the visitor.
Here are a couple of good examples of building an email list with a give away incentive.
The first example is by Carrie Wilkerson, The Barefoot Executive. Carries gives away the first chapter of her book for people registering their email.
The second example is by Derek Halpern, who runs social triggers. He has a free newsletter with over 115,000 subscribers that helps readers learn how to get more traffic and sales.
You can also build an email list of customers so that you can tell them about future products or keep them upto date. Previous customers are your best prospects for future sales, especially true if selling ebooks or books.
Secret 5 – Monetize your site
It doesn’t matter if you are an entrepreneur selling your expertise or selling your own software, you’ll need to make money online if you want to be able to continue. The way you monetize your site or make money with a blog depends on your objectives.
Here are some of the most popular ways to monetize your site:
- Display Advertising – add banner or text ads e.g. Google AdSense to your site. You get paid per click (as per Google Adsense) or per pageview. To make decent money you will need a sizeable audience. Stephen Chapman at ZDNet has some good tips for boosting AdSense revenue
- Affiliate Marketing – involves sending potential buyers to third party merchants who give you a commission for each sale. The amount of commission depends on the niche, some are more lucrative than others.
- Subscriptions – is when you charge visitors money to access content behind a “paywall”. Subscriptions works well when you have content worth selling or with cloud based tools. A variation is “freemium” where the majority of your content or features is free, but you charge for a smaller portion of premium content or functionality e.g. mailchimp. Setting up subscriptions requires a lot of work behind the scenes before you can accept credit card payments. For this reason it is not something that we would recommend for the beginner or the faint hearted.
Selz is currently working on an easy way to do subscriptions. Sign up to our newsletter if you want to know more about when it’s released.
- Selling online or Ecommerce – sell your work or products from your website. Implementing ecommerce on your site can be costly, time consuming and complicated if you try to do it all yourself. There are many issues involved with ecommerce such as security issues, payment processing of credit cards, integrating an online store or buy button.
One of the biggest problems for any budding online entrepreneur is the challenge of handling payments online. Handling online payments normally involves a payment gateway to process the credit card transactions and an online bank merchant account (it’s a bank account that allows you to receive the credit card payments when selling online).
The reasons that entrepreneurs trying to selling online themselves is traditionally difficult are:
- Costs – payment gateways and merchant account providers can charge set up fees upto $500, annual and monthly charges, plus a fee per transaction from anywhere between 0.8% to 5% per sale
- Paperwork – the administration in opening a merchant account can be a long drawn out process taking days or weeks, and sometimes require a formal business plan to support the application
- Technical integration – the amount of technical integration depends on the ecommerce solution, some are easier than others
The secret to selling online is do your research and homework. Check whether you need a merchant account, the fees, how easy is it to use, how easy to integrate into your site, and how easy is it for your customers to buy.
It was to overcome these types of challenges that we started Selz. The objective of Selz was to provide entrepreneurs with a solution that was easy to use, you could sell online from any website, blog or social media, have no upfront costs or monthly fees, and didn’t need a merchant account.
Do you have any entrepreneur secrets to share with other budding online entrepreneurs? share them in the comments section below.