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How To Build An Online Business From Nothing

This seems to be the ultimate dream in today’s digital world.

Everyone wants to build a successful online business. They want to be on a beach somewhere, while the sales just roll in. They want to launch courses that pull in $75,000 for 6 weeks of work and replace their corporate salaries with part-time hours.


It’s a great dream, and one I’ve had myself. But it’s not that easy. There are probably millions of online entrepreneurs attempting to do this as we speak. But what makes some of them successful? How come some fail, while others succeed?


Here are some tips that have worked for me, and also things I learned from the many experts and gurus out there. I should point out that this is geared towards online-only service-based businesses like consultants, coaches, writers, designers, etc. You know, people who don’t want to leave the comfort of their own home and want to work in their PJ’s. But be prepared for same VERY late nights. 


Pick Something You’re Passionate About

Don’t start chasing something just because you think it will be easy or fast money. You will not achieve long-term success doing something you don’t enjoy. When you’re running your own business, you need to be dedicated and driven. That drive will quickly dissipate when it’s work you hate doing or just aren’t good at. Don’t try to become a social media manager if you hate Facebook. When you're selling a service, you're selling yourself. Your passion is what will make people want to work with you. 


Don’t Get Overwhelmed With All The Knowledge

Information overload is a real problem for entrepreneurs. There are thousands of self-proclaimed experts selling courses that will make YOU rich, for only $499. Don’t fall victim to all the sales and big promises. Once you’ve decided what your focus, niche or specialty will be, stick to it. Sure, you may want to invest in a course or two. But don’t go crazy and waste your money. Never purchase the second course until you’ve completed the first one. There will always be another sale. Do your research to make sure this expert really is an expert, and ignore the pushy sales tactics. I’ll say it again: there will always be another expert with another great sale.  At a certain point, you need to stop learning and start creating.


Create An Online Presence

You will need to develop a website, and should probably start blogging and creating a social media strategy. These are not easy tasks, but they can be done at a very small cost if you are willing to invest the time. You can build a website for free and only pay for your domain, hosting and email. You can create and manage all your social media accounts, and host your blog on your new website. You can use free programs to create nice images for your social media. This is where you need to invest the time figuring out who your target customer is and creating content that group of people would be interested in. In order to get people reading your blog and sharing your social posts, it needs to be valuable information they want. But the first step is getting started, and the easiest way to do that is to create your first buyer's persona, or customer avatar. You can grab my free worksheet on that here

 buyer's persona and customer avatar

Start List Building

Now that you have your new website, you have an avenue where you can easily start collecting email addresses. Anyone who's survived creating an online business will tell you this is an essential part of your business if you want to generate a steady income. You've got to start somewhere - don't delay, it will only slow your progress. Give people an opt-in form on your website, using something like MailChimp or ConvertKit. Start nurturing those connections right away, so that when you do have a product launch ready, you've got a waiting audience. 


When you're ready to start sending out content, ensure that you've taken the time to clarify exactly who your ideal customer is. Everything you send out should speak directly to them, and either HELP or EDUCATE them in some way. Get started with your free Buyer's Persona worksheet today



Look For Exposure In The Right Places

Once you exist online, you are ready to start getting exposure. You need to find opportunities to present yourself as an authority and industry expert. You can achieve this through guest blog posting for other people, submitting articles to larger publications, and being interviewed on podcasts. It’s not easy to get the ball rolling with this, but you just need to start. Compile lists of people you can reach out to and offer your contribution. You might get lots of rejection, but that’s fine. Eventually, people will start saying yes and you’ll get somewhere. The first one is always the hardest. This also reiterates the importance of picking a business that you’re passionate about. You really need to know your stuff and be dedicated in order to have the resilience to get this far. Twitter is a great place to connect with bloggers and other industry experts. 


Another way to position yourself as an industry expert is to seek out LinkedIn and Facebook groups that are filled with like-minded people, but also potential customers. Join these targeted groups and start bringing value. Never promote yourself, but start contributing by answering questions, and even posing questions to start conversations. Use the opportunity to help people and provide solutions, while simultaneously building a solid reputation as the resident expert.


 facebook groups for entrepreneurs

Map Out Your Revenue Plan

How are you going to make money doing this? This is a very important part. You’ve got the idea, you’ve got the knowledge, you’ve got a website and few interviews under your belt. Now what? It’s time to prepare some kind of structure and plan to start making money. This is something that will undoubtedly change over time, but you need to start with something. If you’re a website designer, put together some packages you can sell. If you’re a social media manager, develop your solutions. Create clear-cut packages and articulate what people are paying for, and what benefits they can expect to experience.


Start Getting People To Pay You

Now is the time where you do a small test and see if you can find anyone willing to pay for your service. It’s kind of like a beta, only don’t do it for free — you can offer them a discount, or throw in some extra stuff to sweeten the pot. The main thing is that you want to make sure there are people willing to pay you for your service. They’re getting a smoking deal, knowing that they’re a guinea pig and will happily provide you with some constructive criticism. Look everywhere for these people — hit up your friends, family, old colleagues and classmates, and even test the waters through social media. You will find people, you just need to keep looking. If you've joined some Facebook Groups, you can start making some offers after you've provided value to the group. 


Make Some Changes

Now that you have some actual sales and customer testimonials (or complaints!) it’s time to refine your plan. Refine what you're offering, what you’re charging, etc. Get things finalized to the best of your ability and get ready to move forward.


It’s Go Time

"Launching" an online business isn't the same as a grand opening for a retail location. If you're doing things right, by the time you're ready for an actual launch, you've already got a website and a few clients. At this point, rather than have a business launch, I would suggest creating a new product or program launch instead. This makes you look less new, and you've already done the work to start building an audience. 


You Need A Marketing Plan

If you want to keep up the momentum and start gaining a steady stream of new clients, you need to have a plan. It doesn't need to be anything crazy and expensive, but it needs to be strategic, realistic, and something you will actually implement. 


Alex Morrison, Content Strategist 

Alex Morrison

Founder of Malamax Content Marketing

Need help with your strategy? Book a free content strategy session with Alex here

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