The only real question if you want to work from home online is how will your business make money? Too many online entrepreneurs are unclear about this when they start out, and they pay the price for it six months or a year down the road when they’re making pennies a day, if anything, and abandon the project entirely.
You’ll read all kinds of bad advice on the internet to “find a subject that you’re passionate about.” Oddly enough, most of these so-called “business advisors” tell you to do this right before they try to sell you something to “help” you. Run from these people.
I’m passionate about my business. My business is making money on the internet, and what makes me passionate is waking up the next morning with more money in my bank account than I went to bed with. The subject matter? It doesn’t matter to me. I’ve written about hundreds of topics I thought I had no interest in, and when I start seeing paychecks coming in, I get very interested all of a sudden. Making money by working from home is just like any other job. Most days are pleasant but not especially exciting. A few days suck, and a few days are out of this world. But there’s nothing special about the subject matter of online business that’s any different from the real world. The thrill for me as a business owner is knowing I’m the master of my own domain and that I have the power to get what I want. If the topic I’m working on that day thrills me to bits, that’s icing on the cake.
Making money online can be boiled down to three simple steps: (1) identify a group of customers with money to spend and the urge to spend it; (2) choose an established online business approach to get them to spend that money on your site; and (3) set up your site, get traffic, and make money. Simple, yes, but not easy.
As you read advice about working from home online, you’re going to run into a word over and over again: “niche.” In online marketing, a niche is a particular segment of the internet using public, and it’s how you’ll analyze your potential customer base. The mistake many website owners make is in thinking of a niche as something small and unique. Offline, that might be true. Online, throw that concept away and go as big and generic as you can without confusing search engines like Google as to what your site is about. (You keep your site’s mission clear to Google by doing good keyword research, which I’ll cover in a later post.)
Throw away your beliefs about making money online by offering something innovative that nobody else is selling. I know you can point to all kinds of examples of business owners who made a killing working in a small market. Those examples only make the headlines because they’re so unusual, so they make interesting news. Small markets spell doom for beginning website owners, unless they’re very lucky or well connected. As an online business owner, you need to think like Wal-Mart when you choose a niche.
The next step is to choose an online business model. Again, think mainstream. I can’t tell you how much time and energy I wasted in the past trying to find a business approach that hadn’t been done before. I was being stupid. I ignored the fact that the internet has been a stream of commerce for about ten years now, and the pioneers of net marketing have found business models that work. Those models are out there for you to use, so use them. Looking back, I think I was trying to avoid competition by doing something different. The hard business lesson I learned is that if there’s no competition, then it’s probably because there’s no money to be made doing business that way. Competition is your friend–it shows you where the money is, so learn to live with it. Your job, as a small business owner online, is to identify niches and business models that are less competitive than others, so you can slide in under the radar while still doing something that works.
There are two primary successful business models online that are easy for the solo website owner to replicate: (1) publishing a website that runs other people’s advertising and taking a commission from it; and (2) publishing a website that sells other people’s stuff and taking a commission from it. If you’re new to internet marketing, you’re probably shocked. Commission sales? No way!
Open your mind to the idea that commission sales are ideally suited for the solo website owner. You don’t need to keep merchandise in stock in your basement and run a shipping room. You don’t need to develop and distribute your own product, such as an e-book or widget, that the public wants to buy from an unknown name (you). And commission selling is truly passive income. Once you have your sites up and running, maintaining them is a part-time job, or you can use the profit from them to hire someone else to maintain them for you. Last of all, commission sales plays to your greatest strength as a solo website owner: the merchant who owns the product or service you’ll be selling for him needs what you can bring him for his survival.
What does the merchant need? Massive amounts of traffic. Traffic is the lifeblood of internet marketing. But not just any traffic. The merchant needs targeted traffic. Targeted traffic is internet users who are looking to buy exactly what the merchant is selling. As a niche website owner, you’re in the perfect position to feed targeted traffic to the merchant, who will pay you to do so. You won’t be the only one. Because stuff on the internet is so cheap, the merchant needs to sell more and more goods or services to make a profit. So the merchant needs thousands of people like you feeding him targeted traffic.
That simplifies your job as a website owner: get targeted traffic to your site and let the merchant monetize it and pay you. If you want to be the merchant instead and own the goods you’re selling so you can keep all the profit, be my guest. There are solo entrepreneurs online who have done this, but they’re the other 1% of the 99% who fail in their first year. Being a merchant is harder than it looks. You’ll probably ignore my advice because the profit potential of being a merchant is so tantalizing. Being a successful merchant is like being a rock star–many are called; few are chosen. Commission sales online is grunt work and not very glamorous, but the business model has been tested over time and is a reliable source of income that a solo website owner can achieve with limited resources and not much money invested up front. With commission sales, your job is to get traffic and get paid for it. Period.
How much do you get paid? If you check my sidebar, you’ll find a website owner who goes by the nickname “Grizzly” who makes $40,000 a month from advertising commissions. He doesn’t write e-books, and he doesn’t have a wholesale goods operation and shipping desk in his basement. He gets traffic and gets paid for it.
Interesting thought, isn’t it?