My struggle with online business was never getting started. I've always been able to learn new skills because starting new hobbies is kind of like my hobby. I've taught myself several languages, learned how to sail, learned how to make beer, learned how to ride a motorcycle, learned how to juggle, and the list can go on and on. Learning how to make money from a website was no different. It was just a hobby.
But where I got “stuck” was just on the cusp of creating a real business, and just playing around with a blog that makes money. I didn't really understand how to take my business to the ‘next level' and create a full time income with which I could support myself and all my hobbies.
I imagine that I'm not the only one that had this problem. I see many beginners get off to a great start, get some traffic, and even make some sales. But there's a disconnect between how to make some money on the internet, and how to make LOTS of money on the internet. Don't get me wrong, I'm not super rich, and nor do I have a fool-proof system for success. But I do have a few tips and ideas to get you started on taking your internet based business to the next level.
1) Start thinking of it as a business, not a blog
One of the biggest changes my mind had to go through was considering this a business, not just a hobby. Doing it as a hobby can keep you interested and keep you from experience burnout, but the more I was able to think of my website as a separate entity of myself, the more I was able to stop ‘experimenting' and start ‘working'.
Instead of having a website that was making money, I had a business that was profitable. That change of mindset might not make sense to some people, but for me, it was an important change. I started looking a projects in terms of money and time INVESTED rather than SPENT. Nothing was WASTED because everything (including failed projects) was about GROWING the business.
2) Invest money into your business
I usually tell people to start off as cheaply as possible. But eventually I had to break out of this mindset that “cheap is good” and “anything that costs money should be avoided”. When you are not making money, costs to run a business can be a hard pill to swallow. This is especially if you have never run a business before.
But after you start thinking of it as a business, not a blog, the costs associated with running your business properly stop being lost money to a hobby or pastime, and start becoming an investment in the future of your business.
That $300 video software might set you back quite a bit now, but think of how much traffic you can get from YouTube. If you work for an affiliate program that pays $10 per sale, all you need to make is 30 sales from your videos and the software will pay for itself.
Sure the upgraded hosting package costs $600 per year instead of $100 per year, but can you imagine how much money I've lost due to issues with hosting? If I make $300 dollars per day and my hosting goes on the fritz for 12 hours, that's $150 I lost right there.
I look for ways to invest money into my business to increase profits, or reduce the amount of work I have to do so that I can free up my mind to think about…wait for it…how to increase profits.
3) Stop looking for mentors, start looking for peers
Having a mentor as a beginner is great. There is someone to tell you what to do and give you advice. But at some point, you are going to need to start making your own decisions.
One of the biggest revelations I've had in recent months is that everyone has different ideas of what should and shouldn't be done in the world of online business. When all is said and done, you do what you think should be done.
If you are constantly looking to others for advice, you will get conflicting advice, and be stuck in the middle and not know what to do.
I have slowly matured into a more confident business owner, able to make my own decisions based on my own research. That doesn't mean I don't listen to anyone else! It just means that I no longer look at other internet business owners as mentors and idols, but as peers in a similar industry. I can teach them just as much as they can teach me.
4) Get an education
I'm not talking about actual classes here, so don't worry, you don't need to go back to school. But you do need to hone your craft, whatever it may be. If doing what you are doing isn't working, you need to do something else.
As mentioned above, learning from your peers is a great way to grow. Twitter and Google+ are two awesome places to learn how to increase sales, decrease bounce rates, and get repeat customers.
Need traffic? There are a million blogs about how to get more free or paid traffic. Read them. Want to up your email marketing game? There are also a million blogs out there. Read them. Connect with the owners on social media.
Attend webinars. Read PDF guides (old and new). Search on YouTube. Join Hangouts on G+. Just these things could keep you busy learning for months and months. So much is accessible on the internet, you just have to look.
The one secret that really was able to help me take my own business to the next level was joining an online business community. Having a group of like-minded people with whom to bounce ideas off, request critiques, and most importantly get support from was crucial for me in many ways. I learned many things I didn't know I didn't know (no, that's not a typo), and was able to expand upon my own ideas via 1-on-1 as well as community level communication.
Can you imagine crowdsourcing ideas to increase profits for your own business? Awesome, I know!
5) Learning to care about your visitors
I'll admit, I didn't start out caring about my visitors at all. I just couldn't make the connection. I wanted to make money, and helping people was just a means to make that money. It showed in my writing, and it showed in my engagement with my audience.
And this goes back to “investing” versus “spending” as in point 3 (above). Originally, I looked at spending time on my website and visitors as just that – something used up, that I could be using doing other things. But now, rather than spending time an energy with visitors, I'm investing it. I help people every day now that are just looking for tips and ideas, and very few buy from me. That's OK. I'm building a brand and a long term future for me. What I invest now, will benefit me in the future.
Every person I help now is like a positive Karma point. It may not pay off now, but could in the future. Some results will be random events, some will be directly related to helping someone. I can't really tell the difference anymore. Being helpful al the time means sometimes you help the right people. Being selectively helpful (just to make a sale) means sometimes you ignore the wrong people.
I know that every visitor to my site is important. I want to provide them with the best information possible because I want to be proud of what I do. My goal is to provide people with the most relevant information to their search, not just make as many sales with as little work as possible.
6) Changing my time horizon
One huge change in my mindset was the time horizon for my business and individual projects. With an internet based business, it can be easy to get caught up in the speed of information and expect results to come quickly. My original time horizons for projects were two weeks, 1 month, or maybe a ‘few months'.
Now I think it terms of years. What will my business look like at this point next year? What are my goals for 10 years down the road and how can I start building the foundation now?
Being able to see yourself and your virtual business more than a few years or even decades down the road is the one major thing you need to take it to the next level. How can you expect to achieve great things when you can't see past your own nose?
How have your thoughts about your own business transformed over the years? Do any of the points I touched on sound familiar? Feel free to add your own stories or advice in the comments below.