Chris and I did a webinar on this last week, and as usual, I kind of choked, and missed a bunch of important stuff I wanted to say. Usually I can let it go, but this is a serious issue that a lot of newbies face when trying to make money online.
Most of my days are spent helping people that do not have enough confidence. A lot of folks don't believe that making money is actually possible, let alone for them! This is an easy problem to solve – give them the correct training and some good advice, and they're off to the races!
But there's another group of newbies that does exact the opposite. Usually this group has some experience either in online marketing, or in real world business. They attack the situation with OVER confidence, ignoring the training that's right in front of them. They spend way too much time doing stuff that does not matter, and will not make a difference in the number of sales they make.
Then of course, there are some folks that follow along the same lines just because they've seen it on TV or just get a little lost and start making stuff up as they go. Hey, no problem 🙂 Let's get you back on track.
These guys/girls are playing business, not making money online. Below are a list of mistakes I see people make trying to look like a “guru” or an “expert” in they eyes of their peers instead of their visitors (the people who will be buying stuff from you)
6 Business Games That Are Wasting Your Time
Creating a Corporation
This is the last thing you need to worry about right now. You can run your business exactly as you are now. It's called a sole proprietorship and in the eyes of the tax man, your business name is your personal name.
The only reasons you might want to incorporate in the beginning would be if you are in some kind of niche where you are worried about getting sued. Having a corporation take a financial hit instead of yourself means that if it goes bankrupt, you don't.
The other reason you might want to do this is if you are making so much money that you need to get creative with your taxes to maximize your net profit. If you've ever heard that Steve Jobs paid himself $1 per year, it's that kind of thing. There are other tax advantages that have to do with writeoffs and investments.
Waiting for Launch Date
This one is probably the most damaging to your business. If you are a perfectionist and want everything “perfect” or “ready” before you open the floodgates to traffic, you will be sorely disappointed. Unless your are doing paid advertising, you need that site LIVE as soon as possible.
The stages of organic ranking are painful enough. I spent 6 months building One More Cup of Coffee writing 1,000 word posts almost every day, getting less than 10 visits per day – including social shares.
Soon after that traffic got slightly better, 100-300 visits a day. And it wasn't until 3 months after that, that things started to take off.
What's the point?
By delaying your site, you are delaying any potential authority you have in the search engines. Google doesn't care how many blog posts you have saved in the queue or how long you spent getting your menu perfect. They care how much content you have already posted, and how consistently you post (among other things)
If you are worried about how your site looks in the beginning or making a bad impression on those few visitors that stumble upon in, you just need to work harder and faster in that first month of operation to get things to a minimal satisfaction level for you, then grow form there.
Having a Site Designed
It's nice to have a beautiful site, but it's also nice to spend money on things that matter. If you are experience in online business, great. You can spend money on a logo and a fancy custom theme. This article isn't for you.
If this is your first time to the pony show I recommend you do things on a shoestring budget. Did you just pay someone $100 to create a child theme for you? It should cost about $10. Are you asking your designer to do things that are a waste of time for him and your visitors (like adding background music or flash animations)? You're shooting yourself in the foot and you don't even know it!
The basic things you need on a WordPress blog are going to be a top menu, content, and a sidebar. That's it!
90% of what's going to make you money is going to be the content on your site. Design counts for something when you want to take your business to the next level, but right now, a very basic setup will work perfectly.
If you are focusing on the look of your site, I'm pretty sure you are delaying the inevitable work that you must to do actually start making money from your site. A pretty blog with no traffic will not put cash in your Paypal account.
Reading Everything Before Taking Action
There's a way to do this so it works as an advantage, but most of the time you're just procrastinating. I understand the advantages of getting a “birds eye view” of what's going on in internet marketing. In fact, there are studies that show if you skim all the information first before going back to read in detail, reading comprehension increases dramatically.
However, that means you just skim the material to see what the “end game” is. You don't need to read everything word for word, because it's likely that you won't understand much of it.
How could you ever read the music for an Eddie Van Halen guitar solo if you can't even play Smoke on The Water?
Taking action on the lessons that are set before you is the single most important thing in learning to run a successful online business. Even taking action and doing the complete opposite of what you were supposed to do will benefit you. Then you'll know not to do that again!
Ever heard of analysis paralysis? It's pretty much the same thing.
Talking About What You Will Do
Probably the most annoying of the traits of someone that's “playing business”, is someone just wants the attention of a successful person, but doesn't actually do the stuff you need to be successful.
There used to be a guy in live chat who talked about how he was going to create his own article directory just for gamers. We'd hear about it day in a day out, but after a few weeks, the guy was gone, and the directory never surfaced.
Then there was a guy that showed up on his first day, declared that he “wasn't a noob” and couldn't find any real training. Apparently he had been working online for six years. Wait, so you are telling me that you have been running an online business for 6 years and can't figure out how to use a search feature? Or that joining a new community and insulting everyone is a good way to get banned?
Making plans is great, but planning a trip won't get you there. Talking about it and not doing is is again, procrastination. The first tiny steps of a long term plan may seem insignificant or boring, but they are necessary.
A Journey of 1,000 Miles Begins With One Step
Planning 2 Years Before 2 Days
Having a bit of a business plan can mean the difference between turning a profit and going bankrupt in the business world. Yes, a real pro will look 6 months, a year, or longer into the future.
But you are a beginner. It's pretty much impossible to see what your site will look like in six months time. You may be in a different niche, or learn things that you didn't plan on learning. It's extremely difficult to see what's coming as you are just learning to build your first WordPress site.
Write up some goals, and be done with it. Then focus on your training. That's what it's there for. You don't have to reinvent the wheel. You have to learn to walk before you can run, and you have to learn the ABC's before you can write a novel.
And remember, this is online business, where mistakes don't really count! Bought a bad domain name? It's only $10. Wasted a few hours writing a post and forgot to save? $0. How much are you paying for training again? $1.50 per day. That's the cost of a bottle of water at the gym.
In the brick and mortar business world, most people need to get $100,000's of dollars in loans to start their first business, and they are rarely profitable within the first 2-3 years. You just need $19 and you can be in the black in 12 months or less.
The world of affiliate marketing is not a secret. As far as I know, there is no “secret niche” that makes the most money, or is the easiest to make money in. There's only niche that YOU have tried, and niches you haven't tried.
You can make money in both low-competition and competitive arenas – it's just about how much work you are willing to put into it.
So if you are biding your time, secretly planning launch an ultra secret domain, in an undiscovered niche, with a never-been-seen-before traffic method, then good luck to you. I'm not that interested.
Whatever your “great idea” is, we're going to find out about it eventually. Successful people will be too busy with their own projects to steal your ideas, and copy cats won't have the attention span to follow through with replicating your entire site.
I've never seen one of these mega secret, “commercially sensitive” come to fruition or be a hit right off the bat. Popularity is built over time, and by then, your secret will be out.
Talking About Hard Work
One last rant.
I get a lot of emails from guys that say they did This or That hard job for decades so they “know” what hard work is. Sometimes it's military guys, sometimes it's older gentlemen who have been in the work force for a long time.
They ask me to “get real with them” and tell them if they can actually make money on the internet. They're willing to put in the work, even if it means long days, grinding away at the keyboard. They are no stranger to ‘getting the job done'.
So I get real with them. I say, “Yes, but you have to work your ass off, without pay, for a period of at least a few months before your website will start making consistent sales.”
I rarely hear back from them. Apparently they know how to work hard, but not that hard.
The same type of person will join up. tell me how they want to work 18 hours a day to make this work. All they need is a set of instructions to tell them how. So I show them the link to the first lesson and let them know that this is the same training I took 4 years ago, and they can ask me any question at all. The next month, they quit. I just don't get it.
Long story short? Talk is cheap.
How To Actually Run Your Business
*There are many types of online businesses, so I'm speaking specifically about the kind that I run. This means you have a WordPress blog, about a niche topic, use free traffic from Google, and make money through affiliate marketing. Don't know what this is? Start on my Beginner Niche Marketer's Guide to start figuring things out.
This is 80% or more of what I do every day. I never though I would be typing so much. Some days I feel like it's awesome – being able to write about almost anything I want and know that somewhere down the road it'll probably make me some money.
Some days I hate it, and just stare at the computer, procrastinating, trying to think of reasons to not open my word processor.
On an average day I type about 2,000 – 3,000 words for my blogs. Including emails, support, chat, and incidentals, it's probably around 4-5k, but who's counting?
One of the keys to getting traffic is consistent blogging. Another is writing *useful* information. I used to barely be able to scrape by with a 400 word article, but as I began to learn more about my niche, I found that 400 words is rarely enough to explain a topic thoroughly. This blog post is 2,000 words so far and I'm only about 1/2 way done.
My average post for One More Cup of Coffee is about 1200 words, but it ranges from about 800 to 2,000 regularly. Once you get past 2k words you start to lose an audiences attention, but hey, if it takes 4k words to explain something, then the person that is looking for that info will take the time to read it.
If you've gotten this far and are planning on reading the rest, then you are a perfect example of what I mean.
Another “secret” to having a successful blog is simply volume of information. You might think it's a dumb plan, but with enough content on your blog, regardless of quality, Google will rank you for SOMETING.
Even if it's keyword terms you didn't plan for, or searches you didn't predict, or in a place that's less than ideal, you will start to rank, and someone will find you.
Assuming that the content on your blog is interesting, engaging, and useful, that person will take action on your site, that they didn't do on other sites. Your page will increase in rank.
If that happens enough times, your entire site will start to get better rank, more traffic, and sales will start to happen.
If you learn just one thing from this blog post, it's that a high volume of good content and consistent blogging are my main strategies for ranking and making sales in affiliate marketing.
Spending Time In Lessons
It's going to be hard to become an affiliate marketing success without some kind of training. I know that lots of you are on a shoestring budget right now, but look at training as an investment, the value of which will grow with time. Another word for that is “asset”.
I'll discuss it a bit below, but right now a lot of you are looking at this as an expense – something akin to buying yourself a new pair of shoes or a coffee at Starbucks. It's not the same thing. I've got a lot to say on this subject though, so it'll be in its own section below.
The point is you need to learn this stuff from somewhere. Right now you have at your fingertips the best affiliate marketing training available on the internet. Make use of it.
I've been doing this for 4 years now, and am now a full time affiliate marketer. I still have a lot to learn, and I still spend a significant amount of my time looking for ways to improve my knowledge.
In this industry more than others, knowledge = money.
The more you know about your niche, the more effective your site will be, the more authority, shares, likes, and therefore traffic you'll gain. Then you'll make more money.
The more ways you know how to turn visits into sales with things like free search traffic, PPC, paid advertising, email marketing, offline marketing, product creation, and joint ventures, the more gross sales revenue you'll create. Then you'll net more money.
Never stop learning, and your business will grow every year.
Note to self: In fact, I'm a bit inspired right now and I think rather than leaving it up to boredom or necessity, I might start putting 1 hour of expanding my affiliate marketing knowledge every day!
Spending Time On Your Website
OK, so 80% of what I do is writing articles for my blogs. Another 10% is probably answering questions & comments via email or blog comments. The final 10% is actually working on my site.
What does that mean?
Sometimes I want to try out a new menu, or move some widgets around. I might browse for plugins to increase email opt ins, or put a link where I think it may attract some sales. I have to test new methods, and then either back track or revamp based on results.
If hosting goes down, I have to get out my flame thrower and get them to fix it. I've got to do regular backups, deal with contractor writers, do product research, clean up old posts, check stats, and otherwise look for mistakes I didn't catch the first time round.
Basically, all the incidental stuff.
This is in contrast to looking at OTHER people's websites and wondering, “Why do they make all the sales?”
How do I know you are doing this? Because I've done it.
It's easy to hear of a success story and jealously browse their site wondering when it's going to happen to you. Stop doing that and get back on your website. Feeling sorry for yourself because you aren't making money (or enough money) from your own sites isn't actually going to put any cash in your pocket.
That time could be spent, even if loosely spent, tinkering with your business.
This is a world business arena, and there's no one that's going to say, “Oh, look, he's trying very hard! Let's give him a helping hand!” Success is possible for absolutely anyone, but you have to put in the hours to actually get it.
Researching Your Niche
Here's a bit of a cheat, but it's also necessary. If you need to write an article about a keyword you found, research will be required most of the time. But sometimes, you can just browse around the net and still get something important done.
If you are truly passionate about your niche, you'll want to know more. You'll want to be the best, or at least one of the best. After all, you are striving to get people to trust the information you write, no?
So spend some time in related forums. Create a free account at a couple popular forums in your niche and see what the hot topics are. Take a look at the sticky posts, and see which ones have the most heated discussions. See where the common threads are between forums.
Found some keywords you want to rank for? Check out who's is the top 5-10 spots and see what they have to say on the topic. Are there lots of people commenting? What are some questions they have?
Ok, if you are really bored, you can even watch some documentaries about your niche! Your Netflix and Amazon Prime subscriptions come with tons of free documentaries on a variety of subjects. Learn something, then see how you can translate it to a blog post.
Then, if you are really stretching for things to do, you can BUY something related to your niche and write a post about it. That's the advantage of choosing something you love as your website topic. Anything you buy is a business expense, and anything you do is potential writing material!
Social Media (Tread Carefully!)
This is one of the hardest parts of running a real affiliate marketing business because it's such a grey area, and its effectiveness is still unclear. I know of a few successful affiliates that do no kind of social media interaction at all, and have extremely profitable businesses.
And I know others that are very active, but make very little profit.
In the end, it's going to boil down to what niche you are in, and what personality you have.
But interacting with people in your niche is a great way to gain a following, and get attention to your site, even when Google isn't sending you much in the way of traffic. Being active, honest, and genuine on just 1-2 social media networks can get you likes, shares, traffic, and maybe some sales. Best of all, it helps you establish authority (if there's quality on your blog to support it)
It's also really easy to waste time just browsing social media and getting nothing useful done at all, so tread carefully!
Make The Transition
If you noticed a bit of a chip on my shoulder in the subtext of the article so far, it's because there is; the reason being that I have made these same mistakes, or are still making them. Even I'm guilty of things like ordering business cards that I'll never use, or procrastinating the ‘real' work I need to do by filling my time with something useless.
But if we look for these mistakes in our own routine, and eliminate (or control) our frivolous spending of time/money, anyone can achieve our personal financial goals through online business.
I didn't go to college, and no one in my family taught me anything about computers or business. My first year I spent a total of $600 for startup costs ($50/month), so it's not like I had a bunch of financial backing either.
There's no reason you can't do this. There are only excuses.
So with that in mind, here are few tips that reflect my own habits, and are what I consider making the transition from “playing business” to actually running a real online business.
End Your “Testing Phase”
So many people join up to WA training to test the waters. Heck, that was me too. I'm sure lots of you have your finger poised over the unsubscribe button, in case things get too costly, or it takes too much time.
But there comes a time in a true entrepreneur's life when you have to take on some amount of risk and say to yourself, “I'm going to make this work, no matter what.” If you leave the results of your business ventures up to your personal whims of tiredness, boredom, and frustration, you will achieve nothing.
I wanted to quit several times, and almost did about 1/2 way into my first year. But I powered through the tough times, and came out the other end of the tunnel a richer man.
Testing has finished. Now are you going to do this thing or not?
Set Aside Time 5 Days A Week
Now that your online business is officially part of you life, make some time commitments. Though I had it pretty easy, working just a few hours per day in China while I got started, I know of several people that had full time jobs and families, but still had the time to devote at least 1-2 hours every day to their businesses.
Those people eventually became full time online business owners.
You don't have to go 7 days a week 12 hours a day, but you do need to set aside at least 10 hour per week, somewhere in your schedule. Do 1-2 hour per day M-F, then a few hours on Saturday/ Sunday. Take a day off, or take two days off. Whatever works for you.
But if you catch yourself watching cat videos on YouTube or flicking through the channels at night instead of writing an article or doing some lessons, you're in trouble. Boredom and apathy are slow killers of internet entrepreneurs.
Sticking to a schedule shows real commitment, as opposed to working on you business “when you have free time”.
Create A Budget
Easy, but scary, creating a budget will have you look at your business in a whole new light. Instead of seeing money coming out of your pocket, you'll see it going into your business. Don't go willy nilly and spend $5k on a website you don't know how to run, but track expenses, and make calculated buys.
- Training? $47/month
- New Theme? $100
- Outsource some work? $50
You can graph your expenses and income over time and eventually you'll see that as far as startup costs go (in relation to potential profits), internet based businesses are insanely profitable.
Remember how I said my initial startup costs for my first year of operation were $600? Well my profit was $4000… a 560% ROI in the first 12 months of operation! That's insane! Most offline businesses can only *hope* to be profitable in the first 2-3 years, let alone get over 500% ROI. Did you know that the average percent return in the stock market is historically about 7%?
The point? Your money is going somewhere useful, and tracking it will show you exactly what it's doing for you. $100 spent on growing your business is not the same as $100 spent on beer!
Invest Your Time And Money
That brings me to the next topic of mental transition that needs to happen. Instead of seeing money and time put into learning affiliate marketing as an expense, try to see it as an investment in your future.
$100 spent on beer is -$100 from your bank account. End of story. The beer is gone, and so is your money.
But $100 spent on designing a new look for your website could actually increase in value! At first, it looks like -$100 in your bank account, But let's say that the new professional design of your site attracts more visitors, and they buy $50 worth of stuff next week.
Now your bank account says only -$50.
Then, let's assume that this continues in the coming months, and say you make just $50 in sales each month. At month 2, your investment pays for itself. At the end of 12 months, you now have +$500 in your account, a 900% ROI.
Spending that money actually made you money! But this is only look at dollar amounts. Assuming that you spend absolutely nothing in the first year on your business except for training, you are still turning a tiny amount of money into a lot of money.
Aside from the money you make with your website (all that math is explained above), you are also investing in yourself. Even if you make $0 from your website, you will learn skills that very few people have, or care to learn.
Search engine optimization, how to build WordPress websites, managing hosting, simple image editing, social media marketing, email marketing, local marketing, and even something as simple as being able to navigate the internet quickly & effectively are useful skills in today's marketplace.
Plenty of people try their hand at affiliate marketing, then pivot and start their own local SEO business, helping local brick and mortar stores build websites, rank in Google, and crush their competition in the search results!
Your mind is an asset, invest in it!
Lastly, we should talk about time. I too get in the mindset of if I'm not getting something done, then I'm wasting time. But sometimes the learning process is not so smooth. I may spend 10 hours figuring out how to put an image exactly where I want it on my site, then decide I don't like the results, and take out the image.
Is that wasted time? Nope.
Because next time I need to place an image there, I know how to do it. Stop looking at time spent working fruitlessly on your site as wasted time, and start looking at it as an investment in your skills as an internet marketer.
Exercise and Have Fun
This is one that I'm absolutely guilty of not doing, and it's #1 on my list to change my personal habits as a business owner. You are not a machine. You cannot sit in front of the computer 24/7. No business owner does. The ones that do get ulcers or worse.
If you are scheduling time to spend on your business, stick in some rest time and some time for exercising. If you have a family, don't completely forget about them! I always tell my referrals that this is not a race, and your business will have much more long term success if your enjoy it. If you try to cram 3 years of learning into 3 months, you'll stress out, and quit.
By all means, work as hard as you want, but just keep in mind that some things just take time. Traffic and sales are two of the hardest things to be patient for, so I know your pain!
I'm not a fitness expert, so I won't say too much on the subject of exercise. I just want to make the point that scheduling out your day rather than leaving it up the fate are signs of a true business owner. Thought the gurus would have you think differently, it's not possible to get stable income by just messing around on the web when you have some spare time.
What do you think?
I truly believe that making money on the internet is possible for absolutely anyone. Still, I hear the same three excuses all the time.
- I don't have the time
- I don't have the money
- It's just too hard for me
There's no failures. There are only quitters.
Are you just playing business or are you serious about becoming an internet marketer? If you are serious, then you will find the time, you will find the money, and you will learn the skills necessary to run a successful business.
What mistakes have you made so far and how do you plan to change them?
Was this post inspiring or did it just sound like a rant?
Here's the original webinar Chris & I did from Fresh + Coffee June 19, 2014