If you want to make money online, it’s much easier than it looks. There is an assumption that people making money online are either spamming/ripping people off, or have some amazing skills that most people don’t possess.
That couldn’t be further from the truth. In 2016 I launched my first product and it made over $220,000 in its first 30 days, and I’ve got no special skill set or education.
I know what you’re thinking – either I must have had some kind of existing fame in the real world or online, or I had money to spend. Afterall, anyone can make money if they already have it.
But that’s just not the case. I had no savings, just a salary that paid the monthly bills at best. I had a Twitter account that my friends followed, but nobody else. And I had a family, including 2 children, to support so I didn’t have the luxury of quitting my job to try to make money online.
I was a normal guy with a normal job and a normal mortgage that needed paying each month. If I was going to find a way to make money online, I had to start with a side hustle and hope I could turn it into something more in the future.
So I came up with a plan. It involved the absolute minimum cost to me, so things like paid ads were out of the question. And it had to be something that was in my control, so it couldn’t rely on getting lucky with press coverage or a post going viral.
I’m not going to cover what I decided to sell as I’ve written about that a bunch before and it’s not relevant to the process. It could have been almost anything, it is the process rather than the product that matters.
This is not a how to blog article, I want to cover the process rather than the detail. But blogging is a part of it and you need to get comfortable with that.
If you’re still one of those people that thinks a blog is just something that someone writes about their life and what they eat, you need to get over that. If it helps to think of it as a website rather than a blog, do that. I’m defining a blog as a site that is updated quite frequently with new, on topic content. You should too.
So let’s get into it.
The basic process is: Build an audience -> Build trust with that audience -> Sell to the audience. What is involved in each stage?
Building an audience to make money online
With no budget for ads, getting a message in front of people is difficult. You can not afford to launch a product to silence, a bad launch will be noticed and then it’ll be really hard to pick up momentum.
You want to explode out of the blocks on day one, then use the buzz that you generate to build more sales.
The only way you can have a great start is by having people waiting to buy.
To start building an audience, start a blog and write about your niche. For example, if you’re going to be selling health supplements or a yoga eBook, write about health and fitness. It’s important that the blog you build is professional as you want to build a small reputation as an expert, even if that’s only within the small audience of people that read your blog.
To actually build it grab my free guide on building a blog, it’s full of information on putting together a really high-quality blog on a budget. It’ll be a great step one.
If you’ve read this and are worried about writing stuff people want to read, I get it. If you’re not naturally a communicator it can be hard to hit the “post” button on your first few articles.
I was exactly like that. I didn’t consider myself an expert, I’m always learning new stuff so clearly loads of people know more than me! That’s true, but it doesn’t matter. If you know something about your subject that someone doesn’t, you can teach them. That makes you an expert to them. You don’t need to be (and probably aren’t) the most knowledgeable person in the world on your subject, but you will know more than many people. They are your audience!
As soon as I realised that there are people out there who know less than me and would appreciate what I have to say, I lost that anxiety and now just try to stop me sharing what I know!
Once you’ve built a blog, try to write articles consistently. The more you blog, the better for your audience and your Google rankings. Consistency is key when it comes to blogging, so even when you’re getting 0-1 views per post, keep it up. The readers will come if you are consistent.
Make sure you’re using social media to share your posts, and make sure you’re using appropriate hashtags to get more views. Spend time searching for people looking for information that you’ve written about and link them to your post.
You should be doing everything you can to get people reading your content.
Once you have a blog, you want to use it to build an email list.
An active email list is the most important part of your business. Follower counts on Facebook or Twitter are far far less important, even now in the age of social media. Focus on using your blog to build that list as big as possible.
I’ve written in detail about building an email list, spend some time reading and actioning that, it’s so important.
Take away: Become an expert by building a blog and teaching people. Use that blog to grow an audience and convert them into email subscribers.
Once you’re building your audience, you need to earn their trust. You can’t make money online without trust.
People don’t come across a new website they’ve never heard of and just buy stuff. Or if they do, it’s rare. People buy from names they recognise and trust. You don’t have the name recognition of Amazon, so you need to do everything you can to build trust with the people that do visit your site.
You probably won’t get a sale from them on day one, but by building a relationship and providing value, you’ve got a good chance a week or a month from now.
The most common mistake people make is building an email list and then letting it go cold. If someone signs up to your list, they are interested in what you’ve got to say. If you then don’t email them for a year until you’ve got something to sell, they’ll forget who you are.
If your sales email arrives and their initial reaction is “who the hell is this?” then you’ve lost them. If you lose them, the effort you put in to get them in the first place was wasted.
To combat that you need to stay in contact with them, building trust and gaining name recognition.
How can you do that?
- Build an onboarding campaign. As soon as someone subscribes to your email list they should receive an email welcoming them, pointing them to some interesting articles you’ve written, and giving them your details so they can get in touch. You should build a campaign of 5-6 emails to automatically send over 7-10 days at the most.
- Send a weekly email featuring your best posts/articles
Automatic onboarding campaigns are one of many cool features you’ll get from any decent, modern email provider. I strongly recommend ConvertKit, it’s the best email service for bloggers imo. I use it here on Don’t Do An MBA.
You might be worried that all of these emails will start to annoy people. Yes, by emailing every week you’ll use a few subscribers. Some people just aren’t happy being emailed so often. That’s fine, if they unsubscribe they weren’t interested enough. It’s worth losing them to cement your relationship with the rest.
Take away: To make money online you need to gain the trust of the people you want to sell to. Keep in contact with your email list, building name recognition and trust over time with consistent content.
Once you have an audience that reads your emails, you’re ready to launch a product of your own.
Realistically only around 5% of your subscribers are likely to buy your product, so consider that when picking the time to launch. If you can’t get enough sales from your 5% to make a splash, keep going with stages 1 and 2.
If you’re selling a physical product, I suggest that you sell the first one on Kickstarter. You’re likely to need money to fund production, and the platform has name recognition that your own website does not.
Kickstarter isn’t the goldmine that it used to be as with so many projects launching every day, it’s hard to stand out. Even more reason to make sure that you have a lot of people on your email list waiting to buy on day one. A big first hour or two will get you bumped up the “trending” lists on Kickstarter and bring you a load more customers.
If you’re selling a virtual product then the importance of a big first day may be less obvious, but it still makes a difference:
- If you’re selling a book, even if on Kindle, then the higher in the charts you can get it the better
- If you’re selling an online course, you want your students to see that there are other students taking the course. You need to look like the expert that you are
- People will search social media for mentions of your product. If there aren’t any (or aren’t many) then they’ll be put off buying. You need your customers to buy and then talk about it
When preparing for your product launch, find the money to pay for the things that you can not do brilliantly yourself. For example, if you’re not a great photographer (and I mean really great, not a hobbyist) then pay someone to take the photos. If you need a launch video (and you probably do) then hire someone to make it rather than throw it together yourself on a shaky camera phone.
Your sales materials need to look like the work of an expert, not something thrown together with little planning. If you spend less than a month building your sales pages and materials, you’ve probably rushed it.