Whenever I tell people that I run an internet business, the questions they have are pretty predictable. We might talk about what I do, how I find clients or how I get paid, but the conversations nearly always end with the same question – “How can I get started?”
Predictably, this conversation comes up a lot during the holidays, when I’m forced to make small talk with distant family relatives, spouses of co-workers, and other people with whom I have next to nothing in common. So recently, that got me thinking – if I could start fresh, from the beginning, with my internet businesses, what would I do differently? The following is the conversation I imagined with my past self – we’ll call her 2007 Sarah – to answer that question.
(My apologies in advance for any lack of coherence – this post may or may not be brought to you by a bottle of holiday wine…)
2007 Sarah – “Oh.my.gosh – dude!!! Did you know that there are people out there who actually, legitimately, seriously make a living online?!?!”
(2007 Sarah was pretty excitable. But then again, who wouldn’t be? The idea that you can earn passive income in your sleep while sharing stuff you love with the world is actually pretty frickin’ cool.)
2011 Sarah – “Yes, I know. There’s a whole world of money-making opportunities out there onlin-“
2007 Sarah – “Ooooh – get this! I just read a website about people who make money taking paid surveys online. I’m going to make money sharing my opinions!!!”
2011 Sarah – “That’s all well and good, but have you thought about whether or not paid surveys are really right for you? I mean, the payout isn’t that great…”
2007 Sarah – “Whatever. I just bought a course on how it’s going to make me a millionaire. AND, they gave me a special deal on another course on how to make money buying something called ‘pay-per-click’ ads – “
2011 Sarah – “You don’t even know what pay-per-click ads are!!!”
2007 Sarah was pretty flighty. When I was first starting out, I was incredibly hopeful. I remember spending days jumping from one website to the next, each with a different strategy for making money online. I was sure that my days of being behind on bills were over, and that I was just steps away from becoming an internet millionaire.
Of course, things didn’t pan out quite like that. After several months of bouncing from one project to another, the only thing I had to show for my effort was a growing credit card bill. I’d read sales page after sales page looking for that “magic key” to internet riches – and I charged each and every single product they were selling to my credit card, thinking I’d soon be rich enough to pay it off in full.
While I think there’s certainly something valuable in exploring different areas in order to find the online business model that’s the best fit for you, there are two major things I’d do differently if I had the chance to start over again. If you’re just getting started with your internet marketing journey, I hope you’ll take this advice to heart. And if you’ve been working online for some time without experiencing the level of success you imagined, I think you’ll find this useful as well.
Hard-Earned Piece of Advice #1 for 2007 Sarah – Have a plan!
I’m going to talk more on Friday about how to evaluate different business opportunities based on your own strengths, weaknesses, interests and skills. But basically, very few people have the skills and/or inclination to successfully pull off every single type of internet business out there. I’m not one of them, and you probably aren’t either.
Instead, you need to spend some serious time thinking about what skills you have and how you want to use them online. I’ve always loved writing, so taking on article writing projects was a very natural next step for me. If you hate writing with the fiery passion of a thousand suns, you’re going to want to choose a different type of business!
Similarly, although I started out taking paid surveys online, I quickly found out that earning $5 for a survey that took 1-2 hours to complete wasn’t worth it for me. It might be for you, if all you’re after is some extra spending money, but it wasn’t right for me. And if I had taken the time to be clear about my expectations upfront, I would have saved the money I spent on that course about taking paid online surveys.
And that brings me to my next point…
Hard-Earned Piece of Advice #2 for 2007 Sarah – Stop spending so much damn money!
You don’t need to spend money to learn more about different types of internet businesses, or to figure out which one is right for you. There are plenty of great free resources out there for learning about online businesses and you should exhaust them before paying for educational content.
If you’re finding it hard to keep your spending in check, keep in mind that sales pages are designed to make you think you absolutely, positively won’t be able to live without the product they’re selling. If you can’t resist these pitches, stay the hell off of them until you know more about what you actually do need to spend money on!
I know this might sound harsh, but believe me when I say that it comes from a place of love. One of the biggest challenges for all internet marketers – whether they’re just beginning or well-established – is sticking with one plan and focusing on the work that needs to get done to make that plan a success.
If you don’t have a concrete plan to follow, you’re going to waste time and money spinning your wheels and accomplishing nothing. However, it’s equally important that your plan is well thought out and suited to your particular skill set. If not, you’re going to find yourself constantly searching for a different plan, instead of focusing on the one you’ve got.
On Friday, I’ll be talking more about how to do this evaluation. This post won’t just be for beginners – even though I’ve been working online for several years, I still find it helpful to regularly reevaluate whether my plan matches up with what interests me and what I know I’m good at. If you’re at all serious about internet marketing, you won’t want to miss this one!
Talk to you soon!