There are a lot of people talking about niche and targeting your ideal customer lately, but here’s the thing…
…if you're stuck on what type of online business to start, then all of that stuff doesn’t actually matter yet!
You can’t target the right customer until you actually know WHO your customer is.
And you won’t know exactly who your customer is with any kind of clarity until you know exactly what type of online business you want to start.
In this article, I’m talking about the different types of online business and what you can do to actually get started, today!
After more than 14 years of accumulating and analyzing data about growing and scaling different types of online businesses, I can tell you first hand that TRANSFORMATION is what moves you from zero to six-figure salary, not someone else's “framework.”
Listen up, because this is important.
Transformation comes from within. It comes from knowing exactly how to uncover your unique voice and then knowing how to use your voice to amplify your message….online.
I’ve worked with hundreds of entrepreneurs over the years, from small business owners to executives of large corporations; the most successful online businesses are not created from tactics that people teach, they are created from your very own experience.
You see, YOU have experience in your life that you can actually turn into an online business, you just need to know how to uncover it.
So lets get started!
What exactly is an Online Business?
Selling a product or service on the internet is an online business.
There are different online business models based on the type of product or service that you’re selling, but all of them have one thing in common, and that is the online sales and marketing strategy.
The first step in understanding how to start an online business is to recognize that the digital business model is still a business, in other words, in order to actually make money, you have to sell something.
What differentiates how you go about setting up your online business is actually based on whether you are selling a physical product, a digital product, or a service and also whether it’s your own product or someone else's.
Lets dig deeper.
A lot of clients that I’ve worked with in the past have said: “I’m not a salesperson, and I don’t like sales.”
It’s almost as if they are surprised that starting an online business means that you actually have to sell something.
But here’s the difference, an online business is more like “passive” sales rather than active sales.
Passive income is the buzz word that everyone likes to use these days.
In other words, passive income means that you do the work up-front so that your product or service eventually sells itself.
That of course doesn't mean that you don't have to do any work. On the contrary…
There is a shit-ton of work involved.
And how exactly do you go about setting up this coveted passive income stream?
Whether you choose to sell your own services, a product, or someone else’s product, the most important part of an online business is to get your strategy and your systems set up properly.
So lets unpack this concept of strategy and systems a little further because you may have heard that you can start an online business without actually having a product or service to sell.
The 3 Types of Online Business:
Someone Else’s Product or Service (ie: Affiliate/Influencer/Commission Based)
In a ‘traditional’ business setting, you might recognize that selling a service means something like what an accountant, an attorney, or even a life coach would do…where people pay a fee for your services.
Service Based Online Business
In the past, the clients of these kinds of professionals came from the same local town or region. However now, with the digital business model sweeping the globe, clients of professionals like this can be virtually anywhere.
But that’s not all…the reality is that you don’t need to have an advanced professional education in order to sell your own services online.
Here are a few examples of online, service based businesses that have been proven to be successful even if you don’t have a formal education:
Social Media Services
If you’re great at social media, you can manage social media accounts for businesses as your service.
You can choose to specialize in one network or a few, although I recommend becoming intimately familiar with just one or two so that you can position yourself as an expert. When using Social media for business purposes, the networks are very different. A person who is good at understanding how to optimize Facebook ads for conversion doesn’t necessarily know how to leverage Pinterest for business marketing because they are two very different marketing strategies.
So if this is your desired course of online business…choose the network you like best and become intimately familiar with it so that you can offer your expertise on that particular platform.
Virtual Assistant Services
If you’re organized, you can sell your services as a virtual assistant for many different types of businesses. Virtual assistants do everything from project management to digital marketing, so depending upon what you’re good at, you can offer your services on a contact basis.
Graphic Design/Web Design/Digital Marketing
This is the fastest growing segment of the online service based industry, and if you’re a creative person, then it’s likely you’ll be attracted to this type of service based online business. The best way to get started with this kind of business is to set up your own website and start blogging.
Life Coach/Business Coach/Fitness Coach
If you’re great at motivating people and encouraging people, you can sell your services as a coach.
Any knowledge that is above and beyond what regular people have in a particular area of focus can be sold as a service online. By making your services available online, you now open yourself up to a wider audience of potential consumers around the globe, and this is what makes an online business so different from a regular business. Imagine being able to perform services for people anywhere in the world, not just your hometown.
Selling your knowledge doesn’t stop with a service based business. In fact, one of the most lucrative types of online business is to create a knowledge based digital product.
What exactly does that mean?
This brings us to #2…
You obviously know what a physical product is. If you’re going to open a fashion boutique or sell a physical product that you create yourself such as a wreath or a bar of soap, those are physical products. A digital product means that whatever you are selling is available to access online, such as an ebook, a digital download, or a digital course.
For example, one of my side streams of income is my Etsy Shop. I create artwork that people can instantly download and print on their home printers. Have you ever seen a great quote in a beautiful font that you wished you could either print and hang on your wall or share on your social media feed? That is exactly what digital art is. Want to see some real, live examples? Click here to visit my Etsy Shop.
Digital products can generate income more quickly than physical products and the best part? A digital product based online business also applies to knowledge.
For example, if you know how to do something like make the best strawberry jam or spaghetti sauce on the planet, you can teach others how to do that on a video and then sell your video as a digital product.
More often these days, this is called a digital course. Creating your own digital course is all the rage right now, and if you know how to do it right, it’s the most lucrative types of digital businesses.
Inside my Online Business Coaching Program, I use a signature method to help you uncover your unique genius zone so that you can create a highly scalable online business. And I don't charge and arm and a leg to do it!
Because I know that your business has to be based on you, and no one else on this planet is you. That is your super-power. YOUR super power!!
Simply following what someone else does isn’t going to be the key to your success; the key to your success is to take what you have to offer, your unique super-power, and know how to structure it to fit the online business model.
Are your juices flowing yet? Are you gaining some insight into some ideas for your online business? Let me know in the comments below!
Startup Costs of an Online Business
Even though an online business doesn’t have a lot of up-front startup costs like a traditional business, it still has startup costs.
And what exactly are those startup costs?
The costs are highly dependent on the type of online business you are starting. For the bulk of online business, the costs are going to be for software tools and for online marketing.
The software tools that you will use for your particular online business will again depend on the type of online business you have. For example, if you’re a creative person and you’re thinking about selling digital downloads (like the art I mentioned above) through an Etsy shop, then your costs are going to be focused more on marketing, because there is only a minimal cost to post your artwork on Etsy.
If you’re planning to teach people how to do something and sell your knowledge, for example: how to edit videos for YouTube, then your startup costs will focus more on software, both your own (video editing software) as well as the software necessary to deliver your course content. You’ll also likely have online marketing and advertising costs, and you’ll likely use software for scheduling and research as well.
If you’re planning to do affiliate marketing (i.e.: sell someone else's product) then your cost is wrapped up in starting and marketing your blog, which includes domain, hosting, marketing, advertising and scheduling and research.
3. Affiliate Marketing (also called Influencer Marketing)
Affiliate marketing means that you blog about someone else's product (such as a piece of clothing, jewelry, or bag) and then if someone clicks over from your blog post or social media post, then you receive a commission on the sale of that product. It's very important to note that this kind of marketing only works well if you have a very large social media and/or blog following. Otherwise, the clicks just will not generate enough income for you to make a living.
Perhaps most importantly, the biggest cost will be investing in yourself. In order to be successful and make a full-time income building an online business of your own is having the knowledge of where to start and how to actually make progress.
If you need some help along the way, I encourage you to learn more about my online business coaching program. It’s a live program, that means you’ll get private access to me and my team to answer your most pressing questions about your online business, as well as walk you through your software and technology integrations to help you get your business up and running in the most efficient way possible.
Think of it as if it’s your own private technology help desk, with the benefit of giving you sound advice about online business too!
Not quite ready to make an investment? Join my FREE Private Facebook Group to ask a question and get help from other bloggers, social media influencers, and online entrepreneurs! (TIP: The Facebook Group is focused on Pinterest Marketing techniques, but it's really so much more!)
Are you making this mistake with your side hustle?
Coaches, Consultants, Experts, Service Providers…listen up. This post will help you make sense out of the online business model. Whatever your passion is, whatever you’re good at, I’m living proof that you can monetize it online, but there’s a catch…you’ve got to follow the formula.
You’ve heard it before…
Take what you know.
Sell it for $2k or more.
Use a Facebook ad, a video, and an email sequence.
That’s the formula.
It’s really simple.
But, actually, it’s not that simple.
Easier said than done…
Because you might be thinking,
“What exactly is my offer?”
“Would anyone actually pay $2k, $5k, or even $10k for it?”
“That’s what I charge.”
“Well, I think that’s what I should charge.”
“But, nobody’s ever heard of me.”
“I don’t have an email list.”
“I have case studies but they’re not written up yet.”
“I don’t have a video for my business.”
“And syncing the software?”
“Exactly what software should I use?”
“What’s the difference between a Sales Page and my regular website?”
“What if I don’t even have a website yet?”
“Plus, what about ads?”
“I’m not sure if I can write the perfect email sequence.”
“And I’d rather not do phone calls, either.”
“Maybe I’ll buy a course.”
“Or try to find a freelancer to help me.”
I’ve got a better idea.
Read this first.
There are some important lessons to learn if you want to create a profitable online business.
How do I know this?
I worked in corporate marketing for a Fortune 500 for 10 years. I traveled around the U.S. to train regional marketing teams. After that, I worked for a digital agency for a few more years. When the sales guy at my agency invoiced a client $10,000 for a report that I wrote myself, I finally decided it was time to stop giving away my expertise for peanuts.
But…with that…I had to start over. I started at the same place where everyone starts when they're starting a new business…at the very beginning. So this is a culmination of advice that I both gave to clients of our agency, as well as garnered myself from starting over.
Lesson 1: What is Your Offer?
The very first step to monetization online is to get crystal clear about what exactly your offer is. Who do you serve? What is the problem that you solve? And most of all, why does it matter? In order to be successful with monetization online, you have to focus on the transformation you can provide for people. It doesn’t matter whether it’s crafting hair bows for gymnasts or writing paleo recipes, your focus has to be clear.
A lot of times people want to start a blog but they aren’t quite sure what they want to blog about because they have several different passions. While Lifestyle Bloggers can definitely monetize and become successful, the real key to monetization is to start with a narrow focus.
Are you making this mistake with your side hustle?
When you cover too many different topics, such as motherhood, kids, fashion, and email marketing, people will be confused about what it is that you are an expert in.
I often see women start off blogging about motherhood, and then all of a sudden they are an “expert” in SEO and they are selling a course on “how to start a blog”.
Listen, I don’t care what anyone else tells you…that isn’t a sustainable way for you to make a full-time income as a blogger. It will never happen. I’ve seen people fail, and fail again. You’ll be wasting your time with affiliate links to other blogger’s products that have nothing to do with your blog.
If you worked in marketing for the last 15 years then start a marketing blog, but if you didn’t, then stay in your lane.
Get out of comparisonville, don’t regurgitate other people’s blog posts, and get back in your lane.
Stick with what you know well.
If you're going to create a video or blog about a topic, make sure you have experience in that topic. Nobody wants to learn about how to grow a YouTube channel by someone who has 3 videos on their channel with 10 subscribers and 20 views.
I once clicked on a Pin on Pinterest which led to a blog article about advice on starting a YouTube channel. As I read through the article, I was becoming skeptical because the advice was counter-intuitive to what is being taught inside the mentorship program I belong to. (In case you didn't know, I'm a mentor inside of the private groups for YouTube Influencer Sunny Lenarduzzi's YouTube for Bosses and Authority Accelerator Programs).
We teach people how to be successful on YouTube.
But do some due diligence.
Check out my YouTube channel. It's not huge, but it's acceptable. If you like what you see, don't forget to subscribe while you're there.
So the moral of the story is….stick with what you know.
Don't try to be someone you're not.
Because that isn't going to give you a full time income.
Want to learn how to be successful with YouTube so that you can grow your biz like the real GirlBoss that you are? Start here:
Lesson 2: Your Purpose
Creating content is all about focusing on your purpose. Sometimes, bloggers can’t articulate their message, and this ultimately makes it harder to monetize.
Try thinking about this statement:
I help [specific person] to [specific problem you solve] so [specific result they want].
I help driven women entrepreneurs go from feeling stagnant in their business to standing out as leaders so they can fast-track more high-ticket clients and share their unique message with the world.
You definitely want your message to be high level, but also speak to a specific pain point that will get your audiences attention.
Make your purpose clear, specific and results-driven. Ultimately, you want to move people to take the next step in their journey.
Now, if you don’t already know this, your bottom line is highly dependent upon your ability to “do social media” correctly. What does that look like you’re saying to yourself, what exactly does it mean to “do it correctly?”
I think it’s easy to get so focused on building your product that you forget to build your audience. Before you can monetize, you need to have people to sell to. In other words, if you don’t have an email list or a very big social media following, you’ve got to work on that.
Monetization is twofold: it’s about creating your own digital product that will help move your audience closer to their goal, and also suggesting helpful products and services (affiliate links) that will also move your audience closer to their goal.
You can’t monetize your passion if you don’t have someone to sell to. Think about it this way, just because you put your product out there on your website doesn’t mean people are just going to start flocking to it. The social media fairies don’t work that way.
Plus, and this is important, here’s the reality: you’re probably not going to make a huge affiliate income on the day you publish your first affiliate link. People are not going to open up their wallet and buy something they’ve never heard of just because you recommended it in a blog post.
Is it possible to make an affiliate income the moment you hit “publish?” Of course people may read your post, get really into the product you’ve recommended, and buy it. But in my experience it hasn’t been an effective strategy and I wouldn’t rely on it.
And here’s the other thing you should know about affiliate income: it’s inconsistent. I wish affiliate links were a stable way to make an income, but the reality is that there is nothing truly stable about making money by promoting other people’s products. It’s not uncommon for a company to close down their affiliate program, change the terms, or go out of business altogether.
Lesson 3: Your Audience
Herein lies the final key to being successful with monetization. I’ll say it again because it’s so important: You can’t monetize your passion if you don’t have someone to sell to.
So even if you don’t have a product yet, you want to start building your audience from day one.
Regardless of what your background is, believe me, for the last 14 years I’ve been working with people from college educated to physicians to craftsman to students, and when it comes to online marketing and digital advertising, everyone is in the same boat. Your leadership, drive and ambition isn’t about your educational background, it is about your motivation to accelerate your business forward and that is what will make you successful.
Now there are ways to accelerate the process of building your audience. You can use paid ads to get in front of your exact target audience, but there’s a strategy that you need to follow to make it all come together.
Savvy shoppers are now what the Harvard Business review is calling “mobile supershoppers” they know just what they want and they know how to find it.
The question becomes, do you know how to market to them? The success of your online business in the 21st century depends on whether you know how to do it right.
Lets talk about value. Measuring and delivering what your consumer really wants, that is value.
When a customer evaluates a product or a service, they weigh it’s perceived value against it’s asking price, but zeroing in on what they REALLY value can be difficult, because psychologically it’s complicated.
How does that all play in to getting people to buy your product or service online? Well, to make your product valuable, it needs to contain 4 elements:
and provide social impact.
When optimally combined, these 4 elements will increase your customer loyalty and your revenue growth.
But if you’re clueless about the digital business model, tech integrations or how to connect online marketing back to revenue for your business, and nothing else has worked…
And you’re sick and tired of trying to do ALL.THE.THINGS.
Maybe it’s time to outsource the entire scope of the project to an expert with an unparalleled commitment to serving your needs.
Here’s an alternative option for a very limited time…I currently host a Free, private Facebook group where you can ask questions, get solid advice, support, and collaborate with other social media influencers, bloggers, and online entrepreneurs. In early 2020, I will be changing this group from free to paid, so if you would like to get in now, for free, click here to join! Once I officially launch my Masterclass Series, I will only be inviting those who have paid for the course. Why? Because it takes time to answer questions of course and I can’t keep working for free! 🙂 Join now!!
On another note, here’s my best advice for Small Business Owners: Start with a digital audit. I can do a mini-audit of your website and social channels, and then plan a time to talk it over with you, one-on-one in a 1-hour or 2-hour session. I also offer a full-scale digital audit which provides you with a written, step-by-step Action Plan tailored to your business model to help you get you where you’re going. You can implement the plan yourself, hire us to do it for you, or seek out freelance services yourself using Upwork, Fiverr, or Bark.
When you have a written plan, you’ll know exactly what you need to do, and perhaps most importantly, how to communicate it properly in the right ‘industry lingo’ so that you, someone on your team, or a hired freelancer can get it done quickly and efficiently.