planning an online business

The Ridiculously Uncomplicated (+ Detailed) Guide To Planning An Online Business

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I have a secret I want to share with you. It’s something I don’t share very often or with many people, but today, it’s a very special day, it’s Sunday. I’m going to answer the question that’s troubling the entire world wide web. No, it’s not “How to tie a tie,” it’s “How to start an online business and actually start making money online.”

I’m pretty sure you think of me as just a random boring guy who reads and writes about books and other not so interesting things. Even though it’s kind of true – I’m kind of boring and I do read a lot – there’s a little bit more going on behind the scenes than that.

What you didn’t know about me is that I’m actually quite into making websites, especially with WordPress. I have a few years of experience and a decent amount of knowledge about creating websites and what needs to be done in order a site to become successful. This site here, durmonski.com, is probably my 7th website. Throughout the past 8 years, I had the pleasure to start, brake, build, and later abandon a couple of sites. Fortunately, I learned a lot from these failed projects. Especially, what you shouldn’t do when starting.

The reason I bring this up is because a lot of people seem to be confused about how to start a website. They think that this task, starting a business online, is something that requires inhuman efforts, a room full of computers and at least a couple of thousand dollars.

Well, to put it simply, it doesn’t. Everyone with an internet connection and basic understanding of how the internet works can create a business and start making money. It’s surely not going to be easy and it will definitely take longer than what the authors of the most popular articles online tell you, but it’s fully possible.

Yet, even though the web is flooded with articles about starting an online business, there are few, or non, about the pre-planning involved in the process. Starting is easy. But starting without thinking about what should be the end result is just a waste of time.

So, if you’re interested in starting an online business, I have a treat for you today, I’ll share the basic things you need to consider before starting an online business, i.e., how to actually plan it.

Why You Need To Plan Before You Start?

Starting without thinking about the process is like trying to run a marathon before running regularly for at least a year. You’ll most probably die.

Well, building an online business without planning is a bit safer. I mean, the worse that can happen is to lose a couple of bucks and a year from your life. And if you have 365 days to spare and around $500 to waste, go ahead, be my guest and register your domain name. I’m OK.

Still, if you want to be aware of the potential issues that you’ll inevitably encounter along the way, it’s best to take some time for preparation, plan your online venture in details before you dive deep. That’s exactly what we’re going to do today, we’ll go through the planning process in details.

1. It Will Take You Longer Than You Think

First things first, it will take a lot of time. Probably a year, even more.

Don’t blindly trust what the online guru’s, the ones who try to persuade you to buy their ultimate online course for $500 tell you about starting an online business. It takes a lot of time, effort, skills, patience, strategy, diligence to create and actually make money from an online website.

If someone is telling you that it took him a month to earn a 6 figure income from his website, close the site and run. Run away from this person. These guys can be really persuasive and can make you invest in them but later find out that little of what they share works for you.

If you’re not willing to invest at least a couple of hours a day, yes, a day, and consider this like as a long-term commitment, I’ll suggest ditching the idea of starting a website and go do something else instead.

2. Choose a Topic

Before you even think about getting a domain name, you need to consider what will be the main theme of your site. What will be your mission? What are you going to talk about? What will be the main topic?

The narrower the better.

A lot of people mess up by starting a site about “everything.” With an intention to please everyone, they create a site that eventually doesn’t help anyone.

Of course, the theme of your site should be something you’re really interested in. For example, if you love archery you might consider this topic for your site.

3. What Are You Going to Write About?

The success of your site largely depends on the content you’ll put inside. So, before writing your first blog post, think, like a lot, about what type of content you’ll be putting. It should be aligned with the theme of the site. It should help people. It should grab their attention and be beneficial for the reader.

Additionally, you need to consider who is going to write the content. If you’re good with words, it will probably be you, but if you’re not, you need to find someone. Keep in mind though, hiring a good writer won’t be cheap.

4. Do You Have Enough To Say?

The worst nightmare every blogger and internet enthusiast has is running out of content ideas.

As we already mentioned a couple of times, this is a long term project. Meaning, you need content ideas for years to come.

Probably you’re super passionate about Tesla cars and you want to write reviews about all present and future models. Still, if you don’t own, yourself, a Tesla, and if you can’t afford to buy the new models or have access to them, so you can write the review, take pictures, etc., you won’t be able to produce quality content.

You can write something based on other people’s reviews, but your readers won’t find that very attractive.

However, if you work at a car dealer shop and you have access to all the models, you have yourself a winning position. You’ll be able to write your reviews without having to buy the cars.

5. Decide What Type Of Content You’re Going To Write

There are more than 100 content types.1 Here’re just a few examples:

  • “How to” posts: A classic way to educate people. Example: How to make money;
  • Interviews: A really easy way to produce content. You ask someone questions, he answers, and you get yourself a piece of content. Example: Yuval Noah Harari interview;
  • Webinars: Like conferences. Except, people can join from around the world and everyone can wear his pajamas. Basically, you teach your audience something specific. Example: Live webinar by Jeff Goins;
  • Reviews: You review a certain product, or a website, and you share your opinion with the audience. Reviews are really popular these days since most of the people buy the products before they see it. Example: Onewheel review.
  • Podcasts: Similar to interviews, but with audio. Basically, you record your conversation with someone and you publish it online. But that’s not mandatory. You don’t have to necessarily invite someone, you can simply record your thoughts about a specific topic in audio format. Example: Tobias Van Schneider podcast.

Even though the list is larger, in essence, the core categorization of content types can be narrowed into these divisions: 1) Timeless content; 2) Time-dependent content. Let’s observe them one by one:

  1. Timeless: Timeless content is a piece of content that won’t be affected by trends or political changes. Think of an article about what’s the meaning of life. If you write a piece of content about life’s meaning today, it will be valid for the next 10, even 20 years. That’s why I write book summaries. Once a book is published, it’s done. The book won’t be updated any time soon, if this ever happens.
  2. Time-dependent: These type of articles are with expiration dates. For example, if you write a review about iPhone X, the article will be obsolete next year, when there is a new phone. Or, if you’re running a fashion blog, this will mean that you’ll need to regularly update your site with fresh content because otherwise, people won’t find anything new, thus go read someone else’s blog.

From the above two, I prefer the timeless type of content. Why? Here are the main benefits:

  • You don’t have to constantly update your site with the latest trends. This means less stress;
  • You can publish fewer articles;
  • Timeless articles will be valid 3 years from now, or even more. This means that you can share a 5-year-old article on social media and still be valuable for the reader;
  • You have more time at your disposal to create a lengthy piece of content.
  • Timeless content basically means that your site is always up to date and everyone visiting it can find something useful.

6. Choose One Type Of Content

A common mistakes a lot of people do, including me in the past, is trying to do everything. Instead of focusing on one type of content structure, or a maximum of two, they go overboard. Trying every single content strategy in the book, thinking that this is the best way.

But having 10 menus on your website will only clutter your site and confuse people. They won’t understand your goal, thus abandoned your site.

Before starting your site, consider what type of content you’re going to publish. Are you going to interview people? Are you going to start a podcast? Are you going to primarily publish “How to” posts? Do you prefer regular news updates about the latest fashion trends?

But don’t choose all of them. Choose one or two. The fewer options, the better. Also, decide what type of content you’re going to produce: timeless or time-dependent.

7. What Are You Going To Sell?

It’s time for some fun stuff. How are you going to monetize your website?

No matter how humble your project is, how many times you repeat that you’re doing it for the public, at some point, you need to consider ways to make money from your site. The best time to think about this is before you actually start.

And don’t give me that crap that you don’t want anything and you’re doing it for the benefit of humanity. When you’re investing time and money, you’ll want something in return. Because If your site is not bringing any income, you’ll ditch it at some point. And hell, who can blame you? You’re spending so many hours writing content for other people, guiding them, teaching them stuff you’ve spent years learning, it’s only normal to ask for something in return.

So, have you ever thought about ways to earn money online?

There are several methods that will allow you to make money online. I’ll list the best of them and I’ll include what’s the main problem with them::

  • Ads on your site: You write about something > You place ads everywhere on your site > You hope that people will click on these ads. I personally don’t recommend this method. I don’t know about you, but when I see sites cluttered with ads I usually close them and I never return. Also, you need a huge amount of traffic coming to your site if you want to earn more than $5 a month. By huge I mean at least 50,000 visitors per day. That’s really hard to achieve;
  • Affiliate sales: You sing up for an affiliate account for a product your love > You write content about that product > People buy the product from your link > You get money. It’s sound easy-peasy but it’s harder than you think. Still, it’s a lot better option than ads;
  • Paid reviews: If your site is about reviews, you can charge companies to showcase their products on your pages. This is the process: You write reviews for free initially till you build an audience > Your reach out to companies and ask them to pay you so you can review their product. This type of money-making method goes along with the affiliate sales type. Even if you write for free, you can earn money from the affiliate sales.
  • Selling your own product: You create something > You showcase it on your site > Your get money. The problem here is that you need to actually create a physical product, invest a lot of money upfront, take care of the shipping. The potential revenue here is huge. If you’re planning to create your own product, I’ll suggest running a campaign over Kickstarter. This site will take care of the initial problem: you investing a lot of money upfront.2
  • Selling services: Similar to the above but you sell services – not actual physical goods. Imagine you’re good with JavaScript and HTML. You can create your own website-building agency and create sites for people for a certain fee. The problem? You need to spend a lot of time learning something.
  • Subscription based: You provide a certain type of services to clients which saves them time, or ads value, or both > You charge monthly or early people > You get recurring revenue. According to I-want-to-become-a-millionaire lifestyle tips, this is the best possible way you can retire from your 9 to 5 job. The problem? You need to consistently provide quality services. To imagine this type of model better, think about the company you pay for electricity. Sounds impossible to recreate, right? Don’t worry, there are a lot of alternative subscription based methods: paid subscription boxes, web maintenance services, paid membership sites where you need to pay a yearly fee to get access to content.[Note]Here’re are a couple of good examples: LINK.[/note]

8. Think About the Design

Sit down and actually sketch how you wish your site to look. How many menus do you want? What type of pictures you’ll put. Draw it. Don’t just think about it. This way you’ll have a visual about the design and a way to easily refine it before you even create version 1.0 of your site.

This also includes the type of colors you’ll use, the fonts, the logo, even the actual spacing between the elements.

A good design means that you care about what you’re doing. It will make the difference between people buying what you’re selling and not buying your stuff. People will trust you with their money only if your site looks legit. If your pages open with errors too often, they’ll get back and never return.

Beware though, don’t waste a lot of time here. Don’t try to make your site too fancy either. Use less stuff and elements. Embrace minimalism. Clean and easy to navigate sites are preferred by users.

9. Do You Research and Steal

You don’t have to be genius to create a cool and useful online business. You just need to be good at researching. To take some time and see what others have already created.

Once you figure out the theme of your site, what are you going to write about, what are you going to sell, go to Google and search. See what’s already out there.

Next step, steal. I’m sure you’ve heard this quote from Pablo Picasso: “Good artists copy. Great artists steal.”

This basically means to steal other people’s ideas and refine them. Make them better. Fit them into your project. Don’t copy-paste, that’s illegal. Rather, see what you can use, what type of ideas you can use for your own project. Write them down, make them better.

That’s the most important step. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. You benefit from the experience of others and implement them into your own project.

Bonus: Create A Draft

Once you’ve gone through all of the steps, write everything down on a piece of paper. Come up with a couple of content ideas. Write your about page. Or a why page. What kind of content you’re going to wire: timeless or time-dependent? Consider what kind of problem your product will solve for other people. Think about your site 2 years from now, is everything you’re planning now be relevant after a couple of years?

Is your idea any good? I mean, be real about the originality of your concept. If nobody did it before, it’s probably stupid or impossible. So, it’s probably a dead-end.

Once again, don’t try to please everyone. Do a niche website. Something that will serve a specific audience.

The detailed the draft about your site the better. This will give you visual and also allow you to spot potential problems. But most importantly, creating a draft will help you plan how much time you need on a daily basis. Because you’ll need time if you’re serious about the business.

Some Closing Thoughts

Everyone wants to become rich by selling goods from the comfort of his home. Yet, few people are willing to do the actual work and stay persistent over a period of a couple of years.

Don’t be delusional. Be honest with yourself about your willingness to devote to this long-term task. If you have a track record of someone who doesn’t have a lot of patience, it’s best to focus on your current job. If you’re up for the challenge, and if you can commit, you’ll definitely succeed. Yes, it will be hard but it’s not impossible.

Your turn: Do you own an online business yourself? Or, are you’re thinking of starting but you’re not sure? Share your thoughts and what is stopping you the comments below. I’ll be glad to answer your questions.


Footnotes:

  1. Here’s a list of 113 types of content: LIST.
  2. Kickstarter is a site where you can get funds for your idea. It’s super cool because you can start with a really small investment. Though, consider investing in a really good presentation, like this one: LINK

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