First of all, read these:
They have been written 3 and 7 years ago, respectively and they answer the question the better than my answer today. Still, I’ll give it a try.
A. The complicated, long and slow answer, see the end of the blog post for the simple and quick answer
Some basic rules:
- It’s a long process and it can get frustrating to wait. You’ll grow, the online resource you think of building will grow with you. But do yourself a favor and start as part time. Dedicate a few hours each day and try to set some objectives for yourself and then to keep them (posting a few times a week, or daily, getting at least n likes, reading weekly at least one book in the field, reading weekly n blog posts). Personal note – I also started freelancing work in the evenings, part-time, years ago.
- Whatever you do, you need to do two things in the same time – consume what others do and create your own things. See what others do and do it yourself. At the same time. Compare, analyze. You can’t reinvent the wheel anymore. You need to be informed. Personal note – I tend to consume quite a few pieces of online media, in various forms and on various subjects. I tend to think that a professional, in any field, should have a broader understanding of both professional and personal things.
- There are basically three things which you can sell:
- To everyone on the Internet – this is what most people think about when they think they’ll start a business. When they’re told to find a niche, they think that “women” is a niche, or “women interested in clothing” is a niche, or “women interested in vintage clothing” is a niche. It isn’t. You really need something small. Convince a few people then grow from that. Something to see on the matter. And something else. This point is a false point. It’s hard to start a new Amazon, or a new Facebook. Find something which will matter to 10 people, then grow from that. The videos explain the phenomena much better. This point can be summarized: “if you plan on making money online by something which you’re good at, but is not liked by others, and others don’t like you personally, you’re going to have a hard life”. Most people start from here – “what is that I like and I can put online?”. Start differently, see the below points.
- To people who think in certain way – yes, I’m talking, again, about niches here. Find a community who like a topic. See the videos above about niches. Build around that. This point can be summarized like this: “find people which love something, and offer that thing to them”. In order to be the best in your field, your field must be extremely small. It’s hard-to-impossible to be the best out of 100,000 people with experience competing in the field. But the best out of 3 people (or, even best, only one person – you!) offering services in a field – this is achievable.
- To people who like you – build your brand. Offer things which are related to you, as a person / entity (company / NGO / freelancer). Create something online which helps you sell on other channels. Be the expert in your field who also blogs. Create something online, only to have a brand which allows to sell on other media. Summary – “create a follower audience and build your brand”.
- Some personal experiences: I started with a blog with general pieces of information called News for Yahoo! Messenger (great name, huh?). I had no luck with it. Then I did two other general-focused blogs, which no longer exist today, focused on productivity, and another blog on Internet marketing. I redirected them to the new domains, see below. Right now, I own these entities:
- Oliii.com – a blog literally about everything. I write about everything in there. I have virtually no readers. The thing is, I need to write those things somewhere, so that blog is a place a put everything. No one cares.
- Betterish.com – a blog similar to the concept of LifeHacker – making things better. A collection of “How to?”-guides. Still, it’s also too general, and not my main competence.
- OlivianBreda.com – current blog, Internet marketing. Moderate success. The statistics are public.
- Olivian.ro – blog on practical things. Some events. Some Internet things. My most successful blog. Statistics are public.
- Audithink.com – niche. I wrote only a few articles, and one is not big, but huge. Few readers, few articles.
- I make around 30-50 USD / month from affiliate systems. The blog I like the best is Oliii.com, it’s my soul in there, I’m addicted to it. No one reads it. The blog most professionally made is Audithink, but it’s very hard to read (hard-to-read articles). Betterish – too general to make people care. Olivian.ro and OlivianBreda.com have, I think, a good mix between personal things and professional. Most money I make online are from personal branding due to these two blogs. It’s much much easier to make 30 USD off-line than on-line.
- On a technical level:
- Do these at the same time: focus on getting everything for free, AND focus on paying for everything. Try to do them both. You’ll inevitably do mistakes. Read, be informed, ask if you must (you should generally find that, online, most questions have already been asked and answered, sometimes correctly, sometimes wrong, but always correctly if you read large enough quantities of material and know how to do critical thinking; if you don’t know how to do critical thinking, you can search that online; if you don’t know how to search online, you can search that online and start from there; there’s always an answer on the Internet). Examples to this rule: a .com domain costs 10 USD / year (hint). You can find some domain names for free. Hosting (.ro?) costs from 1 USD per year to a few dozen USD per month. Email marketing can be free, and can also be paid. Analytics data handling is generally free (Google Analytics), but it can be paid. You need to know why a .com domain costs 10 USD per year, and you need to know why the same service provider (MailChimp, let’s say) offers email marketing for free and paid. You also need to know why should you use an email marketing provider at all, when you could just build your own tool to batch send 100 emails (I’m not talking about SPAM, here, I mean a real database of people; why should you externalize the sending). There are lots of questions to be asked and answered, and you need to be able to provide a coherent answer to most of them.
- Find shortcuts, work for them, try to get them. But also do things slowly, at the same time. Try to understand and analyze data. What happens if you automate postings on Twitter, versus posting things yourself and engaging into discussions? Know the shortcuts well, don’t always take them.
- Start small. Get a WordPress.com domain, create a Google Account (YouTube and Picasa included). Create some accounts on some social networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, perhaps Google+, Instagram, Pinterest). Create a newsletter, either automatically (RSS-to-email), or manually on MailChimp. Advertise somehow – I recommend to start with Affiliate programs. Learn how to use URL shorteners and use them each time you post something.
- You might consider using a fake identity at this step, but you could also use your own. You could also create the image of something (for example, a fake account of a character in a movie you once liked; avoid something commercially or something which might get you into legal problems, like creating an account of current day celebrity or posting videos from a video which has copyright; play it safe, the world doesn’t need another person doing bad stuff on the Internet).
- Create a habit and keep it for 10 weeks – each day at least one blog post. Each day at least 3 things posted on social networks. Each week at least a few sessions of looking on statistics on various things (Google Analytics, other types of sites which offer you statistics). Each week a self-analysis with paths to improvement. Each week at least n hours spent on both looking at others (analyzing the competition, although I don’t really view them as such, you help them with your blog, and they help you by being on the market), and on reading new things. Copy a few times stupidly. Allow yourself to make mistake. Post photos with food, just to see what it’s like. Make a video of a cat and post it on YouTube. Try to write a blog post on a subject you don’t particularly like. Try to post something when you’re tired, because you need to keep your own promise.
- At the end of the 10 weeks, go a bit more pro:
- Try to delete some of the things which you’ve done and wonder why you can’t completely remove some mistakes.
- Find out something which you have to sell. It can be two things and two things only:
- Either something which will be of interest for a small group of people.
- Or something which will position you as an expert, and help you make money in different things.
- Seth Godin has more ideas, see the links at the very top of the article.
- You need to have some money to invest, at this stage. Buy a domain name (.com is 10 USD per year, .ro is around 50 USD, pay once per lifetime). Get some good hosting. From here, there are lots of options.
- Repeat what you learned in the 10 weeks of training – social media accounts, newsletter, blogging, it’s all there.
- Have some online channels on which you can experiment. I post on Oliii.com things which are of no use to anyone, but help me get them out of my system. I handle some online accounts of entities, and this helps me better understand the markets.
- Be informed. Read a lot.
- Online success is hard and takes a while. See the image below. It took a few years for the person below to get to a successful brand. It’s very easy to confuse the methods of evaluating data (100 viewers from email marketing / 10 clicks from promotional ads / 2 clients from guest blogging / 1 client from persuading people / 20 people from social networks / 5 clients from SEO in two days / 100 new visitors from blogging / 10 subscribers from content creating / 50 visitors from affiliate marketing, with 2 clients) with real success. So, if you get 1000 people to visit your site, and from those people 10 click on ads, and from those people 1 buys something, you might have the impression that all you need to do is get 2,000 more people for two more buyers. Or, you have an online store, and you send a newsletter to 100 actual subscribers and 2 people buy. And you then think that by having 500 subscribers, at least 5, and perhaps 10-15 people will buy. Once you have this idea in you, you might be tempted to go for shortcuts. Shortcuts on improving your newsletter subscriber base, shortcuts on appearing higher on Google, shortcuts on promoting your message. And things gets nasty, because you get into SPAM. And you will likely see some results, and if you confuse those with real success, you will try to do more. And, likely, you will get a bit more better with clients. Until you see some troubling things, like Google penalizing you, or your emails constantly getting into SPAM folders of clients, even if they are order confirmations or actual SPAM emails, or your page gets deleted by Facebook, or you have 100,000 fans on Facebook, but they don’t like what you promote, or you get a list of 10,000 people on MailChimp, but very low numbers of actual orders and clicks, which gets you into some problems and so on. SPAM solutions are generally simple, and also generally not worth it in the medium run. They tend to destroy a brand, and once people start associating your name with “Spammers”, things will not go nice. Do good. To say it once more, it’s not hard to see that from 1,000 people you get from Facebook, 5 might be your clients (buy, subscribe, follow). The solution is not to try to get to 1,000 more, but:
- To try to find groups of 5 people (targeted Facebook ads?).
- To try and make your current 5 clients the promoter of your brand. To give them everything they need in order for them to spread the word to 5 other relevant clients.
B. The simple and quick answer on how to make money online
(Seth Godin advised against following ideas from articles with such points)
- Find work off-line, it’s generally better paid and with bigger opportunities than on-line. On-line, on the short term, your competition are huge numbers of people who need only a few dollars per day to live. And when you do get slightly better, your competition is very well prepared. Off-line, you have generally good opportunities and a easier career track in front of you. In the long term, though, you can be much better online than off-line, and once you have a reputation, you can do good. But it’s a medium to long path, and there are opportunities off-line in the short term. If you are good enough to be an expert on-line, you will be good in off-line, also.
- Become a freelancer. I talked about this here (it has links for Romanian market, also).
Also see an article in Romanian: Cinci întrebări mai bune decât “tu câți bani câștigi din blog?” » nwradu blog
Note: Also see the Yahoo! Group on which I present similar issues: IMRo. To join, email email@example.com and reply to the confirmation email.