The decision has been made! You have got past your initial fears, and you are going to become an online entrepreneur!
Making the decision is only the first step though, there are still plenty of things that need to be considered and planned in order to get started.
Note: I’m not going to discuss registering your business, etc, as there are too many variables involved.
What to do?
If you haven’t already got a plan for your business then you will need one. If you ever studied business at all you will know that having a solid business plan is drilled into you, and it is important even now.
While your business plan doesn’t need to follow the same style as a classic business plan, you still need to have your goals set out before you, both long and short term. Having some costs noted down is also worthwhile. Even though as an online entrepreneur your overheads are low, there are still costs that need to be taken into consideration.
It is vitally important that you know where you are going with your business and setting goals is the way to do this.
I often start with my long term goals: where do I want my business and my life to be in five years? These goals don’t need to be limited to one aspect of your business or life, for instance some goals would be:
- To be financially stable – you can set a figure if you want, though I personally prefer not to
- Owning your own home
- To have a national/international business
- To have more time to spend with family
Then it is a case of reducing the time and actively focusing your task on achieving your long term goals.
As an example your goal setting may look something like this:
First month: Put a plan of action in place, know where you want to end up and have a rough plan on how to achieve those long term goals.
Second month: Research and choose a niche that will be profitable and retain your interest.
Third month: Create a basic website in your niche.
Sixth month: Generate enough content and get a process in place for making regular content. Built up to 1000 visitors a month to the site.
First year: Reach 5,000 visitors a month and make a small but regular income
Second year: Increase the visitors per month to 20,000 and have the income increased.
Third year: Duplicate the success of the first site.
And so on.
Having these goals will guide you and importantly, keep you focused on the end game whatever that may be.
Adapt to survive
There are two important things to remember about goal setting:
- Be realistic
- Be flexible
If you are not realistic with your goals then you will fail to achieve them and that can be a severe blow both to your finances and to your morale.
Don’t get me wrong, your goals should stretch you and make you work harder, but they should not be impossible to achieve. Having a goal of getting 1000 visitors a month to your site in the first 6 months is achievable, whereas getting a million visitors is unrealistic (unless you happen to hit on the “next big thing” but never count on that!).
The other thing is that you should be flexible and able to adapt. If you manage to get 1000 visitors in the first 3 months, change your 6 month target to 2000 visitors. Constantly strive to improve.
None of your goals are set in stone, not even the long term ones. Life has a habit of throwing things our way, not all of them good either. If you are too rigid with your goals then you are forcing yourself into a narrow path and you could miss opportunities.
Regular as clockwork
Another important thing is having a schedule. Knowing what you are going to do first thing in the morning is one of the best ways to combat an entrepreneur’s arch enemy: procrastination.
I like to set my schedule for the week, but even the day before is good.
Just like your goals, this should be flexible as things do change.
Tools of the trade
Tools are there to help you do one thing: free up your time.
When it comes to investing in tools, products and services for your business, there tends to be two types of people (and I’ve been both!).
The first is the shiny hoarder! This person will buy everything and anything:, from office supplies, to software, to the latest guru’s product.
This simply isn’t necessary. Yes, there are tools out there that you should definitely consider, but buying everything will just put a strain on finances and your time. For instance, buying Photoshop because you want to crop some images is overkill: it’s expensive and takes time to learn. There are plenty of free and simple ways to do this job.
The second type of person is the thrifty one. Someone who is so careful with money that they will spend hours upon hours looking for something for free, when spending $10 bucks would have them finished in half an hour.
The bottom line when it comes to tools is to be smart – what’s the simplest and cheapest way to achieve what you need? If it’s free then great! If it costs money then so be it.
The key here is balance: when to spend the money and when to use your time. Just remember, you can earn money back, but you can never earn time back.
These are some of the best free and paid for products and services that I find invaluable in my business, and I hope you do too.
- Hosting & Domains – it might seem obvious but having these costs means I don’t have to rely on using the less professional and more restrictive free website options.
- A WordPress theme account – Woothemes, Elegant themes, Themify, to name but a few. The cost is worth the support, the quality and the diversity of themes available.
- Open Office – it’s free and pretty decent and you will always need a spreadsheet program.
- Google Docs – it’s free and useful for when you are not at your desktop, but quite limited in features.
- IFTTT.com – this is not related to ITT (I’ve Tried That) but rather a way to speed up and automate processes such as adding your website posts automagically to Facebook etc. There are other services too, like Zapier.
- A cloud service – Google Drive, Dropbox, or whoever you choose. There are plenty of free services to start with and having your important files and documents backed up and available to you, wherever you are, is a life saver!
- A notebook and voice recorder – If you are forgetful like I am, then you need these. I wouldn’t know what to do if I didn’t have both of these. I sue them both to note down ideas and thoughts, depending on the situation. Most modern phones come with a voice recorder app included.
These are obviously just a few broad ideas. What I would want you to take away from this is that you need to use tools, when appropriate, to automate things and free up your time.
The more time you have the more real work you can do.
Lean on me
The last thing to consider once you begin your journey is support and help. Too many people starting out think that they are on their own, that they are a so called “solopreneur”.
Looking at it from one angle, this is true. You are on your own, trying to build up your reputation, skillset and business.
You will quickly find out that this is problematic; you will run into a variety of issues:
- A lack of understanding about different aspects of your business
- A lack of time
- A lack of emotional support
As such it is vitally important that you start to network in order to find likeminded souls that can help you.
The internet is a wonderful place to start with this as there are a variety of broad and narrowly focused groups online.
Consider these sites:
- LinkedIn – A social network for business people. There are a lot of people on there that will be in your niche.
- Forums – Doing a Google search for forums in your niche can unveil a myriad of sites where you can become part of a community
- Wealthy Affiliate – If your focus is on internet marketing, then Wealthy Affiliate is one of my highly recommended communities
Always remember though that the people you meet online are just that, people! These sites are communities in one way or another, so like in life there is give and take.
Helping people out when you know something helps build your reputation within that community, making it more likely that people will listen to you and respect you. This will often open up doors allowing new opportunities.
After joining a few communities, I found numerous business opportunities and friends. Having these likeminded entrepreneur friends enabled me to bounce ideas and get advice.
Remember that people exist outside of the internet as well. Depending on your niche and where you live, there is usually some sort of community group that discusses your interest.
If not then there is still nothing to stop you from checking out places like your local Chamber of Commerce to find more of a general business group.
Entrepreneurship can be hard, very hard! There is no one to tell you what to do or how to do it, which is freeing, but scary.
Finding the courage to take on this challenge is a big step, but remember that finding people with whom you can share your hopes, dreams and importantly fears, is advisable.
It would be even better if you can find someone within your niche that has done this all before, a mentor.
A mentor is not easy to find, so if you happen across one, keep them close!
These are just some of the things you need to consider once you take that first step; it would be easy to write a whole book on the different things to do and think about. In fact there are plenty of those books out there already!
I would like to reiterate a point I made in the last article: take action!
If you don’t get off your butt and go network or get your goals in order, you will procrastinate, and you may well fail.