After almost two years of grinding it out, I finally did it.
I am making money. Not just lunch or beer money.
Real, livable money.
My goal was to match my old monthly salary at the time I quit my job. As you can see in the above graph (screenshotted in early June), I did it starting in April.
Sure I was making money before that, but it was a little bit here and there. Puttering along until — BOOM! I became a full fledged businessman selling online services AND making more than enough money to live off of here.
I even started SAVING again.
Now, I will show you how to make money from your online business.
How Did I Do It?
Instead of being coy and secretive like most entrepreneurs, I will TELL ALL how I have done it.
Step by Step.
STEP 1: Find a Niche To Provide Services To
Your service needs meet three criteria to be a suitable location independent business.
1. 100% Online
A business like lawn service fails the first criterion, because you need to be present at one location. Even if you delegated everything to your underlings, you still need to be there in case of emergencies.
Web development, software development, consulting, graphic design, freelance writing, copywriting, accounting, internet/affiliate marketing, niche blogging, or even professional poker are examples of things that can be done from anywhere in the world.
2. Has Existing Market Demand
Before investing too much time chasing leads or clients, you want to test the demand for your service first.
The market must be hungry. If the service is worth a lot of money to them, it is in high demand and they will hire you.
But if the supply of services exceeds demand, the market is saturated. This is true for product-based businesses, too. There is no worse feeling than pouring months of time and thousands of dollars into a product or service, only to learn that nobody wants it.
3. Competition Is Beatable
By “beatable”, I mean you are not up against guys like Amazon or Facebook. Find a market wherein if you only get your skills and SEO up to being better than 70% of your competition, you would make money.
If you have some skills you accumulated through your life, and can do them better than most people — check to see if there is real value in those skills.
You don’t have to be the BEST. There’s always someone better at it than you, or someone doing it much longer than you have. Instead, aim to be in the top 30%, which is plenty good enough.
My suggestion is to do some pro-bono work for the first 2-3 clients, get testimonials and feedback on how to improve. Get a mentor or two to help you as well.
STEP 2: Create a Personal Brand
To create a personal brand, you need a vision.
What is your vision?
Hint: it cannot be about you. It has to be about other people. If your answer involves something other people really want, and you are the one to happily give it to them, then you’ve got something.
Next, write a mission statement about what you do for other people and how you are uniquely positioned for that mission. Without this, you’re just wasting time spinning your wheels.
Finally, identify your business values. Just like the mission statement, I cannot understate the importance of this step. I know this sounds like corporate-speak where HR constantly beats “company values” over everyone’s heads during a lunch-and-learn. But this is about how you want others to view your business. Your values will make up your “voice” — or brand — within your niche.
In other words, you become your brand.
Think about these questions:
– How do you want your customers or clients to see you and your business?
– How do you want to set yourself apart from your competition?
– What character traits are you most proud of when providing a service to others?
For example, my values are transparency, integrity and reliability.
I am transparent in my dealings with clients. I tell them prices upfront. I also show my work and how I do it. I don’t try to upsell my customers on shit they don’t really need.
I would rather turn down a project no matter how lucrative it is, than to deliver sub-par work. If a customer asked me to do things I know I could not deliver in quality, I tell the truth and offer to help them find someone else who would be a better fit.
I deliver when I say I would deliver. I never miss deadlines. And if you are my client, and you send me an email, you can be assured 100% that I will respond to it. Whether it be in 10 minutes, or two days if I need to think about it, you will get a response.
So I built my business around these three values — transparency, integrity and reliability. Everything I do in my business reflects these values.
And it does not go unnoticed. Some of my client testimonials actually use these words, or variations of, because I’ve already internalized these values and conducted my business in this way.
This tells me people want to work with you not because you’re the best and most qualified, but because they feel you are trustworthy and reliable. I, for one, would never pay someone I did not trust, even if they are perfectly capable.
STEP 3: Build Your Business
Now this is where you actually move from the intangible ideas, values, and mission statements — into building the tangible parts of your business.
Every online business needs a website. But don’t just cobble something together with a cheap or free theme. It will look cheap and unprofessional. Your website needs to look like a million bucks. More importantly, it needs to look like you’ve been doing this for years.
If you’re not technically inclined, I suggest hiring a web developer to do it for you — or use either SquareSpace or WIX. If you don’t mind getting a bit technical, you can use WordPress with a premium theme and its plugins.
Here are a few things you need for your website:
Logo: Make sure you get a good logo for your business. Hire a graphic designer. Don’t cheap out by going with Fiverr or Upwork. Frankly, a $5 logo looks exactly like a $5 logo.
Content: At minimum, make a nice Home page with About and Contact pages. If your service has sub-services or sub-niches, make a page for each. Your home page should not be too text-heavy. Keep it clean and simple, but informative enough to see what you’re all about in less than 10 seconds.
Responsiveness: More people use mobile devices than desktop computers to browse the internet. Make sure your website is responsive enough to display correctly in all mobile devices. Luckily, this is built into WordPress and SquareSpace. At worst, you may only need to install a couple of plugins, and you’re set.
Testimonials: Testimonials are important for service businesses. Rarely does a person spend thousands of dollars on an unproven service provider without any reviews. If you have testimonials, show them with pride.
Portfolio: If it’s applicable, show work samples on your online portfolio as well. A must for graphic designers, writers, and even coders (Github).
SEO: This is so important that I discuss it in it’s own section later in this article.
Before you try to to get cold leads or organic traffic, start by telling your “warm” leads about your new business:
1. Announce your new venture with your family and friends.
2. Offer some free or pro bono work in exchange for a glowing testimonial. For example, revamp a friend’s website for free. Help someone with on-page optimization for SEO.
3. Once you exhaust your warm leads, move on to your network of professional connections you’ve built throughout your career. Tell them about your new business and offer your service, as in steps #1 and #2. Just make sure there are no conflict-of-interest issues if you’re still working full time.
4. By the time you’ve gone through all of your warm leads, you should have at least a few testimonials and even made a little money. Now it’s time to go cold. This is the hard part.
The first thing I will tell you is do not buy or use email lists. Despite what list companies tell you, lists are shit for many reasons: people change email addresses all the time, they change jobs, lists aren’t quality controlled, every other marketer spams those lists too, etc…
The quality of a list sours faster than a carton of milk left out in the sun.
You could actually ruin your domain by mass emailing a poor quality list. Your email provider may blacklist your domain or even shut you down completely.
Instead, follow these steps:
How to generate cold leads and convert them
1. Create landing pages with an email opt-in.
2. Write lots of content.
3. Make it easy for people to find your content by weaving a web of links within your website.
4. Optimize your content around your keywords for SEO.
5. Create social media accounts and promote your content there.
6. Use LinkedIn to search and filter for likely qualified prospects, and personally reach out to them.
7. Cold contact your leads — whether by phone or email. Personalize! Do not mass email, or spam with the exact same template.
8. Follow up, follow up, follow up! Most people give up after one ignored email. But if you follow up twice or three times, about a week or so apart, you get your name in people’s minds.
9. If you can, attend networking events like trade shows, after-work happy hours, or wherever your prospects are most likely to hang out. A contact made in person is more likely to answer your email or phone call afterward than someone you’ve never met.
TIP: Use a web-based CRM tool like Salesforce to manage your contacts, email templates and scheduling/automating follow-ups.
Side note: I also use my CRM to keep track of my paid projects and other tasks… it is a great productivity tool.
For a list of productivity tools to run your business efficiently, save time, and make more money — go to the Expat Tools page.
How To Take Advantage of SEO
This is a huge topic that deserves its own post, so I will just cover the basics of what I’ve done for my own business. Basically, you have to do what Google wants.
Domain Name: Use a domain name that best matches the keywords of your business. This is a little hard to do because many generic domain names have been snapped up already, so you have to get creative. But don’t think too far outside of the box. You don’t want to invent new keywords, because people won’t use them to find you.
Keyword Research: Use a keyword research tool to see how people are searching for your service. Don’t skimp on this step. It’s worth spending money on because you can see what specific keywords people are using to search for your service.
Content Creation: Make it easy for people to find your content. Sounds simple, but it’s not. When we create content, we tend to just post and pray. What you should do is link each piece of content to other pieces of content, and vice versa. Make sure your visitors don’t have to click more than twice to access any piece of content.
Yoast SEO Plugin: If you use the Yoast SEO plugin on WordPress, make sure the most important pages are green. The pages you want people to find and visit — and the ones you intend to make money off of — make sure they are green or they won’t rank.
Mobile Optimization: Optimize your website for mobile users with Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP). This is a new thing, as I just found out earlier this year. Google’s directive is to boost search rankings for AMP pages. So if you want higher rankings for your site, create AMP for all your pages.
YouTube: Create YouTube videos about your business and embed them into your website. YouTube is a SEO powerhouse. Make a few videos about your business, write some meta descriptions with your keywords, and embed your videos onto your website. Pages with video content are more likely to rank higher than pages without.
SSL: To appear serious and trustworthy, your site should be secured through SSL. Google has a preference for secured websites. If your website’s URL does not begin with “https”, get an SSL certificate and install it on your website. Depending on your hosting provider, you might be able to get it for free or for a small fee. Read more about it here.
STEP 4: Develop a Process
Every business has a process. A process consists of your daily routine, the tools you use, and how you run your business most efficiently. Without this process, you’re just fucking around and your business is more likely to fail.
So how do I develop a process?
Choose a Routine and Stick To It
First, choose a routine that works best for you, and fit your work into the time of day when you are most alert and productive. This takes a little experimentation on your part, but you should find it in no time.
To give you an idea of what running a location independent business is like, here’s my daily M-F routine:
8:00 am – wake up and make coffee
8:30 am – reply to emails and do administrative tasks if needed
10:00 am – gym
11:30 am – lunch
12:00 pm – work
6:00 pm – next day’s task planning
6:30 pm – dinner
7:30 pm – do whatever (chill at home, go on dates, bang chicks, hang out with the guys, watch movies, surf the internet and post on this blog)
12:00 am – sleep
Here are two things about this schedule that works best for me:
1. I like to get the busy work, emails and other admin tasks out of the way early in the morning, clearing the way for me to focus on the actual work between noon and 6pm.
2. I think it’s a good habit to spend 30 minutes planning the next day’s tasks the evening before, so I could hit the ground running the next day. It prevents me from wasting precious time screwing around as I try to decide which tasks I should start doing first.
Don’t Do Busy Work
Busy work keeps you busy and makes you feel good about working. But it doesn’t actually make you money. Busy work is just that — busy work. Take a hard look at what you’re doing and ask yourself if it is really going to make you money.
Limit Your Hours
Ideally you do not want to work more than 5 or 6 hours a day. If you’re slaving away 10-15 hours a day, your health and productivity will suffer. Many entrepreneurs have burned out this way. Don’t be one of those guys.
If you limit yourself to only 5-6 hours of work a day, that forces you to focus on what’s most important. You’d be shocked how much you’d get done and how fast you’ll make money.
Automate or Outsource Administrative Tasks
I use accounting and invoicing software that links to my business bank account, so I don’t have to manually enter all my transactions. It automatically scans my bank account and imports transactions as they occur, so I don’t really have to do anything.
I hire a CPA to do my taxes and keep track of my filing documents, so I don’t have to worry about it at all.
For anything else I feel is menial, I outsource to a VA.
It’s very important to have a reliable payment system that allows you to accept credit and debit cards — not PayPal!
I send invoices to my clients through my accounting software. It keeps track of what services I provide and at what pricing, maintains a list of customers, and automatically sends out reminders for overdue invoices at pre-set intervals. I don’t have to chase my clients down for their payments. My software does that. Automatically.
My accounting software is integrated with Stripe through its API, so when my clients pay my invoices, the money gets debited straight into my business bank account. Piece of cake.
From a time standpoint, distractions cost money. Big money. So do everything you can to reduce distractions. Here are some ways I do this:
Find a Quiet Place: For me to work effectively, I need a quiet place with minimum distractions. Most coffee shops are too noisy and have too many people. I like to find nearly empty coffee shops or quiet coworking spaces with semi-comfortable chairs.
Find a Good Chair: Oh, man… the chairs. Never underestimate the importance of a ergonomic quasi-comfortable chair that supports your back while you work. If the chairs are too uncomfortable, obviously you won’t get anything done. But if the chairs are too comfortable, you’ll fall asleep and not get much done either — yup, that happened to me.
Quiet Email Inbox: You’ll be spending a lot of time in your email inbox. So you need a quiet email inbox to get work done. I was worried about the timezone issue with my clients being halfway around the world, but it actually works to my advantage. I work while they sleep. They’re not going to bug me with emails or Skype chats while I’m working.
Unsubscribe From Annoying Marketing Emails: I unsubscribed from about 95% of marketing emails flooding into my inbox and I never regretted it. You’re not really missing anything. This means you need to resist the temptation to subscribe to other websites, even if you really liked their content. If you really wanted to opt into email lists, create a separate email address just for that.
Need Custom Advice On How To Make Money From Your Online Business?
This concludes my post about making money online as a location independent business. If you have any questions about this article or need specific advice on how to make money from your online business, please feel free to email me and ask.