Ways to make money online and/or start an online business
- Promote other peoples products and earn commissions
- Promote and sell your own products (both physical & digital)
There you go, what’s stopping you? 😉
WHY LISTEN TO ME?
Briefly… I make my living online from affiliate websites (promoting other peoples products), from eCommerce (i.e selling physical things online), and from my online course (i.e. selling a digital product). I do other things online too that contribute to my overall income, but those are a story for another day.
Details… How to start an online business in 2017
If you Google ‘how to start an online business’ or ‘how to make money online’ you will get a million and one results talking about hundreds of different things you can do. In fact let’s do it…
Figure 1 Screenshot from Google.co.uk for the search terms ‘how to start an online business’ and ‘how to make money online’. 1. Highlights search result quantity; 2. highlights the search ads (Pay Per Click advertisements); 3. highlights the featured snippet; 4. highlights the organic search results.
A Google (UK) search for ‘how to start an online business’ throws up 879,000,000 (879 MILLION) results, and a search for ‘how to make money online’ throws up 230,000,000 (230 MILLION) results. WOW…
But lets face it, most of us will only check out Page 1 of results, and quite a few of us will only look at the Top 3 links. There are a lot of ads for these types of searches as you can see from the figure above (reference number 2). The reason for this is that these are big value (£ or $) search terms. Businesses are hoping to make a lot of money from people searching for these phrases, thus they buy ads on Google search.
Lets ignore the ads because the quality of the content on these sites are not validated. These ads are for things like business hubs, store creation platforms, and business accounting software. Not really relevant for people searching for ‘how to start an online business’.
In this case it is better to focus on the ORGANIC search results, because as Wikipedia puts it:
Organic search results are listings on search engine results pages that appear because of their relevance to the search terms, as opposed to their being advertisements.
Both of these searches show ‘featured snippets‘. These are the quick reference boxes of information Google thinks provides the most relevant content for your search query. As you can see from Figure 1 these both show lists and will entice you to click the link to get more information.
So lets do this. Lets click on the links in these featured snippets and see what kinds of information we get.
How to Start a Business Online and eCommerce – Entrepreneur – Click this link to check out the article from Entrepreneur.com yourself…
Just carry one reading because I will summarize things below. Here is the video from Entrepreneur.com that explains all:
Did this video (and article) on Entrepreneur.com show me how to start an online business?
NO IT DID NOT!
The video (and article) basically says find a need and fill it (aka make a product people want). Not really helpful and actionable. It does go on to say write stuff that makes people buy from you, make a website, buy ads to get visitors on your website, become a trusted expert, become an email marketing expert, and finally make more money by up-selling more things to your customers.
There you go, what are you waiting for? Why haven’t you got your online business up and running yet?
OK, seriously though it is pretty difficult to show you how to start an online business when there are so many things you could potentially do. Entrepreneur.com are clearly just giving a high level overview of what you can do and are not looking to give real actionable examples.
This is a shame however, because if you are searching Google for “how to start an online business” then you probably want more guidance than this.
If we head over and check out the number 1 result in Google for ‘how to make money online’ maybe we will have more luck in finding something that we can actually act on that will form the basis for your online business.
5 Real Ways to Actually Make Money Online – Lifehack – Click this link to check out the article from Lifehack.org yourself…
First off this website played havoc with my computer, everything slowed down and it looked like things were being continuoualy loaded on the article. Maybe it was just my computer misbehaving?
The article splits things down into 5 main categories, which are:
- Find website that will pay you money for doing something.
- Do some freelance writing.
- Sell some of your things.
- Do blogging.
- Get work from a company that lets you work from home.
Lifehack.org does provide links to various websites that will let you signup to take online surveys and do other things that could earn you some money, but it’s not really sustainable and will take a lot of time and work.
Again, their tips and advice are sound but not really actionable. Telling you to get a PayPal account and take some photos and then sell your stuff is not really that helpful. I suppose what they are doing is giving an insight and a starting point if you want to look deeper yourself into one of these categories.
I’m not going to analyse all the search results in Google, but trust me you get similar information from them all. You will get lists of ideas that people have complied together and are nothing more than articles regurgitating what other people have already said. The advice will definitely not be actionable, you won’t start your online business after reading these articles.
2 ways you can start an online business
So, why is my advice on starting an online business any different from those other search results I have just talked about?
SIMPLE. I run my own online business. More specifically I run an online business that makes money by creating multiple revenue streams online. What this means is that I make money online doing different things, and the 2 ways I discuss below are things you can start yourself.
I know you can do this yourself even if you have little to no prior experience in making money online. When I started out a few years ago I knew nothing, so what I did was I taught myself some primary skills (that you can learn too) and then I started trying different ways to make money. I now earn my living online and so can you.
TOP TOP: Skill#1 you should learn is how to make your own website.
There are 2 things you can do to earn money online [and can continue to grow]:
- Promote other peoples products and earn commissions on any sales.
- Promote and sell your own products.
Sounds easy enough so far doesn’t it?
Right, lets get into this in more detail…
Create a Portfolio of Affiliate websites
This is how I got started online and I recommend it is where you start if you are looking to build your living online. I have a free set of training videos that explain affiliate websites in a lot of detail, but briefly affiliate websites promote someone elses product(s) and if you help generate a sale you get paid a commission.
It goes something like this:
- Find a product that is relatively popular and sells for a decent price. I recommend heading over to Amazon and choosing a product or product range over there. Amazon love affiliate websites, so they make it easy for you to promote the products sold on their platform.
- Register a domain name that is a good fit for your product.
- Set up web hosting and get a WordPress website up and running.
- Add a bunch of product pages to your website.
- Add a few articles that aim to attract visitors from Google search. I like to start with ‘Best [product type]’ and ‘[product type] reviews’ etc.
- Get all your affiliate links setup correctly
Like I said earlier, being able to make your own website opens up a lot of extra [money making] opportunities for you.
Watch me make a brand new website from scratch – includes web hosing setup, domain name registration, WordPress install and more…
There are plenty of things you can do to speed up the process, but if you choose to wait for Google to rank your content then expect to wait a few months before anything exciting happens (i.e. good visitor numbers and commissions). It will happen though so be patient.
There is of course more to it than this, but I do like to keep things simple and affiliate websites don’t need to be overly complicated. The steps I outline above are basically the steps involved.
Like I mentioned, I run a coaching program that shows you how to get your first affiliate website live on the internet, but you do not need to take this coaching program to get some great information. Just head over to Earn1000.co.uk and sign up for my free videos. Watch me set up an affiliate website that ended up making over £1000 in commission in a single month.
OK, sorry… I did say I wanted to give you more actionable information here in this article.
Go over to Amazon and browse products and find one that has a good number of reviews and sells for at least £100. Also, make sure there are a few products in the range so you have a few similar things to promote.
Setup a WordPress website. I show you exactly how to do this here. You need to choose a domain name for your website, i.e. your website address that people type into their web browser to find your website. Choose a name that includes your product type if possible and also choose a .COM extension at end.
For example if you decided to make a website about basketballs you would want Basketballs.com. What you will find is that the popular names are already used by someone else, so you need to get a little creative.
In this case we could have totalbasketballs.com, which is still a great website name.
Alternatively you can come up with a random unique domain name, however unless you have good branding then it could be confusing and potentially off-putting to website visitors (also you will get zero SEO (Search Engine Optimization) benefits for a random domain name – I won’t get into SEO here but basically good SEO helps your website rank well in Google search results).
Once your website is up and running you now need to create some posts on your new website that aim to attract visitors from Google. So sticking with basketballs, write posts like “Best Basketballs 2017” and “Basketball Reviews”. There are lots more similar post titles but hopefully you get the idea. We’re looking for common searches people make around your chosen product.
In your posts write a small introduction, maybe 200 words long. Then select 3 products and write a 300 word (more if possible) overview of the features and specifications of these products. Finish with a small summary. This is a standard layout for this type of post that has always worked well for me (and still does).
To get product information just visit the Amazon listing for each product you feature. Read and consume the bullet and description text along with some of the reviews. Then write your own version based off what you read. Never copy exactly what is in the Amazon listing. Write your own original take on it. You can copy good product images to include in your article.
Write 10 of these posts. You can elaborate a little, such as “Best basketballs for total Beginners” and “Basketballs under £20” etc.
Leave your website for a week or so and then apply to Amazon Associates to get an affiliate account. This then lets you create special links that Amazon tracks so it can give you credit (money) for any sales generated when someone clicks on one of your links. Just do a Google search for ‘amazon associates’ and you will get to the right webpage.
Once accepted in to Amazons affiliate program you can generate affiliate links for all products you chat about on your website. Use these tracked affiliate links in your relevant images, titles and you can even put an Amazon logo and link that too within your articles.
I always like to create individual product pages on my websites and link to these product pages from within the articles I write. I suggest you do the same and have your tracked affiliate links in your product pages.
There are one or two more things you can do but basically that is it. You now wait….
Again, I really recommend you head over to my other website Earn1000.co.uk and sign up for my free videos. I tell you all about affiliate websites, how the work, why they work, and then you can watch an over-the-shoulder video of me setting up a brand new Amazon affiliate website.
Once you learn how to make one website you can make another, then another and before you know it you will have a small portfolio of affiliate websites all making money. This is exactly what I did and I add to my portfolio all the time.
NOTE: This is not a quick process and it can take a few months before your website gets traction in Google and attract visitors.
Start an eCommerce business
Selling a physical product is more risky in terms of the potential to lose money, only because you need to invest cash up front. You need products to sell and if you are like me and import over from China you need to pay shipping costs. However, the rewards can be massive.
I sell on Amazon’s platform at the moment, mainly Amazon UK. This is a sales channel and I am growing my brand website as well as digging in to other sales channels. But what I talk about here is selling on Amazon, which is a great place to start with eCommerce.
15 months ago (as I write this) on the 19th August 2015 I made my first sale on Amazon UK of a product I have branded in China and shipped over to an Amazon warehouse. Fast forward to 1st December 2016 and I have just had my record sales month to date (November 2016).
The plot above is a screenshot from my Amazon UK seller account. I actually made sales in France, Italy, Germany, and Spain but that data is on different dashboards. But this UK plots tells a story…
In November sales were consistently around the £450-£500 per day, but to boost this I ran a ‘Lightening Deal’ that resulted in an amazing 171 sales worth £2,385.05 in a single day. Profits are roughly 20%-30% so £600-£700 profit. Black Friday hit so this was a good sales day worth £1,074.25, but even excluding these two peak sales days average daily sales were great.
In November 2016 I made £16,569.35 from 1,384 sales in the UK and £1427.63 from 84 sales across Germany, France, Italy, and Spain combined. So in total November 2016 yielded £17,996.98 from 1,468 sales. Pretty awesome.
Oh, and because I do a lot of different things including my affiliate websites, my online course, and a couple of other things just imagine how things would be if I dedicated 100% of my time to this eCommerce business.
The above plot shows monthly revenue from August 2015 to December 2016. It is a nice plot with a good upwards curve. You can see that it took less that one year to hit the £10,000 in sales mark. In August 2016, September 2016, and October 2016 you’ll also notice a downwards turn before the big November peak.
In August 2016 I ran out of stock for one of my products, and then in September 2016 I ran out of stock for another product. These were back in stock in October 2016 but it took a little while before sales matched the July 2016 levels.
Stock is a tough one, which I will cover later.
Let me show you how you can start an eCommerce business
What I do, and what I recommend you do is private label (AKA white label) products that manufacturers in China make. What this means is that you add your logo and get custom packaging made for a product that already sells on Amazon and what Chinese manufacturers already make. You then compete against the other sellers.
This may sound a bit strange, but what you need to know is that a lot of sellers on Amazon do not take advantage of all the marketing tools available to them. If competition is not too high you can out market and out rank other Amazon sellers, and therefore sell lots and make money.
Starting an eCommerce business seems really daunting, but it really is OK once you get started. If you are a little put off by thoughts for contacting China and shipping things across to the UK then you can start small. There is something called Retail Arbitrage that basically means going to a shop (like Tesco for example) and seeing if they have any stuff on sale (with big discounts). Quickly check Amazon to see how much these products normally sell for and if you can make a profit then great.
Amazon does have fees for selling on their platform so you need to take these into account when working out profits. If you use Amazons fulfillment service (i.e. where Amazon store, pick and then post your products) then you are looking at around 35% of your sale price being taken by Amazon. You can post things yourself and in this case fees will be lower (but packaging and postage costs make overall costs similar).
When you are ready to go head over to Amazon Seller Central (Google it) and sign up for a seller account. If doing Retail Arbitrage the product you want to sell probably already has a listing on Amazon. You simply add your name to the possible buying options and what price you are selling at and hey presto, you’re selling on Amazon.
Here is a very quick overview of how to sell on Amazon:
- Head over to Amazon and search best seller lists of interesting products that you could sell.
- Head over to Alibaba.com and find suppliers for these products.
- Get samples sent out.
- Get logos added to your products and custom packaging made. The suppliers can take care of this.
- Get the products shipped (sea or air) and stored in Amazon’s warehouses.
- Set up your product listings on Amazon (good photos, bullets, description).
- Get Amazon to fulfill your orders (AKA Fulfilled by Amazon – FBA).
- Make sales.
- Get product reviews.
- Introduce new products and repeat…
Of course a few of these steps are daunting when you start off, I certainly know they were for me. The have two bits of advice and you should listen to both of them:
- biggest bit of advice I can give you is to sacrifice a lump sum of money that if the very worse case happens you can live without. Yes it would be very [very] annoying and maybe put a little bit of strain on your purse-strings but ultimately you will be OK.
In reality the worse case would be you having a lot of products that are not selling well on Amazon, but there are other ways to sell so ultimately you will nearly always have options. But I confident that if you do a little research you will sell on Amazon. I have launched and sold 4 different products and they have all done well on Amazon.
- Place your first order. Remember point 1 above. Is the worse that can happen really going to affect you in the long run. Once you get the right mindset there will be no holding you back.
My first order from China was for 504 units costing £1271.37. I then paid £677.85 to get the products shipped over to my house – yes I actually got them delivered to my house 🙂 I checked a couple of boxes to make sure things looked right and then a courier took them to the Amazon warehouse. This courier cost £144.55 making the total cost of this 1st order £2093.77 (or £4.15/unit).
This is what 504 units looks like when boxed up into 42 boxes. I only kept them at my house for 1 day.
Now I get the products shipped directly to Amazon from China on pallets, but it takes time to build trust with your supplier and shipping company, which is why the first order came direct to my house.
I followed my two bits of advice. I know I could survive if the very worse (but unlikely) happened and my products never sold and I lost £2K. Of course this did not happen and I now place £15K+ orders each time, and these orders are happening regularly at the moment.
There are more specifics involved but you can learn as you go. I have built a website for my new brand and I have already shown you how to build your own website. You will also need to set up your Amazon product listing well, great images are important along with a good title.
In addition to this I use Amazons advertising platform, but this is relatively easy to learn and not something to worry about.
If you really want to start an eCommerce business and launch it on Amazon then I may be able to help.
I do share updates on my Amazon business and also tips and advice on eCommerce in general on my newsletter. So if you have not do so already:
Sell an Online Course
This is the final online business idea that I actually do myself. I created a course about how to make an affiliate website. I then setup a website to promote this course and used Google Adwords advertising to drive people to this website.
There was a lot of learning here. Mine is a video course so I needed to learn how to record, edit, and publish videos. I needed to setup website landing pages, I needed to setup email autoresponders, and I learned how to use Google Adwords effectively. I had never used Adwords prior to this and I heard it can be a money gobbler. I have certainly invested a lot into it.
To make a course you need something to teach. Of the three online business options that I discuss here making and selling an online course is the toughest. Perhaps the hardest point of all is knowing what to make a course about.
You probably think that you are not expert enough in anything to teach it, but in reality you probably do know a lot about something, and this something is what other people want to learn about.
For me it was affiliate websites. I learned how to set these up myself, I worked on them for years, and I loved chatting to people about what I do and how these websites make money. So it was an obvious course for me to make.
So, my question to you is this: “do you use something or work on something a lot?”
In your job (if you have one ) do you use a tool or help people with something in particular? This is a potential topic to base a course about. Here is a list of potential course topics:
- Skills you use in your career
- Hobbies you’re in to and/or know a lot about
- Topics people ask your advice on
- Things you are actively learning yourself – teach as you learn
- A life experience you have gone though. Weight loss, shyness, fear of flying etc.
I made a series of video modules for my course where I recorded my computer screen as I build a new affiliate website from scratch. I narrated everything I did so anyone could follow along and make their own website.
You could do this, or alternatively you could create some PowerPoint slides and go through them on video. Or you could point a camera at yourself and talk to it as you explain how to do things.
If you do not want to make a video course this is fine. You can make a written course or guide that people pay for. Write it in Word and save it as a PDF.
Here is the process:
- Make your course.
- Create a website to promote your course (or use a special course selling platform).
- Make people aware of your course – i.e. get people to your website.
- Get people to pay for your course (you will need a good website or you can use follow up emails).
I put making and selling a course as the toughest thing to do from my experience, however I probably went overkill in terms of making an 18 module video series that involved me setting up a brand new Amazon affiliate website from scratch.
For you it could be the best way to start, and with digital products (which your course will be) you make 100% of the profit on sales. Selling a physical product you are doing very well to make a 25% profit on each sale.
A lot of people make a lot of money selling online courses.
I don’t want to sugar-coat things and say I have made £1000s selling my online course. To date I have sold £1600 worth of my course, which for the effort I put in to create it is not much. However, I am constantly tweaking my sales angle for this and have plans to ramp up sales and make this process much more hands off.
Also, a bonus for me was that the Amazon affiliate website I created as a case study for this online course has made £3528.94 and it will continue to make money with very little work (which is what affiliate websites do).
Making and promoting an online course is a lot of work and requires some specific skill sets, but it can be very profitable and if you commit to it I am sure you will be successful. It will likely cost you money, mainly in getting people to your website that promotes your course.
I used Google Adwords to do this, you can use Facebook ads or other social media ads, you can reach out to bloggers in your space and see if you can promote your course on their website (pay for this or guest post), or you can try and get partners on board that will promote your course for you in exchange of a commission on any sales.
You can Google any of the above topics to learn more, but be aware that most will cost money and there will be a learning curve. I learned how to do it so you definitely can, and I expect to make a lot of money from my course in the long-term. This means you can too with your course if this is the online venture you pursue.
Only one thing is certain
If you do nothing you will not be successful. You will never make money online and you will never start an online business if you choose to do nothing.
I suggest you learn how to make a website first. This was the cornerstone of my online businesses and once you learn how to do this you can move on to whatever business idea you plan to follow.
On this topic I suggest you make an affiliate website. It is cheap to do and it will teach you all about online marketing. Oh, you will also make money off it. Once you have built an affiliate website and made your first money it will prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that you can make money online.
Also, taking these first steps will prove to yourself that things are not as hard as you think they are.
Good luck and I really hope you start something exciting.