There are many things you won’t get right with your first online business idea, or the second, or the third.
If you got to the third, congrats. You have the potential to be a serial entrepreneur. Because the one and only quality necessary to eventually succeed is to always try again, more motivated and better prepared than last time.
But what most people out there struggle with, is the beginning.
The are many first steps you’ll need to take if you want to be self-employed, do freelance work for clients and have flexibility, start a business, run a company, or be a digital nomad by simply doing what you’ve always done but remotely.
There’s the first research you’ll do.
Where you’ll see what the Internet offers, how others are building digital empires from scratch and through consistent, hard work. You’ll learn what role marketing plays, how important it is to build an audience and form relationships with these people long before you sell something to them, and that personal branding seems to be key too.
Then, there’s the first time you’ll hear about WordPress and having your very own platform online.
When you’re confident enough (that’s the only thing you need, really), you’ll get a domain name, choose a hosting company, install a content management system on it such as WordPress, and see your website for the first time.
Then comes the moment to hit ‘publish’, which isn’t easy for most people either. So much time is wasted in setting up a blog, choosing the ideal theme and design elements, wondering how much content to prepare in advance, etc.
When it’s all about writing something down, hitting publish, and sharing it on social media. That’s when you take another important step in your online business growth.
And then, if you’ve done enough small things like that for the first time, you’ll be looking for more. You’ll want to see what more you can produce, and wonder what your most profitable idea is from all that’s in your head.
That’s the time you’ll decide what digital product to work on.
But here come the doubts.
What if this isn’t what you should be doing? What if it makes no money and provides no value at all?
What if no one buys it? What if you fail? What if people in your life think you’re crazy, and competitors think you’re a joke?
Is this how you build this type of product? Is this the best platform to use? Should you hire someone to do it for you? How do you need to promote it? What should you include in your sales copy?
The ‘what if’s’ can continue forever.
So say ‘stop’ to them now, in order to actually let your mind do what it does best – be in the zone and do some meaningful work that may change the lives of people one day, and might be a potential business model and your legacy.
A Simple Process for Removing Most of The Barriers to Building Your First Product
The good thing about the Internet and so much competition is that others have tested enough things in your exact niche and have saved you time.
So, you can learn from them, observe their strategies and see what works, see where their audience is and focus on that channel, etc.
But the experts have also come up with some simple, yet powerful business principles, tricks, systems and processes that work every time.
Idea validation is one such thing.
We live in the era of the lean startup (meaning, anyone can come up with a startup idea, that won’t need capital and which can be tested even before there’s any product built).
So creators and entrepreneurs don’t bother working for weeks or months on something without knowing whether people will actually pay for it.
Instead, they validate their idea first.
See if there’s a market for it, see if there are other products in the niche similar to theirs and think of ways to optimize them so that their offer can be more effective and valuable.
The idea variation process is simple, but you need to go through it once you think of the first product you want to build.
I’ll write a more detailed post on that soon, as it’s an important aspect of starting a business. After all, ideas are the foundation of anything big that’s out there.
But here it is in a nutshell:
1. Define the problem you’re solving.
Each product should help people in some way. The only way to create a profile of your target customer is to know what they struggle with, and thus tell them how your product can help them with it.
After all, if it’s of no value, if it doesn’t save them money, let them organize their work, do something faster, simplify an aspect of their life, improve their health or boost their mood, or else, then it’s useless.
2. Do you care about this enough?
The most successful startup founders are the ones who solved a problem they were once struggling with simply because they deeply cared about the issue.
Together with that, they were motivated enough to dedicate so much of their time to finding this solution. They put their heart and soul into the product. And that’s why it touched people dealing with the same in life.
So if you are passionate about your industry, and care about the way in which your product can add value to people, you can continue to the next step.
3. See what’s out there.
Here’s the place to study the competition.
Go to Amazon and Ebay. See similar products. Read reviews, notice pricing, check out the brands and websites of the best sellers.
4. It’s feedback time.
Now reach out to potential clients, personally, and ask them if they would buy something like this.
If you find a few people who said yes, you’re good to go as there will be many more out there.
5. Don’t invest everything you have in the product creation.
This means that it will be a mistake to invest too much money in building it, or way too many weeks of your life, before you acquire your first clients.
With what’s going on online today, that’s not a problem anymore.
People are ready to pay for a good product (or to show their interest by signing up for an email list) way before it’s built.
Now that you know how you’re going to validate the idea, you are quite ready to choose what your first product will be.
I’ll now present to you the types of digital products you can focus on.
For each, I’ll mention what it takes in terms of experience, preparation, digital skills, money, creativity, etc.
Basically, after going through the following list, you’ll be ready to start working on your big project.
Let’s dive in.
What Digital Product is Best for You
Having a book with your name on it is a big step, not just in terms of releasing your first product, but also when it comes to building your brand.
It’s easy to self-publish an ebook these days, start selling it on Amazon and also put it up on your own website (still linking to Amazon, though, if you’ve uploaded it to that platform first), and let your name become one of an author too.
Luckily, when it comes to skills and preparation, there aren’t any big obstacles.
If you’ve found a niche you care about, you would be slowly learning anything you can about it and mastering your craft. So it makes sense to publish a guide on it for those who are just starting out, and charge for it as you’re saving people the trouble and hours of work that you’ve been through.
I’ve explained the whole process of writing and publishing your book in this guide. Download the PDF and go through it, take notes and get to work.
It doesn’t need to happen in a week, although that’s absolutely possible.
You can make a lot of money with a book if it covers a specific niche and people find it organically, or if you market it the right way (which is not an easy task with the insane number of books that are self-published daily).
But you don’t need to do this just to make a fortune. There are other, more practical and meaningful reasons to take the decision to publish a book as your first product.
Here they are:
- to have something to sell;
- for your name to appear on Amazon;
- to be able to call yourself a self-published author on your social media profiles’ bio;
- to be taken more seriously in your field;
- to get an idea of what it’s like to sell a product (and use this as the foundation of more products).
If these are enough for you to get started, I wish you the best of luck with your first book. The world needs more content for beginners on different topics, so share your valuable knowledge.
And again, the guide I’ve put up for members is enough for you to save hours of research on how to do the whole writing and publishing thing.
Courses are huge right now.
It’s mainly because people are a bit lazier when it comes to reading (say, books) and prefer to watch a video tutorial. A course, however, combines that in a unique way for those who want to achieve a specific result (say, learn how to play the guitar in a month).
You can sell your course on your own website (but need to get better at marketing too), or you can use a third-party platform that not only handles payments and everything else for you, but shares your product only with people who like courses and have entered this particular website to search for a topic they want to learn more about.
The one you might try out first is Udemy (it’s free to join and sell, works with commissions).
And of many more for you to choose from.
The production part when it comes to this type of product is completely different from creating a book.
For a start, there’s video content. And if you’re not planning to outsource the whole thing (which, of course, will cost you a lot and here we’re just talking about having a minimum budget and still creating a valuable product and making an income from it), this will take many more hours and a new skill.
That’s video editing.
If you have a podcast, you might have learned how to work with the free audio software Audacity, then edit the file and create a quality mp3, which you upload on your hosting provider (such as Blubbry), and share it across different platforms.
Well, with video that includes even more work. You can’t just put something up that is bad quality and expect people to watch it till the end.
There are plenty of softwares for doing this, and a MacBook or an iPhone might even do the work as you get a clear enough image. But then the audio should be touched a bit too.
It is time-consuming and takes a bit more tech-savviness.
If you don’t want to deal with that, a course isn’t the best idea for your first product.
But don’t be intimidated by these barriers.
With all the free stuff out there and tutorials on how to do it, you can learn how to make good videos and turn them into courses by adding the whole necessary information so that you can teach people everything they need to know about a particular niche.
You can do that even if you have zero experience, aren’t tech-savvy, and have never sold anything.
It will just take more time and patience.
In terms of profitability, however, if you go for the right topic, you can make more money than with a book. Not to mention that a course is in a much higher price range.
Obviously, I’m a big fan of this business model as I’ve turned LRS into a subscription-based platform offering premium content.
The reasons why you’d want to do the same are many.
In terms of money, this is a sweet deal as it leads to recurring income.
If content creation is your thing, as it is with me, go for it.
If you are looking to create more value for people who really care, you’ll be building a community together with a subscription base.
But it’s also a lot of work. Usually, more than you can imagine.
Of course, you can do it a bit differently. Many sites prepare the content in advance, and then use content dripping (meaning, release every next piece/chapter/video/lesson some time after the person has subscribed), so that they don’t struggle with the problem of members signing up just to download the freebies and leave.
This type of content release is smart, and a lot of thought needs to be put in preparing it and promoting it. But it’s possible. With zero experience in this, though, you aren’t much likely to get many customers.
The real membership site idea, however, includes welcoming your subscribers with a ton of free content (as I do with the books, guides and past articles), and then giving them more of it, created specially for them, on a weekly or monthly basis.
This content might be blog posts, a podcast, videos, newsletter, infographics or other visuals, courses, webinars, or else.
Whatever you do, it will be made for a certain audience and will help them improve their life or business somehow. You need to know enough about the topic and be the expert, as you’ll be giving access to knowledge and experience, and will be restricting that to non-members.
Unlike books, courses or similar products, where you do the work in the beginning and then make money whenever you make a sale for a lifetime, here the work never stops.
That’s why everyone says memberships sites are a serious step and go together with a lot of responsibility.
If you’re a fan of passive income and imagine a life where you’ll be taking some time off from work whenever you feel like, this isn’t for you. Unless you hire people to create the content for you, of course.
So think it through before you proceed with this.
If you’re thinking about it and it feels right somehow, know that you can really become an authority in a niche, do this membership project right, and build wealth and a community around it.
Here’s an example from a post on drip.co
‘Chris Ducker is a common name in the entrepreneur community. He is known for his passion to help others on their road to success. In order to achieve his vision (and make a few dollars) he built Youpreneur, a membership site with the sole purpose of helping entrepreneurs get the “support, accountability, training, knowledge and relationships that make the difference” (Chris Ducker).
He took something that he has a passion for (entrepreneurship) and built a paid online community around it. At $60 per month members can participate in the community and have the chance to meet directly with each other. They are all key players in a variety of industries and it is a small price to pay for all of the business opportunities their relationships bring to them.
Following Chris Duckers example is a great way to leverage something that you have a passion for and use it to create a community membership site and also draw in a fair amount of monthly recurring income.’
Another way to share your knowledge in a certain field, that doesn’t include preparing anything in advance, or using complicated softwares and tools, is to start talking to people who’ve got issues on Skype and get paid for it.
That’s actually the simplest possible way to become a coach.
There are many professional ones, sure. But if you’re writing long posts on the topic and people seem to dig your approach, you can as easily get them on the phone and answer their questions and recommend how they can change their current situation.
In this case, you’re selling nothing else but your time and expert advice.
It’s not for everyone, though. You might have a hard time finding clients, or realize you feel uncomfortable telling people what to do, or that you’re too much of an introvert to have video calls with somebody.
If that’s the case, move onto something else. But you can never know until you try.
Another information product you can create is an audiobook. You can even record the book you’ve already created and have 2 versions of it.
Many people prefer audio content because they can learn things while commuting, in the gym, or multitasking at home.
And there’s a big market with audiobooks in some niches.
Another good point is that there are gaps to fill. Meaning, you can see what books are selling like crazy on Amazon, but don’t have an audio version, and create one to see how it goes.
You can also become a podcaster. I’ve created almost 80 episodes of mine already, and am having fun doing it.
In the beginning, it was a side project for me. Now it’s a big part of my brand, I’ve got listeners and get attention on iTunes too.
While I’m not looking to monetize it, there are many options. you can eventually make money from your show.
As for the technical part and the time it takes, yes, it’s a whole new skill.
It takes me 4-5 hours, from outlining the content and recording it, editing, adding intro and outro and exporting the mp3 file, to listening to it while creating the show notes, then preparing a blog post about it, uploading the audio file on my hosting provider’s platform so that it distributes it to the big platforms for podcasters, such as iTunes and Stitcher. I also create an image for each episode, and share it with my audience.
I do this weekly. Of course, you can do it less often.
As for length, it could be a daily 5-minute show, or a biweekly interview that lasts 2 hours. Whatever format you seem to be good at.
I share the main reasons why you should start podcasting . Check it out and decide for yourself.
It’s a long-term strategy, for sure. And not many people are making money with this. So if you’re looking for a one-time product to create and start selling, this is not it.
We live in the era of YouTube videos, and people who accidentally became millionaires after their random videos got millions of hits in a short amount of time.
After that, these people started getting sponsored, running ads, selling something on their website, or using affiliate marketing through their videos.
The point is to create the content, get many viewers, and then monetize.
It’s no easy thing, of course, and it’s not for everyone.
I know I haven’t started producing video content after so many years in online business. And who knows, it might be something that works better than I give it credit for in my case. But I just don’t feel like it at this point.
You’re probably subscribed to a few newsletters and receive daily, weekly or monthly emails. And you never thought this can be yet another income stream.
Well, it is, although not many people have monetized it successfully.
Of course, the hard part here again is getting people to sign up for it and give you access to their email. It’s where marketing and content creation come in handy again.
You need to offer something so that people can get on your list.
Once there, you can simply put links to affiliate products, or if it’s curated content you can charge for signing up.
That should be executed very carefully, so that you don’t appear spammy, and choose the right copy, calls to action, business model, and content to include for the people who are willing to pay for it.
If you’ve been reading about online business or have followed some startup founders for some time, the term SaaS is something you see often.
It means , and is where the big money is.
Of course, for a first product, and for people with no initial capital who are just starting out, that’s not a necessity. In fact, you can never get to that business model and still make a ton of money.
Examples of such companies are Dropbox, Google Apps, Salesforce, Microsoft Office 365, Amazon Web Services, HootSuite, Trello, Zendesk, and many other big names and services we use.
Also, SaaS are all the apps we use daily via an application or a browser, such as Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, etc.
The learning curve for this is huge. Even if you’re a programmer by heart, familiar with how startups are created, and have experience with sales and marketing, the amount of knowledge and hard work included in a SaaS business model is scary.
Now that’s a huge project that will consume all of your time and expenses, but I decided to add it to the list as it’s yet another digital product you should know about.
The best example that comes to mind is Foundr magazine.
I talk about how Nathan Chan started it from nothing and turned it into a 6-figure business in this post. Go through it if you’re curious to see what this business model is all about.
Last but not least, here’s something for the creatives.
You don’t need to be a pro here, just to enjoy taking photos and to have an interest in improving your skill.
There are many platforms where you can sell even the photos you made on your last trip, or if you’re a fan of going around your city and capturing details from daily life.
For instance, if you’re building a following on Instagram without any effort just by uploading the pics you take daily, you’re onto something.
Many businesses or individuals can’t create their own photos, but are looking for inspiring images to go together with their content. If you’re a travel enthusiast, for instance, or a foodie who loves to plate your food like a pro, let your Instagram account be the place to put all that inspiration online.