Building any kind of business is a challenge. Building an online business is no exception. The great thing about an online business is that you’re not stuck with whatever it is you started out with. That’s where it differs greatly from the offline business models. From a strategic standpoint, change is easier to implement.
When all is said and done, you have to put the pieces together and build something that’s profitable. Even if your initial efforts are small in terms of profits, it’s still a good start.
Then, with each effort that follows, you’ll be smarter in your approach (hopefully) than you were the first time. Looking back, I took a very simplistic approach. I figured things out as I went and put a lot of time and effort into what I was doing.
The downside to that approach was that I went through a lot of trial and error. When I got to the point where I needed to hire people, that was trial and error, too. Thankfully, I made some good decisions. I hired a graphic designer and I hired a coder. Then a bookkeeper came on board.
If I had more experience, I would have planned these things much better from the start. I would have known how many clients I needed to break certain income levels. I would have had a marketing and sales plan written out that I could follow right from the start.
Instead, I learned as I went. Thank God I made it. I say that in the most literal sense because what I did was no different than setting out an expedition with some water and food and figuring it out from there. Some would call that bravery, others would call it foolhardy at best.
A Yellow Brick Road Experience
I’m sure you’re familiar with the Wonderful Wizard of Oz story? Dorothy sets out on a journey to find the only person who can possibly help her and meets new friends along the way. The ultimate destination is the city of Oz. The only roadmap is the yellow brick road.
Imagine if she met someone with planning skills and experience before she ever took the first step? Imagine if she had someone with the insight and the foresight to prepare her for the potential obstacles or setbacks on the journey?
Maybe the story wouldn’t have been as exciting? Maybe they never would have gone through the poppy fields or through the haunted forest?
Unlike the world of fantasy, this is your life and there are real-world consequences to every decision that’s made.
My strategy was to basically follow what other people were doing that seemed to be successful. It’s the good thing I wasn’t a general, leading troops into battle. With that approach, we’d all be dead and buried long ago back in the 1990s!
If ever there was a time to have an income strategy in place, we’re living in that time today. The cost of housing, food, and other things present some very real challenges for most families. Those facts alone may be all the incentive you need to seriously consider finding an income strategy that’s a good fit for you going forward.
The One-Person Income Strategy
One person can make a great living online with the right strategy. My consultant friends work with fewer clients and charge higher prices. The reason this approach works so well for some people is that they’re confident in their area of expertise and they’ve identified a market that’s willing to pay for that expertise.
If you’re not confident in what you know, it’s tough to sell people anything let alone higher-dollar services. Confidence is a result of practice and repetition. It’s not something that’s magically bestowed on a select few. Confidence can be faked, too.
I don’t recommend that route. Get the real thing through good old-fashioned practice and repetition.
The consulting approach works much better if you’re clients are business owners. I’m talking about B2B sales, not B2C (business to customer). If you have good contacts in your industry or are in a place where you can regularly network with people in the industry, all the better.
The Downside of Consulting
What if you don’t like working closely with people? What would be more “exhausting” to you? Would you rather work one-to-one or one-to-many? One of my friends services a group of 50+ using a webinar platform. He answers everyone’s questions once a week. That was a strategic shift from the one-to-one model to the one-to-many approach.
Today, he charges $500 a month for the one-to-one sessions.
Remember, it’s up to your clients to implement your advice or guidance. It’s in the implementation that the breakdowns usually occur. Think of a world-class boxing trainer. Back in the 1950s, Cus D’Amato trained Floyd Patterson who went on to become the youngest heavyweight champion in history. He was 21 years old.
Later, he would go on to train Mike Tyson. Tyson went on beat Patterson’s record and win the title at the age of 20. The question is, did D’Amato make Patterson and Tyson great fighters? Or, did Patterson and Tyson make D’Amato look like a great trainer? It’s more like they were two sides of the same coin.
Each helped the other become their very best
Consulting, coaching, and training is like that. A coach or trainer can only mold a person so far. If the raw talent isn’t already there, there’s only so much you can do.
It’s very much the same with consulting. Depending on your personality, that may or may not work for you. Some consultants take their client’s failures very personally. For them, the client relationship can be an emotional roller-coaster.
Others detach themselves from the end result, regardless of the outcome.
The Sub-Contractor Strategy
A lot of the work that needs to be done with an online business can be subcontracted out for others to do. In fact, there are now companies that not only supply the subcontractors you need, they also manage the projects they’re involved in. All you have to do is mark up the price and work with the project manager and the client.
In other words, you can spend your time selling and marketing. Whether you sub out a portion of the work or all of it, it’s really up to you. Of course, you have to be able to charge enough for the work to make it worth your time.
In some cases, it may be worth subcontracting the type of work you really dislike doing yourself. SEO might be one example of this. Also, it’s quite possible that your clients may have needs that are outside your area of expertise. This would allow you to add an additional income stream to your business.
Just remember, everything has to be sold. Don’t assume the service will sell itself just because you’re offering it. Sure, you may get a few bites here and there, but it won’t be anything substantial unless you market it. If that’s what you’re looking for, plan for a 5x greater effort in marketing it than it did building it.
There are downsides to this approach as well. Depending on your personality, you may not feel comfortable being responsible for work other people are doing. If you’re the type of person who needs to be in control, this income strategy may not be a good fit for you.
The Freelancer or Independent Contractor Strategy
Many online agency owners started out as freelancers or independent contractors. The agency business model isn’t a good fit for some people, though. Especially if you’re not a fan of overseeing others. Recently, I asked a freelance social media manager friend how many clients she thought the average social media freelancer could personally handle without outsourcing or hiring.
She said, “This question is super difficult to answer because, for me, each business is so unique which changes the marketing strategy I use for each, making some being more time-consuming than others. Also, it depends on whether the client wants ad management as well as daily engagement vs a lighter engagement. I would say 10 clients who have a really aggressive marketing plan and 20 if they want a moderate push.”
If you know approximately how many clients you can personally handle up front, it’s much easier to figure out your pricing. If it doesn’t work on paper, you’ll know it won’t work in the real world either.
This is why having the right income strategy worked out is so important. Consider the alternative – your schedule gets filled with low-income clients and your time is capped at the poverty level.
The argument here isn’t about low or high-paying clients. It’s about strategy. Some clients may contact you once every 14-months or so with a quick question about something. They may be lower profit clients, but they’re also lower maintenance, too. You can have 80 of those kinds of clients who collectively send you about six emails per YEAR.
Is there anything wrong with that? Of course not.
On the other hand, you can a few high-paying clients who seem intent on monopolizing your time – week in and week out. Is that worth it? Only you can answer that question.
You can start out with a strategy, but then experience shows you that’s it’s not the right one for YOU.
All That Matters is that it Works for You!
For every rule, there are exceptions. If you’re making enough money without having the life sucked out of you, you may not have a lot of incentive to change. That’s understandable. If you’re not making enough money, it’s a different story. What I can say without hesitation is – certain strategies are much better suited for your personality than others.
Don’t just plan with the short term in mind. Look at the big picture.
The Online Publishing – Books & Courses Strategy
If you enjoy teaching and creating content, I encourage you to consider writing at least one short eBook and creating one online course. The experience alone with teach you a lot. I have a free course on my site that’s a good example of what I’m talking about.
In the past, I made money with online magazines, eBooks, and courses.
If you have a mailing list, you can launch a course or new book to your list and get an immediate flood of new customers.
I launched my first eBooks and courses in the self-publishing niche back in the 90s (before Amazon’s Kindle even existed). Back then, we sold PDF books and courses for around $50-$100 bucks. I know, that was pretty good money!
After you have a hit, you can’t wait to follow it up with a sequel. But, just like with movies, movies, and books, sometimes the sequel doesn’t do as well as the original. When this is your business model, you can’t afford too many “box office flops.”
The safety net with this strategy is to have a hybrid model set up where only a portion of the income is slated to come from the sale of courses and books. Remember, when you’re first starting out, you choose your audience or market. Then, they have to choose you back.
It’s like asking someone out on a date. If they say, “No,” it’s over before it begins. If they say, “Yes,” the first date determines whether they’ll be a second date and so on.
Some marketers refer call this the “customer journey.”
One final piece of advice about courses and eBooks, they become dated quickly. Everyone wants the latest and greatest information, regardless of its form. Imagine creating courses around Facebook with all their ongoing changes? It’s something to keep in mind.
Will You Love or Hate it 24-Months from Now?
The other day I was listening to a commercial on the radio. The announcer said, “What would you use to drive up a rocky, mountain road? Would you drive a Jeep or a Ferrari?” The commercial was advertising a business opportunity and used that comparison to emphasize the importance of the vehicle (the business) over the driver (the business owner).
Your income strategy is a significant part of your business vehicle. When choosing a strategy, however, try to do so with the big picture in mind. Imagine this, you clone all of your current clients. Now, you have two of everyone. With that in mind, you may be thinking about one or two high-maintenance clients?
If that’s the case, how would you feel about dealing twice of what you currently have two years from now? What if you tripled or quadrupled the number? What would have to change to for you to handle that kind of growth? And perhaps more importantly, is that something you’d want to handle?
It’s not about being lazy. We’re talking about building something that’s a good fit for you and your income needs. Yes, it can be a lot to think about, but don’t let it overwhelm you. Don’t look at it like you’re taking a test and there’s only one right answer. In this case, what’s the right answer for YOU?
What If You’re Currently Stuck?
Finally, if you’ve read all the way up to this point and are thinking, “I’m currently following a poor strategy, now what?”
I know a few eBook authors who are all “written out.” In other words, they don’t have any more books left in them to write on certain topics. If you’re going to make a full-time income writing, you have to keep on writing. Have you ever read a book and been left with the feeling that the author just wrote the story to make a few bucks?
I get that feeling with a lot of non-fiction books. If you can’t keep your readers happy, they’ll stop buying your books. So, what starts out as a seemingly good income strategy can start to break down over time.
With eBook authors, there are numerous writing services they could offer in a marketplace. I’m talking about services such as article writing, content creation, editing, and even ghostwriting to name a few. A struggling author can create a new income strategy and launch a new business model right alongside their existing book business.
The books will continue to sell, even if they only produce what you might call unreliable income. The main focus and effort, however, will be redirected into putting a better income strategy in place to take over where the last one dropped off.
In the words of Abraham Lincoln, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” Consider your strategy plan the sharpening of your axe. I wonder how many people out there feel like failures when they simply had the wrong strategy in place from the start? They tried to drive a Ferrari up a rocky mountain road but got stuck.
Maybe the real truth is that the strategy failed, not you? Just something to think about.
Thank you for reading and feel free to share your thoughts, comments, or insights below!
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