zen habits : breathe

The Absolute Beginner’s Guide To Starting A Small Online Business

Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Karol Gajda of RidiculouslyExtraordinary.com and How To Live Anywhere.

If your goal is to start a small online business that replaces and exceeds your current income this may be the most important article you read this year.

Brash, huh?

Here’s the deal: I’ve been working online full time for almost 10 years, since age 19. I’ve had a lot of failures and a lot of successes.

There is no better way to learn how to succeed than to learn from someone who has already done it.

Tip #1: Focus On What’s Important

What’s important? Action.

In the beginning, just get started. Don’t get too caught up in details that don’t matter.

Dealing with the paperwork, business cards, and other ancillaries isn’t absolutely necessary.

It’s an online business for a reason. Save the time, paper, and money and don’t get business cards.

If you happen to meet someone who wants to know more about you or wants to visit your site ask for their e-mail address and actively follow up with them.

Handing out business cards is passive, and even more than that, ineffective.

Other paperwork a lot of people get caught up in is registering a corporation or other business entity. That will be important eventually. But you can (in the US anyway) start a business in your own name with very minimal paperwork (a simple Doing Business As form) and cost.

Consult a tax advisor for specific insights.

Tip #2: Invest In Education

Whatever business you want to start, be it blogging, eBay sales, information product selling, affiliate marketing, or any one of the countless other ways to make money online, there are hords of people who have done it before you.

Sometimes those people will have written about what they did to succeed. In those cases, if their business aligns with what you want to do, don’t be afraid to invest money into their products.

Personally, I have easily spent upwards of $40,000 on non-University education. That includes buying eBooks, print books, seminars, coaching, membership sites, you name it.

As a general rule, the most important skill you can learn, no matter what business you’re starting, is marketing. I don’t make a distinction between online and offline marketing. Once you learn marketing you can use it anywhere, with a few tweaks of course.

I liken it to learning computer programming. The language you learn isn’t as important as the logic behind it. You can adapt to any language.

Tip #3: Ask For Help

If you’re a bit introverted like me you might be shy about asking for help.

Don’t let that be a barrier to your success.

In other words, feel the fear and do it anyway.

You will deal with rejection. Many people won’t respond to your e-mails, phone calls, or tweets.

But you know what? It doesn’t matter.

Starting a business isn’t supposed to be easy. That’s the filter.

I promise you, if you talk to enough people, you will get the help you need. I’ve been quite surprised by just how accessible some people I was initially afraid to contact are.

Bonus hint: I’ve had greater success connecting with ultra successful people than those who are just ultra successful in their heads. :)

The key to getting a response is to send very short, very succinct e-mails. Practice the http://five.sentenc.es rule. Keep your e-mail to five sentences and make it clear what you’re asking.

Tip #4: Participate In The Community

Whatever niche you’re in there is a community.

For example, back in the days when I used to sell on eBay, I hung out on a few eBay message boards. I helped people where I could and I got help where I needed.

As an added bonus, when I decided to start selling eBay how to products (I haven’t sold them for over 5 years), guess who helped me launch that business? The same community that I had participated in freely for over a year.

These days, whichever community you should be a part of is larger and more easily accessible. Take advantage of that.

Tip #5: Don’t Quit Your Day Job

Your ultimate goal may be to quit your job, but don’t jump the gun.

You will find tons of stories of people who quit their jobs before they had their businesses going, but there’s a reason for that.

People who failed furiously because they didn’t have an income to support themselves in the lean business startup phase don’t usually write about it. And because they don’t write about their failures, you never hear about them.

I want you to quit your job as much as you want to quit your job, but I don’t want you to do it before it’s time.

Karol Gajda is a lifelong entrepreneur who blogs about Freedom, Health, Travel, and Life at RidiculouslyExtraordinary.com. Today he launches his excellent guide, How To Live Anywhere.



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