Oftentimes I’m approached by people who ask me what I do for a living and when I tell them that I’m an online entrepreneur, their faces light up and they ask me a lot of questions.
Most of these questions are related to my daily work life, and then people explain that they also would love to be able to do this themselves but they can’t because they have a family, they can't afford it, they need healthcare, etc.
Truth is, anybody can become an online entrepreneur, but it becomes really overwhelming to think about the idea of leaving the safety of a full-time job and medical benefits.
I understand this, I’ve done it myself.
Today I want to take some time to discuss exactly what it takes to become an online entrepreneur and offer those who are seeking to take this path a step-by-step guide to help walk them through what they need to do to make it a reality. In this post we'll cover:
First things first, I want to set expectations here and help people understand what the life of an online entrepreneur is like. Most people think that I sit in my boxes all day and work from the couch (partially true) but there are a lot of things that I deal with on a daily basis that most people don't think about.
I wrote a very in-depth blog post about this previously, but I think the main things to understand are the following two points.
It’s going to be difficult: When I first started out I naïvely thought that I could create an online business and be successful overnight. Nothing is further from the truth, you’ll likely have a lot of trial and error before you actually succeed so you need to have mental toughness.
You’re going to work a lot of hours: If you want to succeed, you can expect to work at least 10 hours a day for months on end. The good news is that you’re working for yourself and every single minute you put into the business is benefiting you directly, but you have to be ready to put in the work.
The rest of the things that you need to know in greater detail are in my other blog post, so if you want to learn more take a look, but let’s move on to the steps of becoming an online entrepreneur.
1. Start Working Now: If you really want to succeed at being an online entrepreneur, the first thing that you need to do is get started. Most people have this idea that they will leave their full-time job and then get started on their online business, but this is probably one of the biggest mistakes.
The truth is, you’re going to fail. I’ve personally failed multiple times and you can expect to do that as well. But if you have a full-time job, then you can fail and it isn’t that big of a deal because you still have a paycheck coming in. When you’re doing the online entrepreneur thing for yourself, there is no safety net.
You either sink or swim and odds are that when you first start out you’re going to sink. So, instead of sinking and having absolutely no income, sink while you have a job and make the mistakes while you still have money to live off of.
The argument that I get most with this idea is that people say they don’t have time. But did you know when I first started the One Hour Professor website I worked full-time, was in school to get my doctorate, and taught at four different colleges? You probably didn’t know that and you’re probably wondering how I made it happen. The answer to your question is what I call the one small thing method. Also, don’t be afraid to outsource work to other people either.
2. Save money: In order to be able to make the jump to being a full-time online entrepreneur, I think you need to have a savings account sitting and waiting for you.
Now, some people would disagree with me on this and you could completely ignore this step, but I’m a big fan of taking calculated risks and if you’re able to save 6 to 12 months worth of living expenses, you’ll be in a much better place than if you have no money saved.
Some of you reading this will be shaking your head because you don’t have enough money to save anything.
Well, if that’s the case, then you have to make a lot of sacrifices in order to do this. For instance, I moved from a really nice condo in the city of Chicago on the 30th floor of a high-rise to an apartment in the suburbs because it cut my cost of living by 50%. I also replaced cable with Netflix, changed to a smaller gym, and I carefully budgeted all of my expenses using Mint.com.
If you want this to happen enough, you’ll be willing to make the sacrifices and find ways to cut costs. If you’re unable to do this, then you need to find a way to make more money or you need to really dig deep. To me, this is the first step to understanding how committed you are in your pursuit of becoming an online entrepreneur. If you can’t take this step, it’s time to evaluate if you really want this at all.
3. Develop Side Income: Again, I’m a big fan of taking calculated risks. To me this means not just having a savings account, but also having some type of income coming in on the side. I chose to work at multiple college teaching courses part-time and consulting, but you may have a different skill set or other type of service that you can offer. It doesn’t matter what the service is, or even if you simply get a part-time job, what matters is that you have some type of income while you’re working for yourself.
This way, you aren’t watching your savings account continuously decline and panicking trying to understand how you’re going to succeed. Even if it doesn’t cover your bills fully, having some type of income is a big mental crutch that’ll get you through the tough times.
4. Prepare and Plan: Once the first three steps are in place, then it’s time to begin to think about how you’re going to succeed. You need to always prepare for the worst case scenario and analyze all of your bills to understand what it’s going to take financially to make this happen.
If you have a significant other you obviously want to discuss your plans with them and decide together how this will happen. You should give yourself a timeframe to become successful (I gave myself 12 months and it took 10 months), and discuss what will happen if you aren’t successful in your endeavors.
5. Get Something Started NOW: I’m reiterating point number one because a lot of people tend to ignore that advice and think that they can just leave their full-time job and start at that point. DO NOT make this mistake. If you start your business now, then you can see how well it’s doing before you leave the security of a paycheck. Which brings me to my next point…
6. Confirm That You Have Momentum: If you have all five of the previous steps covered, you’ve already got an online business created and it’s likely that after a few months, you’re going to start to understand whether or not the idea has momentum.
In other words, are your website visitors increasing? Are your sales increasing? Is your revenue beginning to consistently deliver a small or decent amount of money?
If you answer yes to these questions, then it’s officially time to take the leap.
7. Put in your resignation: This is going to be one of the most memorable days that you ever have in your entire life. Now that you know that you have an online business that is growing and have the financial stability to take a risk, it’s time for you to put a resignation in at your full-time employer.
Please note, it’s really important to leave on good terms and let everyone know you really enjoyed working with them. Why? Well, in 6 to 12 months if everything doesn’t work out, then you might be able to work with them again. Or, what happened to me is I was taken on as a consultant for my old employer. Leave on good terms, don’t be a jerk.
Also note that the day that you do this, you’re probably going to have a little bit of shock. When I did it myself, I purposely blogged that exact day to capture my feelings so that you understood what my thought process was.
8. Briefly celebrate and relax: You did it. You are officially unemployed and have left the security of a full-time job (and a paycheck). I know it all sounds bad when you say it that way, but now is a great time to take a day or two to celebrate.
Don’t go digging into your savings account and spending everything you have in the celebration, but relax for a day or two and let yourself enjoy the fact that you no longer have to wake up and commute to work every single day.
You are now on the path of pursuing your own dream and no longer making someone else’s dream a reality. After all, that’s what you do when you work for someone else, isn’t it?
9. Set up a Schedule: Before you get back to work, you need to set a schedule for yourself. Technically you should’ve already done this when you’re preparing for your exit from corporate America, but it’s a good idea to sit down and figure out exactly what your schedule is going to be Monday through Sunday of each week.
How many hours will you put in each day? What days will you work less? How will you manage all of the work with your current responsibilities?
Like I said previously, I recommend no less than eight hours per day and even up to 10 hours per day is encouraged at this point of your business. You’re going to have to work extremely hard in the beginning because it’s the only way that your business will survive.
But don’t worry, it won’t always be this way if you do things right.
10. Use to-do lists or a planner: Myself, I’m a huge fan of using to-do lists on a daily basis. I use a free application called Todoist which sinks to both my computer and my phone. This way, if I come across something that I need to do while I’m running an errand or out and about, I can simply type it into my phone and it will sink to the application.
This is a great way to keep yourself task oriented and make sure that you get enough work done each day to succeed. Otherwise, you may end up looking at Photos of cats all day or stalking your ex on Facebook (Come on, you know you’ve done it at some point.)
11. Set Goals: Some people spend too much time creating goals and I think that this is a little silly because you really have no idea what’s going to happen a year from now.
Me? I recommend that you create goals for the current month and that’s it. Take out a sheet of paper or buy a white board on Amazon and think about what you think you can realistically get done by the end of the month and write it down. It’s encouraged to make your goals difficult, but realistic.
Once you’re done, put that paper or whiteboard somewhere that you work every single day so that you remind yourself. Might not be a bad idea to set up a “dream board” of items you want/vacation you want to take, etc. These will motivate you when you think you’re down on yourself and think that you suck (It’ll happen, trust me).
12. Bust Your A**: Work. Focus on being really efficient and work your butt off with your head down as hard as you can. Every single second that you aren’t working, someone else is trying to beat you and the truth is that hard work is a huge part of being successful.
Remember, that work hours are your time and when loved ones or friends come asking you to have a long lunch or you get tired and want to take a nap in the middle of the day, now is NOT the time to do it. You need to persevere through all the distractions and issues that you have and just get work done. Be selfish about your time, it’s the only way you’ll succeed.
13. Grow Your Business: There are two big aspects of growing your business.
First, is that you need to be willing to outsource the things that are worth your time. For instance, if you’re doing research and need to compile a bunch of contact information into an Excel list, that’s a perfect task to outsource. Any task that you do over and over again….think how you can systematize it and outsource it as quickly as possible.
Don’t be afraid to spend a little bit of money here. All the you need to do is go on Upwork.com to find a freelancer in a place like the Philippines who will work for $5/hour and assign work to them.
The second aspect of growing your business is paying attention to your analytics. Most people hate analytics and it gives them a headache, but the truth is that your data for your website is telling you a story and it’s up to you to decipher what that story is. If you aren’t too good at Google analytics, it might be a good idea to snatch up a course that I made. Or schedule a consulting call with me ($100/hr and depends on availability) so I can decipher what your analytics are telling you.
14. Don't be afraid to try new things: One of the things that I realized after becoming an online entrepreneur is that you have to try new things to diversify your income and see what you’re successful at.
I’ve made quite a few courses on Udemy, created courses on my own website, created numerous authority websites, and done a handful of other things to increase my income. Most of them were failures, but a few of them have been successful and it only takes those few to be able to sustain yourself as an online entrepreneur.
15. Pivot when needed, but stay laser focused: If you’re getting to a point where you realizing that your ideas or businesses that you’re working on aren’t as successful as you want them to be, it’s okay to pivot and alter your business or try something new.
But before you ever make a pivot, ask yourself if you truly put all of your effort into the idea that you’re currently working on. Have you really done enough to succeed with it or are you just pivoting because you aren’t getting enough momentum yet.
Also, whenever you decide to pivot, make sure that you stay laser focused on your idea. As an online entrepreneur you’re going to read a lot of interesting things and you’ll want to try 1000 different businesses, just make sure that you focus really intently on one project at a time and keep a list of other things you want to try in the future.
16. Use the Pareto principle: Most people know this as the 80/20 rule and it’s incredibly important.
All the work you’re doing, the majority of it is going to amount to very little but there is going to be a certain percentage of it that is doing really well.
When you’re paying attention to your data, you’re going to notice this trend and this is when you want to use the Pareto principle. Find the 20% of your business that is succeeding and work your butt off to make that 20% succeed even more. Optimize your pages, streamline your messaging, do whatever it takes to make the successful portions of your business even more successful. This will grow your revenue MUCH more than starting something new.
17. Manage Success: If you’ve used the Pareto principle correctly, you’re going to start to see success. Don’t get a big head and start to think that you don’t need to work hard anymore. Analyze the success you’re having and try to determine if that success is sustainable.
In other words, will the traffic or revenue continue to accumulate month after month or is this just a temporary spike. Understanding this is crucial and will allow you to be a little bit less stressed from where you have been.
18. Define Life and Business Goals: Now that you’re in the groove and actually making some money, it’s a good time to look back at your work schedule and daily activities to determine if you can get a little bit more balance.
If you’re okay with working 10 hours a day and want to keep going with the schedule just as it is, that’s fine, but you can let your foot off the gas pedal a little bit if you’re finally having some success.
Take this time to figure out how you can spend more time with your family or enjoy leisure activities. After all, you’ve worked really hard up to this point and now you deserve some type of reward.
19. Manage Your Money: Do not simply ignore taxes and the income you’re making. Now’s a great time to determine exactly how you are going to manage the money that’s coming in and make sure that you have the proper business set up for what you’re doing.
I personally am a big fan of QuickBooks to handle my taxes as they provide users with free tax calcs and other tools to help you estimate what your taxes will be. I also have two separate bank accounts, one for my business income I can spend and one for my tax dollars that are for the government. Beyond that, I also have a business credit card to keep expenses separated from my personal purchases.
20. Become a True Online Entrepreneur: You’ve done it! From here on out you probably have the hang of things and know exactly what you need to do to keep growing your business.
Although it may be tempting because you think that you’ve already had a lot of success, spend even more time analyzing whatever online business you have and try to figure out how to make it even better.
At the same time, if you want to start on some type of side project, go ahead. You’ve earned it.
I know that there’s a lot in this post and I realize that most of you will probably never even read this part. But if you’re all the way down here, there’s a good chance that you have a true interest in this online entrepreneur thing and need to take the next step to achieve your goals.
You can do this. You can succeed at being an online entrepreneur.
Trust me, if I can do it, then anyone can.
You need to put all the excuses out of your mind and just take the step to get started. I’m not saying you have to leave your full-time job to do this, I’m saying that you need to trust that you were put on this earth for more than just working for someone else and you can succeed.
You’re going to have a lot of failures along the way and you’re going to have to have a lot of mental toughness to get through this, but if you follow all the steps in this blog post and really focus on each one, then you’ll be able to make this a reality.
I’ve done it myself, and this is why I’m confident that you can do it to.
Now…quit reading and create a blog (or website) already, will ya?
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2) Spend $50 on a Theme from ThriveThemes.com and install it on WordPress. Don’t know how to install? Contact Siteground staff, they’ll be happy to help. Also, here’s an in-depth tutorial on how Thrive Themes works if you’re wondering.
What step are you on in your journey to become an online entrepreneur? Let me know in the comments below.