As my first content post to the KeyWebTools website, I thought it would be a good idea to show how ANYONE can make money online, regardless if they are an expert in a subject or not.
So this post will focus on how someone could start an online business and start earning money as a non-expert. What’s really surprising is that setting this up can be relatively quick and easy, and depending on the subject matter, can even be highly profitable.
While most of this information is fairly basic, it’s a good starting point for everything else to follow.
Step 1: Define your business type
The first step in any business is to define the type of business you want to run. To simplify this, I will assume that you want to run an information-based business on the Internet. There are many reasons to choose such a business, such as time-freedom, low start-up costs, and sheer profitability.
As an example of how profitable this business can be, I just picked up a collection of 50 products for just $17 that I can resell to others. I got that price because I was already on the right mailing list and responded as soon as I got the announcement. As another example, I have a membership to a resale rights club. For just $29 a month, this site offers many new products you can resell to others. Because there are so many choices available in all categories, you can easily find products to sell.
In case you don’t already know, the resale rights concept is a great way to run a business online because you simply purchase the license to sell a product to others. As the examples above show, it’s possible to purchase many different resale rights licenses for very little money.
Of course, as usual, you get what you pay for. The products found in these massive packages are usually well-worn products which have been sold a lot, or never sold well. High-quality resale rights products are available, but you usually have to pay more for them.
Step 2: Define your business format
There are many different formats for running an information business online. Some people use the mini-site format (a single page website that sells one or more products), whereas others use a shopping cart format to offer many choices to each customer. I’ve used both of these formats, and both are good for different situations. My recommendation to anyone just starting out is to go with the mini-site format. The reason for this is because it’s a lot easier to set up, maintain, and helps your customers understand what you have to offer.
The main reason I do not recommend starting with a shopping cart format, is because there is a lot more investment required, and can backfire if you’re not very careful. By offering too many choices to your customers, you risk confusing them and losing sales.
With a mini-site, it’s possible to sell a single product or multiple products. If you offer multiple products, each product choice must be a variation of a single product type. For instance, you can offer a base product, a package including your base product and a few supporting products, or a larger package with even more supporting products around your base product. Do not try offering completely different products from a mini-site, as this can easily confuse your customers and lose sales.
Step 3: Define your product delivery format
Once you’ve decided on the format for your business, the next step is to decide how you will deliver your information to your customers after they pay for it. Do you want to offer physical products that must be shipped, or do you want to deliver your information digitally as a download? Digital information is much cheaper to deliver, and is the best choice for someone just starting out. While you will get more refund requests when delivering information products digitally, your profitability will still be higher than if you were to deliver physical products. I’ve done both, so I know this from experience.
Digital products may be delivered to your customer in several ways. You could manually send an email to each customer with a copy of the product they purchased, but this takes a lot of work and isn’t good for a variety of reasons. You could set up an account with a site like Payloadz.com to deliver your digital products, and this works well if you use PayPal to process your customers’ payments.
You could also set up a basic download page for each product you sell, and this can work too, but leaves much to be desired. For example, someone could post the URL for your download page, and then anyone could download your product without paying for it. If you want to protect your digital products from online thieves, you will need to use some type of website software to manage things.
There are many types of website software you could use to protect your information products. Rather than discuss all the various types and their advantages and disadvantages, I’m going to simply recommend you use software designed to run a membership site. This is what I do, and has always worked for both me and my customers.
Many people have the mistaken idea that running a membership site means you HAVE to add new content every month, every week, or even every day. This may be true if you charge a recurring fee, such as $20 per month, but there are no such requirements if you sell one-time fee memberships. In fact, a one-time fee membership is exactly the same as a direct product sale. The only difference is how the product is delivered.
The whole Internet landscape changes dramatically from month to month, and so I’m not going to make any specific recommendations for a particular piece of software here in this book. I’ve used aMemberPro with excellent results, as well as the Drupal CMS (Content Management System), and there are many other good options available. I will post further recommendations on this website from time to time.
Step 4: Define your marketing strategy
A website will never sell anything unless people know it exists. Advertising is often a company’s largest expense, often accounting for 40% or more of the gross revenue. Many times, when you place an ad, you have no guarantee it will generate any sales for you at all. On the Internet, you have better choices when it comes to advertising your website.
One of the best choices for advertising your business is to recruit others to do the promotion for you. In some cases, this is like hiring a commissioned sales rep. In other cases, it’s like you’re a manufacturer supplying a retail outlet with products they can sell. And sometimes, it’s like a grassroots movement that takes on a life of it’s own.
Using special software, your website can track every referral your online partners (called affiliates) send to your website. Using this same software, you can choose how you want to reward those who send you paying customers. Most website owners choose to pay their affiliates a percentage of all sales resulting from their referrals. Others choose to pay their affiliates a certain amount for the referrals themselves, and still others choose to reward their affiliates with special privileges, such as free products.
If you don’t consider yourself a expert in your field, I will say that affiliate marketing is the best choice you have. Experts can write articles, ebooks, and so forth to promote their sites for very little money, but non-experts shouldn’t try this, as it will just reveal how little they know.
Other choices for the non-expert include trading links with other website owners, paying for ads in ezines (electronic magazines or newsletters), and paying for classified ads in search engines –a.k.a. pay per click (PPC) advertising. Of these secondary choices PPC is probably your best one, but has to be thoroughly tested or else you could lose a lot of money with it. Personally, I’d stay away from buying ezine ads, since any publisher with a good mailing list will be advertising for themselves, either their own products, products they have resale rights to, or products for which they are an affiliate. Link trading can be good, but can also be a huge waste of time.
Step 5: Choose your niche
It may come as a surprise that I list this step here rather than first. The reason for this is because the format you choose for your business and how you want to promote your business are actually more important than the topic of information you sell. Once you have a business structure you are comfortable with, you can use the same structure for any information subject you want to work with.
The main thing you need to focus on when choosing a topic of information to sell is that the information you provide MUST solve a problem for your market. The bigger the problem your information solves, the more money you can make. However, you don’t have to solve the problem of world peace or cure cancer to make money. I remember reading about a guy who made a TON of money by showing people how to keep squirrels from getting into a birdfeeder. Others make good money by showing people how to do certain types of crafts. And still others do well by showing parents how to keep their kids entertained.
Part of choosing your niche involves figuring out what problems people want solved. The other part is finding good information that can solve those problems. Both of these parts involve surfing the Internet and keeping an open mind about what you find. Take notes as you read the questions people post to forums, blog comments, and elsewhere. Notice which posts are the most popular, indicating a strong interest in the topic. Pay attention to the experts people trust most, and whether those experts have released any information you can publish on your website or sell to your customers. Sometimes you can ask an expert for an interview with the understanding that you will have the right to sell the interview as a product.
Step 6: Package your information for sale
After you choose a specific niche to work with and collect questions and information answering those questions, the next step is to package that information in a format for sale.
If you’ve collected a series of articles (which may be done easily by going to the various article directories online), the best way to package these is to put them into a PDF file as an ebook. Most word processing programs can help you do this, including the free software available from www.OpenOffice.org. This is the software I use for most of my books and ebooks, including this one.
My recommendation for someone just starting out is to collect several ebooks, MP3s, and other pre-packaged content. It’s a lot easier to sell a whole package of information than it is to sell a single product, especially when everything in the package is focused on a single topic. This is especially true when you’re selling products created by other people.
If you follow my recommendation to deliver your products as a membership site, you’ll want to divide everything you’ve collected on this topic and offer some of it for free and the rest of it as part of the paid membership.
The reason for this is because you’ll get a lot more people join your site when you offer free stuff than if you offer ONLY the paid stuff. There are 2 reasons why this is important. The first is because you want more people in your affiliate program, who will then go out and promote your site for you, even if they only signed up for the free stuff. Who knows, they could send you a bunch of people who will gladly pay for the better stuff.
The other reason is because once someone joins your site, even as a free member, you have an opportunity to send them emails to encourage them to buy your paid package, or other offers you want to make from time to time.
The main thing to keep in mind is to limit the amount of free stuff you offer. If you offer too much, few people will see a need to upgrade to your paid package. Just make sure the stuff you offer for free is good, because people will judge the quality of your paid product to be equal to the quality of your free sample.
Step 7: Install the website infrastructure
Now that you have collected a variety of products to offer in at least 2 membership levels – free and paid, it’s time to put everything together onto a website so you can start making money. This step can be the most difficult, especially if you are not technically inclined.
There’s a lot of information available on how to do much of this, so I won’t go into too much detail. Actually, if I were to go into a lot of detail, this would be a book of it’s own. So, consider this a guide, not a set of instructions.
- Register a domain name, descriptive of your topic
- Install your chosen software
- Upload your products to your web hosting account
- Configure your software to protect your products
That’s pretty much it for this step. Only 2 more steps to go.
Step 8: Create a sales page to describe your products
This can also be a difficult step, although if you follow some basic guidelines, it doesn’t have to be too difficult. Basically, all you’re doing is telling people what you have to offer in a way that makes them want to have it for themselves. Keep in mind the information I shared with you about persuasion, and you’ll do fine.
Before I start describing what to write on your sales page, let’s address the other stuff – graphics, layout, fonts, and all that. All this can help enhance your sales page, but they will not produce sales on their own. You can sell your product without any of them, with basic text & no formatting, no graphics, and an amateur layout. I know, because that’s exactly how I started my first website.
However, the reverse isn’t true. You cannot sell without words, no matter how professional the graphics or layout may be. Here again, there are plenty of places where you can get a decent template for a website for very little money. Just search for “web templates”.
Okay, so here are the basics you need on your sales page.
First, every good sales page has a headline. A big, bold line of text at the top that tells your visitor why they should read the page and not click on to another website. The ONLY goal of a headline is to get the visitor to keep reading. If you can sum up the essence of your offer as well, even better.
Next, you need your first sentence to keep the reader’s attention so they continue to read. Again, it doesn’t really matter what this sentence says, but it should involve some drama, excitement, or otherwise set the tone for what will follow.
From here, you need to get your reader thinking about the problem your product will solve, either directly or indirectly. You do this by talking about the problem itself (directly) or about the benefits of solving the problem (indirectly). It’s best to talk about one side for a bit, then talk about the other side. Address both sides as you write your sales page.
For the most part, write your sales page the same way you would talk to a friend who may need what you have to offer. Use the words ‘I’ and ‘you’, not ‘we’ and ‘the reader’. Be personal and personable. Show that you care about the reader. Show whatever proof you can that the products you have will solve the problem your reader has. (Yes, assume the reader has the problem. Why else would they be there?)
When you feel you have adequately described what you have to offer, sum it up in a list of bullet points. Summarize with a clear, direct claim that your product will solve the reader’s problem. Make sure you have clearly established the value of your product. Then mention your price. Follow this will a statement of guarantee, offering to remove all risk from your customer by letting them know you will refund their money if they are in any way unhappy with their purchase.
When you are offering a collection of items for free, then your sales page will be divided into 2 sections, and may even be 2 completely separate pages. The first sections describes what is available for free. Once you’ve ‘sold’ your customer on taking the free option, then you start describing how much more you have “for just a few dollars more.”
This is where most sales letters start talking about added bonuses. If you’re following my recommendations, then save the description of a couple of items from your package for this point. What happens is that when you have established the value of the first part of the package, then mentioned the price, then the added extras make the whole deal seem that much sweeter.
Finish your sales page with a “call to action”, which means tell them to click the order link, complete their payment, and download your product. Be specific and direct. Don’t be wishy-washy about this or you’ll lose sales.
Many professional copywriters suggest adding a PS with a summary of the offer, with benefits, values, and the final price. Sometimes, a visitor will scroll down the page to look at the price before deciding to read the page itself. I know I do this — to see if the product is within my budget to even consider. You can use your PS area to entice a scroller to go back to the top and read the page.
There is certainly a LOT more information about how to write a good sales page, and this is merely a brief overview. However, this should give you a good starting point.
Step 9: Launching your website
The last step in this process is the one that puts everything in motion. As mentioned above, no one will ever come to your website until they know about it. And even with an affiliate system in place to encourage customers to promote your site for you, you still have to do the initial promotion.
The thing to do is to go back to the blogs and forums you visited while looking for information on your topic, and let people know about your new website. Depending on the specific forum/blog, you may not be able to post the announcement directly. In this case, what you do is look for questions that can be answered by the products you’ve collected on your website. Whenever you find such questions, answer it the best you can using the information in your product package, and casually mention that the information comes from your collection.
Another option is to tell people about the free content available on your site. Most blogs/forums that discourage promotion will usually allow you to tell people about free stuff. That’s another great reason to offer a collection of free stuff as well as your “for pay” collection.
It’s also possible to produce a sampler ebook (like I described above using articles) and release that as a promotional tool. Such ebooks are usually called “viral ebooks”, since they can be passed around like a virus. The important thing to keep in mind here is that you must include enough information in this ebook to get people to come to your website to see what else you have to offer. Some people will include their whole sales letter in such an ebook, whereas others will include just enough to make the reader curious. There are advantages to either choice.
Learning how to make money online can, at first, seem like a daunting challenge. However, I can tell you from my own experience that when you follow the basic formula described above, you can create new websites very quickly and start making good money with relatively little effort. How little? Once you know what you’re doing, you can build a brand new website, stock it with quality products, and get the first sale within a few days.