How to Start a Profitable Online Business for $50 in 3 Months or Less
This post is for your eyes only if you are currently trying to start an online business (a profitable one) from scratch . . . and you want to do it in three months or less . . . oh, and you only want to spend about $50.
Whereas this post (originally published in April of 2015) used to link to a podcast episode on this topic, I decided to completely revamp the post. Why? I think the first chapter of my newest book (which you can find out about soon–sign up for our list in the sidebar!) might inspire you and help you to create an amazing online business this year. Ready?
Let’s only assume 3 things as you start your business:
- You have access to a computer and the Internet a few times per week.
- You have access to a smart phone (yours or a friend’s) that can take pictures and connect with social media.
- You either have your closest friends’ and family’s email addresses, or you’re connected with them on Facebook, or through some other electronic means. As in: You can get in contact with your people—whether that be 10 people or 1000, for me, it was more like 10 when I first started. Or, if you’re not connected with friends and family, you’re okay with building a presence online and engaging with strangers (who will totally become your friends, don’t worry).
Now, let’s get into the first chapter.
Chapter 1 of Build Your Freedom Business for $50 in 3 Months or Less: How to Start Coaching, Freelancing, or Selling Information Products Online
“What have I gotten myself into?” you may be asking. A lot of things. But the main one is discovering a new system for starting a business you love. Really, a way of thinking and moving through the very involved, and intricate, and amazing world of creating a profitable online brand or empire.
After years of creating various businesses, years of creating websites for clients and personal projects, and most recently, years of creating and running online businesses full time, I can without doubt tell you I’ve failed a lot.
Yes. I’ve failed miserably, I’ve failed publicly, and I’ve failed my way to success. Let me explain. Because I believe the lessons learned can help you create your own business online with less stress, fewer headaches, fewer sleepless nights, fewer mistakes, and less time. It will still be a lot of work, but man will it be worth it.
The Internet created a whole new world of possibility and completely changed the way we (1) get information, (2) make purchasing decisions, and (3) operate businesses . . . among other things.
The online space as it is today makes it possible for people like my friend Erika, a mother of three adorable kids, to make a living online training people how to provide better customer service. The Internet allows my friend Mike to provide coaching for mind, body, and emotional health. It allowed my friend Kelsey to create and sell planning templates to busy women for a full-time income until she decided to also show people how to design their own (which gave her another full-time income). My friend Ivan sells design and brand strategy work online. My friend Aislinn markets and sells her freelance writing skills online for a living. And I could go on . . .
I have friends doing everything from teaching yoga, and selling interior design or architecture services, to creating fabric patterns and selling cookbooks online. I myself write and publish books on business and marketing, plus create courses on starting and running a business, getting better at conversations as an introvert, and using yoga and movement to increase your flexibility, durability, and range of motion as an athlete or gym rat.
How is it possible to make and sell the types of products and services all of these people are creating? How can you really create significant extra income each month or perhaps even work for yourself full time online?
There is more than just one way to accomplish this goal, and in this book, you and I are going to explore the “system” I’ve used to create a full-time income online in the following ways: through freelancing, through online coaching, through self-published books, and through online courses.
Please be mentally prepared that this process is not easy and will require consistency from you, and that the “system” I’m showing you is a solid framework that you can modify and mold to fit you.
Here’s an overview of the system that we will dive into deeply within this book:
Step 1: Start with PASSION.
As cliché as it sounds, I think that the passion you feel for a hobby, a cause, a people group, a certain subject, or a specific skill will be a key driver of creating something meaningful and awesome.
In this book, we will get into a questionnaire to help you discover some of your true passions plus a list of 1001+ niche topics to help you pinpoint what interests you, what you want to talk about and create content on, and what you love.
As an example, for the purposes of this overview, let’s take a woman named Frankie who is a yoga + fitness instructor, a woman named Ingrid who is passionate about the uniqueness and strength of introverts, and a man named Paul who has transformed his health and body by becoming vegan and eating an amazing plant-based diet.
Frankie identifies her passion as helping people get fit.
Ingrid identifies her passion as helping introverts embrace + use their personality traits and succeed in life.
Paul identifies his passion as the power of veganism to transform your internal health and your body.
Step 2: After identifying your passion, identify your PEOPLE.
Part one. When you have a specific topic/niche in mind, it’s time to start imagining the basic details and habits of the type of person who will be interested in your topic or who needs help with what you provide content on.
Paul might assume that women (and a few men), between the ages of 24 and 50, who have had digestion issues or who are having a hard time losing weight or staying energetic throughout their day might be in need of his information.
Frankie might start to realize she really wants to work with martial artists and other athletes in need of strength and agility. She might then assume most of her clients or audience will be between the ages of 20 – 40, and she might also assume that many of her clients will be men.
Ingrid might realize that most of the people she’s ever talked to about extreme introversion are women, between the ages of 25 – 50 who are tired of being made to feel like their personalities are weird or bad.
Part two. Once you have the basic details of your people in mind, you can head to the Internet (and to in-person events, hangouts, or organizations) to actually find these people and engage with them. In fact, you may already be involved in groups either online or in real life that hold your ideal audience members.
Ingrid might find a Facebook group or another type of online community for introverts and join it. She might also start reading the comments on top blogs about being an introvert.
Paul might find a Facebook group for people trying to lose weight or struggling with digestion issues (there are groups online for all types of needs, people, and interests).
Frankie might connect with people in her gym or people who regularly comment on a popular MMA Instagram account or a men’s health magazine’s Instagram account.
Part three. After you’ve engaged with your people a bit, it’s time to learn more specifically how to help them. This may include working with them pro bono, providing free content to them, or even creating some low-priced services or products to test the waters.
Paul might offer to coach one of the women in an “Overcome IBS” group online through a plant-based diet for 30 days. He might also create some free meal plans and share them with his friends on Facebook.
Frankie may decide to offer a few free sessions to a martial artist at her gym who she has seen lifting in such a way that will slow his progress towards becoming more quick and agile. She might also decide to do a “10 Days of Basics” series, where she covers some foundational lifts, exercises, and principles for people who want more speed and agility—then she might share her videos or pictures with an online group she is a part of and invite people to ask any questions they may have.
Ingrid may start asking questions in the “Introvert Power” Facebook group she found about what people’s biggest struggles are or where they feel most misunderstood. She might then create and share several new blog posts that address the topics the other women have brought up.
Part four. Once you’ve worked with your people a bit, it’s time to go back to that basic description you created of your ideal audience, and truly take time to expand it. Understand your people fully, ask them questions, draw from your experience of working with them for a while, and confidently move into the next stage of your business with the knowledge that you can really help the people you want to.
Ingrid may figure out that the majority of people’s issues (at least, the people she’s connected with) stem from their discomfort in social situations. As a fellow introvert, she knows the value that introverts present to friendships, organizations, and the world in general, so she wants to help introverts function better socially—and be able to get more and give more in their time around “strangers.”
Frankie may come to realize that she’s most passionate about working with mixed martial artists and basketball players. She might decide to start pitching freelance content to elite gyms, sports magazines, or popular Instagram accounts in her niche. She might continue to work with athletes and listen to their questions and frustrations intently.
Paul may start to realize he really wants to work with people who are having troubling stomach issues and not people who are only interested in weight loss. He can start to engage even more with people who fit this description, he can take notes and learn from the questions and ideas of the few people he worked with for free, and he can ask lots of questions of the people he’s finding.
Intermission—It’s time to figure out which product(s) will get the information or help you offer (from your passion you identified in the first step) to the people you came to understand in the second step.
At this point, you will likely have some idea of how to best help your people. Is your topic/expertise something you need to walk people through step by step? Maybe a coaching program is best for you.
Is what you do so specialized and fun for you that you want to just create it for your client instead of helping them create it? Perhaps freelancing (graphic design, copywriting, interior design, etc.) is best.
Do you want to take all your knowledge and package it up as videos, audio, or even text and images that people can access anytime, anywhere to help them accomplish a goal? Perhaps creating an online course will help you reach the most people.
Or, would you like to find ways to communicate through text and images and create a low-cost product with zero to no ongoing maintenance? Perhaps writing and publishing your own book is your best bet.
Paul might decide that the hand-holding and emotional support of a coaching package is the best way to serve his clients during such a sensitive time in their lives. He wants to offer 1-on-1 options (for those who want privacy) and group coaching options (for those who want to meet and learn from others going through similar issues).
Ingrid may decide that a book (a very non-invasive learning tool for introverts) on better conversations and socializing will serve her audience best.
Frankie may come to discover that one-on-one coaching is super effective but that an online “Need for Speed” course is a great way to transform athletes from a distance who desperately need her knowledge.
Step 3: Now. Once you have a grasp of your passion and your people, it’s time to create the rough draft version of your PRODUCT.
When I say “rough draft” know that this can actually mean anything from a landing page with information on your service or product plus a place for people to request more information and get a free resource while they wait . . . all the way to a site for a full-blown, fully published book on the topic of your choice.
The great thing about the Internet though . . . is it lets you test out ideas before you sink a ton of time, money, or work into them.
Paul might build a landing page for a new 90-day transition and healing program he’s outlined (but hasn’t finished creating all of the content for yet).
Ingrid might put up a blog post and pre-sales page on her website for her new book. She might even give away the first chapter for free.
Frankie might create a short introduction video series for her “Need for Speed” course that athletes can get for free when they sign up to her email list. She may then email them information on a full-blown course/program and see how many people click a special link to say they’re interested in the program at the price point she’s suggesting.
In this book, I will show you how to set up your minimum viable product (MVP) or rough draft product for four of the things I’ve done online for a full-time income: coaching, freelancing, book publishing, and course creation. Keep in mind though, you can also choose to create physical products out of your passion, or hold in-person workshops, among many other things.
Checkpoint—It’s time to establish an entity, brand identity, and content plan (this is what will consistently show people you know what you’re talking about and attract people to your brand).
Oh, and here’s the good news. In this book I show you a few different models of content creation. There is more than just the strategy of creating tons of blog posts or podcast episodes consistently. I promise. I’ve seen it and I’ve done it multiple ways.
Ingrid might start her business, then brand it with very soft, neutral colors, and start creating a “conversation tips series” as downloadable audio files that her audience can listen to as they commute, work, run errands, or relax.
Paul may decide to form a legitimate business entity, name his business something catchy dealing with gut health or veganism, and start interviewing people on plant-based diets twice a month.
Frankie might start her business, name it after herself, and start recording videos of some of her most fun workouts.
Step 4: After you’ve got your minimum viable product (or idea for it) and your brand in place, it’s time to really focus on creating a powerful PLATFORM for you and your information.
You will want to consider creating “audience magnets” (content to draw the right people to you online), organic search engine traffic to your site (by playing nice with Google and Pinterest), regular social media posts in the right channels, and even online events to drive awareness of your topic and brand.
Frankie might create an eBook called “Speed for Martial Artists” and another one called “The Baller’s Guide to Agility” and release both for free, sharing them consistently. She may release some of her workout videos on Instagram and on YouTube and start hosting regular live informal “workshops” or Q+A sessions online to attract athletes with questions.
Ingrid might create a quiz called “What type of conversation introvert are you?” that helps people identify their major fears or blocks when talking to strangers, networking (psst—as an introvert, this word makes me cringe), or meeting new people.
Paul may decide to create “The Beginner’s Guide to Understanding Plant-Based Diet Healing” for free and release his interviews regularly on YouTube and as a podcast on iTunes. Paul might also start creating custom graphics for each episode that he can share on Pinterest.
Psst—you and I, and Frankie, and Ingrid, and Paul, will all probably benefit from creating an actual editorial plan (as in: a super professional, and well-thought-out schedule) for our content so that it all fits together nicely and works toward common brand goals. You don’t want to create individual pieces that don’t fit well together or serve a greater purpose.
Step 5: Now that you have your online platform planned out and rolling, it’s time to discover how (and what types of) PROMOTION can consistently point interested people directly to your epic solutions for their needs.
You may want to set up something like content funnels (ex: a set of automated emails that happen after someone signs up for one of your resources or online events) to consistently create sales of your product or inquiries from interested parties about your service. Or, you may want to master the basics of email marketing, high-energy online events (think: webinars, workshops, summits, or challenges), or sales for sensitive people who don’t want to seem “salesy.”
Paul may decide to host a “Quit Effing Around with Your Gut Health” webinar once a month for people who are in desperate need of change. During and after his webinar he might create some automated pitches of his full coaching services (or a cookbook he’s since developed) to encourage consistent sales.
Frankie might decide to use her eBooks as the start of an automated funnel, but also set up a “Speed Challenge” that starts on the first of every month as a Facebook group for athletes. She can pitch people her course during or after the guided challenge that familiarizes people with her teaching style and effectiveness.
Ingrid may also create a challenge that helps people spark up conversations with strangers. She might design it as five days of unique activities, and each day that an automated email goes out (as in: she can schedule it in her software and doesn’t have to press “send” each time for each person) she might also offer a discount code for her full course.
Ongoing tasks: It’s important to keep accountability partners, and a plan for the organization + auditing of your life (self-care, balance) and business as you go.
If you let things “progress naturally” with no plan of accountability or organization, you may end up as I did . . . with a business that is running you, with tons of stress, and with more work than is reasonable for one person.
Ingrid may join a weekly mastermind group for support and hire a virtual assistant to help with recording expenses and organizing her email inbox.
Paul may look into getting a business coach and joining a few key business support groups on Facebook.
Frankie may set up a plan to do her own home practice of yoga and fitness so that her own body is not neglected while she serves others.
So, what do you think about this framework? Are you willing to try it? Can you see the image of something epic brewing on the horizon? (Way to mix metaphors and sound silly, Regina.)
If you think you’re ready to begin this journey into creating a profitable business online, the next chapters of Build Your Freedom Business will be out soon. Make sure you’re signed up for our list in the sidebar.
We’ll begin at the beginning. With your passions—the things that you love and live, the things that drive you and make you want to create.