I’m a longtime reader of Hack The System, and Maneesh/many others have inspired me to create an online business of my own. I want to show you how possible it really is to create a business that you can run anywhere that makes you passive income. This is a possibility for you, and in this article you’ll learn a highly successful six-step approach to creating an online business, which you can immediately replicate. The steps are:
- Market Research
I had just made $150 in two days, online, from total strangers. How was this possible, you ask? Two words: passive income. For the last couple of years, I’ve been reading blogs like Hack The System and listening to podcasts like, “Smart Passive Income,” detailing the what, how and why of passive income. People would come on the show and tell success stories about how they make money in their sleep. Little did I know that these podcasts were actually conditioning my mind to see new opportunities and think in ways that would help me create my own passive income.
I became very enamored with the idea of disconnecting the money you make from the direct labor-hours you work (e.g. a job with an hourly wage). I wanted to put a lot of time and effort into something highly valuable, and have it provide money for me after I was finished working on it. I noticed that lots of people loved to talk about passive income, but very few people were actually putting in the work to actually create it.
Lesson learned: Constantly absorb success stories and strategies for creating passive income, and always be on the lookout for a great online business idea!
One day as I was walking back to my apartment, eating a burrito and listening to a podcast, an idea popped into my head. I immediately wrote it down. I wrote: Everyone needs motivation. How do people get motivated? Usually, they go see a motivational speaker (costing hundreds of dollars) with the effects lasting for a week or two. If people could watch a unique, highly motivational video every single morning for a year, their lives would be completely transformed. I knew this would be true, but I still needed to do some research to find out if this was actually a project worth starting.
Lesson learned: Write down all your ideas for online businesses as they come to you. The more success stories you’ve heard, the more you’re able to discern what will and won’t work.
The next day, full of energy about my idea, I called dozens of people I knew about the idea. I received very valuable feedback from all of them, which helped mold and shape my idea to be the best that it could be. Warning: you will inevitably get negative feedback. This can either be immensely helpful, or completely detrimental, depending on how you approach it. Negative feedback is good as long as it’s constructive or has a solid rationale behind it, and if everyone is saying that the idea is terrible, it might be time to scrap it. But, if some like it and others don’t, pay attention to why the positive people like it so you can include that in their marketing material, and use the negative constructive feedback to improve the idea.
Positive feedback is also questionable, though, as strangers might say it’s a good idea as they don’t want to argue with a stranger, and people close to you want to be nice to you and give you confidence, even when it may be unwarranted.
I asked people (friends and strangers alike) if they would actually pay for the service, and some said yes, they completely would. I added their emails to my pre-launch list, and concluded that there was a need for this service. Time to build!
Lesson learned: Get lots of feedback, but be skeptical about all of it, and make your decisions by yourself. Also, gather a pre-launch email list of people who say they will buy the product when it launches.
This is where the blood, sweat, and tears come in. I originally had some glamorous picture in my mind of what creating an internet-based business would be like, which was quickly shattered. Doing something in real life is rarely like the glamorous picture you have in your head before you do it. It was hard to create, taking far more time and energy than I originally thought. I had to learn all about different web technologies and buy lots of online resources, but persisting in the face of uncertainty and lack of complete knowledge is what kept me working long hours to create the service. I was also gaining valuable skills and experience while putting this business together.
I tried to work on Year Of Motivation during the semester when I had classes (I’m only 20), but I never seemed to make much progress, as I could only work one hour here, and half an hour there. Luckily, I had a month off for winter break, so I essentially locked myself in my room for a week and a half and created Year of Motivation. If you have a span of a few solid free days, I highly recommend buckling down and working for a few days straight to get your online business up and running. Blocking whole weekends works too. Throughout the whole process, I didn’t even write one line of code. Online business is so accessible now, and will only continue to be more and more accessible as time goes on.
Lesson learned: Creating anything valuable is hard; keep pushing through until you have something of quality. To get far more done, use full days of time, not half an hour blocks of time.
As I was creating the business, I was also doing essential pre-launch activities to build buzz. The main thing to remember for building pre-launch hype is to always add value. I would keep my blog subscribers on their toes, sending them killer motivational videos every week, all with subtle hints at the product. I also posted those videos on many ‘motivational’ facebook groups, created a twitter account that auto-tweeted motivational quotes multiple times a day, and told basically everyone I knew what I was working on.
During pre-launch, you want to build a list of all the people who have ever expressed interest in buying what you have to offer. If you do it right, many of this list of people who have made some sort of commitment to buy will buy. This requires consistent value-adding updates as you build what you have to offer.
Lesson learned: In order to build initial sales and do well on launch day, you must be teasing/hyping your offering to as many relevant people as possible on a consistent basis, with the only caveat: always be providing some sort of value.
On launch day, I emailed everyone I knew personally and professionally, as well as everyone on my email lists. As people started going to the site and learning about how Year Of Motivation sustainably solves their problem with daily motivation, they started subscribing. It felt great to know that I created lots of value for people who bought the service, and that I was profiting from the value I created. It was a win-win. That’s entrepreneurship in a nutshell, and it’s something I feel very passionate about.
The first marketing tactic I used was to hire someone on ODesk to gather a list of the top 200 or so motivation-themed blogs on the Internet, and to give me their contact info. I then bcc’d them all this message:
Subject Line: “Guest Post!”
Hey, I noticed that your blog is all about motivation, and that’s what my business is all about at Year of Motivation.
I wanted to let you know about it, as I was hoping to see if you would like me to write a guest post for you about it (with the angle: “How I Created My First Web Startup.”)
Email me back if you’re interested!
Thanks so much,
In terms of getting press, I emailed multiple journalists in the Boston area (where I live) who covered startups/tech with a simple yet unique pitch; here it is:
Subject Line: “Tip: Northeastern University Digital Startup”
Hey, I have a tip!
My company Year Of Motivation has been getting some press recently and I thought you might be interested.
It worked most of the time, and if the journalist doesn’t respond within a week, just email them again, chances are they’re flooded with emails. Once you get some press, you can leverage that in future press pitches to build credibility.
Another way to get free publicity is by submitting your business to startup directories, a list of which can be found here.
Since launching, many people have emailed me and thanked me for changing their lives with this service. It feels great to know I’m having a dramatically positive impact on people (passively, too!) Note: make sure to have a bulletproof money-back guarantee. Whatever you sell needs to be highly valuable; otherwise it’s not worth selling. If you don’t have one, it shows you don’t have faith in what you’re offering.
Lesson learned: Use a low-cost and high-leverage marketing strategy using tactics like emailing bloggers in your niche, getting press, and submitting your business to startup directories.
One final note! I’ve created a special discount strictly for all of you awesome Hack The System readers. For less than a nickel a day, you can get a full year’s subscription of Year Of Motivation. Check it out, and best of luck with your online business!