Email marketing is the digital marketing activity of sending commercial messages – to a group of people – using an email service provider. In the simplest sense, every email message sent to a person for commercial purposes would be considered email marketing.
Chapter 1: Email Marketing Defined
A basic email marketing definition:
Messages sent by email with commercial intent.
In other words, any time a business uses email to reach prospects or customers, it can be considered email marketing.
If you are picturing the digital equivalent of flyers stuffed into a mailbox, it’s no wonder. Ever since marketers realized they could sell products directly to consumers via email, inboxes have been inundated with “special offers.”
No printing costs, no postage, and instant delivery to inboxes all over the world — email is an advertiser’s dream.
Early on, it was a free for all: companies bought and sold email lists, sent endless spam, and used pushy sales tactics.
Today, email marketing is much different, and better.
Sure, there are still bad actors buying lists and sending spam. But service providers filter out junk mail and (mostly) keep it out of your inbox.
What else is different about modern email marketing?
Most marketing messages you see in your inbox are a result of you asking to receive them.
That means voluntarily joining a list, submitting your email, and agreeing to receive messages from a business.
We’re surrounded by advertising we didn’t ask to see — flyers in the mailbox, commercials on TV, promoted social media posts, billboards, and even podcast sponsorships.
The difference with email marketing is, generally, we’ve asked to see it.
And done right, marketing emails can actually be welcomed and appreciated.
It’s relevant and personalized.
Whether it’s a newsletter, a product pitch, or a reminder to complete the purchase in a shopping cart, the receiver is interested.
Otherwise, they wouldn’t have signed up.
How much more targeted can you get?
Opting into an email list is now a transparent and respectful process.
Businesses typically explain what kind of emails they will send, and with what frequency.
For example, Further promises to send one email per week, with a specific type of content:
The focus of email marketing should be providing added value to the customer. Giving away useful content and resources is usually part of the strategy — not constant sales offers.
And respectful marketing emails clearly explain how to unsubscribe and stop getting emails.
But the purpose of this guide is not to give you a long-winded history. It is to teach you how to use direct email marketing to grow your business, and why it’s essential that you start today.
The most compelling reason:
Every other marketing channel puts you at the mercy of someone else’s agenda.
When you have an email list, you own your traffic.
Consider these popular marketing channels:
SEO: Google updates the search algorithm and suddenly your blog posts are buried on page 43. You had a steady stream of website visitors, but it dries up overnight.
Social media: Your target demographic starts drifting to a new platform, and fewer people are seeing your posts. You now have to start from scratch building followers while you are losing sales.
YouTube: Your niche becomes crowded with competitors and suddenly, nobody is watching your videos (or clicking the links to buy).
All the time, effort, and money spent on those traffic sources up in smoke.
Unless… you’ve been building an email list.
When you collect email addresses (with permission) from people who are interested in your business, you retain a lasting benefit from all of your marketing efforts.
If you take care of that email list, it’s an asset that will drive your business for years to come.
So, how can you use email marketing to grow your business in 2019?
Let’s keep going to find out.
Chapter 2: How Does Email Marketing Work?
By now, you should be convinced:
Email marketing is essential to the success of your business.
But if you don’t have an email list, how do you get one?
This section is a step-by-step guide on how to do email marketing when you’re starting from scratch.
Step 1: Sign up with an email service provider
Email service providers are basically software services for managing subscribers and sending email campaigns.
Make sure you read Chapter 3 before you commit to a service. It covers my top picks for email marketing companies, and how to choose the best one for your business.
For now, just know the email service provider is the software you will use to:
Store email addresses and customer data.
Manage lists, add tags, and process unsubscribe requests.
Create sign up forms on your website.
Design and send emails to subscribers.
Step 2: Create an opt-in offer
What will you offer in exchange for an email address?
People are, understandably, reluctant to sign up for more email. For most of us, Inbox Zero is a cruel joke. But we still want free stuff!
“Sign up for my free newsletter” is not likely to convince anyone.
You need to provide a compelling reason for someone to hand over that email address. For example, here’s a lead magnet we use to attract people who want to learn how to start a podcast.
An opt-in offer is an instant benefit, free of charge, you will provide when someone joins your email list. In digital marketing, it’s often referred to as a lead magnet.
Lead magnets can be different things, depending on the type of business.
Here are three examples for you:
A discount offer like free shipping or a coupon code
2. A digital resource like an e-book or course
3. A free trial of the service
Whatever you decide to use as an opt-in offer, it must provide real value.
Try to think like your customers and ask yourself, “Would I hand over my email address for this?”
Here are a few tips for coming up with an enticing opt-in offer:
Save time by re-purposing resources you’ve already created into a new format. For example:
Books and guides >> video tutorials or email courses
Multiple small resources >> a bundle or a comprehensive package
A paid course >> offer one module for free
A book for sale >> give the first chapter for free
Target a specific and immediate problem your audience has. For example:
Don’t know what to make for dinner? Faster Than Takeout: Top 10 Recipes to Solve Dinner
Yearning for chiseled abs? 7 Workouts to Blast Your Abs Fast
Are new parents desperate for sleep? Bedtime Cheat-Sheet: Get Your Kids to Sleep On Time TONIGHT
Step 3: Place an opt-in form on your website
The opt-in form (also called a sign-up form) is how people will submit their email and join your list. I use Thrive Leads for creating my forms, it enables me to create forms within my WordPress dashboard.
Here’s how it works.
First, choose which type of form you want.
When you log into your email service provider, you will find a variety of form options.
Choose a design and function to suit your website, the placement, and the opt-in offer.
For example, here are a few common types of opt-in form:
Popup box: Pops up in front of the page to grab attention.
Inline form: A box that can be placed anywhere on a page, including within the text of a blog post, or at the bottom of any page.
Ribbon: A banner across the full length of a page, usually at the top.
Next, customize the form.
The objective of an opt-in form is to convince the maximum number of people to opt-in.
Make it as easy as possible to complete.
Every extra field to complete means more work for potential subscribers — and more opportunities for them to change their minds before they hit “submit.”
These are the only things you really need to include:
Place to type an email address
Call to action button
With the text on your form, remember to focus on the benefit of signing up — think about what the opt-in offer does, rather than what it is.
You can also customize the colors on forms to stand out from the rest of your site.
If your website is on WordPress, you can take your opt-in forms to the next level with Thrive Leads:
Create all kinds of high-conversion forms.
Test different offers and forms: Automatically display variations of forms to see which ones get more sign-ups.
Target different users: Automatically display different forms, depending on which type of content they are interested in.
Finally, place the form on your website.
Your email provider will produce a block of code representing your customized form.
Copy and paste into your website.
After you save and refresh the page, this:
Will look like this:
If you use Thrive Leads, you won’t have to deal with any code — opt-in forms are created and placed from within your WordPress dashboard.
Step 4: Write a welcome series
There are two common mistakes that can derail your email marketing before you see any return on your investment.
The first mistake is not sending enough emails. A new prospect gives you their email address, only to have it sit there for weeks until you feel like sending an email blast.Weeks later, they don’t care nearly as much as they did when they first signed up. In fact, they may have forgotten signing up. Your first email is likely to go straight to the trash.
The second mistake is asking subscribers to buy something right away. Not only is that off-putting, but it’s ineffective. It’s a quick way to lose your new subscriber.
Making a decision when you’re not 100% ready is still better than making no decision at all.
Entrepreneurs avoid the pitfalls of procrastination with decisiveness — both in starting a business and daily operations.
Without decisiveness, you can research your potential business for years without ever deciding on one idea. You can delay launching your website while you deliberate over choosing a hosting service.
It’s easy to put decisions off indefinitely under the guise of learning more, while we’re actually just spinning in circles.
Get to work as soon as you know just enough to decide.
Learning as you go is key is learning how to be an entrepreneur. So even if you’re not feeling confident, you have to keep going.
Every entrepreneur knows they’re not perfect, and they certainly don’t know everything there is to know.
But just because they haven’t perfected a new skill, doesn’t mean they’re unfit to get out there and start using it.
As you improve, confidence will come naturally. Until then, feel free to download and print some motivational quotes for your wall.
Becoming an entrepreneur means forgetting about blaming the system or the people around you for your situation.
When things go wrong, it’s not always your fault. But it’s always your responsibility.
Accountability means showing up and doing the work, knowing that you can only rely on yourself.
When you fail, the failure is yours to learn from. And when you succeed, the success is yours to celebrate.
There are many obstacles on the path to becoming an entrepreneur, but if you really want to become one – you can’t let them stop you.
You will make mistakes, and that’s ok. Resilience means you don’t let your failures define you.
Learn to handle failing as an inevitable part of life — and building a successful business. Even if you fall a hundred times, stand up the hundred and first.
It takes a certain amount of vulnerability to admit when you don’t know how to move forward. It doesn’t matter if you are trying to change the world or just make money online, entrepreneurs have to be willing to admit when they need help.
Life-long entrepreneurs also understand that they must keep learning and growing to stay relevant. The world is changing fast, and there are always new things that are going to help them do business even better.
Humility means understanding that you don’t know always know the answers, and you can’t always do everything by yourself.
Step 2. Act like an entrepreneur
Some people are born entrepreneurs, but most of us had to learn and practice.
Once you start thinking like an entrepreneur, it’s important to act like it. Emulating characteristics will help you change your old mindset.
Practice acting like an entrepreneur in your everyday life, even if you’re not starting a business right now.
Act with confidence by trying that new workout class, even if you’re worried about looking stupid.
When you catch yourself blaming someone else (a busy schedule, a sick child, a mean boss) for your lack of progress, stop. Practice accountability by finding ways to move forward, instead of fixating on what’s keeping you stuck.
Facing a setback with your health, your personal life, or your job? Resilience asks that you shake it off, and try again.
To act with humility, address your weak spots. Ask for help, take a mindset course, or find a mentor to point you in the right direction on your entrepreneurial journey.
All of these things will help you prepare to start your first business. But nothing happens if you’re not taking action on your ideas.
That’s why the first principle of successful entrepreneurs is:
None of this works without action
So take the first steps.
Let’s say you’ve thoroughly researched your business. You know the ins and outs of your market. If someone woke you up at 5 am and asked you to recite your business plan, you’d nail it.
But if your plan is still on paper – you don’t have a business.
Nothing is happening. Things just seem like they could work out.
So, how can you become an entrepreneur?
By taking action.
Taking action is the only thing that can tell you if you’re right. As James Altucher says, “without action, your business is still a dream.”
Building a successful business is a process of testing your ideas in the real world, and adjusting course as you go.
Step 3. Choose your market
Once you’re thinking and acting like an entrepreneur, it’s time to put your entrepreneurial mindset to good use.
The next few steps will guide you in deciding what kind of business you should start.
What are your skills?
Chances are, you already have some valuable knowledge, skills, and experience. To make an impact with a successful business, first consider what you can do.
When thinking about your skills, consider everything. Not just professional skills attained from formal education, or work experience, but hobbies, as well.
After that, it’s important to see if your skills are in demand. Even if you’ve got obscure skills like crocheting, that doesn’t mean you can’t turn them into a business.
For example, people spend money to learn crafts like crochet. They buy supplies, pattern books, and classes. Looking at existing businesses is a clue — it shows you if a market for your skills exists, no matter how unusual it may be.
Again, how can you become an entrepreneur? By being decisive and resilient. Even if you’re facing obstacles, find a way to overcome them – don’t mourn the fact that they’re there.
Why would someone come to you for help?
At this stage, it’s important to understand what your competitive advantage is.
Find something that differentiates you from everyone else in your niche.
Maybe it’s personality or style. For example, you could be a total badass who teaches leadership qualities.
Maybe it’s a unique set of skills. For example, a personal trainer who’s also a nutritionist has an edge in the health niche.
Or maybe, you have special insight into what a particular group of people needs, from lived experience. Overcoming a personal challenge or achieving a big goal gives you first-hand knowledge that could set you apart.
Find what makes you special, and let that guide you towards the market you can serve.
Step 4. Look for problems to solve
As an entrepreneur, customer research should be your first priority.
Once you’ve identified the people you want to help (your target market) you should find out what problems they have.
For example, if you want to get into the web development business, think beyond obvious needs, such as not having a website.
Think about the finer aspects of your prospects’ needs.
Maybe they don’t fully understand that they need your services, maybe their budgets are tight, maybe they want to work with someone who’ll understand them – even if they can’t tell the difference between a sidebar and a landing page.
Or if you wanted to teach people how to start a podcast, you would need to think beyond what kind of mic they need.
You can find out all of this (and more) by performing customer research:
Take to social media and message boards. Explore your key terms and see what people need (and if they need what you can offer)
Create and share a survey
Check out competitors’ customer research
Research in your area, talk to your neighbors and your friends. What problems do they have? How could you help?
Be a painkiller, not a vitamin
People who have their needs mostly satisfied are not very motivated to buy.
On the other hand, people who have a glaring problem are very motivated. They are looking for immediate help.
They are most likely to buy a product or service if it promises to ease their pain.
To help you generate business ideas in your market, think about what’s causing pain.
I’m not talking about profiting from people in physical pain. Being a painkiller also means solving an inconvenience, a frustration, or simply removing an obstacle.
Successful entrepreneurs lean towards creating painkiller products – delivering immediate solutions to alleviate customers’ pain.
They can become vitamins later with upsells and extra services, but being the painkiller – the immediate solution to pressing problems – is a priority.
Step 5. Decide what business to start
Once you understand your market and your advantages as an entrepreneur, it’s time to answer the big question:
What business should I start?
If you already have a promising business idea, that’s great. Congratulations!
If you don’t have the answer yet – don’t worry.
You can find the best business idea for you with the information you uncovered in Steps 3 and 4.
Basically, you need clarity on these three things:
Who are you helping? Identify your ideal customer.
How will you help them? What product or service will you provide to solve their problem?
What makes your business different? Give people reasons to choose your business over the competition.
Remember: none of this works if you don’t take action.
By the time you reach this step, you’ve already done your research. You understand your market, understand your audience, and you know what your competition is doing.
It’s time to start creating fearlessly. This can mean putting up a website and creating content to build an audience. Or it could mean starting to build a product.
No matter what you do, get started.
How to be an entrepreneur: Create something out of nothing
Why do people want to become entrepreneurs? Often, it’s out of a desire to create.
Entrepreneurs take ideas and turn them into communities of people making a change in the world. They take business plans jotted down on napkins and turn them into profits and delight.
Whether it’s a more fulfilling life, a thriving business, or selling online courses that help people, entrepreneurship is about creating.
That means entrepreneurs experience all of the ups and downs that come with creative work. Anxiety, fear of failure, and imposter syndrome are par for the course.
What if it’s a terrible idea? What if nobody likes it? What if I’m not cut out for running a business?
If you want to be an entrepreneur, put aside all that creative angst, and just do the work.
Start with the end in mind
Keep your end goal in mind at all times. If you are looking to start online, you need to choose an online business model before starting – and stick to it.
Many businesses don’t get off the ground because the scope of the project keeps getting bigger.
For example, the cooking blog you want to start turns into an idea for a recipe app. Then you decide the recipe app has to include shopping lists and video tutorials, plus you can’t think of the perfect lead magnet to build your email list.
If you keep the end in mind, you’ll avoid scope creep – uncontrolled growth or demands of your project.
Scope creep can derail your entire vision, so it’s important to keep your end goal in mind for each stage of building your business.
Don’t be afraid of the blank space – the nothingness. Your job as an entrepreneur is to make things happen in that space.
More importantly, don’t be afraid to launch.
Step 7. Launch and learn
One of the most critical steps to becoming an entrepreneur is launching and learning.
Most successful entrepreneurs have projects behind them that turned out less than stellar. But they don’t consider their early attempts failures.
Because every project that that doesn’t turn out right is not a failure — it’s a lesson.
If you aren’t embarrassed by your first version, you waited too long to launch.
The first version of any project or product is rarely perfect, but it has to be out there to become better.
Once there’s an existing version that customers can interact with, you have a chance to learn. You will find out what your market needs and doesn’t need.
Without that first imperfect version, you’d still be speculating. You might invest even more time (and money), on products or features that aren’t needed. Instead, you will get customer feedback that leads you towards a better product.
Entrepreneurs take action and launch before they’re ready, not because they’re risk-takers. They do it because they know that no research can replace the first-hand experience.
Your business will never be worse than it is today
Your project can’t get any worse by launching a version. It can only get better.
The same is true for you, as an entrepreneur. You will only get better at all of these steps by doing them. If your first idea doesn’t work out as planned, you’ll know more about choosing your next one.
Do I succeed 100 percent of the time? Nope, not even close.
In fact, doing some quick math – and switching to a basketball analogy – I sink about two out of every ten shots I take. But, you know what?
I take shots every day. Every. Day.
I refuse to not try. I refuse to not fail. I refuse to sit on the sidelines.
This is who I have become. And this is how I play the game. Life is short, so you might as well play as hard as you can.
It can look easy from the outside, but I haven’t always been like this. I spent years spinning my wheels and getting no traction. For a long time, I failed to make the changes that would allow me and my family to live a better life.
But no more.
Perhaps it’s age or perhaps it’s that I’ve learned to stop caring if something will work or not.
Do you know what absolutely will not work?
All the stuff you are too scared to try.
If you are looking for a change in your life, these 101 motivation quotes are for YOU.
1. Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.
This mindset quote from Dale Carnegie is a light in the tunnel. When it feels like it can’t get any harder, you just might be about to achieve something great. Don’t give up.
6. Great works are performed, not by strength, but by perseverance.
We should listen to Samuel Johnson on the subject of perseverance. After all, he did single-handedly write A Dictionary of the English Language — before the existence of typewriters.
7. Don’t give up what you want most for what you want now.
In other words, keep your eyes on the prize. Short-term thinking can keep you from achieving big goals.
8. It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop.
Every journey must be taken one step at a time. It’s amazing how much progress you can make when you keep taking those steps. Use this goal setting worksheet to break down a big goal into tiny steps.
9. You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it.
Perseverance and grit — these are qualities Margaret Thatcher had in spades. Failing on your first try is no reason to quit.
10. Dreams don’t work unless you do.
Positive thinking won’t get you far without positive action. Leadership expert John C. Maxwell is right — you have to put in the work.
11. Don’t play the game. Be the game changer.
12. Success is not given. It is earned.
13. Take a moment and realize how blessed you are.
14. A positive mindset is one of the attributes of successful people.
Focus on what’s possible, what’s good, and what you can do. Author Sandra León writes that a positive mindset for entrepreneurs and leaders is the way to live an abundant life.
15. If you live for the weekends and vacations, your shit is broken.
Gary Vaynerchuk says your work should not be something to escape. If you’re not excited to go to work, it’s time to make a change. Whether you start a side hustle or explore a new career, do something that excites you.
Not only are failure and being wrong inevitable in business and in life, but you should actively search for them to learn valuable lessons.
All forms of education are tied to a cost – the cost of failure is time, resources, and humility.
It’s not always easy to make mistakes and fail, but it is essential to your growth and your success in online business and in life.
When you make a mistake, it’s not catastrophic. Keep moving, iterating, and using what you’ve learned to determine your next move.
When you enter your bedroom in the dark, you reach for the light switch.
If you miss, do you stop looking for it?
Do you decide to wait for the sun to rise and provide you with light?
My guess is you would never think of doing that because without even thinking, you take what you’ve learned (the light switch isn’t where you just touched) and reach out to another spot on the wall.
Again, if you miss a second and third time, you never think of living in the dark.
You instantly reach out again: you don’t get beaten by the defeat, and it never crosses your mind that you might not be cut out for living in a well-lit bedroom.
Think of making money online as a light switch. It doesn’t matter if you’ve tried and failed in the past, you need to know that it will work once you get it right.
Don’t struggle with failure (learn to enjoy it)
As Seth Godin said, there is a difference between failure and your struggle with failure.
Failure is inevitable in business and in life, but somehow we are better equipped to deal with it in day-to-day life.
We don’t know if our business ideas are any good. We don’t know if we have the skills and perseverance to pull it off. We don’t know what will happen if we fail.
Learning to fail and not allowing it to sideswipe you is essential. The good part is, the more you fail, the better you get.
Failure is not catastrophic, it is simply an opportunity to redirect and reiterate your project or ideas.
Of course, you could try to avoid the possibility of failure by never taking any chances. But you will still face risks that you can’t control You can live your whole life taking the safe route, and still have the rug pulled out from under you.
You could get laid off, the stock market could crash, or your job could become obsolete.
Best case scenario — if you silence the voice in your head and push down that feeling in your stomach long enough — you can retire and live with your regrets.
Either way, life is a risk.
How to make money online
There is a lot to learn, and plenty of opportunities to get stuck when you’re starting an online business from scratch.
Even if you’ve run a business in the past, taking your expertise online will involve learning a whole new set of skills.
It only takes a few hours to set up your first blog, but It will take you a ton of work and time (think months or years) to start seeing decent passive income. You may even feel stupid for spending so much time on something with an unpredictable return on your investment of time.
But once it starts, you are off to the races. Trust me — once you get that first win, things start to change pretty fast.
Here are the 3 steps to set up a blog:
Pick a name for your blog (and buy your domain)
Choosing a good name for your new blog can be overwhelming. After all, the domain name you choose is the first impression people have of your blog.
Depending on your topic you can always use your own name for your domain – James Altucher did this and it’s worked out incredibly well for him.
So how do you find a perfect blog name?
It’s much easier to come up with ideas once you know what niche you serve and who you target.
Spend some time writing down words to describe your audience. Focus on how they describe themselves.
Do your search over at Namecheap, my #1 recommended place to buy your domains.
To help you decide, here are a few characteristics of an ideal domain name:
Original and available: Do not try to copy another popular name.
Clear and simple: Keep it simple, so it’s easy to remember.
Simple spelling: Don’t get too creative with invented words, or people won’t know how to spell it.
Common extensions: These extensions are common, therefore easier to remember: .com | .co | .org | .io
Choosing an ideal domain name will take some brainstorming. But once you have the perfect name, the next step is finding hosting for your blog.
Get the right website hosting
Now that you have a name for your blog, you need to find a place for it to live. This place is your website host.
If this is your first time setting up a blog, then you might not even know what website hosting is. And while this can be confusing, it doesn’t have to be.
Once you understand the fundamentals of how website hosting works, you will be able to make an educated decision.
Website hosting 101:
A website is a bunch of different files connected to the internet. These files hold data and need a ‘space’ that’s secure and accessible to the internet.
This ‘space’ is what a hosting company offers.
The function of a host is to keep the data of your blog safe and accessible.
The worst thing you can do for your blog early on is to choose a hosting company based on price – or going with the cheapest hosting you can find.
You’re looking at endless problems, like slow loading times, and crashing. Add some terrible customer support into the mix and you’ll never want to blog again.
Instead, here’s what to look for in a hosting company:
Excellent customer support: Get help quickly when you need it.
Quality hardware: You need your website to be fast and secure. You can’t do that with crappy hosting.
Economical pricing: The best hosting is less than $10/month.
If you’re serious about the speed and security of your new blog — as you should be — SiteGround is the best option you can find. Here’s a complete SiteGround review to give you an inside look at their product and service.
SiteGround is one of the few hosting providers recommended by WordPress itself, and that says a lot about their quality and integrity as a hosting company.
Sure it can be a few dollars more than the cheapest hosting available, but it is infinitely better.
Now that you have a domain name and hosting, it’s time to get to the fun stuff — designing your blog!
There are two ways to go about this:
Hire a WordPress Developer
Get a WordPress Theme
Developers are expensive. When you’re just starting out it is faster and more effective to go with a predesigned WordPress theme. With a theme, you can make a great-looking blog without hiring a developer.
Your blog’s design should reflect your brand’s identity, while also touching on a few key components such as having a fast load speed, easy navigation, mobile-optimized for all devices, and friendly user experience.
There is no perfect design for a blog – but, there can be a perfect design for your blog.
All WordPress themes are not created equal. Some are fast – others are slow. Some are secure – others will get your site..
WordPress works with themes and plugins created by external designers and developers. Don’t worry if you don’t know what I’m talking about — you will soon understand how great this flexibility is for your blog.
For now, all you need to know is that themes make your blog look amazing, even if you suck at design. Plugins add cool functionalities to your blog, like a shopping cart or live chat system.
The WordPress universe can be a little confusing with all the hosting, themes, plugins, etc. Let’s start off by clarifying how it works.
Set up an account with a hosting company: Keep reading to learn more about hosting.
Install WordPress: It’s free and easy to install. It’s also easy to use — you won’t have to learn code.
Build your website: Use themes and plugins to make your blog look and function exactly how you want.
There is a cost of running your blog this way, and it’s determined by:
Your hosting plan
Any themes or plugins you purchase
For a totally free WordPress blog:
Use the free starter plan at WordPress.com
Start a simple but very limited blog
Why do I not recommend the ‘free’ approach?
WordPress.com has a free hosting plan that lets you set up a blog and run it through their platform.
This might seem like the obvious choice — who doesn’t want free and simple, right?
If you plan on building a business around your blog or doing anything beyond sharing with friends and family, you need more power and flexibility. WordPress.com will run ads on your blog and collect the money for YOUR traffic.
You shouldn’t have to do a deep dive on the technical aspects of servers and web-hosting. You just want your blog to work – and so do I. With that said, here’s why I recommend you use SiteGround when setting up your blog.
1) Well-trained customer support
SiteGround support is excellent — the reps know their stuff. If you’re setting up hosting for the first time, they can walk you through it.
When your blog is down (which almost never happens with SiteGround), their support is fast and easy to access. There are multiple ways to reach them, so you can choose which one you prefer: phone, email, and even live chat.
Fun Fact: They offer priority support with higher tier plans.
2) Top-notch servers (with 99.99% uptime)
SiteGround uses some of the best servers loaded with the best technology and architecture in the industry.
It also has the highest uptime rating of 99.99%. That means you can reasonably expect your website to be live 99.99% of the time.
So you can rest assured your blog and its data will remain secure and accessible to the internet at all times!
3) Ease of use
Customer support is helpful, but it’s even better when you don’t have to use it — an interface that’s easy to understand goes a long way.
It’s really simple and easy to manage your blog hosting with SiteGround because it has an intuitive interface.
The interface is well-organized in sections, with detailed icons so beginners can understand what they’re looking at.
For prospects to hand over their email address, you need to make an offer they can’t resist.
Here’s the thing, nobody cares about your free newsletter. At least not right now.
When someone first lands on your site, they don’t know anything about you. You’ve got 30 seconds or less to make them an irresistible offer to give you their email address.
Once you’ve got their email, then you have time to build the relationship – and maybe even make them love your newsletter. Grab them first, nurture them later.
In this guide, you’ll learn strategies for creating a lead magnet that will guarantee conversions down the line – no matter if you are looking to sell courses online or physical products from your garage.
You’ll also get plenty of ideas from killer lead magnets working right now to build huge email lists.
Let’s start at the top.
What’s a lead magnet?
A lead magnet is something you offer to your website visitors in exchange for their personal information.
The aim is to attract potential customers (leads), in the hopes that they will agree to be contacted directly by your business.
In digital marketing, a lead magnet is used to build an email list. It can be any valuable resource, offered free of charge when someone signs up to your email list.
Here are just some of the forms a lead magnet can take:
This lead magnet aims to attract people who need branding and design services for their business. An eBook on graphic design would be too broad and generic.
Instead, this eBook addresses one aspect of branding — the need for ideas and inspiration for a new logo. It’s specific.
Here’s another example to demonstrate how to narrow down your lead magnet. DebtHelper offers a Free Budget SpreadSheet to help their audience stop losing sleep over their expenses.
It solves a single but important issue.
There’s no need for your lead magnet to be an all-action warrior.
To convert site visitors into email subscribers, focus on providing a solution to a single problem for your audience.
2. Easy to use
When you get a new email subscriber, you haven’t won them over yet. They can easily unsubscribe from your list if they don’t get anything useful from your lead magnet.
Here’s an example of a lead magnet that’s simple to use. It’s a one-page pdf, and the information can be put to use immediately by bloggers and marketers when they write their next headline:
Even though it’s free, your subscribers expect to achieve the desired result right away from your offer. That’s why lead magnets should be easy to implement and valuable.
If you’re offering a report, guide, or eBook, make it easy to read, with short sentences, short paragraphs, and bullet points.
The same ideas apply to video, audio, or email courses. Keep it simple so your leads can benefit right away.
When it comes to lead generation, quality over quantity is best.
Strive to attract a specific group of people with your lead magnet — the people who make up your ideal customers. On our list of 101 best business books, we offer a free download of our book. You can’t get much more targeted.
Customers want to feel like you understand their needs, so be clear about who you are trying to help.
If you’re in the finance industry, for example, a report on the latest changes in the investment industry is way too generic — it’s for anyone who has investments.
To get more targeted, narrow down which investors you want to help. “Baby Boomers’ Guide to Minimizing Estate Taxes,” makes it clear immediately that the lead magnet is for older investors. Even more specifically, those with sizable assets pass on to their kids.
The lead magnet below from MuleSoft targets SaaS providers. Specifically, SaaS executives who want to sell their product at the Enterprise level:
Don’t cast your net too wide or you’ll attract passers-by who don’t care about your business.
4. It’s action-driven
Your potential lead should be able to take action immediately based on the information in your lead magnet.
No matter what form it takes, the content that works best is actionable and easily digestible — that means keep it short.
If it’s too long, your new subscribers will read or watch halfway without getting the promised result.
Make sure your tips can be implemented right away. That’s why checklists, cheat sheets, and templates make some of the best lead magnets. They promise instant execution.
5. It solves a problem
Pain is highly motivating. If your lead magnet promises to solve an urgent problem (or show the steps to fix it), they will rush to fill in that opt-in form.
Just remember: your lead magnet has to deliver on that promise.
When you ease that pain point, you immediately build trust. And you’re well on your way to converting leads into customers.
ConversionXL offers a lead magnet promising a solution to low conversion rates. The good thing is the user can download and apply the tactics right now.
Even though your lead magnet is a free offer, it has to deliver. Make sure it really solves a problem (besides your need to capture email leads).
If you begin your relationship with a subscriber on the wrong foot, you lose your best chance to win them over as customers.
6. It’s delivered immediately
Never make your potential lead wait.
Don’t forget they want that solution right now. In most cases, there are two ways you can deliver it “right now.”
One way is to place the lead magnet on your thank you page after the lead has entered their information.
AdEspresso delivers their “Guide to Facebook Custom Audiences Guide” on the thank you page.
The other way is to send your lead magnet by email. If you use a double opt-in, which is advisable, you will be asking new subscribers to confirm their subscription.
You can send the lead magnet through an automated welcome email once they confirm.
7. It’s free
The worst mistake when it comes to list building is adding a price tag to your lead magnet.
People are giving you something valuable in exchange, which is access to their inbox.
No matter how much time and money you invested in creating it, you should expect to recoup those costs by converting leads into paying customers down the line. If you don’t, your email marketing strategy needs to be improved.
Offering a free trial as a lead magnet works especially well for apps and software platforms.
Free trial offers are powerful because, in the end, users are very motivated to upgrade. They’ve already invested time exploring the tools and features. Plus, they know without a doubt if the product delivers on its promises.
ActiveCampaign offers a free trial of their email service. Users love it because they don’t even have to use a credit card to sign up.
When you offer a free trial, you have the opportunity to convince your lead to upgrade to your paid service.
4. Cheat sheet
Everybody wants a shortcut once in a while.
A cheat sheet doesn’t need to provide too much explanation about a concept. All it needs to do is show your lead how to complete a task better.
Below is an example of a cheat sheet by Jon Morrow. Knowing how much bloggers struggle to write compelling headlines, this lead magnet gets straight to the point with a “Cliff Notes” on how to do it.
5. Discount/Free shipping
If you have a product that’s in demand, you can offer a discount or free shipping to increase sales.
58% of buyers abandoned items in the cart when they saw shipping charges. Interestingly, half of the customers surveyed said they can wait a few days for free shipping.
This can serve as an incentive to someone who’s interested but doesn’t want to pay the shipping fee.
In e-commerce, making that first sale is key for growing an email list. Customers who have already made a purchase are the most valuable subscribers — they are more likely to buy again than brand new leads.
Kate Spade, an e-commerce store offers 15% off plus free shipping.
The same thing applies to discounts. They’re mostly used by e-commerce stores to incentivize an initial purchase.
Rosegal offers a 15% Off for new users. However, the user has to create an account and subscribe to their newsletter to claim the coupon.
A cleverly crafted quiz can be irresistible to your website visitors. People love to learn more about themselves.
After completing the quiz, visitors will have to submit their email address to get the results and recommendations.
In fact, it works so well that we have our own quiz as a lead magnet.
But guess what? A user has to enter their email address before they can see the quiz results
If you’ve been looking for a hosting company that you can trust your online business with, you’ll find the internet flooded with hundreds if not thousands of hosting reviews. Most of them are total BS.
Unfortunately, they’re mostly written to talk YOU into buying the hosting that offers THEM the highest commission.
Do I get paid a small commission if you decide to purchase SiteGround hosting through a link on this page?
Is that why I chose to write a review about SiteGround?
No. I’m writing this because I’ve been using SiteGround since 2014! And it’s the one that powers my entire online businesses today.
Here’s a screenshot of my bill for SiteGround’s GoGeek Hosting
Bottom line: I’ve used SiteGround long enough (5 years) and am aware of pretty much everything there is to know about it.
Also, I host this website with them. Further on in this article, I’ll show you the results of some speed tests I ran while writing this.
Affiliate Disclaimer: This review contains affiliate links that pay me a commission if you sign up through them. However this in no way affects my recommendation. I do not recommend SiteGround for everyone. (more on this later)
What is website hosting and why is it important?
If this is your first time building a website, you might not know what website hosting even is. While this can be intimidating, it doesn’t have to be. Once you understand the fundamental principles of how hosting works it’s quite simple.
For simplicity, here’s a quick breakdown.
A website is a bunch of different files connected to the internet. These files hold data and need a‘space’that’s secure and accessible to the internet.
This ‘space’ is what a hosting company offers.
As you can see, your website host is responsible for holding all the data of your online business.
This is why website hosting is super important to your success, and in no way should be neglected.
Here’s what happens when your hosting service sucks.
A host to a website is what a foundation is to a house. If it’s shaky, it’s all going to come tumbling down.
My love and hate relationship with SiteGround
Just like in every relationship you will have the good and the bad. The same is true with SiteGround.
While there’s a ton that I love about this hosting, there are also a few things I don’t.
Here’s a brief breakdown.
What I love about SiteGround web hosting
1) Well-trained customer service
Sure, if you’re an experienced website developer, you don’t need customer support. However, for the rest of us, it’s crucial.
When you’re new to the world of WordPress and websites, you’ll run into problems and when you do – having reliable support to get help from is a real lifesaver!
SiteGround’s customer support is excellent! Stellar, in fact.
They invest intrained experts, not general support that acts like they understand your problem.
At times when I’ve had to communicate with them, I’ve found their customer reps to be extremely friendly, helpful, and patient.
You have multiple ways to reach them ranging from live chat, telephone to a ticket based system.
Note: They even tell you how many customers are ahead of you, and in most cases the wait time is minimal!
2) 99.99% uptime rating
Uptime is the number of hours your website is live and available on the internet. Downtime is the exact opposite.
Ideally, you want 100% uptime because a downtime implies your website is not accessible to people trying to access it.
To a business, this can lead to lost traffic, leads, and sales — lost because you chose a crappy hosting company and your website is down.
Downtime can also have a negative impact on SEO, and this will prevent your website from getting to the first page of Google, and that’s the last thing you want.
Fortunately, SiteGround offers 99.99% uptime which in the web hosting industry is the gold standard.
Note: If you ever experience more than 0.1% downtime on a yearly basis SiteGround will compensate you credit in your next subscription.
Cool guarantee, bro. I’d rather have a site that doesn’t go down.
4) An extremely intuitive interface
Another benefit of SiteGround hosting is how it simplifies the complex process of managing a website server –right from setting up the website to creating a new one and later transferring it.
A glance of SiteGround’s interface consists of well-organized and highly descriptive iconsthat make it extremely easy to identify what’s what.
Their hosting is great for anyone new to websites, as you won’t have to spend a lot of time trying to figure things out.
Alright, on with the SiteGround reviews!
5) Free website migration (for GrowBig/GoGeek)
If you already host a website with another service, you will need to do a website transfer, which can be a difficult and complicated process.
If you don’t have the technical know-how, you’re going to run into problems. Sure you can hire an expert to transfer it for you, but this comes with its own set of challenges.
Fortunately, SiteGround simplifies this process by handling the transfer for you – and for free!
What does ‘free’ really include?
SiteGround’s free website transfer lets you move everything from your old host – the website, FTP accounts, configurations, etc. – at no extra cost.
Note: this service is free exclusively to GrowBig and GoGeek tiers.
Basically, you’re going to have everything transferred from your old host by an expert who knows what he’s doing – and that means no bugs, unforeseen issues, or downtime!
With a well-read blog, you can create a business through advertising, affiliate marketing, or selling products.
2. Virtual assistant services
When it comes to internet business ideas, a virtual assistant business is easily scalable and always in demand.
Businesses always need help with administrative tasks like data entry, managing emails, and scheduling appointments. Instead of hiring in-house receptionists and executive assistants, many are choosing to hire VA services instead.
You can freelance through Upwork and Fiverr to get started. Or, you can strike out on your own and build a client base like Travinia Barber of Priority VA.
3. Job search consulting and resume writing online business
Help people find job opportunities, write resumes, and prepare for interviews.
This idea will be more successful if you focus on an area of expertise, or an industry where you have experience hiring (or being hired). In return, you’ll get plenty of referrals and happy customers while living your remote work dream.
4. Online store ideas
Crafters, makers, and inventors can make money by starting an online store. Thankfully, there are options that make it easy to set up, even if you are lacking in tech skills.
If you want to sell artisanal products, Etsy is a great platform. For everything else, there’s Shopify.
Writers can create an internet business that provides copywriting and content writing services.
You can find freelance writing gigs through platforms like Upwork and Fiverr, or by networking and reaching out to potential clients.
Michael Brown started out with freelance content writing. He was so successful pitching article ideas, he had to hire writers to help.
If you’re good with people, customer support calls, or online community engagement, this is the online business idea for you.
Customer support consulting through platforms like Modsquad, you can make money with these skills while maintaining control of your own hours — and working from anywhere.
11. Teaching languages
The old saying goes: The more languages you speak, the more of a person you are.
This is true even today, which is why you can start a small business online by teaching through platforms like DaDaABC.
Using Skype, you can privately tutor people who want to learn English (or another language you know) from anywhere. You can even create passive income teaching languages through online courses, like Go Natural English.
12. Translation online business
Translation can be very lucrative if you are fluent in more than one language.
You can help companies translate their content into different languages and reach a wider audience, or work with individuals.
Your first work can come from freelance sites, but once you have a few regular clients, referrals will help your business grow.
13. Fitness and nutrition services
More and more people are turning to healthy cuisine and lifestyle, which is why the fitness and nutrition industry is huge — and a solid online business idea.
Here are a few ways you can make money online while helping people get healthy:
If you want to start an online business from home and you’ve got skills that are in demand, why not create and teach classes?
If you’re worried about the technical side of selling online courses, don’t be. There are services that make it easy. For example, Podia enables to create, upload, and sell online courses all in one platform.
What to do you know how to do well? Anything from hobbies like baking bread, essentials like productivity, and professional skills like marketing can become a successful online course.
15. Start a YouTube channel
Starting a YouTube channel is the best online business to start when you want to build an audience.
Of course, with enough people watching your videos, you’ll make money from advertisements on your channel. Just look at Reza Izad and Studio71, the agency behind some of the top creators on YouTube.
But you can also use your channel as a launching pad for a full-scale online business. As your audience grows, you can make money through affiliate marketing, sponsorships, branded merch, or selling books and courses.
16. Start a podcast
Just like a blog or YouTube channel, a podcast can be a great way to get your voice out there and build a following. All you need is some gear and interesting topics to talk about.
You don’t need to hire developers or learn how to code. In fact, you don’t even need a website. Showrunner Community uses Mighty Networks to process memberships, share content, and host a robust members forum.
The best part of this business model is monthly recurring revenue, that grows with every new member.
19. Dropshipping online business
Dropshipping is a form of e-commerce in which you don’t have to deal with any physical products. That’s right — no manufacturing, storing inventory, packaging, or shipping.
To start a dropshipping business, partner with a manufacturer or wholesaler of products in your niche. You make sales through your online store, and pass orders on to the manufacturer for fulfillment.
All you have to do is set up an online shop, and work on attracting customers.
20. Affiliate marketing
Affiliate marketing is a very simple online business idea: someone needs their products advertised, and you’ll do it – for a cut of the profits.
If you already have an audience through a blog, podcast, or social media channel, affiliate marketing is an easy monetization strategy to try. Just remember only to pitch products you trust, so you can feel good about recommending them.
If you’re creative, what better way to show it than by starting an online business selling your artwork on merch like t-shirts and tote bags?
If you want to keep it simple and just stick to design, there are many options. You can use Merch by Amazon,Teespring, and Society6 to name a few. They do all the printing and order processing, and you get paid when someone orders one of your designs.
23. Productize your service and start an online business
A productized service is a way to earn monthly recurring revenue, or flat-rate packages, instead of continually chasing after clients. If you can provide a service online, you can productize it.
This online business model is scalable because you can hire out some of your workload as you grow the business. It works for many services, including:
Consulting and Coaching
24. SEO business
SEO is the lifeblood of online marketing, so if you have the knowledge, start your online business by offering search engine optimization services.
A lot of businesses want to run Google Ads and Facebook Ads campaigns, but they don’t know how. If you’re skilled at advertising and know your way around bids and CPA, you have a business idea that’s in demand.
To get your first clients, start with local businesses who want to test the online marketing waters.
You can also learn from these marketing experts who have found success helping business owners with ad campaigns and sales funnels:
The librarian isn’t a clerk who happens to work at a library. A librarian is a data hound, a guide, a sherpa and a teacher. The librarian is the interface between reams of data and the untrained but motivated user.
Where do you act as the interface? Start there to uncover genuine areas of expertise.
But being an expert can get in the way of being a good teacher. With so much knowledge, where do you begin?
A) Start with the end in mind
What should your students be able to do after the course?
Whether it’s growing their subscriber list or brewing the perfect cup of coffee, use the end goal as a compass to guide your course content.
B) Write a compelling “why”
This is the high level, intangible benefit of your course.
What value will your students ultimately gain?
Is it working from home in their PJs, improved self-confidence, or both?
No matter the topic, it comes down to achieving a sense of mastery and freedom. Open your course content with the why.
C) Provide the steps to get there
The meat of your course is the step-by-step instruction to ensure the end goal. For instance, if you were launching a course about how to write cold emails with better response rates, you might start by discussing the importance of choosing a profitable niche.
By the end, your students would have every trick and tool you’ve battle-tested at their disposal –– and, if they act on your advice, the response rates to prove it.
When creating course content, ask whether each module builds towards helping students achieve the promised end result.
Step 4: Write with radical empathy
You will be doing a ton of writing to create and sell online courses. There’s the actual course content, which can include video scripts, slideshows, and PDFs. Then there’s marketing content: promotional emails, social media ads, and ultimately, writing a sale page that converts.
For any of it to be effective, your words need to channel empathy. They need to echo your prospects’ reality enough to persuade them to purchase.
Here’s how to channel empathy:
A) Ask yourself why you care
For most entrepreneurs, selling online courses is about much more than money.
Why do you care about your prospects’ problem?
Why does it bother you on a personal level?
B) Look for language
One of the best ways to engage an audience is using their own words. Find book and course reviews on your topic to unearth those gems. Reviews are flush with opinions about what worked and what didn’t.
Market research from Reddit or Quora can also help here.
C) Identify shared “villains”
This could refer to actual bad guys (like mediocre course creators who make big claims), but it can also refer to any obstacle, limitation, or struggle your audience encounters. Bonus points if it’s a shared obstacle.
D) Try Problem-Agitate-Solve (PAS)
This classic copywriting formula does well selling online courses. The genius lies in its simplicity.
Problem: Describe the problem your course will solve
Agitate: Rub salt in the wound –– what pains does the problem cause?
Solve: Present your solution
Step 5: Choose an online course platform
The best place to sell online courses is the one that meets your business needs with minimal fuss.
We use Podia for all our online courses because it is built by a small, hardworking team who we admire — and they have built a beautiful, intuitive platform for independent course creators like us.
That being said, look at all the options in this section and choose the best fit.
Here’s the scoop on three of the most popular online course platforms.
Build a sales page with your choice of colors, logo, and typography
Offer 1-step checkout, 1-click upsells, and an affiliate system
Send course updates and announcements
Things get tricky when you need to do anything else. As a standalone platform, Teachable’s simplicity comes with a lack of sophistication:
You can’t change the appearance of individual courses
You can’t use your sales page to collect leads out-of-the-box
You can’t send drip campaigns without additional third-party software
Adding to the list of cons, you’ll need at least a Professional plan to access live chat support, which is only available during normal business hours.
Finally, Teachable charges transaction fees and has a complicated payment scheme that involves waiting 30 days for course revenue.
Teachable is great for anyone who wants an online course sales page without built-in marketing. It’s also fine for someone who doesn’t mind pasting code snippets from various marketing tools (and having that data spread across systems).
For those who’d prefer native email marketing, centralized data, and design and product flexibility, pass on Teachable for an all-in-one platform.
If you’ve done any research on online course platforms, you’ve probably heard of Kajabi. It’s a robust, complex, and customizable all-in-one platform that can do a lot more than sell an online course.
With Kajabi, you can:
Collect leads with a purpose-built landing page
Sell standalone digital products (e.g. ebooks or videos that aren’t a part of your course)
Create and sell membership sites (where you store and add premium content)
Use a library of different product and website themes to differentiate offerings
Build email sequences to nurture leads before your course opens
Automate pre-recorded webinars
Lock course content
Unlike Teachable, Kajabi doesn’t charge transaction fees and offers 24/7 live chat support.
Kajabi positions itself as a toolkit for building your online business for a reason. If you want to do more than sell online courses, it’s a solid option –– but its useful features don’t come cheap.
Right away, Podia feels different. Its purpose is clear, its website is friendly, and it has all of the marketing power of Kajabi, save for a few integrations. It’s also way more affordable.
Other benefits of Podia:
Free migration of existing courses from other platforms
24/7 live chat support
Zero transaction fees and instant payments
The ability to sell product bundles
Unlimited bandwidth: file size, number of courses, customers, sales, etc.
Available in multiple languages
Supports custom analytics and tracking
Like Kajabi, Podia has built-in email marketing and supports multiple use cases. It allows creators to easily collect leads pre-launch as well as sell one-off digital products or membership sites.
Podia is more affordable than Kajabi, and possibly more specialized. This is a great option for anyone on a Teachable budget who needs more than a simple sales page.
Step 6: Use goals-based pricing
Forget about finding the “perfect” number. It doesn’t exist. And fretting over price will delay progress. You can’t launch without it.
Here’s an easier way to price an online course: Define your sales goal and let that inform your strategy.
If you want to maximize the total number of sales, make your course so affordable the right people won’t be able to resist. Research similar courses in your niche to find the sweet spot.
If you want to maximize revenue, don’t hedge. Pack your course with enough value to warrant premium pricing and prepare to deliver first-class treatment. People who spend upwards of $1,000 for an online course expect one-on-one time (and courses that sell include it).
If you want to generate leads, give it away for free. It doesn’t have to be about how much you can make selling online courses. You can market other products to your students once they’ve completed the course.
Pricing will vary somewhat on your niche, so note the costs of similar courses to confirm what constitutes high and low. Just don’t overthink it.
Take the next step towards selling your online course
There’s never been a better time to transition from selling your time to selling your knowledge. An online course is a great way to do it. And getting started is a matter of asking the right questions.
Selling stuff online is easy. Getting started isn’t.
Are you ready to finally start?
Great, then this article is for you. And yes, these online business models are tested and proven to work.
Why this matters to you …
In the past 8 years, I’ve launched 13 businesses and products, helped 100s of people start, and interviewed 483 of the smartest entrepreneurs in the world.
In short, I know how to sell stuff online.
Maybe you’ve got a side hustle idea, or you just want to stop working for someone else and start working for yourself.
This article will show you six profitable online business models, how to choose one, and how to get your first customers.
We’ll take a look at good and bad examples, list pros and cons, and get you where you want to be: On your way to becoming an online entrepreneur.
What is an online business?
An online business is any commercial website – product or service based – that exchanges value for money. Unlike a traditional brick and mortar business, an online business uses the internet and a website as its storefront.
For an online business to be successful, it needs to accomplish two things:
Choose the right business model for the market
Find traffic sources of potential customers
In this article, we will provide you with six business models and six traffic generation methods.
It will be your job to mix and match the combination of online business models and traffic sources for your market.
Alright, let’s jump into it.
1. Make money with digital products
The best way to make money is by sharing your knowledge. Since we’re always online, we turn to Google whenever we need information – not the library.
You can profit off of this if you sell digital products like eBooks and courses. This is also called content production, and it’s a great online business model.
The main things you’ll need to make money with digital products are:
A product that provides value and solves a real problem
A website to sell digital products (but just a landing page works to get started)
A roadmap to finding customers
When it comes to the product, it’s best to stick to a subject you understand well. You can create and sell online courses, or write eBooks and the best thing is: you only have to do it once.
A great example of digital products done right is Nathan Liao’s CMA Exam Academy. There’s a lot of content on becoming a Certified Management Accountant and passing the CMA exam.
What Nathan found was that the existing products in this market weren’t preparing students for the real world – and he wanted to solve this problem himself. In the process of solving this problem, he has created a successful online business that has enabled him to travel the world while building his business.
Pros of selling digital products:
Low barrier to entry (Anyone can do it)
You can start small
It’s scalable (If your customers need more, you can always produce more)
It’s passive (Create content once and get paid over and over)
Cons of selling digital products:
One-time payments (You won’t be getting a steady stream of recurring revenue)
It’s not an asset
However, don’t get discouraged! We’ll be covering ways to get traffic and clients later on. For now, we are focused on choosing one of these online business models to focus on.
2. Advertising or podcast sponsorship
If you want to make it on your own, this is a great online business model.
You can make money if you start your own blog and build enough traffic. Or, you can do it by starting a successful podcast.
This online business model allows you to do things at your own pace, but traffic is a big caveat. You need to be popular enough for advertisers and sponsors to want to promote on your site.
If you’ve got a hobby or a particular niche that interests you, you should definitely consider starting a WordPress blog or a podcast.
Blogs have always been popular (and all you need is a domain and hosting), but here’s what you need to start a podcast:
We’re going to be a bit biased, and mention Hack the Entrepreneur podcast. It started as a labor of love and turned into a podcast full of interviews with entrepreneurs, where everything from copywriting to Amazon FBA is covered. It’s a one-stop-shop for entrepreneurs, and people who’ve yet to join the party.
Doing what you love is always a good choice, and when a topic is high-profile enough to attract sponsors and advertisers, here are the pros and cons you could be looking at:
Pros of podcast sponsorship:
It’s in high demand (good content never goes out of style)
It has a huge growth potential
Cons of podcast sponsorship:
There’s a high barrier to entry (you need a lot of traffic, which takes time and effort)
Advertising and sponsorship are defined by contracts and one-time payments
It’s not an asset
Another great reason to use this business model for online business is building authority. As your popularity and traffic grow, you’ll be building up your credibility and becoming a resource in your niche.
It’s easy to diversify your income by producing content or appearing as a guest speaker at events when people in your industry perceive you as an authority.
Additionally, as the demand for advertising on your blog or podcast increases, so will your ability to select sponsorships that fit your brand, and that could provide you with steady streams of revenue and good PR.
3. Make money with software or app business models
Software business models have become very popular lately with the rise of SaaS (software as a service) companies. Instead of paying for software license once, you can provide your future clients with a lot of value and charge them by the month.
Apps work very similarly to software. The main principle is providing a product that your target audience will use, and to maximize your online business’ profitability – charge them for a subscription.
There are three distinctive payment models when it comes to software and apps:
This means that customers get limited access to your software or app’s features. If they’d like to use more features, they can upgrade to a paid subscription.
Customers get the full software or app functionality for a set period of time, after which they’re charged if they want to keep using it.
3)Free software business model
Software or app is free for customers to use, but you earn revenue from advertising (see #2: Advertising and sponsors).
A great example of using software business models is Ahrefs, a tool for SEO. Ahrefs offers a variation of the free trial model, at $7 for 7 days of full access. During the trial, you can use all the features, including keyword research, competitive analysis, and content research. If you find it valuable, you can continue to use it starting at $99/month.
Pros of selling software:
It’s scalable (add new features)
It has huge potential
Subscription-based recurring revenue
It’s a saleable asset
Cons of selling software:
You have to offer customer support
There’s a high barrier to entry (you have to hire developers unless you know how to build software)
Software business models are one of the most innovative online business models, and for a good reason.
They provide a steady source of recurring revenue, and they’re also a saleable asset, which is especially useful if you’re in the mood for change.
4. Affiliate marketing
Passive income is the dream, and affiliate marketing is a great way to start. This online business model typically means you’ll be selling another brand’s products, and earning a commission from each sale.
Commissions are typically in the 5-10 percent range, and they benefit the brands because you’re doing their marketing for them. Usually, you want to rely on organic search engine traffic, to cut your overhead costs. This can be done with SEO techniques which we’ll cover later on in the post.
If you want to see a good example of an affiliate business model done right, you don’t have to look any further than Skyscanner. A flight search aggregator, this site advertises numerous airlines. They also show how you can scale up this business model and achieve the profitability dream.
Pros of affiliate marketing:
It’s extremely scalable
It has huge potential
It’s easy to start
Cons of affiliate marketing:
It’s not an asset
You don’t have active ownership over the products
The key to succeeding with affiliate marketing is to choose your niche carefully, produce great content, and become known for great product recommendations.
This can sound like a lot of work, so you can skip on to part 7, and we’ll show you how to streamline it!
It takes a lot of time to wade through content online to find the golden resources you need. Membership sites remove this from the equation and provide customers with all the info they need in one place.
What is a membership site? Essentially, it’s a resource hub. Customers pay a subscription fee, and they’re guaranteed access.
Resources can be tutorials, videos, posts, and any other form of content that your target audience finds useful. We’re all using them one way or another, and you can easily create a membership area if you already have a website.
It’s even easier to use an all-in-one platform like Podia. You don’t have to worry about the headaches of setting up a website, and you can sell memberships, courses, and digital downloads all in one place.
A great example of the membership site online business model is The Showrunner Community. It’s a paid community where podcasters get access to valuable resources like webinars and professional advice. Not only do members learn from the content, but they also benefit from a supportive and engaged community.
Pros of membership sites:
They provide recurring revenue (subscription-based)
They have decent potential
Cons of membership sites:
Membership sites are not an asset
You don’t have active ownership
Membership sites are a great option if you’re ready to produce content, and you’re sure that people will find it useful. Make sure you stake out the competition and find a way to differentiate yourself from them – especially if they’re offering your premium content free.
6. Coaching and consulting
If you’re an expert on a topic, you can achieve the dream by actively coaching and consulting others. Coaching and consulting mean selling your expertise to your clients.
Unlike other online business methods, coaching and consulting rely on personal relationships. It’s in your best interest to work based on referrals, and become the authority in your industry.
A great example of the coaching model done right is Beverly Burgess. She’s a homeschooling coach and consultant helping parents navigate the muddy waters of educating their children at home.
Pros of coaching and consulting:
Possible recurring revenue
Low startup cost
Cons of coaching and consulting:
It’s not a saleable asset
You don’t have active ownership
If you’re an expert at something, it’s time to get to work and build up your credibility. Help yourself by helping others resolve their problems with your expertise!
How to get traffic to a website (and build an audience)
You can have a great business idea, but it’s important to find the audience for your product or service.
Most online businesses use a combination of these methods to get traffic to their website and grow an audience they’ll convert into paying customers.
1) Content marketing: blogging and guest blogging
Blogging and guest blogging consists of creating content for an audience. You can have your own blog and optimize it for keyword and SEO (later on in this post), and also generate leads by guest blogging on other relevant blogs in your industry.
You can use other people’s network
Production time can be huge and it’s a lot of work