So you want to make some extra income or start a new career? Where do you start?
There’s two ways to make money online: sell your time or sell a service or product. We’re going to focus on the latter.
Find your market.
The first step to building an online business, as very successful entrepreneur will tell you, is to to find your target market. Many of us take that too literally and miss the point. Beginner entrepreneurs will hear that, think about for a couple minutes, and say, my target niche is… x. That mental shortcut has robbed them of the chance to find out the most crucial information to their business: their true customer. It not only skips the deep dive necessary to know their audience, but it leaves tem without a plan to reach them. You need to know your customer’s problem better than they do before you can sell to them. Make that plan, verify your market, and then build your product.
So you’ve found your passion. That pain point that’s driving you nuts, that hobby that you love, or that big idea that’s going to change the world. Now what?
Build an MVP.
Before you go off imagining your riches and fame, before you tell everyone your great idea and get that counter-productive praise (praise without effort makes the hard stuff less appealing than the next idea), and before you ask everyone and their grandma exactly how they would like your product, build a minimum viable prototype. The only true way to judge the value of a product is to see if people will pay for it. It’s the ultimate test. You may have stumbled upon something great, something that saves a person hours of frustration, but if they aren’t willing to pay for it then you’re no better off than you were before. Build an MVP. It might even just be a website with a minimal explanation and a subscribe button, but validate the interest before continuing. Ideally, you should test your product with a request for pre-orders, but that isn’t always feasible. Even most Kickstarters usually go through several rounds of prototyping before requesting funding. Trust me, the validation will not only save you time that would be otherwise wasted on failed businesses, but it will also reassure you that you’re on the right track when you’re exhausted and questioning every move you’ve ever made.
How to build an MVP.
1.) Make a list of what makes your product unique.
2.) Try to focus on just one feature.
3.) Make a list of the features you need to build.
4.) Cut that list in half.
5.) Cut the list in half again.
6.) Try to fake it.
Could you build a simple prototype or do all the work yourself for the first couple clients to validate the idea before building out the full-service? Then do it.
Remember, this is as minimal as possible. As the founder of LinkedIn, Reid Hoffman said, “If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.”
Keep going, pivot, or abandon ship.
You did it! You put your idea out there and you’ve gotten some feedback. Not it’s time to ask some tough questions:
What feedback did you get?
Did you get the reaction you expected?
Did you hit your target audience? Did you find an unexpected audience?
Is there a way to pivot this business to better serve what your customers want?
Is this business rewarding enough for you to continue with or is time to move on to something else?
That’s it. It’s really as simple and as hard as it sounds. There’s no one size fits all approach to running a business. There’s a lot of industry specific knowledge, networking connections, and unexpected issues that you’ll have to deal with on your own. It’s risky and a lot of work, but that’s why it’s so rewarding.
Looking for more specific tips? Curious about a specific part of building an online business? Have your own tips that really helped you? Leave me a comment and I’ll use your feedback to improve the site!