One of the things that’s been interesting as I’ve gone through the process of publishing my book over the last couple of weeks is identifying the skills gaps that I have with respect to selling books on Amazon.
We’d created and sold some Kindle books under pseudonyms a few years ago and those didn’t do terribly, but they weren’t what I would call massive successes either. I never really focused on them, so I underestimated the complexity and nuance of the platform.
I learned that lesson the hard way over the last few weeks and now I’m hustling in the background to figure this platform out.
For example, “sponsored products” paid advertising on Amazon. I’ve got no idea how this works and even the publicly available information is a bit spotty when it comes to selling books. I’d like to figure it out so I’m going to have to get the right tooling and learn it the hard way.
It’s interesting though because I see people all the time with massive skills gaps when it comes to building their online business.
Probably the biggest one is people have no idea how to do marketing. That’s kind of rudimentary and usually manifests itself with people saying, “I just want to make products and do what I’m good at.”
Simply put, nobody is going to do marketing for you and sales aren’t just going to magically drive themselves.
Another big one is a complete misunderstanding of the value of being able to generate traffic.
Up above, I mentioned paid Amazon ads – that’s me thinking of ways to get people to my book’s landing page. I know that eventually, I’m going to tap out my ability to promote it in my Facebook Groups and to my email list, so I need other sources of traffic and if I can figure out how to BUY that traffic with a positive ROI, then the world is my oyster.
But this could be SEO, Content Marketing, Social Media, etc… You need to be able to identify an audience and then convince them to go somewhere you want them to go on the internet.
Which leads to copywriting.
If you can’t create a compelling story with a strong call to action at the end, nobody is going to do anything you want them to do. It doesn’t matter how much traffic you can drive or how good your marketing is – your copy has to sell the person on whatever the action is that you want them to take.
Copywriting is one of those core skills that everyone would benefit from at least knowing at a simple level. Bad copy is a sales inhibitor. If you can write even passable copy, at the very worst you won’t be hurting your chances of selling.
The last skill that I want to mention is a funny one that came up in conversation today with someone in a group chat – management accounting.
The moment you mention “accounting” generally one of two things happens: people fall asleep and lose interest OR they tell you that they have a tax accountant that takes care of all of that stuff.
Having some basic business and management numeracy skills is IMPERATIVE.
Yes, I did make that bold and italicised – it is that important.
You need to understand the fundamentals such as budgeting and managing your own P&L, but once you start to grow, knowing how the numbers actually work will be a huge benefit. You’ll start to appreciate why for a small business, something like Cash Flow might be more important than profit.
I actually know a number of online business owners who went out of business while turning a profit because they couldn’t make their cash flow work. In fact, a few of them were effectively trading while insolvent which is a pretty serious legal problem for a business owner because it can put them at risk personally.
And the moment I hear someone talking about “tax write-offs” my ears prick up because that might be one of the least understood concepts for any new online business owner. There’s this misconception that somehow when you’re in the black that you can spend money and that magically lowers your tax exposure.
I won’t even get into taxation because the ridiculous gymnastics I see people get into to avoid paying tax is farcical.
My rule is, if you make less than $100,000 then aggressive tax minimization probably will have a negative ROI for you and it really doesn’t become valuable until you’re at the $250k+ point.
None of this should be construed as tax advice (think of this as pure entertainment), get a GOOD accountant (there are plenty of terrible ones) and let them advise you, but just bear my rules around that in mind.
The bottom line is, you’re always going to have a gap in your skillset whenever you start doing something new. The key is to identify it, figure out how you can get to a basic level of proficiency in the topic and then go from there. It might be useful at that point to hire a professional or an expert, but you may be able to achieve a level of capability that’s good enough.
What you don’t want to be though is ignorant. You want to make sure you understand enough about the topic to make intelligent decisions and the only way you can do that is to identify the gap and do the work to bridge it.