One of the advantages of running something like Casual Marketer is that I get to talk to a bunch of people in various stages of starting their own online business. Most of the people I speak to have a pretty clear idea of what they want to do, but perhaps there are a couple things they lack direction on or need a bit of guidance on.
Then there are some people who have absolutely no idea what they want to do. These folks are a little bit harder to talk to and work with, but often times their problem is that they have too many things they can do. They end up overwhelming themselves and they are trying to boil the ocean by building a business with everything they know.
“I want to build a niche site aimed at people that do woodwork and teach them how to photograph their creations better so that they can sell them on Etsy using Facebook Ads – my upsell will be a coaching program where we do yoga and I teach them how to eat paleo foods.”
Honestly, it’s easy to work with people like that because you can point them in a single direction and try to contain their enthusiasm into just one thing.
The hardest people though are the ones who are in love with the idea of having a business online, but have absolutely no idea what they should or could do. When you ask them what they are good at and what problem they can solve for people they often reply with, “Dunno, I’m not really good at anything.”
You reckon I’m kidding, but this happens more than you might think.
These people have no discernible skills or tangible way of offering value to anyone, but they have convinced themselves that what they really need to do is create themselves an online business. Not sure doing what just yet, but yep, online business is the way forward.
I blame people who bang on all the time about how great passive income can be. It’s often those silly bloggers that blog about blogging. They’re always rabbiting on about passive income and how they write a post and it earns while they sleep – except they often forget to tell you that it earns two-fifths of nothing.
The mystique of “passive income” from online businesses has to be one of the worst things that has ever come into existence. Almost nobody talks about the amount of work and time you have to put in to build that machine up. Are there unicorns that do it quickly? Of course, there are but for most of us, it takes years to build a business like that and serious amounts of effort.
It reminds me of the musicians who say that it took them fifteen years of learning their craft and playing in crappy bars to become an overnight success.
Here’s some hard truth I usually give people that don’t know what they want to do, don’t really have any skills of value and don’t have an audience… Ready?
I tell them, “Go do something else because maybe this just isn’t your thing.”
That’s quite confronting for some people and they take great offence. Personally, I don’t care because it’s the truth – they’re only looking at things from their perspective about what they “want” and have nothing they can “offer” of value.
I also tell them if they really want to do something online, learn a valuable skill and build a services business around that. Take copywriting for example. Learn how to write really good copy and then try and sell that skill to people.
That suggestion of learning a skill and setting up a services business online around it is usually the thin end of the wedge for people. The vast majority tell me that’s too “job-like” and they want something more passive, so I point them back to “Go do something else” because they don’t really want to put the work in, they just want free money.
Some people though, they realise that what I’m telling them to do makes sense. That they need to build a business based on something tangible. They start exploring things they could try to learn and it opens their mind to the possibilities online.
The thing is, most people who go into purely online businesses fail – the rate is really, really high, something akin to 95% from my experience. Let’s put the talking head, without substance unicorns who tell you they are crushing it aside, and focus on the people who earn a decent living. Those people have a skill, have identified a market and have worked out how to put an offer to that market that converts. It probably took them awhile, but they put the effort in and they got a result.
So the secret? Find a tangible skill that people want and need, develop that capability and then start getting out there and do it for customers. Build yourself a proper business.
If you’re not prepared to do that and you expect the interwebz moniez tree to appear so you can shake it occasionally, then maybe, this whole online business thing just isn’t for you.