You can start your own online business. Even if you don’t know the first thing about business. Or about “online.” I did it.
In these ten (and a half) steps I explain what I learned through trial by fire and thorough study of successful online businesses. Although I am poking fun at myself, I want you to know I stand by everything I say here 100%.
Pre Step 1) Decide you want to run your own online business. (If you need reasons to do this, skip to beneath these steps.) Decide this despite having no experience with how websites work, and despite having never studied business or entrepreneurship. Bonus points if your social media experience is limited, as mine was, to a Facebook account where once a month you might post an update for 75 Facebook friends to see. More bonus points if you don’t own a smartphone.
Step 1) Don’t quit your job yet! Starting a business when the room you’re renting is 100% of your monthly income is stressful. It’s NO fun to try to build your own thing with looming financial pressure. No fun. Don’t do it. We want this to be fun! Also we want your budget for your new venture to be greater than $0.
Step 2) Learn what a “domain name” is. I’m serious. (In case you, like past Carly, don’t know what that is, it’s the “www.~~~~~~.com” thing.)
Step 3) Quit joking around and actually do something. Specifically the thing to do is ask yourself what skills you have, or what funky personality quirk you posses, that might somehow in some way be valuable to somebody else. Before you do anything else you need to know what your business is going to offer. In light of the fact that this is an enormous task, I have a special resource for you at the bottom of this post that might help.
Step 4) Become absolutely impervious to the little voice of doubt in your head that will quickly become a raging screaming monster. Tune it out entirely. Pay no attention to your “friends” who have nothing but skepticism to offer you. They are just jealous. DO, however, pay attention to friends who have thoughtful input on whether or not they would pay for what you offer. You’ll know your idea passes the sniff-test when at least three people say, “That’s a great idea, I need that!”
Step 5) Okay now some online stuff happens. Blindly stumble around a beginner-friendly “start-your-own-blog” kind of website (I chose WordPress). See, aren’t you glad now you learned what a domain name is? Get yours (this is where your $0 budget falls apart) and decide whether you want to shell out even more money for certain perks that WordPress claims you need. (What the heck does “hosting” mean anyway? I’m still not totally sure. But I do pay for it!) Use the free Microsoft Paint to edit your photos because you have no idea how to really edit photos. Yell loudly at your laptop when you can’t get said photo where you want it on your website because you have no idea how themes work. And coding? That gibberish is never going to be for you. (Yeah, I stand by the yelling at the laptop thing. It’s a right of passage and you’ll laugh at yourself later.)
Step 6) Go to an entrepreneurship gathering and embarrass yourself to the extreme by having never heard of SEO, having no social media accounts, and not knowing what an “elevator pitch” is. (FYI, an elevator pitch is your one-line description. I personally am a semi-pro athlete and semi-nomadic adventurer. My business is “your guide to adventuring, training, creating and living outside the box”).
Step 7) Become frustrated when you try to publish a new blog post and now you can’t find your previous post. On your own website.
Step 8) Acquire a few clients through word of mouth who have never even heard of your website. Question the existential purpose of your website.
Step 9) One year later get a smartphone. Now you’re playing in the big leagues! Check email while you’re on a roadtrip, post bad-quality photos on Instagram for an audience of 11. Start an email list with the same audience of 11.
Step 10) Patience. More research. More learning. (Fast forward through the how’s and why’s of doing this because it will all be explained below.)
WHY? Why go through all of this?
I’m 26 and I’m not a millionaire. I have no “secrets” to success, and I’m not a trust fund baby. I came from a lower-middle class family.
Yet I travel so often I don’t say I “live” in any one place. I wrote the first draft of this blog post on an airplane, one of dozens I’ve been on in the past year. I’m planning a month long road trip for this spring to scope out new places I might want to add to my circuit of “home bases.” I compete on a national race circuit for my sport, Nordic skiing, but I’m not getting paid to ski. This week I took Thursday off from work for no reason other than I didn’t feel like working. I then worked from 5 a.m. to noon on Sunday because I enjoy getting up early and I was feeling productive. I call ALL my own shots, from work schedule, to content, to design. I choose who I work with. I have the power to scale my business to suit my financial needs.
I am “living the dream.” At least my dream. I am living my dream.
If I can do it, the odds are in your favor that you can too. And I would encourage you to consider it, even if you don’t want to be a nomad. Even if you want to keep your job. Even if you aren’t trying to self-fund an athletic career. I encourage you to consider it for the amazing sense of achievement and pride it will bring you. The location-independence rocks, even if you don’t want to travel full time. The scheduling flexibility is ideal for maximizing productivity and work/life balance. And the money! Your call. Build a small side-hustle to bring in some extra spending money, or build a business that supports all your financial needs.
There is no reason anyone should not be considering this.
Now, I have experienced my fair share of stress, crushing doubt, anxiety, total bewilderment, etc. And I do not want to subject any of you to that. So here’s the scoop: I hope you have enjoyed the hilarity of reading about my own process of starting an online business. But I think you can skip all that and get to where I am now much more quickly and easily.
I have three great resources to offer you.
1) If you enjoy the psychological underpinnings of real-world financial and business questions, you have got to check out Ramit Sethi’s work at GrowthLab.com and IWillTeachYouToBeRich.com. Oh man, I learn so much from this guy. I am NOT being compensated in any way for this plug. It’s just good material. A lot of his useful stuff is free, but his most helpful and streamlined tools can get pricey. No reason not to invest in yourself, but if your budget is not in the $1,000’s right now, I have another recommendation.
2) I am currently taking an online course called Wired Creatives. It is designed by digital nomads Intrepid Introvert (Hannah Martin) and World Nate (Nathan Buchan). It is incredible. I wish I’d taken this course when I first started my business. Nate and Hannah totally hold your hand through every step, including Step 3 from above (figuring out what you’re going to offer through your business) and Step 10 from above (actually using the internet to do something productive for you). I am confident they can take you from no idea to profitable idea in this course, and then help you hone in on an audience that is stoked about your content. Wired Creatives is taking my budding social media game up, like, 100 notches, teaching me how to partner with other brands in my niche, opening my mind to the variety of ways one can build a profitable business online, and generally skyrocketing my self-confidence. I’m not getting payed to promote this one either, but I do get a commission from sales of Wired Creatives content. (See, there’s that partnering with other brands thing in action!) If you are interested in checking out the various resources offered through Wired Creatives, please use the links in this post. Anyway, this one was more in my price range, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. At the very least you should check out Nate and Hannah’s social medias and websites.
And resource #3) Your third resource is, of course, me. I am here for you! In a couple ways. First of all, you can always send me a message or leave a comment below if you want to chat about any of these ideas. But I am excited to say I also offer one-on-one coaching and consultation in what I call Lifestyle Design. One-on-one coaching is a level of personal attention you just can’t get in an online course, no matter how good the course is. I can help you sort out your ideas when you’re just in the beginning stage, wondering how to create the kind of freedom you crave in your life. I can help you find creative solutions to some of the trickiest questions about following an unconventional path. I can help you answer the scariest question of all, what do I really want?
It has been my pleasure to share my story with you, and to share the resources that have helped me the most. Keep in touch by joining my email list here. These are big ideas, and my hope is for all the adventurous-livers out there to create the life of their dreams. It’s worth it.