Once upon a time, if you had a terrific idea for a business, you had one model to follow. Today, we call this model the brick-and-mortar store. Let’s say you had a passion for building things and wanted to open a hardware store. How would you begin? Fifty years ago, the first item on your to-do list would be finding a retail location. Next, you’d hire employees, purchase inventory, decorate your store, and open for business, hoping to attract local clientele.
Soon, you’d be dealing with all the problems that small brick-and-mortar business owners come across. Problems like scheduling employees for holidays and sick days (most of which you will end up filling in for) or managing cash flow in order to deal with overhead and payroll. And what if there was already a successful hardware store in your area? How would you compete for that small pie of local customers?
Obviously, there were many successful businesses using this model, and some went on to become national chains, which put even more pressure on the new, independent store owner. Then came the Internet and consumers suddenly had many more choices. They no longer needed to buy local, if they could purchase online at a better price and have it shipped right to their door.
There is nothing wrong with the brick-and-mortar model. It definitely has its place in our economy and is a lifestyle that many people enjoy. But when I first dreamed of owning my own business, I quickly realized that being tied to one work location, dealing with the frustrations of many employees and a large overhead while working long hours to sustain a business that paid me no more than a regular job, was not the life for me. I wanted the freedom to work from anywhere, create my own schedule, and sell to a global marketplace.
That’s where the new work-from-anywhere business model comes in. With my laptop and cell phone, I can work at home, in a café, or even on vacation. Since all my business elements are now in place (such as an online storefront with automated invoicing and shipping), the online traffic sustains my business. There is little overhead. I don’t need to wake up early to open a store or stay late to close it. I don’t have to fill in for sick employees or work over holidays.
Keeping that in mind, being an entrepreneur doesn’t mean that you can slack off. You still need to stay on top of your business. You create systems and automation that drive your business and feed them through strong marketing messages. If you don’t reinvest your profits to scale up or leverage yourself, you can still remain a slave to your business.
You also need to be flexible and open to new ideas. No matter how much money you earn, you need to learn how to grow and reinvest your profits. You can leverage your time by hiring outside help or buying new tools to automate and grow your business. Automation is the key word here. Automation cuts stress and cost. You build it once and the business pays you over and over again. Set it all in motion, and soon you will be making sales while sleeping or playing.
Why you need to be online
No business in the future is going to survive without an online presence. Every business, whether it be service oriented or product fulfillment, needs an online hub. Even dentists, accountants, landscapers, painters and people who have local brick-and-mortar businesses are going to fail if they do not participate in what’s happening online.
Gone are the days of people calling friends and asking them for advice or suggestions in shopping. In those days, when someone wanted to find a plumber, they looked in the phone book. The only influences to choosing that plumber were suggestions from neighbors or friends and how big the plumber’s ad was in the yellow pages. Now, the vast majority of people look for services and products online. If you don’t have a presence on the first page of the search engine’s results, you don’t exist.
Your website will be your business hub. It is the place where customers can find all the relevant information about your business (about us, purpose, products and services, and contact information, etc.) and where you will funnel all your marketing endeavors.
Social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram or Twitter are not hubs. They are tools to drive traffic to your website and connect with your customers on a personal level, just like you would in a brick-and-mortar store.
People use Google and YouTube to find who they should do business with, and then they read reviews like Yelp to make a decision based on social proof. They turn to social media for feedback and watching videos about subjects that interest them. They purchase products and services by pulling out their credit cards in the comfort of their homes.
All of this happens online and it can feel overwhelming to a new entrepreneur. There seems to be a whole lot of background noise. How can you make yourself heard in that din? How can you master Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and all the other online tools you need? The good news is that unlike brick-and-mortar businesses, you can target your customers from a global audience. So, even though it feels like an insurmountable task, making your online presence one footstep at a time already means that you are reaching more people—more potential customers—than you ever could with only a physical storefront.
The benefits of becoming a digital nomad
In most brick-and-mortar businesses, the three main costs are rent (or mortgage) on the operating space, inventory, and payroll. In the online business model, since you work from anywhere, office space is cheap. Many online businesses find success drop-shipping from larger vendors or selling digital products that can be downloaded. In these cases, inventory is virtual.
Both models can benefit from employees. However, a physical store needs to be manned at all times while open. A virtual store can be open 24 hours a day with only minimal management. Owners of these kinds of businesses can hire virtual employees to work from home. Pay them an hourly rate, set the number of hours to work, but then let the employee create his or her schedule. No more coming in on sick days or holidays.
Let’s look at the positives of why a home-based online business makes sense.
• Little overhead
• Little to no startup costs
• Fraction of the price of what you pay versus a traditional start-up or franchise
• Ability to start an online business with a laptop and cellphone
• Work anywhere in the world
• Unlimited earning potential
Why right now is the perfect time to become a digital entrepreneur
Let’s be honest. There will never be the perfect time to quit your stable job and invest in a new business. Investment implies risk and uncertainty. No one likes uncertainty. But there are convincing reasons why now is the time to make that leap, no matter what your circumstances.
Sixty years ago, the world ran on the skill and labor of workers. We were taught that to get ahead in life, we needed skills. We went to school to learn these skills. We specialized, we got degrees, racked up student debts, and went into the workforce to work off those debts and take our rightful place in the economy. This model is not sustainable. And what happens when it fails? We’re already seeing those results.
Gone are the days when you were hired by a big company right out of college and worked your way up the corporate ladder of that same company to come out with a gold watch after forty years of hard work.
The modern job market is tough for college graduates. Many of them start their new careers deep in debt for their studies. Job stability is a thing of the past too. With the volatile economy that has become the norm, jobs come and go. Professionals must often pick up house and move to another city to find comparable work after a layoff.
Nobody’s job is secure anymore. People are tired of living from paycheck to paycheck, but they are fearful of leaving the perceived stability of their jobs. How do you combat all these forces that create an environment that keeps you in a nine-to-five job? You become an entrepreneur. Now is the perfect time.
Along with these societal reasons to look into entrepreneurship, technology is also a driving force. First of all, technology is replacing human jobs. Since the invention of the assembly line, business owners have been looking for ways to streamline production and sales. With everything from robots to bookkeeping software, modern technology has done much to facilitate business. Unfortunately, this facilitation has also meant lost jobs. This is another reason why people need to start looking at alternate ways to make a living.
In this increasingly automated workplace, the need for skills is diminishing and creative thinking is the new requirement to be a success. The millennials will be the first generation to make the shift back to what life was like in the 20s and 30s where entrepreneurism was more common. They won’t have a choice.
The flip side of the coin is that technology can also facilitate this shift toward entrepreneurism. It is now easier than ever to set up a business online with nothing but a computer, a cellphone, and an internet connection.
These trends—societal shifts and the rise of technology—impact potential entrepreneurs. They begin moving their minds in the right direction. They see the opportunities these trends provide rather than the obstacles they create.
The costs to becoming a digital entrepreneur
In a brick-and-mortar store, you become a slave to the physical space. You need to consider the cost of employees, overhead and inventory. You need to be face-to-face with the customer, tidy your store, keep inventory organized, and deal with bank deposits. An online storefront does all this heavy lifting for you. You just ship your inventory and deal with customer relations. You are not tied to a local customer base, and you have the flexibility to scale up to a global market.
So what are the actual costs for setting up an online business?
1. Transaction fees (i.e., PayPal or credit card fees). These are generally 2 to 3 percent of the sale.
2. Hosting fees for your website. This is the cost to keep your online website. Hosting fees can be anywhere from free to a couple of hundred dollars per year, depending on the services your website will provide. If you opt for a shopping cart style checkout linked to credit card merchant services, you will be paying the higher end fees.
3. Hiring a developer to design and code your site. There are many inexpensive options for developing websites. Some services work on a monthly fee (usually $5 to $25) and use templates to generate terrific sites. If you want something custom, you’ll need to find a good web-developer. These costs can run into the hundreds or thousands.
4. Virtual employees. Just like regular employees, these will be regulated by laws for minimum wage and subject to tax withholding, unless they are considered consultants. The advantage to virtual employees, is that you can set the number of hours you want them to work, the tasks that need completing, then let them create their own schedules.
5. Supplies and inventory. If you plan to drop ship your products from designated warehouses, then your inventory is virtual and has no cost. In other words, your inventory doesn’t exist until you sell it. But if you plan on selling your services, you may have supplies to purchase. Going back to Tracy and her interior design business, she may need samples, design software, and an inventory of ready-to-sell merchandise.
6. Your own valuable time to create content, blog posts and videos to drive customers back to your website. Don’t discount this. Your time will be your biggest investment.
The day-to-day life of an entrepreneur
Every business owner needs a Daily Method of Operation (DMO) in order to be successful. My DMO keeps me on track. I know what needs to be done on a daily basis. Everyone’s DMO will be different, but it is always a process that is created and followed like an automated system. It can be a mutable process, but one that becomes familiar.
My DMO consists of both active and passive procedures. Passive activities include writing a daily blog, giving value to my marketplace, and teaching or connecting on social media. Although I might not be connecting directly to my customers with these pursuits, every lead generated in this way is funneled back to my main website. People often message me looking for help. I build systems and processes, so that when people are looking to fill a need or for a solution to a problem, I have it ready to go. I build it once, and it pays me many times over.
Income Producing Activities (IPAs) are direct sales created by connecting with prospective clients looking to escape the nine-to-five.
Tools of the trade
Digital nomads are individuals who leverage digital tools to perform their work duties, and more generally, conduct their lifestyle in a nomadic manner. Becoming a digital nomad is easier than ever with today’s technology. Entrepreneurs can now work from home, on the road, or even on vacation. All you need is a phone, a computer, and an Internet connection to keep on top of your daily method of operation.
Unfortunately, the technology that enables this freedom often intimidates people. Fear of new technology can shut down a business before it even gets started. It doesn’t have to be this way. Technology was invented to make our lives easier, not harder. It may take some effort, but learning at least the basics is important. If you take the time to learn the technology that you need, your business process will become streamlined. Starting with the basics, you will eventually be able to determine how to leverage technology and use it to your advantage in your business.
You should at least learn these fundamentals:
Connect with your email list. Speaking to someone by email is not the same as talking on the phone. Without social cues, many people can sound curt or impatient in emails. Learn the proper etiquette to communicate effectively with your customers in this medium. Use every email to market yourself passively, by adding an automatic signature line with your website and social media addresses. Also, learn how to create and send weekly and monthly email newsletters that add value to your online products without spamming your customers. This can be done through some web hosts or through a third party mail service such as Aweber.
Give true value on social media. Like email, social media has certain unspoken etiquette rules. Learning how to engage on social media will be the cornerstone of your marketing platform. This is where you will find new opportunities and new customers.
Selling on social media is like visiting a huge networking party. Imagine Bob is a new author. When his first book comes out, Bob goes to his local Chamber of Commerce social gathering to make connections and hopefully sell his book. With every introduction, he says, “Hi, I’m Bob, would you like to buy my book?” Pretty soon, no one is going to want to interact with Bob.
Social media works the same way. You need to engage with others on a social level. Be part of the community. Show genuine interest in what others are doing. Start a conversation. Show your expertise through dialogue rather than advertising. Offer your product or service when the topic comes up, but otherwise use your passive marketing tools (such as blog, byline and signatures) to make people take notice of your business.
Blogging. Learn the basics of blogging and how it differs from traditional websites and other social media sites. Learn how to set up a blog theme and post new content on a daily or weekly basis.
Blogging can be a powerful tool when used correctly. Gather a good following and you suddenly become an expert in your field. Your content will go viral as followers share and re-purpose your blogs. Go back to your niche. Do you sell stamps for scrapbooking? Write articles about the best scrapbooking techniques, ideas for scrapbooking parties, or ways to clean an maintain your craft tools. All these tips will interest your customers, set you up as an expert, and make readers remember you the next time they need to purchase scrapbooking supplies.
Blogging can be farmed out to a virtual assistant but the content should be personal, not generic. For this reason, if possible, it should be one of the first technologies you learn as an entrepreneur.
Create videos and bite-sized consumable content. Like blogging, videos and other marketing materials can be used to set yourself up as an authority in your field. In the short term, these tasks can be farmed out to virtual employees, but learning the basics for presentation and word processing programs is still imperative. You will use these in your communications on a daily basis. You should also learn how to upload videos, images, and files to the web. Learning these basics will shave a lot of time off your daily tasks and free your virtual assistants for more important tasks.
6 Steps to 6 figures in 2 hours per day (with a shoestring budget)
With as little as two hours per day, you could be on your way to a six-figure business. It’s essential to block out time every day to cover essential tasks. Here is what my schedule looks like every day. Yours should be similar, with similar tasks, but targeting your industry, social media communities and ideal customers. You’ll notice that I set time limits and make the tasks quantifiable. Thirty minutes a day or three new contacts may not seem like much, but if you work at it every day, those contacts soon add up to real results.
Evening: 30 minutes
1) Send 20 new messages and friend requests to at least 20 new people that fit your ideal customer demographic. These are people who are looking for solutions. I find these types of people in social media groups and business pages by connecting online with people who are active and engaged on these platforms. Many people ask questions and look for answers through their social media groups. How do I find them? I search for groups where people are looking to make money from home, earn money online, or are searching for ways to supplement their income. You will need to look at online communities that target your specific industry. These are the people you want to connect with so that you can serve them. Also you can find them on authority fan pages (pages for people who are experts in your niche). You can engage with those who interact on those fan pages.
2) I continue to engage in conversations (build relationships) and send a friendly message to people I have earmarked on social media. I simply greet them and let them know it’s nice to connect. Then I ask them what their current struggles are when it comes to supplementing their income. Keep the conversation brief. Your goal is to provide value—to fill a need they have. Let them see the overall 30,000 foot view of how your model works, but don’t go into mind-numbing detail.
Morning / Afternoon: 90 minutes
1) After I have connected and engaged with new potential customer/prospects on social media, I approach at least 3 new people that I have recently engaged with. I call them with an invitation to see my new materials. You should have them fill out a short questionnaire so that you can get to know your prospect. Have the form schedule a call with you based on availability. The call should be short, no more than ten minutes. Recap the answers they provided to you. This is designed to get them to take action on any information that you want them to review. You are inviting them to review your information on how your product/service can help them. The personal call lets people see you are a real human and that you are here to help them. This will take them to the next step. At the end of the call, let them know that you will follow up with them on a scheduled day and time that works for them. Here are some questions I ask on the call. I use these questions to have them qualify themselves and also to judge if my program/product is a fit for them.
• What do you do for a living?
• What change or motivation in your life has you wanting to build an online business?
• What are some problems that you’re currently facing that need to be changed
• If I were to share some information with you, how soon do you feel you can review it?
From here you will get them to commit to reviewing your information, and then schedule another follow up call.
2) 3 Follow-ups. This is where I follow up on the preview calls. In the online world, it takes anywhere from 3-5 exposures for someone to make a decision. If the steps are done properly and if you feel they are a fit, offer them a link to sign up for your program. Here are some questions to ask get them them closer to the decision process.
• What did you like best about the information that you’ve reviewed?
• Do you feel that this program is a fit?
• Do you have any questions for me?
The new model of entrepreneurship has become a lifestyle. I believe in working no more than four hours a day and leveraging those hours so that I can live my life the way I want to. It is an evolving model. With the help of mentors, I have learned that I must continually work on myself. I must grow as a person in order for my business to flourish. Only in this way will I be able to continually meet the needs of my customers.
It's your turn!
With a work-from-anywhere business model, you eliminate much of the overhead of traditional brick-and-mortar store, When you create procedures and automations to drive your business, you'll be able to leverage your time by hiring outside help or buying new tools that will help to grow your business.
Every business, whether it be service oriented or a product fulfillment, needs an online hub. An online business lets you tap into a global customer base. Some of the benefits of an online business include, little overhead, ability to work anywhere, ability to set your own schedule, and unlimited earning potential.
The lack of job stability and loss of jobs to technology is a driving force for people looking for a new source of income. Technology has also made the switch to entrepreneurism easier.
Focus on becoming proficient with the tools you’ll need to succeed. At the minimum, learn to connect with customers via email, give value on social media, and create consumable content.
Do you currently own an online business? What do you currently do to use your time wisely to set up quantifiable tasks every day?
To your Success,