Online Business: Real Life Problems, Solutions and Successes

Hello friends. It’s been a couple of busy weeks. I want to thank everyone who supported IT Arsenal in the Bizbreak Limitless VC contest. Although I didn’t pull out the win, being hundred and hundreds of votes ahead of third place really wowed me. I was humbled by everyones support, learned a lot and was encouraged even more so to break down living life on purpose. Thanks!

Okay. Online business. Seemingly easy, infinitely bewildering. Find a niche, test an idea, create something, market it…Tim Ferriss put it all into a single book, can’t be that hard. Hmm the actions themselves are not particularly difficult (part of the reason outsourcing is so popular), but as a whole, online business is very complex and takes a lot of work, and a lot of screw ups. Nothing new, but as this project entails, lets rip apart the real life problems, provide solutions, and as a bonus, exemplify people like you and me, beginners, newly initiated into creating income online, that are earning a sustainable income online with their growing projects.

Context:

I’m about four months into the income stage of lifestyle design. I have a handle on outsourcing, effective efficient time use, and the tools for creating business, but knowing the tools and using them are two different things and I struggle with that. I’ve built a site for my niche, mock tested and developed but not launched a digital product, and now battle to create a following and monetize. In four months of trying to build business here are my biggest problems.

Common Problems

  1. Wanting to do everything
  2. Procrastination, excuse making.
  3. Can’t decide between creating a following or creating a product. Somehow I do neither or do one or the other half assed.
  4. Don’t know where to find potential fans/followers, traffic.
  5. Didn’t realize a large part of creating an ebook would be styling it.
  6. Fear that my idea sucks, and won’t build to anything and I’ll have to buy yet another domain name for yet another idea, product, ect.
  7. The same tired argument of not enough time, which only means I’m not doing enough of what I love.
  8. I find myself more involved with lifestyle designers bantering than with anyone in the IT support world.

We might have different problems amongst ourselves but they all have the ability to paralyze us. Online business is complex, so the problems and possibilities for paralyzation are multiplied. Be on guard.

Solutions AKA Growth

*Each number corresponds to the problems above.

  1. Develop tunnel vision. Enter a contest, do something that commits you to your cause. I recently entered an entrepreneur contest that got me excited, got awareness up, and got me clients. Hire people. I love and advocate outsourcing, but I know how to do almost everything required to succeed here. Should I?…no, and it breaks you down mentally to try. Hiring people helps keep you accountable to someone else and to spending money, a big motivator that beats your brains impulses to do the minimum.
  2. Keep surrounding yourself with people who have the same values. They will keep you on track. Big thanks to @bobbysofamous and @zackshapiro. Implement systems that catalyze action. Although I struggled with Leo Babauta’s latest post about his one thing system, I agreed that you should focus on one thing at a time, so I adapted Leo’s advice. I fill out one of these once every day or two. It’s a slot loading focus exercise for that one thing you need to get done in a few different areas.
  3. I’ve struggled with this one. I love helping people with technology, I’ve created a site where I can do that, but was that the right path for launching a product? Was it really necessary? People either market a product and sell it cold (squeeze pages, salespages, etc), or meld it with more of their lifestyle, create a following and monetize later through a similar means. So how do I reconcile this? I broke it down, compared them, and decided that it’s not important. I’m wasting my time. It’ll depend on the person some of the time, on the product some of the time. Overall, building a following is more akin to a lifestyle business, but takes more time than a pure cash machine. IE. Tim Ferriss’s book and blog take more time than his former muse, selling pills, but I think he enjoys it more.
  4. How to find potential traffic? I know what to try, I just haven’t put the time into it. WTF Rob. I initially wanted the entire post to be about the details of bringing traffic to a site, but I haven’t put enough action in. I’m mad at myself for this. Corbett Barr’s ThinkTraffic.net does a great job of breaking it down, and so does Pat Flynn’s ebook on ebooks. Go where your traffic is, analyze them, create an ideal user, give him a name. Hustle required. It’s not hard to find people who need help, which is my target audience, I just haven’t been focused enough. Next post will focus on what works, and progress.
  5. Here’s your insider secret if you haven’t made a digital product, it will take 2 plus hours-ish to stylize depending on how finicky you are. The key elements for big results are header, footer, front page and “bubble” box. If you take the time to stylize each one of those elements, it’ll be the difference between boring ugly text and a resource people will love to share. Note pictures below. Click to enlarge.
  6. Filled with doubt? Get over it. Quote of the week: Creativity isn’t as much about talent as it is productivity. To find idea’s that work, you need to try a lot that don’t.
  7. Slow down and enjoy something once a day. It’ll happen throughout every stage of your journey, you’ll get so caught up and frustrated about your “progress” that you’ll completely forget you are your own world dominator, everything is according to your schedule. Stop the world, enjoy it. Sounds weird, but I finally stopped myself and enjoyed about an hour and a half of making a most magnificent Cuban sandwich, that to me was taking time out that I could have spent networking or testing my ideas in exchange for well being. It’s a few days later, I’m still remembering that sandwich and it impacted my mental state. I’m more clear on my goals. Crazy? maybe, delicious, yes.
  8. Not to insult the lifestyle design community, but what I’m taking away is that I need to focus less on Chris Guillbeau, Corbett Bar and other such lifestyle designers that I really admire for their breaking free advice, and actually break free. I need to go live in my niche’s world and find the Bakers, Rollett’s, etc of that world and partner with them, post with them, innovate next to them. I’ve only just started to and I’m immediately drawn back to commenting and interacting with great people who get me zero inches closer to creating fans or income in my niche. Wake up, that’s not going to work.

In the end, taking action, making big moves, regardless of what they are…still trumps all the special tools and strategies. Execute, execute, execute.

Examples

There’s no denying it. A new economy is rolling its way onward. The rapidity with which someone can voice a service, or passion, add some slight twist to a niche, captivate an audience, and monetize, is quickening…and encouraging for me as I continue to battle. You don’t have to “hit it big” either. Since jumping into this lifestyle design movement for lack of a better term, I’ve seen people with as little as 1000 readers, and a few hundred Facebook/Twitter followers earn 1k or more a month. According to what I see, when you hover around that point, you’re hungry and ripe for growth. If your skeptical, I’m not surprised, so here are a few people you might know, their business models and how they’re doing. Deeper conversations to come.

Minimalist Path | David Damron

Niche: Simple Living/Minimalism. Blogs, and writes ebooks. Maintained a website called LifeExcursion which he took a break from about 6 months ago when he started writing on minimalism. Hustled his way into creating a solid resource and being mentioned by a well known minimalist, Leo Babauta of Zen Minimalism. Earns more than enough to pay my rent each month through ebooks. Awesome guy. Check out his Project M31, on simplifying life. I loved it.

Man Vs. Debt | Adam Baker

Niche: Finance/Debt . Adam has been blogging about debt for about 14 months, along the path he became a contributor at GetRichSlowly.com which jumped his exposure and connections. He just launched a digital resource called Unautomate your Finances. Really powerful and useful resource to which I’m sure he’s bringing in the bacon with. Adam has a great story.

Muselife | David Walsh

Niche: Systems/Outsourcing. David’s name is no stranger to this website. He maintains a relatively small following (I’d venture under 1500 subscribers), doesn’t have massive followers, but takes big action steps. He wrote a book on outsourcing, friended up to several entrepreneurs who could use it (see it mentioned and advertised at untemplater.com), and before you know it we was mentioned at entrepreneur.com (because of his hustle)…now he’s in Thailand on his ebook’s dime looking to launch his next huge membership resource, M6, a seriously powerful deconstruction of what it takes to create income online. David has tenacity to rival my own.

These are regular guys that I dug into personally to know it’s not a bunch of flash and mirrors.

- – - -

The take away?… persevere, walk your path, don’t just stare at it. I’m speaking to myself, and you too…take action you idiot.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

P.S. If you’d like to get automatic updates of new material here on The Life Design Project, you can simply subscribe to the RSS feed!

Photo Credit: Conor Keller | fortysixtyphoto.com


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  • http://analyticasystemsinc.com/blog/ John R. Sedivy

    Of course you can learn everything, but it's at the expense of your time. Many entrepreneurs and small business owners fall into this trap, learning everything about something that is not their core competency, which of course comes at the expense of refining their core competency, all while they could have outsourced the task for a small amount of money.

    Your e-book design comments resonated with me as I am not really a creative type, and find the process painful at times. I can manage creative types, and enjoy doing so, and also believe I have a good eye for quality design – however when it comes to creating a quality design from scratch myself – it would take a lot of time and painful effort! So for me, it is very much worthwhile to outsource these activities. Keep in mind that there is no shame is knowing your limitations, or even knowing what you don't want to do – and therefore hand-off to another.

    May or may not be worthwhile to do so yourself, you would just need to do a similar self-reflection yourself.

  • http://itarsenal.com/ Rob

    I totally agree with you, as I go on this journey, I have to keep learning to let go. I need to let a few other qualified experts do their thing instead of thinking I can learn everything. It def was a slow point that could have been solved with a few well worded and targeted e-mail…and $2-400.

  • http://analyticasystemsinc.com/blog/ John R. Sedivy

    Rob – Great point about taking a break and doing something you enjoy. This is something that is often missed, yet oh so important to maintaining a good state of mind and motivation over the long term.

    Concerning your e-book discussion; you may want to consider partnering with a good designer. Not that I am critiquing your design, I just noticed that in your discussion it seemed to be a pain point that slowed you down a bit. Believe it or not there are people out there who love tweaking the design elements and are actually quite skilled at doing so!

  • http://itarsenal.com/ Rob

    Thanks, as always for the encouragement David. Although I have ups and downs, and I'm trying to do it along with a taxing 9-5, I'm not going anywhere. Experience continues to flow in, structures slowly built. I'm excited for the ride. It's like climbing a roller coaster, you're always guessing if you're at the top, but once you are, everything takes off. Be safe dude, I hear Thailand is a mess.

  • http://itarsenal.com/ Rob

    Ben, that's freaking inspiring my friend! Exactly right, that's not the point, just get on the ground and get running. You'll mold and shape on the run, take time out to recoup as needed. Thanks for dropping the note Ben, hope to hear from you again.

  • http://itarsenal.com/ Rob

    Likewise! Dos Equis!

  • http://muselife.com/ David Walsh

    Rob, just caught this now – thank you as always for the good words. Same for Adam and David. Know one thing: whether you like it or not, feel it or not, know it or not, are ready for it or not – you're going to blow up if you keep the pace and focus you have. You're the exception to many rules, and once we sync our plans properly and start launching a few things – you better hang on.

  • Robert Granholm

    Thanks Tony, glad to stay authentic, drop me a line anytime and good job getting out there yourself.

  • http://www.trulysimple.com Ben

    Wonderful post. I followed your advice and just launched http://www.trulysimple.com its not perfect, but thats the point. Its out there and I will improve and fix it with time.

    Thanks again for the great advice. keep it up!

    Ben…

  • http://www.venturemixx.com/ Tony Ruiz

    What a fresh post. You speak with honesty Rob and I think your inches away from creating passive income. Stay thirsty my friend.

  • http://itarsenal.com/ Rob

    Much appreciated Jonny! Onward!

  • http://itarsenal.com/ Rob

    Richard, I think that's a valuable bit of advice.

    You don't want to sink a ton of time into something to realize it won't go anywhere. I spent a good bit of time evaluating my digital product idea, and received feedback, the tricky thing that I struggled with is that bad “keyword tool” research doesn't mean your product or idea won't sell, it just means your keywords won't sell. You can always adapt, and social media outreach is starting to rival targeted keywords in terms of return…the lesson I took away was be thorough, do as much homework as you can before you bring your idea to reality….even then it might go no where, develop rapid testing methods.

  • http://itarsenal.com/ Rob

    Agreed. I've started to help commit myself to taking action by putting together a few people to keep me accountable…a “entrepreneur” accountability group or set of people…might sound a bit lame, but I think its valuable.

  • http://itarsenal.com/ Rob

    You know I will. I'm going to expound on the two resources mentioned here and couple workflows I have for creating multiple roads (links) inward to your blog/site. We'll see exactly how they fair with my particular niche of IT support for freelancers and entrepreneurs, one I'm trying to hone and feel out.

  • http://itarsenal.com/ Rob

    Exactly, making ideas happen!

    A book was just released named that exact phrase and it's on my soon to read list.

    http://www.amazon.com/Making-Ideas-Happen-Overc

    Taking action, big steps, making moves, etc. continues to be an invaluable trait that I wasn't aware need developing throughout this experiment. When left to our own devices we just follow the leader, take what's fed to us, doing our own thing really seems like swimming up stream some of the time.

    Thanks Simon!

  • http://itarsenal.com/ Rob

    Nate, thanks for the breakdown. I want to try this route eventually also. It seems specialized, but once you get the hang of it, really powerful. Totally interested in where/how you'd write content without having a follower homebase, would you do guest posts or mostly article releases all routing back to that product page?

    I'm glad to provide these updates! They may get a bit more crude as I divest more time into the developing the lifestyle business…but I'm not going anywhere.

  • http://www.thelifething.com Jonny | thelifething.com

    Kudos for your honesty mate, I think it is something we can all relate to, especially the part about not measuring up. It seems that all blogger share this trait, no matter how successful they are.

    Here's some friendly good luck slingshotted your way for the future.

  • http://www.wpsplittester.com Richard @ WpSplitTester

    If I'm honest, the most common problems I see aren't people learning how to create an ebook, for example, or creating blog content, article marketing and so on. The greatest issues I see are (a) not doing enough research *before* you get started so you target the wrong niche, compete with a product that already owns your niche etc. and (b) not knowing how to actually *sell*. Writing an ebook is good, but if your salesletter stinks or you can't get any traffic to it, all that effort was really for nothing.

  • alessiolr

    “…take action you idiot.” – Spot on! We're always paralysed by fear and end up nothing, ending up with *ZERO* results. Take action, you idiot, even though you're scared.

  • http://twitter.com/BobbySoFamous BobbySoFamous

    Traffic does seem to be the big problem that SEO/niche study systems seem to gloss over. It's really not easy to build traffic from my experience. Let us know if you find some good sources!

  • http://twitter.com/simonvd Simon v Duivenvoorde

    Hi Robert,

    Great break down of some common (and very recognizable) problems. Thank you for sharing your experiences and shining some light in the tunnel.

    It's not about ideas. It's about making ideas happen.

    Best,

    Simon – 529IronMan

  • http://www.thewaythatyouwander.com Nate

    The part of this that I can really appreciate right now is the building a following vs creating a product. About 6 weeks ago I settled on creating a product. It's currently awaiting ClickBank approval, and my time will be focused on managing Adwords (I'm only using the content network), writing content to bring in search engine traffic, link building and enabling affiliates to succeed while promoting my product (75% of $49 sale).

    I wrote down the actions that would be required of me on a daily basis to create my income for both creating a community and creating a product. The tasks with the product based idea were much more conducive to the lifestyle that I'm hoping to achieve. Blogging/guest posting are great, but not something I want to do every day.

    Anyway, lots of great points here. I love reading these updates from you!