How to start a profitable online business

For awhile now I’ve been thinking of writing a book about starting an online business: I usually talk about writing, publishing and book marketing – but those topics are closely related to branding, positioning, building an online platform, making products that people want to buy and letting them know about it

And there are SO many people who dream about not having to wake up in the morning, working from anywhere, quitting their jobs and traveling the world, being in control of their own income and having the power to keep building it up higher and higher.

I made a little cover, like this:



But after doing some keyword research I discovered that it wasn’t enough. Peopled don’t just want a profitable online business. They want to do it “from home” and “with no money.”

The “home” part is pretty easy, the “with no money” much less so. I’ve started a lot of online businesses and I can tell you this much: things go so much faster and are so much easier if you throw a little money into it.

Because if you’re doing everything yourself, you have to learn a lot of new skills, and you aren’t going to be very good at things you’re new at, so you risk crippling your business before it starts.

What you need to do is develop an in-demand skill you can charge a premium for, make good money for that one skill, and work really hard to build up extra income that you can invest in your business and hire other, more skilled people, to build everything you need much better and faster than you can do it alone.

I’ve been in the “online business” world for a decade. I’m not a genius. I’m not making a lot of money. Other people are doing it wayyyy better than I am.

On the other hand, I’ve learnt enough that I’m able to start profitable online business very quickly – yes sometimes in 24 hours or less.

1. Pick a niche, service or product

2. Find something to sell or charge for

3. Develop branding that makes you cool and unique

4. Create excellent free content that gets shared

5. Give powerful people a reason to link and share your content

6. Have a landing page with great sales copy that makes people eager to buy

7. Run ads or promotions to get your first paying customer

8. Try to make them happy enough to recommend you to everyone they know

9. Build up enough natural search traffic to keep getting more and more customers

10. As soon as possible, remove yourself from the equation by having other people fulfill the service/do the work.

That’s it in a nutshell.

To simplify all that, you need to:

A) Pick an area where people are spending money, things they need or want, things they need help with, problems they are facing. Find something people hate or complain about and find a way around it. Find something people love and want more of, find a way to give it to them.

B) Write a TON of content, videos, articles, Powerpoints, related to that topic or subject and put it EVERYWHERE – pointing back at your domain.

C) Establish yourself as the expert in that subject by writing a book, founding a movement or organization, doing something successful/unique.

D) Add a paypal button.

Earning money online is simply formulaic:

#1. How many people is your offer reaching – either through natural traffic to your website, or through another website (ebay, etsy, freelancer, any other platform). It’s always better to have your own site and not have to compete with anybody, but for that you need your site to rank higher than those big sites, and for that you need to be producing a lot of content.

#2. How many of those people are you converting into buyers – you need to also be boosting your conversion rate by strengthening your offer, building your reputation, adding social proof and reviews, using professional design elements, writing better sales copy.

If I wrote a book like this, I would probably also go into the 10 best ways to make money online, or something like that, though I’m not an expert in all of them. I have a friend who’s a day-trader; I don’t know how to do that (well, in theory it isn’t actually that hard – “buy low, sell high” – but I wouldn’t put a lot of money into it).

I have a lot of friends designing Tshirts. I could definitely by doing that, or paying someone to do it for me.

I have a lot of friends dropshipping or selling through Amazon; I believe, if I understand it, they find a provider in China or somewhere, negotiate a good price, then sell the item for a much higher price and when they make a sale, pass the details over to the provider who actually fulfills the order (no inventory, no shipping).

I’ve done mostly service-oriented stuff, and let me tell you, it’s not the easiest way to make money online. You have to make clients happy. There are lots of tweaks and revisions. It’s usually a long-term relationships. The pay isn’t scalable (there’s only so much you can earn per hour, per project – unless you hire staff and are able to take on more work, which I’m in the process of doing now…)

I’ve gotten pretty good at starting up service businesses, but they are active businesses, and I would so much rather be operating on fully passive models (like book sales – write a book and earn money every month. Write 50 books and earn 50X as much money!)







If you have questions about starting a business or making money online, post them in the comments and I’ll answer them.

About Derek Murphy

I help authors and artists turn their passions into full-time businesses, make a bigger impact, and blaze a luminous trail of creative independence. Right now I'm in Taiwan finishing a PHD in Literature, writing several books, and managing a handful of online businesses. Find me

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