It’s possible to launch an online business with little funding or experience – I did it!
Keen to start a business but lacking in funds and know-how? Nick Wealthall explains why an online enterprise could be the perfect venture for you
I stared at my computer screen and hit refresh for the 50th time that morning.
I’d put my first online product on sale and it was actually working. It had only been on sale for 40 minutes and four people had bought it – four whole, actual people had given me $77 each for an online training course I’d written. I was in shock.
It’s hard to explain the rush that first day gave me. The night before I’d had a borderline panic attack, convincing myself it wouldn’t work, no one would want it and none of this ‘selling things online’ idea was real.
Before that day, I’d never sold anything or had any kind of business interest. Seeing those first sales come in didn’t make me rich, but it did change my life.
So I want you to know that having your own online business isn’t out of reach – no matter what your situation or experience. I’m still working to grow my businesses, but if I wanted to I could do very little and still have a comfortable recurring income.
Good for me right? Yay. The tiny catch is that my recurring income wasn’t created passively at all. There is, of course, no such thing as truly passive income. You’ll have to work to get it, but I’m here to tell you that it can be got!
Scaling without funding
Here’s the good news for you: I started my business with very little funding as well as zero experience. I wasn’t someone who sold lemonade to schoolmates when I was 8 and was destined to be an entrepreneur ever since. I didn’t sell my first product in my own business until I was 38.
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The business only ever had about £800 invested in it to start, and after that it was all reinvested profits. Four years later it’s made a touch north of £2 million in sales.
Not having funding shouldn’t be a barrier to your success. The cost of getting started with elements like a website, email tracker, social media channels and a first product is staggeringly low when compared to physical businesses. And as you sell you can reinvest and grow.
So there’s no need to give up your day job and try to secure millions in funding. You can start your business as a sideline and see if it works. I did it this way and only made a few thousand from sales in the first 18 months. But it was so much fun, proved the business would work and showed me I would be able to give up less enjoyable work to focus on something I loved.
Funding has its place of course, especially if you have the type of business that needs a lot of labour to scale – but even here you have a better chance of getting funding if you’ve first proved the concept by selling your product and making profit.
Starting without experience
Without experience you have three options: you can get your hands dirty and get the knowledge you need yourself, you can buy it in the form of outsourcing, or you can find a business partner to compliment your skills.
Often a mix of these three approaches will be right at the start, but the good news is it’s getting easier and easier to run an online venture. ‘Out of the box’ software to set up and run commercial ventures is getting better and more user friendly month on month, making the barrier to entry for you ever lower. Outsourcing is also getting easier and cheaper as more skilled people enter the market. Your consumers are becoming more and more comfortable buying online and you now have more ways to reach them and sell to them.
The key to getting started is finding a market you want to work in and really getting to know it. Success online is about serving your audience, not about indulging your ego and ideas. Start with the niche you want to sell to and let them dictate the products you provide and test everything before you significantly invest.
Doing this online is really easy. You can survey markets and groups of people incredibly quickly and cheaply to find out what they want, you can run test advertising campaigns on Google and Facebook to find out if your campaigns are winners and you can also build your product – whether digital or physical – cheaper than ever and get very quick feedback.
All of this makes it possible for you to carry out the ultimate test – whether your business is viable and right for you and your lifestyle – before quitting your day job to focus on it.
When you think about online businesses I’m guessing you either picture Mark Zuckerberg and an internet empire or a dodgy bloke in a rented Ferrari promising you “easy passive income”.
The former seems unlikely and the latter unappealing, however if you’re currently working in a job you don’t enjoy or just want a better life, the promise of being your own boss, being able to work from anywhere in the world and having real freedom feels irresistible.
My businesses sell information products. Customers buy our digital training courses to learn more and improve at something they’re passionate about. It’s a great business with low overheads, flexibility and a genuine feeling of helping your customers get where they want to be.
You could jump into something like this, but the internet offers a world of other possibilities. You could sell highly-priced coaching or mastermind groups; start a blog or video channel that you monetize through advertising; build a forum, news site or other hub; become a third party affiliate or seller on Amazon; sell your own physical products through social media channels and so on and so on.
Despite its universal presence in our lives the internet is still young, and with an explosion in e-commerce coming down the track there’s never been a better time for you to get involved.
I’m hugely thankful I found online entrepreneurship and I wouldn’t swap it for anything – and now, there’s no reason you can’t join me.
Nick Wealthall is founder of digital training businesses Transform My Poker and Transform My Golf. For more from him, follow @nickwealthall on Twitter.