How Would You Start an Online Business?

John: Hey, John Sonmez from simpleprogrammer.com. I’ve got a question here about starting an online business. This question is from Stig and Stig says, “Hello John, a new subscriber here. I study computer science with a hefty amount of focus on programming and design and I’d love to hear more about how you would start an online business, start your own online business. I’d like some concrete steps. Would you blog? Would you do a webpage services? Would you freelance and with which skills? I’d also love to hear your thoughts about areas of specialization within software development possible like if you started out having spent a year programming in Java and done some databases networking as well as programming design methodologies, how would you decide which old or new field to dig deeper into and specialize in? What’s your take on specializing in software security? Thanks a bunch, Stig.” So Stig I’m going to more answer the question about like starting an online business and less about the specialization because that’s—and it’s really difficult to say what you would specialize in.

It’s kind of up to you and it’s going to take some research on your own. But as far starting an online business today like what would I do the basic thing is like I said I always recommend developers start with a blog and I would do the same thing for an online business. What you really want to do like when you think about it like the best way to be successful at an online business is to do pretty much the opposite of what most people do which most people is they come up with an idea and they create some kind of product around that idea and then they try to find people to buy that thing.

That doesn’t work very well at all unless you just have something that’s so phenomenal that people are going to share it and it’s usually not a very successful road to go. It’s usually a lot of work. What I recommend doing though is building an audience like focusing on this idea of building an audience and a following. If you look at the strategy that I’ve done that’s exactly that, right? If you build up an audience, if you get people interested in what you’re saying or you find something that you’re catering to that someone is looking for and you’re giving them information and you’re building up that audience then you can turn around and sell the product to them and they’re going to—not only are you going to be selling something that you know that they want because you’ve heard from them, you know who they are, but you’re going to have trust already.

Most of the reason why people don’t buy from us when we have something good is because they don’t trust us, right? You’ve got to build trust. I would start off by creating a blog and using that to build an audience. You can do things like Craig and a YouTube channel as well, right? Start making videos or tutorials about a subject. Do all the kind of things that I talk about in my How to Market Yourself package. If you haven’t gotten that it’s at devcareerboost.com. You might want to check that out, but do all those same kind of things in order to build an audience, to build a name for yourself and when you do that what’s going to happen is that that’s going to give you plenty of ideas.

First of all you’re going to hear from a lot of people about what their pains are and what kind of ways that you can solve pain. A good business solves a problem for people, right? That’s the key thing. That’s why businesses exist. It’s not to make money or that you can have your dream job, it’s so that you can solve someone’s problem. If you do that, if you focus on that that’s where it’s really going to come into play. This goes into that whole specialization thing that you brought up as well which is when you do this pick a very specific niche.

Pick something very, very specific. Focus on a group of people. Figure out who you want to talk to, who your audience is and reach out to those people. What are their problems? How can you solve those problems? I’ll give you an example outside the software development world and you can apply it. A lot of people want to be photographers. What do they do? They go and they pound the pavement trying to find jobs. But if I were going to start a business online with doing photography, I would start by writing articles about things that people who are looking for a photographer would want, not about photography itself. I wouldn’t talk about lighting and I wouldn’t talk about cameras and all this. I would talk about how to hire a good photographer, what kind of things to look for. I would talk about how to shoot—how to pick the perfect scene like backdrop to do your family photos, what locations you want to choose and what time of day. I would talk about all kinds of things related to someone who’s looking to buy the services of a photographer, things that they’d be interested in.

That’s the approach that I would take. So the same thing that you want to do like if you want to start an online business is figure out what is your niche and what are the customers who would buy your product or service, what kind of things are they interested in and that’s going to be your audience. You blog about that stuff. You write about that stuff. You talk about that stuff. You take Simple Programmer, right? I talk about a lot of things for enhancing your career as a software developer. That’s my audience, right? It’s developers who are interested in improving their lives and improving their career and developing these soft skills. By building up that audience, by doing these YouTube videos, by doing things like that what’s happening is I’m creating an audience that is likely to buy a product that I produce.

When I sell something, when I sell for example my How to Market Yourself As a Software Developer package people are likely to buy that because one, they trust me and 2, it’s exactly that audience that I’ve built. I’ve built up a group of people that would want to buy that that are interested in that thing. That’s what I would do if I were you. If you want to start an online business is start off with a blog, start building an audience and once you have an audience then you can build a product that is going to be tailored to that audience. You might give it a few different tries. You might have to build different products in order to get one that’s going to be successful, but that’s the key is you’ve got to find that what they call product market fit. When you have that then things will really take off. The only way to get that really is to start, in my opinion, with an audience. That’s what I would highly recommend. A lot of people do this the wrong way. They start with a product.

They don’t have an audience. They’re not actually solving someone’s problem and that doesn’t end up working out for them. If you do this—make sure, another thing I would say with this is sell something of high price. The other mistake that a lot of people make is that they want to sell something for like $5 online. Well, you know how many customers you need to make a living off of some product that you sell for $5? Plus, do you know—okay, here’s a thing. Go to the app store, right? Go on your phone and go to the app store and go and find an app that’s 99 cents and go look at the comments, the reviews. People will say, “I can’t believe I wasted 99 cents on this thing” “I wish I had my 99 cents back.” They’ll complain all about this stupid app that was 99 cents. It’s just as hard to make a sale for a low price item as it is to make a high price item. In fact, the people are less likely to complain.

It seems counter intuitive but someone is—it’s not that much harder to sell something that cost $500 than it is to sell something that cost $1. It’s just weird how that works. If you find something that someone needs it’s going to be just as easy to make that. You might as well have a higher priced item. Make sure you don’t under price yourself. Don’t sell things for $5, $10 online unless you’re going to get millions of customers. It’s not going to scale. You want something that’s at least—I would never sell anything online like as my primary business model that’s not at least $100. If you don’t do that you’re going to—if you make the mistake of not doing that you’re going to feel the pain. You might be successful but you’re not going to be successful enough to keep the business going.

So yeah, so that’s it. Hopefully that’s helpful. Obviously I can’t tell you in 10 minutes how to create a successful online business but I can tell you where to start. If you watch a lot of my other videos, if you listen to the Entreprogrammers Podcast you’ll find a lot of this kind of advice and a lot more detailed advice on how to do this. I definitely recommend go to entreprogrammers.com and check out that podcast that I put out every week because we go—if you watched that from the beginning and you’ll see exactly how I built my business, how a couple of other guys in the mastermind group have built their business online as well.

Thanks for the question. Good question Stig and hopefully this is helpful to you. If you have a question for me, just email me at john@simpleprogrammer.com and if you like these videos subscribe. Take care..

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