How to start your online business

"How to make $1000 a month online from scratch" has proven to be one of our most popular article series.  It has recently been updated to support the latest online developments and innovations.

I read a classic quote from Les Brown the other day. He said, "You don’t have to be great to get started, but you have to get started to be great."

I really love that quote. I see so many people fluffing around pushing around ideas and looking for an easy road to riches online and it gets frustrating when you know the truth. I can assure you right now, it’s really tough to get rich online. However, it’s not very difficult to replace part or all of your day job income with some persistent and calculated work.

As they say, a journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step. From my experience, it seems that first step is the hardest for people to take. Most people are so busy constantly changing direction looking for the easier road that they end up not going anywhere.

When they reflect on their failure, most will blame the tools, the advice or the processes they selected. But in the end, most of the time they should blame only themselves.

I don’t say that in a judgmental way, because I’ve been one of the worst offenders in the past - jumping from one thing to another without making any real headway in anything. I say it to encourage you to avoid the same mistakes.

If you’re going to constantly jump from one idea to the next looking for those easy dollars, I would suggest that you shut down your computer now, and go and spend some time with your friends and family. It will be time better spent because the chances of succeeding by doing that are slim.

In whatever you choose to do, have a determination to make it succeed, and give it enough time to run its course. You need to be satisfied that this will probably be a slow and steady process that given time will get you to where you want to be. It just needs time to grow.

Are you ready to put your blinkers on and take action? Are you going to take control of your situation? Or are you just going to be like most people and keep looking for that elusive easy money? If it’s the latter, it’s time to rethink what you’re doing!

Let’s have a look where we are up to in this journey of earning $1000 a month from scratch. By now you should have:

1) Finalized your niche topic.
2) Selected a site name and domain.
3) Planned your site structure.
4) Planned your digital product.
5) Set up your publishing platform.

Have you done all those? If so, let’s begin.

By the way, as I've previously stated, this series is written specifically for newbies. If you are a newbie who can’t afford to get sidetracked by technology and you require an all-in-one solution with a strong community support then you need to get NPC for at least your first site.

This article, however, isn’t meant to be everything for everyone, so I’ll try to accommodate those who have some intermediate technical skills but are still struggling to make a buck online.

In that case only I’d recommend:

Domain: Dynadot Domains ($7.95 a year)
Hosting: Bluehost ($95.40 a year)
CMS: WordPress with SEO Plugins (free)
Mailing list: Aweber (193.80)
Keyword research: NicheBOT or WordZe ($152.64 a year)
A community forum like the AssociatePrograms.com forum (free)
Unsubscribe from all gurus who want to distract you with new pipe dreams (difficult but free)

As I’ve mentioned many times over, the technical tools and site building are mostly an aside. The real heart of success or failure is not in the tools, but in YOU. The reason I like NPC so much is that you can unsubscribe from all the "marketing noise" and focus on the task at hand. Everything is provided for you including an environment of other like minded people in a community of success, not negativity.


Create Your Site Framework

Whatever site building approach you use, at this stage you should be setting up your site structure based on what you planned last week. So you need to look at this as the framework for the whole site. Once this stage is complete, I want you to promise me that you won’t go back and make changes unless absolutely necessary. There is a good reason for this which I will explain shortly.

The content structure should have been planned carefully last week. I asked you to plan it now so that you put together what the site structure should ideally be, not what the site structure evolves into because you decided to write a whole bunch of articles on an easy subject.

In your site structure, it's important to ensure that you keep it within themes. Without going into a technical explanation, understand that this is important to attract good search rankings.
 
Once you’ve got your site structure set up (including your site navigation), you should then work on your design. This is where people can blow a whole lot of time getting their design just right. I would set a limit on the amount of time you are going to devote to this - no more than 3 to 5 hours.

Once you are generally happy with how it looks, promise yourself that you won’t make any changes for 6 months. If you are having issues getting the site to look how you want it to, don’t waste too much time trying to figure it out. Just ask a community member for help (for NPC users) or search the web for help on your particular site building platform.

As far as design goes, I say don’t re-invent the wheel. Mimic other sites you like using that have a site structure similar to yours. Forget about aspirations for your site being heralded on thebestdesigns.com. Treat this thing like a utility vehicle, not a showpiece. Focus on it being clean, simple, and very usable. They are the sites that tend to make the money.

You may find it difficult to avoid spending endless hours getting your site perfect. I encourage you to stay focused on producing good content and a good product. That’s the priority for now.


Write your About Us and Contact page

Now you’ve got your site looking OK and the site structure in place, it’s time to fill out the basic site requirements. You’ll want to fill these framework pages with good, keyword-rich content.

I recommend quickly completing an "About" page and a "Contact" page. These should be fairly easy to write. Doing so gives you some practice for filling out the rest of the content. They are also fairly important because they give you credibility and make people trust you. Lots of people neglect these pages, making their sites look spammy.

On these two pages you can be yourself and make them as personalized as you wish. Having a nice photo of yourself there is useful for credibility. You’ll just need to figure out how much information you want to make publicly visible. Remember, your boss may be reading it!


Write your home page content

The first tricky page that you’ll want to tackle is your home page. It can be a difficult page to write because it’s so general. It’s also very important because it’s the first page that people read, and you want to compel them to keep reading!

I normally would recommend this page to be a teaser page. Here’s how I would structure it.

INTRODUCTION

This welcomes people to the site and should aim to personally engage with them. Don’t try to make it like some corporate big business. Look at this as a dialog between yourself and a visitor, in the same way that you would welcome someone to a bricks and mortar store. It should be written as though you are looking them in the eye.

(By the way, DON'T put a boring "Introduction" heading on it!)

SUMMARY OF EACH SECTION OF THE SITE

Once you’ve done your introduction, write a teaser for each section of the site. This should create interest and intrigue and get people clicking deeper into the site. This is where you want them to go because this is where the money is (so to speak).

So for example, you may have a section on the site that talks about how to care for your putters correctly. You may write something along the following lines (remembering to be engaging and memorable):

Putter Care

It’s amazing how good you can become at making a putter look like new when you’ve had to retrieve it from a water hazard. (It forcefully slipped from my hands as I missed the winning 2 foot putt in the final captains trophy competition.) In my putter care section, I give you the top 5 ways of cleaning your putter to look like new after every game.

You’ll want to do something similar that will lead interested parties into the rest of your content.

This will also help your site become thematically consistent, which helps your search rankings. You’ll want to link up the matching keywords into the appropriate site section. For example, "putter care" and "cleaning your putter".

It’s a good idea to try to use as many relevant keywords in as natural a way as possible. I don’t believe in stuffing keywords, but careful selection of words can help draw more traffic to your site.

Your home page title should include 8 of the main words that define your site. You’ll want to target the ones that match your niche. If you followed my advice earlier, your high volume matching keywords should be realistic enough to rank for.

For example, you’re not trying to rank well for the word "golf", but "golf putter". Use the free competition tool I made you to double check.

Picture how those words will appear in the search engine results. They need to tempt people to visit your page. Try a few searches in Google. Some titles instantly attract you and some don't.


Write your site section content

So now you’ve got your Home, About and Contact pages written. It’s time to write the content for each of your site sections.

These content sections should follow the site sections you developed earlier. For example, for the putter site you’d probably have a site structure something like this.

Putter Reviews
Putter Selection
Best Putters
Putter Covers
Putter Advice
Travel Putters
Left Handed Putters
Putter Brands
Putter Grips
Putter Care
Putter FAQs

You will then want to develop an overall summary of each section. You should attack this in a similar way to your home page, but reference some of the article pages you'll be writing, instead of the category pages as you did with the home page.

At this point, you’ll want to do some careful keyword research for each section. So for example for the keyword "putter reviews" you’ll want to first use the MoneyWords Keyword Tool within NPC or your keyword research tool of choice to find out the different ways that people describe this sub-theme.

If you’re new to keyword research, take a look at my introductory guide at Keyword Workshop here.

Once you’ve got these different ways to describe this sub-theme, create a list of keywords that people use to find information about it. For example:

bettinardi putter review, golf putter review, golf putter reviews, golf putters reviews, heavy putter review, heavy putter reviews, mizuno putter review, never compromise putter review, ping putter review, ping putter reviews, putter grip review, putter review, putter reviews, putter reviews 2007, putters review, putters reviews etc.

This serves two purposes. First it helps you develop theme relevant, keyword rich content for your category page. Second, it gives you ideas for articles that will be thematically similar sub-pages within this section.

Do this for each section of your site.


Write 5-10 Useful Articles

It’s time to spend some time writing some good quality content. I suggest that you start by focusing on writing 5-10 articles that are not promoting anything, but just provide good solid content. These articles serve two purposes.

The first purpose is to create some good content that will position your site as a quality site, not some half-baked spammy promotional site that a directory will never list.

The second purpose is for you to have some practice honing your writing skills without throwing into the mix the complexities of selling and pre-selling. This is an art form in itself, and you should focus on the foundation of writing compelling copy first, and then build on that to sell.

These first 10 articles may take you a little while to write. When you are happy with each one, post it on your site. The worst thing you can do when writing these articles is to be boring. It’s important that when people are reading your articles, they hear your voice in their head.

You can choose what voice you want to portray. Whatever style you choose, make it appropriate for your niche and make it enthusiastic and friendly. It’s going to help when you recommend products later.

Some sites get away with having an edgier style (e.g. Rich Jerk style), but you need to be a very good copywriter to make this work. A simpler approach is probably the path or least resistance for most folks.

While writing these 10 articles, really focus on being engaging. Use clever, keyword rich titles like:

Top 5 ways...
Why you should never...
My Favorite...

It’s going to serve you well to become a student of good copywriting. A good place to learn is Copy Blogger. As an example of my title advice, have a look at the titles of Copy Blogger's most popular posts:

How to Create Ebooks That Sell
Ten Timeless Persuasive Writing Techniques
Do You Recognize These 10 Mental Blocks to Creative Thinking?
How to Get 6,312 Subscribers to Your Business Blog in One Day
10 Steps to Becoming a Better Writer

Becoming a good copywriter is an art form that takes a lifetime to master. There isn’t a perfect copywriter. It’s just all degrees of imperfection.

Use your 10 articles to hone your skills of engagement through words. Don’t try to sell anything yet. Just focus on finding your voice.  Listen to Copy Blogger’s advice on the 10 steps to becoming a better writer.

   1. Write.
   2. Write more.
   3. Write even more.
   4. Write even more than that.
   5. Write when you don’t want to.
   6. Write when you do.
   7. Write when you have something to say.
   8. Write when you don’t.
   9. Write every day.
  10. Keep writing.

Get 2 Critical Links

By now you should have a good site that has quite a bit of useful content. It’s about now that you become disappointed at how little traffic you’re attracting.

That’s OK. The site needs to be up and running with a decent amount of content before we can seriously focus on getting traffic. At this stage we’re going to focus squarely on getting two of the most important links you’re likely to get for your site. One is from the Open Directory, and the other is from Yahoo!

Both are difficult to get into (unless you’re willing to pay the $295 Yahoo! review fee) but are fundamentally important if you want to get a head start on ranking well.

Both of these sites are website directories that list only high quality sites. That’s why we focused on getting the site up and running to an acceptable standard before we approached these two sites for a link. By now your site should be filled with useful content so we’re ready to go!

The two sites require a slightly different approach. It’s worth while carefully doing the submission, following all guidelines if you’re going to have a real shot at getting in there. Here’s some advice for getting in both these important directories.


DMOZ

Follow these instructions carefully and exactly.

Find a category that has PageRank over 1 (in the Google Toolbar).

Find a category that says it has an editor in it. If it doesn’t have an editor in the sub-category, make sure it does in a category one or two levels up. You can move up levels by using the navigation at the top of the page. You can tell if it has an editor by checking in the footer of the page. If it says "Volunteer to edit this category" it doesn’t have an editor.

Resubmit every 8 weeks until you’re listed.


Yahoo! Directory

The Yahoo! Directory has two types of directory submission: Paid for commercial sites and Free for non-commercial sites. The free option is pretty close to impossible to get in now due to huge backlogs. However, it’s important enough to try anyway.

You may have noticed at the moment, your site will have no commercial elements to it yet. This is for several reasons, one of which is the directory submission to Yahoo! We want to find ourselves a non-commercial category to submit to. Simply find the category, and then press on the "Suggest a site" link at the top right and bottom right of the category pages.

You’ll instantly be able to tell if the category you're trying to submit a site to is non-commercial because it will give you the option for a free listing. Otherwise, it will show only the paid option.

Yahoo! Directory

Once you’ve found your non-commercial category, carefully follow the same instructions as your DMOZ listing and submit your site. Now say a prayer.

These are the first two sites that we’re going to be attempting to get links from. We’ll be doing a lot more traffic building activities next week in part 6, "The Traffic".


Start Developing Your Product

If you remember back to part 3, "The Idea", I spoke about a 3 prong monetization strategy. One of those prongs was to develop your own digital product to sell. We need to keep pressing ahead with this.

It’s time to now get serious about how your interview is going to press the expert to extract the type of valuable information that people want to buy.

In that way, you need to consider the potential purchaser of your future product. Try to put yourself in their shoes. Thing about the information that they are crying out for. Frame it in questions. So for our golf example, we might be asking questions like:

"What brands of putters are the best?"
"What brands of putters are the best value?"
"Does putter length matter?"
"Do I need an expensive putter to play well?"
"If I’m not putting well, should I change putters?"
"What are the 5 most important aspects to get right to be a good putter?"

I’m sure there are many more. Use your imagination. You can discuss technique, materials, weights etc. In this case, I’d also ask other golf players what kind of questions they would ask to glean other potential questions.

Once you’ve got a big list of powerful questions, whittle them down to the top 20. This top 20 should cover the subject material well, be open ended enough so you generate lots of good content, but not too vague or annoying.

It's now time to find your experts to interview.

Finding experts doesn't need to be overly difficult. Of course it will depend upon your subject material, but finding the experts shouldn't be too hard. Getting them to agree to an interview is another matter entirely which I'll cover in a later chapter.

You can use all the usual methods of finding these experts. Search on the web, look in phone books (including those of other cities online), as well as university directories.

Collate a list of potential prospects. We'll be devising a strategy to get them to agree to an interview, without cost, in the chapter entitled "The Money".

We'll be interviewing these folks in two different ways. For some we'll be doing a simple email, written interview. This is usually the least attractive as you'll generate the least amount of content.

The most ideal is a recorded interview. The most simple way to do this is using a Skype audio recorder.

Simply download and install Skype.

Create a new username.

Buy some Skype credit.

Choose a method of recording your Skype conversation.

Here's a useful post that outlines the different methods of recording your Skype conversation for both Windows and Mac.

Once you've installed and got it working, try calling a few friends and record the conversation. It's important that you're super comfortable with recording the conversation without errors. You don't want to think you're nailing it, only to lose it. No one's going to want to re-record an interview with you!

For the next week or so, use the Skype phone instead of your regular phone and record your conversations. It should become second nature before too long.

This week is all about taking action. Once you've managed to complete this you should feel really proud of yourself. You've done more than most people would have. In that way, you are exceptional! This is a real milestone and you should reward yourself.

If you're not working your way through this, what's stopping you? Don't think it will work? I want to hear your objections in the comments below. I want you to succeed.

Next week I'll be covering a very important component towards success: Part 6, "The Traffic". I'll be following the 80/20 rule again to ensure that you focus on the stuff that's going to bring you the most traffic for the least amount of time spent. Look out!

April 5, 2010

Related Links

Comments (18)

Legend911
Said this on July 3, 2008 At 12:13 pm
I am very happy that you are creating this from scratch tutorial on how to get people started making a good income and the practices they need to do to make it work. Many people linger on forever at the beginner steps of choosing a niche and fumbling with the site design and ultimately don't create the content effectively or don't create enough content at all. I had the problem with messing with the site design stuff too much because I am more of a web programmer than a graphic designer so I never like the way things look. It is a serious problem. However, I will focus on the content as you have suggested and get the ball moving.

My first affiliate website is an info site about a product that the user probably already has and I am just giving them tutorials on it. However, I can't think of any way to monetize it other than google ads, which is horrible at the moment and it is about 10 months in on development. However, I am on google, yahoo, but not DMOZ for that. I think i can rethink it and turn it around in the future, but for now i am working on a new site that is more (transaction based) than tutorials. I am currently finishing up the information questions i needed to gather for my interview questions and my site structure is already complete so now I am ready to give SBI a try. What is the big deal with trying SBI out? It's not like if you fail miserably you can't get your money back! Until next time, thanks for the great info and you are doing many of us newbies and people stuck in a loop a great favor. I am sure you will be thanked in years to come.
Sincerely,
Legend911
Matt Watkins
Said this on July 3, 2008 At 01:06 pm
Great content that can be applied immediately - thanks for your hard work! There's a lot to read on screen though - it would be fantastic if you could attach a stylesheet so the page prints ok...

[Try the "Print article" link at the bottom left of the page. Sorry if it's not easy to spot. Allan.]
fstephens
Said this on July 3, 2008 At 02:31 pm
I am continuing to follow this series with great interest. I like your approach and clear writing style. I only wish this had been around when I was starting my two sites!
http://DIYComputerHelp.com
http://LinuxLatitude.blogspot.com

Maybe I will just let them stand and try to find a less competitive niche to apply your methods to.
Thanks for the great info!
Tracy
Said this on July 3, 2008 At 09:11 pm
Wow Jay,
Thanks for taking the time to write such a well thought-out article. Even though the steps you've outlined take time and effort, the person that follows them will have a site that will rank in the search engines for years to come. How do I know this? Well, I've followed the same system for seven years now (using SBI), and I enjoy good rankings, steadily growing traffic, and actually have experts asking me if they can contribute to my site. For everyone starting their own website, follow Jay's suggestions and you won't go wrong.
Thanks,
Tracy
http://www.womansdivorce.com
Prince
Said this on July 3, 2008 At 09:43 pm
Hi Jay,
Please keep up with the good work, personally I don't think you should care about what anybody said, especially about the SBI. I really think you are doing a good work. I have been following your article carefully and doing everything you asked us to do step by step even though I have several existing sites with Adsense but I still want to follow your lead and experiment.

I always believe their is something for everybody to learn every day. I have set most of my subscriptions to expire, especially my wordtracker so that I can subscribe to your own recommendations. Make sure your links are working fine so you can be credited for the referrals.
Keep up the good work.
Thanks.
Paul
Said this on July 4, 2008 At 06:03 am
For brainstorming and organizing your content and/or ebook, I highly recommend using mind mapping. There are many commercial products but also a good online application at www.mindmeister.com. The basic version is free and has a lot of features. I really like mind mapping because it allows you to visualize and organize your ideas more freely.
obi
Said this on July 5, 2008 At 06:59 am
Another great article in a great series. I like the DMOZ advice - it's little things like that really help to put each step into context. Thanks Jay and Allan.
Jeff
Said this on July 6, 2008 At 03:22 am
I love your series so far. You recommend aweber. Unfortunately, they recently raised their prices. 10,000 subscribers costs $149/mo. For newbies, would you still recommend aweber over getresponse? Getresponse is a flat $18/mo, I think.

I really wish I could go for the old aweber packages of $19.95/mo and no analytics, because aweber is so much nicer than getresponse...

What do you think?
Kwesi
Said this on July 7, 2008 At 11:13 pm
Personally I think you're a genius for coming up with such great ideas and resource for beginners such as my self. I think your advice will help and motivate me a lot.
thank You
Kwesi "the Newbie"
Melissa
Said this on July 8, 2008 At 05:29 pm
Thank you for writing such a thorough and helpful course! I've submitted my site to DMOZ, but there is no editor in my category. Do I have any other options? As for the Yahoo directory, is it incorrect to submit as a non-commercial site when I hope to monetize in the future?
Thank you again!

[At DMOZ, sometimes you can submit your site to a level one level higher where there is an editor. Re Yahoo! submissions, if you don't feel comfortable submitting your site to the non-commercial category, don't do it. I don't. Allan.]
Edward Ertl
Said this on July 28, 2008 At 01:26 pm
Hi Allan,
Hats off to you; you're doing exactly what all us newbies wish we were doing, with a great content site, and you're trying to show us how to do it... With SBI. I bought a 2 in 1 deal a few years ago (your commission ;o) but my trading biz crashed and then all was on hold until I got my multimedia & web design diploma in June. I'm still going to use SBI (Ken did indeed say lifetime satisfaction eh?) because I think the package is awesome. Plus I know two professionals who want me to show them how... My retiring old ADD brain will be happy to have the 'wheels'.
Now, you recommend BlueHost, and I surely wanted to use them for a simple quickie site, after all they are in Toronto, a big plus. However, their TOS stated that they will pull the plug if they so much as get any spam complaint, as does GoDaddy!
A malicious, fake complaint would seem to be a simple way to pull down a competitor's site, so I am leary of such a host. Am I being (too) paranoid?
Finally, about hyphens. What was the problem that one of your visitors had? Do the SE's not just remove the hyphen before listing the site as seems to be done by some of the domain shops if you research a domain with hyphens? A hyphen seems like a great way to make a domain name more legible, and only a dork would think you had to write the word 'hyphen'. Pity the sites with the word in the name.
Thanks for sharing,
Ed Ertl

[GoDaddy HAS unfairly pulled the plug on sites. I haven't heard of BlueHost doing so. Judge them by their actions. I have sites with and without hyphens. In general, I think the ones without look more professional. More important is what you actually do with the site. Allan.]
Rick
Said this on August 15, 2008 At 03:01 pm
Jay,
When I started reading your series about an hour ago. ( I want to get through the series to get a high level view of your process) I kept thinking to myself, why would someone put out such high value information for FREE.

I am actually glad to see you are putting your own process into practice. By that I mean your are providing valuable information for the reader. Why shouldn't you monetize!

Actually I feel better knowing that the gentleman that is giving instruction is also applying the principles of his instruction.

Keep up the good work, Jay!

No I need to re-'Focus' ;)

Rick
NDWT
Said this on January 26, 2009 At 11:58 pm
I find it ironic that people who come here to find out how to start a successful online business would make accusations about plugging a product. I mean, when it really comes down to it isn't that what an affiliate does? I view having an affiliate site the same as being a sales man or sales woman. You are recommending a product that you know works well and you make a commission when something does sell.

I don't expect everything in life to be free. There are people out there paying thousands of dollars in consultation fees for info similar to the info presented right here on this site for free.

Not everyone has the time to gather a bunch of products and place them in one place and try to figure out how to make them work. I recommend SBI to everyone and I am not even an affiliate. I am a gen-xer, I have a full time professional career and do not have the wherewithal right now to study technology that is changing monthly. Some bloggers have thrown in the towel b/c they cannot keep up with changing technology. Ken Evoy makes it so that the non-techie will not be shut out of the lucrative internet business game.

[SBI users often become raving fans before they've even built their first page. His product has that effect on people. Allan.]
Suresh S Chavan
Said this on February 23, 2009 At 03:55 am
I wanted to start the online bussiness but it new for me. I dont have internet on my PC. I want a suggestion and guidance for starting the bussiness.

[Click on the "Beginners" link at the top left of this page and read the articles there. Allan.]
Shontel
Said this on December 1, 2010 At 06:15 pm
I want to know with NPC do you have to still have an Aweber account? Also,dose anyone know if NPC offers the Email champagnes to load up or do you have to write your own?
Said this on January 25, 2011 At 01:43 am
Hey, Thanks for the really informative information.


Karl
Said this on December 21, 2012 At 03:27 am

I just started this recently and I'm looking forward to driving high targeted traffic to my website from what I learnt in one of your articles. Your post on How to make $1,000 a monthly has really inspired me and I promise to fully implement all that I've learnt. Thanks

Said this on October 25, 2013 At 12:49 am

If you want to have your own business online then it is the best way to start with!Affiliates can be selective and choose the company they feel will provide them with the most benefits.Service providers provide merchants and products for affiliates to promote and the more affiliates a company has the more merchants they can gain. 

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