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843 days to online success: The ultimate newbie’s guide [Part 2]

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Ready for part 2?

How to prep for online success: The practical stuff

Now we can finally get down to the practical stuff. This is where you apply yourself. I’ll go through the foundations. Again, there’ll not be tactics or whatever “instant” and trendy things that’ll give you results short term. These steps are to help build a legitimate, long-term business. I’ll also not explain in detail some practical how-tos as you can just Google them yourself.

1) Choose your platform, and stick to it

What’s your platform? Blog? Podcast? YouTube? Just a mere Facebook page?

Whichever medium that appeals to you the most, go for it. Then go set it up. Get your domain name, make your videos or whatever. I’m not going to waste time teaching you how to set it up. You can Google it yourself.

The key point here is it stick to one platform only, especially since you’re just starting out. A lot of tutorials out there are going to teach you that you “must” have this and that for online success. Nah. In my opinion, you should stick to the one you’re good at and/or intrigues you the most. There’s no point using a bunch of platforms when they don’t even appeal to you. You’d spread yourself too thin then and end up producing mediocre content.

2) Aim for subscribers, not just traffic

A newbie is obsessed with traffic. Even new online startups think it’s all about the numbers. They want traffic, the “eyeballs” and to go “viral”.

Traffic is great and everything, but what you should be aiming for is subscribers. Subscribers basically refer to people who enter their email and/or name in exchange for something, something that’s usually free. That’s when you see all the, “Enter your details now for our free eBook!” or even a simple, “Enter your details now to join our newsletter”.

And what’s the point of gaining subscribers? It’s the process of building an email list.

What’s an email list? It’s a database. And database is your asset. That’s when you sort of have people indefinitely and you can start emailing them with content or offers. Most online businesses would definitely tell you to create a list early, because that’s pretty much the way to go.

So you see, traffic is just a means to an end. Traffic is important, but it’s useless if you don’t know what they’re meant for. I started with a, “I’ll get traffic, and I’m sure it will work out” mentality. It does not work that way.

Get started on your email list early. Sign up for Aweber, Mailchimp or Get Respond and lay out your opt-in forms if you’re using a blog.

*Yes, there are businesses out there who don’t focus on subscribers, but they knew at the core what their traffic is for, which in turn is led into their sales funnel and ultimately created into conversions. So the key point is, you got to know why you’re trying to get traffic. I’m only talking about subscribers because I believe building a database is the way to go. It’s your asset, and relative to most other business practices, it’s a huge safety net.

3) Narrow down your topic at the start

Narrow down what your topic, or niche is going to be at the start. This is pretty straight forward as long as you follow your heart and start creating art based on what is it that you’re passionate about.

The idea is to make sure you concentrate on one topic rather than spreading yourself too thin over a bunch of topics, especially if you don’t even care for them and are doing it just because others told you they’re “hot” or trendy.

Even if you’re passionate about several different things, you should only start with one. This is to ensure that you’d be recognized for something immediately. You don’t want to be just “another blog”. I’m sure when you’re scouting around the web, you’d also know which blog stands out to you, or not. Notice how you think a certain blog, or a YouTub-er stands out while the rest are too generic to ever stand out.

Take my blog for example: My tagline says, “Helping you not give a fuck”, which I means I want to appeal to people who are sick of typical, cliché, self-help garbage and want to improve their lives. My tagline alone resonates that. If however, I have something more general like, “Helping you lead a better life”, it would be too general, and downright boring. It also raises the question of how I specifically can help people lead better lives.

Successful business start out small. Even Kentucky Fried Chicken started out with crispy fried chicken only before they branched out with their various burgers and whatever it is they have today.

4)  Narrow down your audience

This goes hand in hand with narrowing down your topic.

This is extremely crucial. You need to have a target audience in mind; a single demographic you want to add value to. Why? Because when you try to appeal to everybody, you appeal to nobody. You’re not the general store, like Walmart.

Again, this part should be natural to you. Ask yourself who is it you want to spread your message, your art to. Then stick to that particular audience group only.

Now, the idea of narrowing your topic and audience is important, but also very tricky. Let me explain why:

– You’d want to be taken seriously. You’d want to be recognized for something. If you try to appeal to “everybody” with “everything and anything”, you’re going to spread yourself too thin. If you’re “everything and anything” to “everybody”, doesn’t that mean you can be easily replaced? Then you’d become a nobody.

– Narrowing your topic would ensure that you don’t stray too far in terms of topics.

A newbie is always very tempted to start creating on a bunch of different content, which makes the message very sparse. It’ll also confuse readers on what you’re all about. E.g. You wrote your first post on conquering fear. And suddenly, you’re talking about getting a six-pack in the second post. People WILL be confused and thus not take you seriously that way. You’d probably also churn out mediocre content especially if you aren’t passionate about one of them.

– Narrowing your audience would help hone your message. Your message would be clearer and more “sharp”, thereby ensuring your target audience perfectly understands you.

E.g. If I want to spread the message of conquering fear to a general audience, I may sound like this, “Come to my blog! I’ll help you conquer your fears”. Super general, unappealing and no different from others.

If however, I decide that my audience is young guys from college, I will sound like this, “Yo bros! Need help getting over the anxiety of talking to girls? Or fear that you do not know what to do after you graduate? I got the solution for you”. This is clear, with specific results in mind. I also speak their lingo, thereby appealing to them more. It’s only natural. I’m sure certain talk appeal more to you too.

– You’d be more unique. I didn’t say totally unique, but more unique. It’s only common sense. Narrow down with your topic and narrow in on an audience, and you’d be known for that.

*You absolutely need to narrow down your topic and audience. This sounds and feels very counter-intuitive, but you need to fight it. I know, I know, you feel like you’re going to lose out on a bunch of people and even potential customers, hence losing money. But trust me on this: Get out of your comfort zone, do this because it’s the right thing, and you’ll grow a lot faster. This will also effectively help you churn out greater art as you’d know what to create and for whom.

** But however, you need not go too narrow. This is where it gets tricky. Most people teach you to go narrow, but I personally think you shouldn’t go too narrow. I mean… if you’re too specific, your target market may then be too small. Think about it, let’s say you narrowed it down to, “Swimming with dolphins for Asian teachers between the age of 35 to 42”. How the fuck? So yes, dig down a layer or two, and leave it as that. The rest is up to your effort in your art.

I spent a lot of time searching my brain about narrowing my topic and audience. It drove me nuts! I kept worrying what if I was too broad, but then too narrow? I finalized on, “Helping people not give a fuck”. I let the word, “fuck” speak for itself in the kind of people I want to talk to. I let my consistent effort in creating my writing, my art do the rest.

5) Be good at something first, grow later

This is the major folly of creating a business online. We think it’s easy at the start. It’s the internet after all. We just have to read those articles like, “How I made $123,456 with this simple trick on Twitter” or buy stupid courses like, “Make instant profits while you sleep”.

See now, these are just tactics. Tactics serve to work on a strong foundation. They will never work on mediocre content, on a weak foundation. Whoever wrote such articles or sell such products got them working for them based on their already solid foundation/solid art. And some of them are nothing but a bunch of lying scammers. What is their strong foundation you ask? Their foundation is mastering the art of preying on weak-minded newbies like you.

A tactic will never help you grow if aren’t already good at something. You should only and always concentrate on your art, be extremely good at it first, then grow later with whatever tactic that may help you give you that little boost. In fact, if you follow your art, the rest will take care of itself.

Think about it, does it make sense for a long-term business to be known for tactics? People keep going back to Macdonalds because they say, “I love their burgers!” , not “I love how they got to me through Twitter!”.

6) Make your art and business constant throughout

This is pretty much the same as the point, “You need everything for your art to converge with business”. It’s essential to make sure everything, and I mean everything in your business to be constant. This is to allow your brand to be consistent everywhere.

Look at it this way, as a newbie it can be very tempting to keep using the latest tactics or whatever instant-results formula. In effect, you’d be concentrating on one area while leaving the rest of your business in the shadows. So maybe you learnt and implemented some really cool copy writing tactics on your sales page. Your sales page looks great, while your blog, your art still looks newbie-ish. See the discrepancy there? What’s more, you learnt those tactics from somebody else. Hence, your sales page reeks of “someone else”, while your blog is all “you”. That’s the difference.

E.g. My previous coach taught me to create a free book offer for people to opt-in. I called it, Revive Your Life, a meaningful guide on personal development I created with zero profanities (because he told me to avoid it). Yet, I had, “Helping you not give a fuck” as my main tagline, and almost all my blog posts contain profanity. I personally thought, “It’s alright! As long as many people download Revive Your Life, I’d be happy. I’ll worry about everything else later”.

The result was that a lot of people wrote in to complain about my profanities whenever I emailed them content. One lady even threatened to sue. I’ve since changed my free book offer to 12 Things Happy People Don’t Give a Fuck About. It’s been great so far. Downloads are increasing and the people who write in who like-minded. Note: This actually took me a year to change the offer. I was so afraid of losing the general audience. It took some guts to get out of my comfort zone and do what I believed in. Yep, as mentioned, narrowing down your audience feels counter-intuitive. But do it. Don’t waste time. 

So yes, make sure you’re constant throughout. Balance everything out. Your art has to be everywhere. Resist bullshit tactics. They’re just going to hurt you in the long run.

7) Consistently create art. It never ends.

Yep. Be consistent. Don’t give up.

Experiment with your art. Get out of your comfort zone and take risks. As you keep creating, you’ll fine tune your craft and grow.

Marketing and business is an ongoing learning experience. It will never end. The economy, market and life itself evolves. And you need to keep growing too. Remember, nothing is ever a golden ticket.

Some helpful tips and tricks

Aight! Let me let you in on some “short cuts”, which can finally give you the short term, “instant” results you want, depending on how you see it. But for sure, they serve to speed up the building of your foundation.

1) Get a mentor or enrol in a course early

It is very okay to spend before you make money. There’s no point wasting your time or money when you don’t know a thing about creating business. A good mentor would serve to help teach you the ropes, give you the basics and reassure you along the way. A course can also do the same.

BUT, again, remember this: A mentor or a course will only teach you what they believe in at that point of time. They can only point you in the right direction. They cannot forge your path for you. You need to do the work yourself. Once your basics are down, it’s time to create art.

2) Get your first sale asap

Another counter-intuitive step. Get that first sale, even if you think your foundations are rocky (Maybe it’s already solid, but you don’t even know). When you get your first sale, it’s going to provide an onslaught of clarity in you and your business. You can then work backwards that way and fine tune whatever it is you’re doing. With a successful conversion already, you’re already doing it right. It’s simply a matter of doing it more right.

By the way, remember how I mentioned, “I’d just write, get traffic and see what happens”? That was very short sighted of me. I had no real end game in mind. If you want to make money, it simply means you add value first, then charge your readers for a product/service. So yes, do that. Do what it takes and start test to see how you can get that first sale.

*I’ll not go any further about making money. There’s just too many subtleties involved when money is in the picture. Bottom line: You need to test for yourself what works for you and what brings in the dough. Others will have very different opinions on this. So my best advice is to simply get the first sale and then work backwards.

3) Art does not wait

All the planning, analyzing and research in the world can never beat taking action itself. More often than not, your best art is usually done on a whim. My best articles were wrote in the spur of the moment during a flash of inspiration. Many other writers say the same. So when you feel inspired, just do it. If I waited  to make sure I was making six-figures or whatever, I would not have written this article. So don’t think too much about it. If you know something can add value to others, just put it out there.

That being said, don’t aim to go “viral”. It never works that way. “Viral” rides on emotions, not logic. Art is from emotion, period.

4) Find a mastermind group

Mastermind group simply means being connected with like-minded individuals who’d be there to share your journey and encourage you all the way. They can also provide the insights you need to propel your business forward, rather than you having to work non-stop, which may waste a lot of time. This can make a huge difference in your journey as you surround yourself with more positive people. Otherwise, you’re going to have to deal with a lot of shit from others.

Final thoughts on the newbie guide

Business is tough. That’s a given. From here on out, it’s going to be one hell of a ride for you when you embark on your journey. It isn’t just about learning the ropes, but also a constant battle in trying to be better at what you do and dealing with all sorts of circumstances.

And one of those circumstances include not giving a fuck about what other successful entrepreneurs say.

I know that there’s going to be a bunch of people who read this guide and then have something negative to say. That’s just how it is. “You aren’t making six-figures? That’s sad. $10k a month is pathetic”. You get the idea.

I also know some of you who know me will read this and say something arrogant like, “That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you!”. No… you did not. You don’t get to tell me anything. Save for one or two of you, the rest of you were dragging me down. Pfft, I’ve met religious people who are more tolerant of others’ beliefs.

I once connected with this guy on Facebook. He claimed to be very successful with his online businesses. The following is the gist of the conversation I had with him:

“I’m looking at your blog now Alden. May I know who set it up for you?” I replied that it was a web designer whom I outsourced from oDesk.

He then replied, “Just as I thought. That was what I was afraid of. Your blog reeks of oDesk”. REALLY?! You knew that “reeked of oDesk” AFTER I told you that?

He then said, “Here. Go to my site and book a slot with me then we will talk more”. I didn’t bother to reply after that. When he asked again, I said I was busy.

He then said, “We’re going to have to make this quick Alden. I’m not usually on Facebook”. I did not reply anymore.

The very fucking NEXT day, he was on Facebook and started pestering me to book a slot again. Right. You aren’t usually on Facebook huh.

The point here is that, if you’re new, you’re probably very vulnerable to all the bullshit out there. There’s a crap ton of information on the internet. Sooner or later, you need to stop caring about everything and everyone and start taking action. Make your own art and forge your own path. No one else can take that away from you. No one else is going to hold your hand all the way too.

I’ve created this guide based on my own beliefs (Yep. Again, whoever teaches something is only based on their own beliefs), but I’m also confident that the foundations here will go a long way for you.

Take action and go find out what works for you. But do it with art. Look deep within and keep feeling inspired to take action. And don’t over think and overwhelm yourself. If you think your art can help somebody out there, make it happen. You’ll be making the world a better place that way.

I may still be struggling. I’m honest and open about that. But I’ve never defined a business to be successful where I’m tired from working many hours and feeling stressed out from dealing with money and people. I also don’t wish to become like a lot of entrepreneurs, where money seems to make their world. I’ve been asked way too many times about my income and salary. It boggles my mind. Didn’t your moms teach you all not to ask about one’s income?

I write and create art all I like now, which is the most important to me. And I know that inspires people since readers are always emailing me, asking for advice and sharing their story with me. That’s good enough for me.

Be sure to check out part 1 of this guide too!

Audience Biz Masterclass by Firepole Marketing

Guess you were expecting this huh? Lol.

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This is my affiliate product recommendation for you. Audience Biz Masterclass by Danny Iny of Firepole Marketing.

I’ve been through part of the course. What’s good about it?

Oh… a guaranteed income of $3-$6k/month within 12 months, or he’d pay you $1k himself. Guaranteed, sure, but that’s 12 months of hard work for you. Plus, this is an Audience biz, not a traffic biz, and yep, cultivating an audience entails your art ;). Aside from all that, the course will cover all other business subtleties in detail.

Personally, I like Danny cause he’s not an asshole. I first connected with him a couple of years ago. I shot out an email asking some stuff, and he replied me in full. It shocked me cause I didn’t think huge bloggers had time for newbies. To this day, as big as he has grown, he still replies all emails. That’s cool. He’s the real deal.

Check out the course here now. 

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