After 20+ years running my own very successful HR business, I realized I wasn't getting any younger and that I needed to stop trading hours for dollars and set up some type of passive income. So I decided to put my knowledge online in the form of The Corporate Toolbox; an online business training website. In the 2 years since I launched the site, I now have over 200 contributors (people who saw what I was doing and asked if they could put their books and training materials on my website), and 9 support staff.
It has been a hugely steep learning curve for me - a self-confessed technophobe. one who knows next to nothing about technology.
So here are my tips if you too are tired of trading hours for dollars; and if you too want to set up a passive income:
- Be honest about your skills up front. There are two ways to build an online business; one is where you take the time to learn all about the technology side of things, and the other is where you find and pay experts. This is a genuine dilemma for anyone wanting to start an online business. Some people prefer to do everything themselves and are willing to put the time into learning all about building their own website; SEO; building a membership site and the mysteries of affiliate marketing. I chose to find the experts. I didn't think I'd live long enough otherwise. However, that did cost, but it was a strategic decision for me, and one I haven't regretted.
- Get a mentor. I was struggling along on my own for the first year - pouring money down what seemed to be a bottomless pit. Taking on a mentor gave me confidence and courage, because the first statement he made was ‘No-one gets on your site for free any longer.' Up until that point I was uploading e-books and articles absolutely free of charge. Now anyone wanting to be a contributor actually pays - not a huge amount - but enough that I now cover the costs of most of my staff.
- Surround yourself with people who support you. Because I was such a technology dunce, the people around me were terrified for me. They thought I was absolutely insane and that I would just end up burning a fortune and gain nothing. Pre my mentor, one person, just one person said ‘I think you have a brilliant concept.' That was a turning point for me. To find someone who believed in me and who saw the potential of the business I was creating
- Get a great team around you. The majority of my support staff have come by word of mouth; for me there is nothing better than a referral, someone who can tell me that this person is a hard worker and won't rip me off. One of my staff, Manoj who is a cartoonist and creates all my e-book covers, lives in India. And Jessfer, who converts my e-books for the iPad and Kindle ‘readers' I discovered on Odesk. Every single one of them is amazing. Without them I wouldn't even have a business.
- Keep on learning. When I started the online business the Kindle was very much an experiment so the fact that I was sourcing e-books in pdf form wasn't an issue. Now it is. So I've had to talk to people in the know about converting pdf files ready for the readers, which is when I discovered Odesk and my lovely man Jessfer in the Phillipines. He now does my book conversions for a fraction of what it would cost me to get them done here.
- Keep refreshing your home page. If you had a retail outlet you wouldn't leave your shop window unchanged year in and year out, yet we do that with our websites. I believe you should refresh your home page at least every 1-2 months. We refresh ours daily!
- Understand the online business. I now run workshops now on this whole e-commerce concept because so many people read the BS about how once you have a website you can sit back and make gazillions. HOW? There is an enormous amount of work that needs to go into building the back-end of an online business; pretty much the same amount of work you would have to put in if you were building a bricks and mortar business.
- Develop an online communication strategy. You have to let people know who you are (marketing) and you have to have something to hold their interest (products) and you need to be able to look after them (customer service); you need a regular communication channel (newsletter or blogging); you need a distribution channel (a way to ship product) and you need a way of collecting money (a payment gateway). And even then you won't necessarily make your fortune
- Be persistent. Rome wasn't built in a day - talk to other people who are building an online business - meet up with them regulary. Not only will you be able to swap success stories and share ideas - they will become a support group for the dark days. And you will have dark days.
- Believe. Believe in what you are doing; believe in your product or service, but most of all, believe in yourself.
Ann Andrews CSP
Internet Entrepreneur and MD of
The Corporate Toolbox