Too many people fall prey to “get-rich-quick” schemes. One should take a realistic approach, and the first step to it is to acknowledge that we all start somewhere.
In the second week of Sep 2016, my business generated 70k in revenue. I had 23 paying customers for my first launch of an online product.
Challenging thing: This is a side business I started while working at a regular day job, and this mini-profitable venture still brings in consistent second source of income.
Curious thing: This was purely automatic: I had sales rolling in while I was out at a grocery store at 8pm, or when I woke up in the morning at 7am. Kind of like a machine in a factory which runs every day per your given instructions, even while you sleep.
This post is not to bluster my grand slam victory, but I want to take you behind-the-scenes to show you how I did this, and how you can start an online side business too — even if you’re working at a 9 to 6 day job, or just starting to blog, or just don’t know how/where to begin.
What you need to know first
This is something which nobody talks about. Most of the material I found when I was starting out focussed on “tools” and tactics such as:
- “The best SEO plugin to use?” (That doesn’t help me)
- “Top 5 tools to get traffic”, “how to get 32 percent conversion rate” (I don’t care!)
- “Company “[insert some ecommerce company name]” raised [insert X million] funding” (what’s in it for me?)
I’m sure if I start dishing out fluff, you’ll probably lose interest after some time and close this article right way (let’s be honest.)
Very little material I found was for someone just starting out...someone who is a beginner…someone who wants to start something of his own.
Forget me, there are tons of other people whom I call micro-entrepreneurs who have started something of their own and making a living out of them. Here, let me show you who they are.
Some strange, yet pretty insightful facts:
They never chased investors, or raised seed funding (not that I’m aware of), or had a huge valuation game
They dint have a multi-million magical idea, or were the next Google or Flipkart.
Look closely. These ideas might seem weird off the bat. I mean, who would think dog training as a potential business. But they solve a problem for their audience, and so these tiny looking businesses are running successfully.
Here’s a golden nugget: When you start out, you only need to find a small group of people who have a problem, and turn them into paying customers
Paying customers! (just say this out loud right now)
Getting your first 1-3 paying customers means you’ve got something -- a solid foundation.
And here’s the fascinating part -- once you get your first 1-3, you now know how to get the next 10 customers, or the next 100.
You know how to grow your business, your revenue. In short, you learn how to scale.
So, how exactly did I do this and how you can too starting today? Let me show you the roadmap you need to achieve this. It really boils down to three basic steps:
Step 1: Find a profitable idea
Step 2: Validate it
Step 3: Get your first 1-3 paying customers
That’s it. Nothing fancy. Nothing technical. In fact, some of the best businesses started out with this simple framework:
Amazon: The first book sold in a garage, now processes millions of orders every day.
Starbucks: The first store opened by three partners who met in college, now operates more than 22,000 coffee shops worldwide.
And there are plenty more.
So, let’s jump right into in.
Step 1: Find a profitable idea
Some of my learnings from rigorous amount of research, testing and amalgamation of around more than 250 blogs, websites, books:
- There won’t be any idea coming to you magically in your dreams. You need to find it, and finding ideas is a process, you just need simple system to come up with it.
- Luckily, there are some proven techniques you can apply to come up with at least 10-15 ideas in as little as 15 minutes (something which we’ll cover in detail in my future posts).
Look it doesn’t have to be dreadful.
I remember when I first gave my laptop to my mom. She loves to shop crockery dining sets, so I showed her some new collection on Amazon.
I said: “Here’s a new collection. Have a look and see which one you like.”
The minute I placed the laptop on her hands, she got scared! Her fingers on the keyboard, hovering. Her mouth agape, eyes tensed.
She was getting all anxious.
I asked “Relax. What happened?”
“Beta, I’ve never operated a laptop before in my life. What if I press the wrong key, or what if I mess up your work, or what if I break something?”
I wish I could cry in front of her. But I hugged her tightly.
I said “Ma, this is just a laptop. Do whatever you want, press anything you like, it’s OK even if something goes wrong. You’re not going to break anything. Just play!”
This is something I want to encourage you as well. A lot of us get crippled thinking of the “What-if”. Instead, just play. Stop the analysis-paralysis syndrome.
Once you adapt this mindset, you’ll realise how enjoyable the process is -- of finding ideas, testing them, starting a business, or whatever else it maybe.
I completed my Master’s in Industrial Engineering (IE), worked for five companies (internships and projects), and landed job offers from some good companies.
I kept on getting questions from people, such as “How did you get a job?”, or “How do I make an amazing resume Zubin?”
I could sense there was a good opportunity, a promising idea in store and there were signs of validation all around me that this would work.
And of course, this could be also something which I give back and help other IE students.
So, I started Industrial Inside (.com), with a goal to help IE students in their career endeavours -- anything from getting into a good university, to creating an impressive resume, to finding their dream job.
Step 2: Validate it
Do you know the #1 reason businesses fail? Fortune reported the TOP reason businesses fail is because “they make products no one wants”.
It’s because there is never a need for their product/service in the market. In other words, people DON’T want it.
Look, I get it. We all love our ideas, advises, clothes, etc. We’re self-obsessed as humans.
But when it comes to business, ask yourself -- Do people actually care? Do they have a problem and trust you enough to pay for it?
The last thing you want is spending six to nine months on an idea, only to realise later NOBODY will ever pay you for it. A huge amount of opportunity, time, resources and above all your energy -- wasted!
If you can, just do this now -- open a blank sheet of paper, write down Validation, and stick it up on your wall. No validation and you’re allowing yourself to be doomed.
Frankly, it doesn’t have to be complicated with some fancy technology, or complex multivariate analysis. In the initial stages, you just need some lightweight testing to know your idea is feasible.
Like I mentioned above, for me there were strong signs my idea had potential. I just needed the building blocks for it.
I can talk about validation, and how do you validate your ideas all day, but for the purpose of this post we’ll keep that for later.
Step 3: Get your first 1-3 paying customers
Isn’t it funny how we dream of:
- Getting a six pack…when we haven’t even started going to the gym for 1 week.
- Finding a dream job…when we haven’t even done research to find what are our dream companies.
- Making 1,00,000 a month…when we haven’t earned the 10,000 figure first.
Bottom line: It all starts with ONE. I launched my first product -- a short online video course on helping industrial engineers get interview calls, priced at $49, and had 23 people enrolling for it.
Too many people delude themselves and fall prey to “get-rich-quick” schemes. (You’d see a lot of scamsters promising you to make a million by next month.)
I’d rather be brutally honest and take a realistic approach, and the first step to it is to acknowledge that we all start somewhere, and it all starts with one.
Let me show you what I mean with that phrase “It all starts with one.”
Question: “How do I make Rs 1 lakh/month as a secondary income?”
Answer: Start with making 10k a month (it’ll be much easier to scale it 2x, 5x, or even 10x after that)
Question: “How do I get started with launching an online side business while working at my job?”
Answer: Start with generating 10-15 ideas, then test one idea for profitability. You can do it right now. Go check my list above if you need.
Question: “How do I get 100 customers/clients for my business?”
Answer: Start with getting your first 1-3 paying customers.
Question: “How do I get traffic of 50,000 visitors to my website?”
Answer: You can’t for now. Start with getting 50-100 visitors a day.
Question: “I don’t have time. I’m already working 40 hours a week, how do I manage an additional 20 hours?”
Answer: I love this question because frankly, it’s not easy. Here’s one of my readers who recently sent me this:
The way to tackle this is the same we discussed above -- start with five hours/week, or maybe work just a little on the weekend, or when you come home after office. In fact, put it now on your calendar.
Let’s be brutally honest guys. Do you think Jeff Bezos or Sachin Bansal have 27 hours in a day? NO!
Again, what are we doing here is simply breaking down the process into smaller, simpler steps rather than thinking of doing everything at once and feeling overwhelmed.
What you can do starting today
Maybe 23 paying customers for my first launch isn’t a lot you’d think, but for a newbie rookie who had no idea of starting an online business, oh boy -- that was purely MAGIC!
Honestly, the biggest win for me was not the revenue. Sure, it’s great to earn 70k in 6 days (and then doing subsequent product launches again and again.) Yes, it’s an amazing feeling to be out with your friends -- opening your phone -- checking your emails -- and watching sales rolling in.
But to me, it was the mindset that mattered. The psychology that “Hey, I’ve something valuable to share it to the world, and that people are HAPPY to pay me for it!”
Now that we covered some strategies and a basic roadmap laid in front of you, what are you going to do today? You have choices:
Choice 1: “My new year resolution is to start a side business” Awesome - I love you!
Choice 2: “This is good to read, but I don’t know, I don’t have time. I guess I’ll just eat some chips, watch Netflix and figure this out later?” (code for: You’re never going to take any action.)
My hope with this post is to push you to take action, even a small tiny one. If you know ONE person who might find this useful, share this with them.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)