Compared to the internet landscape ten years ago, guaranteed money-making schemes have risen and fallen. We are now at a point in history where no-one knows how the fortunes of content creators will fare in the months and years ahead.
For those who are looking to build a business online, the tools and techniques to be explored have vastly diversified. This post will show you how to how to generate a sustainable digital income in 2018.
If you have a marketable creative skill you can use to generate a profit, look for avenues where your specialties shine. Online, and offline, passion is a great profit driver — and the digital world gives you plenty of ways to make the most of what you’ve got.
Instead of working as a creative at an agency or for a company, why not go freelance and build up a flexible income instead? Companies and agencies frequently invest in freelance talent, and you can stay in charge for longer.
It also could be the foundation of your future online business — the online world is always shouting out for more diversity and creative talent — something that is not set to change for 2018.
- If you’re a writer, look at freelancing sites like PeoplePerHour — they are an incredibly easy way to get started as an online writer, and the industry’s need for content and editing is ever-growing. You’ll make more money by investing in ongoing client relationships and by specializing in an industry, so start thinking ahead. Some of the best writers also work as digital journalists and content marketers
- If you’re an artist or artisan, look to sell handmade goods like candles or art on Etsy, or sign up for Amazon’s new Handmade service. Artists definitely need to consider print-on-demand as an avenue — you can get your designs printed on pretty much anything from sweatshirts to mugs
- If you have specialized skills and expertise, try teaching on an e-learning site such as SkillShare — though you can also DIY it using a program like Skype. Some marketers and bloggers make a killing from their growth packages and webinars. (Pretty much anyone can learn how to teach English — and the returns can be quite high if you have enough students)
- If you have an eye for branding and making logos, sell design packages to bring your talents to other startup owners
- If you’re a photographer or videographer, approach brands that could use professional imagery. You can also monetize your editing skills
All of these ideas are centered around the fact that your time and expertise are valuable commodities. Once you have started to develop this mindset, you are ready to make some serious money online — don’t keep accepting low-paid, low-value work — focus on the bigger projects, clients, and the bigger picture!
Any experienced online seller will tell you there is a market for every niche imaginable. You can apply this mindset to services as well. Thanks to the internet, it has never been easier for people to find EXACTLY the things that they need — creating a plethora of niches and sub-genres in just about everything. As an entrepreneur, you must make it your duty to seek out these diehard customers and discover what makes them tick. Creating a community of advocates is one of the best ways to make serious money online.
- Use Google Trends, Google Keyword Planner, and Amazon search to make a list of ALL the key terms, themes, and publications in your area of interest. Look for traffic spikes at certain times of the year, and figure out if you can make your business plan work 365 days a year.
- Social media analysis tools can help you identify common audience characteristics and demographics. Gather data from several sources and group them into audience segments.
- Discover the sites people read and the content channels they use most frequently. Places like Reddit and niche forums are great for finding those diehard aficionados. Follow and interact with the content your audience likes in the early stages of your business set-up to build a name for yourself in the community.
Building an audience and content network will stand you in good stead for getting early reviews and shares. This can prove particularly useful when launching a product, or if you need to go on the hunt for new clients and business opportunities.
You should also dedicate some time to following influential accounts in the online marketing and entrepreneurial spheres. Due to the changeable nature of the internet industry, you need to make sure your skills and lead acquisition methods stay relevant.
Whether it’s an eBook, video series, line of products, or freelance services, you will need to make a splash page that showcases your unique value proposition. A website is the central spoke of your online PR and branding activities, and will help validate your business idea.
Use an easy website-building service like Shopify or Squarespace to get started with a small brochure/ecommerce site to represent your business. WordPress is also easy to manipulate with free themes and plugins — no coding required. It’s easier than ever to create a good-looking website, so there are no excuses for not having a digital home in 2018.
Consider the information architecture and UX (user experience) of your pages, titles, and descriptions carefully. Try to include some long-tail search terms naturally within the text, and keep refining your offering with content and visual upgrades.
Don’t harm your brand by going live with a site that looks amateurish.
Regardless of the product or service, you will need to create a polished-looking ‘pitch’. For this, you may need to enlist the help of photographers, copywriters, and designers to wrap your idea into a nicely branded package.
Brainstorm your business goals, company values, and specialisms. Think about the feelings you want to create in your audience and ensure that your website and products meet that criteria.
Strong branding is instantly recognizable because it’s consistent. Test your draft concepts with friends and professionals you trust — and reach out to people on social media for some impartial advice. Revise and re-test until you are happy with your new company’s image.
Digital income is flexible, and there are plenty of ways to make the most of your money. Whether you self-fund everything, leverage community funding, or make your budget go far by bootstrapping, cash flow will be a big preoccupation for anyone striking out on their own in 2018. Never leave a secure income behind until you’ve validated your business idea and had a few months to build up cash reserves.
- Consider creating a crowdfunding page on any of the leading platforms. A slick and meaningful video presentation could bring in all the startup funding you need, fast. It’s a great option for anyone who needs money to help build an app or tool.
- You could choose to open a small online store and sell products through dropshipping — one of the cheapest ways to start a business in 2018 that needs virtually no setup costs. You can even do it all from the comfort of your own home, part-time if you like. With automation tools, you can make the process of store setup and maintenance very straightforward.
- Monetize your expertise in the form of ebooks and downloadables, or sell high-value consulting calls. These can help fund community or passion projects.
- Outsource some of your work to willing freelancers to be able to scale faster, without the need to hire a team in-house. Keep things agile and flexible for as long as you can — committing to hiring a team will incur a lot of costs.
Despite the masses of less-than-ethical ways to garner online support, there are plenty of legitimate ways to build a strong following on social media. You need to build a list of dedicated fans that will follow you wherever your entrepreneurial endeavors may take you.
Paid advertising on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest will help you draw eyes to your business pages. However, to keep them interested, you will need to provide them with a compelling story. Don’t be afraid to get creative with Snapchat, Instagram Stories and Facebook Live to keep your audience in the loop on your journey to success.
Rather than growth hacking your social media influence, consider ‘growth bartering’ instead.
If you can identify a social media influencer with a lot of followers, consider offering a skills trade in exchange for a social media channel takeover or sponsorship opportunity.
Guest blogging on major publications will also earn you traffic and backlinks to your site. Putting yourself forward as an expert in your industry should be standard practice in all aspects of your entrepreneurship. Make yourself as useful to the broader internet community as you can.
Once you have built up a product and brand with a decent number of followers, you will want to replicate this process again and again. Keep learning.
Find tools to help you automate your sales and accounts recordkeeping. Find a reliable social media scheduling tool, and consider hiring a virtual assistant to help you manage ordering and administration processes.
As a digital entrepreneur, you will benefit from being at the forefront of digital transformation.
Keep hold of this guide for future reference and develop your strategies for building a successful business from scratch. As brands of the future move onto new platforms, technologies and content styles, you’ll still have the formula to seek and provide a useful service or product to suit your audience’s changing needs.
**About the Author: Victoria Greene works as a writer and branding consultant, and she runs a blog called Victoria Ecommerce. Here she shares tips with would-be entrepreneurs looking to generate a sustainable income online.