Everyone Should Start an Online Business (or How You Can Be Your Own Patron)
Most people I talk to are at least a little curious (and sometimes equally skeptical) about the idea of starting an online business. But they don’t know where to go from there.
For the longest time, I avoided this whole world, because it sounded sketchy (and a lot of it was). But when I launched my own business, what I found out about making money online surprised me. Here’s what I learned:
- You don’t have to over-crowd your website with ugly pop-up ads that attack the user.
- You don’t have to turn into a used car salesman with slicked-back, greasy hair, hawking useless products at people who don’t want them.
- You don’t have to spam people to death and sell your soul to the Devil just to make a buck (promise).
Does this sound like you?
I have a missionary friend who doesn’t make enough money to save up in case of an emergency. If she ever gets in a minor car accident, her life will be very difficult. She calls it living by faith; I call it scary.
My younger sister just graduated from college and is having trouble entering a crowded market in the process of downsizing. She feels stuck.
My wife and I know a couple who are adopting a child from Uganda (which is expensive), and they’re trying to find ways to make some side income online. But they’re not exactly sure where they’re going to get all that cash.
And of course, I have a TON of writer and artist friends who are working a day job, while waiting to be picked to publish their book or hired by a company to finance their dreams… some day. In the meantime, they’re growing frustrated.
What are these people supposed to do? Start an online business.
Why an online business?
Three reasons: It’s cheap, it’s simple, and it’s profitable.
Look, I’m not going to tell you starting a business is easy — it’s not. But it’s easier than it’s ever been.
In the old days, if you wanted to be an entrepreneur (which literally means “risk-taker”), you had to take a lot of risks (duh). You’d have to buy or rent office space, raise some capital (i.e. go into debt), hire a bunch of staff, and hope for the best.
In those days, I never would’ve wanted to start a business. I never would’ve been able. But the reality is now you can start a business for around $100 (just ask Chris Guillebeau).
What it really costs
If you want to start an online business, here’s what it’ll cost you:
- $0/year to buy a domain name (they’re free when you sign up for a hosting account)
- $5/month for web hosting
- $0 to download free design theme for your blog/website
- $5/month for an online shopping cart (to sell stuff)
- $0 to accept purchases through Paypal
- $0 to start an email newsletter
If my math is correct, that’s around $120 — for the year. My dad used to run a hole-in-the-wall restaurant with dirt-cheap rent, and he still paid over 20 times that (which isn’t as much as it sounds).
Yes, as you grow your business, the expenses can rack up but so will the revenue. The point is that it’s VERY cheap to start. And that’s the hardest part of anything: getting going in the first place.
So basically, all you have to do to succeed is make your first hundred bucks (to make back your investment), and the rest is profit. No investors, no debt, no problem. All it takes is time and energy.
“But I’m an artist…”
Right. You’re an artist. Like Hemingway. Like da Vinci. Like thousands who have come before you… and starved. Unless they had a patron. Someone who would pay their bills so they could create their art.
But here’s the thing: There are no more patrons. Not really. No one’s going to give you a heap of money for your genius. No publisher is going to buy your manuscript for a million dollars. It’s not going to happen.
That patron? It’s going to have to be you. The best part is we live in an age when this has never been easier.
Yes, easy. Compared to the Renaissance and the Roaring Twenties and even the late 80s when publishers were doling out six-figure advances to first-time authors, it’s easy to finance your own calling. You just have to have some guts.
Of course, starting a business will take work and time, but it is possible (and quite cheap). Which is what make this whole thing remarkable: Anyone who wants to do it, can do it.
And that, as per usual, is the really scary part. Because now it’s up to you.
Have you ever thought of launching an online business? What’s stopped you? Share in the comments.