Why 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 skeptical) about the idea of starting an online business. But it’s not quite as mysterious as it sounds.
For the longest time, I avoided the world of online marketing and business. It sounded sketchy (and the truth was a lot of it was). But when I launched my own business, what I discovered 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 or need them.
- You don’t have to spam people to death and sell your soul just to make a buck (promise).
You can, in fact, build a legitimate business simply by helping people.
Does this sound like you?
I have a missionary friend who doesn’t make enough money to save for an emergency. If she ever gets in a car accident or runs into some kind of financial crisis, her life will be very difficult. She calls it living by “faith;” I call it living foolishly.
My younger sister recently graduated from college a couple years ago and is now having trouble entering a crowded market that’s in the process of downsizing. She feels stuck, like there’s no place to go.
My wife and I know a couple that’s adopting a child from Uganda (which can be expensive), and they’re exploring ways of making a side income online. The trouble is they’re not sure where to start.
And of course, I have a ton of friends who are working a day job, while waiting to be picked to publish a book or be hired by their dream company — some day. In the meantime, they’re growing frustrated.
What are these people supposed to do? One strategy would be to stop waiting for opportunity to come and instead to take it. They can start an online business.
Three reasons this is a no-brainer decision
Why an online business? Three reasons:
- It’s cheap.
- It’s simple.
- It’s profitable.
Look. I’m not going to tell you starting a business is easy — it’s not. But launching your venture online makes this easier than it’s ever been.
In the old days, if you wanted to be an entrepreneur, you had to take a lot of risk. You had to buy or rent office space, raise capital (which usually meant going into debt), hire a team, and hope for the best.
In those days, I never would’ve wanted to start a business. I never would’ve been able. But now you can start a business for as little as $100 (just ask Chris Guillebeau) — if you really want to do it.
What it really costs to become an entrepreneur
So if you want to do this, 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 (website-building software)
- $0 to install a 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
That’s around $120 for the whole year. Not bad, right?
My dad used to run a hole-in-the-wall restaurant with dirt-cheap rent, and he paid over 20 times that. We live in an age of unbelievable opportunity — for those who are willing to undertake something new, something a little scary, and figure it out.
And that’s the real cost of becoming an entrepreneur — not the money, but the time and sweat equity it takes to find out what people want and deliver it to them. Incidentally, it’s also the most rewarding part of the job.
It’s cheap to start, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. As you grow your business, the expenses can rack up (they certainly have for me), but so will the revenue. The point, though, is this: the hardest part is now the easiest.
All it takes is a little time, energy, and the will to endure.
“But I’m an artist…”
So you’re an artist. Like Hemingway. Or Leonardo da Vinci. Or the thousands who have come before you — and starved. That is, of course, unless they had a patron, someone generous enough to pay their bills so they could make 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. The chances of a publisher buying your manuscript for a million dollars is unlikely.
Sure, these things happen — occasionally. But you don’t have time to wait around for someone to notice you. You’ve got important work to share now. That patron? It’s going to have to be you. And 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 1980s when publishers were doling out multi-six-figure advances to first-time authors, it’s easy to finance your calling. You just need some guts and and a little perseverance.
Don’t get me wrong. Starting a business will require hard work on your part, but it is possible (and surprisingly 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.