Life & business lessons from someone who works by their rooftop pool
Internet marketing using SEO and social media help drive revenue through my eCommerce site. I help startups, entrepreneurs, small and medium sized businesses to increase sales, reduce costs and generally meet their business objectives.
I write books too - my books are translated and sold all over the world. Doing this allows me the flexibility to work from my poolside.
Ok, so I do have to fly off every now and then to build a new business application, give technical advice and consult with a few corporate clients.
I also have a hand in helping a few startup companies that require me to work in different places (usually in-doors in front of several computers at once), but fundamentally, this picture of me (taken this morning) shows my office space in the heart of Cape Town.
I thought I would write a slightly more personal blog post this time, to give you a better idea of how my work and the Internet give me this amazing lifestyle that I am lucky enough to lead. The point of this is to show how money can be made from the Internet, and from digital information (content, blogs, sales and marketing copy, affiliate marketing, and so on).
Here's my top five conditions for success in any online business, whether it is a tech startup, a traditional business building its brand online, an affiliate marketing campaign, or anything else you might try online:
1. It's hard work
Yes, I can swim in the sun whenever I want. If I don't feel like working I can play golf, go to gym, go to the shops, or whatever I like. But, I often end up working longer hours than a nine-to-five job. I've always been a bit of a night-owl, and if I sit down to check emails after dinner, I sometimes end up working into the small hours of the morning before I look up again.
The point is that while I have flexibility, I also have greater responsibility from the point of view that if I am lazy, I earn less.
2. It has to excite and interest you
I work harder than a lot of people I know - although, from their perspective it seems like I sit around all day thinking and typing, sipping cocktails (some are non-alcoholic, I swear). But the work doesn't bother me in the slightest because it's exciting for me - I almost never look at the time when I'm working because it's not important.
Whenever I have a new idea for a startup or marketing initiative, I can barely contain myself. I love planning out what I'm going to do, how I'm going to put it together and market it, and so on. One of my latest startup services is design-a-webpage.com that provides a hybrid web design cross Internet marketing service.
It's basically a tool for creating professional, marketing quality landing pages that drive traffic through SEO and social integration and then convert it effectively through built in marketing awesomeness. It doesn't require you to know anything about the Web. No code. No experience required.
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Now anyone, regardless of who they are and what they do, can create landing pages that give them every chance of making money online. I think that's pretty cool.
3. It has to earn and have growth potential
A lot of bloggers have a passion for their subject. That's great. Without it, I can promise you won't succeed. But most people don't realize until much later down the line, that no matter what your passion is, the business you are in is marketing.
You have to convert your passion into dollars and cents, and you have to have a plan to do that right from the start. It took me a long time to learn that lesson. I figured that if I worked hard enough, recognition and a cash flow would follow... like magic. It doesn't. Marketing is no less than... say 60% of your business.
Work out how to trade your passion for money. I can all but hear the thousands of artists swooning at the thought of pawning off their artistic integrity. Then don't. Find a way to make money without compromising whatever it is you don't want compromised.
If you can't make money from it, then it can't be your primary source of revenue, which means it can't be what you spend your life working on - which is sad, if it's really your passion.
Not only do you need to know how to make money from it, you also need to know how to make more money from it. But that is something you can develop with time. You'll always encounter situations you couldn't foresee, and provided you learn from them, you'll continue to increase your earnings.
Talking of "foresee", check out another startup of mine called topulo.us (pronounced top-u-lous), which provides a platform for people like you and me to make forecasts and predictions about the future of your niche, friends, company, economy or anything else.
The trick is that once you have made a prediction, you can't delete or edit it. It's there for the world to see. If you're good and know your stuff, you can share your predictions with the world, establish yourself as a visionary or thought leader, create a following and... you guessed it, market to them to start making money.
Topulo.us also allows you to backup your predictions with an explanation and reference material. For sneaky affiliate marketers, you can add in an affiliate link to a product or service that relates to your prediction and make cash directly off the traffic that flows in to read what you have to say about the future of your niche.
I think topulo.us would be the perfect platform for stock brokers because you can quantitatively see which ones are the best because their predictions and forecasts are correct more often than others.
4. You have to be flexible
One of the most important things about working in the way I do, is the ability to be flexible. If an opportunity arises, evaluate and act. It may be that you take a completely new path. Great. It makes life exciting.
The first book I wrote required me to put together CPUs from scavenged old PCs to build a beowulf supercomputer. The worldwide market for people looking to build supercomputers can't be that big so what was I thinking spending months doing that? I have no idea, but it led me to work on perl, which led me to PHP, which led me to web development, which led me to eCommerce, which lead me to SEO, social media, startups, marketing and online business in general.
If I hadn't built that supercomputer (poorly I might add), then paradoxically I wouldn't be here telling you how easy (provided you heed the aforementioned conditions) it is to make money from the Internet.
5. Connections are to making money what making money is to paying rent
You can shout out your message to the world until you are blue in the face and it won't do a thing. The vast majority of people who try to make money off the Internet fail for one simple reason. They don't take the time to make connections that can help their business.
That's why social media is so important. Not because you can build up a few thousand twitter followers who you have never met, but because you can find people on twitter who know more about what you're doing than you do. You can find people who know people who can save you time and money. You can find people who at the tap of a few keys can give you more online visibility that you could have garnered in a year's worth of work.
I've been remiss over the last few years about engaging with social media properly. Mainly because I had enough to do and was making enough income from my books and other web businesses - I got lazy. Now that I have a new stable of startup and services (including writing reviews of products and services for inclusion on SME Pals' homepage), I am starting to build up my online network of people. Fore example, I'm organizing lunch with a prominent social marketer (who found me on twitter) just to meet and say hi and learn about each other. Who knows what will come from it.
When you find someone who offers good advice, follow them. Interact with them. Online business is about interacting with people. Money will flow later as a result of these interactions. But without this social-business dynamic with the Internet, you will struggle to succeed at whatever you do.
Best of luck, and have fun with building up your online business empire. I hope to meet you on twitter, Google+ or in the media. Take a moment to connect with me on twitter or Google+ and take a moment to share this article with anyone you think it might help...
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