Category Archives for "Business"

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Do I Need a Business Plan to Start a Business?

One of the first steps to starting a business is creating a business plan.

Your business plan outlines the problem(s) your business will solve, the opportunities you will seize, your target market, your marketing and sales strategies, your competition, your costs and projected revenues, and other important information.

Of course, those numbers don’t mean shit, but investors like to see them.

Business plans are a common topic for debate because the old-school business guys and MBA types in the corporate world think a business can’t possibly exist without a business plan. On the other hand, many entrepreneurs launch successful ventures without a business plan, and the idea of writing a business plan is a joke to them.

I believe the best course of action lies somewhere in between those views.

Every business requires thought and strategy, or at least a clever idea, to have any chance at gaining traction. However, most businesses don’t require a formal business plan to get started.

Why You Need a Business Plan

There are several scenarios where you would need a business plan.

The most likely scenario is that you are seeking investment for your business. In this case, you will need a business plan to present potential investors.

Investors want to see a rock-solid plan, and ideally, they would like to see proof of concept. That means you already have customers or you at least have a collection of warm leads who are waiting for the launch of your new product.

The Real Value of a Business Plan

Regardless of whether you’re raising money or not, the process of creating a business plan forces you to think critically about your business.

It forces you to get to know the people who might buy your products/services, it forces you to get realistic about the costs, and most importantly, it forces you to figure out how you will differentiate your brand from the competition in your niche.

This process is necessary for trimming the fat off of your original idea and making the necessary tweaks to prepare for the market.

Why You Might Not Need a Business Plan

Some businesses (online businesses especially) with lower costs don’t require an extensive plan because you can A/B test as you go and make the necessary changes.

You can’t actually expect to predict the future or follow your plan exactly because the current business climate evolves too quickly for year-long plans, much less five-year plans.

However, that still doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give careful thought to your business and carefully research the market. You don’t want to waste years of your life on a poor business that you could’ve avoided with a little extra time upfront.

What to Do Instead of a Formal Business Plan

At an absolute bare minimum, you can use a couple of resources from $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau.

Market testing:

100 dollar startup market test

One-Page Business Plan:

100 dollar startup business plan

Those resources aren’t as comprehensive as a real business plan, but they’re enough if you’re going to start an online business with low overhead.

The Easiest Way to Create a Legit Business Plan

I’ve reviewed hundreds of business plans throughout my career and I’ve helped create several business plans myself.

Most of the time it’s a big pain in the ass.

Believe it or not, the best business plans are usually completely outsourced. The founder(s) will hire someone to do most of the work, which often runs up to $10,000+ for a high-quality, detailed plan.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not going to spend that kind of money on a business plan. Plus, I’d rather do it myself for the reasons I mentioned earlier — the process of thinking critically about your business is the real gem here.

I needed to create a business plan recently, and I quickly remembered what a tedious task this process can be. I enjoy doing all the research and laying out my strategies, but I get annoyed with all of the structuring and formatting of the actual document.

That’s when I found an online service that makes this entire process incredibly easy.

That service is called LivePlan.

I was originally drawn to the service because it handles all of the tedious stuff like formatting the document, creating charts for your financials and because they make it so easy to create a nice presentation.

However, if I were creating a business plan for the first time, this would be a life-saver!

Their service takes you step-by-step from business idea to a professional, well-planned business strategy. I’ve never created such an attractive business plan in such a short amount of time like I did with their service.

All of the graphs and financial forecasting features are more than worth the price alone. The fact that you can do everything step-by-step made it a no-brainer for me.

In fact, I’ve already got feedback from potential investors and even they were very impressed. Of course, that probably had more to do with what was in the plan, but a nice presentation goes a long way.

I probably won’t take on any investors for my next project because I like to maintain full control, but I’m still glad I used the service to create my plan.

If you are serious about getting an investor and you don’t have the resources to hire a professional to do it for you — I highly recommend you check them out.

CHECK OUT LIVEPLAN

What You Will Experience as a Blogger (Pt. 3 – The Ugly)

This is the third, and final, installment in this series.

If you haven’t done so, you can read the first two articles by clicking the links below:

We’ve talked about the good and the bad things that you’ll experience as a blogger, now it’s time to talk about the ugly.

I don’t want to discourage you or be a dream killer, but you deserve to hear the truth.

So here it is.

The internet has a dark side, and I’m sure you’re well aware of that.

As a casual web surfer you don’t have to deal with any of this too much. But the further you go into your online career, the more susceptible you become to the ugliness of the internet.

So without wasting any time, let’s get to it.

The Ugly

The perceived anonymity of the internet brings out the worst in people.

Or, I would say, it brings out the worst people.

Where they come from, I don’t know, because I never see these people in real life.

But there’s a lot of them.

Haters and Trolls

The first ugly aspect of blogging that you’ll likely face will be a hater or troll.

Haters and trolls come in all shapes and sizes.

Having haters is actually a good thing.

If no one is hating on you, then you are boring and no one is impressed by you or your work. Plain and simple.

However, just because you have haters that doesn’t mean you’re on the right track. If you seem to overwhelmingly attract haters over supporters than you are probably doing something wrong.

Haters hate on you because they hate themselves. In fact, you’ll easily be able to recognize what they dislike about themselves, because that’s what they’ll criticize in you.

How you handle haters is up to you.

Many bloggers will engage with them and make a big show for everyone else to laugh at. Others, like myself, will just ignore them.

I have a little fun with them from time to time, but not often.

I don’t really mind the insults. I’ve had haters my entire life, so my feelings don’t get hurt by it.

What I can’t stand is the negativity they bring. Negative people are toxic and I don’t allow them in my life. I won’t let negative people poison the comment sections on my websites.

My comment sections are reserved for:

  • Answering questions
  • Engaging in conversations that add value
  • Feedback, whether positive or critical
  • Connecting readers to each other
  • Anything that brings something positive to the table

Haters bring no value. That’s why they’re so miserable. They don’t understand that you have to give to receive in life.

Now trolls on the other hand, they’re a different breed.

A lot of haters don’t even recognize their own toxic behavior. They don’t always know that they’re being a hater.

Trolls are looking to annoy you or piss you off on purpose.

I don’t engage with someone after I realize they are trolling.

Haters don’t brag about hating, but trolls are proud of their trolling. That’s why you can never win against a troll, unless you ignore them.

Trolls can’t stand to be ignored!

Trolls are so desperate for attention that any response you give, positive or negative, builds them up.

Hence you have the phrase – don’t feed the trolls.

You starve trolls by ignoring them.

Personal Attacks

It’s not a question of if it will happen, but when it will happen.

You will receive personal attacks.

It will come in the form of hateful comments attacking your personal character. You will receive long-winded rants about how terrible you are and all the ways you should be killed in emails.

People will gossip about you on forums.

Other bloggers will take the time to write a “hit-piece” about you.

People will call you out on social media or make passive aggressive comments about you.

All I can say is that you will have to develop a thick skin. And over time, you will.

It might sting at first, but it’s something you get used to.

Some bloggers take the time to refute these attacks, while others ignore them.

I prefer a case-by-case basis approach, but usually I just ignore it.

Just be glad that they’re so interested in you that they’ve taken the time to talk about you.

Hackers

While most haters and trolls are harmless little cowards living in their family’s basement, there are people who have the ability to follow-through on their malicious intent.

Most of the attacks on your website from hackers will be automated and it’s really nothing personal.

Unfortunately, that’s just part of doing business online.

However, hackers do single out certain bloggers. The most common thing they do (besides taking your site down) is publicize your private information. This is called doxxing. They’ll put your personal addresses, phone numbers, family member’s names and info on the web for anyone to find.

Again, this is one of the risks of doing business online.

Time Wasters

You know what gets old really fast?

When someone emails you a bunch of questions and you take time out of your day to give detailed answers – and they NEVER end up taking your advice.

For every one person who takes your advice and runs with it there will be 100 people who don’t.

To remedy this, you want to qualify the people you give your time to for free. Make sure they are actually someone who takes action. Give them something small to do first. If they come back with results, then you can take them under your wing.

The truth is, I love helping people who actually take my advice. Don’t we all? Isn’t that why we do this?

Surely you aren’t in this for the money, right? Cause you can make so much more money, so much easier, outside of blogging. I made six figures in my first year out of college with a real business. Most blogs will never make six figures and especially not in their first year.

Your time is your most valuable currency. Don’t spend it on whiners, complainers, and time wasters.

Scammers

Their are some amazing people in the blogging world. Some of the highest caliber people I’ve ever met have been through online business.

But sadly, most bloggers are scam artists. And they don’t limit their scams to their customers. They will gladly scam other bloggers in a heartbeat.

Be very, very cautious about who you decide to work with. If you promote a product or service, it should ALWAYS be based on the value you have actually gained from it and the value believe your readers will get – never about the money.

It only takes one bad promotion to ruin the trust of your audience that took years to build.

There will always be tempting offers that come your way to make a lot of money from promoting things that aren’t in the best interest of your audience. It’s simply not worth it.

Another common scam is simply not being paid your affiliate commissions. It’s baffling how common this is.

Personally, this hasn’t happened to me. But then again, I’m extremely selective about what I promote to begin with.

But don’t think that this sort of thing is limited to sleazy marketing gurus and small-time bloggers, there are some very big companies who screw affiliates out of their commissions. I won’t name names, but just know that you should always do your due diligence before doing business with anyone – no matter how legit they appear.

Stalkers

Surely you saw this one coming, right?

Once you start to develop a following, there will be some people mixed into that group that like you A LOT.

Surprisingly to me, you’ll get a lot of bloggers that stalk you. It’s one thing if someone is trying to get on your radar and communicate with you, that’s normal. But it gets weird when you start to see them at every direction you turn.

Some bloggers choose to share everything about their personal life online. The upside is that their audience becomes deeply connected to them. The downside is that they give stalkers too much information to work with and that stalking can carry-over from the interwebs to real life.

I love having a platform where I can be honest, speak my mind, and share my thoughts, but I still keep certain aspects of my life private.

After all, I have no interest in fame. If you do, I don’t pass judgement. Just be prepared for an onslaught of rapid fans.

Final Thoughts

So, are you still interested in blogging?

Good, I knew you could handle the truth.

If all of this sounds like too much – this isn’t for you.

Every career has downsides and blogging isn’t safe from that rule.

The good news is, for most of the problems you will face, the easy solution is to close the laptop and walk away.

I’ve always found that a week or two of traveling really helps to clear my mind and bring my focus back to where it needs to be.

Until Next Time,

KW

What You Will Experience as a Blogger (Pt. 2 – The Bad)

This is the second installment in the series about what to expect from your experience as a blogger.

If you haven’t done so already, read part one – What You Will Experience as a Blogger (Pt. 1 – The Good)

Whether you’re a blogger, you run an eCommerce store, or you do freelancing – earning an income online is awesome!

However, nothing is perfect in life and that includes blogging.

A lot of internet marketers will have you believe that there are virtually no downsides to blogging.

Those people are liars.

How’s their training program working out for ya?

While the downsides are limited, in my opinion, they do exist.

This article is going to break down the bad aspects of blogging. Some are obvious, while others are often overlooked.

Let’s dive in.

The Bad

Every business has its downsides.

To be honest, the negative aspects of blogging really aren’t even that bad.

The bad stuff is going to be in the next article, where I talk about the ugly side of blogging.

This is really just meant to prepare you for the road ahead. Too many people jump into blogging expecting it to be an overnight success.

If you think blogging is a get-rich-quick type of business then you are going to be disappointed. Hopefully you are reading this before you get started.

Hard Work

This should be obvious, but sadly it isn’t obvious to a lot of people.

I’m not sure if this is even a bad thing, necessarily.

Starting any business requires hard work.

The good news is that none of the work is really hard, at least not in the sense of physical labor.

It’s just a lot of work. And there are so many tedious tasks that you won’t foresee until you get started, assuming you want to do it right.

When you’re first getting started you will most likely be doing everything on your own.

This includes:

  • Picking your niche and setting up web hosting
  • Handling web design
  • Writing and editing content
  • Formatting images
  • Troubleshooting back-end issues
  • Interacting on social media
  • Networking with other bloggers
  • Promoting your content
  • Responding to comments and emails

You get the idea.

Now don’t worry if some of that sounds too technical. I’ve provided enough resources here that ANYONE can create a beautiful website without having any prior knowledge on web design.

The point is, blogging typically becomes a full-time job before it starts providing a full-time income.

That’s just the nature of the beast.

And to be honest, I’m glad blogging is harder work than it was in the past. It makes it easy for people like you and I who aren’t afraid of hard work to succeed.

Lazy people won’t make it passed their third month of blogging.

Which leads me to the next point.

Huge Time Investment

Time is everything.

Time is the most valuable currency we have.

You can always make more money, but you’ll never get your time back. The death timer keeps ticking, second by second.

Are you investing your time into something that will bring a positive ROI?

You should be.

Blogging requires one of the lowest investments, monetarily, of any business. But it requires A LOT of time to get things rolling. Especially in the first year or two.

I hate seeing people invest several years of their life into blogging without ever making a dime.

It’s one thing if you are just blogging as a hobby, but if you want to eventually earn a living from blogging you are going to want that return on investment of your time.

This is why I always emphasize that you do your research, formulate a plan, and do things the right way from the beginning.

I’ve lost almost two years of my life to the wrong blogs and online businesses. I don’t want that to happen to you.

This is also why I suggest using premium website themes from the start. Yes, they cost a lot more than free, but they save you hours and hours of frustration.

The more you focus on doing the things that matter, the less time it will take you to start earning a living from your blog.

No Immediate Satisfaction

Blogging requires patience.

Not that I have any..

There’s going to be some waiting at first.

Waiting for your first visitors to start trickling in.

Waiting for your first comment.

Waiting for your first subscriber.

In reality, it won’t take very long for these things to happen, but it will feel like it’s taking forever.

We are so accustomed to immediate satisfaction that we have grown to expect it.

Unfortunately, this is not something that blogging provides.

The good news is that the growth of a good blog tends to be exponential. So it will take a while to hit your stride, but when you do you will see rapid growth.

Loneliness

One of the overlooked downsides to blogging is loneliness.

Blogging requires hours and hours in front of the computer screen. This is the worst thing about blogging, for me personally. (The hours in front of a computer, not loneliness)

All of those hours at the computer take away from time with friends and family. Plus, unlike a traditional job, you don’t have coworkers. At least, not at first.

Even for an introvert like myself who loves alone time, it can get lonely.

The good news is that the blogging community is generally very supportive and friendly. So you end up making friends through blogging.

But in the initial year or so when you are really grinding to build your site, it’s easy to become isolated. Most people start blogging on the side in their spare time from their full-time job.

If you start to feel lonely, it’s completely normal.

For me that usually means I’m working too much and neglecting my social life. Fortunately, that’s an easy problem to fix so the loneliness never lasts long for me.

Don’t let yourself dwell in loneliness. It will lead to depression, which not only is bad for your quality of life, but it’s bad for your work.

Whether you like it or not, you reveal your soul through your writing. That is, assuming you are being authentic.

So they will pick up on these things. You don’t want to bring your readers down do you? Of course not, so that means you owe it to them to keep yourself in high spirits.

Final Thoughts

So, the bad things aren’t so bad are they?

What’s bad for one person won’t be the same for everyone, but those are the downsides that stand out to me.

You’ve probably noticed that most of the downsides go away once your blog is going strong, which is true.

That’s what you have to keep reminding yourself when you’re struggling through the early phases. It’s a grind, no doubt. But you’re not alone. Every blogger goes through it. Consider it your initiation.

Now if you’re curious about the really bad stuff that you’ll experience, check out the third article in this series – What You Will Experience as a Blogger (pt. 3 – The Ugly)

Until Next Time,

KW

What You Will Experience as a Blogger (Pt. 1 – The Good)

Blogging is something that the general public really doesn’t understand very well.

There are stereotypes and misconceptions about bloggers that shape the general perceptions people have.

Maybe you’ve heard some of these before:

  1. Blogging is a time consuming hobby
  2. Blogging is an easy way to get rich scamming people with “Get Rich Quick” schemes
  3. Blogging is a way for people to share their unwanted opinions
  4. Bloggers are all nerds
  5. Bloggers are wannabe entrepreneurs

Sadly, there’s some truth to each of those.

But that’s only a glimpse into the world of blogging.

Most people who blog about online business want you to believe how easy and perfect the blogging lifestyle is. Usually because they want you to buy their program that teaches you how to achieve that lifestyle.

Well friend, this isn’t that kind of blog.

I’m not here to sell false hope or paint delusions in your mind.

But I’m not going to lie and tell you that this is all completely altruistic either. I want to help others out, of course. Helping others makes us feel good. Wanting to feel good is selfish in nature. And I also make money from this blog, because in the words of my first mentor that played a vital role in my success in the oil industry:

I’m not doing this for practice..

So, if you can handle me being brutally honest with you then you already have an important trait for a blogger. I’ll get more into that later in the post.

Be weary of those who claim they don’t want to make money. They are liars and cowards. Unless you want to be a liar and a coward yourself, what do you stand to gain from their advice?

Besides the normal misconceptions, blogging has a lot of unknown (or lesser known) truths as well. Some good and some bad.

This post isn’t a definitive guide by any means. These are just the experiences and observations of one man. Take them for what they’re worth to you.

I switch back and forth between using the terms “blogging” and “online business”, but for the context of this article (and the majority of content on my site) they are one in the same.

The Good

If you’ve read any internet marketing blogs before, you’ve probably already heard most of this. But if online business is new to you, listen up.

Lifestyle

The lifestyle that comes with blogging is a dream for those who value freedom, such as myself.

Freedom from having a slave master boss. Freedom from working in a human zoo cubicle-filled office. Freedom to dress how you want, travel where you want, and do the type of work you want.

Even in the beginning when you are struggling, working long hours, and making little to no money – it’s still better than the typical 9-5, in my opinion. Then as you start to make passive income, the lifestyle only gets better from there.

Passive Income

Speaking of passive income, let’s talk about money. That’s what you want to know about, right?

Of course you do. Money puts food on the table and keeps your bills paid. Money protects you from unforeseen circumstances. Money allows you to travel and treat your family to nice dinners.

So the question is, can you really make money from blogging. And the answer is absolutely yes.

I know so many bloggers making six figures that you’d swear it was almost guaranteed. But in reality, most bloggers will never make more than minimum wage.

Plus, six figures isn’t a lot of money anyway.

How to make sure you’re one of those who makes money, instead of being one of those who don’t, is beyond the scope of this article. I have step-by-step guides that go into great detail about how you can make sure you’re on the winning side of the internet.

Authority

When done correctly, authority is one of the most valuable things you will gain from blogging.

The more content you create, the more people will get to know you. (Assuming you’re doing it right)

Over time you will prove your experience, knowledge and skills by helping others get results.

Sure, you could always copy someone else. But frauds don’t resonate with people well. There will always be plenty of suckers that eat it up, but over time they will wise up and turn on you.

You have to be authentic to truly form a connection with other people.

Why is authority so great?

Authority is what allows you to leverage your blogging into lucrative ventures. While you can certainly make money just from blogging, that shouldn’t be the end goal.

Authors use blogging as a way to build authority with their audience, so they have customers excited to buy their books. It allows readers to test out their material for free, before risking their hard-earned money on a book by someone they’ve never heard of.

Entrepreneurs use blogging as a way to research and develop products/services that are tailored to a specific audience. People like to do business with someone that they have an established relationship with, instead of a complete stranger.

Authority also helps you gain the respect of your peers. Authority gives your message value and encourages people to hear you out. It also helps you connect with like-minded individuals in your field.

Connections

Blogging is a powerful tool for connecting people.

Just think about it. You’re sharing your experiences, ideas, opinions, dreams, fears, etc for the entire world to see. Who do you think is most likely going to end up finding your blog and become a regular reader?

That’s right, people just like you.

This is great for a number of reasons, but my two favorites are:

  1. Improving your social life
  2. Business opportunities

Thanks to the internet we don’t have to rely on traditional methods for finding friends.

The general attitudes and views on life of people are largely dictated by their environment. Maybe you haven’t met people that you connect with at school and work.

That’s the beautiful thing about the internet, people with similar interests will naturally gravitate towards each other. And you aren’t limited to your physical environment.

Just a side note, I’m not a fan of online dating. At least, not when you are using the internet specifically to avoid meeting women (or whatever you’re into) in person. You can call me old-fashioned, but I see myself as more of a purist when it comes to mating rituals. That said, bloggers DO have groupies. So there’s that..

In addition to making new friends, blogging will also increase the business opportunities available to you. Most will just be a waste of time, but not all of them.

This is an aspect that appeals to me.

I love the process of building. I love the entrepreneur mindset of creating solutions. So naturally, I love working with businesses and nothing excites me more than endless business opportunities.

Of course there will be plenty of opportunities to collaborate or JV (joint venture) with other bloggers.

But there are so many other opportunities that will appeal to your interests and skills. Book deals, TV shows, sponsorships, paid speaking gigs, jobs – you name it.

Plenty of bloggers have landed great jobs at the top companies in their field. Personally, it would take a very special offer for me to consider employment, but I’m not a close-minded guy. For you, a job at Google or Amazon might be the end goal. If so, that’s great, because that is definitely possible.

You see why I feel it’s so important to be authentic in your approach to blogging? To attract opportunities that mean the most to you, people have to first understand what means the most to you.

Final Thoughts

Well if what you just read doesn’t get you fired up and get the creative juices flowing, maybe this isn’t for you.

I say that because I want you to be realistic with yourself.

Online business isn’t all rainbows and unicorns. You have to genuinely desire the benefits that come from blogging or else you won’t be able to put up with the bad stuff.

Obviously I think the positives outweigh the negatives, but that’s because blogging allows me to live the lifestyle that I most strongly desire.

Before you start investing your time and money into an online business, I encourage you to read part two and three of this series:

  • What to Expect (pt 2 the bad)
  • What to expect (pt 3 the ugly)

Until Next Time,

KW