Before you commit yourself to following this course, I think you should know a little about the background so you can assess whether it really is for you. It is actually based on a real project carried out from May to August 2011 to test the veracity of the myriad opportunities offered by internet marketing gurus and widely found across the web.
You have almost certainly come across the offers saying "I make $500 a day with this system, you can too!" and generally promising you the moon on a stick for no effort on your part. Being the skeptic I am, I've never believed these claims, tempting though they are. However, after being bombarded with this stuff for so long, I did begin to wonder if it is possible to start a successful online business with absolutely no investment at all. So the Spare Time Billionaire project (from now on we'll just refer to this as "the Project") was born.
The only tools already in the kit were a computer and a broadband connection. If you don't even have those and are reading this from a free public computer, you still will be able to take part but it will take more determination and dedication to stick with the course.
At the start of the project we made a positive decision to restrict ourselves to an absolute zero budget and the first few of these instructional tutorials will be taking you through the steps you need to accomplish to initially "bootstrap" your new business. In all it works out as a twelve part course that are designed to be taken, in order, each week. It's important that you take twelve weeks over the course and don't try to do everything at once. If you rush it, you'll not give the search engines time to index your site properly and promote your site effectively.
Now some notes about the nature of the course:
- Wick IT Services is UK based, to be precise in Caithness, which lies at the north eastern tip of mainland Scotland. This means that elements of the course will be UK focused and may not be appropriate in your jurisdiction. On the other hand this will be a real advantage if you are located in Britain as so many of the similar e-courses available are US based and offer suggestions that are not available to us here.
- Affiliate links will be used sometimes to point you toward recommended products. I would like you to think about this briefly. There was a time when, if I saw an affiliate link I would refuse to click on it, even if I liked the product being recommended. This is just spiteful! The person who made the effort to provide me a good tip but I was too mean to let them earn a couple of pence for pointing me in the right direction. It wasn't as though I could get the product cheaper by going direct, indeed I might lose out on an introductory offer that referrals would get. You too might want to earn a little using affiliate schemes and how would you feel if your readers behaved like me? If I use an affiliate link to point you to a rubbish product, you won't trust me in future so it would be counterproductive to give you a bum steer. So, be nice!
- Although you'll get some neat tricks here, you will not find anything that is illegal in Britain. If you want to set yourself up as some kind of cyber-criminal you won't be getting any help from me.
- The Project was a three month exercise in seeking quick cheap ways to make cash. The course is not aimed to do that. You'll get started from scratch but in the end you will have a legitimate and, hopefully, successful online business.
- This course depends on you making the effort to carry out the actions that suit your aims. If you simply spend time reading it and going on to the next tipster you will never make it. In the end your success depends on you.
Okay? Good; let's get started.
Lesson One: Planning
The difference between the Spare Time Billionaire Project and starting a "proper" business is that planning is kept to a minimum. Initially there is no need for a Business Plan in the terms that would be recognised by your bank manager or business advisor at the local enterprise centre. For one thing, there is no way anyone with half a brain would lend you start-up funding for a venture this risky so there is no point preparing some snappy document and secondly, you cannot possibly know how this is going to work out till you get started.
But you do need to do some thinking:
- Right now, do you have enough to live on? That is, to keep a roof over your head and food in your belly. If not, you're not in a position to take risks. First, get yourself a secure base. Talk to your Citizen's Advice about benefits you may be entitled to, your local Council about housing options. You need no more than that to get started.
- What gets you excited? Do you have a hobby that you really enjoy or a topic of conversation that gets you passionate? Is there something that people already come to you for advice on? There is no point trying to make a business out of something you will not enjoy doing so you need to pick something that fits with your own interests and passions. But be a bit careful, sometimes turning a hobby into a job also destroys the initial enjoyment. You may enjoy making small items of jewelry for your friends but will you enjoy making loads and loads of items every week?
- Is there a demand? This is not quite as important as you might think, after all there was no need for a smart phone before it was invented. The demand followed the product in that case but for a small business it helps to fill a need that is already there. Think of things that you've looked for that you haven't been able to find.
- Don't tie yourself to one thing. Most new business ventures fail, your first attempts may well flop too. That is cool, so long as you have a flexible attitude that allows you to learn and move on quickly. If you have a list of six or seven ideas that you might try before you start you won't feel the failure so badly, knowing you already have a backup idea.
- Will you need any start-up money? If you are going to be making and selling jewelry, you'll need to pay for raw materials and tools, probably, you'll need a digital camera of some sort to show off your products. You may have these things already which is all to the good, or could you borrow them?
- Talk to friends. Hopefully you have some friends that you trust to advise you honestly. Tell them what you are planning to do and take on board their ideas. If you are open and honest you should find your own ideas developing into an achievable product.
Getting Started. Turn your idea into a product:
- There is a huge difference between providing a service and a product. For example Wick IT Services provides a range of services to small businesses supporting them in their technology and internet needs. Services take time and dedication to provide and rely on building relationships with customers. A product such as our example piece of jewelry, on the other hand is sold once and swapped for payment. It's a whole lot easier to sell a tangible product than a service.
- This course is a particular service that I have turned into a product by narrowing down its focus to a very specific area "building an internet business on the cheap". If you are thinking of providing a service you'll need to do the same so that your customers know what they are buying and whether they have received value or not.
- Home-made jewelry is more obviously a product and yours may be that way too.
Choosing a Name. Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS)
- What does "Wick IT Services" bring to mind? What does "Spare Time Billionaire" bring to mind? I hope you'll agree that you have a rough idea what these sites will be about before you even visit. Tempting as it might be to choose a made up word or something weird and wonderful "gub.com" will take up a large part of your "elevator pitch" in explanation. I know this from the early name for Wick IT Services which was Rangers Moon. It meant stuff to me but not to anybody else!
- If you're selling in the UK stick to .co.uk if you are registering a domain at this stage. If you are not, at least check it's available for when you do need it!
Building Your Shop. Putting the cart before the horse:
- Before Spare Time Billionaire had a single penny it had a website. There are a number of places where you can set up a website for free, two of the most popular being Wordpress and Blogger. The snag with these sites is that they require you to choose a subdomain instead of having a domain name in your own right. When STB started on Blogger, that was not a problem as it was clearly not a serious company producing important product but as the project unfolded and money started coming in a domain was required. It's a choice you need to make, though not necessarily this week.
- In the UK there is a great opportunity to set up a "proper" website straight away for free. Google have gone into partnership with Yola to bring us Getting British Business Online who not only provide a template site but also allow you to register a .co.uk domain free for a year. The drawback is that you really do need to have a legitimate business to get up and running as unlike the others mentioned above you can only register once.
- The drawback of the above options is that you do not have total control over your website and you will, if you are serious about business, need your own domain and hosting package. The number one provider in the UK is 123-reg and if you enter my referral id "wickitservices" in the referral box you will get a £5 credit towards services (and I'll earn a pound and be your best friend!) They are cheap and efficient.
- If you do decide to go with the third option you'll need to choose a platform and the most popular by far for websites is Wordpress and I recommend you use it, at least to start with. If you like to work from a reference book you could do a lot worse than WordPress Bible from Amazon who also offer many alternative guides. You can also learn a lot from the official Wordpress site which is, of course, free.
- Also on the Wordpress site you will find a huge variety of free themes to choose from http://wordpress.org/extend/themes/. See if you can find one that reflects your product and is attractive yet reasonably simple. Unless you are a techno-geek you might want to avoid those that look too exciting with flashy drop-down boxes and pop-up photos and slideshows. The great thing is that, at this stage, you can try out a whole variety of themes till you find the one that really suits you.
- Start thinking about what you want to say about your product and how you are going to sell it. Write a few posts introducing yourself and your product. Now get your friends and family to look at your showcase site and tinker around with it over the next week.
Your Handle: Setting up business email
- If you have a subdomain on Wordpress.com or Blogger.com (or one of the other free services) you will need to set up a business email at Gmail or another free provider. For consistency use the same name as your subdomain. It is not a deal-breaker but it helps improve credibility.
- It helps if you can use an email client on your PC such as Outlook or Thunderbird to collect your mails from the web. It is much easier to mange your contacts on your own computer and you'll never suffer the inconvenience of having your webmail hacked or limited. If you have no PC you will need to stick with a web mail provider for now.