What Should I Sell in my Online Business?


Why not add an online business?

That was my thought in 1997 when I met with David Cross in Copenhagen.

Our website originally was expected to be an extension of our print publishing business.

Little did I know then that it would become the entire business.

David was a meditation teacher in Edinburgh, Scotland who taught our son, Jake, the art of meditating when Jake was at university there.  We first met David in Edinburgh, and after talking he ordered our “Self Fulfilled – How to be a Self Publisher” course then in print… (now online).  He studied this and published his own report.   One reader of the report had a new internet server business and was so impressed that he hired David to work for him in Sweden.  In the process of rising to become the managing director of that firm… David started our website (and is still our webmaster as well as business partner now).  During one business meeting in London, David met our daughter Cinda. ‘Love at First Sight.”

self-publishing

David Cross and Dr. Cinda Scott-Cross (DVM).

David also met executives of International Living and went on to become Chief Internet Consultant for Agora Inc. one of the largest online marketing companies in the world.

David has since built an unparalleled, hands-on marketing experience that spans 25 years in 22 countries for companies and charities large and small. He’s guided many businesses and individuals to success in their business and helped them achieve their marketing goals, both online and offline.

As Senior Internet Consultant to Agora Inc. in Baltimore, MD, David worked closely with Agora’s publishers and marketers and over an 8-year period and helped to propel Agora’s online revenues to over $300 Million in 2009.

Myles Norin, the CEO of Agoras wrote: “I have found David’s knowledge and experience unmatched in the industry. Without David’s expertise and guidance for the past 7 years, we would not be nearly as successful as we are.”

David hails from England and now lives on a small farm close to Mount Hood in Oregon with our daughter, a veterinarian, their five children and a menagerie of animals. When not marketing or brainstorming you’ll find David following a dream of self-sufficiency for food, power and water within 10 years, tending the land and caring for the farm and animals.  David is also an engaging and knowledgeable speaker with many amusing anecdotes from his work and travels over the years.

Not surprisingly, our efforts with David have intensified over the years so he is developing an updated internet business course for readers (to launch this spring). Here is his newest report.

What Should I Sell in my Online Business?

By David Cross

One of the shortest legitimate routes to increase your income is to start your own business and in my opinion, an Internet-based business is a great way to do that. You can start an Internet-based business anytime, anywhere and with very little up-front risk or investment. But knowing how to get started can seem confusing – even overwhelming – and this feeling alone may be enough to put you off even starting. At this stage many people put their ideas back on their mental shelf and continue with their life as it was before the idea to start a business first popped into their head.

I am currently working on a new course that we will publish this spring. This is a practical, hands-on guide and series of lessons to help you create your own online business in 1 month (in reality you could start it all in 1 week). The course guides you through all you need to get started including marketing your product or idea, setting up your website, shopping cart and payment processing, social media…everything you need. In fact I’ve designed it to be almost as good as having me sat at your side to guide you through everything.

One of the most common questions I am asked about starting an online business is, “Yes, but what would I sell?” You may have given some thought to this question and decided to look for a company with products that you can sell at a commission through an affiliate program or as part of an multilevel marketing system. That is definitely one way to get started or to add additional products to your inventory of things to sell.

When starting a business (online of offline) and looking for the type of product or service to sell, people often look in a new area…something that appears interesting or cool. It may be something you’ve always wanted to try your hand at or it could be a hobby you are enthusiastic about. It may be something you’ve seen others succeed at or a dream you’ve always had. For example, you may love great food and have a burning desire to open a restaurant serving that type of food.

One Step at a Time

Although many people look to start a business in a completely new area, you will generally have a faster track to success in your new business doing something that you already know about and ideally, the business you start should be no more than 1 step removed from what you already know.

Let’s assume you are a small business accountant. You help businesses prepare their taxes and you advise and counsel them on ways to maximize profits and reduce their tax liabilities. You notice that you have a lot of clients who run restaurants. As you are an enthusiastic cook and have a good palate for fine food and wine, when deciding what business to start you may find yourself contemplating starting a restaurant. After all, you’re a good cook and you’ve many clients in the restaurant business already so, why not you? But your experience is not in running a restaurant and it’s quite a stretch from advising restaurant owners on how best to structure their taxes to actually running a restaurant yourself.

If you instead decided to publish a guide for restaurateurs on tax saving tips then you’d be focusing within a proven niche. You could then expand this series into small business tax guides for other types of businesses – hair salons, health clinics, car mechanics and printers…all local businesses and all wanting to find ways to reduce their tax liabilities.

But suppose you think that you have no area of expertise? People often say they have no specialist skill, maybe they’ve worked for 25 years in the same business or have raised a family and say, “Who’d buy that?!” You gain a lot of skills in 25 years of any job and if you’ve successfully raised a family you’ve years of skills of balancing many plates on many sticks. There are many young parents who would love to benefit from your experience.

And in addition to the time spent working and raising your family, what hobbies do you have where you have gained specialist skills? Are you a good gardener? Are you artistic? Do you have particularly good handwriting? Is that a skill you could pass on? Would someone pay you for that knowledge? Heck, I’ve always wished I had remotely legible handwriting, let alone “good” handwriting! (my wife to this day loves the little notes and letters I give here and still says, “What does that word say?!”)

The skills and unique knowledge you have to share need only to be connected to people who have a need and you can sell the knowledge and skills you already possess. It’s marketing that connects buyers with needs to sellers with a way of fulfilling that need.

Narrowing it Down

To help narrow-down what you could sell online, start a list of things you are good at, skills you have, hobbies, interests you have, jobs or career paths you’ve pursued and any ideas you may have for a business – even if it’s not in one of these areas. My list off the top of my head may look something like this:

  • Chef/Cooking
  • Marketing
  • Self-sufficiency/small-scale organic farming
  • Global traveler
  • Voiceover
  • Meditation Teacher
  • Public Relations
  • Fundraising
  • Public Speaking
  • Internet business
  • Open a restaurant
  • Start a rock band
  • Podcast
  • TV show host

Your list may contain some or none of these items but make your list and then add a second column, which we’ll call “Rating”. Into this rate on a scale of 1-10 your level of expertise in each area. Add a third column called “Valuable?” and rate whether that skill is valuable…something someone would buy. In this case “Skill” also means knowledge and career experience. Remember that if someone has a need for that skill, knowledge or information and if it can help save them time, make money or improve their life then you can note down its value in the Valuable column.

Add two more columns; “Hobby” and “Fantasy”. Is this a hobby – something you love doing even if you’ve never made any money from it and the final column, “Fantasy”. This is a check for dreaming versus doing. For example in my list I’ve got “Start a rock band”. Whenever we sit down with friends for pizza and beer we’ll always delve into our extensive music collection, play our favorite songs and then come up with band names and sketch our world tours. It’s fun, but ultimately it’s really a mental fantasy. I love music but realistically I’m probably best off not starting a rock band. I am going to add “Open a restaurant” into the “Fantasy” column, too. This is not designed to quash your dreams, simply help hone what has a real possibility of becoming a business for you versus something you love playing at. (I imagine if Gary Scott drew up this list he’d put playing the flute and painting into the “Fantasy” column).

You will end up with a list something like this:

skills-list

I used a spreadsheet for this but a napkin works fine. Spend more time on getting the ideas down rather than worrying about how it looks. I’ve sorted my list so that the areas in which I am most skilled, valuable, non-fantasy items are at the top. The ones at the top in which you are most skilled, that are valuable and aren’t a pure hobby/fantasy are the areas that may be good to start developing your business in.

Your list will differ. And what I may put in my hobby/fantasy column you may put in your top skill level and with a high Valuable rating. Your list will differ and you will be able to rate your skills and ability to profit Also a note about hobbies. It’s possible that you’ve a high skill level in one of your hobbies and that could be profitable for you. And if you are an accomplished artist with a bluegrass band please don’t think the idea of this list is to poo-poo artist pursuits; it’s not. The idea of this list is to help you home-in on the skills, knowledge and experience you have that you could market.

Save your list. In the next article we’ll discuss more about what to do with this list to take the next step in profiting from your knowledge, skills and experience. One way to profit from your unique skillset is through writing about it and self-publishing. Here, Gary shares with us details of a forthcoming course this summer…


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