How can it be possible to get an online business degree in just 15 minutes?
It's simple really.
Schools, Colleges and Universities have created one of the biggest misnomers in the history of modern man.
They convince you it takes 4 years to adequately learn something. Pure bullshit.
I went to a great university for 6 years and then went to law school for 3. I've come to learn a great deal about how post-secondary education works.
I'm not saying you can't learn something from these schools, I'm saying its hilarious that you need to go to class for 12-16 weeks to learn a single subject.
Welcome to 2018. The internet of things. Google Search. Youtube teachers. Digital courses.
These schools only have a limited time left before they completely collapse.
They have their brand names (ie. Harvard, Stanford, NYU…) which have been built for over a century but the fact is the skill outcomes they provide are not even close to being worth the price of tuition and the opportunity cost.
Do you know how much you can learn about online business in four years?
Do you actually think these schools are up to date on modern business models and strategies?
Are these professors with tenure keeping up on modern Instagram and Youtube strategies? Email marketing, SEO and Influencer collaborations? Hell no.
Can I remind you that when you become your own boss or an online entrepreneur you don't need every single piece of knowledge for massive success.
You don't need 240 credits, 8 semesters and 50 exams to prove your worth. A business degree is absolutely going to be worthless by 2025.
Experience is everything.
It's time for a paradigm shift. Learning will happen by doing not schooling.
No doubt, your parents are going to want you to go to university to get a degree because they think it's the secure thing to do.
Have they considered any of the following:
- Out-sourcing jobs to China and India
- Automation, Robotics and Machine Learning replacing accounting, law, engineering and health care.
- The drastic increase in tuition and the ticking time bomb that is student debt.
- What Millenials actually want and what makes them happy
- How technology will change the landscape of jobs and the need to be adaptable in times of crisis.
- A lot of firms that have “partners” no longer need new partners just more grunts limiting your salary
- How easy it is to bring a product into the marketing place with Amazon, Etsy, eBay and FB marketplace
- How fulfilling and gratifying it can be to be your own boss
Look I don't blame them. They are born in a different time. They don't get it.
But you do. And you need to listen to your heart to know what's right.
Do you want to grind a degree, battle for jobs with 100 other candidates for money that isn't even rewarding and still worry about being laid off or replaced by a robot?
I hope not. So lets get into it.
Your 15 minute online business degree begins now.
Let's start with a simple definition.
What is a business?
The practice of making one's living by engaging in commerce.
So an online business must be making one's living by engaging in internet-based commerce – better known as eCommerce.
So how do we start an eCommerce business?
Let's talk about the three ways (and the only three ways) someone can make money online or via eCommerce.
- You sell a product
- You sell services
- You sell advertising to other people who have products and services.
I think one of the main problems is that a lot of people are stuck in the traditional forms of products and services.
Let me remind you that to be successful as a new entrepreneur you are going to want to focus on a niche.
What is a niche?
Denoting or relating to products, services, or interests that appeal to a small, specialized section of the population.
Appealing to a small, specialized section of the population really means focusing on a small community who are all interested in the same topic, goal or outcome.
No one starts out with a business aimed at global domination. You won't have the skills, the funds or the experience to scale something when you first start.
Now, can a niche business become something bigger? Absolutely. But that's not the approach we take when we start out.
How the Internet exponentially changed the face of doing business.
We should quickly look at what has transpired over the last 20 years. From the dot-com bust to the revolution of social media.
People thought the internet was a fad. They resisted it and still do in some cases.
They didn't get it because it was complicated when it first arrived.
I remember being 13 years old and getting a 56k dial-up modem in 1997. What a glorious day it was to have double the speed of a 28k. Those numbers where the speed of data transfer.
To put it in perspective. We now have average download speeds of 10mbs and up to 1000mbs in certain countries (don't get me started about the laughable North American internet speeds).
10mbs or 10 megabytes per second is 10000 kbs or 200 times faster than my '97 56 kbs dial-up modem. 200 times faster!
So in recent years the speed of data has really changed. We now have live video streaming which was just unheard of.
It would cost a company like ESPN or CNN millions of dollars to produce live video broadcasts and it was only 480p as opposed to the 1080p and 4k options we have now.
Can you comprehend how massive these technological advances really are? I did.
That's why I spent every minute in law school studying internet marketing and online business. I punted law school because I knew I was tricked into a dying industry.
It's not just the data speeds. It's the platforms we now have that are global and secure.
Remember how scary it was to put your credit card number into a website form back in 2003? A lot of people refused to do it.
And although there were some scams (and there still are today), a lot of that has been quashed and we feel a lot better about transacting through a computer or smart phone.
More perspective. In 2005 the following did not exist:
- Apple App Store
Wow. Do you see how fast things are changing? A lot of it has to do with the doubling rate of computing power aka Moore's Law.
Don't spend too much time looking at this picture. I just want you (and your parents) to know that times are changing rapidly and the rate of change is also increasing. It's not linear its exponential.
I think you get the idea. We have a whole bunch of new shit to work with.
Congratulations. Your first semester is done and you passed with flying colors.
Building an Online Business with an MVP
An MVP or a Minimally Viable Product is the key to modern online business.
Let's get an official definition:
A minimum viable product (MVP) is a development technique in which a new product or website is developed with sufficient features to satisfy early adopters. The final, complete set of features is only designed and developed after considering feedback from the product's initial users.
Wow, so much mumbo jumbo.
Creating an MVP is way to test your business idea without spending any real money.
You know how you hear that 4/5 companies go out of business within 5 years?
Well that's because before the 2000's we needed massive investment to even get off the ground.
There was no way to really know if people actually wanted the product or service we were offering.
So people would get a loan, lease a store front, import or develop thousands of products and inventory, attempt to market their products using newspapers, TV ads and billboards.
And surprise, surprise most people failed to generate enough revenue early on to overcome their costs, overhead and interest payments.
I didn't even mention the costs of employees: training, insurance or the costs of health benefits…
Enter the MVP.
The ultimate business game changer and how you can learn to build a business for pennies on the dollar.
If people would spend their tuition on building MVP's, learning from mistakes and iterating their product they would learn 10x as much as they would hearing about “how it should be done” by a…
a professor who doesn't even run a business. WTF?
That's when you realize these pieces of paper called “degrees” are what you are paying for – not real world experience.
And that might be fine in many industries, the only question is will it be fine in yours?
Most entrepreneurs I know aren't thinking like their 9-5 counterparts.
They want to live on their own terms, provide real solutions to real problems and earn enough so they can live a happy life.
I wish people would stop using arbitrary salary amounts as if its the only factor.
I've mentioned this in several other articles…
Having control of who you work with, what you work on, who you work with and how you go about doing it – there is a significant doubling factor to the income you are making.
In other words, it's a lot better to make 65k a year doing what you love, not having to commute or work with annoying managers; than it is to earn 120k and have little control over how you live your life.
If you dread Monday's please re-read the last sentence.
Try to think about how you want to feel everyday. That is what will bring you the feeling of success. Too many people chase titles, salaries and arbitrary goals that other's have laid out for them only to be left feeling completely unfulfilled.
You've heard of the mid-life crisis' right? That's what that is. Living a li(f)e that no longer provides you with any real joy or satisfaction. Waking up and wondering what the last two decades were spent doing and for what?
That's why I built this online business school. To share with people my path of liberation and online business success. And again that success really has nothing to do with income and everything to do with lifestyle design.
Let's get back to MVP's and how they can help us create that ultimate lifestyle design.
I think it's best I leave the rest of this semester to a few infographics.
The above graphic helps to understand why it's called minimally viable.
It is critical that your first product or service fits this graph to a T.
It must be good enough to attract early adopters; people in your niche that would be interested in trying your product/service.
But it also must not find its way into the competitive world that already exists. That's why being in a niche automatically takes care of that.
There are many products out there that everybody can use. Your goal is create a product that few would use. That might seem counter-intuitive but its key in finding early success.
When there is no competition, early-adopters have no choice but to consider your solution to their problem.
Now this graphic depicts the mentality of building an MVP.
It's a step-by-step iterative approach.
Identify a problem you care enough to solve. What is the most simplistic way to begin solving it.
No doubt you'll have dozens of ideas of what your solution might become. But what you must remember is just because we think it will be great, others might not feel the same.
And thus we test. We ask. We measure. We improve.
By validating each step through customer feedback we are able to go forward with confidence that we understand our customers and their needs.
It's good to think about apps. We all know about apps now.
Because of the costs of development it is very hard to produce a winning app. Not only is it a super competitive game to play but we often don't know if our feature set is really what people want and so we end up building something that no one is asking for.
By keeping costs super low to start you can fail and not worry about it. In fact “failing faster” can be the key to success.
I know many startups that spent 2- years developing and not even having a clue as to whether they were validated or not. Constantly convincing the end-user that this was the solution to their needs.
When you do an MVP right, you will have early-adopters desperate for you to continue to grow, evolve and improve. They will tell you what they want but they will also be so thankful that you started down the path of solving one of their problems.
These early-adopters I speak of exist in every single industry and niche.
Surely, you've probably been an early adopter at some point. You've probably also been a laggard at some point. Each person's life causes them to fall in one of these categories for every given product that exists.
Look at the following list and consider whether you were an early adopter or a late majority:
- Color TV
- Smart phones
- Social Media
- Virtual Reality
It's quite possible you are always a technological early-adopter – I'm the same way.
We want the best so we are willing to try things that other's aren't will to spend the time or money on (risk-adverse). To the early-adopter their is no shame in supporting a startup that fails because being early often has huge benefits (Bitcoin).
Is your mind swirling? Do you already have some ideas about what your niche might be and what your MVP might be? Good. Thinking like a real entrepreneur.
But the idea is worthless. Only execution can be rewarded. Everyone's Aunt has an idea for a new app now. I try to ignore them.
The graphic above shows you the basic formula for success.
You start with a problem. You conceive how you might solve that problem in the most basic way.
You don't necessarily try to fix it all the way, but just try and make a small dent. Just enough to attract someone who has that problem to your product or service.
Then you measure. What do you measure? Well there are many different metrics which you might track.
What you are really trying to do is get a sense of how well you are solving the problem for your customer.
So you might start with a basic survey. You might call or email every single early-adopter who takes a chance on your product.
Why would you do that? Because they have the insights to where your product/service should go next. They will tell you what's missing. They are your golden ticket.
The Late Majority isn't even paying attention to you yet. You aren't proven and you aren't doing enough to solve the problem so they will just wait.
In some cases. a single early-adopter might be all that is necessary. That person must have the exact problem you are trying to solve. They also must show signs that they are willing to pay even at the early stages.
Because in order to validate our MVP, we need the customer to pay. Anyone will take a free product, but will they pay is the big question?
So as you measure, you gather feedback and you ultimately learn something.
You learn whether or not you are solving the problem you claim to be solving. You learn whether people are ready to open their wallets. You learn what are your next steps to improving the existing MVP and what it will take to attract more users.
The more of the problem you can actually solve the closer you are to gaining some real market presence.
Let's look at this image one more time:
In the bottom half we can see what the customer wanted.
First they wanted a better way to travel than walking. Perhaps time was important.
Then they wanted more stability and asked for a handle bar.
Then they wanted more speed, a lot more speed. In comes larger wheels and a gear-changer.
Then they wanted something where they wouldn't get tired. Add an engine.
But then they ultimately wanted safety and whole set of other features like a full chassis, a radio, mirrors, comfy seats etc..
Of course this isn't a real-life example of one company iterating their MVP, but it does showcase how products get developed out of the desire to solve problems.
In fact look at the second iteration – the scooter.
Scooters got really popular in the early 2000's, why then? Why after the car and motorcycle. Because a new niche developed.
Not every kid wanted a skateboard because it had a huge learning curve. Nor did they want to spend a lot of money or travel far. They are kids!
Makes sense right?
An MVP can solve a new problem or an old problem. It all depends on the niche you choose. So lets talk more about niches and the tiny communities that new online businesses are born from.
Niches Always Win.
If you want the feedback you get from your MVP users to actually mean something then you need to be focusing on a smallest group possible. That way they all have the same problem and the same desire to fix it.
I just found a great little summary by googling “why do niches win”:
- Yahoo and Google both started out as simple interfaces with a directory or index of web pages that <1% of people on the planet cared about.
- Facebook started out with pictures of college students who Mark Zuckerberg wanted to try and get a date with.
- Twitter started out as a stupidly simple notification app that posted 140-char status updates to a very small audience of geeky people. Most of them didn’t know why or what to do with it.
- Uber started out with a crappy mobile app connecting a small number of San Francisco nerds with a few taxi drivers who weren’t total alcoholics.
Here's another gem from that article:
“The secret is to find your Niche — that initial <customer segmentation + product differentiation> combo that enables you to just barely beat your more established, mature competition with a much crappier product.”
For me the reason to have a niche is to have clarity in the messages your company is sending out.
Whether its website copy, blog posts, emails – the tighter your niche, the easier it is to communicate to them.
I've had several clients struggle with writing copy and articles, and each time I send them back to their target audience research.
If you truly know someone's problem, and you truly know how to help them solve it – the message should be very easy to disseminate.
What happens when you don't focus on a small customer segment is that you try to pander to many types of customer. You don't know which feature to add first. You don't know how to price. You don't know what to create content about. The problems will keep popping up as you try and market your product.
In order to get you your 15 minute online business degree you actually have to do some homework. If you don't understand what is written above do some more google searching.
Because all of this so far has been mostly modern business philosophy and product development theory. For the final semesters I want you to understand the most important part of running an online business – marketing.
Internet Marketing 101: Traffic and Conversions
There are only two things you need to understand when it comes to marketing a product online. You need people's attention and you have to convert them into customers.
There are lots of fancy terms like acquisition, retention and lifetime customer value but I just want you to think in terms of traffic and conversion.
When I say traffic I mean people visiting your website or any platform in which you can inform these visitors about what you have to offer.
For many people this will be a Shopify Website, a WordPress Website using WooCommerce, an Etsy Store, an Instagram page, a Facebook page or a Youtube Channel.
Often times you will use more than one of these in conjunction.
So traffic is simply the word we use to refer to “how many” people came to the website or platform. Just like you would say foot traffic for a brick and mortar store.
Remember when it was all about location, location, location? That's because it was critical to get a lot of traffic.
Things haven't changed except location no longer dictates our ability to generate traffic anymore. In most cases content does.
So let's say you have a Shopify eCommerce store and you are selling hand-made jewelry targeted towards people who are very spiritual.
You've set up your shop, inserted your products, put up a logo and setup your payment gateways.
Now let's just sit back and wait for the sales to come rolling in.
Except there's nothing. not a single sale. In fact you look up your analytics and you see that three people came to the website today! Exciting!
However, two were you using your desktop and phone to check your own site and one was just a search engine spider checking out your website to see if it's worthy of ranking – it's not yet.
Setting up an online business isn't hard at all. If you already have photos of your products it could literally be done in an hour.
It's generating the traffic that's hard. And sometimes even harder, is getting them to buy something.
It's not like we have to drive 45 minutes to the shopping mall and feel obligated to buy something since we came all the way down there.
Whereas a web user might stumble in from a number a places and they don't feel too bad for sticking around for 6 seconds and bouncing.
So what do we do to generate traffic to our website?
I've already written extensively on how to become a content creator so you could start there. But I'll put the main points here.
Becoming a content creator is a modern online business model in and of itself. But a pure content business is best left to those who are potent at expression, creativity and online communication.
You may not be. You might just want to sell your jewelry. I don't want you to think you have to be a master content creator to get an online business going.
But I do want you to realize that content is the new currency.
It's what the internet is trading on. Content means having someone's attention. And when you have someone's attention you can offer them something they might want.
We humans have simply become content consuming monsters. We always want more and more. Even this post, you are consuming it because you want more knowledge.
There are 5 channels in which we might draw traffic from and it's important to understand each of them:
- Organic Traffic
- Paid Traffic
- Referral Traffic
- Direct Traffic
- Social Media Traffic
Organic traffic means a web page you created was ranked in a search engine for a search term. Someone searched for ‘spiritual jewelry' and you ranked 3rd on the SERPs (Search Engine Ranking Pages). The user clicked-through and landed on your website.
Paid traffic means you purchased an ad somewhere. Perhaps Google Adwords or a banner ad. They clicked the ad and landed on your website.
Referral traffic means someone linked to one of your web pages like I did earlier with 500hats.com – they will likely receive referral traffic as people read this post and click that link.
Direct traffic means someone typed in your domain name in their browser and came direct.
Social media traffic means someone came from Facebook or Pinterest or some other social media platform.
I used these 5 channels because that is what you will find in Google Analytics which you will likely use to be tracking your traffic and conversions.
But I told you that content is the new currency and if you are following closely then you'll know that means organic traffic and social media traffic. Both require some form of content to garner a user's attention.
This is where a lot of new entrepreneurs can get frustrated, put off or even fearful of taking the next steps.
Not only do you need to know how to make great content you need to know how to optimize it for a search engine (SEO) or how to distribute it to the right social platforms keeping in mind the context of that platform.
Just because you go to school doesn't make you adept in the modern business landscape. We do need to hone some skills.
In my opinion mastering one form of content is going to really help your business stand out. Whether its articles, pictures, audio or video – content helps people find your business, learn about your products, understand the context of why you've created it and often much more.
You've heard about “building an audience” or “becoming and influencer”; these require the ability to produce content either with quality or quantity – and in most cases both.
It's all related to doing business online. And until we can wrap our head around traffic generation, we can't even begin to focus on conversions.
Perhaps you've got a big budget and you want to go straight for the paid ad route. Maybe even influencer marketing. That's fine! That's actually great if you have $10000+ to spend on ads or influencers.
There's nothing wrong with going that route. Amazon didn't make any content, they built their business from Google Adwords.
But are you Jeff Bezos? Do you have the cash burn on a poorly built Facebook marketing campaign. 99% of the time the answer will be no.
The organic search model is for someone who is stuck in their job or wants to earn some weekend cash building a niche business organically and eventually transition to an online based business lifestyle when they are ready.
The thing about paid ads is you can turn it on at any time and the traffic will flow. But then you can't stop. It's not like running ads builds you an audience.
So how does creating content and building an MVP and having a niche all fit together?
Well since most of you won't have the experience or funds to build a physical product, we are going to focus on digital products.
Digital products are amazing and so easy to get started with.
They cost very little to product which means 99% margins. A lot of people who run physical products on Shopify or on Amazon are dealing with 30% margins.
Digital products also do not require you to hold inventory. Digital products can be reproduced by simply copying files on your desktop.
Because so much of our lives are now lived in our phones and computers, many of things we want to buy are also in our phones and computers.
People buy iOS apps, people by Kindle books, people buy Netflix and Google Play movies. All of those are now digital.
It's truly a wonderful time to be alive. Never before have we had such a chance to take back our own freedom – and digital products are the answer.
So typically, a person has a passion or interest. They create a website or social profile so they can create content about their passion or interest.
That's another thing, by following this methodology you might actually get to do something you love for a living!
Which is contrary to so much of what we were taught by the previous generation. You'll never make money as an artist. You'll never get a record deal. You'll never be able to write a book.
Because in the past, there were so many gatekeepers and middle men preventing us from reaching our audience.
Singers needed record deals. Writers need book deals. Artists had to die. Creatives had not where to showcase their work besides exclusive galleries.
Everything has changed. We now get to go straight to our niche audience, how? By creating content that gets their attention.
This is the basic formula:
- You set out on a mission. You set a goal. What you want to acheive in the online business and content creation world.
- You hone in on a niche. You create an ideal customer, a muse if you will. Everything is for them.
- You do some research in your niche. What is the competition like? Is it already saturated? Can you do something unique?
- You do some keyword research so the content you create gets ranked. Whether you are making videos, articles or images, SEO and keywords matter.
- You make sure your website looks professional. Really not too hard, just take our Freedom Formulas Mini-Courses (free).
- You create a lead magnet which is designed to attract your muse.
- You create a digital product that you think your muse would like to buy. Which should be an MVP.
But technically your entire website is an MVP. Not every website or blog is well thought out and in some cases need to be abandoned.
We want to try to build these digital assets in different ways using different content strategies and conversion techniques.
Also if you take the free mini-course you can get a free 30 minute consultation with me so I can help you refine your MVP and content strategy.
Let's talk about conversion rate optimization (CRO).
In the big scheme of things it's pretty easy to create a website, some content and your first digital product.
It's really just a matter of putting in the effort of doing the keyword research and creating the right content around those keywords.
But once you start bringing people to your website the real challenge begins – getting them to actually buy something.
It's called conversion rate because it's a number.
For every 1000 visitors how many of them bought something? 10? 50?
Let's say 50 people bought. 50 out of 1000 is a conversion rate of 5%.
There's no right or wrong conversion rate, what's important is that you learn how to systematically optimize this over time.
CRO is a very in-depth topic. And the strategies around it change over time as the internet evolves.
Doing something in 2018 but be completely foolish even though it worked so well in 2010.
But there are some fundamentals that you should know that will always be effective.
When we talk about conversion we are really talking about trust. Does the customer trust you to give you their money?
Let me give you one of the most powerful CRO tactics – offering a money-back guarantee.
A lot of people scoff when they first hear that but the amount of trust it gives to 90% of real buyers overrides the 10% of people who ask for a refund. And often it's more like 2% if that.
A money back guarantee can often double your conversion rate. And you should see it not as wow I can double my sales just by doing that, but rather how many sales was I mission without it.
And if you do have a decent product you should believe in it enough to offer the money back guarantee. This is just tried and true online business practicality. It works.
Let's get back to trust.
What makes people trust websites and online businesses?
A good looking website. Properly filled out social media profiles. Trust seals. SSL Security certificates. Testimonials.
But you want to know the best one – having great content.
If you have been making content for over a year, you put yourself out there as a writer, designer, video producer, pinterest pinner, people will not only trust you they will feel like they know you.
It will be much more like buying something from a friend than a stranger. It is really that powerful.
And I need to stress this. Becoming a trusted content creator and business owner isn't about pizazz, or flawless technique, or perfect quality – it's often about commitment.
Are you showing up for the niche community you claim to care about?
And that's really all you need to know about conversions. It's about trust. It's about actually helping people and caring.
You can't be successful or expect anything if you aren't willing to put in the work.
But hey, you are going to have to work somewhere unless you've already banked enough to retire.
So the question is, do you want to work for someone else, their dreams and serve their target audience?
Or would you rather grind a little bit, build your skills, your online business prowness and ultimately serve a niche segment of your choosing? You get to choose!
It should light you up to know that you might be able to create content about cartoons, cereal, hip-hop music, baseball, yoga, anything you care enough about.
Because in every niche there is a new problem to solve. And you can be the one to solve it.
In 2018 online content is solving a lot of people's problems. That's why Google is a beast. They solve millions a problems every day by connecting people with, you guessed it – content.
Do you still want to go get the business degree?
Look, if you can afford it do it. If you have the time and money it will probably help. You'll get to meet some people, learn some stuff. But just remember how much you learned here in 15-20 minutes and then remember that it will take 4 years to get your business degree. And you'll have to take a ton of classes you aren't interested in.
That is probably the most amazing thing about doing business online, you can really focus on your strengths and true interests.
I got two degrees. I had the time. But everything I learned about doing business online came from self-study. There is a wealth of information online. You just need to Google stuff you don't understand and use forums to ask more complex questions.
Whether you get a degree in business or not, if you want to start your own online gig, you are going to have to take some risk. There will be trial and error with or without the degree. So the question is do you think you can figure this out on your own or not? And I'll remind you one last time, they can't teach you in school what the world is going to do tomorrow. All successful entrepreneurs are able to adjust with the times and also have an ability to move fast when opportunity strikes.