Select Page

Ask For More Equity

When you first start working at a startup, your salary is typically lower than the market rate. Startups are often light on cash, which they make up for by offering equity – or options or shares in the company. Often this equity will be discounted significantly, because the company is growing, it is not as valuable.

Equity is a tremendous opportunity to build wealth, if the company does well and eventually goes public. A person who was granted 10,000 shares of Facebook in the early days is a multimillionaire today, if they kept it.

These stories are commonplace among the startup world. I have been awarded equity in 2 separate companies. Both are among the best investments I ever made.

But you usually have to last a year, and sometimes as long as 4 years, before any of it pays off. You may never actually make any money from equity if there isn’t a liquidity event, like an IPO.

My biggest regret for each is that I didn’t ask for more. Most companies can afford it; they have tens or hundreds of millions of shares. A few hundred or thousand more likely won’t make a difference for them, but will for you.

Whenever you get an offer at a company that has any stock incentives, ask for 20-30% more than you are offered.

This alone would have made me hundreds of thousands of dollars had I known. At the time, I dismissed my own value and didn’t know better.

It’s not my job

I had a conversation this morning with someone pretty early in their career that asks for my advice occasionally. Their company isn’t doing so great and they’re all trying to right the ship. This person is in operations and “not a salesperson”.

Their biggest problem is lack of customers, and to solve that everyone is being asked to cold call leads. They had called me to ask what they could do and I said “it sounds like you should be on the phones with everyone else”.

This was their response: “It’s not my job. Why should I have to make calls to clean up their mess?”

Oof.

I said that for starters, if they didn’t help out, they’d find themselves out of a job when the company shuts down. That should really be reason enough – it’s up to everyone to pitch in, no matter who “caused” the problem – or everyone loses. In this case, they literally all could lose their jobs.

I told them I was disappointed in the attitude they had demonstrated. “Your job” is whatever the company needs it to be. Your job is not just to understand and execute what is being asked of you.

You need to be flexible enough to meet the needs of a changing company, and willing to grow, learn, and provide input to help the company meet all manner of new challenges. This won’t change just because your company does.

And then I realized what was really going on; they were scared. They were afraid of being threatened, cussed at, told ‘no’. Growth is UNCOMFORTABLE. It’s not always puppies and rainbows, and that sucks sometimes. But leaning in to that discomfort and setting aside your fears or pride is the way to come out less battered than you otherwise would.

I got a text about 2 hours after our call. “I’m going to make 10 cold calls starting at noon”

At the end of the day, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Take your stressors and discomfort and flip it on it’s head. Ask yourself “What can I learn or how can I grow from this”.

Steal it

Don’t reinvent the wheel.

A mentor once delivered that advice while showing me his “swipe file”. He opened an innocent-looking word doc to reveal hundreds of pages of material he had chosen to simply copy and paste from ads (he was a copywriter) he had seen over the years.

What he had amassed was a treasure trove of material, not to be plagiarized, but adapted. He found the best of what was out there and incorporated it onto his own copy.

The same is true regardless of the work you’re doing.

For example if you’re hiring and need a job description – just search for a handful of examples and copy them. Obviously you’re not going to use them verbatim… you have to modify them to be relevant to your particular job.

It’s silly to spend extra time on something someone has already done.

3 Reasons Why You Can’t Make Money Online

For years I struggled to make money online in any meaningful way. I re-sold CDs in the early 2000s just before MP3 players shut that down. I sold custom-engraved luxury watches to 30 people in 10 months. I think I made a couple hundred dollars after expenses. I didn’t even launch my first information product – just wasted a year pretending to work. I started a coffee company (that’s a story for another time)…you get the idea.

Struggling and failing to make money online is natural – we all have to start somewhere. But those struggles help us grow and improve so that we can succeed at it. If you’re just starting out trying to make money online, or you’ve been at it for years without much success, this is for you.

I’ve put together below a list of the top reasons why people can’t make money online and what you can do to overcome them. Check it out!

1. Your Own Behavior

I’ve been accused of burying the lead so outright the absolute number 1 reason why people fail to make money online is their own behavior.

Your own behavior is the biggest predictor of success

Look – just like anything else – if you don’t put any effort into it, you won’t get any results. This industry has a bad habit of telling people they can get super mega rich with 0 effort.

Some people just get lucky. And on the flip side, there are extremely valuable products out there that teach people how to make money online reliably and successfully. I know because I’ve purchased them and through that knowledge have made my own online empire.

There are so many kinds of destructive and positive behaviors, but the ones I’ve found will make or break you are:

Positive

  • Following things through to completion
  • Having the discipline to spend time every day on the business
  • Investing money in training and self improvement
  • Positive, but realistic, attitude
  • Believes in self improvement as the ultimate investment

Negative

  • Getting distracted easily
  • Expecting immediate results
  • Giving up at the first sign of trouble
  • Scarcity mentality
  • Feeling entitled to success
  • Making excuses

I’m not going to explain these all – it’s pretty simple. If you are looking for shortcuts and believe things should be handed to you, you’ve either bought all those internet marketing lies or are delusional!

People who are successful at making money online have tried and failed dozens, or possibly hundreds of times. They aren’t afraid to take risks, and engage in virtuous cycles of activity that lead to further successes.

When I first started my online business, I wasn’t making money because I wasn’t working on my business every day. I would get dismayed at the first roadblock and give up. I was so frustrated that it seemed like I couldn’t get any traction no matter what I did. But I didn’t do that much at the end of the day.

Here’s what you need to take away – it’s on you to make it happen.

2. Your Niche

In real estate, the rule everyone knows is “Location, Location, Location”. Your market Niche is the equivalent of Location in making money online. Not all niches are created equal.

When evaluating your niche, you have a few factors to consider.

Market Size

Is there a market? If so, how big? If not, why?

Too big of a market (hundreds of millions of “potential customers”) will likely make you one voice in a chorus, shouting for attention. Too small of a market will likely have no customers.

A prime market for most people is big enough for to have several million potential customers. It’s big enough to make reliable income online, but not so big that you have to be in the top 1% of performers to be successful.

If there’s no market, it may not always be because there’s no demand. New business categories are invented all the time, and being first isn’t always a bad thing. However in many cases, especially online, if there’s no market it is a strong indication of no demand, which is a bad foot to start on. Just tread carefully.

All that said, there is no “best” size. It all depends on choosing a market niche that you are passionate about, and adapting your business to the size of that niche.

My first business failed because my market dried up overnight. My fourth business failed because my market was “Everyone?”. If you’re too specific or too broad, you’re setting yourself up for failure and you’ll never make money online.

Market Saturation

Blue Ocean Strategy outlines the idea that markets can have many participants (red ocean), or few participants (blue ocean). Assuming the quality of the market and size of the market is enough to sustain a growing business, or could grow, the book argues it’s better to find opportunity in “blue ocean” niches.

This doesn’t mean you have to invent new categories of business to be successful. But you do have to evaluate how many competitors there are if you want to find a niche worth starting a business in. Some competition is good. Too much competition drives down quality and price, unless you have something special that helps differentiate you.

Which leads me to…

Standing out

My final comments around niches are that you need to be doing something to separate your business from all the others out there. Price can certainly be a differentiator, but competing on price is a “red ocean” tactic that usually leads to you pricing yourself out of business!

You have a unique perspective, talents, personality, and take on your niche – and that can be all or some of your “secret sauce”. But you’ll need to be creative in finding ways to distinguish yourself.

Think how you can build a premium brand, product, service, etc – “best in class” usually demands a premium (which means more $), and attracts customers just by virtue of being the best. Can you improve quality, or is there a luxury opportunity in your niche to capitalize on?

If you’re sure you’ve got a solid niche with good potential that isn’t too crowded, then it could be this last part – your key differentiator – that needs work.

3. Your Sales Funnel

Your sales funnel is the true “meat and potatoes” of making money online, and the hardest part to get right. If you can make converting funnels, you will never find yourself out of money.

Before we get into the 3 biggest “funnel failure” areas I’ve seen, I want to take a brief detour and talk about the idea of split-testing. If you haven’t heard of split-testing, it involves running multiple versions of an ad, page, funnel, or even product, and analyzing the results.

Split-testing is how you find out what works – you run your current ad against another one with the new changes, for the same duration and amount, and compare results. While this isn’t exactly foolproof, it has led to most of the way you see ads structured today. So make sure to always be comparing ads for performance – go with what works but keep looking for better!

Technical

One of the more obvious signs your funnel is failing is when something is technically wrong. A page doesn’t load, a critical button is missing, or the wrong video is displayed.

Whatever the cause, these are the “easy” ones – you just fix the link, copy, image, etc.

Sometimes you may need to consult outside help for setting up a new piece of software or technology, but in my experience there are guides on how to do just about any individual task online – all you have to do is search.

Whatever you do, be sure you learn how to fix it for next time if you can – part of making money online involves improving your own skillset and understanding how to operate it! These days, almost all but the most cutting-edge technology is very user-friendly.

Copy

I’m not going to get too far into the weeds here, because honestly, I’m still just a novice at writing copy. But I do know that the way you maximize your words through advertising copy can have a BIG impact on your bottom line.

Good copy evokes feelings in your customers, and people are more likely to take action the stronger a feeling engaged is. That doesn’t mean you should just go piss off your customers just to make a sale. This (NSFW) Key & Peele clip comes to mind immediately…

But it does mean that the words you use in advertising your business are vital. Remember when I mentioned split-testing up above? This is a key solution for fixing “broken” ad copy. Try rewriting your ads to elicit more emotion that is likely to drive customers to buy (solve a huge problem or fulfill a burning need), then test against your current ads to see which one does better.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to write amazing ad copy, I recommend Mike Dillard

Traffic Quality

Know Your Audience
Most people skip the step of getting to know their audience in trying to make money online. Who are your customers? What do they like? What do they do?

When you don’t know who you are selling to, you end up trying to sell to everyone

This is a surefire recipe for disaster. Make sure you analyze your customers demographically across as many dimensions as you can. Sometimes you may have more than one, or even several, types of customers. For each of them, create a “persona”.

For example, one of my businesses has a persona, Dan. Dan is a 34 year old married man with 2 kids that plays games and enjoys whiskey.

I sell to “Dan’s” all around the world on a daily basis because I have locked in on some key likes that all “Dan’s” have in common!

This is how you can use personas to segment your customers and target their interests more effectively.

Use The Right Keywords
The other key aspect of traffic wrong is keywords. To make money online you’re probably going to need to run ads. In many cases, you’ll pay per click, and costs for “premium” keywords can skyrocket.

For more on Keywords, check out my post How I generate Endless “GoldMine” Keywords here

Is there anything else?

There’s always more, but like I said at the beginning, you have to start somewhere.

Hopefully this has helped you where you’re struggling in your business. If it has, or even if it hasn’t, let me know and I’d love to hear from you!

How I generate Endless “GoldMine” Keywords

One of the things most online business owners struggle with is coming up with content and advertising keywords.

It’s really the make-or-break of the business. Bad keywords will be a huge cash drain instead of a money maker for you.

Better Keywords through Technology

There’s a laughably easy way to find an endless supply of high quality keywords that potential customers are actually searching for. Instead of having to brainstorm a list of related words, search terms, etc. for every piece of content, experts go directly to the source and find out the exact phrases being used in your target market.

That solution is AnswerThePublic.

AnswerThePublic uses search history data to relay the exact search terms your future customers are using.

You start by entering a broad search term, like “start a business”. Then, choose which country you’d like data from (your own is best). Hit the search button and voila! It’s literally like printing money.

You get a trove of actual phrases people have searched, ranked by popularity and relevance. Here’s an example of just some of the keywords my search for “start a business” turned up:

AnswerThePublic Keywords for “start a business”

This search alone has enough ideas for at least 10-20 high quality, relevant pieces of content, including adwords. These are the exact keywords that you should be targeting instead of generic terms.

And at $99 a month, the Pro Plan is a steal. It honestly paid for itself within the first month of me using it. I was able to target my potential customers much easier and at the same time provide them with higher quality content that was directly relevant to what they were looking for.

If your keywords aren’t working out and driving customers to you in droves, you need AnswerThePublic.

What Kinds of Business Makes Money Online?

Starting a business to make money online has never been more possible, accessible, approachable, and confusing in history. More and more, aspiring entrepreneurs and people looking to create income streams beyond their 9-5 job.

It’s time to wake up to the reality that the world of working at a single company for 30 years and retiring with a gold watch and a pension is gone. It’s been replaced by the less-stable “gig” and “sharing” economies, where people are used for short-term engagements and there is little loyalty from employers.

Congratulations if you’re part of the growing number who is looking to take your income into your own hands and start an online business!

But how do you even start? What do you do? In this post, I’m going to explore the different types of online businesses and provide examples of each type to start you thinking about what you’d like to do.

The 3 Types of Businesses to Make Money Online

There are 3 main types of online businesses you can choose from:
Product, Service, or Information.

There can even be some overlap between the 3 categories. A product business may upsell access to a platform for using their product, which could turn it into a “product-service” business. An information business may have a marketplace-as-a-service to help leverage their information and would then be an “information-service” business. Think of it like this:

Product Business

A product business sells and fulfills goods, mainly physical, but also digital. This can be anything, from razor blades to diapers, tech gadgets to raw materials, but can also include audio files or website “themes”.

If you’re looking to start a product business, your main focus will be on keeping your cost of goods under control. If a product costs you $5 to buy and $3 to ship, you’ll need to sell it for more than $8 to earn anything. The markup (how much more you sell the item for) is the main limiting factor on how much you earn.

Because digital products can be copied virtually instantly and sent for “free”, the cost to produce and ship 1 or 100 or 1000 is the same. In this way, digital products can be very lucrative with very high margins.

Here are some product businesses you can start to make money online:

  • Sell your own invention
  • Reselling on ebay
  • Reselling on Amazon
  • Drop shipping
  • Making art / crafts and selling on Etsy

Service Business

A service business can sell either labor (I will do ___ for you), access (I will let you use my tool to do _____) or other means of providing work on behalf of clients.

Service businesses focus on the cost of labor, rather than cost of goods. You can either be leveraged, where your service is able to allow customers to work on their own or doesn’t require direct input from you, or unleveraged, which requires direct work from you or an employee.

An example of an unleveraged service business is the first one below – doing taxes for others. You have to do the work, put the information in. But TurboTax, which is a leveraged service business, created a platform where customers can fill out their own information – completely removing the cost of labor except to maintain their service!

Some examples of service businesses you can start to make money online include:

  • Doing people’s taxes
  • Specialized software for your industry or niche
  • Lead Generation / “Cold Calling”
  • Freelancing
  • Mastermind Groups

Information Business

An information business can sell either a “product” or a “service”, but the distinction is that it’s not usually tied to sending something physically or doing any work on behalf of someone, it is tied to transmitting some kind of specialized knowledge or instruction.

Like a “digital product business”, information businesses allow you to make money online for almost 0 cost. You just need to have the knowledge and be able to relay it to people effectively.

In information businesses, one of your largest focuses will be the cost of customer acquisition. That means how much you have to spend on Ads to get a new customer. If you can spend $50 to get a customer that will spend $100, you can do that infinitely to make serious cash.

For this reason information businesses are where many people choose to start making money online. With your existing skills and knowledge, you can invest time to help others learn what you already know!

Types of information businesses include:

  • Affiliate Marketing (like on Amazon)
  • eBooks
  • Entertainment
    • YouTube Videos
    • Social Media
    • Twitch Streaming
    • Patreon
  • Educational Courses

Wrapping up

There are so many ways to make money online, this article could never hope to capture them all. But this is a taste of what’s possible, and hopefully your brain is swimming with ideas for your new business, after reading this

My goal is to help people just like you make real money online by passing along this and so much more. Won’t you join me?

Be Early

I’m grateful that my father instilled in me the ‘need’ to be early.

You’ve probably heard that being late “shows you don’t value the time of others”.

But that’s not why I’m early.

I’m early because I value my own time. It shows that I took the care and thought to plan my actions, that I’m not just wandering through life aimlessly.

It garners respect, or, possibly, prevents you from losing respect. We all know those people who are always running behind. As we roll our eyes at them, we know that a) this is not a serious person and b) this is not a person who can be relied upon.

Don’t be that person.

It also doesn’t hurt to be the only person in the office when the CEO or client walks in.

Does this “Personal Finance Flowchart” work?

Reddit’s personal finance subreddit with over 14 million members promotes the flowchart as the recommended way to handle money. It includes budgeting and asset allocation tips for “proper” personal financial planning.

But for more and more Americans the American Dream is slipping away entirely. According to the BLS, the monthly take-home salary is about $2500 for almost 70% of working Americans.

A table showing the average monthly salary by sector, from highest to lowest, for 147 million working Americans, many of whom are struggling with personal finance concerns.
70% of Americans Earn less than the Median Wage of $53,400, and the average take-home pay is just $2500 a month

That’s not much to squeak by on, let alone save for retirement. Yet millions of police, farmers, salespeople, healthcare technicians, office workers, and countless others, do! Look at the sectors we’re talking about above; transportation, security, foot service, office, sales – most of the country!

Costs are increasing

Managing personal finances is getting expensive. The average rent for a 2-bedroom in the US is about $1300 a month. Adding in utilities, groceries, a car with insurance, a cheap phone plan, and internet – not to mention kids! Before you know it a 3-person family with 1 working adult is barely able to put any money away.

If you have any debt, just paying the minimum is enough to make it impossible to get ahead. It’s no wonder that almost 80% of people are living paycheck to paycheck!

And with inflation, costs only go up! Most things get 3%-5% more expensive every year – or more!

Personal Finance is mostly not about Saving

Can we budget and penny pinch our way out of this personal finance nightmare? I highly doubt it.

Don’t get me wrong – saving is great. Cut your cable bill, move to a cheaper phone plan. Buy generic groceries.

But saving $15 on your phone bill, or $100 a month couponing, quickly approaches diminishing returns and can require constant participation to maintain. Technically, you can scrimp your way to half a million dollars by saving $100 a month for 55 years, but I don’t want to hate my life like that.

Because your expenses have a floor, you will only ever be able to save so much. Even if you take home $2500 a month, and you somehow miraculously are able to spend only $1500 a month on all your expenses, you’ll still only ever be able to save $1000 a month on your best months.

Increasing your income to $3500 a month has the same net effect as saving $1000 but it allows you to do more – you are spending $2500 a month on living and saving $1000 vs spending $1500 a month on living and saving $1000. Increasing your income to $4500 a month would allow you to save $2,000 a month while maintaining spending at $2500. As you see, there is no ceiling to how much you can earn – only a floor on how much you can spend.

Income is King

Unless you plan on re-training to become a doctor, lawyer, scientist, engineer, programmer, or CEO… if you want to get rich your best bet is to focus on increasing your income through whatever means you are able.

For some, that will mean continuing their career and developing “professionally”. Others will choose to develop other valuable skills and knowledge and leverage that as entrepreneurs. Some may be great at playing the stock or currency markets. In fact, the ways to increase your income are just about infinite and limited only by you. I hope to make that apparent over time.

Join me on this quest to unlock income-generating methods and opportunities. I want to show that anyone can increase their income and get rich eventually, with the right personal finance plan.

Check out my resources page for the best tools to help you increase your income and take control of your finances.