In recent years, the laptop lifestyle has enchanted entrepreneurs far and wide. Creative and ambitious individuals are making money online from anywhere they can get a WiFi signal. Everybody wants to invent the million dollar app, build a profitable hands-free business, or make fortunes in a get-rich-quick venture.
Although I can’t promise that any of those things will happen for you, I can show you the road to lead you there. The problem is that for most people, the laptop lifestyle is just a dream and nothing more. However, if you’re willing to take action and put in the work, you’ll be well on your way to earning to a location-independent income and designing your dream life.
Identify Your Passion
This is a crucial step in building your online business. If you’re working on or selling something that you have no interest in, I can almost guarantee that you will hate every second of it. Maybe you’re passionate about sports, or music, or blogging, or knitting, or anything at all for that matter.
No matter what your passion is, there is always a way to monetize it online. For some people, your passion may be “making money” or “building businesses” and that is completely fine! Maybe you aren’t totally passionate about the underlying business model, but if you love to make money and build businesses then you might enjoy the work anyway.
Choose Your Platform
After you’ve identified your passion, you will need to choose your online platform. This could be a pre-existing platform (Amazon, eBay, Shopify, Etsy, etc.) or your own website. Weigh your options and decide which is best for your business.
I won’t focus too much on pre-existing platforms since I don’t have extensive experience building businesses this way. However, I do have some basic business ideas that I can share.
- Creating a product from scratch
- Tweaking an existing product
- Flipping (buying low, selling high) items
These are just barely scratching the surface of ways to create your online business. But, even within these categories, there are thousands of different possibilities!
Build Your Own Website
Now, this is something that I have a lot of experience with! Once you’ve built your first website, each additional website gets incrementally easier to create. At this point, I could put together a decent website within an hour or two (but only from hundreds of hours of grueling trial and error).
Ready? Let’s get started.
Step 1: Buy a Domain Name
For website domains, my two favorite options are GoDaddy and Namecheap. I personally use GoDaddy for most of my sites, but that is solely due to the fact that I did not know about Namecheap until recently. Both sites are great options with minimal differences in pricing and usability.
Cost: GoDaddy ($14.99 per year), Namecheap ($12.88 per year).
Here’s what buying a domain looks like on GoDaddy.
And here’s Namecheap.
Although there are .com, .co, .us, .org, .net, and many others, I’d suggest sticking with a .com website. These websites perform best for Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
You don’t necessarily NEED privacy protection, but if you don’t want to receive any phone calls or emails from annoying email marketers then buy it. I didn’t have privacy protection on my disc golf site for almost 2 years and I only received a handful of emails… it’s not too big of a deal until your site starts to receive heavy traffic.
Important Note: DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT use GoDaddy or Namecheap for hosting. ONLY use these sites to purchase your domain name (e.g. buying www.cooldomaintest.com). I made this grave mistake on one of my first websites and had to completely redo the whole site once I switched to a reliable host. If GoDaddy or Namecheap recommends a free “Website Builder”, DON’T DO IT!
We will get to hosting and website building shortly.
Step 2: Choose a Web host
In my opinion, the best option for hosting is SiteGround. I have had absolutely no problems with my website and they provide excellent customer support and great pricing!
Cost: StartUp Package ($3.95 per month), GoBig Package ($5.95 per month), and GoGeek Package ($11.95 per month).
I personally have the GoGeek Package since I have several sites, but for someone new, I’d recommend the GoBig Package. If you’re 100% positive that you’ll never build more than 1 website, then the StartUp Package could work as well.
One thing that really pisses me off is when other bloggers promote Bluehost. This is another hosting company, but their service is quite unreliable and customer service is terrible. It’s only a (somewhat) viable option for someone who plans to have minimal traffic on their site (which I doubt applies to most of you readers). So, why do other bloggers promote this garbage product then? You guessed it… high affiliate commissions.
I’m all for getting compensated for your work, but not at the expense of trust and accountability. End of rant.
Once you set up your Siteground account, you can connect the domain name you just bought.
Step 3: Point Your Domain to Your Web Host
On the ‘My Accounts’ page, click on ‘Go To cPanel’. On this page, you’ll see your SiteGround ‘Nameservers’ at the top left. Keep this tab open.
Next, open up a new tab and go to GoDaddy or Namecheap (depending on what you chose in Step 1).
Log in and go to ‘My Account’.
Find your domain and click “DNS”.
Select ‘Custom’ from the drop-down menu. Now enter the two SiteGround nameservers into GoDaddy.
Log in and click on ‘Account’ –> ‘Domain List’.
Find your website and click ‘Manage’.
Scroll down to ‘Nameservers’ and select ‘Custom DNS’. Now enter the two SiteGround nameservers into Namecheap.
Make sure to click ‘Save Changes’.
Step 4: Set Up Your Domain on SiteGround
Log in and click on ‘My Accounts’.
In the top-left of the screen, you’ll see ‘Go to cPanel’. Click it.
Select ‘Addon Domains’ and fill in the fields pictured below.
In the ‘New Domain Name’ box, enter your website without the HTTP part. The rest of the values should auto-populate. Lastly, create a password and click ‘Add Domain’.
Step 5: Install WordPress
Unless you’re an expert coder and know how to build and edit websites from scratch, you’ll want to use WordPress to edit your site.
Okay, back to SiteGround.
Go back to cPanel and scroll down until you see ‘WordPress Tools’ in a gray banner.
Click ‘WordPress Installer’.
Select ‘Install’ and select your website in the ‘Choose Domain’ drop-down box.
Fill out your Site Name (e.g. “Fly to FI”) and Site Description (e.g. A blog about financial independence). Don’t ‘Enable Multisite’.
Next, create a username and password for your WordPress site. MAKE YOUR PASSWORD SECURE! If someone gains control of this password they will have full access to your WordPress site. Add an ‘Admin Email’ (the email to control your site) and leave everything else as default.
Click ‘Install’ at the bottom. Then, wait a few minutes and you’re done!
Pro Tip: Wait a Little Bit!
If you’re freaking out because your site isn’t up yet, that’s perfectly normal. In my experience, it usually takes a few hours before the domain has transferred and you are able to edit your site on WordPress.
After you’ve waited a few hours, you can access the back end of your site through WordPress by visiting http://mydomain.com/wp-admin (‘mydomain’ = whatever your site name is). There you’ll enter your newly generated WordPress username and password and you’re in!
Start Making Money
The part you’ve all been waiting for! I’ll do more of a high-level overview here so I don’t end up writing a novella. There are SO many different ways to make money with your online business.
Although ads are not my favorite, they are certainly a viable option to make money on your website. There are three main types of advertisements to place on your site.
Cost-per-click (CPC) advertisers pay based on how many users click on their links on your site. Usually, there are algorithms to determine the user’s preferences (e.g. You probably won’t find a hamburger advertisement on vegan.com). Some of the most popular CPC providers are Google AdSense and Infolinks.
Cost-per-mile (CPM) advertisers pay based on how many people see their ad, or in other words how far the ad reaches (hence the mile). For a new site, BuySellAds is a great option because they have no minimum website traffic requirements. However, they take 25% of your ad revenue in exchange for their service.
Fixed-Price advertising is when a flat fee is paid for an ad, regardless of clicks or traffic. This is usually done by smaller companies with a lower budget. For example, if you have a blog about animals, the local veterinarian office might pay you $XXX to place an ad in the banner of your site.
Personally, this is my favorite way to monetize my website. I can promote the services and products that I use and enjoy while making a bit of money! Basically, you just include the service or product link on your site and if someone clicks on it and buys or signs up for something, you earn a commission!
Don’t be someone who promotes terrible products just to make money … those are the worst type of people on the internet.
Lucky for you, there are companies that aggregate hundreds or thousands of affiliate programs through their platform. That way it’s easy to apply to new programs and keep track of earnings. Here are some of my personal favorites (click links below to sign up and start making money)!
Unlike my first two monetization examples, this can be done through an existing platform or through your own site. There are two main types of products to sell: Digital Products and Physical Products.
My personal favorite online store provider is a WordPress plugin called WooCommerce. The basic version of the plugin is free so you can get started right away. The paid WooCommerce extensions are definitely useful, but probably not necessary right out the gate.
In addition to scoring regular sales, you can actually create an affiliate program for your product. Even though you’ll be sharing sales with your affiliate partners, this can be HUGE for product reach! Think about Joe Schmoe earning a commission every time he sold your product to one of his friends or followers… and then multiply Joe by 100+!
My favorite program is ShareASale. Here are some other programs that I’m familiar with: LeadDyno, Clickbank, Refersion, and AffiliateWP. Your product and audience dictate what the best affiliate program is for you. Do some research and figure out what works best.
Digital products are great because they don’t require you to physically create or ship anything. Some digital product ideas include eBooks, software, video, audio, music, photos, graphic design, documents, courses, and so much more!
Check out this awesome tutorial on how to set up your Digital/Downloadable product on your WooCommerce site.
I’ll admit, physical products are definitely more difficult than any of the monetization techniques mentioned before, especially if you manufacture the product from scratch. However, in my experience, these products have higher margins so if you’re able to scale your business, you can make serious money.
Here’s another great tutorial on how to set up your WooCommerce store.
This blog post could expand into an entire book, but for the sake of your time, I addressed this topic from a bird’s eye view. Are you ready to take the steps necessary to build your online business and earn more income? I’ll admit, the first year or two are certainly the most difficult. You’ll feel self-doubt, lack of motivation, and maybe a loss of purpose.
However, if you stick with your business through the ups and downs and constantly aim to improve, your chances of success will increase exponentially. Nothing great comes easy. Good luck with your online ventures and I hope that this step-by-step guide can help you on your journey to financial independence!
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