How To Turn Your Skills Into A Real Online Business

Open for businessA lot of the people reading Like Chapaa have a skill set. They are strong in web design, writing, marketing, Web development, or some other different skills.

People with such skills who want to be entrepreneurs often end up selling their skills as services. That usually entails trading money for their time, expertise and experience. It’s the path of least resistance (and risk) and a way to form a source of income. The problem is that while the business might be moderately successful, there is a limit to how successful the business can be. There are only so many hours in a day and only so much that you can charge for these services (no matter how good you are). Since freelancing is not a real business model and does not scale, you should focus these skills on building a system-based business.

Here are some ideas to create a new business based on the skills that you already have.

Scale Your Skills
Instead of doing the work yourself, have 1, 2, 5, 10, or even 50 people do the work for you. Once you have other people doing the work, there is no limit to how big you can grow the business. Start by creating a manual detailing everything that you do and make it a repeatable process that someone else can follow. You will still have to find some people with some ability as you don’t want someone with zero creativity to design high-end websites for your clients. But if you create an efficient process in getting new clients and delivering their service at a reasonable, known cost, you can start scaling the business.

In order to reduce your risk, I would start out with contractors. Pay them on a “per project” basis so you are only obligated to pay when you get paid. Your profits won’t be as high and it can be tough to find reliable contractors with good prices and quality products but once you do, it becomes very easy to scale up your business. Start out with determining your profit margin and you can estimate projects based off of the quote you receive.

Create a “Product”
If your skills are in web design, pick a market and create your best web design that you can sell over and over again. If you create a really great web site with a lot of cool features for restaurants (newsletters, birthday club, email-a-friend), sell it to restaurants operating in different markets. You might charge a lower price for each site but it will require less effort to set up. It’s even something that you could hire a contractor to set up on a per-site basis.

If you are a writer, you can also create a ‘product’ around your writing skills. You just have, for example, to look for something that would benefit by having a well written guide/manual. For instance, many writers make money by writing How-To ebooks for platforms such as Joomla and Drupal. I know others who have created a complete and re-usable business plan which they sell to anyone looking to write a business plan quickly.

If you are an Adsense expert, you could sell a program to similar businesses of keywords and ads that are pre-built and tested to be very effective. Just make sure you don’t sell it to competing clients.

Become a ‘Digital Landlord’
This is very similar to creating a product, the difference being that you do not sell it outright but rent it out and collect a subscription fee. Please have a look at this: Landlord 2.0

The basic idea is to utilise your expertise to create a service. If you are an accountant, you could create an accounting system which you charge a monthly fee for people to use it either online or offline. When most people think of this, they think that it has to be a large undertaking. That is not the case, you do not have to recreate Quickbooks, the secret is to niche – create a simple accounting system specifically for freelance web designers (incidentally, such a system is badly needed).

If you are a marketing guru, you could create a marketing system for very small businesses and freelancers (guys earning 10,000 to 500,000 a month) – a system whereby the businesses completely outsource marketing to you. Again, such a system is badly needed in today’s Kenya (most of these business owners are too busy to market properly and would appreciate some help, as long as it actually generates more business).

Web Site Flipping
basically, this is the selling of websites. It might require a little more investment but you could also bootstrap and start with a small portfolio that you constantly turn over and make more money off of them. But the idea is that you should buy websites, improve them, and then sell them. Maybe it’s a website that just needs a few tweaks to convert better, or a site that needs some basic search engine optimization, one that hasn’t utilized Pay-Per-Click yet, or one that could use all of these changes.

Create systems to effectively find, value, purchase, and improve sites. Most people who flip websites might do it on a “one off” basis. They don’t create systems to repeat the process over and over again. I liken it to real estate flipping companies who have scaled their business so they buy multiple properties, have a select group of vendors they use to improve the properties, and then sell it. They have great systems in place. From the very beginning, they have a set budget and they know what changes they can make and how much value it should add to the price.

Create Software
Ok, nothing too original here but I think this is a case which people think too big. They think the only software worth creating and selling is something that nobody else has created. There are a lot of niche markets for which you can build useful software. You don’t have to create Microsoft Windows, just something that is useful to your targeted niche market.

For example – you could create an online scheduling service for businesses that take appointments like doctors, salons or beauty parlors. There is a lot of scheduling software out there but if you create a product specific for an industry, you have created a successful product.

And the best part about software is that once it’s created, there is very little effort to maintain it. Unlike trading hours for dollars, you can create a mostly passive form of income.

What Do All the Ideas Have in Common?
It probably wasn’t apparently obvious with each of these ideas but they all involve targeting a niche market. You’re not going to be able to create something that works for everyone but if you create something that has utility for a niche market, your system based business can grow quite successfully.

Image courtesy of Pheezy.

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