I haven’t posted a blog update in over two weeks, so some of you loyal readers might be wondering what’s happening. The truth is, I’ve been too busy with other projects. Between running my affiliate business, building up my social life in Budapest, and hosting friends from abroad, I haven’t had much time to write. However, I do want to keep you guys in the loop.
Therefore, since the thing that took up most of my time over the past weeks was my online marketing business, I devoted this blog post to it. (If you don’t know anything about my business and are interested in how it works, see my post about how to make money from your laptop.) Basically what I’ve started working on is to scale-up my business.
A little background information is in order. I’ve been running an affiliate marketing business for over four years now, and it’s been doing reasonably well. By reasonably well I mean: it has allowed me to travel the world without worrying too much about my expenditures; to work from anywhere I wanted and not work too many hours; and to save up a penny or two in the process. However, While life has been good, it has by no means made me rich. I’m nowhere near the point where I could comfortably retire.
All of this is fine, and in my opinion preferable over a more ordinary life working a nine-to-five job. Yet I am also looking towards the future. There might come a time when I want to stop working in order to focus on other, more rewarding projects. There definitely will come a time when I want to stop working because I’m old (although this point is still very, very far into the future). Between now and then I need to up my income to a level at which I can retire at some point in the future.
As I see it, there are basically three ways to make more money with what you do:
- Work harder. By putting in more hours you proportionally make more money. Of course, this defies the whole philosophy of freedom and minimalism, and it’s not something that I aspire to.
- Work smarter. Instead of working harder, you could also shift your focus toward something that would earn you more money per hour worked. Educating yourself (both formally and informally) will help you achieve this goal. In my case I feel like I’m pretty much at the top of what I can make per hour invested, so there is little room to grow.
- Scale-up. If you don’t want to work harder and you can’t work smarter, the only option left is to scale-up. Why run one online business when you can run ten? Of course, the challenge is to scale your business in such a way that you can attain the same results with each of those ten businesses, without working ten times as hard.
How to scale-up your business
Given these three options, I realised that it was time for me to scale-up. So I got to work, did some research (read: lay in my hammock, casually browsing through some online articles), and tried to figure out how to scale-up. My conclusion was that in order to successfully scale-up your business, you need to take the following steps:
- Identify your expansion market. If you want to scale-up, you need to sell more (more products, more services, more billable hours, or whatever it is that people pay you for). It’s as simple as that. This means that you have to tap into a bigger market. There are many ways to expand your market: grab a bigger share of your current market through better marketing; sell the same thing in another country or in a different language; market your product to a different demographic group; sell more products to your existing customers (cross-selling); sell something more expensive to your existing customers (up-selling).
- Identify your core strength. There is a reason you are good at what you do. You add some unique value to the world that no one else does. However, for most people this is only a small part of how they spend their (working) time. They burden themselves with all kinds of petty tasks that are not their core strengths. All those tasks could be done by others. But your core strength is the one thing you need to keep doing to succeed.
- Find out what to outsource. When scaling up, inevitably more work has to be done. And since you don’t want to work harder and can’t really work smarter, you’re going to have to get someone else to do the work. Find out which activities cost you a lot of time but aren’t your core strength. Candidates are: administration, sales, customer support, content development, coding, SEO, or anything really. Those are the things you want to outsource. And here’s the key to success: since they are not your core strength, somebody else will be able to do them better at a lower price. And this allows you to concentrate more on your core strength, where you can add the most value.
- Recruit people to work for you. The next step is to find people who can perform the tasks you’ve selected to outsource. This is a big and complex topic, and I could write more than one article about this subject alone (and I will!). Unless you’re an HR expert, there are two good arguments to hire freelancers rather than to get your own employees: you don’t have to deal with any legal and tax issues, and you can easily get rid of them if they don’t work out. Useful platforms to find freelancers for various tasks are oDesk, Fiverr, and Elance.
- Train and manage your workforce. Once you’ve hired some people, you will have to put them to work. Because they don’t know your business yet and are unfamiliar with your way of working, you’re going to have to train them a bit. Initially it might take quite some effort to get your staff to do their work in the right way. But once they know what you want and how you prefer to communicate, managing them becomes much easier. At this point all you have to do is to make sure that they get the resources they need to do their job, and they will make your business run smoothly (provided that they’re competent).
- Take the next step. Now you’ve gotten to the point where your business is doing more, without it costing more of your time. So you can start again from step one and identify the next opportunity for growth.
Over the past couple of weeks I went through step 1-4 for two of my affiliate marketing websites. I chose to expand my market by translating the sites into different languages, and by marketing them more aggressively. My core strengths are niche selection, business development, and conversion, so I decided to outsource article writing, translation, and SEO. I found some capable freelancers through oDesk (which was an interesting process in itself, to which I will dedicate another blog post soon), and I am still in the process of training them. They show great promise, and I hope to have more time on my hands soon to spend on blogging rather than on running my business.