Buy A Website But Don’t Buy A Job

When you’re new to the world of making money online, it’s easy to be seduced by people who understate the amount of work it takes to make that money. Some bloggers will lead you to believe that money magically appears in your bank account and the most work you’ll ever do is edit that photo you took at the waterfall in Thailand for Instagram. They don’t tell you about the 2 hour photo shoot, picking one of 75 photos, editing the photo using their software to maintain their aesthetic so they don’t lose followers and sponsorships.

There is nothing passive about running a real internet business whether you’re a social media influencer or you run an e-commerce store. There are perks, though. You get the opportunity to choose when and where you work in most cases, but the amount of work you do is not optional. Why should it be? If you started a brick and mortar business would you expect to make money by just sitting in your office? There are things you can do to outsource work which will definitely make your income semi-passive but you have to know how to set up systems to run the business.

When you’re actively looking at websites to buy, website brokers bombard you with offerings that show online businesses with different models of monetization. One day it’s a SaaS business, the next is e-commerce and then affiliate marketing. All of the businesses will be making money but none of them are run or marketed in the same way. And frankly, the way the previous owner was marketing may not be the best. You need to be recognize those easy tweaks that will make your business more profitable out of the gate.

You’ll never get around learning how basic online businesses make money but you do have a choice on how you work in your business. Knowing what you really like to do and how you like to work is easily the single most important part of the equation when considering investing in an internet business. Why is so little time spent discussing this crucial question? I can only surmise that sellers of websites mix and match monetization methods because they assume the investors have already made this call.

Know Thyself

As a card carrying Baby Boomer I missed the boat on lifestyle design. The message when I was in college was very clear and never changed through adulthood. Go to school, get good grades, and land a terrific job that you can retire from at 65.

Today, Millennials are appalled to think this way. They deduce—correctly from my perspective—that taking stock of your likes and dislikes is much more relevant to your happiness than the formula above. Further, happiness is much better linked to productivity and success too.

Define your Endgame Before you Start

The point is that investing in websites requires exactly this introspection. If you’re not a people person, selling physical goods to real live customers and dealing with suppliers is not likely to bring you happiness. People issues are messy by design.

One of the smartest things I read early on in my ecommerce education is that the path to success is by solving tough problems. If people frustrate you, then selling physical goods will not likely spark your joy.  As someone who has been selling or managing sales for three dozen years, you can take my word on this.

Conversely, at my last ecommerce conference I was able to observe affiliate marketers geek out about keyword research, black/gray hat SEO, and the proper use of PBNs. While these topics are mildly interesting to me, I’d be bored to death to delve into these topics to make money online every day. By the way, getting scale in this business model is also extremely challenging as every idea requires the owner’s original thinking.

I have tried desperately to see if I can engineer a workaround to be successful in affiliate marketing for numerous reasons, but the competition is very good. I’ve seen it up close! My motto has also always been to play to my strengths. I’m terribly fearful of being that guy at the poker table who doesn’t know who the sucker is.

The Grass is Always Greener

I had this exact conversation with a very successful drop shipper just a couple of days back. His business has grown nicely and he’s solved for 90% of the problems most physical goods sellers fail at—picked a great niche, lined up terrific suppliers, and is driving profitable traffic to his site. His problem is that he detests the customer service process.

We started chatting about where to find good VAs. This is always the naïve starting point of this type of conversation. I explained that a good VA is only as good as the system they work in. This takes enormous effort to create, but it is massively scalable and it is the system that makes your involvement more passive.

Deconstructing every process to build the system also has huge financial rewards should you choose to sell, as you now have a business– not a job –you can offer a buyer. Each process in every activity chain forms a holistic system by which a job takes on the characteristics of a real business. This transformation from job to semi-passive and highly scalable enterprise is the Holy Grail for real entrepreneurs and it’s absolutely possible.

Unfortunately, his conclusion continued to be that he wanted something more passive like an Amazon Affiliate site. When I described the affiliate geeks from my recent conference, I think he realized he didn’t have that DNA either. So, his day consists of answering 3-4 hours of customer emails hoping for conversions to keep the revenue flowing.

This looks to me like he has just replicated the bad aspects of a 9-5 job, except he works in shorts and flip flops from a back bedroom. He’s not satisfied or he wouldn’t be looking at different business models. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

The Solution is Simple

It’s always easier to do things incrementally starting with a specific endgame in mind. Beginning a business with a discipline to design and document best practices is much easier than making the call after you’ve hit 7 figures in revenues. You also get the added benefit of constantly honing each practice to fit the way you want to work. Where needed, you can enlist workers to help you. So you re-design your business to suit you.

While the Nirvana of passive income doesn’t exist in the online business world, the ability to harness online tools and inexpensive labor to build something tailored to your exact business and desires is easier than ever to create. I’ve done this multiple times now with multiple online businesses and it just gets easier each time.

Just remember that all roads will take you somewhere. It’s up to you to determine where you want to end up before you embark on the journey. As always, you’re only a deal away. So make that deal count by leveraging your strengths and accounting for what you really want from your life. There’s no sense in recreating the bad aspects of a job when all of the tools exist to forever free yourself from those shackles.

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