How Would You Start an Online Business?

John: Hey, John Sonmez from
I’ve got a question here about starting an online business. This question is from
Stig and Stig says, “Hello John, a new subscriber here. I study computer science with a hefty
amount of focus on programming and design and I’d love to hear more about how you
would start an online business, start your own online business. I’d like some concrete
steps. Would you blog? Would you do a webpage services? Would you freelance and with which
skills? I’d also love to hear your thoughts about areas of specialization within software
development possible like if you started out having spent a year programming in Java and
done some databases networking as well as programming design methodologies, how would
you decide which old or new field to dig deeper into and specialize in? What’s your take
on specializing in software security? Thanks a bunch, Stig.”
So Stig I’m going to more answer the question about like starting an online business and
less about the specialization because that’s—and it’s really difficult to say what you would
specialize in. It’s kind of up to you and it’s going to take some research on your
own. But as far starting an online business today like what would I do the basic thing
is like I said I always recommend developers start with a blog and I would do the same
thing for an online business. What you really want to do like when you think
about it like the best way to be successful at an online business is to do pretty much
the opposite of what most people do which most people is they come up with an idea and
they create some kind of product around that idea and then they try to find people to buy
that thing. That doesn’t work very well at all unless you just have something that’s
so phenomenal that people are going to share it and it’s usually not a very successful
road to go. It’s usually a lot of work. What I recommend doing though is building
an audience like focusing on this idea of building an audience and a following. If you
look at the strategy that I’ve done that’s exactly that, right? If you build up an audience,
if you get people interested in what you’re saying or you find something that you’re
catering to that someone is looking for and you’re giving them information and you’re
building up that audience then you can turn around and sell the product to them and they’re
going to—not only are you going to be selling something that you know that they want because
you’ve heard from them, you know who they are, but you’re going to have trust already.
Most of the reason why people don’t buy from us when we have something good is because
they don’t trust us, right? You’ve got to build trust.
I would start off by creating a blog and using that to build an audience. You can do things
like Craig and a YouTube channel as well, right? Start making videos or tutorials about
a subject. Do all the kind of things that I talk about in my How to Market Yourself
package. If you haven’t gotten that it’s at You might want to check
that out, but do all those same kind of things in order to build an audience, to build a
name for yourself and when you do that what’s going to happen is that that’s going to
give you plenty of ideas. First of all you’re going to hear from a
lot of people about what their pains are and what kind of ways that you can solve pain.
A good business solves a problem for people, right? That’s the key thing. That’s why
businesses exist. It’s not to make money or that you can have your dream job, it’s
so that you can solve someone’s problem. If you do that, if you focus on that that’s
where it’s really going to come into play. This goes into that whole specialization thing
that you brought up as well which is when you do this pick a very specific niche. Pick
something very, very specific. Focus on a group of people. Figure out who you want to
talk to, who your audience is and reach out to those people. What are their problems?
How can you solve those problems? I’ll give you an example outside the software
development world and you can apply it. A lot of people want to be photographers. What
do they do? They go and they pound the pavement trying to find jobs. But if I were going to
start a business online with doing photography, I would start by writing articles about things
that people who are looking for a photographer would want, not about photography itself.
I wouldn’t talk about lighting and I wouldn’t talk about cameras and all this. I would talk
about how to hire a good photographer, what kind of things to look for. I would talk about
how to shoot—how to pick the perfect scene like backdrop to do your family photos, what
locations you want to choose and what time of day. I would talk about all kinds of things
related to someone who’s looking to buy the services of a photographer, things that
they’d be interested in. That’s the approach that I would take.
So the same thing that you want to do like if you want to start an online business is
figure out what is your niche and what are the customers who would buy your product or
service, what kind of things are they interested in and that’s going to be your audience.
You blog about that stuff. You write about that stuff. You talk about that stuff.
You take Simple Programmer, right? I talk about a lot of things for enhancing your career
as a software developer. That’s my audience, right? It’s developers who are interested
in improving their lives and improving their career and developing these soft skills. By
building up that audience, by doing these YouTube videos, by doing things like that
what’s happening is I’m creating an audience that is likely to buy a product that I produce.
When I sell something, when I sell for example my How to Market Yourself As a Software Developer
package people are likely to buy that because one, they trust me and 2, it’s exactly that
audience that I’ve built. I’ve built up a group of people that would want to buy that
that are interested in that thing. That’s what I would do if I were you. If
you want to start an online business is start off with a blog, start building an audience
and once you have an audience then you can build a product that is going to be tailored
to that audience. You might give it a few different tries. You might have to build different
products in order to get one that’s going to be successful, but that’s the key is
you’ve got to find that what they call product market fit. When you have that then things
will really take off. The only way to get that really is to start, in my opinion, with
an audience. That’s what I would highly recommend.
A lot of people do this the wrong way. They start with a product. They don’t have an
audience. They’re not actually solving someone’s problem and that doesn’t end up working
out for them. If you do this—make sure, another thing I would say with this is sell
something of high price. The other mistake that a lot of people make is that they want
to sell something for like $5 online. Well, you know how many customers you need to make
a living off of some product that you sell for $5? Plus, do you know—okay, here’s
a thing. Go to the app store, right? Go on your phone
and go to the app store and go and find an app that’s 99 cents and go look at the comments,
the reviews. People will say, “I can’t believe I wasted 99 cents on this thing”
“I wish I had my 99 cents back.” They’ll complain all about this stupid app that was
99 cents. It’s just as hard to make a sale for a low price item as it is to make a high
price item. In fact, the people are less likely to complain. It seems counter intuitive but
someone is—it’s not that much harder to sell something that cost $500 than it is to
sell something that cost $1. It’s just weird how that works.
If you find something that someone needs it’s going to be just as easy to make that. You
might as well have a higher priced item. Make sure you don’t under price yourself. Don’t
sell things for $5, $10 online unless you’re going to get millions of customers. It’s
not going to scale. You want something that’s at least—I would never sell anything online
like as my primary business model that’s not at least $100. If you don’t do that
you’re going to—if you make the mistake of not doing that you’re going to feel the
pain. You might be successful but you’re not going to be successful enough to keep
the business going. So yeah, so that’s it. Hopefully that’s
helpful. Obviously I can’t tell you in 10 minutes how to create a successful online
business but I can tell you where to start. If you watch a lot of my other videos, if
you listen to the Entreprogrammers Podcast you’ll find a lot of this kind of advice
and a lot more detailed advice on how to do this. I definitely recommend go to
and check out that podcast that I put out every week because we go—if you watched
that from the beginning and you’ll see exactly how I built my business, how a couple of other
guys in the mastermind group have built their business online as well.
Thanks for the question. Good question Stig and hopefully this is helpful to you. If you
have a question for me, just email me at [email protected] and if you like these videos subscribe. Take

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7 thoughts on “How Would You Start an Online Business?

  1. Hey John, great video as always! I actually have an off topic question – what's this for an image (the one with a lot of icons). And, who's the bodybuilder on the other picture frame you have? I'm not certain, but is it Jay?

  2. John, Udemy market. What about Udemy market where you sell soemthing for 10-20dollars and you get an audience? But on your own website you scale it up for 100-500dollars?

    Or you woudn't care about Udemy? Udemy has a big audience, millions of people. You'd get probbaly around few thousands, but still.

    After all taxes etc.. if you have 30k students, you can earn 100k. Just from a 15dollar course.

    And people that have 100k students? Yeah 300k.

    But now they have audience, reached to more people.

    What ya think?

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