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How to start a web business by Mike Herberts

THIS WAS WRITTEN (NAIVELY) IN 2009. THE WORLD HAS CHANGED BUT THIS IS AS VALID NOW AS IT WAS THEN

My name is Mike Herberts and I own several successful websites.

Each one of my online businesses was devised and built by me single handedly without any previous experience. The purpose of this site is for me to help you do exactly the same as I did.

As you learn more about building your own profitable online business you’ll start to understand why I am prepared to put so much effort into helping you even though we’ve never met and I don’t know you.

The one thing I do know is that you are looking for a way to get yourself a piece of internet real estate which is probably how you discovered this website.

I have spent a lot of money (over £60,000) over the past 5 years learning how to create online success and much of it was spent discovering things that don’t work. (Don’t worry I still made a healthy profit)

You can avoid most of this cost by following the things I am going to teach you. The biggest mistake you are going to make on this journey is this:

You are NOT going to absorb the information you are given. In fact, even though you are not yet successful, you are going to skip important points, think that things ‘don’t apply to you, fail to understand how important each point is and generally think that ‘You Know Better’

I guess, like most people who ever thought about building a website and running an Internet business, I just did the same as everyone else.

I had a vague notion that there were people who made a living, or certainly made some money, anyway, by having what’s know as an Internet business. And, I thought I would like to do that.

And, actually, I’d been already quite successful in business, and I have made, really, the kind of money that most people dream of.

But, I had sacrificed most of my spare time and my social life to do that.

So, I had done all the things that,  really successful people do. I had bought the big houses. I even had a helicopter… Now, that is a very expensive hobby, believe me. Thousands and thousands of pounds to take part in things like that.

So, when I finally gave that up I just… like I say, I had this notion that there were people who made money online.

Now, I had been into computers a little bit, but I wasn’t at all knowledgeable about websites or HTML or… I had no concept of how any of those things worked. I knew there was an Internet. I had never really seen any what we would call “sale pages,” these days. I had never seen much like that. But, I knew there were businesses online and the products could be delivered digitally.

Would you like to join me online to have a back room look at some of
my systems?
How about I show you my auto-responder sequence?
What if I show you some of my product pages and why they work so well?
What if I gift you some of my actual real business internet ideas?
If I allowed you to ask me questions, ‘live’ while we are looking at
my marketing systems together….would THAT help you?
I’ll do all of those things and more (if you want) ‘live’ on-screen
warts and all, with no fear.
Do you think that might help you get started or help you improve
if you’ve already started?

The idea that appealed to me most was that you can run your business from home, you can fully automate everything, you don’t need to carry inventory or stock, you can arrange things to have things delivered to customers by PDFs, e‑books, videos and mp3’s, all automated, and live this wonderful lifestyle, the Internet lifestyle. I had heard all about it, and I wanted a piece of it.

What I didn’t know is what was involved. I had no idea what was involved. I just scoured around and bought a couple of books about how people can get started.

I found some of the concepts, actually, quite difficult to get my brain around. There were certain things that I just simply didn’t understand. They just frustrated me to death, because I just didn’t get them.

So, I carried on reading for a little bit, and ordered a couple of bits of information products from the Internet. And, finally, managed to figure out how to buy a domain name, register a domain name. And even figured out how to get some hosting, and get that domain name hosted and make a very simple web page using just some basic building blocks, templates, and things like that.

Now, at this point, I had no concept of, really, what I  was going to do, or what I was going to sell.  I’d read in an e‑book, somewhere, that it said I should make a list of all the things I am interested in ‑ hobbies, pastimes, and just general interests. And, I did.

But, because I had been working so hard, it actually wasn’t a very big list. Over the years I have done all sorts of things, but at the time I created this list, it wasn’t very big. But, one thing I had always been passionate about, really, since I was a teenager, since I was 19 years old, was playing the guitar ‑ specifically the acoustic guitar and, even more specifically, what we call the finger style guitar. Where the guitar is not played with a plectrum, its played with the fingers… you know not just strumming, not with a picker or anything like that.

And that really always interested me. I was interested in doing instrumentals I had played as a youngster. I had been quite good at teaching people as well. If anyone wanted to learn, I always stepped in and helped them.

So, like I said, decided that that’s maybe what I would have a go at. And, I was thinking that I could make videos. Now, at the time, I have to tell you, that I did own a video camera. What I didn’t own was the knowledge of how that video could end up on a computer and be edited. I really had no idea how you could do that.

I went into one of the computer stores and asked how to put my digital video onto a computer so it could be edited and the guy said: “That’s fine. All you need is one of these and this cable and software and you can do that.”

So I took those bits away with me and then tried to find the socket on my camera to plug in the video cable so that I could get this video online so I could get it onto the hard drive of the computer and edit it.

I spent a day looking at this camera and Googling various things about the camera just to try to figure out where the cable went. In the end I gave up because I couldn’t find where the cable plugged in.

So I went back off to the store and I said: “Look, I know that you said there would be a socket on there and there isn’t one.” The guy more or less laughed at me and said: “Well of course there is because that’s the whole point about it being a digital camera that you can copy the files onto the hard drive.” So I went back home again and started to get a pen knife and started to pry open little bits and lo and behold I find a tiny panel behind the strap of the camera and there was the socket I was looking for.

That was an enormous frustration out of the way. So, I finally figured out how I could get video onto a hard drive. I didn’t know how I was going to create a product. I didn’t know what product to create. These days of course I would just research. I would use the Google research search tool and I’d go and find out what people were looking for.

I’d type in things like guitar or acoustic guitar or learn or play or video or acoustic guitar video or something likes that.

I’d find out that there were people looking for such a thing which of course tells us if there is a market for such a thing because one of the biggest mistakes that we see ‑ I’m going to call myself an Internet guru now not because I consider myself a guru, but because I make my living online. I make quite a reasonable living online compared with most people.

I suppose I am a bit of a guru now, but the biggest mistake that you hear about now when you start and the biggest mistake us guru’s hear is when people say: “I’ve started a website and it’s going to be selling.” And they tell me what it’s going to be.

In the early days I’d get caught up in that and say: “Well that sounds like a really good idea. I’m sure that could be successful.” But of course these days, nothing like that should be left to chance to think about whether it will be successful or not.

You can determine in advance whether a website will be successful pretty well. You can still have failures, but the tools are available and you can pretty well do that. I’ll be showing you later on in this series how you can do that, but you can pretty well determine whether a website is going to succeed or not with the knowledge that’s available today.

The trick would be to do some searches online and find out what people are interested in. Now, as I said, I didn’t do that. I just winged it. I just made the assumption than I knew better than everybody else and guitar videos would be a winner of a product, but really looking back now it was a bit of a brave move for me because I could have failed quite badly. I think there were days when I really thought I might give up and in that case I would have failed quite badly.

But it was a real test of my resolve to keep going when things got really bad and really tough. I do feel for you. You’ve been trying really hard to get some kind of a business up and running on the Internet and if you’ve been struggling the kinds of frustrations that I’ve suffered if you’ve been suffering that then I do feel for you. I do know what that feels like and it’s horrendous.

I’ve had days when I’ve sat in front of the computer and tears had welled up in my eyes and I’ve sort of pushed my chair back and thought: “I’m never going to be able to do this.” But amazingly with perseverance and resolve and lots of Googling of different subjects, it can be done.

So let me go back to the story then.

So, there I am I actually am not working anymore. I’ve got enough money to last me probably the year, so I did say to myself that I would spend a year to build a business. As it turned out I did it much more quickly than that, but I was prepared to stick at it for a year without making any money, if that’s what it took, and to work full time on it, again, if that’s what it took.

Now, I know that most people reading this or listening to this, they haven’t got that luxury. You probably haven’t got enough money to last for a year, to live for a year, and you almost certainly are not able to do this full time, whereas I was. So, for you things will be much more difficult than they were for me.

There was a kind of inevitability about the way this was going to go for me, because I’m a determined little soul. I have quite a bit of experience with success in the past through my own personal determination to succeed. So, there was never really any question in my mind that I did have some bad days.

So, if you’re doing this part time, and you’re doing it on a shoestring, and really on a very tight budget, actually these days I’d say that’s good.

A pretty good friend of mine setup a website business recently and it’s a long story, but he actually came into some cash partway through the early stages of his development and he was quite pleased about that.
I actually said to him that was a real downer, because he could buy his way out of trouble and not really do the thing properly, and learn on a tight budget, which is the way I did things.

Now, most people are not Internet savvy, they really don’t understand such things. They’re always really surprised when they know what’s available for free on the Internet.
So, even now, I’ve been doing this for, by the time you hear this, probably getting on for four and a half years. I still use an awful lot of free tools. I’ve never bought an HTML editor, for example, I’ve never bought software like Front Page, or anything like that. I just use free stuff. I’m not sophisticated with my web pages; they’re just very simple and basic.

Anyone in the know will tell you they’re the best kind of websites. Simple, basic, lots of words, relevant words, the right kind of words, of course. A nice clear layout is far more important than gadgets or gizmos or graphics and whiz‑bangs and scripts and things that slow your site down. So, I actually don’t need anything too sophisticated, nor do you. Lots of free resources you can use.

So, I’m still using a free HTML editor. I use free graphics packages still. I use free FTP software to get all my files up and down from the Internet, to load them up onto the Internet, and to get them back down again. I haven’t paid for any of that stuff.

People who know me know I’m actually a very generous person, but when it comes to business, when it comes to how I want to run my business, I can be very mean. I like free stuff. There is now, even since I started, there’s so much free content and free stuff that you can use, it’s just incredible really.

If you look around for long enough you’ll find just about everything you can possibly need to set up a business. Really, these days, I have to say, virtually at no cost.

You can register a domain name for pennies, a few dollars, five, six, seven dollars, eight dollars, nine dollars, and you can host that now with some of the bigger hosting companies. The prices have come down so much, you can host that for five dollars per month, and believe me, and you can set up a business from that standpoint.

If you pick the right URL, and later in the series, of course, I’ll be telling you how to do that, and you host it, then really, you’ve got everything you need there to make a business.

You don’t need merchant accounts, for example. PayPal has developed now to the stage where, I mean, I just use PayPal. I don’t use anything fancy. I don’t have a merchant account. I don’t actually see any great benefit in having a merchant account, so I just use the stuff that’s out there.

Fortunately, over the last four and a half years, more and more people have become familiar with PayPal. In the early days, when PayPal really first, became respectable, shall we say, I remember just as I started, there were a few problems with PayPal. Now, PayPal is acknowledged as a world leader. I certainly never had a problem with them I have to say. Touch wood. I’ve never had a problem.

So we can process payment. We can create stuff: video, e‑books, mp3’s. This is being recorded on a little mp3 recorder. It’s quite small. It slips into my pocket. It’s just an Mp3 recorder, really. The first one of those I had was one of those little 256 Meg. Mp3 players that you can buy in any supermarket with a record facility on it ‑ tiny little microphone. The quality’s not very good but it’s certainly good enough to create a down‑loadable product.

So with very little equipment, you can create a web‑business. Indeed I can create a new web‑business, actually in a very short time, a few days, really. That’s including researching it, building a website and getting it online and driving traffic through it.

Its’ now very easy, and I smile as I do this and I realize it. It must be the same for everyone. When the first one you build is the hardest one to monetize to get together to get working and then as time goes by, the real irony is that it actually gets easier and easier to earn money. You can make some good money online.

One little tip, I’ll tell you this now. To create a website that makes some money, not to pin your hopes or your life on making the web‑site that’s going to make you a million dollars. That’s unlikely to happen ‑ it can happen. And many people do that, but it’s very unlikely. But, it’s not too difficult to make you a website that will make you a 100 dollars a month.

Now you’re thinking wow, I couldn’t survive on 100 dollars a month. Well, I know. But, when you consider the profit there of your 100 dollars is probably 90 dollars a month, why don’t you have two websites like that. That’s 180 dollars a month. You still think that’s not enough, don’t you.

Well, I got to tell you that if you can make two websites that can bring you in 180 dollars a month, you can sure as heck make four websites like that because the cost is nothing, minimal, tiny, tiny amounts of money. And if you can make four like that, I promise you that you can make eight like that.

Now, let’s work it out. You have eight websites making 100 dollars a month. We do some quick calculations there. We multiply 100 by eight ‑ 800 dollars a month. OK. You’re thinking yeah, well really, that’s still not enough to live on. Well, I know. But, one of them will make more than 100 dollars a month anyway.

One of them will make 200 or 300 dollars a month because you’ll have stumbled on something that people are really looking for. I say stumbled on because in the early days, that’s almost certainly what happens. You’ll trip over some such facts unknowingly. You’ll have a sudden breakthrough. You won’t even realize why it happened or how it happened. But, you’ll hit on something that really works well.

And so the likelihood is that you’re probably going to be able to make you well over a thousand dollars a month. And then again, that’s not a lot of money is it, but my first site is not quite that size. It actually makes considerably more than that. I mean considerably more because I’ve worked quite hard at it. So, I’m giving you the absolutely worst‑case scenario.

When I first got into this, I remember going to a seminar in the U.K. with a Canadian company.

And they came over to the U.K. and did a big seminar. They’re leaders in their field: getting people online and helping people. And I met an English guy who couldn’t build a website that would make him more than 100 pounds a week. And I remember being quite taken aback ‑ thinking well, that’s really not very good, is it? 100 ponds a week ‑ who can live on 100 pounds a week?

And I asked him, “It must be hard to live on 100 pounds a week.” And he said, “No‑no‑no, it’s absolutely fine, he said, because I’ve got twenty‑five sites that make me 100 pounds a week. So, he’s got two and a half thousand pounds a week, five thousand dollars a week, and twenty thousand dollars a month. Hey, now were talking. Now, we got a business.

You benefit also that if you got several websites that make you a little‑bit of money, then if anything goes wrong or goes down or that market dries up, then who cares. Go ahead and build another one.
And I know people who can churn out websites like podding peas. They could make two websites a week easily. So, a year down the line, you could have quite a big business.

If you’re listening to this still, then you’re probably wondering, well, how on Earth do I get started? All I can really tell you is how I got started, but now I have a lot more knowledge. So, I wouldn’t suggest that you start the way I started. The way I started was just to make some assumptions about what I thought might sell and then go and make that.

I could have come unstuck quite badly had I made more mistakes than I did. I was quite fortunate in some ways. Because, you may be looking at some kind of niche market.

Niche marketing, going out there and finding people at home who have quite a narrow interest in something and providing a product, some information or something that would really excite them and interest them in this niche, this narrow market.

That’s the real secret to making money online these days. So, we have this saying, “Make it an inch wide and a mile deep.” In other words, we want to appeal to quite a small portion of any given market for all sorts of reasons. We want to appeal to a small portion and quite a specialist piece of a market.

So, the trick is to find a niche. I have to say now that I’ve been at this for four and a half years. For the first three years, I did not understand how that could be done. I simply didn’t get it. I couldn’t understand really what a niche was properly.

I’ve met all these people. I’ve been to a few large seminars, and I’ve met people. They would come up and say, “I’m all geared up for doing this. I just don’t know what niche to go into.”

These days, of course, it’s ever so easy. I can go and find a niche on the Internet in 10 minutes. And I can also predict with quite a bit of certainty whether actually that’s going to be one worth going into. How much competition will I have? How easy it would be to run in the Google search engines or in the search engines, I should say… Google, of course in particular, because it’s the biggest search engine. If you’re ranking there, then you’re pretty sure to rank in the others as well.

And in a very short space of time, it’s fairly predictable. You can look at how many people are searching for a particular product. How many people are selling in that kind of product? In other words, what is their competition like? Are people prepared to pay money for a product like that?

The only other ingredient that you would need to add into that is, is it a product that you, personally, could get excited about? I know quite a few people who’ve built websites and web businesses around a niche that, really, they’re not that interested in. That can work, because you can always employ people to develop content for that kind of niche, MP3s, e‑books, videos, or whatever it might be. You can get someone to develop that for you.

But what I have found is that you view the thing in a very different way, if it’s a niche that you’re actually interesting in. So, for me personally, I like to get involved with things that I’m really interested in. Although, I do have a couple of areas of business interests where actually the products and the niche don’t really do it for me. They’re just quite simple little businesses. They just make some money, a little bit of money, and they could be developed in the future.

So, how do you find the niche that you want to get into? I did it all wrong, but what I suggest you do is really just… If you’re not sure what it is that you think that you could be good at, then why not ask around and say, “You know I’m thinking of developing a web business. Have you any thoughts about what I might have to offer, you as a person might have to offer” ‑ because you may not be particularly intellectual. You may not have lots of hobbies.

If you’re a single mum for example, a single mother, you probably don’t have time for things like hobbies. Maybe you’re too busy just looking after your children or your child and trying to provide and earn a living, maybe. So, you know, you may not have a big broad spread of hobbies and pastimes and spare time interests.

But, you may be the kind of person that if someone’s got a problem, you know maybe some kind of a health problem or a relationship problem. Maybe you’re the person they always come to. Maybe you’re the person who keeps a cool head when everything’s going wrong.

Maybe you’re the person who doesn’t. Maybe you’re the person who does the opposite. Maybe you’re bad tempered. Now that would be a niche, wouldn’t it? Maybe you’re bad tempered, but you know you’re bad‑tempered and you’ve made efforts to try and control your temper, for example.

I tell you now; there’ll be lots of other people out there in the same boat. There’ll be people, I bet, right now, I’ve never researched this. But, I bet there are people right now online searching for, How can I control my temper?

Now, if you know something about that subject, you could you could research it. You could go online, you could type into Google, How to control my temper, for example. By the time you’ve heard this I guess that term will have been searched on quite a lot because I would expect and hope, anyway, that you’d go online and have a look.

I haven’t, but I would hope that you would. In fact, you might want to pause this now and just go and have a quick check. And go and see how many web pages there are and you know, whether there’s some kind of a market out there.

I can picture a scenario where someone’s blown their top, maybe with a partner, and they’re online. They’re breathing heavily and they just want some instant answers to what’s causing this problem for them.
Well just imagine if you were the person who had that information. You had an eBook on how to control your temper. You had some hypnosis tapes; you had an mp3 or a disk, a CD, or a video even.

Then there’s a fair bet that someone searching for that, at that time in that little niche, might just buy what it is that you have for sale. There we go, I’ve just created a market for you.

If you search online you might find a little business there. And so that’s how you do it. You think about the things that you’re interested in or things that people might be searching for and you do some research.
The thing about research, some people want to get online, they want to make a business. But, they don’t actually want to do any research. And that really baffles me because the truth is; the research for me is the fun part.

And you find out things when you start to research a niche. Until recent times I really looked at niches and decided whether I’d go into a niche based on my gut feeling or what I thought or what I felt. And recently I’ve been given figures that you can use as a general rule of thumb for whether a niche is worth going into and whether you can build a website that would rank well for that particular niche or not. Quite easily, it’s really not difficult.

What you do is, you go to Google and you search out for the Google external search tool. Now, at the time that I’m recording this I’m actually in my car waiting for an hour for someone. And I don’t know if you’re able to access that tool directly by searching on Google or by having a Google account. But, in any case, I’d suggest that you get a Google account because it will be really useful for you.

But if you search online… I’m sure that if you search and look for Google search tool or Google external search tool you’ll find a link. So, why would Google then allow you access to their data for you to find out how many people are searching for something?

Well, if you think about it, it kind of makes sense because Google would like you to use them and they would like you to maybe someday use their ad words system. Whenever you do a search on Google on the right hand side of the page and just to the top of the page, you’ll see these little three line adverts, little headline and two lines of text and a URL below it.

And this is how Google makes most of its money ‑ through advertising, relevant search advertising. Whenever someone searches for “How do I control my temper?” there will be some Google adverts over on the right side of the page “learn how to control your temper, click here for more information blah blah blah.”

So Google would like to make available to you their data and search technology and this is amazing technology and amazing data, this is gold dust this knowledge. Google made that available because they know that if you research a niche and you find out some information using their search tools then at some point in the future you’ll spend some money to advertise your website or product using Google adwords.

So it’s a fantastic tool to use for researching niches. Now let’s pick a niche and let’s just give you a tip on how you might research it, let’s stick on this “how to control your temper” thing. If I was researching that niche, I would type in “Control temper”‑ put that into the search box and hit the button. And what that will do is then Google will display data for the number of searches amount for that particular search term, but it’ll also display data for all sorts for other search terms that closely match that original.

I can’t give you any figures because I’m not online but let’s say that you typed “Control temper” and that was heavily searched, let’s say million people a month searched that search term. You look at the screen and think “Wow million people a month, that’s amazing, what a fantastic niche to get into” if you could produce a product and show people how to control their temper you’re virtually guaranteed to make a million dollars, right?

Wrong, no.

Why?

Several reasons really, the first reason is that that’s a very popular search term, now if it’s a popular search term and people are prepared to pay money to gather that kind of information do you think it’s reasonable to make an assumption that a few other switched on cookies who are out there running Internet businesses who’ve been doing it for the last ten years would know that was something that they should get into.

In other words that’s not what we’d call a niche, it’s a market but it’s not really a niche ‑ not with a million people searching.

You could put together a website with products, some information, you could put together an amazing website with fantastic information ‑ million people searching for it you’re guaranteed to make money, yeah?

Unfortunately no, that would almost certainly not make any money at all. Because you’re competing with some of the best in the industry, they will have used search engine optimization techniques that you even don’t know yet, they’ll have great web designers, they’ll fantastic backup systems in place, they’ll have squeeze pages and data capture pages, they’ll have all kinds of links on their websites, they’ll have good sales copy they have researched, they’ll know what market they’re looking for so they’ll rank high.

Your site probably won’t rank on page one, it might not even rank on page two or page three, it might be on page ten which means no one is ever going to find it. They’re not going to find it by organic search.

That means that you’ll have to pay to advertise somewhere, either in magazines not that I can think of any magazines where you would be looking into when you would be looking if you were trying to control your temper ‑ health magazines maybe, psychology today or something like that.

It’s almost certain that you need to end up using some online advertising Google adwords in other words, and a big problem for you is that if there are a million searches then there will be lots of people chasing that traffic, paying lots of money to put up a Google advert and prepared to pay some quite large amounts of money to get on page one or page two of Google AdWords.

Effectively blocking you out of the game. We got excited initially seeing there are a million searches for this particular search term. I’ve got to tell you now that if you chased after that one, you would be making a big mistake. You would bleed money until it hurt. If you are on a tight budget, that wouldn’t be a clever thing to do. You would be almost certain to fail dismally because that’s not a niche.

What we would have to do, having typed in the initial search term “controlling temper.” We would have to start to look down the list what Google has put up there as relevant searches. What we are looking for is what’s known as a long tail search. In other words, something much more specific than just “control temper.”

Let me give you something that would be more specific. How about “control my child’s tantrum temper” or “control my husband’s alcoholic drunken rage temper.” Can you see they are much more specific terms? So the temper of a young child, for example, a toddler or a youngster with a very severe temper. That could be something that has driven the parents into despair, and they have started to search online for.
Let’s imagine again this is not real. I am making this bit up. Let’s imagine that someone that we found that there was a search term, “control my unruly child’s temper.” Now that’s very specific, isn’t it? “Control my unruly child’s temper.”

Let’s imagine a thousand people a month were searching on that specific search term, “control my unruly child’s temper.” Write that down. Just think about that for a second. It’s very specific. If a thousand people a month are typing that in, then guess what we are going to do? We are going to go and have a look at what we would find that would solve the problem that we are attempting to solve.

In other words, what websites would appear in the search engines if I typed into the Google search box, “control my unruly child’s temper.” We go over; we type that in and let’s have a look at what we are finding.
If what we find is an awful lot of search results, let’s say we find half a million search results. Not only that, but there aren’t many Google Ad Words adverts on the right hand side. In fact there are none. What does that tell us? It tells us that despite the fact that a thousand people a month are searching on that search term there probably isn’t much money in that market.

In other words the people searching for that particular thing would like the information to solve the problem that they have but they are not prepared to pay for it. Think about that.

End of Part One.
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