The dot com lifestyle can be pretty great. Unlike many other professions, you don’t need any sort of specific education or certification in order to be an entrepreneur. And since practically the entirety of your business is online, you can still run it from nearly anywhere in the world you have reliable Internet access. Enjoying the sun in Cabo? You can still make money, just the same as if you were sitting comfortably in your home office.
It is theoretically possible for anyone to make money online, whether that’s through blogging, e-commerce, affiliate marketing or almost anything else. However, not everyone is going to be successful at it. If you want to give yourself the best shot at “making it” as an online entrepreneur, you should make sure you work on (at least) these five critical skills. These easily apply to any online business.
Accounting and Money Management
Money talks and you have to know how to listen. At the end of the day, your online business needs to be profitable. This means you need to have a fundamental understanding of revenue and expenses, split-testing, analytics tracking and so on. You need to know your numbers.
This does not mean you need to be a tax expert or a certified account. What it does mean is that you should have the fundamental discipline and knowhow to track how much money is coming in, how much money is going out, and how much money is still owed to you. You should be cognizant of your ROI (return on investment) and where you can improve your efficiency.
If you don’t have a firm grasp of your cash flow, you could soon find yourself way over your head, drowning in foolishly-acquired debt. And you could literally have dollars slip between your fingers because you failed to track properly.
Perhaps I’m a little biased here, as I make my living as a professional freelance writer. Again, you don’t need to have perfect writing skills. No one is expecting you to pen the next great American novel (unless that really is what you want to do). That said, your writing needs to be strong enough so that you don’t end up suffering from chipped coffee cup syndrome.
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that other people are going to judge you based on your writing. This is especially the case if your writing appears in a public space (like your blog), but also in your private correspondence. If your emails are littered with sloppy spelling and grammar mistakes, many people are going to think less of you.
To some extent, this gets thrown out the window when you reach a certain level of success, but if you want to stack the odds in your favor, be more careful about the words you write anywhere.
Basic Technical Proficiency
Your business is online. You need to understand how to use a computer and how to use the Internet as an effective tool for running and growing your business.
The younger generation shouldn’t have too much of a problem with this. You’ll be doing yourself a huge favor if you know the inner workings of Google, for instance, and how you can use certain “tricks” to view particular results. The site: modifier is useful, for instance, or knowing that you can use cache: to view the cached version of a webpage is invaluable.
This extends beyond the web, of course. You should have some fundamental understanding for how to manage the files and folders on your computer, how to search for and install apps on your smartphone, how to back up your data to the cloud, how to install and activate WordPress plugins… these are all basics that everyone needs to know. You shouldn’t need to turn to a technician to help you.
Image Editing and Graphic Design
By now, you may have figured out the general theme of this article. You don’t need to be an outright expert in any of these areas, but you should have a fundamental base of knowledge. You should have a functional knowledge to take care of the little things.
The same applies to image editing and basic graphic design. It’s great if you are a PhotoShop wizard and you can whip up some beautiful affiliate banners in Illustrator with the best of them. But you can always hire someone to do that.
On a simpler level, you should know how to crop and resize your images, how to add borders, how to add watermarks, how to move text around… that sort of thing. This doesn’t require any super expensive and fancy software; there are plenty of free or cheap alternatives that can do the job.
Maybe you’re not a “people person” by nature and that’s what drew you toward running your own online business in the first place. You thought you could hunker down in front of your computer and wait for those commission checks to come pouring in through the mail. Perhaps to your chagrin, this simply is not realistic.
Guess who else is on the Internet? Other people. And you’ll need to interact with these other people, whether it’s through phone calls, email, or instant messenger. Strong interpersonal skills will take you a long way, helping you build rapport with important business partners and negotiate for the best deals possible (both as a buyer and a seller).
Knowing how to “work” with people is perhaps the most invaluable skill an online business owner can have.