It goes without saying that many readers of this blog have the dream of quitting their day jobs, getting out of the 9-to-5 rat race, and striking it out on their own with professional blogging, Internet marketing, affiliate marketing or some other online business. They have dreams of the dot com lifestyle and all the advantages that such a lifestyle can provide.
Treat It Like a Business
That’s a perfectly fair perspective to hold as long as you know that making money on the Internet is still work. It’s not just about traveling around the world and eating Kobe beef. If you want to earn a living online, you have to treat what you do not as a hobby but just like a “real” business… because it is a real business. While you may not have a brick-and-mortar store, you still have to think about how you want to structure your business. You should still have a business plan. And running a business–surprise, surprise–does cost money.
It costs money to make money. The good news is that an online business usually costs less than an equivalent physical business. Even so, at the end of the day, you have to start somewhere.
And so, the question arises of where you’re going to source your startup capital. I’d argue that you need to bootstrap your own online business, at least in the beginning. Let me explain.
Your Own Bank Loan Manager
In the context of a more traditional business, it is not at all out of the ordinary for new entrepreneurs to secure a business loan for tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. If you’re going to open a new restaurant, there’s a lot of equipment and fixtures to buy. Most people don’t have hundreds of thousands of dollars kicking around for this purpose.
If you’re just starting out with affiliate marketing, you might feel like you need to also take out a similar kind of loan to get started. It’s true that some marketing campaigns can cost thousands of dollars, but that doesn’t mean you should necessarily start there. Especially if you’re new to the world of Internet marketing, it doesn’t make sense to blow thousands of dollars on campaigns that probably won’t perform that well anyway. You’re still learning.
Crawl Before You Walk
The good news is that you don’t need to have that much cash to get started. You can learn a lot from a modest campaign that might only cost you a couple hundred dollars a month. From that experience (and from the conversion commissions you’ll hopefully be earning), you can then continue to ramp up your efforts over a period of time. The initial startup capital costs can be really minimal.
This is even truer in the context of professional blogging. Your only real startup costs here are your domain and your web hosting. Combined, you can get started for about $100 a year. It costs nothing to join AdSense. It costs nothing to join most affiliate networks. Should you invest in your knowledge base and expertise? Sure, there are plenty of training programs out there too. Even so, taking out a business loan might not make a lot of sense. What if things don’t work out? Now you’re saddled with debt that you can’t pay back, spending money that wasn’t yours to begin with.
Publishing a book or starting a mailing list similarly have very low startup costs that don’t require a sizable loan. If you don’t have a few thousand dollars ready to go, you may want to work on saving from your 9-to-5 paycheck until you do. No one said you had to quit cold turkey; just realize that you will need to make that leap of faith at some point if you want to have any shot at real online success. A part-time online business will only generate a part-time income.
Mental Resources and Capital
Yes, there are alternative options, like crowdfunding through Kickstarter, but they also have their risks and pitfalls. If you don’t have the dedication and discipline to save a small amount of startup capital from your regular income, you won’t be able to make it online either. It starts with having the right mindset. And that’s the real startup capital you need to finance your online empire.