The 3 Things You Must Do to Succeed in Online Business

  • June 16, 2010 by Corbett Barr
  • 42 Comments

Note: this is the first post leading up to the launch of my new Affiliate Marketing for Beginners course. Read on for details of the launch coming next Tuesday.

My journey from wandering bum on a sabbatical to where I am today has taken lots of twists and turns and frankly has taken longer than I initially planned.

Shortly after starting Free Pursuits, I stumbled on to the whole location independent and lifestyle design movements and happily went along for the ride. Those two overlapping groups gave me a lot in the inspiration department. They helped me construct a vision of what I wanted my life to look like.

I knew right away that I wanted to build a location independent lifestyle business, that I wanted to be able to live and work where and when I felt like it. I knew that I wanted to be able to work on projects that fulfilled me and helped people at the same time.

The problem was, in the beginning I didn’t pay enough attention to doing the things that really mattered to achieve those goals. Now that has changed, and I don’t plan on looking back.

When you start a journey like this, to radically transform your lifestyle and become an independent small business owner (solopreneur, if you will), it’s easy to get lost. There is so much information and mis-information out there about what’s possible and how you should proceed that it’s easy to get caught in analysis paralysis or to bounce from possibility to possibility without really making much progress or finishing anything.

The Ferriss to Guillebeau Ratio

Books like the 4-Hour Workweek are great for inspiration, but honestly it can make it all sound just a little too easy. You have to understand that 4-hour workweeks aren’t possible until you’ve paid your dues and found a repeatable way for you to earn a living.

I guess if I were advising someone starting out today, I would tell you to listen to a little less Tim Ferriss and a little more Chris Guillebeau. Then mix in some Third Tribe. Dreaming is important, but you can’t afford to gloss over the details.

Thankfully, I persevered and have a very understanding spouse who has been there to support me along the way. Of course, living in Mexico for 9 of the last 18 months has been a great motivator (if a little distracting at the same time). That support, perseverance and motivation has finally given way to doing something I love and nearly supporting us from it. Hopefully this upcoming product launch will push me over the edge ;)

Figuring Out What it Takes

As I’ve been putting together this new course on affiliate marketing over the past few months, I’ve reflected a lot on what has led to my breakthrough, and the common traits other people who are succeeding in online business share.

What I’ve noticed might surprise you. It’s not about getting lucky, or being featured by some a-list blogger or exploiting a loophole or short-term opportunity.

Succeeding online has little to do with external factors. Sure, luck can make things happen faster, but luck can’t do everything. Most of what determines whether you’ll succeed or fail is actually internal. It’s a struggle you have to fight against yourself.

In the end, I’ve narrowed it down to three undeniable things you must do to succeed in online business. Many other things are important (please share in the comments), but these to me are at the most important:

  1. Suspend Disbelief
  2. We live in a very cynical world. Think about your typical reaction to hearing about something that you didn’t know was possible. You’re probably tempted to dismiss those new things as luck or hype or by thinking something might have been possible in the past, but isn’t now.

    That’s what I long thought about affiliate marketing. It seemed like a vague scam, or something that people were able to do back when the search engines were more lenient.

    Fast forward about 9-12 months, and I’m now making a respectable sum every month from affiliate marketing. It isn’t my biggest income source, but it’s enough to pay my rent in San Francisco.

    What did it take to get here? First I had to suspend my disbelief long enough to really look at things. Cynicism isn’t a useful mindset. It actually keeps us from exploring and finding out for ourselves.

    To succeed in online business, you have to suspend disbelief. You have to let yourself believe that what you want to achieve is possible. You have to believe that what other people say might actually be the truth. At least what some people say. Just because someone has something to sell doesn’t mean he or she isn’t legitimately trying to help you.

  3. Choose a Method and Stick With It
  4. The truth is, there are nearly unlimited paths you can take to achieve your online business goals. It’s tempting to research every potential option. And once you finally commit to learning something fully, it’s tempting to jump onto the next “shiny new thing” and bail on what you started.

    Sound familiar? I know that’s what I did for far too long. Look at me here, now, a week from releasing my first product through this blog that I started 15 months ago. What took so long? It was that internal struggle I mentioned earlier. My own fears, insecurities, disbelief and short attention span have all done their part in keeping me from getting where I want to be.

    Maybe you’ve experienced what I’m talking about.

    To get where you want to go, you have to pick something and run with it. You have to give a method or business idea or process enough of a chance to prove itself out. If you know a system has worked for lots of other people, put faith in that fact and keep yourself from getting distracted until you’ve learned and applied the entire system.

  5. Actually “Ship” Something
  6. Finally, and maybe most importantly, you can’t expect to succeed in online business unless you have something for sale. You have to provide some value people can pay you money for.

    That may sound simple or obvious, but so many of us get caught up in blogging and networking and talking about “revenue models” or technologies that we forget the most important part of business.

    You have to “ship” a product (or a service or sell someone else’s product). Your business has to have a reason and mechanism for your customers to pay for something, either directly or indirectly.

    Until you have that, you’re not really a business. Period.

Coming Tuesday, June 22nd, The Launch of my New Affiliate Marketing for Beginners Course

After suspending disbelief and choosing a method and sticking with it, I’m finally ready to “ship” a product! If you’ve been curious about affiliate marketing, I hope you’ll see if this course is right for you. It will explain, step-by-step how to build a web-based business around affiliate marketing.

I’m launching the course on Tuesday, June 22nd, starting at 9am PDT. The course will only be for sale initially for 24 hours, and here’s why.

Being my first course (and a in-depth one), I want to start with a small and manageable group of initial members. The course format is a member’s only website. I want to let in a limited number of people who can help me refine the materials by providing feedback. I’ll reopen the course at some point to a wider audience after refining it.

In exchange for your early participation in the course, and your valuable feedback, I’ll be releasing the course next Tuesday at a steeply discounted price for this first group. Subsequent members will have to pay full price.

If all of this interests you, sign up to be notified when the course is released. If you sign up for this list, I’ll even throw in an additional discount on launch day as thanks.

Also, if you liked this article, I would really appreciate if you shared it with someone who might also get value from it. Thanks for reading.

photo by Isolino

Written by . Corbett is cofounder of Fizzle, a place for creative entrepreneurs, writers, makers, coders and artists, all working to support themselves doing what they love independently on the Internet. Follow Corbett on on Twitter.


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Sean June 16, 2010 at 12:28 am

Great post Corbett,

I know that it really rings true with me as well. I started Location 180 shortly after you began this site, and I think there were a lot of bloggers at the time that got caught up in the whole location indepedent, lifestyle design, (insert any other buzzword here) scene. But when it comes down to it, unless you are really good at marketing, thats not going to make you much money.

I’m getting ready to release my first product as well, and I’m also in the process of building another site that has the potential to actually support the lifestyle, not just give me an outlet to write about it.

Congrats to you on all the success, and wish you the best with the new product launch.

Cheers,
Sean

Corbett June 16, 2010 at 12:36 am

Hey Sean, it has been an amazing year or so, hasn’t it? I think a lot of us are finally starting to understand what it really takes to support the lifestyles we’re after. Sure, you can make your dollar stretch further in Thailand or Mexico, but most of us also spend considerable time in the U.S. now and then.

I love the saying “anything in life worth having is worth working for.” A lifestyle of freedom and self-sufficiency to me is worth working as hard as it takes to make it happen. I’m glad you’re figuring things out for yourself at the same time.

Rob June 21, 2010 at 7:11 pm

Just adding my comment, great post from Corbett, and Sean I can’t want to see this site/product from you as I’m in the similar chapter of the same book. “building another site that has the potential to actually support the lifestyle, not just give me an outlet to write about it.” … sheesh I feel that!

Annabel Candy, Get In the Hot Spot June 16, 2010 at 4:15 am

Felicitaciones Amigo! Very exciting to hear your first product is ready to ship. I have one planned for Sep – you’re right, until you ship you haven’t really gone the whole way. I want to build up a tight audience first but you’re already there. Keep up the good work!

Corbett June 16, 2010 at 9:50 am

Hey Annabel, thanks for the encouragement. Don’t wait too long in building your audience. Releasing a product can actually help build your audience faster. Good luck!

Carmen June 16, 2010 at 5:23 am

Congratulations Corbett! I wish every success for your new class. I can’t agree with you more that really creating a location independent lifestyle for the long term takes careful planning and work up front if you’re going to be sustainable. It’s something I’ve been on a soap box for a long time on our blog at NuNomad. That said, it’s certainly do-able and the rewards are great.

Corbett June 16, 2010 at 9:51 am

Yeah, it’s always scary when someone contacts me and says, “I quit my job today. What’s next?” That’s a tough place to put yourself in.

Marc June 16, 2010 at 6:24 am

Great post, Corbett! You’ve underscored the 3 main reasons why this past year has been one of the most difficult in my life. It’s nice to hear that I’m not the only one who struggles with these things.

But having tasted the fruits of the location independent lifestyle, there’s no going back, is there? Thanks for helping me stay on the right track!

Corbett June 16, 2010 at 9:53 am

Glad to help, Marc. Hang in there.

Craig June 16, 2010 at 8:45 am

Hi Corbett,

Good luck with the launch. I’ll be watching closely (and hopefully remembering to join if I’m online that day).

Corbett June 16, 2010 at 9:53 am

Cool, Craig. Thanks!

Fabian | The Friendly Anarchist June 16, 2010 at 9:22 am

“Sure, luck can make things happen faster, but luck can’t do everything.” This is so true. Although I wasn’t one of the lucky (and hustling) fast-growers, my site has been growing steadily ever since its opening. For most of us, it just takes some time, I think. Committing to really doing ONE thing into depth and launching a products definitely seems like the next thing on my list.

Your course certainly sounds interesting, but I have to admit that much of affiliate marketing still seems like the “vague scam” you mention to me. Understand me right: I have no doubts that it works, and that it can make a lot of money if you know how to do it, but I think that either you have to grow slowly and organically and will probably be making some money with it after a year or two, OR you have to get pushy and sometimes even spammy to make money fast. The third way probably would be to find a powerful and small niche that’s underserved. Am I mistaken?

Corbett June 16, 2010 at 2:19 pm

Hey Fabian, I totally hear you. I had all the same doubts and questions myself before I dove into learning affiliate marketing. There are lots of ways to apply it to existing businesses or to build new sites from the ground-up.

My course focuses on teaching you how to build a new site based on free search traffic. There’s nothing pushy or spammy required. Finding a “hot” niche is helpful, but not required either. Just simple, repeatable actions that add up over time. How much time really depends on what you put into it.

Juha Liikala June 16, 2010 at 12:58 pm

“Most of what determines whether you’ll succeed or fail is actually internal. It’s a struggle you have to fight against yourself.”

This is THE truth. I’ve been blogging for few months now and I can absolutely relate to the feeling you just described. This has been (and still is) some serious soul searching time for me personally. Like many of you (I’m sure), I also read the 4-hour workweek couple of years ago and was blown away by it. It really made the whole location independence and “do what you love” sound so easy, huh?

It’s a fantastic concept (the whole “successful online entrepreneurship”) is, BUT it does take some serious work and time to get even near to the ideal (?) 4-hour workweek. Right now, I see my blog as the method you described in the point #2. I’m going to stick with it and see where that road takes me. It’s going to be my personal door towards something I want to become. It’s most likely a rough road and takes time, but at least it is a road. Can’t really see myself trying to “get rich quick” by writing some BS e-books about Twitter moneymaking machines and such..! Not my piece of pie.

Ps: The “revenue models” part really made me laugh. Guilty as charged!

I wish everything goes well with your course launch. Can’t wait to see what you’ve been cooking up! Good luck!

Corbett June 16, 2010 at 2:21 pm

That’s exactly why I started this blog, to act as an exploration tool for where I wanted my life to go. For that reason alone, I highly recommend blogging, even if you don’t end up making an income from it.

Thanks for the encouragement! I’m having a lot of fun with the product and launch, so whatever happens it will be a success for me.

Michelle Ryder Ross June 16, 2010 at 1:51 pm

Hi Corbett,
Michelle here. I’d like to follow your new program step-by-step and see what happens I’m volunteering to be your first testimonial. I want to suspend disbelief and cynicism ……build an affiliate marketing site on skincare. Just saying it OUT LOUD feels like a scary commitment. I have a good domain name, medical experts to contribute content, placeholder website at http://www.rejuvenateskincare.net
Don’t really know what affiliate marketing is, so hope that’s lesson one!

Corbett June 16, 2010 at 2:23 pm

Now that’s a vote of confidence! And your plan will definitely come to life through the course. I think there’s a lot you’ll learn that might change your plans a little, but we’ll have to wait and see. Can’t wait to get your feedback on the course.

Nate June 16, 2010 at 4:22 pm

Very timely post for me. These lessons that you’ve gone over are very, very accurate. The second one, choosing a method and sticking to it, is what I’ve gotten caught up on so many times. I’ve been working on only one project now for almost 6 weeks, it’s pretty much a record for me! It’s actually a nice feeling to know that I have a plan, as opposed to jumping from one to the next quickly and getting lost in the shuffle.

It’s awesome to read about the success you are experiencing. You certainly deserve every bit of it!

Corbett June 16, 2010 at 10:39 pm

Hey Nate, I’m in the same boat most of the time. You’re right, it feels really great to stick with something all the way through.

Lisa Sonora Beam June 16, 2010 at 4:27 pm

I look forward to getting your take on affiliate marketing, especially since it’s an arena filled with so much hype and ick. It’s hard to suspend disbelief when you don’t know who or what to believe about it. But you — I trust. :)

Corbett June 16, 2010 at 10:41 pm

Thanks, Lisa. Yeah, I saw an opportunity to cut through the “ick” factor. There is so much good stuff to learn, but getting past the usual sleeze is a challenge. Hopefully I’ll be able to inform a whole lot of people who might not otherwise be interested.

James Schipper June 17, 2010 at 6:12 am

No wonder your advice and help on our consulting call was so helpful to me: we think so much alike! :-D

I know you’ll do well with this product, and I look forward to much more from you. Let me know if I can help.

Corbett June 18, 2010 at 4:48 pm

Hey James, I’ve been wanting to follow up with you on that. I’m glad to hear the call was helpful. I hope all is well with you, and thanks for the well-wishes.

Srinivas RAo June 17, 2010 at 10:49 am

Corbett,

Thanks for sharing all the info in this post. On disbelief you are absolutely right. Many people don’t believe it’s possible to get to where you are at and that alone will keep them reaching that goal. I’ve never had a disbelief about what’s possible. The thing that I think most people don’t come to terms with is the amount of work. Another thing we tend to is compare ourselves to others far too often and that’s not really a valuable use of our time. We’d be better of actually working on improving our own stuff.

As far as choosing a method and sticking with it, I think that’s largely why many personal development and growth efforts fail. The other day I was talking to a friend of mine about affirmations and something called power questions. A few years back I went through Tony robbins personal power II program and I was using his power questions technique and it was working. Then stopped and i have no idea why. I realized I had basically done exactly what you are talking about here. I think the same can be applied to our goals financially. IF we do a little bit every day and our efforts are consistent then we’ll get there.

In terms of products/services, I started doing freelance work this year, but after my interview with Dave Navarro I realized that I have tons of potential products that I could launch. If anything i’ve learned that we need to look at building products in a piece by piece approach rather than thinking about the whole thing because then we tend to get scared off.

Corbett June 18, 2010 at 4:51 pm

Yes, excellent point regarding the amount of work required. That should probably have made it on my list. Here, #4) prepare yourself for a sh*t ton of work, and toss any fantasy of a 4-hour workweek for at least 18 months.

And you’re right about getting scared off from creating products, just because it’s hard to think about the entire effort at once. That has caused many false starts for me as well.

Patrick June 17, 2010 at 12:53 pm

Really excited to see you turn things loose, Corbett. Everyone has their own path to success, but watching you do it while you talk about it adds weight to your theories and advice. Good luck with the launch!

Corbett June 18, 2010 at 4:51 pm

Cool, Patrick, thanks!

Nomadic mATT June 18, 2010 at 8:04 am

I think one of the things people don’t do is stick with it. Patience is the name of the game. You aren’t going to get rich in 2 months.

Corbett June 18, 2010 at 4:52 pm

You’re a great example of that, Matt. I know you’ve been working your tail off for quite some time (and seeing the world at the same time, of course).

Michel J. Gagnon June 19, 2010 at 8:09 pm

Thanks Corbett,
I agree with the “We live in a very cynical world” statement. We are often afraid to see other people thrive. I would also argue that #2 is the mother of all failures.

We don’t only live in a cynical world, we live in one that glorifies instant gratification. As you correctly put it, a business idea requires more than an instant to generate benefits.

Looking forward to learn more about your course.

Corbett June 20, 2010 at 9:02 pm

Ugh, instant gratification is such an insidious concept, isn’t it?

Craig June 22, 2010 at 1:43 am

Hi Corbett,

Posted a quick write-up for this at the link above. Looking forward to seeing what it looks like, as it’s something I need to smarten up on.

Corbett June 30, 2010 at 1:55 pm

Hey Craig, sorry but this comment made it to my WP spam folder for some reason. Thanks so much for the writeup!

Christiaan June 16, 2010 at 12:17 pm

I’m counting myself into that group “at the time that got caught up in the whole location independent, lifestyle design, (insert any other buzzword here) scene. ” and am still a bit caught. Quite simply because it’s not where my priority lies. Actually a bit stupid come to think of it, a year wasted…. a year I could have done great things in. Well, no use in feeling depressed about the past. Moving on.

I’m currently working towards getting a better understanding of website building (a which I suck..). You need a platform to sell from at least. Combined with an audience, which is almost equally as hard to find/learn how to reach. There are so many great products out there become an affiliate to, but it’s setting up the mini-site and getting the traffic that’s stopping me.

Maybe I should even start from scratch and do it right this time. (my only platform doesn’t exactly have a laser like focus… )

If you can address those two points in your product, I might just hop on Corbett. I’m not even looking to get a HUGE income or anything. $100 a month would be absolutely brilliant! Right now it’s less than $40 on average, just because I made some big affiliate sales a few months back. Excluding those it’s not even $10 a month….

So….. I’m looking forward to what you’ll be offering.

Rasheed Hooda June 17, 2010 at 5:33 am

I am with you Sean.

We’ve all been there about the same time and I am way behind everyone else. But it is not about competing with others, it’s about getting to know yourself and growing… I’ve learned that, and I am now more focused.

I have learned over the years that when I am on the right path, things seem to go wrong, when in reality, they are just going, so I can move on. As soon as I made a commitment and started taking action, my laptop went out of commission on account of the adapter burning out, and my wife’s ‘puter was in the shop getting cleaned (virus) so I came to stand still for a couple of days, but the focus kept me going and I did some work by writing things out by hand. But it also helped me move in the right direction, as far as tight focus goes.

So, Corbett, I am looking forward to your product and see what I can get out of it. It was your suggestion about WA that finally put me on the right track to taking action.

Looking forward to Tuesday’s launch.

Rasheed

Corbett June 16, 2010 at 2:26 pm

Don’t think of it as a year wasted! Think about how much you’ve learned and grown, and how many people you’ve met. That’s all groundwork that will pay off going forward.

So, I’d love to have you on board this initial group. The product will definitely address all the issues you brought up, including identifying opportunities, building sites and getting traffic. Your goals are well within your reach if you commit to doing the work.

Fabian | The Friendly Anarchist June 16, 2010 at 5:37 pm

Corbett, thanks for the clarification. I am looking forward to reading more about the course and might even sign up, if the budget allows it!

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