During the 6 years I have been running online businesses full time, I have discovered the two main requirements you need to succeed.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re building niche content sites, selling physical products online, writing ebooks or creating software; these two key attributes will always apply.
And as I will explain, without them you will find it very difficult to reach a stage where your online income will reach a level that will allow you to pursue the laptop lifestyle full time.
So what are they?
Drum roll please….
Focus & Systems
Now I know that this may hardly come as a revelation. It probably seems a bit of an anti climax.
However, it is difficult to overstate the importance of these two elements if you want your your digital income to grow to a sustainable level.
Let’s break them both down so you can understand exactly what I mean.
1. The Importance Of Focus
My online enterprises reached a whole new level after I decided to focus on just one aspect of it.
I’ll give you a little background.
When I started my first web business back in 2010 (a holiday apartment rental portal for Croatia) I naturally focused on the project to begin with.
I built the site up from scratch (learning web design as I went), my wife helped get the apartment owners onboard; and I took my first foray into social media and SEO to market the business.
Our efforts started to pay off and we were gaining custom.
However, halfway through our first season I discovered WordPress.
I then decided that our site should be redesigned using a cool theme I had seen.
I was also delving further into SEO and landed a few sideline projects.
After spending an undue amount of time revamping the holiday apartment site, (instead of promoting it more), I began using my new found skills with WordPress to build family, friends and acquaintances small business websites.
And all this alongside a full time job and life in London.
In short I was spreading myself too thin.
My initial focus had disappeared and I was flapping about experimenting with all sorts of projects at the same time.
Needless to say the accommodation site didn’t make it into its second season, (as it turned out Airbnb broke into the market around the same time and wiped the floor with our little offering anyway).
This lack of focus continued for at least another 2 years.
Don’t get me wrong, in the process I was able to learn all the skills that have allowed me to become the online entrepreneur that I am today.
But I definitely took a meandering path.
It wasn’t until 2014 – after varying successes with countless niche sites, authority sites, viral sites and a single toe dipped into Amazon FBA – that I scrapped everything else and decided to focus on just one site in one business area.
This made all the difference. The growth that site has experienced has been exponential.
And since then I have built many more sites out, giving all of my focus to each until I have the systems in place (see the next point), that they more or less run themselves.
Maintaining that focus through the tough stages of each business is not easy however.
I am still easily distracted and the beauty of having several things going on at the same time is the diversity; my working day was never boring.
However, I had to quit all that if I wanted something to really succeed.
Focusing on just one project can easily turn into a bit of a chore. In some ways it has been.
Whenever I felt the urge to work on something other than my new main focus, I would have to tell myself off.
I actually had to fight those urges.
It took some resolve I can tell you.
But as soon as I started focusing on just one thing at a time, my online income started to reach figures that were seriously life changing.
So I urge you. Whenever you feel you have built up enough skills to focus on only the one project; you do it.
Don’t get side tracked, don’t give up half way through, see whatever it is to its natural conclusion.
This will be nerve racking, especially in the early days.
‘Have I chosen the right project?’ will always be a concern.
However, I do believe what you will learn along the way (whether it eventually succeeds or not) will bring you a whole lot closer to your eventual goal online, whatever that might be.
2. The Importance Of Systems
So what do I mean by systems?
Basically, systems are the approach you take to tasks that help grow your business.
This can apply to the way you set aside time to work on your business everyday, to setting up a template for content creation.
There are so many working parts to building an online business that keeping on top of them all is half the battle in the pursuit of success.
Organization is key.
Creating and following systems will automatically lead to better organization, (as does focus for that matter).
Again, it was the creation of systems that really helped me take my business to the level it is now.
I’ll give you an example.
First off is the simple issue of getting up every morning.
I have actually systemized the way I start my working day. It involves the following:
- Alarm at 7.10am (get up throw on clothes)
- Dress and feed my daughter in a zombie like state and drive her to nursery for 8am.
- Back by 8.15. Shower and properly dressed. Coffee and breakfast while watching / reading the news and at my desk by 9.30am. (During summer this is replaced with a swim in the sea, dressed and at the local cafe for coffee and breakfast with my laptop by 9.30am).
There is rarely a weekday where I do not follow the above.
At my desk the systemized routine continues.
- 9.30am – read through and answer any emails, check my various analytics.
- 10am – I ALWAYS WORK ON THE MOST IMPORTANT (OFTEN THE MOST DIFFICULT) ISSUE THAT NEEDS TO BE TAKEN CARE OF FIRST.
- This is important for me. This will often involve creating a new in depth piece of content. If I want to write well, it needs to be done while my brain and energy levels are fresh. I give myself 3hrs on this.
- 1pm – Lunch and a bit of family time (my daughter is back from nursery by now. In the summer we generally all go for a swim).
- Between 2 & 3pm – Back at my desk.
- I mentally split my day into two. Mornings for the tough work. Afternoons for the tweaking and tying up loose ends. If what I was working on the morning NEEDS to be finished I will continue. If it can wait a day, I will leave what I have done to simmer and will work on something less brutal, (I find creating valuable content the hardest work of all).
- 5.20pm – Stop whatever I am working on and create the to-do list for the following day.
- 5.30pm – Drop tools and switch off the computer.
The important issue here is that I stick to the work system that I have created for myself.
Some of you may well be thinking, well I have a full time job, I don’t have the luxury of planning my time so strictly.
This is exactly what I am doing on the niche site challenge, (read all about that here).
The fact I can only work on the site for 8hrs a week is a big part of the challenge.
To replicate the conditions of the average reader of this blog with a full time job, the work I do for the challenge site can only be pursued outside of my normal working hours.
As I explained here, I have created a complete schedule of when I work and for how long, as well as exactly what work I do in those allocated time slots.
I have also fully systemised the content creation, formatting, internal linking publication and the social media promotion.
I follow the same steps for each and every post for that site; right down to where the horizontal lines go between sections of the post.
YOU SHOULD DO THE SAME.
Create systems, templates and schedules. The more you can systemise the tasks involved with building your online business, the faster you will achieve success.
A big part of earning money online is the ability to scale.
Without being organised, without focus and systems you will take a lot longer to reach your goals.
Essentially, you will find it very difficult to build your asset to a size and earning capacity that will transform your life.