If you’re anything like me, working your 9-5 and hating it, you’ve tossed an idea around to start your online business that would let you get out, be your own boss and make a difference. And the time couldn’t have been better. Gone are the days when the only business you could open was brick and mortar and that meant thousands and thousand of dollars in rent and in inventory.
Today, you don’t have to spend loads of money (which you most likely don’t have yet), you don’t have to carry inventory to be able to sell something and you don’t need to spend every waking hour in your store (or hire people) just to be able to serve your customers.
All you have dreamed of can be done on just $100 a month.
Your own business, all online, selling digital products that can be created once and sold many times over with minimal to no further effort from you, zero in office rent, zero in employee pay (if you choose to run your business solo), no inventory to purchase and store, and the best part of course, you don’t have to be there to sell your product.
Sounds good? You bet!
Sounds too good to be true?
Let me break it down for you so you know what I mean.
I won’t flood you with a million options, I will give you a simple-straightforward setup using all the tools that I’ve used to get the guesswork out of starting your business.
Once in business for a while you can pivot if you choose, upgrade if you want and switch the tools around. But for now, I just want you to start. (for more options for tools and solutions, get access to the Free Resource Library where you can find a Ultimate Toolkit to Starting Your Online Business)
Here is how to start and run your online blog-based business selling digital products on $100 a month.
So, let’s start from the ground up.
First of all, you will need a website (yeah, I know…) and you will need a self hosted website, not a free one like Blogger or WordPress hosted blog. Those are great for blogging purposes, but if you want to sell, market, place ads or anything of that sort, you will find yourself limited.
So, for self-hosted option you will need to purchase your domain name (annual renewal) and then purchase monthly hosting.
WordPress is the most widely used content management tool on the web today. It has an amazing amount of features you can add to your website in a form of themes and plugins. Your site can have all the bells and whistles you want from newsletter signup to membership community, and from embedded videos to shopping cart.
WordPress is a free software you install onto your site and themes/plugins are free or paid (premium). It has a bit of a learning curve, but offers you incredible customization flexibility with little to no code involved. You can choose from a wide variety of hosting providers that support WordPress, where you would install WordPress software and manage your website and content via WordPress Admin menu. For steps to setup your website, get access to my free resource library where you can find that and other helpful checklists.
Website look and feel
Once you have your website name and hosting situated, you need to give it the look and feel along the lines of your brand.
To make your website look just the way you want, you would need several items to start off:
Themes are what gives your WordPress website its look, feel and features. You can choose to use a free theme and later upgrade to a paid version of that same theme or go with a paid (premium) theme right off the bat. I suggest to try out your initial choice for a couple months as you’re getting used to having a site, producing content and getting to know your audience better.
Generally premium themes cost about $50. If you worry that you might change your mind later down the road, you can sign up for a service like ElegantThemes.com that offer 87 different themes for $67/year. For now, however, let’s settle on a good premium theme at $50.00. (you can find a ton on individual themes at ThemeForest.net)
Theme costs – $49.00
Logo is part of your brand identity and often gives your business look of an established, professional organization. You can get the logo designed yourself (if that’s your profession), order it from places like Fiverr.com (for $5 and up) or go with pricier services like 99Designs.com.
I recommend not to worry about the logo when you’re starting up as you might want to rebrand your site within first six months once you get a better feel for your business and your audience. You can always write out your company’s name in a beautiful font in a free program like Canva.com and use that for a logo until you can afford a professionally designed logo (if you still want to have one done). I had my logo designed at Fiverr.com at $5.99.
Logo Costs – $5.99
Images on your website, especially if you have a blog, is the single most impactful way of creating a certain vibe. Images don’t have to be photos of things. They can be words against a background (like blog post titles or quotes) or infographics. In any case, the best way to get images, is to create them yourself so that there is no question of copyright. Take photos, create images using Canva.com and Infogr.am, etc. If you can’t or don’t want to do that, you can always purchase royalty free images or get free images from subscription services like Death To Stock Photo.
Images costs – $free
All Website Costs:
Wordpress theme $49.00/one-time
Logo: from $5.99 and up or free
Images: free or from to $1.00 ea and up
The next important part of your business growth is having an email list. To start, grow and maintain the email list you need an email services provider.
An email list is a collection of the email addresses of your subscribers, people who willingly gave you their email addresses to communicate with them in the future, be it letting them know about your new blog post, events and important news in your business or special offers/sales. You can only add people to your list with their agreement (manually or via a form on your website/FB page, etc).
To collect email addresses electronically, you need to have a form on your website (or a landing page) and an email services provider that receives the emails from the form and safely stores them.
I recommend starting with Mailchimp since it’s very easy to use and offers free services for first 2000 subscribers (huge for someone who’s just starting out!).
Mailchimp allows you to:
- gather and store email addresses
- send automated emails upon signup where you can include more information or a free gift
- send regular campaign mailings that you cans end immediately or schedule for later
- manage lists but grouping and segmenting the subscribers based on categories that are meaningful to your business
- see and analyse statistics
- import, export and join customer lists
- and, if you decide to upgrade to the paid plan (which starts with only $10/mo) you can setup automated email sequences, email courses, etc.
If you want to learn how to use Mailchimp for your business hop on the list for my new course Tame the Chimp.
Mailchimp: free for basic, or $10/mo and up for advanced features
One of the most annoying but also bringing the best results for collecting email accounts from your website visitors are pop-ups. As you can imagine, there are many companies that offer pop-up software, free and paid.
One of the best providers I found are SumoMe.com. They offer a number of excellent free tools that can easily integrate into your website, namely pop-us, slide-up, welcome mats and bars. All of these tools allow you to collect email address working in various manners depending on what you feel comfortable with. These same tools have advanced paid options, but even free ones are flexible enough to do the work for you.
SumoMe: free for basic apps or $40/mo for full suite of apps with advanced features
Lets look at your first month costs:
Your first month total cost to start your online business: $69.23
You have $30.77 to spare. You can use them to get a theme that might be more than $49, pay a bit more for your logo or get a paid version of Mailchimp. You can also save that money for later when you might want to acquire another tool or hire a VA for a couple hours.
Now, let’s look at your month #2 and on. Now, that you have spent your once a lifetime or once a year fees, all you really have are ongoing monthly fees. Once you know what they are, you can account for them in your monthly budget.
Your ongoing monthly fees at this point are:
As you can see, this is literally NOTHING, less than the proverbial cup of coffee. This leaves you $96.05 to invest in your business. Depending on how fast you’re taking action with products, offerings, etc, you might consider upgrading your Mailchimp to a paid version so you can set up an automation of welcome emails or self-paced email course. As I mentioned above, Mailchimp paid options start at mere $10/mo.
If you’re using social media to get your business out there and interact with your audience, you might want to consider a social media management tool to schedule your post to be more consistent and not having to be posting by hand the whole day long.
The tool I recommend, especially when you’re just starting out and your business is not bringing much revenue is Hootsuite.
Hootsuite is one of the well-known tools, offering scheduling and monitoring of various social media platforms, as well as analytics. Using Hootsuite, you can schedule posts to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google +, LinkedIn, YouTube and FourSquare. You can monitor your feeds, for example you can see mentions, retweets and posts on Twitter. Hootsuite offers an auto-scheduler feature that schedules your post at the optimal time. Hootsuite offers a free plan for up to 3 accounts.
If you want to make the most of Pinterest, then BoardBooster is your best friend. BoardBooster allows you to schedule pins onto your boards, but also repost from your boards to group boards and from your secret boards to your public boards, allowing your to be posting regularly and grow your following. It offers first 100 pins for free and then from $5/mo for 500 pins a month and up.
So with these upgrades…
Your second (and probably third) month’s expenses come to a new total of:
Total of monthly ongoing expenses: $18.95
Still, so amazingly doable!
Again, even though we are not spending all of the $100 we allotted to our business, I suggest saving it off for future tools and apps you might need for your business or things like mics (you can start with Samson Go Mic Portable USB Condenser Microphone for $38) or video cams (I recommend Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920 for $50.00) when you decide to do things like videos or webinars.
Now, I’ve mentioned that these costs I’ve been providing were for blog-based business selling digital products.
Let’s talk about the costs of producing digital products.
Your digital products can be in a form of e-books. You can produce them using free Google tools like Docs and Slides, or Canva at Canva.com. Cost $Free.
You can also offer audio files like meditation or coaching, etc. You can produce them using Audacity, a free software to record and edit audio files, works with both PCs and Macs. Cost $Free.
You can offer video trainings. To record yourself or your screen capture you can use free Google Hangouts. Your video files can reside on YouTube as unlisted and you provide your customers with a link or, to have it really protected (along with a membership and payment processing) you can sign up for a free account at Teachable.com which is a full-service provider for hosting video course. With the basic service they charge you a percentage when you have sales, otherwise the service is free. Cost $Free.
You also might consider a recurring membership where you offer digital products to subscribers. You can set this up in Teachable as well or use Gumroad.com service where you can sell stand-alone or recurring products. The account is free and only charges you a percentage when your product sells. Cost $Free.
If you’re planning on hosting a lot of webinars, offering a lot of products and have a need of quick, easy to put together and very professional sales and landing pages, consider signing up for LeadPages. This service offers pre-designed, highly converting and easy to implement splash pages. They can be used as stand-alone pages or be tightly integrated with your website. Pricing starts at $25/mo billed annually or $37/monthly.
With this new expense your monthly fees will look like this:
Total of monthly ongoing expenses: $55.95
We are yet to reach the $100 budget we set for our new business, but you can start considering using some Facebook advertising to start driving leads to your website.
Facebook ads can be run as low as $5 a day and you can run a week worth of ads every month to advertise your webinar or a product.
So, with the Facebook ads in mind…
Your final monthly breakdown for the months 4-6 looks like this:
FB Ads: $35
Total of monthly ongoing expenses: $90.95
As you can see, we’re getting pretty close there to our $100/month budget and hopefully by then you began to make some money to offset these costs.
As your business grows you need to keep this in mind:
- Once you have more than 500 subscribers on your paid Mailchimp account, your monthly fee will go up by $5/mo for every additional 500 subscribers
- Once your traffic goes over 10,000 monthly visits, your hosting will go up to $7.95/mo.
- If your want to schedule more than 500 posts via BoardBooster, the cost will go up by $10/mo for each additional 1000 monthly pins.
Still, even though with these price rising, your overall monthly cost of running a business will barely scratch $150.00/mo.
With mindful budgeting and attention to details, you can start and run an online business from anywhere for $100-$150 a month. Offering digital products could allow you to have a very high profit margin as digital products require no inventory, no physical office location, can sell themselves while you sleep and your business can be operated in your pjs (or yoga pants!).
For more on budgeting for your business, check out this post.