I could never learn what I’m learning at college. They don’t teach it there, because it can’t be learned in that way.
That was a quote from the 2008 Young Inventor of the Year. A 15-year-old kid who invented a new way to splice optical fibers. And it’s true. The important things can’t be learned in business school or any other classroom for that matter.
So I made a list of 101 things I’ve learned through three years of being an internet entrepreneur. Learn them here but they won’t sink in until you try them yourself.
- Traditional business plans are a waste of time. They don’t raise capital. Businesses raise capital. It’s impossible to plan for something you’ve never experienced and they discourage you from ever getting started.
- There’s no way you can be an entrepreneur if you don’t love what you do. It has to keep you working during the day and keep you awake at night.
- You’re not truly making money unless it’s residual and recurring. If you’re providing the service or making the product yourself, you’re still trading time for money. You have a job.
- Lack of cash flow is the number one thing that causes businesses to fail. Find ways to get paid before you do the work.
- Put yourself in uncomfortable situations. Call a complete stranger and try to sell them something. It probably won’t work but you’ll be glad you tried.
- Start as a service, expand to a product.
- Get started with entrepreneurship right now. The only way you’ll learn about the nuances of entrepreneurship is by doing it yourself.
- The purpose of a website is to convert. If you don’t ask people to take a particular action when they arrive, you’re losing out on the largest benefit to having a website.
- “The fold” is where the browser cuts off your webpage. The most important content needs to be above the fold.
- A/B testing (or split testing or bucket testing) is simultaneously displaying two different versions of the same webpage to two different audiences to see which version converts better. Use Google Website Optimizer to create and analyze split tests.
- Use Google Analytics to track statistics about people who visit your website.
- WordPress is the best CMS (Content Management System) in the world. If you need a content-based website, use WordPress to make it. If you already have a WordPress site, make sure you know the 18 things you need to do to properly publish a WordPress blog post.
- An RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feed is a web feed format used to publish frequently updated websites. RSS readers collect feeds from your favorite websites so you can create your custom digital newspaper.
- Burn your website with Feedburner to create a fully-functional and customizable RSS feed.
- Mobile browsing is taking over computer browsing. Your website needs to be able to be read on a mobile device to keep up with this trend. I’ll help you do that in Click 3.
- Use Aweber (aff link), Mail Chimp, or iContact (aff link) for email marketing.
- Most email marketing services require that people double opt-in. This means they fill out the form, and then they have to click a confirmation link in the first email. This prevents spammers from building a list by scraping the internet for email addresses.
- The subscribers in your email marketing system are called your list.
- The four components of a good list are the number of subscribers, deliverability, open-rate, and clickthrough rate.
- A squeeze page is a landing page on your website that has one goal. Often, it’s to get people to opt-in with their email address. The only way to navigate away from a good squeeze page is by accomplishing that goal. Here’s an example.
- “Get Instant Access!” is the highest converting call to action on squeeze page submit buttons.
- An email marketing template is made up of HTML. Since a lot of people read their email on their phone, the template needs to show up correctly on a mobile device.
Sales Page Design
- Your sales page needs to have a headline, a picture, features, advantages, benefits, social proof, a money-back guarantee, the price, and an order button.
- Social proof can be demonstrated by press logos, testimonials (text or video), and/or number of downloads/purchases.
- “Add to Cart” is the best call to action for an order button. It’s been split tested millions of times and always comes out on top as the highest converting phrase.
- “Add to Cart” buttons need to be intentionally ugly so they’re easy for your visitors to find. Use blue text to build trust and make the button yellow/orange to attract the eye.
- Put a normal “Add to Cart” link under the button because some people prefer to click links more than images.
- Copywriting is the art of writing succinctly to motivate people to do something.
- Everything you write needs to have a purpose and be persuasive.
- Good copywriters put themselves in their target’s shoes and only write to that one person. This makes the copy more intimate and everyone will relate to it. It’s the same reason we like to read other peoples’ text messages and love letters. Not that I like reading other people’s love letters. I just know a lot of people do.
- The shorter the sentences and the smaller the words, the better.
- Write like you speak.
Content Marketing (Blogging)
- Content marketing is updating your website with new content to get people to come back. It could be blog posts, images, audio files, or videos.
- Blogging is not about what you ate for lunch. It’s updating a website with regular, valuable content that people want to read or consume.
- Good blogs simultaneously educate and entertain.
- Create in-depth pillar articles that rank well and drive big time traffic from search engines and social media. This is a pillar article.
- Writing for the web is different. Paragraphs should be one-three sentences and you need to use headings and bullets to make your content scannable.
- Search engines give preference to websites that are constantly updated with new content (i.e. blogs).
- Update your blog on a regular schedule so people know when to come back. I’m posting here at midnight every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Try to be the first to comment to get extra traffic.
More on Content Marketing: Every Blog Post Earns an Extra 1,320 Visits Per Year
Search Engine Optimization
- Use the Google Keyword Tool to find out exactly what keywords people are searching for and how much competition there is for those keywords.
- Try to rank for long tail keywords. I’m not going to rank high for “entrepreneur” but I will sneak towards the top for “become a successful young entrepreneur.”
- The number one factor to rank higher in search engines is the number of backlinks to your site from other high ranking sites.
- Anchor text is the phrase that is linked in a hyperlink. Search engines use the anchor text to determine how that page should be indexed. One of my goals here is to get lots of backlinks to 14clicks.com with the anchor text “Become a Successful Young Entrepreneur.”
- For search engine indexing, the
<title>tag is the most important part of a webpage. This is the blue text in Google search results. The keywords used at the beginning of the title are most important.
<meta name="description">is what shows up in the text under the blue title on Google. The purpose of this is to use the same keywords and persuade the user to click.
<meta name="keywords">are becoming obsolete but I still include them.
- Search engine robots consider the first third of your content on any given page to be most important.
- The age of your domain and how long you have it registered are two things that Google considers in its algorithm. An old domain that is registered for more than a year demonstrates permanence in Google’s eye.
- You can submit your site to Google here, but robots will eventually find and index it automatically. The more often you update your site, the more often the robots will return.
More about SEO: Search Engine Optimization 101: 9 Basics to Ranking Well
- Social media is about being friendly. It’s not marketing. Once you’re friends, they’ll naturally want to hear about what you’re doing.
- Facebook (2nd most popular site), YouTube (3rd most popular site), and Twitter (9th most popular site) are the big three in social media.
- Create a fan page for your business, not a group or a person.
- Make your Facebook page have a welcome page that is shown only to people who haven’t “Liked” it yet.
- The newsfeed showcases the things that you interact with most. Try to get your fans to interact with your fan page so it comes up more often in their newsfeed.
- You can get a username for your fan page once you have 25 fans at facebook.com/username.
- Create a YouTube channel for your business and upload all of your videos to that channel. Then get people to subscribe so they’re notified when you have a new video.
- Try to maintain a consistent structure and theme to your videos so people know what to expect. It’s a branding thing.
- Video is the best way to showcase yourself online and build a relationship with your fans.
- Your Twitter handle/username needs to be as short as possible. This way there are extra characters to work with when you or others mention you in a tweet.
- Optimize your Twitter profile with keywords and #hashtags to show up in Twitter indexes.
- Use Twitter search to find people with problems and questions you can resolve and answer.
- The CEO needs to be the primary twitterer for your business. That’s the person people most want to hear from.
Basic Internet Stuff
- To have a website you need a domain and hosting. The domain is where people will find your website. Hosting allows visitors to access the files of your website through a server.
- HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) is how browsers read the content of a webpage. It’s a series of open-close tags to display text, images, audio, video, and other forms of content.
- CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) help you format the style and look of a webpage.
- Don’t use flash on your website. A lot of computers still can’t read it.
- Use CSS sprites to create moving images on your website. See “The Entrepreneurial Mindset” section below.
- Get your first customer by providing the service for free. In exchange, ask for a testimonial and incentivize them tell their friends if they’re happy with the work that you did.
- Focus on MMAs (Money Making Activities). If the task you’re working on doesn’t directly lead to income, it’s probably a waste of time.
- Use FreshBooks (aff link) to set up projects, track your hours, and invoice your customers.
- When providing an elaborate service, something that takes more than a day, charge 25-50% of the contract upfront.
- Ask for a potential client’s budget before you meet with them. This gives you an idea of how serious they are and it lets you design a package to fit their needs.
- Develop a pricing model that includes recurring payments. And strive for at least a $80 hourly freelancing rate.
- Find the best freelance websites here.
Update: Since publishing this post, I co-founded a simple freelance marketplace called AwesomeWeb. If you’re a freelance web designer or developer and you need more clients, find out more and sign up here.
- Once you’re comfortable providing the service, start outsourcing as many of the tasks as possible.
- Elance (aff link), oDesk (aff link), and Freelancer (aff link) are three places where you can find people to work for as little as $2 per hour.
- In the beginning, pay multiple people or firms to do one job. Then only continue to use the freelancers who do quality work.
- Aim to outsource to a firm rather than an individual. Firms are more reliable and provide higher quality work.
- Hire character and train skill. Don’t necessarily look for a high GPA and job experience; they have to fit in your company.
- Qualify workers through their resume. Use the interview to judge their character and find out how badly they want to work for you.
- Employment at Will means you can fire without reason. Colorado is an Employment at Will state.
- Ask your network to make email introductions for you.
- A good mentor is one of the most valuable assets to an entrepreneur.
- Use Meetup to find relevant networking events in your area. Attend them and get to know the founders of the group.
Legalities and Taxes
- Set up a business bank account before you have a dollar of revenue or expense. Then separate all of your business and personal expenses.
- Determine a minimum balance for your business bank account. Always have that as a safety net.
- Reserve your name and register your LLC (Limited Liability Company) with the Secretary of State.
- Get a free EIN (Employer Identification Number) from the IRS to pay taxes and hire employees.
- Ask people what they want before you tell them what you want.
- Feed crap sandwiches. When someone is looking for your opinion, start with positive feedback. Then give constructive criticism. End with positive feedback.
- Maintain a healthy balance of questions and answers so it’s not always in one person’s court.
- Collect and keep track of sales leads in an Excel file or other CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software. Salesforce is the most widely-used CRM solution in the world.
- The best way to contact sales leads is how they want to be contacted. Professional service providers prefer if you visit them in their office. Entrepreneurs prefer phone calls. CEOs prefer that you go through the secretary or gatekeeper.
- Don’t be a sleazy salesman. Focus on being honest and transparent.
- Entertain then educate. Once you have them laughing, they’ll pay attention to every word you say.
- Professional speaking is a necessary skill for CEOs and entrepreneurs.
- Stand near the front of the stage to engage the audience. Last year I saw Gary Vaynerchuk speak and he had his toes hanging off the edge the whole time.
- Your income will be the average of your five closest friends.
- Figure out what you want. Then figure out how to do it.
- Everyday work towards and get closer to your end goal.
- There are two things more important than money. Your health and your relationships. Never compromise either of those in your pursuit of success.
Colleges and universities think they can’t teach anything about the internet because it changes so rapidly. When in fact, all of the tips in this list are fundamentals of the internet that aren’t changing anytime soon.
Last November, Nick and I spoke to 130 college students at the CEO Conference and most of them were hearing about this internet stuff for the first time. I talked with a number of the students afterwards and they’re all frustrated with their school’s inability to teach them the things they want to learn. The things that they can actually apply to their careers, businesses, and lives.
It’s the same reason that most entrepreneurs drop out of school or don’t go into the business school at all.
The internet changes business, forever. The business schools that keep up are the ones that will rise to the top. And the ones that don’t are doing a disservice to their customers.
Let me know your thoughts below.