Solopreneurship

The Recipe to Career Fulfillment and Living Your Passions — Confluence

Total Reading Time: 3.5 minutes.
It’s not enough to do what you love. You must identify your confluence.
Too many people with platforms promote the idea of finding your purpose, your passion, and doing what you love. While this will definitely lead to short-term fulfillment, it’s not enough.
If you want a successful and fulfilling career, you’ll need to find and own your confluence. The first time I came across a concept like this was in The $100 Startup, by Chris Guillebeau.
After dedicating myself to identifying this, I’ve found there are three key pieces. The intersection of these pieces will solidify your confluence. And living in that space will lead to long-term happiness and career fulfillment.
The Three Pieces of Confluence: 

  1. Your Passion
  2. Your Unique Genius
  3. What the World Wants/Needs
Confluence - passion, purpose, genius, world
Have you identified your confluence?

Your Passion

Yes, passion is important. But it’s not the be-all and end-all. Passion is the beginning — it is the foundation of your confluence.
Why is passion important? Because to achieve mastery in your niche you must love (and almost obsess over) your work. This is a long-term game plan to fulfillment.
Many people (maybe you) like to say/believe that they don’t know what their passions are. I almost let that happen to me, so I won’t go too hard on you.
Maybe start by opening your eyes and reconnecting with the kid inside you. Things can get pretty confusing after years of adulthood and zombie-like living. After that, go through this brief exercise:

Exercise: Power List

  1. Make a list…handwritten is best but whatever works for you.
  2. What are some things you: like, enjoy, are interested in, fascinated by, enthusiastic about, find beautiful, brilliant, euphoric, or exciting?
  3. These could be: places, people, desires, artists, movies, cultures, books, teachers, scenarios, careers, sex, spirituality, politics, fashion, food, paradigms, ideas, money, love, etc.
  4. Finished? Pull out the central themes.

You’ll find that there are some commonalities between the items on your list. For example, my list has themes of: writing and speaking, success and work as play, philosophy and new ideas, nonconformity, travel/cultures, and spirituality.
It is critical that the themes you identify become the central themes of your life. 

Your Unique Genius

Not all solopreneurs are the traditional “Steve Jobs creative, idea-generating type” — and that is completely okay. I am not this type of solopreneur at all (related: types of solopreneurs).
What’s important for you to understand (deeply), is that you are a genius. You have a specific unique genius you must share with the world. Only when you identify this will you be able to master the art of creating value for others — and in turn — achieve and experience all you want in life.
You can begin by understanding what type of genius and leader you are.

The Genius Test

A genius entrepreneur named Roger James Hamilton, has created a variety of free resources for leaders and entrepreneurs. One of these is the Genius Test, which you can take right here.
The Genius Test is a simple four question test. You’ll learn what type of genius you are, and be given access to a wealth of resources. I recommend his materials, they’ve been pivotal in helping me uncover where I should and shouldn’t be spending my time.
Note: Roger has a book on the topic called The Millionaire Master Plan — highly recommended.

What the World Needs

To know what the world needs, you must understand that all human motivation comes from wanting to fulfill a desire or avoid a pain. Usually, you’ll find that people are even more likely to take action when avoiding a pain.
There are a few key large markets: career/money, health/wellness, love/dating, and personal development/education.
Being in one of these markets will ensure enough demand. If the market is crowded, that’s a good thing. But you should still be as niche as possible.
Don’t try and recreate the wheel, and don’t try and be too original. I say that with caution, because when I created my first course on inbox zero and email management it was one of the first in its niche.
The world needs solutions. Learn to under-promise and over-deliver — and always provide massive value to your audience, prospects, and customers.
The best way to find out what the world needs is through a relationship with your audience/prospects, and asking for direct feedback. If the relationship is strong enough, they will tell you exactly what they need.

Your Confluence

Where your passion, unique genius, and what the world needs all meet = Your Confluence. This is where you should live and operate.
Confluence is a key lesson to long-term fulfillment. Avoiding it will put you right back at square one asking yourself, “is this all there is?”
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What type of genius did you turn out as on the Genius Test? I’m a “Blaze”.

Photo credit: ConfluenceCC license

5 Step Framework for Becoming an Expert and Achieving Mastery

Total Reading Time: 4 minutes.

Why would you ever want to be an expert?

Pride. Money. Fame. Interest. Ego. Passion. Lifestyle. Career.

All commendable answers. All things that are worth working and fighting for.

But here’s another motivation for developing expertise in something: Freedom. Yup, this is another way to create complete freedom (and fulfillment) in your life.

Here’s how: all expertise is relative. Meaning, if you know even slightly more than I do about copywriting, you’re an expert (in my eyes).

Becoming an expert means you create demand for your raw skills, knowledge, and intellectual property. And when you’re in demand, your options for supporting yourself and giving value back to the world are limitless.

Books, speaking, products, services, software, you name it. You can potentially start one any of my top 15 solopreneur businesses, develop expertise as you go, and be a happy human.

Let’s address something first: this “become an expert overnight” topic gets thrown around a lot. In fact, before writing this post I found that some of the top ranking articles on developing expertise were nothing more than the typical over-promise, under-deliver, hyperbolic headline click bait we’ve all become addicted to.

I searched for any hidden gems of advice throughout various posts, but found nothing. Well, I found one. But it wasn’t the writer’s word, it was a quote by someone else:

There aren’t shortcuts. Merely direct paths. Most people don’t take them, because they frighten us. Things that look like shortcuts are usually detours disguised as less work.

– Seth Godin

Just like the path to becoming an expert, that answer is direct, honest, and impactful.

In an effort to to provide something new to the topic, I’ll highlight some of what has helped me achieve relative expertise in a few areas. You’ll also see what the path to freedom through becoming an expert looks like.

5 Steps to Becoming an Expert and Achieving Mastery

1. Study

Do you remember that one class you just loved? Or that time you were fascinated by a new topic (e.g. a documentary, a place, a time, politics, architecture, a desire, etc.).?

There was a deep hunger, wasn’t there? You must become infatuated with your new skill.

 To become an expert you must develop an insatiable appetite for knowledge.

– (Tweet this)

If it isn’t in direct alignment and doesn’t excite you, forget about it. Take money out of the equation and ask yourself what you’d do then (related: what if money were no object?). Start there.

2. Practice

Don’t let this piece intimidate you. By day two you could already be developing some relevant expertise, especially if you love the topic.

You simply need to get into the habit of consuming, and then producing. Meaning, study and learn all you can — then get really good at getting what you’ve learned out of your head.

Put your learnings into action immediately, and practice every chance you get. Practice for free, practice alone, practice in your sleep (lucid dreaming anyone?). You’ll be going back and forth between step one and two for the rest of your life. A true expert never stops practicing their craft.

3. Emulate

Have your friends and network started to ask you questions? Are people seeking more of your time, and asking you to coffee?
Good, you’re on the right track. Start teaching and don’t ask for much in return. Just give as much value as possible to everyone around you, and practice that.
Now it’s time to up your game even more. At this point you should already have a few role models in the area you’d like to become an expert in.
Study these people. Think like these people. Live like these people. Learn their life stories and understand what drives them. This is important, because in the next step it all comes together.
A learning resource: Brendon Burchard, author of The Millionaire Messenger and The Charge, is a top peak performance trainer and teaches people how to create a business around their expertise and passions. He gives away great free content and puts together an event called Expert Academy.  

4. Elevate

Of all the experts in your field, which one do you most identify with the most and/or want to be in 5-10 years? Decide.

Now, your job is to get as close as possible to this person. Your must either:

a) Work for/with them

b) Become a student of theirs

c) Build a relationship and friendship

Depending on who they are and how they structure their life/business, you’ll have to decide what the best route is. Is your expert role model Bill Clinton? Good, now get to work for him.

You may think I’m joking, but I’m not. At this point, you are a talented student of your craft. You are hungry and you can prove to this person that you’re worth their time.

So either find a way to work for them (for free if necessary), get them to become your mentor, or build a friendly relationship with them.

During the next phase of your life, your job is to absorb as much as possible and be the best student they’ve ever seen, regardless of how your relationship is structured. In this world, they are the relative expert.

5. Mastery

The goal is not to become your teacher’s teacher. The goal is to learn from the very best, because that is the most direct path to becoming an expert.

Eventually, you will become an absolute expert. You will achieve a true level of mastery.

Will there be someone that knows more than you? Always. But this isn’t about climbing a meaningless ladder, it’s about growing into the best version of yourself (related: how to grow).

In the end, you’ll get an opportunity to share your unique value with the world. And yes, you’ll have the freedom and fulfillment you deserve too.

– –

This blog, and this post, is my version of developing and practicing my expertise. Personally, I’m working on step 4.

Where are you at? What have been your biggest obstacles to becoming an expert?

ExpertCC license

7 Minutes to Launching Your Blog or Website on WordPress

Total Action Time: 7 minutes.
Step one to becoming a solopreneur and creating your Freedom Lifestyle: start a website or blog.
Of all the advice I read on the interwebs when I was starting out online, this was the best one. You don’t need to know exactly what you’re creating yet (I had no idea when I started this blog). As with every new venture, simply starting and taking the first step is the most important thing you can do.
Unfortunately, this advice to start a blog doesn’t amount to much when every single voice out there is yelling different things.
“Is WordPress the right way? What’s a host? Why is everyone fighting over who’s host is better? Wait, this costs money?” And so on…
In this very short video I’m going to show you exactly how to go from zero to a brand new blog or website — and even show you how to create your first post — in under 7 minutes. 
I’m creating this video and resource because many people have asked me how to do this over the years. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit this, but it took me weeks to learn everything I’m about to show you in this short video.
Yes, this is the exact setup and services I use for this site (including all my others). My goal is to always give you the most direct route to accomplishing everything you want in life. So with that said, let’s get started…

Start a Blog or Website on WordPress in 7 Minutes


If you have a that was easy button around, now is the time to push it. Now your job will be to design your new website or blog to your liking.
Note: When registering with HostGator, make sure to use coupon code “wilghosting” for 25% off your service.

Choose a Theme for Your New Blog or Website

A theme is one of the first things you need to decide on. If you’re semi-serious at all, you’ll want to pick up a premium theme (these cost money). Why? Because paid premium themes offer support. And if you’re taking your new blog or website even semi-seriously, you’ll need support. Also, premium themes have robust feature sets, and are more customizable.
My favorite place for finding great WordPress themes is Themeforest
There is a theme for every niche, market, business, and style out there. I love their marketplace, because it’s easy to navigate and you’ll see clear reviews. Excellent developers sell their themes through the marketplace. Yes, this site runs on a Themeforest theme.
If you’re a little more serious, and you’d like your site to run on the popular Genesis Framework, then you should look at StudioPress. Slightly more expensive, but definitely worth it for the functionality and reliability.
And finally, if you’re not serious or you don’t want to spend the money right now, a free WordPress theme is the way to go.

Install a Free WordPress Theme: Step 1

wordpress theme
Click on “Themes” under the “Appearance” menu.

Install a Free WordPress Theme: Step 2

theme wordpress new
Click on “add new” and choose your theme!

These themes are great, and there’s tons to choose from. In fact, this blog ran on a free theme when it initially launched. You can always upgrade/change later.
Can you believe we’re done? That’s it. Everything you need to start a new blog or website. Whether you want to build an online resume, a blog, a niche website, or build a software company, WordPress is the way to go.
Need ideas for getting your business started? I thought you might ask. Find out what the top 15 solopreneur businesses are, and take action today!
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Do you have a friend that wants to start a blog or website, but doesn’t know how to get started? Share this video and post with them so they can also learn how to get their own blog up and running quickly.
Photo Credit: BlogCC License

15 Best Online Business Ideas for Solopreneurs and Wantrepreneurs

Intro & Bolded Text Reading Time: 2 minutes.
Full Content: 13 minutes.
One aha moment can change your life. It did for me. I’ve gone back and forth on whether to write this piece for a long time. There are thousands all over the interwebs, and in my clearly opinionated opinion — 99% of them are junk.
I’m certain of this, because I typed these same words into Google search when I first started out as a solopreneur: “online business”. Even so, I know this is something that needs to get addressed properly and I owe you an honest answer.
This is an attempt to provide a comprehensive, factual, and actionable guide to the popular question of what the best online businesses are. My goal is simple: to not fall into the 99% garbage pile.
Let’s start with some straight-forward, important truths:

  1. The only way to build a real business (and eventually quit your day job if you choose) is with patience and perseverance. It’s all about taking tiny steps each day.
  2. There is no such thing as overnight success or getting rich quickly. I promise, no matter how amazing the opportunity looks, you are wasting your time. These aren’t real businesses, and they don’t provide real wealth. When they do, they’re temporary and fade quickly. Plus, the rich know that the idea is to build assets, not make cash.
  3. Working for yourself doesn’t have to be complicated. We make it that way because we get distracted and lose focus. How do you prevent this? Cure your procrastination for good and develop laser focus on one thing.
  4. If you invest your time and energy into more than one area, you won’t get anywhere. You must choose only one. Dedicate yourself to it, and settle for nothing less than mastery.
  5. With a traditional venture-backed business, there is a risk of failure. If you squander your investor funding, you fail. As a solopreneur, the only way you can fail is by giving up. So do the work.

Finally, read about my 7 biggest mistakes, and promise me you won’t make them too.
Okay…ready to dive in? Here are the top 15 online businesses for existing and aspiring solopreneurs and entrepreneurs (in no particular order):

Products

1. Physical Products

This business is where most people want to start (or think they should) by default. It’s the one that actually makes sense to the first-time solopreneur. Creating the next hot product is an exciting journey that is great for the creative solopreneur.
A lot of work, cost, learning, and dedication will be involved. Working with a partner may be helpful in this business. If you have a strong desire to see your product become a reality, you will have a great time with this.
Where to Start:
Validate your idea. Talk to real humans and get feedback until you’re positive people need this. Make sure it solves a pain/need.
Then, validate again. The easiest way to do this is by creating a blog or website for the product. Put up a landing page with photos and details for the product, and push some traffic to it (paid traffic is faster, but you should also look into content marketing and social media).
On the page, ask people to opt in and give you their email address so you can notify them when the product is ready for testing. If you gather a lot emails, you’re probably onto something. Harry’s has a
Harry’s has a fantastic case study on how they gathered 100,000 emails in one week for their launch. Another excellent resource is the The 4 Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss, specifically the sections on finding your niche, or “muse” as he calls it.

2. Online Retail/Amazon/E-commerce

The online retail/e-commerce niche is enormous, and growing. Potential to scale is high, with many people creating six-figure or more niche product businesses on Amazon. There is a wealth of knowledge, resources, and community in this area.
E-commerce is another great example of passive income. But it does require a lot of up experimentation, upkeep, and dedication in the beginning. If you strike the right niche/market and deliver a hot product, you can find success.
You can also sell products through your own online store. The products never even have to be touched by you, there are many ways to have the fulfillment handled by someone else and have products drop shipped directly to the customer.
So, you can either go the Amazon/eBay/Etsy route, or create your own e-commerce store. It just depends on your goals.
Best E-Commerce Platforms

  1. Shopify
  2. BigCommerce
  3. WooCommerce (for hosting on your own WordPress site)

If you’re looking for education, I recommend checking out Amazing.com, the creators of the sensational Amazing Selling Machine program.

3. Mobile Apps

This industry is not showing any signs of slowing down soon. The landscape is constantly evolving too, which means lots of opportunity for the dedicated student.
You do not need to know how to code/program to become an app entrepreneur. In fact, we already have a free 8 day business plan you can use if you’re interested in getting started with apps.
Who to Know: Without a doubt, there are two people I recommend you follow in this space. The first is Carter Thomas of Blue Cloud Solutions. Carter has an awesome free webinar you can check out for getting started and has gotten tens of millions of downloads.
The other is my close friend Chad Mureta, founder of App Empire. Chad has had incredible success with apps (over 150 million downloads), and has been featured on 60 Minutes, MSNBC, and more. All the information, tools, resources, and networking you need is available inside this large community of app entrepreneurs.

4. Software

Creating a piece of software or Saas is a fantastic way to start an online business, and you don’t have to create it yourself. This true passive income model can open the doors to more opportunities as well.
Your software should provide an immediate solution to a pain or need for a niche of people. The software can be standalone (e.g. CrazyEgg), or it can supplement another software or service (e.g. AWProTools, an add-on for Aweber).
Personally, I like this model a lot. There is lots of room to scale, and you can also cross-sell and upsell other products and services on the backend.
Who to Know: Neil Patel, founder of Kissmetrics, HelloBar, and CrazyEgg is the person to know. I’ve worked directly with Neil on multiple projects and I can tell you with certainty — he is the real deal. He has one of the best blogs out there at NeilPatel.com and Quicksprout, where he shares a lot of his most valuable lessons and strategies.
You should also definitely check out Dane Maxwell and The Foundation. His online mentoring program has guided 1,600+ new entrepreneurs to start and scale software companies, and the community continues to thrive. He’s an incredible person on a grand mission.

5. Art

Online business is not limited to just the technical, internet savvy folks. If you are passionate about a particular form of art, you can turn this into a successful business.
The possibilities are wide and many. Photography, videography, art, crafts, and so on. If your art is something you feel drawn toward, pursue it. How you monetize is completely up to you.
Who to Emulate:

  1. James Law. My friend James went from disillusioned sales/marketing guy, to world-traveling UFC photographer. It’s an incredible story and case study, check it out here.
  2. David Huting. When I was at Google, I worked with a solopreneur photographer named David who created a brand and product called Epic Wall Art. He takes photographs of amazing places, blows them up on giant canvases, and sells them on a website. He has since created a new brand called Nature Relaxation, this time using video.

Services

6. Consulting/Coaching

Productivity, business, social media, health/fitness, financial/wealth, life — the options are endless. Consulting or coaching has a low barrier to entry, requires little technical work, and is a quick way to get started. It can also be completely virtual (online).
Consulting requires that you are an expert in the niche your choosing. I italicized expert because expertise is relative; e.g. as long as you know more than me about fitness, in my eyes, you’re an expert. And there’s value in that, which people are willing to pay you for.
There are many solopreneurs with successful consulting businesses. I have my own and while it took some time to build, today I have a waiting list of clients and get raving referrals. I’ve worked with people like Timothy Sykes (celebrity stock trader), Lewis Howes (NYT bestselling author), Neil Patel (co-founder of Crazy Egg, Quicks Sprout, etc.), Gerard Adams (co-founder of Elite Daily), and helped companies like Whitepages, Qualaroo, 24option, Qualaroo, and Xenon Ventures (a VC firm in Silicon Valley).
You can even do coaching for individuals, sites like Clarity.fm are awesome for this, check out my Clarity page here. If you like working with people and have some value to bring, this might be a good option for you.

7. Design

The design industry is a big opportunity for the right person. If you have a knack for creating aesthetically pleasing work, you can be successful here. If you are willing to learn some basic technical skills, you’ll do even better.
The quality of work designers are delivering across the board is low. There is a strong need for web design. You could combine your design skills with some WordPress development.
Some Popular Sites for Hiring Designers:

  1. Dribbble
  2. Envato Studio
  3. Freelancer
  4. 99 Designs
  5. Upwork

Once your portfolio is built and you have some happy clients, you can begin to shift from being hired to being in demand. Learn how to market yourself and soon you can start your own virtual design agency.

8. Copywriting

One of the most in-demand, valuable skills you can have is copywriting. Think of it as a combination of writing, marketing, sales, and psychology. People pay very good money for a good copywriter’s work. Every entrepreneur is forced to either learn this skill or hire someone to handle it.
You can begin by freelancing on sites like Upwork to build a list of happy clients — this is exactly what I did. Again, do good work, get referrals, and the demand will shift your way.
Who to EmulateMike Williams is a highly sought after copywriter and friend of mine. He’s worked with/at Mindvalley, Kissmetrics, AWeber, Neil Patel, Noah Kagan, and Ramit Sethi.
You should also check out…me. What? I had to. There’s a reason Neil Patel says:

“Arman is a brilliant, world-class marketing strategist and copywriter. He’s also one of the most driven and down-to-earth people I’ve ever met.” – Neil Patel

9. Software development

Programming is the new literacy. — Tweet this!

At least that’s what Mark Zuckerburg and Bill Gates are saying. Programming isn’t for everyone (definitely not for me), but it’s the biggest and most reliable opportunity. You will want to focus on web development and mobile applications.
Just to be clear, you can get started and make a living by learning some HTML/CSS and getting familiar with WordPress.
The more you learn, the more in demand you’ll be. Better yet, you could create anything you wanted for yourself. Pick a programming language and master it. There are many, many places you can learn to code.
Where to Learn (for Free):

  1. Code Academy (over 24 million students)
  2. Coursera
  3. Code.org

Just imagine the opportunities a bit of online and offline networking can bring you.
Prospect: “Hey John, I have this idea for a mobile app, but I have no idea where to start!”
You: “No problem — that’ll be $10,000 please.” You get the idea.

10. Speaking

A fantastic opportunity for the right person. If you enjoy getting in front of people and delivering your content, a speaking business could be for you. The online piece of the business doesn’t have to be complicated.
You can’t however just throw up a website with a speaking page and expect the phone to start ringing. I did this. I know, very amusing, but don’t laugh too much. It was those all damn over-promise, under-deliver articles that told me this would work (refer to the “99% garbage” comment in intro).
First, you’ll need to master the art of speaking, start with these 11 quick lessons. You’ll need to start practicing right away (probably for free), get videos of your speeches, and put together a presentable speaking packet. Then you’ll need to work on building a personal brand. Work hard and hustle, you could soon be on your way to a great business.
Where to Learn:

  1. Toastmasters – The most highly recommended place for polishing up your speaking skills. There are Toastmasters meet ups in most cities.
  2. National Speakers Association – A great resource and network for getting started.

Who to Know:

  1. Michael Hyatt is a successful author, solopreneur, podcaster, and speaker. His speaking page is excellent.
  2. Matt Church is a leader in the area of Thought Leadership. He has many resources and training programs to help you build your speaking business.

11. Affiliate/Internet Marketing

This is an enormous online business industry, and I probably shouldn’t chunk the two categories together. Affiliate Marketing is where a business rewards you (the affiliate) for bringing them new leads or customers. This can feel like a roller coaster ride because you’re hoping you’ll hit the jackpot with your offer. Many people crash and burn, but the persistent survive and make a great living.
Internet Marketing involves is simply using the internet to deliver a message (marketing) to potential customers. There is more control, but it’s a different strategy. You can create your own products/offers, or simply promote other people’s work. The key is building an email list of raving fans (this isn’t important just for internet marketing by the way).
Where to Learn:

  1. Digital Marketer: This company is the leader in online marketing. They have awesome courses/programs and do a few different live events that I always enjoy attending.
  2. Neil Patel’s free Customer Acquisition Webinar: This is a truly valuable, action-focused webinar you can watch to learn Neil’s best hacks on everything related to internet marketing and turning prospects into customers.
  3. Autoresponder Madness (ARM): I highly recommend checking out this course. ARM taught me how to develop a real relationship with my readers, create raving fans, and monetize effectively.
  4. CopyBlogger: Internet Marketing for Smart People: A great free resource that was created by a trustworthy, successful group of folks.

Education/Information

12. Courses/Information Products & Membership Sites

Creating a course, information product, or membership site is a fantastic way to start an online business. My first venture into online business was creating an information product on email management and productivity. Since then my training programs have been implemented into companies like Intel, T-Mobile, IMB, 1-800-Flowers.com, and Century 21.
This is actually a publishing business, as you’re creating and selling information/content. The learning curve is steep. You will need to learn a lot of new skills and gain a strong understanding of marketing and sales. It is important that you learn from the right person.
An online business course or membership site is an excellent asset. There are many examples of people continuing to sell their products for years after launching, especially if the content is evergreen. I believe information is the key to business success in the future.
Udemy has a great free course on how to create your first course. Whether you use Udemy as your platform or not is up to you. Publishing the course on your own website is a good idea as you have more control. But publishing on a site like Udemy is also smart as they have a massive marketplace and the technical aspects are easier. The key to remember is that marketplaces are competitive, and any existing users do not guarantee sales.
Who to Know: There are a lot of people teaching this, but my favorite human is Eben Pagan. His free content (get on his email list) is better than everyone else’s paid content, and his success speaks for itself — tens of millions of dollars in sales, dozens of courses, and a massive virtual organization. You want to learn from the best, and he is the best.

13. Blogging

First of all, regardless of what business you pursue, I highly recommend that you have a blog or personal website. Why? So that you can begin to create a personal brand (see bonus below) and build an email list.
A blog is not a business in and of itself. A blog is the platform that enables many of the other businesses listed (courses/products, podcasts, books, consulting, etc.)
Most people don’t make money blogging (I would estimate over 75%). The ones that do have been working at it for years. If you love to write, make videos, or create any form of content, publishing on a blog is a great idea. Start by sticking to a consistent publishing schedule, and creating useful, valuable, actionable content.
Get Started: How to Launch a Blog or Website in Under One Hour
If you’re less interested in the writing and more serious about starting a profitable blog/authority site, there is a way. It’s not with blogging, it’s about building a media property (see Authority ROI below).
Where to Learn:

  1. Authority ROI is the best training I’ve come across. I highly recommended the course, and have been through it myself.
  2. The Complete Guide to Building Your Blog Audience – This free complete guide by Neil Patel is one of those “I wish I had known about this” things. You will be far ahead of the rest if you implement what Neil shares in this guide.

If you enjoy writing, another option is to work as a freelancer. You can create content for small businesses, write for authority sites, magazines, and other people’s blogs.
Who to Know: Chris Guillebeau of The Art of Non-Conformity, James Clear of JamesClear.com, Pat Flynn of SmartPassiveIncome.com, and Tim Ferriss of Four Hour Workweek Blog.

14. Self-Publishing/Writing

There’s a revolution happening right now in the publishing world. With the explosion of self-publishing, you now have the power to create, publish, and promote your own work. The power is moving from traditional publishers into the hands of people like you.
If you enjoy creating content/writing, a self-publishing business can be very exciting and lucrative. As with all businesses, it comes with its challenges. Here’s the biggest tip I can share with you:

The day you finally decide you’re a writer and act like one — everything changes.Tweet this!

You can publish ebooks on Kindle — here’s a free downloadable guide on that. You can publish on Apple Newsstand (digital magazine). You can self-publish a book and sell it on your own site — there is a lot of flexibility.
Who to Know:

  1. Jeff Goins – Jeff has a fantastic blog, podcast, books, and a lot of content on self-publishing. He also has a course specifically on finding an audience for your work called Tribe Writers.
  2. Guy Kawasaki – Guy has multiple bestselling books and is an excellent person to learn from. His most recent book APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur is highly rated and recommended.
  3. James Altucher – James is a successful self-published author and blogger. His post How to Self-Publish a Bestseller: Publishing 3.0 is an excellent guide.

15. Podcasting

You may have heard already — podcasting is blowing up. Podcasting is similar to blogging, in that it is not a business in and of itself. However, it can be approached as one if viewed as a media platform and extension of your brand.
You can monetize through sponsorships, and/or use as the platform to reach a new audience and create brand awareness. You can drive traffic to your website, sell your products and services, and create new opportunities.
Podcasting is an exciting space, and for the right person, it’s a no-brainer. There’s a lot to learn, and getting set up can be confusing.
Where to Learn:

  1. John Lee Dumas of the Entrepreneur on Fire podcast. John interviews successful entrepreneurs seven days a week, but he is truly on fire himself. He has an amazing free webinar training, and even a free course, on how to create, grow, and monetize your podcast. His community, Podcasters Paradise, is the best out there on this topic.
  2. Pat Flynn of The Smart Passive Income podcast. Pat is an honest, likable family man that wants his audience to succeed. He has a free How to Start a Podcast tutorial on his site that includes everything you need to get started.

Bonus: Personal Brand

I’ve listed this one as a bonus on purpose. We have to be careful because I don’t want you to solely focus on the personal brand itself as the business. A personal brand is something you build over time. Your business(es) should all lead back to your brand.
Software, a YouTube channel, social media, books, courses/information products, podcasting, speaking, webinars, services, live events, and much more. Each new business or property feeds back into the personal brand. Why do this?
Your personal brand is an asset no one can never take away. Investing in your brand is critical and highly recommended.
It is not necessary to have a personal brand, but it is recommended. Your business may go away, but your brand won’t. You could potentially start an online business, make a living, and never show your face to the world. That, I leave up to you.
Who to Know: Lewis Howes (lifestyle entrepreneur, podcaster), Gary Vaynerchuk (video blogging, social media), Chris Brogan (entrepreneur and publisher/author), Jeff Bullas (social media marketing expert), and Neil Patel.
##
After years of researching, experimenting, and learning, these are my most recommended ways for building a solopreneur online business and making money online. All of them take work. All of them will test you to your limits.
But most importantly, all of them can provide the freedom you desire.
More than anything, each one of these businesses has integrity. They give you the opportunity to bring value and contribute to the world. They are paths to long-term fulfillment. If you can align yourself and your passions with your business, you will be one happy camper.
Do you know someone who wants to start an online business, but doesn’t know where to start? Share this post with them so they can learn about the best options for getting started. They’ll thank you for it! 
Photo credit: Idea — CC License

8-Day App Business Plan: The Ultimate Guide to Creating & Monetizing Your First Mobile App

Total Reading Time: 31 minutes (or download PDF template at end of post).

Intro by Arman

I have always believed that one of the most creative and exciting ways to be a solopreneur is by building an app business. When it comes to creating a Freedom Lifestyle, there are few better ways to create passive income and more freedom in your life. Developing an arsenal of money-making apps takes time and work, but these apps can end up paying you for years.
I first met Chad Mureta over two years ago, while I was still working at Google. Chad had just recently published his book, App Empire: Make Money, Have a Life, and Let Technology Work for You. Since then, Chad and I have become very good friends. He’s an incredible human being and I’m grateful to have met him.
Chad’s story is wild and inspiring. In January 2009, he was driving home when he hit a deer, causing his car to flip four times. The accident crushed and nearly severed his left arm. He had two surgeries and almost $100,000 in hospital bills. 
It was in the hospital bed that Chad decided to create his first app. The idea and inspiration came from a magazine about apps a friend gave him. What happened next? Chad went on to become an app millionaire, has created dozens of apps, and built multiple app companies. He has no technical skills, but he does have a brilliant strategy for building a scalable app business.
Chad used this strategy to build an empire of apps and passive income. Below, he will share his 8 day business plan template with you. Enjoy!

Enter Chad

If used properly, the virtual world can be a potent tool to simplify and improve every aspect of your life.

As this virtual world evolves, apps are changing the way we communicate and relay information, allowing us to connect with people from Cape Town in South Africa to Montreal in Canada to Shanghai in China. Everywhere! The same way the internet opened up the international marketplace for thousands of businesses, mobile apps have done the same – but to the next level because they are always in our pocket traveling with us wherever we go.

We have apps that can control cars, allow us to play the piano, teach languages, and even recognize songs and name the artists. Apps are vital assets that streamline information, enhancing our lives while educating and entertaining us. But it’s important to remember: with apps, it’s all about convenience, convenience, convenience. 

You have to understand this about the app business: At the core, it’s about how consumers are using this technology to connect with the world. The more you are aware of this, the more money you can make with apps. You have to think like the customer if you’re going to build your own app empire. 

In this 8-day guide, you will gain essential insights into starting an app business, which will serve as the foundation of your success.

Day 1: Get a Feel for the Market

Note: this is the MOST important thing I can teach you. I have students that, after becoming full-time appreneurs and making thousands with their app business, still say this is the most important lesson they learned from me. 

As with any business, your success will be directly related to your understanding of the marketplace. The App Store is the marketplace of the app business, so in order to understand the market, we have to study the App Store. This seems rather obvious, but you wouldn’t believe how many developers I meet that don’t understand this concept. They don’t watch the market, follow the most successful apps, or try to figure out why those apps are successful.

In order to become a great app supplier, you must first become an app addict. That means spending this whole first day researching the market while downloading and playing with tons of apps (give yourself an app budget of $100 to start). 

Give yourself a full 8-hour period to go APP CRAZY. This training period is an investment in your expertise, which will become the lifeblood of your success. The more hours you rack up playing around and studying successful apps, the better you’ll be able to understand their common traits and what users desire. Better yet, if you don’t have a business partner, get friends and family involved to help with your research. This will also allow you to gauge different demographics and how they respond to particular apps. 

So, how do you keep pace with the market? The best way is to study Apple’s cheat sheet constantly. The App Store displays the top paid, top free, and top-grossing apps (the apps that make the most money, including free apps), almost in real-time. Apple provides the same lists in the individual app categories.

8-day App Business Plan
App Store Top Charts

These charts are golden because they tell us volumes about the market. The best part is this information is freely accessible to anyone, at any moment (unlike the market info for basically every other industry).

Review these charts frequently, and keep a notebook of potential trends you spot. The more you review the charts, the more you’ll start to notice little details, such as new apps that jumped the charts or emerging genres. 

Example: when I first started my app business, I was really into yoga so I wanted to create a yoga app. I looked at the market and saw just a few yoga apps, but none that had been really successful or hit the top charts (even in their category) so I didn’t go through with it. Fast forward a couple years later and fitness apps are booming. If I had still wanted to develop this app, I would have continuously tracked all yoga apps during these years to watch for these apps rising the charts, THEN I would strike with my own app because I know the demand is there. People are actively LOOKING for these apps. If I had published these apps when I first thought of the idea, it would have sat on the store generating little to no revenue. My point: you want to see similar apps to your idea doing well or gaining traction because that means there are active users. However, the reason you do market research EVERY DAY is because you want to get in before there’s an influx of the same apps. Luckily, this is easy to do when you’re tracking and analyzing the market regularly because most developers aren’t doing this – but more on this below!

Doing this repeatedly will also educate you on successful app design, marketing, various pricing models, and new app ideas. The research you’re doing is simple, costs nothing, and it’s actually fun!

Here are some questions to ask while you’re researching successful apps in the market:

  1. Why is this app successful?
  2. What is its rank and has it been consistent?
  3. Why do people want this app? (Look at the reviews, google blog posts.)
  4. Has this app made the customer a raving fan?
  5. Does this app provoke an impulse buy?
  6. Does this app meet any of my needs?
  7. Did I become a raving fan after trying it?
  8. Will the customer use it again?
  9. How are they marketing to their customers? (Check out the screen shots, icon design, and descriptions.)
  10. What is the competitive advantage of this app?
  11. What does this app cost? Are there in-app purchases? Advertisements?

Most developers will build an app and expect tons of people to find and download it right away. That rarely happens. You have to figure out what people are interested in and the kinds of apps they’re downloading first, then you build your app based on that insight.

Do not build an app on an idea you THINK will be successful, build an app off an idea that can be backed by data and research.(Tweet this)

Once you’ve put in the necessary research and feel you have a decent grasp on the market, it will be time to look back on the trends you discovered and explore some ideas for potential apps you can develop. 

Note: If after Day 1, you feel like you aren’t quite grasping the trends, don’t rush this period! Spend the amount of time you need on this step as it’s the foundation and most IMPORTANT part of your business. I repeat, THE most important part of developing apps. 

Resources for Day 1:

  1. App Annie – Tracks your apps’ metrics and has extensive app store data to help you make smart business decisions.
  2. SensorTower – Market Intelligence that apps can’t live without.
  3. 148apps.biz – Extensive app store metrics.
  4. Straply – App Store Optimization tools and research
  5. Google Keywords – For ideas and trends research. This does not reflect what people are searching for on the App Store, but can give you insight into trends.

Continued Reading:

Day 2:  Align Your Ideas with Successful Apps

How do you know if the market wants your app? Again, you’ll need to look at the Top Apps chart. Are apps like the one you want to create listed there? If yes, you’ve got a potential winner. If not, keep looking. It’s that simple.

Don’t hate; Emulate! When you follow in the footsteps of successful apps, you will have a better chance of succeeding because these apps have proven demand and an existing user base. This takes the guesswork out of creating great app ideas.

I can’t stress the importance of emulating existing apps enough. It’s easy for people to fall in love with their own idea, even if the market doesn’t show an appetite for it. But this is one of the costliest errors you can make.

Unfortunately, developers make this mistake all the time. They focus on generating original ideas and spend a lot of time and effort creating those apps. When it doesn’t work out, they go to the next untested idea, instead of learning from the market. Often times, they repeat this cycle until they run out of money and dismiss the app game. This doesn’t have to be your experience.

Keep in mind that most ideas aren’t original. Almost every app idea was inspired by an already existing concept. They emulated, and ADDED innovation. Angry Birds was not the first game of it’s kind on the app store. But they created a user experience that was unlike any other. So don’t mistake emulation for a lack of innovation. You need to take an existing, successful idea, and IMPROVE it to gain the market advantage.  

A personal example of how to successfully emulate competitors is my Emoji app. First, I took a close look at what the market offered and downloaded all the major emoticon apps. I liked what I saw, but noticed that there was a lack of variety and limited functionality.

App Business Plan
Competitive emoji app screenshots

 I wondered how I could improve upon these existing apps, given that the Emoji keyboard had a limited number of emoticons that couldn’t be increased. I was also curious how profitable these apps could be if they were only being used once.

I kept brainstorming until it hit me. I couldn’t add more emoticons to the Emoji keyboard, but I could include unlimited emoticons within my app that people could send as images via text message or email.

I created an app that not only enabled the Emoji keyboard, but also contained an additional 450 emoticons within the app itself, which could be shared via SMS, e-mail, Facebook, and so on. The app was used constantly since users had to return to the app to send an emoticon.

 App Business Plan

The Emoji app was developed in two weeks. It followed the freemium model, meaning free with an in-app purchase option. The app hit the number one spot in the App Store’s productivity category and the number 12 spot in the top free overall category within six days, raking in nearly $500 per day. Bingo.

On Day 2, compile your top emulation ideas, and ask yourself these six questions:

  1. Why are people purchasing this?
  2. Can I do something to emulate this idea and take it to another level?
  3. What other ideas would this app’s demographic like?
  4. How many other similar apps are in the market? (Visit TopAppCharts.com to find out.)
  5. How successful and consistent have they been?
  6. How does their marketing and pricing model work?

Resources for Day 2:

Same as Day 1 plus blogs and mobile news sites.

  1. http://appleinsider.com
  2. http://www.insidemobileapps.com
  3. http://techcrunch.com/mobile
  4. http://techcrunch.com/tag/apple
  5. http://blog.flurry.com
  6. http://mobileorchard.com (no longer exists—if you know of an alternative resource please share in the comments)

Continued Reading:

The Art of Improved Emulation: Brooke’s SleepSmart App (http://www.appempire.com/the-art-of-improved-emulation-brookes-sleepsmart-app/)

Starting My Own App Business: How I Built My First App (http://www.appempire.com/starting-my-own-empire-how-i-built-my-first-app/)

App Math – Simple methods to know market numbers (http://www.appempire.com/app-math-simple-methods-to-know-market-numbers/)

Day 3:  Design Your App’s Experience

You’ve studied the market, you see an opportunity, and you have an idea that could be profitable. Great! Now it’s time to turn those thoughts into something tangible.

To convey your idea properly, you can simply draw it on a piece of paper. Maybe it will look like a 3-year old’s artwork, but it will still convey what you’re trying to do. Some people like putting this together in digital form, using Photoshop or Balsamiq. Whatever you’re most comfortable with, and whatever will give the programmers the details they need, is the way to go.

Another cool tool my students have used for those who want to draw on paper, but then move those drawings digital, you can check out: Pop – protopying.

For your viewing pleasure, here are the rudimentary drawings (a.k.a. wireframes) for my first app, Finger Print Security Pro. As you can see, it doesn’t have to be pretty!

Wireframes/drawings for Finger Print Security Pro

8-day App Business Plan - wireframes
Wireframes/drawings for Finger Print Security App

And here’s how the app’s final design turned out…

Final Design for Finger Print Security Pro

App Business PlanApp Business Plan

App Business Plan

App Business Plan

To make the design process easier, I look at certain apps in the App Store and reference them to show my programmers what I’m looking for. For example, I’ll say, “Download the XYZ app. I want the ABC functionality to work like theirs. Take a look at the screenshots from this other app, and change this.” I take certain components of apps that I’d like to emulate, and give them to the programmer so that we are as clear as possible.

App Business Plan
Screenshot: Find apps with designs you want your developer to use

 The clearer you are, the fewer misunderstandings and problems you will have once it’s time to hand off your drawings to a programmer. The idea is to convey what the app will look like, where everything will be placed, and what happens if certain buttons are selected. This helps the programmer know what you want and will be a useful blueprint when designing your app. Do not be vague or ambiguous. Be extremely detailed, even if something seems obvious, things can get lost in translation. You should know what every part of your app will do. If you don’t, you need to develop your idea more thoroughly.

You have to consider your design to be final before you can begin the coding phase. Inevitably, you will have ideas for additional features once you start testing the initial versions of your app. But if you decide to make major changes after a substantial amount of work has been done, it can frustrate your programmer. It’s like telling the builder who just installed your fireplace that you want it on the other side of the living room. The news will not go over well. Most people don’t realize this is what they are demanding of their programmer when they ask for big changes. That’s why it’s important for you to take your time and carefully plan every aspect of the app before you submit it for coding.

Also keep in mind that new features can be included in future updates, and updates are crucial to sustainable success, so don’t worry if you can’t get everything in right away. Getting your app on the store if often more important than perfection because you can start collecting data, which will significantly improve your strategy. 

A Tip on Good Design Practices

If you look at the top charts, you will notice one thing: QUALITY GRAPHICS. This is extremely, extremely important for your app’s interface (user interface – or what the customer will see) and UX (user experience – how the customer interacts with your app).

When designing your app’s UI, I always tell people to think like Apple. What does this mean? It means creating sleek (i.e. modern), simple, intuitive designs. 

What does intuitive mean? When a customer first opens your app, they shouldn’t need a lot of explanation on how to use it. It should be intuitive in that they could start using it right away. Think simple and sleek (look at the top apps for reference). 

Also, it’s important not to clutter your app. Apps are meant to be simple and easy to use, it’s different than a website, which means apps will need streamlined features. A good rule of practice is to write down all the features you want to have, and then focus on building out 3 of those features really well. You’ll get more users by having an app that does 3 things extremely well, than a overcrowded app trying to do 10 things. 

Remember: design like Apple. (If you look at the app’s Apple features, you’ll see the type of apps they look for.) 

Resources for Day 3:

  1. Balsamiq – A wireframing and mock up tool with a high focus on usability. Quickly come up with mock ups and easily share them with your developers.
  2. POP – Turns hand-drawn wireframes to interactive prototypes. Sketch the app on paper; take pictures and add hotspots to link them together; simulate on iPhone.
  3. Keynotopia – Let’s users design quick and easy interfaces and interactive mockups for web, mobile and desktop apps without touching a line of code.
  4. Skitch – Get your point across with fewer words using annotation, shapes and sketches, so that your ideas become reality faster.
  5. Dropbox – Organize your ideas, save your mockups, store your files.
  6. Jing – Share images and short videos of your computer screen.
  7. AppDesignVault – Buy templates or get ideas.

Continued Reading:

7 Keys to Unlock an Apple Design Award (http://uxmag.com/articles/7-keys-to-unlock-an-apple-design-award)

3 Tips to Be a Hot Shot UI/UX Expert (www.appempire.com/3-tips-to-be-a-great-ui-ux-expert/)

Day 4 – 6:  Hire a Great iOS Programmer

Coding your own app, especially if you’re teaching yourself at the same time, will take too long. The likelihood of you getting stuck and giving up is very high. It will also be unsustainable over the long run when you want to create several apps at the same time and consistently update your existing apps. After all, the goal is to get your time back and escape the long hours of the rat race. Therefore, programmers will be the foundation of your business. They will allow you to create apps quickly and scale your efforts.

Hiring your first programmer can be a lengthy process as if you’re not feeling comfortable with your options, you shouldn’t just choose whoever. This will be your right-hand man and the one who makes it all come to life. You need to be able to trust your programmer.

On Days 4 – 6, you’ll need to: 

  • post the job
  • filter applicants
  • interview qualified candidates (on Skype > face-to-face, no exceptions!)
  • have them sign your NDA, explain your idea
  • give them a micro-test

… all before coding begins! If this process takes more time than expected, it is time well spent. However, don’t give yourself excuses. Make sure if you are taking more time, that you’re using it wisely and not procrastinating out of fear or uncertainty of success. 

Some people find this step intimidating, but it’s an extremely valuable learning experience. Making great hires will help you avoid unnecessary delays, costs, and frustration in the future. You’ll always be looking to add new talent to your team, so learning how to quickly and effectively assess programmers is an important skill to develop. 

Let’s get started. The first part of this step is to post your job to a hiring site.

Top Hiring Resources

These websites allow programmers to bid on jobs that you post. As you can imagine, the competition creates a bidding frenzy that gives you a good chance of getting quality work at a low price.

Here are a few of my favorite outsourcing sites:

Elance or oDesk – Huge list of programmers. Its work diary feature tracks the hours your programmer is working for you and takes screenshots of their desktop at certain time intervals.

Freelancer – This site has the most programmers listed. They claim that twice as many programmers will respond to your ad, and I found this to be mostly true.

Guru – Big list of programmers. 

iOS or Android developer forums – Use these forums to create relationships with other appreneurs. Often times, they’ll suggest great teams or programmers they recommend working with. You can also ask for advice on hiring your programmer from those who are going through it with you. 

Below is a template of a job posting, followed by an explanation for each of its components:

template for app developer job posting
An exact template for app developer job posting

Enter the skill requirements—What programming languages do they know? For iPhone apps, the skills I list are: iPhone, Objective C, Cocoa, and C Programming.

Some advanced game apps require Unity 3D knowledge, this is quite pricey, so if it’s your first app, I strongly suggest not going this route just yet.  

Give a basic description of your project—Keep it simple and skill-specific. Tell the applicants that you will discuss details during the selection process. Do NOT reveal the specifics of your idea or marketing plan. Use general descriptions, and request info on how many revisions (a.k.a. iterations) their quote includes.

Post your ad only for a two days—This way programmers have a sense of urgency to quickly bid on your job.

Filter applicants—I always filter applicants using these criteria:

  • They have a rating of four or five stars.
  • They have at least 100 hours of work logged.
  • Their English is good.

Compose individual messages to all suitable applicants, inviting them to a Skype call for further screening. Most of these programmers will overseas, which can present issues with communication and time zone differences. Therefore, a Skype interview is an absolute must before you can continue. Disqualify anyone who is not willing to jump on a Skype call.

Note: There is a difference between programmers and graphic designers. Sometimes one person can do both, other times it’s best to hire a graphics programmer to work with your programmer. Graphics are SO important for apps, that you want quality. If your programmer has a recommendation of someone they’ve worked with before – even better! They always know how to work well together, but you still to interview that person as well. 

The Interview: Essential Questions to Ask Programmers

Don’t give away any of your specific ideas during this initial conversation. Just talk about general genres, like “a camera app,” or “messaging app,” etc. Whenever the topic comes up, say you’ll be more than happy to discuss everything after they sign the NDA (if you search for “NDA template” you’ll find one, just tweak it to meet your needs). Here are the questions you should ask each applicant before committing to anything:

– How long have you been developing apps?

– How many apps have you worked on? Can I see them?

– Do you have a website? What is it?

– Do you have references I can talk to? THIS IS IMPORTANT. Many developers will list app’s they’ve worked on…but actually haven’t. You have to followup with who they say they’ve worked for in order to ENSURE they’ve actually developed these apps. 

– What’s your schedule like? How soon can you start?

– What time zone do you work in? What are your hours?

– What’s frustrating for you when working with clients?

– Are you working with a team? What are their skills?

– Can you create graphics, or do you have somebody who can?

– Can I see examples of the graphics work?

– What happens if you become sick during a project?

– What if you hit a technical hurdle during the project? Do you have other team members or a network of programmers who can help you?

– How do you ensure that you don’t compete with your clients?

– Can you provide flat-fee quotes?

– What’s your payment schedule? How do you prefer payment?

– Can you create milestones tied to payments?

– Do you publish your own apps on the App Store?

– How do you submit an app to the App Store? (Can they verbally walk you through the process, or do they make you feel brain challenged?)

Finally, mention that you like to start things off with a few simple tests (creating/delivering your app’s icon and a “Hello, World!” app) before coding begins. You need to tell them this upfront so they aren’t surprised after they have provided their quote. Most programmers are happy to get these tests done without a charge, but some will want a small fee. In either

During the interview, pay attention to how well they are able to explain themselves. Are they articulate? Do they use too much techno babble? Do they speak your native language fluently? Do they seem confident with their answers? How is their tone and demeanor? If you have any issues or worries, you may want to move on to somebody else. But if you can communicate with them easily and your gut is telling you “Yes,” you’ll want to proceed to the next step.

In either case, thank them for their time and mention that you will follow up with an NDA agreement if you decide to move forward.

Be prepared to spend a little extra time on developing your new system and relationship. It’s when appreneurs try to go too fast that they get in trouble or overlook something that was a red flag. Here are 8 steps to ensure you’re getting the most out of your new developer:

1. Never pay money upfront.

It’s just too risky. Don’t pay for what you don’t have. 

2. Create milestones and only pay on deliverables.

Prior to hiring, have your milestones outlined and agreed upon by your developer in writing. Make your expectations clear about what you expect to receive for each milestone. 

3. Ask if they offer a cheaper rate. 

Many developers and designers will offer a discount rate on your first project with them. Then once you rehire them for your next project, it goes back up to their regular rate. 

4. Pay with flat rates. 

It reduces risk and helps your milestones be met in a timely manner. They have no reason to delay or inflate time spent on a feature if they’re not getting paid for those hours. 

5. Start small.

Don’t make the first milestone half-way through your app’s completion. Make the first assignment a small project. Did they communicate well? Were you happy with their work? Did anything feel off? If you have a bad feeling about someone, move on to someone else right then. It rarely works out or gets better. 

6. Daily communication.

When first starting with someone new, you should be receiving a daily report and talking every day, even if it’s just to say, “everything is going smoothly.” Also, keep in mind than prior to hiring you should outline what you expect in terms of communication so they know what you expect daily. 

7. Be so clear and detailed, it feels tedious and painful.

You’ve never worked together. Think of development like those “team building” exercises where one person is blindfolded while the other person tells them what to draw. You have to be super detailed about extremely obvious things because you never know what could be misconstrued, no matter how painfully obvious it is. 

8. Offer incentives or bonuses.

I like to offer bonuses to hit a deadline faster or when they overall did an incredible job. I think it builds rapport when you show them you appreciate and reward great work. They’ll be more incentivized to continue working for you.

Most of these rules should be followed even if it’s not a new developer, but they become the most critical when starting a new relationship. 

It can be difficult to find a great developer or designer, but they’re out there! Sometimes it just takes a little longer to find and takes more interviews than you hoped. The point is to not give up when there’s a road bump. That’s what makes an entrepreneur successful. They understand that when things don’t go their way, it’s not a failure – it’s a learning experience.

Resources for day 4-6:

  1. Evernote
    1. Remember and act upon ideas, projects and experiences across all the computers, phones and tablets you use.
  2. Skype
    1. Make internet calls for free and cheap online calls to phones and mobiles with Skype.
  3. 99Designs
    1. Designers compete in your mobile app design contest. They submit designs, and you give them feedback.

Continued Reading:

Video Tip: Your Time is Value! Start Outsourcing Now (http://www.appempire.com/video-tip-your-time-is-value-start-outsourcing-now/)

Finding Developers: A World of Options (http://www.appempire.com/finding-developers-a-world-of-options/)

Day 7: Sign NDA & Establish Milestones

You must protect your ideas, source code, and any other intellectual property. These are the assets that will build your business, so you need to have each potential programmer sign an NDA before you hire them. Yes, it’s rare to have an idea stolen, but it does happen.

As you’re going through this process, you will be getting feedback on your programmers’ responsiveness. For instance, if it’s taking too long for them to sign the NDA, it might indicate how slowly the development process will move. Buyer beware!

Once the NDA has been signed by both parties, you can share your idea and designs with your programmer. At this stage, it’s critical to ensure they have the skills to complete your app. You do not have any wiggle room here, especially on your first app. Either they know how to make it or they don’t. You want to hear things like, “I know exactly how to do that” or “I’ve done similar apps, so it will not be a problem.” You don’t want to hear things like, “I should be able to do that, but I have to research a few things” or “I’m not sure but I can probably figure it out.” If you hear those words, switch to an app idea they are confident about or run for the hills.

After you’ve found the best programmer for the job, you can commit to hiring them. On day 7, establish milestones and timelines during the quoting process (break up the app into several parts), and decide on a schedule and processes for check-ins that you’re both comfortable with (ask them directly how they like to be managed). Day 7 is when you’ll be setting up the operations on how your project will run, so be thorough. 

Example milestones:

Part one:

Test – icon and or Hello World App

Basically, you want to measure their capabilities in some way. This can be anything from developing a basic icon, sending a simplified demo of one of your app’s features, or a “Hello Word” app build.

0-25% paid upfront

Part two:

25-50% this is paid once 1/2 of the app is completed and approved by you

Part three:

50-75% this is paid once 3/4 of the app is completed and approved by you

Part four:

75-100% this is paid once the app is completed, approved and the final build and deliverables are delivered.

TIPS:

– Make sure to have a certain number of iterations (i.e. changes after project is over) approved upfront- IE: It could be 3-5 changes, icon changes, etc. Be clear with these to prevent confusion down the road.

– Do flat fees as much as possible. This way, if the developing team (or developers) does not bid the project properly you won’t get hurt for it.

– After each milestone your developer must send you the code so you have your work and are constantly updated or so your work is safe.  Regardless of bugs, you should be receiving code as you go along. If they will not provide you with this, do NOT make that milestone’s payment. Let them know this will be a requirement ahead of time.

You will need to periodically review their work, from start to finish. I strongly suggest having a check-in session every day, or every other day, to ensure things are going as planned. Most applications go through multiple iterations during design and development, and I won’t release partial payments until I’m fully satisfied with each milestone. 

Resources for Day 7:

  1. Basecamp‎ – The #1 project management application.
  2. Teamwork – Online project management software. Easily manage your projects and team online.
    1. Arman’s note: I strongly recommend Slack for team communication, collaboration, and even project management. Use this link to get $100 in free credits toward a paid account (there is also a free version).
  3. Hackpad – Create and Organize. Take collaborative notes, share data and files, and use comments to share your thoughts in real-time or asynchronously.

Continued Reading:

Are You the Problem in Your Own Business? Don’t Be Your Own Worst Hire (http://www.appempire.com/are-you-the-problem-in-your-app-business/)

Finding Developers and Speaking Their Language (http://www.appempire.com/finding-developers-and-speaking-their-language/)

Day 8: Begin Coding

Rather than jumping haphazardly into a full-fledged project, I prefer to gradually ramp up my programmer’s workload by starting with a couple smaller tasks. You need to assess their graphics capabilities, implementation speed, and overall work dynamic (e.g. communication, time zone, etc.). If you’re underwhelmed with their skills early on, you need to get out quickly. Remember: Hire slow, fire fast. It will pay off over the long run.

Here’s my three-step process during the coding phase:

1. Icon —Ask the programmer or designer to create and deliver the icon of your app. You will probably have several ideas for icons, so pass them on and ask for a finished iTunes Artwork version of the icon. Then once you’ve decided on an icon, design the icon sizes around Apple’s Guidelines for each product. Icon app sizes can be found here: Icon Size Chart

2. Hello, World!—Ask the programmer for a “Hello, World!” app. It’s a simple app that opens up and shows a page that displays “Hello, World!”, and it will take them 10 minutes to create. The idea here is not to test their programming skills, but to determine how they will deliver apps to you for testing. This app should include the icon they created, so you can see how it will look on your phone.

3. App Delivery—When the programmers are ready to show you a test version of your app, they have to create something called an “ad hoc” (a version of your app that can be delivered to and run on your iPhone, without the use of the App Store). This ad hoc version of your app needs to be installed on your phone before you can test it. The initial installation was a bit cumbersome in the past, but a new service called TestFlight has simplified the process. I ask all programmers to use this service even if they have not used it before. They will be able to figure it out, and you’ll be able to install your test apps with a few touches on your phone.

Now that you’ve begun coding, it’s important to look for ways to increase productivity, lower costs, and systematize your business. 

Here are 3 ways I systematize my business from the beginning: 

1. Templates/POS/Automation

What in your business can be automated? What can be done by other people? Really think about that. It’s easy to find yourself doing something because you’re the fastest and best at it, but if you can create templates or POSs to send to others, or even better automated actions, while you work on the really important things, then you’re not only optimizing your business – you’re preparing your business for growth. Some examples:

  • Receiving a lot of email? Most emails are about the same types of topics. Create an autoresponder or template.
  • Are you uploading all your own apps to iTunes? Turn this into a template or video and give to a PA or TA. Even important systems like, how to choose good keywords, can be handed off to someone else to get your app in the store faster, then just makemupdates for testing.
  • Building a new app? Reuse successful screenshot templates, icons, and copy. You already know it converts well – just adjust it to fit the current app and submit. Your production times will drastically increase.

2. Buy stock.

There are tons of high-quality resources already made that you can use for your apps instead of building from scratch. You can use stock photos/graphics, stock music and sounds, and most importantly you can buy and reuse code to significantly lower production costs. Whether you’re reskinning an app or building a custom app, you can use these stock options to save costs and work faster.

3. Outsource.

There are a lot of talented people on freelance websites that you can use on a per project basis to get things done quickly. And for really cheap too! Half the battle is with yourself and realizing that you don’t have to control every little detail. Empower your team or your hires to make decisions themselves. Once you realize that imperfections are OK and don’t always affect the bottom line, you’ll find yourself producing things much faster and more efficiently.

Give yourself a pat on the back — you’ve made serious progress! But don’t get too caught up with yourself, because a big mistake many appreneurs make is publishing their app to the store and thinking they’re done. Once your app is on the store, now it’s GO TIME. This is when you’ll use ninja marketing and monetization strategies to generate revenue and bring in customers from all over the world.  

Resources for Day 8:

  1. Testico – You can to put the icon you’ve created on your iPhone or iPad home screen, and generate automatic previews of standard icon sizes on the standard iPhone screen.
  2. Stock Websites:
    1. http://www.pond5.com – Video, sound effects, music, after effects, photos and illustrations
    2. http://audiojungle.net – Audio
    3. http://graphicriver.net – Graphics
    4. www.istockphoto.com/ – Graphics

Continued Reading:

Carter Thomas: The secrets of the App Store (http://www.appempire.com/carter-thomas-chad-mureta-the-secrets-of-the-app-store/)

Optimizing App and When to Move On (http://www.appempire.com/optimizing-apps-and-when-to-move-on-interview/)

How can I improve my app? (http://www.appempire.com/how-can-i-improve-my-app/)

How to Master Anything w/ Tim Ferriss (http://www.appempire.com/how-to-master-anything-interview-w-tim-ferriss/)

– –

Wow, that’s it folks! Your complete 8 day app business plan.

Since I know you may need/want to refer to the business plan template again in the future, I have a special PDF template of the entire post that I’d like to give you for free. You can get this right now by entering your email below and download on the next page. Enjoy! 

Do you know anyone who would like to create an app or start an app business, but doesn’t know where to start? Send them this complete guide. They’ll love you for it! 

7 Biggest Mistakes I've Made as a Solopreneur

Total Reading Time: 8 minutes.
Good lord almighty, have I made some mistakes. This isn’t easy to admit or share publicly. As I write this, I’m telling myself to imagine this is just a private journaling session and will forever stay locked up — never to be shared with anyone, anywhere.
My hopes are that by being completely honest, raw, and unadulterated I can save you countless hours of headache and stress. Sometimes a simple mistake or defeat can seem like the end of the world. No matter how hard you try to play the optimism game, your reason will attempt to overpower all hope.
It takes time to see that your mistakes were just training. In fact, your mistakes and defeats are what make it possible to experience (and enjoy) success one day. Even now, I make mistakes, daily. The little ones still upset me, and the bigger ones can torment me. I’m sure you know what I mean, and have experienced the same feeling.
At times, it’s just not possible to do it right the first time. Experience is necessary. Nonetheless, there are many mistakes that can be avoided. These mistakes are not tactical or strategical, but educational — mistakes that lack wisdom.
As a solopreneur, it’s your job to educate yourself. No one else is going to tell you what to do.
This realization is both inspiring and heavy. This leaves me with a responsibility to make good decisions, get relevant and actionable advice from mentors, and study like a madman.
With that said, below are the 7 biggest mistakes I’ve made as a solopreneur.

1. Unnecessary Overhead/Expenses

One of the first big decisions I made when I became a solopreneur was to get an office space. Well, actually, a new friend at a conference offered the space to me. He said he’d only charge me $100 a month for the desk. In San Francisco, that’s quite a steal, so I took it.
Looking back, I think this is a big mistake. An office space is a luxury, and often an unnecessary expense for a new entrepreneur. In the beginning I didn’t look at it that way, but now I know better. $100 can be invested in the business (here are 15 business ideas) and go toward generating more revenue (e.g., through Facebook ads).
Even better, that money could be set aside for investing into new and existing assets, which could then put off more cash flow. Both of these concepts I didn’t understand before.
It didn’t stop there. I was the new entrepreneur, living the dream. If I wanted it and found a way to sell myself on its utility, I purchased it. Shiny new equipment, fancy software, and cool tools—all this is unnecessary overhead.
Looking back, my profit margins could have been higher from the beginning.
A top priority for every new entrepreneur should be to maximize cash flow.

2. Not Sacrificing

When I first left Google I felt an incredible sense of freedom, and I still do. For me, leaving the job world was symbolic, because I knew deep down that it was the beginning a new journey. I was ready to burn the bridges and go all in.
Yet, I didn’t sacrifice a whole lot. No massages? No nap pods? No billiards next to organic ice cream machines and table tennis next to refrigerators full of unlimited snacks? No problem.
I pretended (to myself) that everything was exactly the same. I continued enjoying the same activities, and living the same way, as if I was still making $120K.
This is a big mistake, but it’s not entirely about the money. The mistake is that I never sacrificed the way every solopreneur and entrepreneur must do in the beginning. I wanted to simply glide on over into this new world, and refused to sacrifice my lifestyle. I also didn’t sacrifice enough of my free time, and should have been more like the dedicated solopreneur I am now.
Looking back, it was right to enjoy my newfound freedom and flexibility. Yet, I should have sacrificed more of my social life. I should have said no more often. Great things happen in solitude, and that would have helped me feel more connected to my new craft.

3. Trying to Maintain Work/Life Balance

This mistake is a continuation of not sacrificing. One of the biggest mistakes I made was thinking I could keep the same hours and work 9 to 5 like before. Wrong.
I intend to build something that will leave a legacy. I intend to create valuable content and share information and lessons that can change people’s lives. That person lives and breathes their “work”, as I do now.
My mistake was naive, but forgivable. I tried to find balance, but couldn’t. It was a futile battle. I’m not advocating that you stay up all night and obsess over your venture. Knowing when and how to “turn off” is important. But to try and balance is difficult in the beginning, you’re better off just going all in.

4. Accepting the Wrong Advice

I was hungry for a strong start, and was willing to experiment with different projects, as long as they were relevant to my initial plans. The problem is, I was too hungry. I naively sought advice from the wrong people.
Why were they the wrong people? And how should I have known? One critical piece of criteria: they weren’t doing exactly what I wanted to do. I’ve learned to only get business advice from people that have done what I want to do (successfully), or are currently doing it.
It’s okay to get strategic or general advice. But I ended up pursuing an idea I believed in through a completely different method. This diluted my enthusiasm. I wasn’t proud of the work, because in the end it wasn’t uniquely mine.
Key lesson: always stay true to yourself and get advice from people that believe in you and your mission.

5. Researching/Testing Beforehand

Before becoming a solopreneur I didn’t know much about the world of online business. I’d read a book or two, and would browse a couple popular online business blogs, but that was about it. I know, shocking. Who does that? Me.
Not researching my industry/niche more was a big mistake. Not making my first dollar online before committing was an even bigger one. I committed to the idea of what I wanted to do without knowing what it would take.
This was both good and bad (ignorance can be bliss sometimes), because I took action anyway. If I did it all over again, I would definitely have set an initial goal to hit before making the leap.
Some examples: first 1,000 subscribers, first 10 customers, first $1,000, and so on.

6. Networking

For some really odd reason, I didn’t take the time to network with people much. This is abnormal, because most people would say I’m pretty good with…people. I love collaborating and sharing ideas with other humans, it’s where I get my energy.
I initially looked to my industry’s network and saw them as inspiration, not as a network. They were ahead of me, so at times there was a bit of envy to get there as fast as possible. At the same time, my social scene was too far “offline” (see mistake 3). I didn’t see the potential partnerships, friendships, and networking opportunities.
It’s important to network because you never know how you can help someone. All it takes is one idea or one perspective to change someone’s business. You also never know what friendships might arise, and that is invaluable as a solopreneur.
The people in your space will just “get it”. That understanding can’t be created with your other networks, so don’t take it for granted.
I take networking seriously now, and have dedicated time on my calendar for it. I recommend you do too.

7. Inconsistent Branding/Focus

It wasn’t until a year and a half into my journey that I realized I was making this mistake. It was a mentor that exposed the mistake to me. As soon as he pointed it out, it felt like a massive lightning storm of “aha moments” battering me all at once. It was painful, but also quite pleasurable.
The lesson summed up in one sentence:
Every single action you take in your business, whether it be creating a new YouTube video, attending an event, or writing a blog post, must always deliver on one single brand promise.
If the action or project does not deliver on your brand’s (yes, personal brand’s too) unique promise, then you are wasting your time. Furthermore, you are confusing your audience and customers with an inconsistent message.
As Larry Page, CEO of Google would say, you must have “laser focus” at all times. Prior to this epiphany I was spinning my wheels. I learned things I didn’t need to learn, and worked on unrelated projects. I was spread too thin.
Now, I know better. Since relaunching WILG in May of 2014 and making the brand my central platform, everything has changed. Exciting opportunities are coming in, our readership has exploded, and the brand has a consistent message. Plus, I’m able to focus completely on providing exceptional content to you.

Links to Resources

  1. The Lean Startup – Before you devote yourself to creating the most beautiful software or product in the world, learn about starting lean. Deliver the minimum viable product to your customers, and then iterate from there.
  2. The $100 Startup – It really doesn’t take much to get started. Read this book to learn how you can start your own solopreneur business for under $100. This site originally cost only around $100 to create.
  3. Regus – Hate working from home every day? Don’t get an office space. Get a Regus Businessworld membership. This will allow you to work from a business lounge (think fancy, quiet cafe) in almost any major city around the world, and even some small ones (2000 cities world wide). I use this around 1-3 times a week.

Mistakes can be painful. Some of them leave scars. But as with all mistakes, there is an equivalent benefit waiting in its shadows. You just have to be persistent enough to receive it.

What mistakes have you made in business or as a solopreneur? Which of my mistakes did you (hopefully) learn something new from?
Photo credit: MistakesCC License