This month marks the two-year anniversary of when I officially started working on this blog of mine. Well, actually… I’ve been blogging on PaulMinors.com for more than two years. But it was two years ago that I decided to focus on the productivity topic and build an online business around helping people in this space.
So, where am I now? What have I learned, and what would I do differently if I had to start again?
If you’re thinking about starting or have already started an online business, hopefully, you can learn something from the lessons I’ve learned along the way. I’ve already talked about why starting a personal blog is such a great idea and if you’ve ever thought of starting a website, I highly recommend you give it a go.
Make sure you head on over to iTunes and subscribe to the podcast. You can also subscribe via the RSS feed. Are you enjoying The Productivity Podcast? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below with your thoughts and ideas of things you’d like to hear about!
To kick things off, I always think it’s nice to celebrate some of the major milestones. As productive people, we often have our heads down as we focus on the next task or goal. But it’s important to stop and reflect on the successes along the way in order to keep motivation and enthusiasm high.
Built an audience
The single best thing I’ve done over the last two years has been building an audience. i.e. people who read my blog, listen to my podcast and subscribe to my emails. As of writing this post, I have over 13,000 email subscribers and my website gets around 25,000 sessions per month.
It’s pretty cool to think that over the last two years I’ve literally helped tens of thousands of people in some way. Even if it means helping many of these people in a small way, like giving them a new idea, or answering a question they had, this is a pretty cool thought.
Building an audience has allowed me to connect with some super cool people online. It’s also helped me to learn how to help people and most importantly how to deliver value through the content and products that I produce.
Launched a number of successful products
Over the last two years, I’ve launched a number of successful products:
Creating these products has presented a huge opportunity to learn and develop new skills like video editing, audio production, design, product launch marketing, content curation and more.
Some products have been more successful than others and if I could, I would have done a few things differently (more on that below).
More than anything else, launching these products has taught me that it’s possible to generate an income by having an idea, creating a digital product then selling it online to people all over the world for almost zero cost. Now that’s pretty frickin’ cool!
Generated a modest side-income
As you probably know, I’ve been building this business on the side while working a full-time job. It’s been a lot of work and I intend on taking this side-business full-time in 2017. I chose to do things this way for a number of reasons. The main one being that I need to have the certainty of income in order to cover expenses and pay our mortgage. As I’ve learned more and my income and confidence have grown, I’m now at a stage where I’m ready to make that transition to full-time work.
For now, the income generated from this site has provided me with a modest side-income. It’s by no means breaking the bank, but it’s nice to have the extra dollars coming in.
Having spent a few hours growing my site and building this side-business, there are a couple of specific lessons that have really stuck out:
Niche down (seriously)
Finding a niche and creating a specific product for a specific person is a very common piece of business advice.
With my first major product release, the Personal Productivity Toolkit, I feel as if I missed the point here. Don’t get me wrong, I’m really pleased with the Toolkit and it’s already helped a lot of people to be more organised and get more done. But in hindsight, I could have built an even better product by picking a more specific audience and creating a product for a very particular problem they have. e.g. how freelancers can manage their client time and balance this with project work.
Earlier in the year, I started some consulting with a very specific focus on helping small/medium sized business owners with Asana. i.e. If you want help with Todoist, Omnifocus, Basecamp or some other tool, I’m probably not your guy. But if you’re trying out Asana and want to use it more effectively then you should definitely talk to me.
When you niche down like this, you really stand out (I rank #1 for “asana consulting” on Google) and it’s easier to position yourself as a specialist. This approach has worked really well and I just wish I’d follow the “niche down” advice sooner.
Persistence and hard work always pays off
Above all else, I’ve learned that with persistence and hard work, you’re almost guaranteed to succeed. Regardless of how many times you fail, if you keep going, keep learning from your mistakes and keep trying new things, you really can’t lose.
I feel a lot of people give up on their dreams too easily. After 3 or 6 months of work and they’re not getting to where they want to be they think “oh, what’s the point” and give up. I’m now two years into this project and here I am, still trying to become self-sufficient.Regardless of your failures, if you keep going and keep learning new things, you really can’t lose.Click To Tweet
The other common problem I see is when people bounce from one idea to the next, never settling on one thing long enough to let an idea germinate and grow. Good things take time, especially when it comes to business. Sure, some people have been able to build businesses much quicker than I currently am and for other people it may take a lot longer. But remember that patience is a virtue and with hard work and persistence, you can do almost anything.
WHAT I’D DO DIFFERENTLY
If I had to go back to day one and start this website from scratch, here’s what I’d do differently:
When I started this website my plan was simple – produce content, build an audience, create a product, sell it. This was my focus for pretty much the first year.
Then, earlier this year, I started freelancing and helping companies with Asana. In hindsight, I should have started the freelancing sooner. This would have allowed me to generate revenue faster and free up my time to work on the audience and product side of the business.
The freelancing is proving to be really effective (and a lot of fun) and had I started with this, I may have already been able to go full-time on this business.
Do more testing and validation
To expand on my point above where I talked about niching down, I would have also done more testing and validation to find out what people really want to learn about. Had I done this, the products and content I have created may have been even better and helped more people.
The next step with the Asana consulting is to try and turn this into an online course. That way, companies can learn the fundamentals of Asana in a more cost effective way (as the online course doesn’t require my time on the phone) and I can remove my time from income generation. The plan before I proceed with building this course is to run a group coaching workshop to validate this concept and ensure that people will pay for the cause, should I proceed with making it.
Two years really isn’t that long in the scheme of things. So, what’s next?
As you may know, my wife, Hayley, and I are going travelling for 6 months during the first half of 2017. We never took a break after graduating University and instead leapt straight into the working world. It’s going to be nice to change the routine for a bit and spend some time exploring new countries and cultures.
Transition to full-time work
While we travel, I’m going to use this opportunity to spend more time on my business. The goal is to be in a position when we return where I can continue working for myself and not have to return to a “normal” job.
With that box ticked, I’m going to spend my time producing even more valuable content for people to enjoy and exploring new topics of interest. At the moment I have so many ideas of things to talk about and products to make (they’re all safely stored in Evernote and Asana), but I’m limited by my time. I’m looking forward to spending more time on building this business and bringing some of these new ideas to life.