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The Five Most Essential Skills for Starting Your First Business Online

by Sean Ogle | Last Updated: August 27, 2012

When you first make the decision to do something online, the amount of information out there is petrifying.  Quite literally, actually.

I remember when I first got started online I didn’t know if I wanted to be a blogger, a marketer, or if I wanted to build some kind of online store.  Not only did I not understand the differences between each of those, but there was so much information out there that it was all to easy too not do anything for fear of doing it wrong.

Does this sound familiar at all?

My First Two Online Projects Ever

I don’t know where the inspiration came from, but in late 2008 I’d decided that I wanted to start a site dedicated to tennis.  I grew up playing competitively and had some contacts in the industry, so I bought my first domain: hookedontennis.com.

At the time I’d never heard of WordPress, so I found getting started with basic HTML to be clunky and time consuming, it also didn’t take long to realize my initial idea for a tennis site wasn’t very feasible – mostly due to the fact I just wasn’t that interested in tennis anymore.

After a week of that, I moved on to Glenn Allsop’s affiliate marketing tutorial (now defunct I believe).  I didn’t know what that was either but the concept sounded great!  I bought Jamoramaguitarlessons.org, and used his template to try and sell a product for guitar lessons. By not understanding the fundamentals of marketing and setting up a website however, that idea quickly floundered as well.

While both of those were good learning experiences, the problem was I didn’t take time to develop base skills that would help me be successful online – mostly because I wasn’t sure what those skills were.

Three years later, there are five skills that more than anything I’ve found to be incredibly useful to building an online business.

The fact is, if you’re good at even one of these things you can build a successful business around it, but when you can apply these skills laterally (something we talk a lot about in Location Rebel) you become much more effective, and confident in your ability to execute online.

Below we’ll be looking at what these skills are, why each of them are so important, and what some potential starting points are as you become proficient in each.

Critical Skill #1: Copywriting

Dane Maxwell is one of the best copywriters I know.  He has built an online software empire, however it all stems from his ability to sell with his words.  Whether it’s writing a killer sales page, or spending dozens of hours perfecting the script for a video, he knows exactly how to get you hooked, and keep you interested.

Dane is currently making over $40,000 a month, yes, a month, with just one of his online businesses, and copywriting is a huge part of this.

It took me awhile to fully understand just how important copywriting is.  I was still writing the sales page for my first product the night before I launched it.  Most people will spend 98% of their time writing a product and 2% of the time writing a sales page, if that.  However, it’s that well written copy that will get people in the door in the first place.  This is why most online products aren’t successful –  because their creators don’t know how to sell it.

I’ll even go as far to say this is the most important skill you need for success on the internet.  Because it doesn’t matter what you’re doing, you’re always selling something. Whether it’s an idea, a product, yourself – when almost everything online is distributed via words, there is never a time when you aren’t selling.

Dane understands this and has seen tremendous success because of it.  Just check out his latest project, which I promise you’ll be hearing a LOT about over the coming months.

Potential Jobs:

Critical Skill #2: WordPress

When I began my first two websites I had no idea what WordPress was – because of this, my ideas never got off the ground.

So to make sure we’re all on the same page, what is WordPress? 

WordPress is what is known as a CMS or Content Management System.  What this means for you, is that you can build and manage a website with next to no knowledge of development or coding.

You should also understand that we are talking about wordpress.org, wordpress.com is different and should probably be ignored if you’re serious about building a business.

Most people think of WordPress as a blogging platform, which it is, but it’s so much more.  For instance, this site is run using WordPress.  Location Rebel is also on WordPress, and features not only a blog but an elaborate sales funnel and membership component. Currently it has over 500 members at various levels, each with access to specific content based on their level.

To put it simply, my business would not exist were it not for WordPress.

So while copywriting is essential, it doesn’t do you much good if you don’t have an easy way to put those words up for people to see – this is what WordPress allows you to do.

Potential Jobs:

Critical Skill #3: Search Engine Optimization

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the skill that I get asked about the most via email.  It could be because one of my most popular posts to date was about becoming an SEO freelancer, or because that’s how I got my start online.

Either way understanding how to rank well in the search engine results, can be a huge boost to your business.

If choosing one of these skills to start out with, I wouldn’t start here, however.  Optimizing for search engines is huge once you have a website/offering up and running, whether that’s a product, service or something else.

But at first, your time will be better spent getting to that point.

That being said ranking well in Google can completely change the trajectory of your business when you’re ready for it.

90% of the traffic to my HDR software site is from Google traffic. When you rank for high quality “buying keywords” you can have 1/10 the traffic as a similar website, but make 10 times more money.

We’ve learned a lot about SEO from this site.  For about a year it ranked in the top 3 for every single keyword we wanted.  Then we hired a couple SEO firms to do some of the grunt work for us as it relates to our optimization, and because of their tactics we got hit hard with the latest Penguin update.

We’re working to undo the damage, and by most measures the site is still very successful, but it just reiterated the fact that you should be very wary to trust other people when it comes to your SEO work.

There’s a ton of opportunity right now in the SEO world, especially for forwarding thinking people who understand how social influence, social media, video and other increasingly popular web components will effect the search results in the coming months.

Potential Jobs:

Critical Skill #4: Design Essentials

When you show up to a website that looks like crap, what do you do? Chances are you leave immediately never to return again.  While you don’t have to be an expert designer to be successful, understanding some of the basics will go a long way.

For instance, the difference between a custom logo on a blog and stock text says a lot about your commitment to your website.

While many people I know will hire out all of their design work, I’m gearing this post for people who are on a budget, and don’t have tons of money to throw down at the beginning.

If you know the fundamentals of design, it makes it much easier to do things like put up PDF ebooks or giveaways.  The perceived value of these PDFs are huge, so if you can put one together on your own, without paying someone a few hundred dollars every time you have a new idea, you’re going to be way ahead of the game.

The easiest way to get started with this is to grab a demo of Adobe InDesign for layouts and Illustrator for logos.  Try it free for a month, and then if you decide it’s a good fit, grab the Creative Cloud subscription for $50/month ($30 for student/teacher) which gives you access to ALL Adobe products – a killer deal.

My girlfriend Tate has taken her apparel design skills and in depth knowledge of Adobe and turned it into a small side business doing branding and ebook design – she’s done all of my PDF ebooks.

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Critical Skill #5: Basic HTML

While understanding how WordPress works is far more important in my eyes, that doesn’t mean you’re completely free from having to learn some basic HTML.  The fact is, if you want to get the most out of WordPress you’ll want to learn some of the fundamentals.

You by no means need to know how to code a full HTML site, but the more you know, the easier it will be to customize certain aspects of your WordPress site.

Luckily there are some great ways to learn HTML that are actually fun.  My favorite is Code Academy.  I’m still far from an expert, but I can at least make my sites do what I want, when I want – er, most of the time.

What makes this stand out, is if you do get really good at HTML and CSS, you open up worlds of opportunity to do more website development work – which is always in demand.  It also pays well, so devoting some serious time to this particular skill can be incredibly valuable – although not entirely necessary to see success.

Potential Jobs:

How it All Ties Together

If you haven’t noticed, there are some common themes amongst all of these skills.  Every single one can lead to successful freelance work.  Freelancing is often the easiest way to get started online.  Why? Because with any of these, there’s a virtually unlimited amount of people looking for work at every level.

You don’t have to be the very best of the best right out of the gate.  Start small, and expand the type of clients  your bring on and work you do as your skills are built up.

Along with this, we should point out how important these skills are laterally.  Take affiliate marketing for instance.  You’ll want to be proficient in all of these skills to have the best chance of success.

If you’re a good copywriter, can put together a good looking WordPress website, and know the fundamentals of SEO, then the sky is the limit.  Each of these skills work together in different ways, and by understanding the basics of each, you can take any idea and implement it in a weekend to test for viability, and potentially create something huge.

If you’re serious about learning these skills and more, in an effort to build an online business you can run from anywhere on Earth, check out Location Rebel.  We have all of the tools you need to manage information overload, stop putting progress off, and start building something incredible right now.

Image Credit: Olivander

Sean Ogle is the Founder of Location Rebel where he has spent the last 12+ years teaching people how to build online businesses that give them the freedom to do more of the things they like to do in life. When he's not in the coffee shops of Portland, or the beaches of Bali, he's probably sneaking into some other high-class establishment where he most certainly doesn't belong.
Build a Lifestyle Business Giving You Freedom You've Always Wanted

Our 6-part course gives you a strategy to start right now. Put control of your life back in your hands. Sign up below and let’s do this together.

By entering your email address you agree to receive emails from Location Rebel. We'll respect your privacy and you can unsubscribe at any time.